Alexander/Crawford History

Town News

By John Dudley & Cassie Oakes

Did you know that the Erie Canal opened on October 26, 1825?  Probably no one in Alexander had heard the news or realized how that event would affect our lives.  We often need to read history of other places to learn about what happened in our town.  A Savannah, Georgia newspaper reported in October 1826 that wheat grown in the Mohawk Valley of New York could be acquired for less than Georgia grown wheat.  Why was that?  

One must realize that the Erie Canal followed the Mohawk River and that most grain in New York was grown within one mile of the river.  Also that the Mohawk flows into the Hudson River that flows to New York City where ships loaded with grain could depart for Savannah or even Portland, Maine or East Machias, Maine.  The cost of transportation is an important part of what we pay for products we need or want.  So what does this have to do with Alexander?

Let’s consider one neighborhood in Alexander.  On October 26, 1825 seven families lived on Breakneck Mountain on farms totaling 1051 acres according to deeds from Caleb Cary of East Machias.  These families were headed by Michael Noddin, Ebenezer Gooch, Mark and Samuel Fenlason and by the Babcock brothers, Stephen, Gideon and John.  Seven men, seven wives plus 53 eventual children equal a population of 71.

The first need of these settlers was to feed and clothe their families and to provide a warm home in winter.  The land and their labor were all they had to fill these needs.  Their need for cash was satisfied by cutting pine logs on their farms and driving them from Barrows Lake down the East Machias River to the mills at East Machias Village.  But soon the easy to harvest pines were gone and these farmers, like so many others, turned again to their land to provide another cash crop-grain.

Everyone needs to eat.  Imagine growing fifty bushels of wheat, harvesting and threshing it, then loading it on your wagon.  Imagine the feeling when arriving at East Machias and finding out that New York grain was selling in the coastal towns for less money than your Alexander grown grain.

Breakneck Mountain today is mostly forested with one huge blueberry field, a few cellars, but no residents.  The Erie Canal is part of the reason no one lives there.  Where did they all go?


Thank you John for another great informative article.