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and oxen were served on the tables. There was a great sign hung up, with
poetry on it:
“'Tis done, 'tis done, the mighty chain,
That binds Lake Erie to the main."
The road first along ran to Piermont on the Hudson. They hadn't been able to get through the Bergen Hill, which lay just back of Jersey City. So had to go up to Piermont as the next best place of reaching the Hudson. Washington Irving's country seat was on the river on the opposite bank. He could look over 'and see the trains come down to the shore; for there was a pier a mile long that ran out into the water from Piermont. It had to be that long, because the Hudson is shallow at that point. (Right where Washington Irving had his estate was where the three patriot soldiers got Major André when he was trying to escape from West Point, during the treason of Benedict Arnold.) That place, Piermont, had formerly been a fishing village called Tappan Slote. The place had supported three fishing sloops. But now three steamboats took the place of the sloops. Great shops and engine-houses were built, and a switch-yard. Piermont - a long pier running right into the mountain back on the shore; I suppose that's where
I the village got its new name - became a boom town.
This plan of having the eastern terminal of the
road at Piermont had its drawbacks. It was twentyfour miles
up the river from New York City. Steamboats could take care of the travel all right in summer. But in winter it was a different matter.
In that day there wasn't so much traffic in New York Bay and on the North River as there is now.
now. So that in a cold winter the floating ice, not having anything to break it up, used to jam, and freeze solid from shore to shore. The Erie Railroad boats to Piermont in winter had to have a channel cut for them through the ice. Sometimes they had hard work keeping even this open. The channel would sometimes get so narrow that the boat could just skimp through. Skaters on the ice would come alongside and jump onto the guard-rail of the steamboat, or onto the
However, in spite of this difficulty the railroad did well almost from the start. For one thing, the people living alongside were so proud of the thing that they pitched in and helped it in every way they could. They looked upon the Erie Road
a patriotic achievement. Because people as far away as Europe were talking about this wonderful engineering feat that America had put through. More than that, the road ran through a prosperous region. From Rockland to Chautauqua, there were rich farm lands on both sides. It tapped the Delaware and Hudson Canal at Port Jervis. Branch lines quickly spread out on both sides and served
as feeders. The grazing lands of Sullivan, Delaware and Broome Counties now had a
way their stuff to market. The road paid good dividends.
I had kept my eye on the road while it was a-building. Because I knew something of the country
it went through. My Western cattle trips had made me acquainted with Ohio and the great region west, which this road was now to lead into. And my shorter drover trips out from New York had made me more or less at home in those counties that the Erie Road passed through. I knew that that southern York State country was a rich one. It had been peopled for a long time back. During the Revolution those southern counties had been an important section of the state. The Tuxedo Gap through the Ramapo Mountains was, in General George Washington's day, the only road between New York and the western counties. (I knew a whole lot about that Ramapo section. When a man travels through a country on horseback, with a drove of three or four hundred critters a-plodding along behind him, and pitching camp at nightfall whereever he happens to be, he picks up a sight more information about a locality than you can get out of books.) That is why General George Washington fortified the Tuxedo Gap when he was looking for the red-coats to advance from New York City and New Jersey. He knew that that was the only pass by which they could get through, and he wanted
to keep them away from his army which was up
in the Highlands. Back in my drover days these fortifications were still standing. They ran out from the south side of the mountain, a mile and a half up from Major Suffern's mansion. (That mansion
( is where General George Washington made his headquarters when his army was camped there.) In this
gap, and on top of the high “torn” – that's a Dutch word for steeple — before the railroad came with its smoke and dust, you could look wellnigh into New York Harbour. They used to tell the story that General George Washington used to climb to the top of that hill and watch for the British through a spy-glass. Just a little beyond this, a mile or so to the west, is where our droves of cattle, and in fact all the traffic which went through the gap, used to cross the Ramapo River. The railroad when it came built its bridge right alongside the old turnpike bridge. Back in my drover days, Judge Pierson had his iron works there for rolling and splitting iron, and making cut nails. The river here in this gap furnished fine water power. And the mountains round about are so full of iron ore that in a lightning storm you could hardly get away from the fiery bolts, no matter which way you ran. To be there in a lightning storm would make a sinful man wish he had listened to what the preacher said and had made himself thunder-proof against the wrath of God.
Why, to show you the richness of that country, long before the railroad was even thought of, out beyond Pierson's Iron Works Major Jake Sloat had put up a big cotton mill. It was in a Dutch settlement. Sloat was very anxious to keep a good tone in his settlement. He had a grocery and general store, and wouldn't allow a smitch of rum or intoxicating drink to be sold anywhere in the place. The mill was in a beautiful grove. Dutch girls worked in the mill. Their homes were back in the woods all around, here one and there one, very cosy little cottages. It was a God-fearing people. Judge Pierson also kept liquor out of his village. So that all the way through that section it was a poor place for drovers to stop off in. Because, since they weren't allowed to sell liquor, no one would put up a tavern. They figured that without a tap-room, a tavern wouldn't pay expenses. So we drovers would plan to go through that section in the daytime, and reach some tavern further on. Because, if we landed there at night, it was a case of sleeping out under the open sky.
Not far from the Tuxedo Gap, up in the mountains, was a woodchopper's settlement called Johnsontown. They made a living by burning charcoal, which they carried down to the Ramapo River for use in the iron furnaces. They also whittled out wooden spoons and chopping bowls, which they sold. They were a good people. But they didn't