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The Citizen

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 | A9

GUEST COLUMN

A connection to
the Adirondack
Scenic Railroad
‌W

hat is Auburn’s
connection to the
Adirondack Scenic
Railroad? It’s a legendary
story that originated more
than a century ago, but has
since been lost to history.
When tracDAWN
ing my family
ROE
tree, it was an
intriguing connection and I had always
wondered if it was true. It
wasn’t until we purchased
tickets to travel the ASR
fall foliage tour that I researched further to confirm
the story of Dr. William
Seward Webb, a man vital
to the opening of rail travel
in the Adirondacks. Several
sources state that Dr. Webb
was named after William
Henry Seward, of Auburn.
‌Webb, born in New York
City in 1851, was the son
of Gen. James Watson
Webb and Laura Virginia
Cram. His father, James,
was publisher of The New
York Enquirer and Courier
and enjoyed a personal
friendship with William H.
Seward. The first volume
of “The Life of William
H. Seward” has this to say
about Gen. Webb: “Next to
Weed and Greeley, he was
probably the most conspicuous Whig journalist in
the State. He was pompous
and severe in his writings.”
In 1842, one of his articles
caused such a stir that the
Hon. Thomas Marshall
of Kentucky sent Webb a
personal challenge. Webb
traveled to Delaware, where
he engaged in a duel against
Marshall, which was illegal.
While Marshall was
never injured and never
prosecuted, the same could
not be said for Webb. He
consequently suffered a leg
injury and was arrested,
convicted and sentenced to
two years of hard labor at
Sing Sing Prison. Following
the sentence, 14,000 New
Yorkers, including 14 out of
the 17 jury members who
convicted Webb, petitioned
Gov. William H. Seward to
issue a pardon. This case
is well-documented and
quoted in a publication on
dueling laws of the United
States. The pardon, creating much criticism, was
granted for the following
reasons:

„„ Because he (Webb) was
not the challenger.
„„ The challenger had not
been punished.
„„ The combat was not
mortal.
„„ Webb had never intended to injure his adversary.
„„ He had waived all legal
defense.
„„ Only three of all the
previous offenders against
the law had been prosecuted
and they had afterward been
pardoned.
In appreciation of the
pardon, Webb is said to
have named his next born
son after Seward. This is
the entangled story as to
the namesake of Dr. William Seward Webb.
While Dr. Webb received
medical training abroad, he
graduated from Columbia
College in 1875 as a physician but left medicine
for finance, establishing
the Wall Street firm W.S.
Webb & Co. His holdings
substantially grew with his
marriage to Eliza Vanderbilt, daughter of William
H. Vanderbilt. His next
venture would be railroading. Vanderbilt, having an
investment interest in the
Wagner Palace Car Co.,
invited his son in-law to
take over the operations
after Webster Wagner was
crushed between two of
his own railcars. Webb
accepted and also invited
his brother Henry (future
executive of the New York
City Railroad) to join him.
This firm would later merge
with the Pullman Co.
Dr. Webb also served
as president of the Fulton
Chain Railway Co., Fulton
Navigation Co., Raquette
Lake Transportation Co.
and the Mohawk and
Malone Railway. In 1890,
he financed a railroad into
the Adirondacks, with
construction starting the
following year at Remsen,
which was completed in
just 18 months. The line
provided access to Webb’s
hunting preserve at Nehasane Park and carried
other wealthy families
such as the Morgans,
Vanderbilts and the Roosevelts. The line became
part of the New York Central System and is today

PROVIDED PHOTOS‌

The crew of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad: From left are conductor Melanie Sembrat and
volunteers Michele Devendorf, Lois Bormann, Tom Evans, Pete Kemler, Keith Caulkins, Nancy
Baylis and Franklin Baylis.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PRINTS
AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIVISION,
BRADY-HANDY PHOTOGRAPH
COLLECTION‌

James Watson Webb

“PROMINENT AND PROGRESSIVE
AMERICANS: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA
OF CONTEMPORANEOUS BIOGRAPHY” BY MITCHELL C. HARRISON‌

William Seward Webb
used by the Adirondack
Scenic Railroad for tourism.
“The Adirondack Scenic
Railroad has been a staple of central New York’s
cultural heritage and
tourist industry since its
inception in 1992. With
the support of individuals,
corporate and foundation
sponsorships, and large
measures of support from
government leaders, we
have returned nearly 80
miles of track to passenger
service, acquired and refurbished enough equipment to provide comfortable, regular, and safe service to over 100,000 passengers. The Adirondack
Scenic Railroad, operated
by the Adirondack Railway
Preservation Society, is a
501(c)(3) not-for-profit
corporation chartered by

EDUCATION

High school graduation rate
hits record high of 83.2 percent
ASSOCIATED PRESS

00
1

‌WASHINGTON — The
nation’s high school graduation rate has reached a
record 83.2 percent, continuing a steady increase
that shows improvement
across all racial and ethnic
groups, according to federal
data released Monday.
President Barack Obama
welcomed the higher rate
as good news, but the gains
come against a backdrop of
decreasing scores on national math and reading
tests.
Education Secretary John
B. King Jr. acknowledged
worries about sagging
achievement. “A higher
graduation rate is meaningful progress, but certainly
we share the concern that
we have more work to do
to make sure every student
graduates ready for what’s
next,” he said.
Obama visited Benjamin
Banneker Academic High
School, a magnet school in
the District of Columbia, to
tout the graduation rate for
the 2014-2015 school year.
“More African-American
and Latino students are
graduating than ever before,” he said.
Gains also were seen for
disabled students and those
from low-income families.
The District of Columbia

A view from the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.
the New York State Department of Education.
The railroad is operated
and maintained by over
150 volunteers and only a
few full- and part-time
employees” said Brenda
Brucker, volunteer coordinator.

If you are looking for
an enjoyable train ride,
put the the Adirondack
Scenic Railroad on your
bucket list. It offers a variety of themed packages
where much of the terrain
can only be seen by train.
Enjoy the scenery and be

reminded of Dr. Webb’s
unique connection to
Auburn’s William Henry
Seward.
Dawn Roe is the former historian for the village of Port
Byron. She can be reached at
portbyronhistory.com.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS‌

President Barack Obama greets students after speaking at
Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington
Monday.
made the most progress in
the U.S. in 2014-2015 compared to the previous year,
improving its graduation
rate by 7 percentage points.
Obama applauded the
high school for graduating
all its seniors. “It’s been a
while since I did math, but
100 percent is good. You
can’t do better than that,”
Obama told the audience,
which included King, former Education Secretary
Arne Duncan, Mayor Muriel Bowser and former
Secretary of State Colin
Powell.
At the same time, he also
warned the students they
would need more than a
high school diploma to

succeed in today’s job market. He said that repetitive
work done in factories or
offices can now be done by
machine. They would need
critical thinking skills.
“We live in a global economy,” Obama said. “And the
best jobs are going to go to
the people who are the best
educated, whether in India
or China, or anywhere in
the world.”
Before the president
spoke, King said the graduation rate was more than
just a number. “It represents real students in
real cities, towns and rural communities who are
Please see GRADUATION, Page A8

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