Jul 16, 2012

Sailors, Keepers, Shipwrecks, and the Maid

When I am traveling I usually have a guide book but I also like to have a novel or some other book to help personalize my trip. I read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” while we were in Savannah and when we were in Vietnam I read “Up Country.” Both really added to the trip experience.

The Seaway Trail recently published a book “Sailors, Keepers, Shipwrecks, and the Maid” by Steve Benson. There are great stories and legends that were set in the area from the St. Lawrence to Erie, Pennsylvania. It might be said that the book tells the ‘rest of the story.’ Some of the stories I knew, others added to the information I already had, while others were new. I was pleased that it includes a story about Mexico Point Park’s Spy Island that Bonnie Shumway, Mexico’s town historian, submitted. Spy Island recently made the news when the park’s statue of Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant went missing for a couple of days. Thanks to the excellent media coverage it was returned. Brant was the man who insisted the British continue to Oswego before attacking Fort Stanwix which gave the spy, Silas Towne, time to warn the Americans that the British were on the way.

But, it also has great stories of other places along the Seaway Trail, stories that you would most likely not learn about by just driving along the route. Some are bizarre to say the least. Many have all heard of “Mad” Anthony Wayne of Revolutionary War fame but most of us never learned what happened to him when he died of gout in the Erie area. Wayne was buried in Erie but 12 years later his son returned with the thought of having his father reburied in the family plot in Radnor, PA, 400 miles away. He didn’t have room in the buggy so had his father’s well-preserved body boiled leaving only the bones which were duly buried in Radnor. The rest of the remains were returned to the original burial site so Wayne is buried in two locations.

Some stories defy explanation like the “Jumping Bass” of 1899. It sounds like every fisherman’s dream. It seems that some men were fishing in Oak Orchard River near Point Breeze west of Rochester when fish began jumping in the boat. Needless to say, no one believed them so the next night several boats returned to the river and the amazing event happened again and continued for the rest of the summer. One evening the combined ‘catch’ of two boats was 52 fish. The following season things were back to normal and no one was ever able to explain the phenomenon.

All the stories are fascinating including those that deal with the Niagara Falls, Underground Railroad and the War of 1812. I love the Big Cheese story. Imagine sending President Obama a 1,400 pound cheese and having it sit for months in the White House before inviting the public into a party where the cheese was served.

Learn about President Grant and Bonaparte’s Northern NY connection, along with the 12-year-old Grace Bedell who is credited with Abraham Lincoln growing whiskers. The book is available at the Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor and online at http://www.seawaytrailstore.com/.