When the Davis Store, located on Main Street, Bernhards Bay, was closed and went to auction, Cleveland Historical Society Vice-President Kathy Darrow purchased some handwritten notes that were left behind in the store. They were written in the late 1930’s, probably by Edna Davis, the wife of George Davis. What follows is Kathy’s transcription and compilation of these notes. Some of the names weren’t easily transcribed and the spellings may be off.
The images were taken from a variety of sources, most provided by Kathy, and are intended to highlight the topics discussed in Edna Davis’ notes.
Edna Davis Notes
Situated on the north shore of Oneida Lake, on perfectly level ground, in the Town of Constantia, County of Oswego, and State of New York, is found the little hamlet of Bernhards Bay. It derives its name from the first settler, John Bernhard.
Many of the new comers and the present generation who are residing here, in the little hamlet of Bernhards Bay, do not realize the amount of business that was carried on in the 1880’s and 1890’s at this little lakeside town.
Steamboats and Railroads
Not so many years ago, before the State Barge Canal went through the lake, when the old Erie was operating at its peak, there was quite a bit of navigation on Oneida Lake. We had two docks for the landing boats, one at the approach of Panther Lake Road called Marsden and the other straight down from Davis and Lord’s store, called factory dock. Many canal boats have loaded and discharged cargoes at these two docks. A big, we say big for this was back in 1891-1892, steam boat called the Manhattan, a side wheeler used to go chugging through the lake towing canal boats to different docks on the north shore. Later the Manhattan was tied up at Brewerton for years. She was not safe for navigation, filled with water and sank at the dock. When the Barge Canal went through, she was blown to pieces and removed.
Later, the steamboat Fred Randall was built by Purdy and Marsden on the lot next to the Vanderworkers property, where the cottages of Mr. Murphy now stand. The Randall, as everyone called it, was a single stern propelled boat with great power and was used for towing boats, as well as an excursion boat from Sylvan Beach and along the north shore to Constantia. It also ran excursions to Frenchman’s Island, Sylvan Beach and Three Mile Point. This was a great pleasure boat back in the 90’s. A boy with 25 cents in his pocket could have a wonderful time at the Island or Sylvan Beach.
The strawberry was grown here to some great extent back through 1898 to 1908. The late F.D. Bly, C.H. Winn and many others cultivated these berries for market. A through New York train on the O&W called No. 6, the fast train on the O&W road, would stop to load berries. Many times the train was held up from 20 to 30 minutes loading. C.J. Ingersoll, now station agent, was later relieved by John Carpenter.
The New York O&W Railroad in those days was running many trains over the lines. On the schedule was six passenger trains, four through freights and two way freights, besides several extra coal trains now and then. The U.S. Mail was carried from the post office to the railroad station by the station agent.
There were several canal boats built by Ezra Dickenson on the shore of the lake on or around the exact spot where E. Earl Dickenson’s shop now stands. We can recall the boat called the May and called E. Earl. The May was owned by Lorenzo Phillips of Bernhards Bay, who met death on the deck of this boat as the hands of enemy boatmen. He was shot in the heart. His son was also battered to death at the same time. The Earl was first owned by John Coady and Will Taft and was in commission for a long time.
Bernhards Bay Glass Factory
The glass factory was established at Bernhards Bay, New York, in 1847. The building was erected and fire was put in the furnace in the early part of this year. The glass was made from sand and acetate of lime, melted in large clay pots starting in a large furnace which had 12 pots. The pots were made from clay in their own plant and were about 5′ high and approximately 4.5′ or 5.0′ in diameter. In the furnace the pots rested on a huge platform built of brick on either side of the fire box, opposite a hole in the side of the pieces, which was used to dip the glass from the pots using, what was called, a gathering pipe or blow pipe as per the illustration.
The fire used to heat the large furnace was 3′ hemlock wood which was stacked into it from either end. In later years, this was replaced by coal. It used to take about four weeks, or more, to heat the glass so that it could be gathered and blown.
The gatherer, who was usually an apprentice to the blower, would gather the glass on the gathering pipe into a large ball and hand it to the blower. The blower would start to work it into a large cylinder. This was put into a kind of iron mold and, while blowing through the pipe, it would be turned round and round until it started to cool. Then it was placed in the furnace through the round hole used to gather the glass. After it was heated several times in this manner, the blower commenced to blow it out in a long cylinder, heating and swinging it from a high platform until it was blown into a cylinder about 6′ long from 12″ to 18″ in diameter, in the same manner air is blown into a rubber balloon.
After it had been blown to the proper size, it was laid upon a rack constructed especially to hold the rollers to cool the pipe. The hot pieces of glass were extended around the end of the blown pipe to cut off the pipe. The excess was remelted or destroyed. Many times you can find these pieces in town gardens.
Then an iron rod, that was red hot, was drawn through the cylinder to crack it open. It was passed on to the flattening room where it was flattened out into a large sheet. After it was flattened, it was cut up into sizes for window glass, etc., already to be sold. Some of the more generous of the workers would make blowdois, glass chains, canes and many other articles to numerous to mention. There are many homes here that still have several pieces.
The glass industry was in its boom in the 1880’s and 1890’s and Bernhards Bay was a booming town. Potter and Marsden operated the factory from 1886 up to the time it burned about 1890. It was closed for some time previous to its destruction and to Potter and Marsden entering into a union or syndicate called the United Glass Company. There was a scheme on the part of this syndicate to close it, which they did, claiming they could manufacture glass so much cheaper elsewhere.
Most of the factory houses are still standing, although there are many that have been sold or torn down. There were three east of the store on the north side of the highway, one double house across the road and east of Glen Linises [sp?] home, 1 just east of Sallow’s [sp?], a blacksmith’s shop, and a double house just north of Charles Whitney’s place, and 1 house just south of Arthur Webb’s place. There’s not a building left that was connected with the factory. The house just south of the Webb’s and the one just east of the Sallow property was sold and moved then to the farm where Edward Youmans now resides.
There were no cottages what so ever along the lake shore from Constantia to Cleveland. The road along the lake was a dirt road except from the Panther Lake Road to Roland Dickenson, it was all cinders. The sidwalks were all cinders taken from the factory after the factory burned quite a few years. The concrete was put down by the residents and donations through the office of Mr. C.A. Winn. There are very few of the glass workers left. In fact, the only ones residing here at this time are Arthur Webb, Bail Uviers [sp?] and Frank Winn.
The Marsden dock was used for years by Purdy and Marsden to wash glass sand, which they loaded onto canal boats at this dock and shipped to Durhamville, Ithaca, Dunbarton and several other points that could be reached by water.
Sand was dug and washed in, what was called, the sand lot, part of which is now owned by Frank Crandell and Margaret Boots, just north of the town. This section of the country supplied the finest sand for making glass and even that could not hold the factories here and at Cleveland, as we had no natural gas, which was used in later years for heating glass to be blown.
In due time, the factory property reverted back to Potter and Marsden who had arranged to reopen it, when on the morning of July 5th, just past midnight, it was discovered in flames. There was no means to fight it and it was entirely burnt except for the box shop, one wood house was all that was left standing.
Potter and Marsden operated the Merchantile Bank at Cleveland, but due to another bank owned by them in Parish, New York failing on bad notes, the Cleveland bank was thrown into bankruptcy. The door and window sills and stone steps used in this bank building were brought from Syracuse by canal boats and drawn from there with teams of wagons. The late John Stratton, an old time resident, assisted in this work.
The factory property was sold off to private home owners, thus closing the only real industry this little hamlet ever had.