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CHAPTER XXXV

FURTHER EVIDENCES

 

THE following letter is from Mr. David Matthew. It is further evidence that the "De Witt Clinton," and not an English engine, was the first one to run on the road from Albany to Schenectady, in August, 1831:

"PHILADELPHIA, February 13, 1860."

WILLIAM H. BROWN, ESQ.—

"Dear Sir: Yours of January 17th is at hand. Having been absent, my reply has been delayed until this date. I will endeavor to answer your several questions as correctly as I possibly can, in the absence of records.

"First. I did run the 'De Witt Clinton,' on the 9th day of August, 1831, and every day that it run from the 2d day of July, when first put on the road, to December 1, 1831.

"Second. There was no English-built engine upon the road, until the 'Robert Fulton,' made by Stephenson, arrived, which was about the last of August. About the middle of September it was tried on the road, and commenced regular trips soon after. On the excursion-trip in September, the Fulton was assigned to haul the train, but something got wrong about the supply-pipe, and my engine, the 'De Witt Clinton,' was called out for that duty, and did it well.

"Third. I did know John Hampson and Adam Robinson, John Hampson was my assistant. He left West Point Foundry with me, and when the 'Robert Fulton' arrived and was placed on the road, he took her to run. Adam Robinson became my fireman on the 'De Witt Clinton' when we began to make regular trips.

"When the 'John Bull ' came out, nearly a year afterward, John Hampson took her to run. Both of these men are now dead. John Hampson left the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad early in 1832. He brought the second engine from New York that was run on the Germantown and Philadelphia Railroad. He next took the 'Davy Crocket' to the Saratoga Railroad; then took charge of the Camden and Amboy Railroad machine-shops at Borden-town. Thence he went to the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad, on a salary of five thousand dollars per year, where he remained several years.

"Adam Robinson was killed by accident on a railroad.

"Will you please procure and send to me one of the drawings, or photographs, from the original picture you took in Albany, of the old 'De Witt Clinton' and train of cars? I saw the original picture at your room in Albany, and was forcibly struck by the accuracy of your likeness to the old machine, the cars, and the passengers, several of whom I knew well.

"If I can give you any other information, write to me at once, and I will try to be more prompt in my reply.
"Respectfully yours, DAVID MATTHEW, 205 Pear Street, Philadelphia."

From the freight-bills, custom-house charges, etc., etc., attached by Sage & Son to their lithograph copy of a photograph of the original picture in the Hartford Institute, the author is inclined to believe that these refer to those made upon the first English locomotive for the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, which was the "Robert Fulton." This machine, as we see in the following articles from the Albany Argus of that period, arrived by the ship Mary Howland, from Liverpool, early in September, 1831. In several articles of the Argus, in which this engine is spoken of, it is called the "John Bull." This was done in allusion to the country where it was made, in the same manner as the Argus also uses the words "Brother Jonathan" when speaking of the "De Witt Clinton." These sobriquets are familiarly applied and understood by every one when speaking of the natives of either country.

A locomotive named the "John Bull" came from England, subsequently, but not for nearly a year after the events we are now recording.

Messrs. Sage & Son give the following as the costs and charges as per invoice of locomotive-engine, per ship Mary Howland, from Liverpool, $3,763.67. Custom fees, $1,017.25. Freight-bills, September 18, 1831, $88.67.

The following extracts from the Albany Argus will clearly show that the West Point Foundry engine was the first to run upon the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, and that no English locomotive was in existence upon that road until the "Robert Fulton," built by Stephenson, arrived about the last of August, and was put on the road the 16th or 17th of September after:

(From the Albany Argus, July 25, 1831.)

"MOHAWK AND HUDSON RAILROAD.—We traveled over part of this road on Saturday, which is ready to receive the cars on Monday next, the 1st of August, if not earlier. The road will be open from the head of Lydius Street to the brow of the hill at Schenectady, a distance of about twelve miles and a half, and traveling upon it will be forthwith commenced. We learn that the company have decided on using steam-power alone. The company will begin their operations with an engine from the West Point Foundry, which we understand will be placed on the road for service on Wednesday, the 27th, being precisely twelve months from the day the ceremony of breaking ground was performed last year." In less than a month the company expect from England one of Mr. Stephenson's engines, similar to those now in use on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

"The work, we have no doubt, will do credit to the skill of the engineer, John B. Jervis, Esq."

"MOHAWK AND HUDSON RAILROAD.—On Saturday this work was completed and prepared for the passage of the cars. On that day an experiment was made with the locomotive 'De Witt Clinton,' from the West Point Foundry, but, owing to some defect in the ignition of the Lackawanna coal, the speed did not at any time exceed six or seven miles an hour. On Saturday next, if the weather is favorable, the company propose to celebrate the completion of the work, so far, by inviting our citizens to a ride through the entire line."

(From the Albany Argus, August 11, 1831 )

"MOHAWK AND HUDSON RAILROAD—On Monday, August 9, 1831, the 'De Witt Clinton,' attached to a train of cars, passed over the road from plane to plane, to the delight of a large crowd assembled to witness the performance. The engine performed the entire route in less than one hour, including stoppages, and on a part of the road its speed was at the rate of thirty miles an hour."

(From the Albany Argus, August 27, 1831.)

MOHAWK AND HUDSON RAILROAD.—The company having received their locomotive from England by the Mary Howland, it will, we understand, be in operation on the road in the course of a few days. It is called the ' Robert Fulton.'"

(From the Albany Argus, September 3, 1831 )

"MOHAWK AND HUDSON RAILROAD.—Another trial was made on Thursday with the locomotive 'De Witt Clinton.' It performed the passage from Schenectady to this city in fifty minutes. Among the passengers was Brigadier-General Scott, of the United States Army."

(From the Albany Argus, September 9, 1831 )

"MOHAWK AND HUDSON RAILROAD.—The American locomotive 'De Witt Clinton' came down yesterday morning in forty-six minutes. The fuel was wood. A trial of the English locomotive will probably be made on Tuesday next. The power and weight of this engine are double those of the American engine."

(From the Albany Argus, September 19, 1831.)

"MOHAWK AND HUDSON RAILROAD.—Trials of the English locomotive were made on the 16th and 17th. They were, we understand, entirely successful, and particularly so with the use of anthracite coal. The engine was propelled with ease at the rate of from fifteen to twenty miles an hour, and will commence her regular trips this day."

The next we hear of the English locomotive, after the foregoing experiments, relates to transactions of the following week. The author was present, and remembers well every incident on that interesting occasion, as they are recorded in the Argus, and, had the English machine performed the duty which was assigned to her on that day, there is no doubt a sketch of her appearance would have found a place in our present volume. But the author did not "see it." The Albany Argus, September 26, 1831, says:

"RAILROAD EXCURSION.—On Saturday, September 24th, a numerous company, at the request of the president and directors of the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad Company, enjoyed a very gratifying ride upon the road. The company consisted of the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, members of the Senate, now in session as a Court of Errors, our Senators in Congress, the Chancellor and Judges of the Supreme and District Courts, State officers, the president of the Board of Assistants and members of the Common Council of the city of New York, the Mayor, Recorder, and corporation of the city, and several citizens of New York, Albany, and Schenectady.

"Owing to a defect in one of the supply-pipes of the English locomotive, that powerful engine was not brought into service, and the party, having been delayed in consequence, did not leave the head of Lydius Street until nearly twelve o'clock. They then started with a train of ten cars, three drawn by the American locomotive 'De Witt Clinton,' and seven by a single horse each. The appearance of this fine cavalcade, if it may be so called, was highly imposing. The trip was performed by the locomotive in forty-six minutes, and by the cars drawn by horses in about an hour and a quarter. From the head of the plane, about a quarter of a mile from Schenectady, the company were conveyed in carriages to Davis's Hotel, where they were joined by several citizens of Schenectady, and partook of a dinner that reflected credit upon the proprietor of that well-known establishment. Among the toasts offered was one which has been verified to the letter, viz.: 'The Buffalo Railroad—may we soon breakfast in Utica, dine in Rochester, and sup with our friends on Lake Erie!' After dinner the company repaired to the head of the plane, and resumed their seats for the return to Albany. It was an imposing spectacle. It was a practical illustration of the great preference of this mode of travel and conveyance. The American locomotive started with a train of five cars, containing nineteen or twenty persons each, besides the tender, and never did 'Brother Jonathan,' as it was familiarly called, perform the trip in more beautiful style. It came down with its train in thirty-eight minutes, being at the rate of nineteen miles an hour, the last six miles were performed in fourteen minutes. The cavalcade with horses came down in sixty-eight minutes.

"'Brother Jonathan,' as it is familiarly called, is as yet decidedly in advance of 'John Bull.'"

We give the foregoing extracts from the Argus merely to prove more conclusively that the "De Witt Clinton" was the locomotive sketched by the author on the 9th day of August, and not an English engine, as some parties have represented. On neither of these excursions was the English locomotive in use. On the excursion of the 9th of August the English engine had not yet arrived, and on the excursion of the 24th of September her supply-pipe was not in order, and the American locomotive "De Witt Clinton" performed the duty successfully, as is recorded in the Albany Argus just quoted. It was on the occasion of the excursion on the 9th day of August, 1831, with the "De Witt Clinton," as mentioned in the article in the Albany Argus of August 11th, that the author made the sketch of the locomotive, the engineer, the tender, coaches, and passengers in the train, which was exhibited at his studio, and attracted great crowds for several weeks during his professional sojourn in Albany. This picture the author soon after presented to the Connecticut Historical Society, where it may be seen at the present time. In 1858 or '59 this original picture was photographed by J. L. Howard & Company, of Hartford, and a copy obtained by the author.


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