Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 6

          The Erie Canal passed through Rochester, and my only conscious view of that city was from the canal boat. All I can now remember is of the big mills along the banks where the wheat of the country was ground into flour. Our progress was necessarily slow and was made still slower by a washout in the canal. A break had occurred in the bank at one place and had carried a boat into an adjoining field. How they got it back into the water I do not know, but the break was fully repaired and the canal full when we passed the stranded boat to continue on to Buffalo.
          The canal had done much toward the settling up of the country through which it passed. It was dug, we may say, by hand, and every Fall it was emptied of water and gangs of men were busy cleaning the canal of the dirt which had accumulated during the Summer. There were locks at various places to keep the water at proper levels, and it was interesting to see the boasts raised and lowered to these different levels. The boats themselves were of two kinds - the larger and slower ones for freight, and the smaller  ones, called packets, for passengers, although both might and did carry on a mixed traffic. Generally tow horses or mules pulled the larger boats in a slow lumbering walk, but three horses were urged along in a little trot for the packets. The accommodations for passengers were also much better on the packets than on the freight boats. Also the prices were higher.
          Many of the ‘laborers sho [who] dug the canal were Irish and Catholic, and settling down, in the villages and adjoining country they helped to form congregations and missions, and soon, under the direction of the priest churches began to be built for their convenience at many central points. I do not remember hearing. of bigotry or prejudice against religion or race in those days around Rochester, and when these industrious immigrants settled down and went into business they prospered and founded a race of sterling Catholics. They were the Gaffneys, the Hannas, the Storeys, the Fords and the Kings (of whom poor John fell into the canal one night and was drowned), etc., and it was not long before there began a line of devoted and talented young men, the sons of pioneers, seeking first the Kingdom of God and giving their lives to His service. The Storeys were the first to give a son to the priesthood and others followers, and now  the last, perhaps, of that original generation, but not the least, is that illustrious Prelate, The Most Reverend Edward J. Hanna, Archbishop of San Francisco, California.
          In politics they were somewhat at sea. There were the two great parties, Democrat and Whig, but these were so split into factions that it was difficult to choose among them. There were Whigs and Old Line Whigs, Free Soilens who wanted the public domain open to all settlers free, The Equal Rights Party which advocated equal rights for all and special privileges, the Locofocos who, when the lights in their convention were extinguished, relighted them with the new locofoco matches. The Barnburners who were likened to the man who burned his barn to get rid of the rate, the Anti-Masonic Party, the

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