A Bucktail Reminiscence of Ontario County                                     (published June 1883)

 

The following very interesting reminiscence of old times in Ontario County, was printed in a recent issue of the Rochester Union and Advertiser. 

            Daniel D. Tompkins was governor of New York State from July, 1807, to March, 1817, nearly ten years, when Lieutenant Governor John Taylor succeeded him, filling the remainder of Governor Tompkins's last term of office.

            At this period Albany was the market town, to some extent, for western New York and farmers not unfrequently drove from Ontario county with loads of produce to Albany, and there selling, purchased supplies for home.  Those were the good old days when pure whisky was bought for fifteen cents a gallon, and sold for three cents a glass, the customer helping himself from a big black bottle, and the landlord or storekeeper, like a true-hearted gentleman, turning his back during the operation, and the while swashing his used tumblers in a pail of water.

            There is now in Rochester, a former Mendon, Monroe county, merchant, who  forty or more years ago bought fifty barrels of Mountain Dew at fifteen cents a gallon, paying for it in store goods at retail prices.  At three cents a drink, this would yield about one dollar a gallon.  Our ancestors realized good profits as well as sold good whisky, thus showing that they possessed high business qualifications as well as strong integrity and moral rectitude.

            Among those sturdy farmers of East Bloomfield, Ontario county, in olden days, was Ebenezer Spring, a man of influence, a leading Bucktail politician and an enthusiastic supporter of Governor Tompkins.  One winter he drive to Albany, during this administration, accompanied by half a dozen neighbors all taking loads of wheat to market.  In good time they reached the Capital, sold their grain to excellent advantage, and somewhat elated with an unexpected high price, concluded to celebrate a little and see the town; when they recovered and began to enuinerate their remaining assets, they found, to their surprise f not actual dismay, that the contents of the entire pot were not sufficient to pay the bills for their horse feed, their own keep and expenses back to Bloomfield.  In fact, they had painted to Capital City, as well as their noses, red; yet, even if they were the inventors of this modern practice, they are a shame to present imitators, who drink poor whisky and use their stomachs as beer sewers.

            After a short consultation, for Farmer Spring was too strong minded a man to waste much time over an empty wallet, he announced to his companions that the had determined what he should do-that was, borrow $10 from Governor Tompkins.

            They scouted at the idea, and exclaimed; "Governor Tompkins! He don't know you; he won't lend you ten dollars!"

            "We'll see" he replied, and started for the Governor's room at the Capital, and introduced himself as Ebenezer Spring of East Bloomfield.  The Governor received him cordially, and soon Spring said that he was there under rather unfavorable circumstances------"Now,  Governor, I will be entirely frank with you.  When I am in Bloomfield on my farm attending to my business, my name is Ebenezer Spring; when I come to Albany with wheat with my neighbors, get on a spree and spend my money, - then my name is Spring Ebenezer."  The Governor laughed heartily and handed him $10, Spring returned to his sobered crowd and they all reached Bloomfield in the ten dollars, buth with increased experiences.

            The following summer Gov. Tompkins visited Canandaigua, and while there was tendered a grand dinner by the Hon. Francis Granger, M.C., and afterwards Postmaster General.   During the entertainment the Governor inquired of Mr. Granger if he knew Ebenezer Spring of East Bloomfield.  Granger replied that the did; knew him well.  The Governor then told the story--what he did and what was said.  There was much merriment and Granger urged and insisted that the Governor should go with him and see Spring.  The next day Mr. Granger drove him out behind an elegant pair of horses, and when they reached the farm they found that Spring was hoeing corn.  They went into the field and, unsuspected, approached him.  He threw down his hoe, offered both his hands; welcomed them cordially and greated the Governor by shouting, "Now, Governor, if you get high and out of money while here, I will furnish you with the cash to get home with."  He led the way to this house, brought out the junk bottle and all hands refreshed.

            Spring then addressed the Governor; "Governor Tompkins, all the voters in East Bloomfield, except five, cast their ballots for you at the last election.  This is the strongest Tompkins town in the state.  The people here would be offended with me for letting you go.  We have a fiddler within a mile from here.  I will get him and send a man to invite the neighbors and we will have a dance to-night."  The invitation was accepted.  All night the whole town---men, women and children---were there.  The wagons stretched a mile up the road.  The Governor and Mr. Granger joined in the dance, both taking off their boots and dancing in their stockings, having no pumps.  And thus the festivities continued until dawn.  They then dispersed, rolicking and happy; and Gov. Tompkins had thenceforth a renewed title to the good will of the Boomfieldites, and he and Spring were the biggest men ever known is town.  There never was a happier assemblage in Bloomfield.  Hon. Frances Granger and the Governor reached Canandaigua in good time for breakfast.