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Wayne Post
  • Historically Speaking — A peek at Palmyra’s past 

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  • This week we were going to take a break from the Civil War and our hero Lt. Col. Joseph Corning and talk about the history discovered by the 11 folks at the dig camp. We will discuss these amazing three days and show the artifacts to the world soon.
    Instead we will take a break and talk about pirates. One particular pirate comes to mind and his name is Whitley. He came to Palmyra in 1820 and immediately met General Thomas Rogers of Clinton and East Main Street which we know today as the Garlock House. General Rogers had received this property from his a father-in-law Peleg Holmes after he married Harriet Holmes. Just a little sag way, the General and his wife hired an architect from New England to redo the home to their specifications. It is still pretty much what you see today except for the new addition on the back. I digress from the story of the pirate and his life in Palmyra.
    As I said, he met with General Rogers and bought a plot of land on Market Street right next to Judge H. K. Jerome. Mr. Whitley, as he was called, just showed up, bought property, and began to have a large tenant house built. A tenant house is typically a rental property where folks would live. The canal was coming through in a year or so and workers needed a place to live. Palmyra was an amazing community and certainly full of business, money, and prospects. Mr. Whitley hired the best carpenters, the best stone masons, and the best finishers. Money was no object to this stranger just known as Whitley.
    This fellow, although a stranger appeared to be of fine physique which means well built, nicely dressed, and definitely had the money to pay cash for everything. Questions were not asked of him since he really had all the important things; at least in a community that was growing by leaps and bounds. Whitley’s building was partially built when it was discovered that he was encroaching on the Judge’s property. No argument from Whitley since peaceful and accommodating was his style not making any waves with the local folks. A quick claim was done by the Judge and money exchanged hands for the small piece of land mistakenly built on by Whitley. All was good and the building continued.
    Finally the building was near completion when a horseman road into town looking for Whitley. Finding Whitley he appeared to speak seriously and quite frantically. The discussion was enough to prompt Whitley to pack everything up, find the General selling his newly built building for one third the cost. The General never passed up a great deal. Whitley was gone without a word. The General examined the building and found many nooks and crannies and a number of tunnels that appeared to lead far away from the building.
    Page 2 of 2 - The General was preparing to rent the building when two men came up and inquired about Mr. Whitley. They were well dressed and serious looking. The General told his story and said that Whitley had just left town. Realizing that no one was hiding Whitley these men told the General that Whitley was a wanted man as a pirate on the north seas. Whitley had been running for over a year and thought he had outwitted the law. Now Whitley is gone with no word, the law left to follow his trail and all appeared to disappear from the quiet community of Palmyra. The canal came in and business boomed even more than it had before the canal. The Whitley block burned in 1878 and was finally torn down in 1938. No treasure was found and all that is left of this historic visit and building is some remnants of tunnels that those on the east side of Market Street fall into now and then. Next week the Big Dig Camp results.
     

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