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Dewey, William T.
Manuscript Diary of William T. Dewey, Esq., Railroad Engineer, New York City and Ashland Farm, Sullivan County, New York, 1836-1838

octavo, 77 manuscript pages, entries dated 24 January 1836 to 15 March 1838, bound in flexible sheep, spine badly chipped, edges, corners, and boards worn, scuffed and rubbed, entries written in ink, in a small, closely written, but very legible hand.

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The diary begins 24 January 1836 and ends on 15 March 1838. It contains 75 numbered pages, plus 2 manuscript pp. at rear describing some of the family history of Ebenezer Dewey and Thomas Dewey.  This lists births and deaths beginning in 1756, and also includes a passage about Revolutionary War experiences, mentioning battles, his enlistment in 1775 in the Provincial Army, and later in the Artillery, etc. The first page of the diary is inscribed “Daily Memoranda of William Dewey, Civil Engineer.”

In addition to the diary there are several obsolete forms of currency from several banks tipped into the volume on blank pages. The bills are from The Union Bank of Massachusetts – five dollar note- 1856; The Yates County Bank – One Dollar Bill -1855; Fairfield County Bank – Ten Dollars – 1863; Bank of Westfield New York – 1850. There are also five newspaper clippings related to the Dewey family tipped in as well.

           William T. Dewey, Esq. (1813-1876)

William T. Dewey was born 24 January 1813 the son of Timothy Dewey (1784-1853) and Sylvia Canfield (1786-1831) of Salisbury, Connecticut. His parents married in 1811 and had seven other children besides William. William was educated as an engineer and was also admitted to the bar in Watertown, New York.

William came from a family of engineers, his father Timothy Dewey was a civil engineer in Albany New York until 1820. Dewey Sr. then moved to New York City and afterwards to Europe to study the manufacture of illuminating gas, and then built the first plant in America in New York City about 1823. Gas had been made and burned before, but this was the first plant ever started to produce this illuminant permanently for consumption.  His house on Grand Street in New York City was the first to use gas in the city. Dewey was also the editor of a newspaper called the Mechanics Gazette, at this time.

William and his father were identified with the construction of the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad. William served three terms as an assemblyman from the county. William never married and owned a considerable library and was something of a Shakespearean, and gave readings throughout the area.

William Dewey played an important role as a railroad engineer in New York State. He was employed by the city of New York to explore routes for railroads heading west of New York City. One of the routes included the Erie railroad; Dewey was placed in charge of survey crews to the western portions of New York State. At this time some areas of the state were quite remote. His plans were on a grand scale and included making Kingston a port of entry for Upper Canada.

Timothy Dewey’s later years were spent with his son, William, at the family’s beautiful estate of Ashland Farm, where he died in 1853. William T. Dewey died in 1876 at the age of 64, also at the Ashland Farm estate. William and his father had earlier obtained about 1,400 acres, known as the Soper Swamp, which they drained with 13 miles of pipe and produced the beautiful Ashland Farm.

Excerpts from the diary:

His writing encompasses a mixture of survey work on the railroad, and personal entries.

“Jan 24,1836 – 23 years since 1813.

Reading LC J.W. Richardson called to see mon pere. Talked [about] NY & Erie railroad – gave him costs of work on Harlem railroad. Wrote up journal to present day – Davison in snowstorm and Miss S. Canfield – to Combaults in Broadway for newspaper with copy of petition I wrote for portable gas light co.[xxxxxx] at Bleeker St. House very heavy snowstorm.”


“Jan 30,1836

Thought of going skating – Took skates and called on Fell P. not at home and on ABS and not in. To A. Greens, to Mc’Anully’s – Subscribe for NYW for TLB of Troy and paid $4.00 to Mr. Snyder. Fry & Porter at Merrill’s, called on Frank Singleton not in. To Clinton Hall Reading Room met H.T. Sewell in Broadway – Saw IAG. And [Woop] walked up and Mr. Wm. Stautenburg, thawing and wet today.”

“Feb 19,1836

Read Parks’ Chemistry – Worked on sewer plan for Centers – Toward evening to Bowery and saw McFarland about house and took bill off. To Bowery Theatre, in pit, Comedy Christening, Pantomime Piper Tom, Melo Drama Last Days at Pompeii, very splendid, [Usherton’s] at Bowery & Grand, snowing again.”

“March 31, 1836

Very beautiful jour. To Lt. Commissioner’s office, sketched Tucker’s Jackson Avenue Property – To Dry Dock and got Theodolite of Sorell – Got keys to new house – met JMS said he “Did you think of me? After dinner bought tape Magerry and measured it correct – called for and [arr’d] ABS to Battery. To Flyods at Cheh talked of young ladies etc walked up Hudson Street once more – Chez Moi found letters for TLB such a letter good good good!”

“April 8, 1836

Put Theodolites in order for Grove Street survey/ 3 hrs et Jas. Law for assisting, [apres] dinner chatter, in pew and Kinney of Peoria, Ill…to Grove Street and looked about – To Record office thence to Blunts and bought 80 ft tape for $3.50, repaid JIS $1 borrowed, and then to H. Greene’s and got [deshuitz] at Ciscoe’s.

“June 12, 1836

Cloudy and cold, McCarthy from Oswego talked of No. 18- quite valuable say $ 24,000 and Mr. C to Presbyterian church LSM promised to visit me…wrote to A C Flagg comptroller for information about No. 18. To LB. Dean saying I was about to start for Buffalo, to TLB proposing to exchange letters, waited for LDM but no come, walked over IBW…”

“April 6, 1837

David Bishop of NB started Chez introduced to Eng., French examined profiles and plans got books levels in Bannocks and Zelbiskisi- to Croton Dam line of tunnels…[horses] ran away left pine at Sing Sing … reached New York at 5 met on wharf LRB and IR print at Shawls called Chez…”

At rear of the volume are two manuscript pages, which contain some Dewey family history, reminiscences of Timothy Dewey:

“Reminiscences pr T. Dewey Sen Oct 1838…”

“In April 1775 Enlisted at Canbury’s House for 8 Months in Provincial Army – In Capt. Stiles Co. pay 40 shillings per month and rations – brought flintlock from North Hampton…”

“In June- enlisted artillery Col. Greely’s regiment Capt. Bivicks’ Co. Staid till 8 months was out in time of battle of Bunker Hill was with Capt. Stiles at Mystic 3 miles from Boston – part of Capt. Stiles Co. were in the battle the night before on the Hill and the rest of the Co. went on the hill after the retreat began met retreating soldiers. TD was in the last part. Went from the Winter Hill to Mystic riv Staid all night – saw Charlestown burn, next day went from Winter Hill to Mystic. At end of 8 months went home staid 6 weeks than enlisted for 1 year to go to [Quebec] in Col. Binds Regiment- Capt Waits Co – 40 shillings per month started Feb 1776 …”