A surprise for the boss
The first electric trolley ride between Fonda and Gloversville in 1893 was a surprise wedding gift for the manager of the trolley line.
The story is told in Paul K. Larner’s book “Our Railroad: The History of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad.” The F.J. & G. steam railroad was already in existence in 1893. The electric line eventually became part of the steam railroad’s operation but at first was a separate entity, the Cayadutta Electric Railroad.
In 1892, construction of the Cayadutta was mired in controversy. There even was a riot by unpaid Italian immigrant workers in Johnstown. But work continued on the electrified line to link Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville, including construction of an amusement area north of Fonda called Cayadutta Park. By summer of 1893, the trolley line was getting ready to open.
In June, Cayadutta Electric Railroad general manager T.C. Frenyear journeyed to Exeter, New Hampshire to marry Emma Chase. Her minister father performed the ceremony and the Frenyears took an afternoon train for Gloversville.
Back in Gloversville a plan was afoot to meet the bridal couple in Fonda with trolley cars and take them back to Gloversville as the first official trip on the electric railroad.
The mission was accomplished and several carloads of dignitaries made the trip from Gloversville to Fonda to await the train from New Hampshire on June 29.
A stop was made at the Cayadutta’s power house and, according to a Gloversville Leader account, the passengers were impressed, “The massive boilers were looked at, and more than a casual observation was made of the huge engines, the massive wheels and broad belts and the whizzing dynamos which send the electric current along the line. The magnificent switchboard, with its levers for different circuits, was also an object of curiosity.”
People along the way waved handkerchiefs at the electric cars and mill workers pushed their bodies halfway out of windows to salute the procession.
T.C. and Emma Frenyear arrived in Fonda and returned to Pine and Beaver streets in Gloversville on car number 14.
Larner wrote that the official opening of the line took place the next day. Seven electric cars were put into service and the combined load slowed the vehicles and eventually burned out a wire in Johnstown. Cars and celebrants were stranded for two hours. Regular scheduled service was instituted by August of 1893. Soon, horse-pulled trolley cars disappeared from Fulton County.
There still were problems with Italian immigrant workers who had failed to receive their pay from a contractor named H. Ward Leonard. Larner wrote that the Cayadutta hired guards for its car barns and powerhouse.
There was media frenzy over an unfounded report of a bomb being seen among unpaid Italian workers. No bomb ever was found. Larner wrote that the workers hired legal counsel and the dispute eventually was settled in court.
During World War II, Mohawk Carpet Mills in Amsterdam produced a factory newsletter called the Mohawker that was avidly read on the home front and by servicemen and women overseas, who contributed comments for the publication.
“I miss everyone very much, way up here in lonely Alaska,” wrote Private Fred Testa in 1943. “I feel that I am helping to make our country a peaceful and pleasant place for my wife, family and friends.”
The Mohawker reported on a sparehand named Helen Burke from the Wilton carpet department whose job at the mill had been to prepare looms for weaving by tying knots in yarn. Burke joined the Women’s Army Corps.
“You boys never met her but she tied a mean knot before she left,” wrote the Mohawker.