Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Malone: Poverty at its roots

Descendant of the Puritan Faith
Malone, no shock to anyone living here for long, had never been prosperous. In the early years, no one had money. Literally. To purchase goods, people bartered. Only one man appeared to own any cold cash—Obadiah T. Hosford. He had two silver dollars that he clinked in his pockets. This had to be quite the status symbol since several histories had noted it.

Hosford ran the Hosford House for thirty years. Seaver said this boarding house was just south of where the railroad crossed Elm—so I believe that was up by Raymond Street. In addition to money, Hosford was said to have been the owner of the second horse in town.

Because of the poverty and isolation, “a common spirit of helpfulness seemed to pervade all hearts” (Seaver, Historical Sketches 26). This time period saw life here “all grim earnest, almost unintermittent toil, privation and poverty without much pauperism” (Seaver 26). In 1825 with a population in Malone itself of about 2,719, only one in every one thousand was a pauper, leaving a total of about eight in the whole county (Seaver 39). The poor at this time were always cared for and our own need caused us to give to one another.

Our communal spirit and concern for one another was seen in things like work bees. Since no one could hire labor nor do it oneself, we worked. Usually for booze. (see my blogs on bootlegging).

Rum and whiskey was freely provided from local distilleries. The most infamous of our five distilleries, “Whiskey Hollow,” was located by the electric plant on Lower Park Street. This brewery lasted the longest of all in the town, and according to Seaver, at one time rivaled the town in importance (411).

Despite our predilection for liquor, which was a puritanical allowance, and old-timer said, As I remember Malone, it was the most perfect representation of the ideal puritanical village” (Seaver 37). This could be taken almost literally since most of the town were members of the First Congregational Church—a denomination descended from the Puritans. In the earlier years, it was fashionable to be a church member.

And if you are aghast at the paucity of entertainment today, the only amusements tolerated, at least according to one private letter, was church, prayer meeting and singing school (Seaver 37). 

Do you know more about Malone's beginnings? Anything to add? Corrections needed? Feedback is always welcomed.
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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Malone: The Beginning

English: Armory, Malone
English: Armory, Malone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As we look out the window, not daring to take a step outside on these frigid winter days, it's easy to see why Malone had been called the Siberia of the North. The forested landscape and hills as they rolled down from the Adirondacks, were as beautiful then as they are today. However, no one wanted it. Not even the Indians.

In 1791, a section of New York called the Macomb Purchas was made. This was the Old Military Tract of about four million acres. Richard Harison bought the middle tract, and thus Malone had its beginnings.

Portrait of John Jay
Portrait of John Jay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Richard Harison was a frined of John Jay's (a governor of New York from 1795-1801) and was once a law partner of Alexander Hamilton's, as well as a friend of George Washington.

The first settlers who came to Malone in 1802 were Enos, Nathan and John Wood, three brothers who had fought in the war for Independence. Noel Conger and Noah Moody followed shortly after. They, along with others, came from the Vermont corridor. These first settlers cane "with devotion to home, with belief in the church and the school and with fidelity to conscience" (Seaver, Historical Sketches 14).

The young town grew up around Main and Webster Streets, and you can see the historical marker of Harison's home next to Davis School on Webster.

Our town, erected in 1805, was originally named Harison, but he settlement along the river was more frequently called the Center. In 1808 Harison changed its name to Ezraville after his friend Ezra L'Hommedieu. Eventually it was named Malone after Edmund Malone and eminent "Irish Shakespearean scholar" and another friend of Harison's.
And today, people complain about the lack of activities in Malone. Today, as in 1805, aside from churches and government, no other organization existed. A situation soon to be rectified.

Coming next week: early growth.