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

The Canalway Trail: Sprakers / Competition / Anything & Everything

The Canalway Trail: Sprakers image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Steve Stoessel, July 14, 2019
1. The Canalway Trail: Sprakers
The CanalWay Trail: Sprakers
Welcome to the Canalway Trail System, offering hundreds of miles of scenic trails and numerous parks for walking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and other recreational activities. The Canalway Trails parallels the New York State Canal System, comprised of four historic waterways: the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. The Canal System spans 525 miles across New York State, linking the Hudson River with Lake Champlain, lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes, the Niagara River and Lake Erie.

Beginning as early as the 1830s, railroads began to compete for cargo and passengers with segments of the Erie Canal. Often, because of geography, the railroad ran alongside the canal. Here, where the Mohawk River flowed through a narrow gorge in solid rock, speeding trains passed lumbering canal boats moving at the pace of a walking horse or mule, less the five miles per hour.

Although early commercial success, widespread political support, and huge investments that enlarged and modernized the canal slowed the creeping dominance of railroads, higher
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speed, lower costs, and year-round operations eventually tipped the balance in favor of trains.

Come One, Come All!
The canal changed life in many ways. It served as a primary connection between numerous small towns and the outside world. Products from distant markets filled store shelves. In season, travelers from around the world continually passed by with tales of distant places.

On occasion, the canal brought a sample of the world to town. Traveling actors performed plays and creative entrepreneurs brought curiosities to eager canal town residents. An embalmed whale traveled along the Erie. Sig Samuels created a circus troupe that cruised the canal.

Locals in Canajoharie tell of the day a touring elephant overburdened a bridge across the canal and fell into the water, narrowly missing a boat moored below. Surprised but unhurt, the elephant reportedly swam out of the canal once it regained its composure.

Anything & Everything
An 1894 advertisement for Cohen's Store offers a glimpse into life on the Erie Canal. The ad not only claimed that Cohen's was the "biggest and best canal store on the Erie," it boasted that the store sold "anything and everything." At one time located nearby in the village of Sprakers, Cohen's specifically advertised "wines and liquor," items of apparent interest to canal travelers. "Always open,"
Competition Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Steve Stoessel, July 14, 2019
2. Competition Marker
it served the canal's transient population whenever a need arose.

In addition to stores like Cohen's, taverns provided food and lodging for humans, with stables for the horses and mules that pulled the canal boats. With luck, a boat crew could find a craftsman to repair damaged harness or passengers might find a doctor or dentist in a nearby town. But if not, Cohen's had "drugs and medicines" for self-treatment.

Before the Canal
Jost Spraker operated a ferry across the Mohawk River and a tavern on the river's north shore decades before construction of the Erie Canal. Located just west of a perilous set of river rapids, the tavern welcomed weary boat crews struggling upriver as well as jostled passengers on the King's Road that passed nearby. Each of these pioneer travelers knew firsthand the rigors of transportation before construction of the canal.

Jost's descendants adapted with the times by building a store on the river's south shore near the path of the canal.
Erected by New York State Canals.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Railroads & StreetcarsSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Erie Canal series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1894.
Location. 42° 53.426′ 
Anything & Everything Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Steve Stoessel, July 14, 2019
3. Anything & Everything Marker
N, 74° 30.853′ W. Marker is in Sprakers, New York, in Montgomery County. Marker is at the intersection of Sprakers Hill Road and Sprakers Hill Road on Sprakers Hill Road. Marker is at the parking lot in Sprakers for the bicycle path. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Sprakers NY 12166, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Keator's Rift (approx. 0.4 miles away); Spraker Inn (approx. 0.4 miles away); Canagere (approx. 0.6 miles away); Site of Early Home of Major Jelles Fonda (approx. 1.4 miles away); This Is Mohawk Country (approx. 2˝ miles away); Van Alstyne Homestead (approx. 3 miles away); Canajoharie (approx. 3.1 miles away); Canajoharie/Canalway Trail/Pathway Through Mountains (approx. 3.1 miles away).
Credits. This page was last revised on July 26, 2019. It was originally submitted on July 24, 2019, by Steve Stoessel of Niskayuna, New York. This page has been viewed 147 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 24, 2019, by Steve Stoessel of Niskayuna, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Jun. 7, 2023