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CHAPTER XXXVIII

ADDITIONAL LETTERS

 

HAVING heard a short time since from an old citizen of Albany, who knew the individuals whose likenesses appear as passengers in the sketch of the "De Witt Clinton " and train, that, excepting Judge Gillis, whose letter we have already given, only two now survive that memorable event, namely, Erastus Corning, Esq., and Thurlow Weed, Esq., the author addressed them upon the subject, calling their recollections to his professional visit to Albany in 183l, and his original profile cutting of the first locomotive and train. He soon received the following interesting replies, which serve to prove the authenticity of his original in the Connecticut Historical Society:"

ALBANY, N. Y., May 30, 1870,

"WILLIAM H. BROWN, Esq.—

"MY DEAR SIR: I have before me your letter of May l9th, 1870, referring to your proposed 'History of the Early Locomotives of America.'

"It gives me great pleasure to testify to the correctness of the photograph copy of your original cutting of the locomotive 'De Witt Clinton,' and the train of cars which passed over the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, I think in August, 1831.

"I submitted a letter on the subject, written by you, in the year 1859, to Mr. John T. Clark, and sent you his reply, with a photograph copy of your picture." The likenesses of the passengers in the train are excellent, and probably the only collection of the kind in existence. Your forthcoming book will be a very interesting one and a valuable addition to railroad literature. I look for the appearance of it with the anticipation that it will be profitable and instructive.

"Yours very truly,
"ERASTUS Corning."

The second letter was from Thurlow Weed, Esq., and was written by the veteran's daughters Miss Harriet A. Weed, who acted as his amanuensis:"

NEW YORK, February 6, 1870.

"SIR. WILLIAM H. BROWN—

"DEAR SIR: My father, who is not himself able to write, desires me to express his thanks for your interesting and welcome letter. He remembers you as temporarily residing at Albany. He also remembers your peculiar skill in fashioning paper pictures.

Early in the day of photographs, a copy of your picture was sent to us from Hartford. My father has often been applied to for the names of the passengers, but could not remember them all. He does, however, remember Lewis Benedict, John Townsend, William Alexander, John J. Boyd, John Meigs (high constable of Albany), John J. De Graffs, and Hugh Robinson, of Schenectady. He thinks also that Billy Winne was one, and he remembers your being there looking at the engine. "The best likeness we have of my deceased brother James is from your sketch of him as a member of the Burgess's Corps of Albany.

"The photograph copy of your Albany and Schenectady Railroad engine, copied from the original in the Connecticut Historical Society, now hangs in our library, looking precisely as my father remembers it while being fired-up for its first trip to Schenectady, thirty-eight or thirty-nine (nobody here can tell whether it was in 1831 or 1832) years ago.

"My father says that he shall look for your book with much interest. He, too, as fast as his impaired health permits, is putting his recollections together, with the material for history in his possession, on paper, with a view to publication.

"Truly yours,
"HARRIET A. WEED."

Before we close this portion of our evidence, we cannot refrain from giving to our readers a second letter from John B. Jervis, Esq., who was chief engineer of the road, in reply to the author, who had transmitted to him some documents for his examination. This letter reads as follows:

"ROME N. Y., August 24, 1870.

"WILLIAM H. BROWN, ESQ.—

"MY DEAR SIR: Yours of the 22d last, came to hand this A.M. I have been quite interested in reading the letters and papers you sent me. The photograph picture of the first locomotive and passenger-train that certainly was the first run on the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad (Schenectady and Albany, now a portion of the New York Central Railroad) is a good representation.

"The engine was the 'De Witt Clinton' (and not the 'John Bull,' as the newspaper scrap from the Boston Advertiser gives it). There can be no doubt on this point—engine, tender, and cars, are unequivocal delineation.

"I have had a copy of this picture for several years.

"I cannot speak as to exact date when the train was run, but it was about midsummer of 1831.

"I have no doubt Mr. Clark is correct as to the date trials were made, the latter part of July. The excursion-train was most probably made, as Mr. Clark states, on August 9, 1831. Mr. Clark's account of the building of the engine, at the shops of the West Point Foundry, in New York, is correct. I think, indeed I am certain, the English engine 'John Bull' did not arrive until the spring of 1832.

"I was quite interested in your biographical remarks, and hope the great labor you have given to prepare a correct history of the locomotive may prove amply remunerative. I shall be glad to see your book, it is a very important subject. Great progress has been made, and there is yet much to be done. I sometimes feel a desire to resume attention to this matter, but my age (seventy-five years) admonishes me that it is better to be quiet.

"Very truly your friend,
John B. Jervis."

We will now add to our history of the early locomotives built ill America by giving Mr. William Kimball's letter to the author upon the subject. Mr. Kimball was superintendent and manager of the West Point Foundry Works, in the city of New York, during 1829 to 1831, and for many years after."

WEST POINT FOUNDERS OFFICE,

" NEW YORK, June 12, 1871.

"MR. WILLIAM H. BROWN—

"DEAR SIR: Your letter informs me that you are about to publish a history of the early locomotives built in America, and ask me for some particulars respecting the first locomotives built at our shops.

"It gives me great pleasure, sir, to comply with your wishes on that subject; and I will commence by saying that the first locomotive ever run in this country was imported from England, and was called the 'Stourbridge Lion.' It came out in the spring of 1829; was in charge of Horatio Allen, Esq.; was landed from the ship John Jay at our wharf and put up at our works. This locomotive was for the Delaware and Hudson Canal and Railroad Company.

"The first locomotive ever constructed in this country and for actual service upon a railroad, was undoubtedly built at our works. It was contracted for by Colonel E. L. Miller, of Charleston, South Carolina, for the South Carolina Railroad. It was commenced early in the summer of 1830, and completed and sent to Charleston by the ship Niagara in the month of October of that year. This engine was called the 'Best Friend.'

The second locomotive constructed in America was also built at our works, and for the South Carolina Railroad. This engine was contracted for by Horatio Allen, Esq., the chief engineer of the road, and was built from drawings sent out by him." This locomotive was called the 'West Point.' It was finished and sent to Charleston by the ship Lafayette, in February, 1831.

"A third locomotive was soon after constructed at our shops. This machine was contracted for by John B. Jervis, Esq., chief engineer of the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, and was finished and forwarded to Albany in June or early in July, 1831. Thus engine was called the 'De Witt Clinton.' Mr. David Matthew, who had charge of the hands fitting up all these engines, went on to Albany with the 'Clinton' to put it on the road and to run it." There can be no doubt whatever but that these locomotives, the 'Best Friend,' the 'West Point,' and the 'De Witt Clinton,' were the first ever built in America for actual service on a railroad. Prior to and during that time, from 1829 to 1831, several small machines for experimental purposes were built and tried, but the three above named were the first ordered to be built in America for actual service upon a railroad.

"Hoping these facts may be of service to you in your forthcoming work, I remain, dear sir,

"Yours respectfully
WILLIAM KIMBALL."


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