“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Canton in Saint Lawrence County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Floods, Fires, and Pollution

Floods, Fires, and Pollution Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, August 29, 2015
1. Floods, Fires, and Pollution Marker
Inscription. Although today the land you are on may seem like a pleasant park, during most of the 19th century the island was not attractive and it wasn't always safe for the people who worked and did business here.

The spring floods, known as "freshets", were always a force to be reckoned with. Some years the ice would break up gradually in a gentle and prolonged thaw with little rain; it might seem that the ice was simply rotting away and little damage would occur. But another year, possibly influenced by the fact that so many trees had been cut down, the melt could be much faster, resulting in huge ice jams that could do tremendous damage to properties as it suddenly rushed downstream. If a sifting boom upstream burst due to the force of ice and flood waters, it would send a cascade of logs rushing downstream, flooding lowlands with logs, and possibly taking out bridges, dams, and sawmills.

When a fire broke out it could spread with devastating speed. Often businesses had little or no insurance. Before electricity was available, the sawmill, running at night during peak season, was lighted by large kerosene lamps. Sometimes a fire prompted an industry to change from water power to the somewhat more reliable (but still dangerous) steam power.

According to an item in the Commercial Advertiser
Boardwalk image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, August 29, 2015
2. Boardwalk
Marker is ahead on the boardwalk, on the left.
from 1887, mill owners took the position that they must get rid of their sawdust, shavings and edgings from the sawmills by dumping them into the river, or they would be forced to go out of business. [left pictures] SLHA {St. Lawrence County Historical Association]

...All persons interested in the matter are urged to attend, and a cordial invitation is given the mill owners to be present and express their views. The committee found the river badly obstructed with sawdust, shavings and other refuse of the mills, and they learned that some of the mill owners take the ground that if they are prohibited from casting this refuse into the river they will have to shut down their plants...It is for the people of Canton to determine whether they want the mills or river that breeds typhoid fever, now quite prevalent in all the river towns using river water for city supply. Commercial advertiser, July 7, 1887

Sash and Door Factory Burned.
Thursday afternoon a fire broke out in the boiler room of the sash and door Factory of Gardner & Veitch and so rapid was its progress before anything could be done to check it that the shop was practically a mass of flames. When the fire was first discovered, Fred Tracy was working in the shop, while his son Willie, and the boiler boy were near the deck, the chute that led to the boiler room and through which the sawdust and shavings were shoved being closed. Tracy was startled by the room suddenly filling with smoke. He inquired the cause and the boy opened the chute door. Its opening was followed by a cloud of smoke, and flames that swept him off his feet. So quickly did the flames spread that the elder Tracey had only time to gather his tools, put them hap hazard into his tool chest, and fling the chest through the window. He escaped then by the skin of his teeth.
This item continues in the Commerical Advertiser, April 29, 1903
Canton Town and Village Historian
Erected by Grasse River Heritage.
Location. 44° 35.812′ N, 75° 10.526′ W. Marker is in Canton, New York, in Saint Lawrence County. Marker can be reached from West Main Street (U.S. 11) 0.2 miles east of Gouverneur Street (U.S. 11). Click for map. Marker is on Heritage Trail, Falls Island, in Heritage Park. The park is on the north side of US 11, between the two bridges over the Grasse River. Marker is in this post office area: Canton NY 13617, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Natural Environment (here, next to this marker); Logging and Lumbering (within shouting distance of this marker); The Sash and Blind Factory (within shouting distance of this marker); The East Channel of the Grasse River (within shouting distance of this marker); The Grist Mill (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The West Channel of the Grasse River (about 300 feet away); Water Street and the Third Dam (about 400 feet away); Canton's Islands / Falls Island in 1898 (about 500 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Canton.
Categories. Industry & CommerceWaterways & Vessels
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 152 times since then and 38 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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