Westward Ho and the Erie Canal

August 11, 2017

The drive along the St. Lawrence River was along the Canadian Highway system. Construction was limited and we made good time through the forests and farms. We finally crossed the gigantic river for the last time and entered the US near the northern tip of New York. Our goal was the area known as 1,000 islands. The islands and rock like “islands” sit in the middle of the St Lawrence.

We stayed in the town know as Alexandria Bay. The town was full of tour buses, tacky and more upscale tourist shops. We did our best to help the local economy. Our motel was delightful with a talkative and entertaining host. The local market was well supplied with deli foods for our picnic dinner. We could even watch our favorite US news programs. 

This morning and afternoon we traversed the state of New York using their highways and toll roads. Our first real stop was in Newark, New York. My great great grandfather, Michael O’Rourke was a resident there in 1850. He had arrived in New York from Mountmellick, Ireland in 1845. Between then and 1850 he had married and acquired a wife, two daughters and $3,000. We were unable to uncover any real gems at the Newark genealogical library. The US census list his occupation as  grocer. 

Family tradition has it that Michael worked on the Erie Canal. The first version of the canal was completed in 1825. It appears that Michael may have indeed worked on the canal that was being widened in the 1840’s. How a Catholic immigrant managed to woo a Puritan descendant and acquire a significant nest egg in a few years when a laborer probably made no more than $1 a day remains a mystery. Perhaps a dowry or inheritance is the answer. More research is needed. 

The ladies at the genealogical library were helpful and we have some more leads. It will have to wait. In the mean time, we enjoyed walking around the restored locks in Lockport when Michael might have lived before landing a spouse. It must be part of the local romantic tradition associated with nearby Niagra Falls. We will be there tomorrow.

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