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October 2, 2013

Oneonta inched closer to becoming a railroad town in 1863

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The Daily Star

---- — When the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad finally reached Oneonta in 1865, signs seen at the celebration in August read, “Isolation Obliterated,” among others. This area wasn’t actually too far removed from civilization, if what was seen in The Oneonta Herald editions in the autumn of 1863 was any indication. One form of transportation, the stagecoach, was entering its final months of prosperity at the time.

The travel was pretty slow by today’s standards and the ride probably wasn’t especially smooth for the passengers on some of the roads and turnpikes, but the Herald of Oct. 7, 1863 showed there were six stage lines, centered in Oneonta, to take passengers to as many destinations.

Two destinations, Fort Plain and Deposit, made it possible for passengers to connect with the Central Railroad and Erie Railway, respectively. Stages also traveled to and from Hancock, Catskill, Utica and Albany. Depending on the destination, some stages provided daily service while others were two- or three-day-per-week operations.

Utica, for example, was accessible on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Departure time oddly enough was 3 a.m. and the coaches traveled via Morris, New Berlin and Clayville. The stage returned to Oneonta at 9 p.m. the same day.

The stage to Albany was likely the first to go by the wayside in the mid-1860s, due to the progress on the construction of the A&S Railroad.

The Herald on Oct. 7 had a repeating news article that autumn, stating, “On and after September 16, 1863, trains will leave Albany at 7:30 a.m., stopping at Slingerlands, New Scotland, Guilderland, Knowersville, Knox, Quaker Street and Esperance, arriving at Schoharie at 10 a.m. where Stages will be in readiness to convey all passengers to all points in Schoharie and Otsego counties. Trains leave Schoharie at 3 p.m., arriving in Albany at 5:15 p.m.

Other stage companies knew the end was soon approaching for their service, as the Herald reported on Nov. 11 that, “About forty five miles more of this road,” referring to the A&S Railroad, “have been put under contract, including the famous Tunnel in the town of Colesville,” in Broome County, westbound from Oneonta.

“There was a good deal of competition for the work,” it was reported, “and the result is that it has been contracted very favorably for the company considering the high price of labor. We understand that the gentlemen securing these contracts are experienced in their business — all men of energy and go-aheadativeness; and, possessing the will to complete the work to the shortest possible time, will undoubtedly push the matter to a speedy conclusion.” The A&S finally reached Binghamton by 1869.

There were likely no major travel plans made by local residents, to the likes of today, for Thanksgiving. However one might have thought about making plans to take a stage home or to visit friends for “National Thanksgiving Day” in 1863.

As reported in the Oct. 14 Herald, “The President has appointed the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer. This Fast Day will be accepted by the People as a timely and fitting acknowledgement of blessings which have been mercifully vouchsafed to us during the year.”

On Monday: The many energies and emotions that surrounded the 1968 presidential election in our region.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.