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know very much about the goings on in the great world outside. When the railroad trains began to come through this Tuxedo Gap, those woodsmen heard the screech of the engine as it went through the woods — it was pretty nigh all woods in those days, so that a squirrel could almost go through four counties from tree-top to tree-top, without touching ground - they thought it was the scream of some new kind of wild animal; for the woods then were infested with panther and other varmints. So one night they gathered with axes and pitchforks in that part of the woods where the screeching had been heard night after night, to make an ambuscade for the beast. When the engine finally came rushing through the woods and the darkness, with a long tail of light streaming behind, those mountaineers rushed away scared. This new kind of varmint was too much.
The Monroe Iron Furnace, about three miles beyond Sloat's Burg, was where Parrott made his guns,
which became famous in the Civil War. There was an iron mine six miles up from there in the mountain, whose ore was said to be the sovereignest in all the country for the making of cannon. (That's why the Parrott gun became so noted.) It was great iron, also, for making nails; and some distance from there, at the South Fields, back in my drover days, was a flourishing nail works. Only smart and handy chaps were employed in those works, because a nailer had to work like sixty. A nail is so small that, to compete with the maker of wooden pins, a nailer had to get a certain number of nails made out of every heating of the rod. Even as it was, and work as hard as they could, they couldn't force wooden nails from the market altogether. Many of the pin-makers had got to be so skilled in making wooden nails that they held their own even when iron nails came in. But wooden pins were not all of uniform size; they used to cause much profanity on the part of house and barn builders. So it was a good thing, I have always thought, when iron nails finally took the place of wooden pins altogether.
This particular section was not good for drovers. There was good fishing in the ponds. Ramapo, they used to say, was an Indian name, meaning “place of round ponds.” And these bits of water were scattered all through the mountains on both sides of the Tuxedo Gap. So that, if a fellow could only have stopped over for a spell, he could have had good sport with a fish-pole. But the region sent only a few cattle to market, and these were for the most part stringy things, mere bags of bones. The woods were too thick and the mountains too wild for grazing. But when you got out a little further west, beyond Tuxedo Gap, you came out by Centreville. (This was changed to “Turner's" when the railroad came, because old man Turner kept a tavern at that place right close to the tracks, with a flourishing grist mill back of it. He used to feed the travellers; Turner's Restaurant got to be famous the whole length of the Erie Railroad because of its fine victuals.) Here you came into a region flowing with milk and butter. Some of the finest short-horn beeves that ever came to the New York market were picked up in this valley. The pasturing was of good quality in summer, and in winter the fodder was plentiful. From here all the way along the route of the Erie, it was a great breeding section. It made big money by selling critters to us drovers, long before the railroad came.
ES, I knew something of the richness of
that country through which the Erie
railroad was being built. So, when it was at last finished, I hankered to get it into my hands. I felt that I could make money out of it. When you own the hen, you own the eggs also. And when you control a railroad - that's the
a same as owning it — you own what the road makes.
I went about it like this. There was by this time a chain of railroads through the Mohawk Valley and the central part of York State. They coupled together, a little later, to form the "New York Central.” This chain of railroads out of Albany could be made, in connection with my steamboats on the Hudson, a bad competitor of the Erie for the through western traffic. With my Hudson River boats I was in a position to favour this Central Line with rates on the through traffic and so make myself an enemy of the Erie whom it would stand them in hand to make terms with. To make doubly sure, I set my trap at the other end also. Out on Lake Erie was a line of boats connecting with the Erie Railroad and forming its
route to the far West. Softly I bought a controlling interest in this steamboat line. This gave me power over the Erie in that direction. I took still a third step. Out in western New York there was a line of railroad connecting both the Central Line and the Erie. It was known as the “Buffalo and State Line Railroad.” Without letting anybody know what I was doing, I got enough stock in this dinkey little road to control it.
Now my trap was set. I let it be known that I was planning to give the railroad which ran through central New York a better through rate, both on the Hudson River steamboats and on the “Buffalo and State Line” connection with the West, than the Erie could meet. I also hinted to the Erie Company that it would very soon have to give me a bigger slice of the through rate, for the use of my Lake Erie line of steamers.
The Erie people got interested in me then almighty quick. For I had their line bottled up, corked at both ends good and tight. “What do you mean,” they asked, “by giving that New York Central crowd better rates than you do us?”
I answered, sort of cool-like, that I hadn't thought the Erie would care very much. They had never seemed to give much thought to Dan Drew one way or the other. I said I was kind of surprised that they even knew I was living.
“What do you mean by that?” they asked.