“Completion of the NY & Erie Rail Road”
Rockland County Messenger. May 22, 1851
The Erie road, that great enterprise is completed, and an iron band now connects the Atlantic and Lake Erie. It was formally opened on the 15th inst., and the ceremonies attending it were on a most magnificent scale.
Another avenue is thereby opened for the transportation of the products of the West, to the Empire City, and when those products are daily poured into her market places, then will its greatness and importance be realized.
Years of time and millions of money have been devoted to, and expended upon the work, from its origin to the consummation.
Its history is an eventful one, difficulties have attended it, and obstacles presented at every stage of its progress; but success is the result.
It extends from Piermont on the Hudson river, twenty-four miles north of the city of New York, passing through the southern tier of counties, entering two sections of Pennsylvania; to Dunkirk on Lake Erie forty-five miles south west of Buffalo; four hundred and fifty miles in length.
The cost of the road is set down at twenty and a half millions of dollars. The celebration of the completion and opening of this road was never equaled on any similar occasion in this country.
It was a perfect gala day from the commencement to the end. The most distinguished men of the nation and state were the guests of the company on the occasion. Among them were the President of the U. S., Secretaries of State, of War, of the Navy, the Attorney and Post Master Generals, and U. S. Senators Dickinson, Douglas, and others; Gov. Hunt and suite of this state with a number of Senators and Assemblymen; and many other distinguished men.
The steamer ” Erie,” with a large company of invited guests including those above named, on the morning of the 14th inst. left her wharf at the foot of Duane St. at an early hour, amid the cheers of an assembled multitude to proceed to the eastern terminus of the Erie road; where she safely arrived in due time.
The company were received at Piermont with all the honors, where the President of the U. S. made a brief speech and after some introduction, the iron horse with his distinguished followers was puffing on his way to the shores of Lake Erie.
The excursion trains were saluted at the different depots in this county, but very slight glimpses of the President were obtained by the assembled multitudes; which seems to have created some feelings of dissatisfaction among the royal Whigs of this County.
At Suffern, the majority of the company who felt an interest in the occasion repaired to “Constitution Rock,” situated on the highest mountain in the vicinity, directly opposite and in full view of the Depot, where the approach of the excursion trains was announced by the voice of a revolutionary cannon, planted there. A flag was presented at this place, and as the trains wound round the base of the mountain and the valley of the Ramapo; a salute (illegible) in honor of the company and their distinguished guests which were responded to in a becoming manner from the passing trains.
After all the trains had been duly saluted which passed that morning; a meeting was held upon “Constitution Rock.” of which Major J. A. Suffern was appointed Chairman, and D. Reed, Esq. Secretary. Resolutions were presented and unanimously adopted, expressive of the sense of the meeting upon the completion of the great work, and the opening of the road.
A bountiful collation having been partaken of, the chairman rapped to order, and the following toasts were proposed, drank and responded to among numerous others:
—The President of the United States, and Heads of Departments*
—The Army and Navy of the U. S.
—The President and Directors of the N. Y. and Erie R. R.
— The occasion we celebrate — its origin — its progress — its completion.
— Responded to by Mr. Lawrence, in a very entertaining speech. The union of Lake Erie with the Atlantic, a bright page in the history of enterprise
— W. Suffern responded in a befitting manner to this sentiment. Internal improvements, the links which form the chain of commerce, cementing the interest of states and of nations in one common bond of prosperity.
—This toast was responded to by Mr. Reed in a somewhat lengthy but eloquent speech, tracing the history of the internal improvements in our nation and state, and showing their benefit in the extension and growth of our commerce. The Iron Way — Long may the Iron Horse roll on in his iron power, conveying the life and property entrusted to his care with speed and safety.
— Mr. Jackson Suffern responded in a very witty and appropriate speech. The age, one which is distinguished as an era for the development and application of practical principles.
—This toast called up a Mr. Springsteen who gave a very philosophical dissertation on Locomotives, machinery, etcetera. The ” N. Y. and Erie Railroad” May its destiny be that of unrivaled success.
—In response to this some remarks were made by Mr. J. C. Suffern referring to the time when its debts would be liquidated, and its builders n enriched out of the abundance of its earnings. Many of the toasts were received with cheers, and after much speaking had been concluded, and a valedictory salute fired, the company adjourned from “Constitution Rock;” having passed a most delightful morning.
This is but a faint idea of what took place at every station along the line of the road. The greatest excitement prevailed as they proceeded West.
The company passed the night of the 14th at Elmira where preparations had been made for their reception. It would be impossible to give a description in this brief sketch of the magnificence of the entertainment. It was grand, such as became the occasion.
On the morning of the 15th the trains left Elmira for Dunkirk; they safely arrived during the afternoon where a most splendid reception was extended to the company and its guests.
A procession headed by the President of the U. S. marched through the principal streets of the town. The President of the U. S. and Cabinet and invited guests of the company dined at the “Loder House,” while the remainder of the company proceeded to the Depot where a Barbecue feast was spread out, and all invited to partake “without money and without price.” It consisted of roasted oxen, sheep, swine, two bushels of baked beans, one hundred roast turkeys, three hundred roast fowls, four loaves of bread each containing one and a half barrels of flour, eggs innumerable, just please imagine the rest; as it is impossible to recollect one half. By the way the two oxen weighed four thousand pounds.
Speeches were made by every speech maker in the company, from the President of the U. S. on down. Such a day Dunkirk never before witnessed, and probably never will again. It baffles all attempts at minute description. It was a grand affair, and every body was satisfied and gratified.
Dunkirk was fully inaugurated as the Western terminus of the Erie Road, and preparations made for departure on the morning of the 16th.
The President of the U. S. and those of his company proceeded to Buffalo, from which city he will quietly return to Washington; while the guests from New York, and intermediate places left in the cars; and on the afternoon of the 17th arrived at Suffern, where they took the Ramapo cars for the city.
Previous to the departure of the train, the company assembled upon the platform, where some speeches were made. Judge Blauvelt of Piermont was loudly cheered, and in return for the compliment made a brief speech, thanking the Directors and all concerned, and said that in the journey just safely completed the dream of nineteen years had been fully realized; and concluded by hoping that they might all meet in a better world, amid the cheers of his auditors.
Dodworth’s famed Brass Band then played the “Marseilles Hymn.” This Band accompanied the excursion, and discoursed music most eloquently at “stated times.”
Mr. Chas. Minot, the Superintendent of the road was called on, but declined speaking and extended his thanks for the courtesy. Mr. Townsend commenced speaking but the squealing engine (illegible) interrupted, and soon the train was on its way to the city.
Thus passed one of the most magnificent celebrations which ever characterized the opening of a public work, and on no like occasion can the names of so many distinguished gentlemen be registered as guests.
May 20, 1851.