Unusual News Stories From A Small Town Newspaper in 1881

A Horse Commits Suicide, A Man Falls 60 Feet From A Building And Is Uninjured & Instructions On How To Wash Your Face

lowville times bannerInteresting “News” From The Lowville Times In The Summer of 1881

photo: Yester-Images of Lowville NY on postcards by Larry Myers

photo: Yester-Images of Lowville NY on postcards by Larry Myers

Lowville is a sleepy town in Lewis County, upstate New York, about 40 miles east of Lake Ontario and about 90 miles north of Syracuse. Just under 5,000 people call this town home. The most famous person associated with Lowville is probably Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Peter is a veterinarian at Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Lowville.

lowville new york map circa 1870sThe town was founded in 1797 and by 1881 had a population which was a tad over 3,000 people, mostly comprised of assiduous  farmers and merchants.

Like most aspiring small towns across America, Lowville had their own newspaper, a weekly journal comprised of four pages called the Lowville Times which existed from 1876-1884. It featured a smattering of national and international news, but the main feature for the citizens of Lowville and the surrounding towns of Copenhagen, Carthage, Constableville, Martinsburgh and Boonville, was the “local matters” section on page three.

It featured not so much news as it did gossip, illnesses, births, deaths, religious revivals, calls for temperance, arrivals and departures of visitors, and rumblings about town and other community news from larger towns around New York State.

An accurate statement in the newspaper of August 25, 1881 read “A stranger visiting Lowville on Wednesday, the day of the Band Boys’ excursion would have pronounced it a dull place.” What the paper doesn’t say is that this was probably true 360 days out of the year. But in the 19th century it was a beautiful town, with hills and rolling meadows. The pace of life was slow and hard work was rewarded with leisurely pleasures, like regular town picnics featuring music and refreshments.

Besides reporting local mundane items like, ” The picnic was well attended on Saturday last,” and “R.J. Richardson and Frank Doig killed 17 woodcock on Tuesday,” there are stories that are succinct, unusual and interesting.

Here are a selection of short news items with some editorial flair from the summer of 1881:

June 23 – Mr. Albert Eldridge, foreman in the Lowville Manufacturing Co.’s saw mill had a tussel with a hand spike, and we should judge by the looks of his eye that he got the worst of the bargain.

June 30 – How To Wash The Face – Many people object to the use of soap, disliking, the shiny, polished appearance it gives, but any who use Dr. Wilson’s directions will find that objection removed. They are as follows: Fill your basin about, two-thirds full with fresh water; dip your face in the water, and then your hands. Soap the hands well and pass the soaped hands with gentle friction over the whole face. Having performed this part of the operation thoroughly, dip the face in the water a second time and rinse it completely. You may add very much to luxury of the latter part of the operation by having a second basin ready with fresh water to perform a final rinse.

July 14 – Matthew Burk of Oneida, had a wonderful escape from instant death the other day. He fell from the fifth story of the new casket works, a distance of 60 feet, making several revolutions in the air, and landing safely on his feet. Within an hour he continued his work. 

July 21-  Thirteen deaths from lockjaw, occasioned by accident in the use of the toy pistols occurred in the city of Baltimore alone. If parents, have the interest of their children at heart they will not give them possession of this dangerous toy. 

August 4  – George Ten Broeck of Saugerties found one of his cows standing near a brook, apparently unable to stir. In the brook a large snake was found in an upright position, with a large portion of its body out of the water. With mouth open and fang extended the snake had charmed the cow.

August 11 – A horse belonging to a man named Sanders, in Fishkill, committed suicide recently. The horse got into the river but was rescued. He then deliberately laid down in the water in shallow water and held his head under water until he was drowned.

August 18 – The good people of Ox-Bow were somewhat surprised to learn that last week Ira Hinsdale, a wealthy farmer and for over 65 years a resident there and now past 85, was married June 21, at his home by the pastor of the Methodist church, Rev. J. E. Hall, to Miss Katie Dier, who has not reached her 30 year. His former wife whom he had lived with 60 years, and who was the mother of Mrs. N. J. Cooper, Mrs. E. G. Waite and Mrs. Helen Rich, died about 18 months ago. These people are well known. The girl whom, he marries has been keeping house for him for some time. — from The Independent

September 1 – Something that is astonishing and beats all former records during the summer months that have passed by. Mrs. Samuel N. Payne would quite frequently find an uncommon large egg in gathering up the eggs so much so that it seemed almost incredible to assign them to the ordinary hen. Last Saturday they killed a large Plymouth Rock rooster about a year, old, and in dressing found him full of eggs, from the size of a small shot, up to the large matured egg with hard shell, ready to be deposited in the nest. The dimensions were 6 ¾ by 7 ¾ inches. The event created no little excitement around town in the speculative imaginations of mankind. The query is has the like ever been known to any one before? We are prepared for most anything these days, no matter how preposterous it may seem at first. We wait for a response.

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