Carleton Watkins†††††††††††††††††††††††† End of Innocence


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End of Innocence


††††††††† About the time Carleton's father, John Watkins, took over the management of McDonald Tavern when Carleton was five or six years old, big economic changes were unfolding in the Susquehanna River Valley.† Boom times were soon to arrive as the result of new toll roads cut through the hills and valleys of Otsego County [Fig. 1a, 1b] that provided access routes for products from Oneonta to markets along the Hudson River.† First came the Charlotte Turnpike opened in 1833 for traffic north-east through Davenport and eventually Catskill.† The Franklin Turnpike was opened around 1835 for traffic over Franklin Mountain heading south-east through Delhi and eventually Kingston.††

††††††††† Carleton's uncle, Hezekiah Watkins, seized the opportunity and began operating scheduled stage coaches utilizing the fast, Abbot Downing nine-passenger vehicles [Fig. 2a] manufactured in Concord, New Hampshire.[1]† Uncle Hezekiah's Concord coaches traveled the turnpikes [Fig. 2b] between various locations in Otsego and surrounding counties. The Watkins men were hard working and persevering, but they were newcomers to America by comparison to the Dutch ancestry on Carleton's mother's side.† Her maternal ancestors arrived soon after the Mayflower.††

††††††††† By 1835 the economy of the Susquehanna River Valley had begun the transition from lumber and agriculture to manufactured products that exploited the regional agriculture and energy resources that were sustained by the Susquehanna River.† One of the first local products in demand by urban centers to the south was butter produced by plentiful dairy farms that was sold in fifty-five pound firkins.† Other products included alcohol distilled at three distilleries from locally grown grain.† The Oneonta directory for 1834 listed in addition to lumber mills and distilleries, two wagon works, a tannery, grist mill, fulling mill, clothing works, and plough foundry, few of which existed before 1830. [2]

††††††††††† The new turnpikes also created routes for driving livestockócattle, pigs and sheepófrom where they were raised farther west in New York State to urban markets downstate passing through Oneonta on the way.† During the 1840s commercial traffic through the village spurred growth and created the need for lodging.† McDonald Tavern, established by Carleton's mother's family, was one of the first public houses in Oneonta.† It was

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[1] Old Time Notes, p. 2097

[2] Old Time Notes, p. 2042