Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

June 1, 2014

Early settler's account gives glimpse into Lockport's past

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Back in 1873, the Lockport Daily Journal ran a series of articles under the title “Recollections.” Most of these reminisces came from “Aunt Edna” Smith, wife of Dr. Isaac Smith.

The couple arrived in what was to become Lockport in April 1821, before the locks were started. A few crude huts were scattered along the ravine where the locks would eventually be built. Main Street was still studded with tree stumps when the Smiths built their log home near Market Street. The three-room cabin was considered a palace compared to the others.

By the end of the year there were about 1,000 people in the village including canal contractors and laborers, merchants and mechanics, and many members of the Society of Friends (the Quakers), of whom the Smiths belonged. A Quaker settlement was established at the intersection of Main, Market and Locust streets that comprised a meeting house, school, cemetery and several homes. 

The Smiths were fortunate, and unique, in the fact that their cabin had a door and a window. This was a necessity to keep snakes and other wild animals out of your cabin. Rattlesnakes were abundant around Lockport in the early days and would be a common site in the ravine where the locks were under construction. The snakes were so plentiful that a bounty was offered for each head or rattle that was brought into the sheriff. 

Edna Smith’s daughter Laura remembered as a child how her mother and aunt killed a snake that slithered into their cabin, when the door was opened, by stabbing it in the neck with an iron fire shovel and beating it about the head with a piece of wood. It was five feet long, six inches in diameter and completely black in color.

Another of “Aunt Edna’s” memories involved the first grist mill that was built in the village of Lockport. In November 1821, Otis Hathaway constructed the mill in exactly three weeks and when it was finally completed the whole village assembled for a “jollyfication.” The celebration began at the mill located on Eighteen Mile Creek in Lowertown and was later moved to the “Cottage Inn” at Main and Cottage streets. Here, the mush was “improved” with the addition of “wine, brandy, molasses and butter” and platefuls of that mixture were passed around and no one went “home until morning.”

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