The Cortland Democrat, Friday, October 20, 1893.
IN HIS NEW HOME.
Mr. M. S. Hunting Writes an Interesting Letter.
Mr. M. S. Hunting of Cortland, formerly of Lockport, writes to The Journal of that place the following letter which will interest our readers:
To the Editor of the Lockport Daily Journal:
CORTLAND, Oct. 11, 1893.
When I left Lockport a week ago you were kind enough to ask me to write my impressions of Cortland, my new residence. I now comply with the request.
Cortland is a town of about 10,000 inhabitants, midway between Syracuse and Binghamton. It has grown rapidly for the last few years and has now a steady and healthy growth, but little retarded by these hard times. It is remarkably well built and the people are thrifty and contented—one of the typical Yankee towns of the interior of the state.
Main and other business streets have many elegant blocks, all in fine condition. The great lack of the town is sewerage and pavements. Plainly the traders and other business men located on these streets are fairly prosperous and happy. No failures of any consequence have occurred in these times of bankruptcy and ruin.
In the early days of Cortland, when "time was young and birds conversed as well as sung," the two Randalls, Roswell and William, were the Romulus and Remus that started the town and largely shaped its destinies. Both were gentlemen of culture, shrewd and able. They erected splendid residences and entertained sumptuously the first ladies and gentlemen of the land—such eminent and elegant gentlemen as President Van Buren. Their grounds were ample, embracing many rods of frontage on Main and other streets. William set apart for the use of his residence some twelve acres and walled them in by massive stone walls and iron gates—now after the lapse of over 60 years, almost untouched by the tooth of time, and strong enough to resist the catapult of the ancients. Their gardens were equally the home of the flowers and foliage of the tropics and temperate zone. Shielded in spacious hothouses, they knew nothing of the rigors of winter or the frosty breath of "Old Boreas;" and the fruits of the tropics, forgetting for the time their "Native Heath," grew and ripened in mid-winter. And while this garden almost rivaled the gardens of Sallust, the residences of these gentlemen were veritable palaces: so that years ago the residence of William was regarded as the finest country seat then in the United States, and it still stands majestic and commanding in its severe, unadorned simplicity.
But the presence, ability and dominant character of these two men, made it impossible to build an elegant, compact Main-st., so essential to a small town, and thus were the growth and symmetry of the place prevented—making it necessary to build many of best and largest blocks on streets leading into Main-st. In a word, they absorbed too many of the choicest business lots and held on to them with iron tenacity, forgetful of the good of their fellow townsmen; and though wealthy, they did little in the way of building, but much in retarding the growth of town. The large tracts of farming land owned by William on different streets in the heart of the place, are still owned by his posterity, untouched by the hand of improvement—a veritable desert, so far as buildings are concerned, in an oasis of elegant residences all around; but a beneficent nature has not forgotten to impart to these lands the fertility of old and they still bear luxuriant crops of grass and grain.
Several of the clergymen wear the title of Doctor of Divinity, are able and learned and command a good attendance of interested auditors. They have a new and elegant opera house and plenty of saloons; but these latter are cast down since the town voted no license last spring; and since Brother Jones of Rochester is now prodding them with the goad of law, they find the Jordan of selling liquor without a license a hard road to travel. And here is a revelation.
Cortland has a river instead of a "raging canal" like Lockport. It rises, not in the Mountains of the Moon as the famous Nile that once ran blood for seven entire days, was supposed to rise till a few years ago, but somewhere up in Madison county, and after flow along in placid current through the beautiful valley of Cortland, finally loses itself in the Chenango river at Whitney's Point, Chenango county. This river is not like either of Milton's four infernal rivers that disgorge into the burning lake their baleful streams, but is nearer akin to his Lethe, a slow and silent stream, the river of oblivion.
And Cortland has a swell club and an elegant club house, and to illustrate "what's in a name," wisely gave this club the same name as the river bears, thus teaching their members and the public to spell and pronounce it; for a prominent club man only the other day frankly told the writer he could neither spell nor pronounce the name of the river, and another, an eminent lawyer, long a resident, tried to spell it but missed, and finally owned that he did not know how to pronounce it. As near as I can find out, after consulting all the oracles and stars of learning, the correct spelling is Tioughnioga, and last summer this club had the "swellest outing" that ever passed through Ithaca on the way to Taughannock Falls, thus emphasizing the eternal fitness of things and names: The Tioughnioga club to Taughannock Falls.
The old one-story house in which the proprietor, William Randall, lived three-quarters of a century ago, and where his children were born, still stands, solitary and alone, and wears the wrinkled brow of age without the suspicion of paint or repairs on weather-beaten clapboards.
One of the State Normal schools is located here. It has always been very successful, now numbering 800 students in the Normal and Practice departments, and it has over a thousand graduates. These graduates are teaching in nearly every state of the union and have achieved marked success. A large and beautiful addition to the old building was made last year, involving an expenditure of near one hundred thousand dollars, so that the edifice is now grand and imposing, and lacks nothing to make it in all its appointments the peer of the best in the land. And it is thrice fortunate in having as principal, so able, learned and successful an educator as Dr. Cheney, and with all so fine a gentleman; and the corps of devoted teachers acting in harmony with the principal hardly deserve or receive less commendation, and no one who has had the good fortune for the last two years to attend the graduating exercises of this model school and observed the excellence of all the essays and addresses of the graduating classes will regard this commendation as extravagant and undeserved—and this town is famous and has been so of old for its other schools, all largely attended, in fine condition and well instructed.
Adopting the language of the Catholics and Episcopalians, there are but two churches here, one a Catholic and the other an Episcopalian, and eight meeting houses not claiming apostolic descent or entrusted with the keys of St. Peter, but descent from John Calvin, John Wesley, etc.
This is a great manufacturing town. The Cortland Wagon company is located here. The Hon. L. J. Fitzgerald, late state treasurer, is president and Hugh Duffey, Democratic candidate for the same office, is vice-president and superintendent. It is very prosperous; employs 600 hands and about the same number in Ontario, Can. It is said to be the largest establishment in the world for manufacturing wagons and sleighs, and sells in all places where people ride instead of going "a-foot;" and this is by no means the only large establishment of the kind located here.
Next in importance and extent is the Wickwire establishment, employing 350 hands, doing a very large business and selling their products all over the United States. The two brothers are the proprietors, and they manufacture wire cloth and wire goods generally. Their great business is carried on in immense buildings; they have been in the business since 1876, commencing on a small scale with limited capital and gradually reaching out under new and improved patents, until they have become wealthy, owning farms with blooded horses and other stock and all the other appendages of rich and prosperous men.
The residence section of Cortland is remarkably well built. Most of it is comparatively new and is built in modern style with the noted improvements lately made in architecture. There are no old, dilapidated buildings and few that are unpainted; the streets are wide; the sidewalks are excellent, and the lawns are well kept and elegant.
Tompkins-st. is the best street. Start at the Messenger House and go west; on both sides are many fine residences; on the south side in close proximity, with only a few houses between, stand the two elegant residences of the Wickwires, and the framed residence of Mr. Fitzgerald, scarcely inferior. These three houses standing near each other constitute a triumvirate of elegance scarcely equalled in any other town of the size of Cortland. What these three houses cost, well, nobody but the proprietors know. Take the Wickwire houses; one a grey and the other a brown sand stone with their ample size and architectural beauty: large, expensive barns; charming and well kept lawns; tropical plants of prodigious growth and luxuriant foliage; bronzed images, the best works of the artist; fountains of sparkling water, with countless sprays dripping on bronzed figures bathing in a font beneath their feet; well, these things are delightful and in the line of culture and refinement.
And the people of Cortland are proud of their town. They regard it as the Athens of all this section. Compared with it, towns contiguous bearing such classic names as Homer, Virgil, Dryden, Marathon, Cincinnatus and "Salt Pint" (now Syracuse), are reckoned as outside the pale of civilization and culture; and withal, it has a normal Republican majority of 500, which adds to its cup of felicity, and it has an unusually large number of young aspiring Republican statesmen; hence, sometimes vaulting ambition o'erleaps itself and falls on t'other side—the Democratic side. Such was notably the case last spring at the municipal election.
Cortland has two newspapers, the Cortland STANDARD, daily, and the Cortland Democrat, weekly; the former Republican and the latter Democratic. Both are ably edited and conducted. The editors illustrate in their general conduct toward each other, how good it is for brethren to dwell together in harmony. When no election is impending and the political pool is pitied, the love of David and Jonathan is frigid compared with theirs. Physically, editor Clark of The STANDARD is rather lean like Cassius, while Jones of The Democrat is fat, sleek and rotund such a man as Caesar likes. But this quietude near election time breaks into storms, tempests and cyclones. Each puts on war paint and brandishes the scalping knife and tomahawk. When not a red man, each is a Richard the Third and exclaims, when he scents the battle, "Why slumbers my trusty steel?" but no blood is spilt, and when the battle is over quiet again reigns in Warsaw.
Finally, in a word Cortland is a fine town; is healthy; has splendid buildings, lawns and sidewalks; has an abundance of majestic oaks and elms; an excellent supply of pure water; good churches, schools and theater; an educated and eloquent clerical order; plenty of doctors and lawyers: three sound banks; splendid manufacturing establishments; and to cap the climax, an intelligent, well-to-do population, and charming, handsome, elegantly dressed and cultivated ladies.
M. S. HUNTING.
[This letter was published also in the Cortland Evening Standard about mid-week—CC editor.]