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Column for 11.16.11
“Tell me something about Boonville,” a first time visitor asked recently.
I did what I usually do when visitors ask something like that. I handed over a copy of Harney J. Corwin’s “Around Boonville,” which has 127 pages of pictures and interesting information.
Here are five things my visiting friend found to be especially interesting:
1. The 20-ton “John Butterfield” was the name of the first locomotive to arrive in Boonville. The locomotive was named in honor of the president of the Black River and Utica Railroad, John Butterfield founded the Overland Express stagecoach company and was the first president of American Express. Butterfield’s railroad reached Boonville in 1855.
My visitor said, “Wasn’t John Butterfield the father of Daniel Butterfield, the Civil War general who composed “Taps?”
That’s true, I said.
2. The caption under a canal boat picture, supplied by Boonville’s Ed Fynmore, who knows a little something about the Black River Canal, states: “Opened in 1850, the Black River Canal ran north and south, connecting Boonville with the Erie Canal at Rome. By 1861, the canal was complete, extending north to Carthage...Walter D. Edmonds portrays canal life in his novels ‘Rome Haul’ (1929) and ‘Erie Waters’ (1931) and in his short-story collection ‘Mostly Canallers‘ (1934).”
My visitor said, “Edmonds also wrote ‘Drums Along the Mohawk,’ didn’t he?”
He did. “Drums” is probably his most famous book because the movie of the same name, starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert, was a big hit.
3. The Avon Theater was near the corner of Main and Church Street and the book has a nice picture of it, another of the ones supplied by Fynmore. The 1920ish picture shows children out front of the theater. They were treated to a movie by Boonville’s Kiwanis Club, The caption states, in part: “In 1926, after a hotly contested election, local citizens voted to allow the showing of Sunday movies.”
My friend, who is about my age, said, “I can remember when theaters were closed on Sunday.”
I said, “I can remember when everything was closed on Sunday.”
4. Speaking of being closed on Sundays, there’s a great old photograph of Trenton Falls, courtesy of Larry Myers, and this caption: “By the 1840s, Trenton Falls on West Canada Creek had become one of the premier tourist destinations in North America. With the completion of the Black River and Utica Railroad in 1855, the falls became easily accessible. One-way train fare between Boonville and Trenton was 75 cents. In deference to local clergy, however, trains did not initially run on Sundays.”
5. And in another photograph supplied by Ed Fynmore, there’s a scene from an old barbershop. The caption states: “Utica native Fred Pfeifle came to Boonville in 1865 and within a few years had set up a barbershop in the Union Block. Over a career of more than 40 years, Pfeifle claimed to have shaved a long list of notables, including Chester Arthur, Artemus Ward, Gen. Franz Sigel, P.T. Barnum, Edwin Booth, Mark Twain, and Tom Thumb. He also shampooed the hair of Mary Todd Lincoln.”
My visiting friend borrowed “Around Boonville” for “just a few days.” I’ll buy another copy. I know from experience that I won’t get mine back.