FROM PAGES PAST: 1972: Miners trapped in Himrod salt mine

Yates County History Center

The Chronicle-Express -- Consolidation, January 1, 1926, of the Yates County Chronicle (1824) and the Penn Yan Express (1866); the Rushville Chronicle (1905) and the Gorham New Age (1902)

The Yates County History Center’s volunteers have gleaned these entries for your enjoyment from their digitized newspapers. You can access them at the free site For more information about the YCHC, visit

150 Years Ago

June 13, 1872

Two Romantic Glens — Havana and Watkins Compared -- From Scribner’s Magazine for June -- From the very beginning Havana Glen impresses the visitor as having a character of its own. The stream is smaller than that of Watkins Glen. The rock is less shaly (sic), and it has a strongly-marked system of rectangular joints dividing the cliffs into square towers and buttresses. When a portion of cliff falls it does not leave a jagged face, as in Watkins Glen, but a mural surface as smooth and even as a fortress wall, giving the sides of the canyon the appearance of great solidarity and grand simplicity. The eroding current follows the lines of division, zigzagging at right angles rather than curving after the fashion of ordinary streams. At times, as in the Council Chamber, it cuts out perfect halls, with square corners and perpendicular sides, as unlike anything in Watkins Glen as can be imagined. The walls are lower than in Watkins, but they seem higher because of their clean-cut faces. At Watkins there is a persistent sameness in diversity — a monotony of fantastic outlines. Havana has a statelier, more majestic cast. Watkins confuses while it amazes, bewildering by its multitude of details, infinitely various yet constantly similar. Havana has less variety and greater diversity, its plan seeming to be to present no two scenes at all alike. At times the cliffs give place to wooded escarpments: vegetation creeps down into the gorge, and throws a network of beauty and grace — truly glen-like — between two spaces of precipitous rock. The falls are fewer, but, in the main, more massive; and the pools are square-cornered instead of oval. In short, the two glens are not rivals, but complements, and the sight of one heightens rather than lessens the enjoyment of the other.

Cemetery Notice — Notice is hereby given that the trustees of the Old Fort Cemetery, in Jerusalem, will meet at the Old Fort at 9 o’clock in the forenoon, on Saturday, June 29, 1872, for the purpose of grading and clearing off that burying ground so as to have it surveyed and laid out in regular plots. We will also let the job of painting the fence that now encloses the two acres of land, on that day, and we request all who have an interest there, or that may have, to be present on that day. Abram L. Robinson, Peter M. Dinehart, and others, Trustees

A view of Seneca Lake from City Hill before the construction of State Route 14 or the Greenidge Electric Plant. 150 years ago, Seneca's low water level was having a negative impact on navigation through the Cayuga and Seneca Canal.

Low Water Hinders Canal Trade -- The low stage of water in Seneca Lake is having a disastrous influence on the navigation of the Cayuga and Seneca Canal. Boats are compelled to freight with short cargoes, and the coal trade in particular, is very injuriously affected.— It is no wonder, therefore, that the Sodus Bay and Corning Railroad is urgently needed at this time. Were it in operation now it would be earning a highly remunerative percentage on its cost.

Fruit Crop Outlook -- The fruit prospects are uniformly good. Cherries, plums, peaches are looking finely (sic), the trees being full of the young fruit. What is remarkable this year is that the peach has thus far escaped the curl of the leaf, which for many years has been so disastrous to both trees and fruit. Since the rains began, the strawberry crop has come forward finely and promises to be abundant.

A Liar Corrected -- Mr. Wesley Hooker, former subordinate manager of the Ithaca Journal, has a paper of his own over in Cortland County and, by a copy of his sheet that someone has sent us we observe that he is trying to give an account of the reasons why the Yates County Chronicle goes for Greeley. The man evidently has a fine facility for lying, and shows the benefit of his tuition under the Shysters while he was hanging about Penn Yan last winter to get employment under their dictation. Among other things he says Mr. Cleveland acknowledged the only hearty support he had for Senator last fall came from and through the officeholders. A man that can lie like that of course has the cheek for any thing. The Postmasters of Penn Yan and Dundee were not the only ones that did their level best to elect a Democratic Senator under assurances from Folger that they should be all the more secure in their places under the Grant Administration for their infamous treachery. Let Mr. Hooker make his foots and his case looks very well, but the actual facts are very much at war with Hooker's statements

100 Years Ago

June 14, 1922

Liberty Street in Penn Yan was still a dirt road 100 years ago. In 1922, a group of Liberty Street residents told the Village Board they favored paving the street with roads at a maximum width of 24 feet.

Paving Liberty Street -- A committee of seven representing the taxpayers on Liberty Street came before the Board and said they were strongly in favor of brick for the paving of Liberty Street and requested the Board to use brick and put in the street whatever width the money voted would cover. The subject was thoroughly discussed by the two committees and it seems to be the opinion of the majority of the village taxpayers that brick should be used. Those present were opposed to calling another election for the raising of more money on account of the delay and expense and the maximum width the street could be paved with brick being 24 feet with the money available. It was moved and carried that the president enter a contract with C. N. Kelly, of Penn Yan, for the paving and curbing of Liberty Street from the outlet bridge to the northerly line of Chapel St., 24 feet wide with Metropolitan Brick, according to plans and specifications Engineer Brennan.

Barns Near Dundee Blown Down -- A severe rain and wind storm which visited Dundee early Sunday morning did much damage to trees and buildings in and near that village. On the farm of Homer Merritt a large barn was blown down as was one on the Faldine Fults farm. A number of maple trees in Seneca and Union streets were blown over and an apple tree on the place owned by Resolvo Morris. All of these trees were located on the north side of the streets while those on the south side were uninjured. It is reported that the wind did much damage to the berry crop, whipping the bushes and bruising or knocking off the fruit. A considerable amount of damage was also done at Lakemont and Fred David, the town commissioner of highways was called to the village early Sunday morning to clear the streets of limbs, etc.

Boy Walks 50 Miles to Get to Lake Keuka — A walking feat that will stamp him as a second Weston has been accomplished by William Howard, the 12-year-old son of Ernest Howard of No. 17 Bostwick St., Hornell, who covered on foot the 50 miles between his home and Crystal Beach, Lake Keuka, Saturday between dawn and midnight The boy pulled along a hand cart in which he carried all the paraphernalia he wanted to use during his outing at the lake. It all happened as the result of the automobile in which William’s parents and some friends were riding to the lake to be not big enough to hold William and his fishing tackle. After William, who had hoped to be squeezed in, found that he would have to lose several days at the lake while awaiting the completion of other arrangements to get him there, he formed the idea of walking to cut down the space of time that separated him from sheer joy. He got an early start, accordingly, and used his cart in which to coast down all the hills. At no time did he get a ride by automobile. His father, asleep in preparation for an early morning fishing trip, was startled when he was roused by the boy’s knock at the cottage door at midnight Saturday, but he was amazed when he heard of the son’s accomplishment.

Gas 26 Cents -- Standard Oil gas is only 26 cents at Fellows hitch barn on Wagener Street in Penn Yan.

Water Supply Demonstrations -- “Running water in every farm home” is the slogan of the water supply demonstration truck sent out from the State College of Agriculture, which will visit Yates County on June 26th-27, according to a statement given out Tuesday by County Agricultural Agent A. L. Hollingworth. Only a limited number of demonstrations for the truck can be scheduled by the college, and for that reason County Agent Hollingworth says that the local Farm Bureau should feel pleased that it has been able to secure three demonstrations, so scheduled through the county as to reach the largest possible number of families. Demonstrations are to be held in the following communities: Himrod, Branchport and Rushville. The meeting in Rushville will be held jointly with the Farm and Home Bureau of Ontario County. These demonstrations are considered particularly novel and practical because instead of using diagrams, pictures and charts to show how a farmer may install his own running water system in his home, the actual equipment — the kitchen sink, hot water front, pipe connections, etc. — is set up before his eyes. This type of demonstration is not an experiment, as a similar demonstration was sent out by the State College in 1920 and met with great success.

75 Years Ago

June 11, 1947

Wagener Sisters Evicted — Live in Cardboard Shack -- Two elderly spinsters, descendants of the famous David Wagener who helped found Penn Yan and who is buried in Lake View cemetery, have been evicted from their home on East Mountain Avenue in Plainfield, N.J., and are existing in a makeshift house built of paper cartons which they constructed themselves.

The women are the Misses Mary Alpha and Louise Wagener, direct descendants of the family that came to America in 1720 and played an important part in the founding of the republic. Ordered from their rambling farm home, where they have lived for 10 years, because the purchasers, an elderly couple, wanted to move in, they hired a carter to take their belongings to a field three miles away. This is part of the property surrounding a bungalow which they hope to rent.

Disdaining charity as long as their meager means last, they now seek a home, “any kind of a place as long as we can retain our respectability,” said Miss Mary. They have no sanitary facilities, no place to cook, and carry their water in buckets from a spring about a mile away. What little cooking they do is accomplished over an open fire built from the dead branches of the surrounding trees. Their only protection is a huge St. Bernard dog, Nero. Within the cramped confines of the cardboard structure, one sister sleeps on the springs of an old sofa, the other on the sofa cushions placed on some salvaged boards.

David Wagener, great-grandfather of these two sisters, established the first shoe factory on the Delaware River long before the Revolution. He helped feed the soldiers at Valley Forge, and later on, came to Penn Yan where he built the famous Wagener house on the Bluff and the house in Penn Yan on the present site of the New Knapp hotel, and developed the Wagener Apple. Wagener Street in Penn Yan is named for him. Wagener College on Staten island was named for another relative.

The Warren Township Welfare committee sent a representative to the sisters recently, telling them regretfully that no place had been found for them to live in. Miss Mary, who admits to being past 50, is hoping to get a job cooking at some resort along the shore when the vacation season begins. The other sister, crippled by rheumatism and not yet fully recovered from a serious hip injury, is suffering from the continued exposure to damp weather.

Penn Yan Woman Is Co-author of Book on Early Plated Silverware -- Mrs. Jane L, (Charles H.) Beaumont of 314 Clinton St., Penn Yan, is writing a book on antiques in collaboration with Dr. Graydon L. Freeman, former professor of psychology at Northwestern University. It will be the first book ever written to cover the complete field of electro-plated silver hollow ware manufactured in the United States from 1837 to 1900. Titled “Early American Plated Silver,” it will be published by Century House of New York City in August. The publisher’s announcement concerning, the forthcoming book says in part “Early American Plated Silver” by Freeman and Beaumont is expected to do for the collectors of plated silver what Ruth Webb Lee’ book, “Early American Pressed Glass,” has done for the collectors of pressed glass. Orders are already pouring in for this new book from all over the country.” Besides writing part of the text, Mrs. Beaumont, who is a graduate of the Parson’s Art school, New York City, is also doing many of the illustrations for the volume, which will contain several hundred plates. Victorian tea sets, castors, and cake baskets are illustrated in great number.

Dresden To Get Warning Signals at NYC Crossing -- One of Dresden village’s most controversial political issues was settled in favor of the village today when the Public Service Commission made public an order that the New York Central railroad install automatic warning signals at the crossing near the western entrance of town on Route 54. Directing installation of the lights “On or before Dec. 31, 1947,” the order stipulated that the signals must be of the “automatic, flashing light variety.” Hearing on the matter was held April 9 in the courthouse at Penn Yan. A traffic survey taken during a 24-hour period on April 2 showed a total of 519 autos, four school buses, two other buses, 65 trucks, and 29 pedestrians crossing the tracks there during the period. Of the pedestrians, the survey noted, 22 were children. During the same period, 21 freight trains and 28 21ocomotives without trains passed the crossing. Mayor Lain, elected as mayor last fall, made securing of the crossing warning lights one of the chief items in his platform.

50 Years Ago

June 8, 1972

Miners Trapped in Himrod Salt Mine — Never in danger, but it was a long night nevertheless for both the 15 men trapped in the Morton Salt Company’s Seneca Lake mine, Route 14 and their families.

Fifteen men were working the second shift (4 p.m.- midnight) Wednesday, May 31, when lightning knocked out the mine’s electrical system at approximately 9 p.m. officials stated the men were never in danger, but due to the mine’s elevator being powered by electricity, the men could not be lifted to the surface immediately. Members of the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation were notified, due to continuous rains the corporation’s officials said "conditions were extremely hazardous and work would be delayed until morning.”

Marvin F. Winkel, mine manager, advised the men and their families via battery- powered telephone of the plan to wait until Thursday morning. The only danger would have been if a miner had become ill and needed quick medical attention. “We would have undertaken repair work before dawn if such an emergency had occurred,” he said.

The men had adequate air and water. They were lifted to the surface after the power substation was repaired. Power was restored at 8:56 a.m. Men on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift were paid for four hours work because they had checked in. They were sent home. The 8 a.m. shift Thursday, remained at the scene and resumed work as soon as the trapped men were brought out.

War of the Keuka Steamers --From The Chronicle-Express 1972 Tenth Annual Special Summer Issue -- The steamer Cricket was built by Alonzo Springstead in 1894 for Philo Lee. She was a trim craft equipped with twin clover leaf type screw cast at the Commercial Iron Works, a Penn Yan industry, which is not only history. The performance after launching was a source of much satisfaction both to her builder and owner. She had a top speed of about 18 miles per hour and was economical to operate.

The steamer "Cricket" on Keuka Lake's east branch about 1900.

Samuel McMath financed the major part of the cost of construction. The craft was named for and christened by his daughter, Crissy, or Cricket as she was affectionately called by her friends.

The Cricket took her place as one of the commercial craft on Keuka Lake just after C.W. Drake of New York City had purchased the old Line Navigation Company’s fleet of boats which included the Lulu, West Branch, Urbana, Holmes, and Halsey. Mr. Drake caused the Mary Bell to be built and launched about 1891. She proudly bore the title of Queen of the Lake, and her 161 ft. of symmetry was worthy of this title. Mr. Drake also purchased the Bath and Hammondsport Railroad, known now as the Champagne Route; the Grove Springs Hotel and leased the piers at Gibson, Pulteney, Grove Springs, and Keuka. He controlled the docks at Hammondsport and Penn Yan, and seemed to be in a position to stifle competition. It was natural that he looked with disfavor upon this new entry into a field where he had such a large stake.

What Mr. Drake had in mind concerning his competition was never known, for science has not yet made it possible to determine what goes in that dark continent of motive and desire, the human brain. Only by its fruits can we know it.

Some of the older residents of Penn Yan will remember the plank dyking held in place by piles drawn at frequent intervals. This was a solid fence that extended about six or eight feet above the water. Its object was to prevent the seeping of debris from the swamp on the west side and it also narrowed the channel so that the current was increased enough to carry along the sediment that the propellers were wont to stir as the boats traveled to and from Penn Yan. The dyke was a success. It was necessary for the boats to proceed at a slow speed for they displaced sufficient water to cause waves that were four to five feet high in their wake. The height of this wave increased proportionately with the speed of the craft.

The Cricket could not be unloaded at the Old Line Pier, but Guile and Winagle, a firm that manufactured the five-pound grape baskets that were used to market the bulk of Lake Keuka grapes for table use, allowed the use of their dock as an unloading place. It was here that the Cricket was moored when the Halsey came down the channel at full speed and that speed was augmented by the engineers working the bar to quicken the valve action on the engine. The resultant wave, more than six feet high, engulfed the Cricket, filling her with water. Yes, she was really overloaded. There was a lawsuit and damages were awarded the Cricket owners. The amount is not certain.

A coffer dam was built around the Cricket and the water pumped out. In a short time, she was again operating, much to the discomfort of Mr. Drake. When the steamers Holmes and Halsey came together off the end of Bluff Point, supposedly due to wrong whistle signals, there was evidence that the Cricket was actually the intended victim of that collision.

Yes, the Hatfields and the McCoys didn’t have much on the operators of steamboats on Keuka Lake in the gay nineties and at the turn of the century. The Cricket plied the lake until 1907 when she burned at Hammondsport on a night in March.