1833: John Clapp to Cyrus Strong

This 1833 letter was written by John Clapp (1801-18??), son of Thomas and Huldah (Bull) Clapp. He became a lawyer and settled in Oxford, Chenango County where he met and married Lydia Strong. John wrote this letter to his father-in-law, Cyrus Strong who lived in Norwich — the county seat of Chenango County.

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TRANSCRIPTION

[Addressed to Cyrus Strong, Esquire, Norwich, Chenango, New York]

Canajoharie [New York]
Wednesday Morning, May 14, 1833

Dear Sir,

Here we all are safe & sound tho somewhat wearied with our detention. We left Utica on Monday at 2 o’clk P.M. in the Packet & moved on handsomely until about 10 o’clock when we were stopped by the boats & rafts which had hauled up in consequence of the rise of water. At six o’clock next morning, we again got under weigh & got on about five or six miles when we were compelled to stop in consequence of the flood of water & the breaks in the canal. Canajoharie is one of the meanest, sneakingest (a Bubby would say) & dirtiest places I have ever been in. We found upon enquiring that we should be compelled to remain until the floods abated & the canal was repaired as there was but a small amount of prospect of obtaining a decent conveyance either to Schenectady or to put in again upon the canals below Schoharie Creek where we understood all was still safe.

The Bridge between Canajoharie & Palatine had been carried off so that we were compelled to cross the waters in a small skiff. We did so & remain at a new Dutch Tavern on the great road between Utica & Albany, ready to be picked up by the first stage in which we can obtain seats.

The rain continued to fall yesterday & last night. The Landlord says he never saw the Mohawk [River] so high before. The Canal has sustained great injury & much private property has been destroyed.

Monday, three loads of canal passengers, like ourselves becalmed, put themselves & baggage on board some small skiff & started for Schenectady. We apprehend danger for the River is wild.

We expect to get off in an hour or so tho there is no certainty. We are about as well off here as we are in attempting to work along in the midst of the rain. We are all well & in good spirits & hope to meet with no bad luck.

Yours truly, — John Clapp

FOOTNOTES

The life of John Clapp, extending, as it does, over a period of more than three-score years and ten, although strikingly devoid of strongly marked incidents, is, nevertheless, one of no ordinary interest from its harmonious development and exhibition of character and culture. Left, by the death of both his parents, at a period of life so early as to leave no glimmering recollection of either; transferred to the guardianship of his elder brother James, and accompanying him and his law partner, William M. Price, at an early period of the century, to the primitive little settlement of Oxford, on the Chenango river, and in the newly organized county of that name, where, under their auspices, and especially those of his brother, he completed a course of elementary, higher and professional instruction; passing his novitiate experience as a lawyer in one of the rudest frontier settlements of the county; emerging, speedily, from this rough but, doubtless, healthful and invigorating process of practical communion with the rudiments of civilization into a prosperous and successful partnership with one of the leading and most influential advocates and counsellors of the county at Norwich, the countyseat; succeeding, after a brief interval, to the business of the firm; fulfilling for more than ten years, gracefully and acceptably, the irksome and responsible duties of public prosecutor in criminal cases; forming, during this period, a most fortunate and happy matrimonial connection with an amiable and gifted lady—Lydia, daughter of Cyrus Strong, Esq.; defeated in a vigorous and animated political contest with a formidable and practised opponent for the representation of the district in the lower house of Congress; transferred to a permanent home on the banks of the Susquehannah, where he again set up his household gods—destined all too soon to be mournfully shattered, by the removal from its earthly tabernacle of a dearly loved daughter—Rosalind, of rare beauty and accomplishments, the delight of his eyes and the treasure of his heart; these comprise, in substance, the outward and prominent features of this long life. Let us briefly analyze its interior results; by far the most important.

“In all these various relations of a long life—as a man, a brother, a husband and father, an honored member of a noble profession, an ever welcome accession to the social circle, and an active citizen of a large and flourishing community—Mr. Clapp was uniformly truthful, sincere, single-hearted and upright. In his intercourse with the world around him—in all his business transactions, his social and domestic enjoyments, his literary culture and tastes, his fixed principles of moral obligations and ethical requirements, his fine appreciation of the beauty and grandeur of nature, and his utter abnegation of self where the rights and claims, the distresses and calamities of others were concerned—he seems to have borne himself bravely, honestly and victoriously in the great battle of life. Well versed in all the elements, principles and practice of his profession, he attained a high standing among his legal associates; and was distinguished for fidelity, promptness, and scrupulous integrity in the management of the important pecuniary interests from time to time committed by his clients to his care. As a scholar, his mind was a treasurehouse of the beautiful thoughts and conceptions of genius. He was passionately fond of books, and familiar with Shakspeare, Milton, Burns, Byron, and their great contemporaries and successors, and with the various works of the ancient and modern historians.

“His success in life was, unquestionably, chiefly due to his energy, perseverance, and strict adherence to the great fundamental principles of honesty, uprightness, and unswerving integrity. Substantially aloof from the distraction and turbulence of the world, its political commotions and personal animosities, his happiest years have been spent in the domestic and social circles, in the reciprocation of kind and loving acts, in the cultivation of all the faculties of his mind and heart, and in the conscientious discharge of duty to God and man.”

Mr. and Mrs. Clapp are in the enjoyment of a moderate degree of good health, in part preserved to them by occasional pleasant, and sometimes distant, excursions abroad.

Children of John and Lydia (Strong) Clapp:
894. Cyrus Strong,’ b. April 17, 1830; m. Oct. 1862, Harriet Evans, of New Jersey. Children:
895. Ernestine* b. July 12, 1863.
896. John* b. Oct 24, 1865.
897. Rosalind,7 b. Feb. 24,1834; d. Jan. 15,1852.

SOURCE: The Clapp memorial: record of the Clapp family in America , by Ebenezer Clapp

Good reference to the flood of 1833 that affected navigation on the Erie Canal/Mohawk River.

Canajoharie, (name derived from an Indian word, meaning “the pot that washes itself,” applied to a whirlpool at the foot of one of the falls of the creek,) organised 7th March, 1788; N. W. from Albany 55, and from Johnstown, S. W. 15, miles; surface hilly, the Otsquake hill extending nearly across the town, towering 1000 feet above the tide, yet generally arable; soil strong argillaceous calcareous and sandy loam, underlaid by slate, sand and limestone; drained by Otsquake and Bowman’s creeks, flowing to the Mohawk river; inhabited, chiefly, by descendants from German settlers, and generally well cultivated. Near the residence of Col. Frey, in the N. W. are said to be impressions, in the rock, probably slate, of the feet of men and horses. Ames, Freysbush, Salt Springville, are post offices. The last in the village, on the county line. Canajoharie, post village, incorporated 30th April, 1829, on the river and canal and at the mouth of Bowman’s Creek, opposite to the village of Palatine, with which it is connected by a bridge, having the relative distances above given, contains 1 Dutch Reformed church, an academy, an incorporated library company, 2 printing offices, issuing weekly journals, 4 taverns, 1 brewery, 2 distilleries, 2 flouring mills, 2 saw mills, 7 stores, and about 100 dwellings. This is a place of much trade, employing many canal boats. “The Canajoharie and Palatine Manufacturing Company,” for the manufacture of cotton and woollen goods, was incorporated April 24th, 1833.


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