Diabetes Awareness Campaign: Trekking Along the Erie Canal.
North Tonawanda
Little Falls
St. Johnsville
Tuesday, October 23
It was raining pretty hard in the morning so I decided that it was a sign from heaven to take the morning off and do some sightseeng at the Remington factory. Jerie felt that she couldn’t spare the time since she had to return home to meet with clients during the week. She dropped me off in front of the Remington factory and left for home—a five hour drive. It was early and I was hungry so I went into a joint across from the factory to grab a coffee and some eggs. It was typical of many of the breakfast joints in upstate. Situated in the bottom of what would have been a single family home, there were two main rooms. On one side was a bar and on the other a dining room. It was the type of place I like where one could eat a hearty meal and a bottomless cup of coffee for a good price. The place was populated with past and present employees of the famous factory across the street.
Eliphalet Remington moved his factory in 1828 to the present site which was on the edge of the Erie Canal. He started his business 12 years earlier at the age of 16 when he won a shooting contest with a flintlock that had a barrel of his own making. People were so impressed with the quality of his workmanship that orders were rolling in.
E. Remington & Sons became one of the premier gun manufacturers in the country. On the ground floor of the factory is a museum which shows the evolution of Remington Arms. As technology changed, the company incorporated those changes—from flintlock to percussion cap, to breach loader, to pump, to smokeless powder. Such commitment to quality has kept the Remington name respected by hunters and sportsmen.
Remington museum.
But the company did not limit its line to weapons. Bicycles, farm implements, sewing machines, and cash registers were produced in Ilion. On March 1, 1871 began the production of the Sholes & Glidden Type-Writer, the first automatic writing machine which employed the patented invention of Christopher Sholes. This first commercially produced typewriter employed a key layout designed to prevent jamming. This placement known as QUERTY, is still used today. Eventually the typewriter division was spun off and eventually became the company of Remington Rand which became a progenitor of a new fangled invention—the UNIVAC, which eventually evolved into the computer.
Remington products.
When I came out of the museum the rain was intermittent so I walked east two miles back to my motel in Herkimer where I could answer my email and surf the internet. During that excursion I found an interesting piece of trivia-concerning the strange name of Ilion. About 15 years after Remington built his factory on the canal, the area grew so much that a post office was to be located there. Should the office use the name Remington Corners as it had become known? Mr. Remington didn’t want that. So instead, the postmaster suggested Ilion, the Greek name for Troy and the inspiration for Homer’s epic poem the Iliad. Since Troy on the Hudson was the location steel mills, would Ilion be new Troy on the canal? Well-read were these 19th century folk.
Later that afternoon I went down to the canal where there was a nice restaurant. Appropriately it was called the Waterfront Grill. I got a table right by the window and the view was relaxing in spite of the rain.
Waterfront Grill.
Waterfront Grill
The lunch menu included a variety of sandwiches and wraps. It wasn’t Boston’s Anthony’s Pier Four but still very good. And the prices were certainly not Boston--$8 to $9. More importantly, I was able to get a nice glass of shiraz for $5!
After lunch I went into the adjacent gift shop named “Gems Along the Mohawk.” For those of you too young to get the reference there was a John Ford movie from 1939 starring Claudette Colbert and a young Henry Fonda. This “western” type film was about the French and Indian War period.
Raw gems.
Raw gems
In the shop they sell a variety of raw gems found in the area and jewelry cut from such gems. The most well-known and popular of this area’s gems are the Herkimer diamonds. Not a real diamond, the Herkimer version is a quartz crystal which forms in small cavities in dolomite stone common throughout the area. In fact the stone is so common that farmers often dig them up while plowing. Diamond hunting is a popular pasttime of tourists visiting the valley.
Jerie’s adult children have often commented that in the thirty-five years that I have know their mother I never gave there mother a diamond. So I sprung for a $25 fine specimen. I hope that this will finally put an end to the complaints.
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