The Rome Daily Sentinel of Friday evening, September 4, 1931, Page 7 reports "Landslide will hold up opening of gorge park tunnel until next year".

Landslide Will Hold Up Opening of Gorge Park Tunnel Until Next Year

Other Work on Development of State Camp Site On Rome-Boonville Road Continues; Story Of Railroad Failure That Cost Rome Investors $200,000

The slide which occurred Wednesday afternoon at the mouth of the old railroad tunnel at the Rome-Boonville Gorge state park, eighteen miles north of Rome on the Rome-Boonville road, will delay work at that tunnel point until next year, but, In the meantime, all of the working force will be engaged from now on on development of other features of the park. The effect will be that these other featurees will be progressed more than otherwise, so there will be no net loss In pushing forward the project.


A large amount of fallen earth had been taken away from the closed mouth of the tunnel, and with this support removed together with heavy rain, the steep bank of the hill above slid down. No great damage was done and nobody was hurt, although the workmen below had to get out of the way. The gasoline power dirt loader was buried and had to be dug out. It now is operating elsewhere at the park site. The reason work stops now at the tunnel mouth is that there is another section of more or less loose earth in front of the solid rock and this earth is cracked away from the hill. It may come down sooner, but, at any rate, the frost will bring it down next spring. So the place is being left for nature to do that job, while the workmen are busy elsewhere. This park development is being made by the State Conservation Department of which Henry Morgenthau Jr., is the commissioner.

They now are taking filling material from the old railroad embankment across the former Black River canal and the Lansing Kill. This is ideal for excavation, as there is not a stone in it and the digging is easy. This material, is the shale which was taken from the tunnel 75 years ago, and it has become so disintegrated that it is handled very easily. It actually is excellent soil.

Would Make Fine Pathway

This old railroad embankment a part of which is plainly in view of the passer-by, extends northward across the entire park area, not only the former Pixley farm but also the Boonvllle tract. It forms for nearly a mile to the northward a wide roadway, which, by the cutting of brush that has grown up, could be made an ideal path, or even a roadway. It goes mostly through woods all the way to the northern line of the park property and beyond following the east bank of the Lansing Kill the stream which booms along at the foot of declivities. If there were a bridge at the upper end of the park this old roadbed together with the old canal towpath would make a fine circle drive, at least for one-way automobiling.

Hundreds of Picnic Places

The stream winds closely or farther away from this pathway up on the side hill, and there are easily reached flats and open woods affording in that vicinity dozens of Ideal picnic spots, if so many were needed. For that matter the park area south of the Pixley Falls along the stream has additional dozens of such sites. So have the hills back from the state road, on both sides. It is no exaggeration to say that in this park area of some 800 acres are more than a hundred--perhaps two hundred--ideal places for picnics with wooded gems or broad views, and each one separate from the others, if desired. They need only to be made accessible.

The old railroad is a curiosity to so many people that they wish to know more about it so the Sentinel gives below the story of how it came about :

What The Rail Project Was And Why It Was Not Built

In 1914 the late Alexander C . Soper of Lakewood, New Jersey, formerly of Rome, offered a prize of $25 to the Rome Free Academy student who should write the best essay on some local historical topic. This prize in 1914 was won by Harry W. Prosser, then an Academy student, with the essay given below. This essay is the best consecutive story of the Ogdensburg, Clayton and Rome railroad, a project of 75 years ago, which now becomes of interest because of the construction of the Rome-Boonville Gorge State Park and incidentally the opening of an old railroad tunnel there. Many years after the railroad project was abandoned this tunnel remained open and people could go in and out. Farmers in the vicinity used to get ice from it in the summer, as the ice in the tunnel never melted. In the course of time falling slate covered and closed the mouth of the tunnel and so it has remained for forty years. The story of this railroad project as told by Mr. Prosser in 1914 is very interesting. It is as follows:

Human Progress

Always in the course of human progress along industrial lines, there are certain features of development whose value to the country at large can not be overestimated. When s new land is discovered, a multitude of explorers and adventurers, drawn by human love of gain and worldly honor, are eager to brave the countless perils and discouragements which threaten them in order that they may be first to bring forth the hidden resources of the promising unknown.

As the now regions become more familiar, the pioneer and his family build their log cabin and a settlement is started. With settlement comes local improvement, a phase of progress which must continue while the energy of the inventive and progressive mind remains inexhausted. One of the greatest and most common advantages sought by a people is an easy and rapid means of communication, a line along which the world is so rapidly advancing today. Sixty years ago the people felt the great need as emphatically as we do at the present time. The citizens of New York State were no exception and those of Rome were especially alive to their necessities and the opportunities of removing them with which they had been divinely provided.

Rome Wanted Communication

For some years prior to 1853, the necessity of some direct means of communication between the town of Rome and the country to the north and Canada was keenly felt. To be sure, the Black River and the Black River Canal afforded a means of transportation from Rome and Central New York to Lake Ontario but was lacking in two important features: First, it did not afford the rapidity of travel which is so necessary to profit - trade: secondly, it did not eliminate the difficulties attendant upon lake transportation in that particular neighborhood.

Tactful business men were quick to see the advantage of a competitive system which would solve the problems of ease and rapidity of transportation and, at the same time, open up a very fertile country to a greater extent.

The Railroad Projected

Accordingly, in the year 1853, a body of men formed a stock company for the purpose of constructing a line of railroad between Rome, which was to be the southern terminus, and Ogdensburg. The line was to be built by way of Boonvllle, Carthage and Philadelphia to the village of Clayton, on the St Lawrence River, thence northeastward along that river to Ogdensburg. The name of the line was to be the "Ogdensburg, Clayton and Rome Railroad". The company when first organized elected Henry A . Foster, a Rome lawyer and former United States senator, as its president; N. J. Beach as secretary and R. S . Doty as treasurer. These men, together with nearly all the prominent business men of Rome and the towns scattered along the route, invested in the capital stock of the company.

Bonds By The Towns

Each town gave bonds to assist in building the road. The town of Rome became bonded to the extent of $33,000 receiving, as did the other towns, an interest in the stock in lieu of the bonds issued.

A Million Dollars Raised

Great enthusiasm was manifested for some time. Men who were interested in the formation of the road solicited subscriptions for its promotion and were successful to such an extent that they raised over a million dollars in this way, ten per cent of which was paid into the company's treasury before construction was begun.

Tried To Do Too Much At Once

The one fatal mistake of the directors was in their plan of construction. As soon as the route was surveyed and negotiations to secure the right of way completed, they began preparations for grading the road bed throughout its extent Thus far everything had gone well and, counting upon continued support and prosperous conditions, the company proceeded with the grading. From Rome to Boonvllle, this phase of the work was most difficult because of the country between those villages. Beyond Boonvllle the matter of grading became easier, as the ground was comparatively level and easily worked. Culverts and bridges were considered as a second stage of the work and consequently were laid aside until the grading of the bed should be completed. In this scheme of uniform construction over the entire route lies the great mistake resulting in such final disaster.

Financial Depression Ahead

The directors did not foresee the approaching depreciation in currency and the consequent decline of confidence and enthusiasm as well as a scarcity of money. Instead of building on a sectional plan, they continued with the grading until it was complete. Probably the coming calamity could have been easily averted had the road been made complete from the starting point. This, however, was not done, and as a result ths company could obtain no dividends from completed sections to assist in furthering the construction of ths remainder of the line.

A Utica Competitor

About the same time that the Ogdensburg, Clayton and Rome Company was organised, a concern known as ths Utica and Black River Railroad was organised in this city. This company proposed to build road from Utica to Clayton by way of Boonvllle. By this plan it will be seen that the two proposed roads would run practically parallel to each other throughout Lewis and Jefferson counties.

Joint Line Proposed

The people of these counties were reluctant to have two roads pass through their territory when one would meet the requirements. As a result committees were appointed by the rival concerns to consider the advisability of constructing and operating a joint line from Boonvllle to the neighborhood of Theresa. Constant strife existed between the companies from the beginning, so little good could be expected to result from such a meeting. Nevertheless the committees met in Boonvllle and, contrary to expectation, the meeting promised to accomplish the desired result. However, nothing final nor binding upon either party took place and the meeting was adjourned with the intention of further compromise.

Utica Would Not Compromise

Again the natural enmity of the concerns destroyed all hope of an advantage to be gained by combined action. The chairman of the Utica Committee, upon conferring with the board of directors of his company, declared that, because of certain Insurmountable difficulties to be encountered by the joint system of construction, all further negotiations between the companies would be inexpedient and useless. This resolution on the part of the Utlca directors did away with all chance of a business compromise which might have saved a large amount of money for both parties concerned.

Scarcity of Money

At this time, the scarcity of money preceding the great financial panic of 1857, began to make itself felt. The directors of the Rome company, finding their treasury exhausted, met and resolved to delay construction only until the necessary funds for proceeding were forthcoming. The stockholders were confident in the ability and good faith of the directors and immediately paid up nearly all the arrears for installments on stock This effort permitted the work to be resumed and everything appeared as if the project would succeed in spite of the difficulties encountered. In a short time, however, a few thousand dollars obtained in this way proved in sufficient to meet the current expenses and again the work was delayed. Affairs continued in this way with the directors perplexed and powerless and the stockholders embarrassed.


Owing to the uneven surface conditions from Rome to Boonvllle. two tunnels were planned a short distance from the latter named village. The smaller of these was completed and the longer one begun when the final crash came. This is the tunnel at the Rome Boonvllle Gorge Park.

Hard Times Loomed

Two events occurred which had serious results: The first and most important of these was the decline in value of state bank notes. Many banks all over the United States were promoted by men of doubtful financial strength and these banks were constantly failing. The system of backing all banking institutions by the government was not yet established. Consequently, the holders of notes of insolvent banks were heavy losers. This agitation caused the notes of all banks of doubtful solvency to depreciate until they were worth much less than face value. Secondly, the elections of 1856 were coming on and the country was threatened by a destructive war and general hard times. Stockholders were short of currency and the bonded town were either unable or reluctant to produce more funds to replenish the then exhausted treasury and to continue the work.

Utica Built Only Part.

While the Rome company had been pursuing its plan of uniform construction, the Utica and Black River Company, under the lead ershlp of John Thorn and John Butterfleld, had worked along altogether different lines. Instead of grading the entire length of the proposed road, they completed the section of road lying between Utica and Boonvllle. When this portion was opened to traffic the people began to realize some return on its investment and, although funds became scarce as bad been the case in Rome, they were still able to proceed with the work. It often happens that the calamity of one becomes the golden opportunity of another. Such was the case in this instance. The Rome company was compelled to abandon its enterprise for the time, being, while the Utlca company grasped the advantage put within its reach.

Panic Passed, But Too Lets.

In due time the panic passed and agaln money began to circulate and became plentiful. By this time, however, the Utica line was so far in advance that it was seen to be a losing proposition for the Ogdensburg, Clayton and Rome Company to renew operations. The stockholders had become discouraged by their misfortunes and by the advantages gained by their rivals. The fight was apparently against so great odds, that to expect s revival of confidence and enthusiasm was folly. As a consequence the road WSS forever abandoned and the land returned to its former owners. All the evidence that remains to the present generation is the sight of the graded road bed where more modern improvement has not destroyed it.

Can Trace Road From Rome.

This old relic of over half a century is distinguishable to a greater extent than might bo expected. For the Roman who is interested in this abandoned project to become acquainted with its local features, he has but to go to ths ridge on which St Aloysius Academy now stands and which was the proposed entrance point of the railroad into Rome. From this point the road can be traced through Ridge Mills, past the Delta Dam and onward through Westernville as far toward the proposed norhtern terminus as the interested one cares to go.

Bonds a Burden

Over fifty years ago (this was written in 1914) when all prospects of proceeding with the road had been given up, the bonds still hung as an evil cloud over the towns. Rome was not the prosperous city of today, but comparatively small town with a bonded indebtedness which had increased to over $200,000. These bonds were issued for a period of thirty years, thereby not only hampering the prosperity of teh town by this great ddebt but adding the additional burden of interest for this long period of time. The growth of Rome was greatly retarded by the presence of its overhanging curse and for many years the increase of population was a low ebb.

Rome Recovered

However, with the strength of purpose, the indomitable spirit and perseverence that characterises all Romans, the citizens recovered from the momentary depression, placed their shoulders to the wheels of industry and cast their lots with thier home town in a final and successful to win. Rome's citizens learned how to succeed through experience in failure and by their noble efforts have succeeded in making that town "A City of Industries and a Place That is Good to Live In."