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This Week in Port Jervis History

On January 16, 1850, Peter H. Miller started the Whig newspaper, the Port Jervis Express. Miller served as the owner and the editor of the short-lived newspaper. This was the first newspaper published in Port Jervis. The Express was printed in an office at 23-29 West Main Street on the west side of the canal above Joel Lyman Hoyt’s harness shop (see Hoyt’s patent for a harness tug). Peter H. Miller, the black editor and owner, previously printed the Honesdale Tribune beginning in 1847. Miller was also a protege of former New York Governor, Enos Thompson Throop. Miller employed the sixteen year old David Ross Locke, at the Port Jervis Express office. Locke was best known for his Nasby Letters. Locke, who believed in racial equality, invented Petroleum V. Nasby, a caricature of a barely literate Copperhead, or Peace Democrat. President Lincoln kept a collection of the Nasby Letters and would occasionally read them out loud to others. Senator George S. Boutwell in a speech at Cooper Union said the war was won due to three forces, the Army, the Navy and the Nasby Letters. The five or six-column Express was printed on Miller’s Ramage press and published on Wednesdays. The paper ceased to be printed in November of 1850 when the Democratic Tri-States Union began being printed in the recently built Delaware Hall building. The Express printed a poem by Port Jervisian, Hudson Mesler, about the death of a young man, the first poem published in Port Jervis.

On January 22, 1887, seven electric street lights were lit in Port Jervis, less than nine years after the first electric street lights were installed in Paris. Port Jervis became the second city in Orange County to have electric street lights (Newburgh was the second city in the country to have electric street lights). The lights were installed by the Schuyler Electric Light Company of Hartford. A light works operation was set up by Schuyler at Edward J. Holden’s saw factory on Owen Street. On the 21st, a private exhibition was given where thirty lamps were lit at once. The lights were installed at the Erie Depot, the Clarendon Hotel (at Front and Sussex Streets), at Remey & Denton’s Pharmacy (at Pike and Hammond Streets), in front of Excelsior Skating Rink (on Pike Street), across from Orange Square, at the Park Hotel (on Pike and Main Streets) and across from the Reformed Church on Main Street. In 1882, Port Jervis had installed a more expansive arc light system that preceded Newburgh's by two years. A number of these lights, however, were reported to go out during the course of the night. In 1863, Port Jervis installed twenty-five gas street lights.

Humorists Henry Wheeler Shaw, Samuel Clemens and David Ross Locke

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