The following articles, from different sources, tell about the wonderful history of the Balloon Farm in Frankfort, N.Y., and the spirited couple that made it possible, Carl and "Carlotta" Myers.
Source: Permission was generously given by the Herkimer County Historical Society, to reprint this article from the book, "Herkimer County at 200", published in 1991, by the Herkimer County Historical Society. This very interesting and informative book, about the history, and its people, of Herkimer County, is now on sale for $30.00 at the Herkimer County Historical Society. An excellent book, for the history buff, and researchers alike, who want to know more about the people and the area where their ancestors lived. Don't pass this one up! For ordering information, please see the Herkimer Co. Historical Society webpage.
Town of Frankfort Section Editor
Coordinator, Oswego County NYGenWeb
THE BALLOON FARM, FRANKFORT, NY
The Balloon Farm, Frankfort, N.Y.
On the bottom right hand it says: Photo © 1907 by Carl
E. Myers, Frankfort, N.Y.
The Balloon Farm still stands, a dignified Victorian mansion of thirty rooms, on a hill south of Frankfort, overlooking the Mohawk Valley. It housed one of the most successful private experiments in early aeronautics ever launched.
The Myerses reached lasting and national renown by a circuitous course. Carl Myers, son of Michael F. Myers, a farmer of German descent, was born in Fort Herkimer in 1842 and grew up in Mohawk. He entered a boys' school run by Epaphroditus Randall, a rural scientist, who stimulated Carl's scientific interests. At age nineteen he entered the Mohawk Valley Bank, where for six years he worked as a teller and cashier. During this period he also developed his scientific interests in telegraphy, electricity, and photography. He resigned from the bank and bought a photograph gallery in Hornellsville. Here, in 1871, he married Mary Breed Hawley. Born in 1849, she was a descendant of the Breeds of Breed's Hill, Boston, and of the Hawleys, settlers of Connecticut. Mary was an intelligent and attractive woman who shared Carl's scientific interests.
After two years of study of a new object, hydrogen gas balloons, Carl returned to Mohawk in 1875 to pursue this interest. Mary was a splendid lab assistant and shared his passion for aeronautics. After his first flight in an aerial balloon, "Carlotta, the lady Aeronaut" made her first flight on July 4, 1880, at Little Falls. Fifteen thousand people watched. She continued her ascensions, which became extremely popular at fairs and resorts, and were financially very remunerative.
By 1889 Carl had purchased the Gates Mansion and five acres of land. Here at the Balloon Farm was room for their chemical laboratory, a printing press, carpentry and machine shops, a loft for cutting out and storing balloons, gas generating equipment, shipping rooms, and water pumps. Here also were their spacious living quarters. After a career of superlative performances, managing the Balloon Farm, and bringing up her daughter Bessie Aerial, born in 1881, Carlotta retired from public performances in 1891.
Carl continued in his work and was most noted for his fine construction of balloons, and his development with the United States government of hydrogen balloons used for meteorology in predicting the weather. He experimented with rainmaking and furnished military balloons for use in the Spanish-American War. Bessie, then Mrs. Newton C. Wing, moved her parents to her home in Atlanta, Georgia in 1910, after they sold the Balloon Farm. They lived in Atlanta into their eighties; Carl died in 1923, Mary in 1932.
Source: Taken, in part, from the book: "Careers Of Danger and Daring", by Cleveland Moffett, The Century Co., 1924, from the story on "The Balloonist".
From: Careers of Danger and
Daring, by Cleveland Moffett, The Century Co., 1924.
Here we visit a Balloon Farm and Talk With the Man Who Runs It.
I never knew a man who has been so many things (and been them all fairly well) as has Carl Myers of Frankfort, New York. They call him "Professor" Myers ever since he took to ballooning, years ago; but they might call him Dr. Myers, for he has studied medicine, or Wrestler Myers, for he is skilled in all tricks of assault and defense, Japanese and others, or Banker Myers, for he spent years in financial dealings, or Printer Myers, for he still sets up his own type, or Telegrapher Myers, or Lecturer Myers, or Carpenter Myers, or Photographer Myers.
All these callings (and some others) Myers has pursued with eagerness and success, only making a change when driven to it by his thirst for varied knowledge and his guiding principle, "I refuse to let this world bore me." To-day the professor is sixty years old (a thin, wiry, sharp-eyed little man), yet I suspect some boys of sixteen who read these pages feel older than he does. You ought to hear him laugh! or tell about the air-ship that has carried him over thirteen States! or describe his "balloon farm" at Frankfort! I don't know when I have enjoyed myself more than during three days Professor Myers spent with me some time ago.
Suppose we begin with the balloon farm, which is certainly a queer place. It is a joke in the neighborhood that the professor plants his balloon crop in the spring, gathers it in the fall, and stores it away through the winter. Certain it is that in summer-time the visitor (and visitors come in swarms) sees fields marked off in rows with stakes and cross-poles, on which balloon-cloth by hundreds of yards seem to be growing (really, it is drying); and other fields, that look like an Eskimo village, with houses of crinkly yellowish stuff (really, half-inflated balloons); and groups of men boiling varnish in great kettles which are always getting on fire and may explode; and other men working nimbly at the knitting of nets; and others experimenting with parachutes; and the professor paddling away at the height of three thousand feet for his afternoon "skycycle" sail; and Mme. Carlotta, the celebrated aeronaut (also the professor's wife), making an ascension now and then from the front lawn in a chosen one of her twenty-odd balloons. [image at left - "Fields That Look Like An Eskimo Village"]
And in winter, should you explore the upper rooms of the house, you would find all the balloons tucked away snugly in cocoons, as it were, fast asleep, ranged along the attic floor, each under its net, each ticketed with a record of its work, marked for good or bad conduct after it has been tested by master or mistress.
For weeks at a time in the experiment season a captive balloon hovers above the Frankfort farm, say twelve hundred feet up, and the tricks they play with that balloon would draw all the boys in the country, if their parents would let them go. Three guy-ropes hold the balloon steady like legs of an enormous tripod, and straight down from the netting a fourth rope hangs free. Now, imagine swinging on a rope twelve hundred feet long! They do that often for tests of flying-machines or aeroplanes- swing off the housetop, and sail away in a long, slow curve, just clearing the ground, and land on top of a windmill at the far side of the grounds. That's a swing worth talking about! And fancy a man hitched fast to this rope by shoulder-straps, and as he swings flapping a pair of great wings made of feathers and silk, and trying to steer with a ridiculous spreading tail of the same materials. The professor had a visit from such a man who had spent years and a fortune in contriving this flying device, which, alas! would never fly.
Professor Myers, like most aeronauts, insists that traveling by balloon, for one who understands it, is no more perilous, but rather less so, than ordinary travel by rail or trolley or motor carriage. He points out that for thirty-odd years he and his wife have led a most active aeronaut existence, have done all things that are done in balloons, besides some new ones, and got no harm from it- some substantial good rather, notably an aerial torpedo (operated by electricity from the ground), which flies swiftly in any desired direction, its silken fans and aluminum propeller under perfect control from a switchboard; also the "skycycle" balloon, which lifts the aeronaut in a suspended saddle and allows him, by the help of sail propeller and flapping aeroplanes (these driven by hands and feet), to make a gain on the wind, when going with it, of ten or twelve miles an hour. On this "skycycle" Professor Myers has paddled hundreds of miles, not trying to go against the wind, but selecting currents from the many available ones that favor his purpose. "What is the use, "says he, "of fighting the wind when you can make the wind fight for you? People who take trains or boats wait for a certain hour or a certain tide, in the same way we wait for a certain wind current, and there is never long to wait, for the wind blows in totally different directions at different altitudes." [image at left - "Professor Myers in His Skycycle"]
"Can you know with precision," I asked, "about these varying currents?"
"We can know a good deal by studying the clouds and by observations with kites and other instruments. And we would know much more if experimenters would work on these lines of conquering nature by yielding to her rather than opposing her."
In my talks with Professor Myers, of which there were many, we went first into the spectacular side of ballooning, the most obviously interesting part, stories of hair-breadth escapes and thrilling adventure, of the fair lady who assumed marriage vows sailing aloft over Herkimer County, of Carlotta's recent trip, ninety miles in sixty minutes with natural gas in the bag, of the English aeronaut who leaped from his car to death in the sea that a comrade might be saved through the lessened weight, of two lovesick Frenchmen who dueled with pistols from rival balloons, while all Paris gaped in wonder from the earth and shuddered when one silken bag, pierced by a well-aimed shot, dashed down to death with principal and second. And many more of that kind which, I must say, leave one far from convinced on the non-danger point.
Our talks drifted on, and the professor told of exciting times reporting the great yacht races from captive balloons (with reporters turning seasick in the plunging basket), and remarkable phenomena observed from balloons and double colored shadows of balloons (called parhelions) cast on clouds, and wonderful light effects, as when a marveling aeronaut looks down upon a sea of silver clouds bathed in sunshine and through black clefts sees a snowstorm raging underneath.
I was surprised to learn that at very great altitudes, say above three miles, the voice almost fails to serve, or, rather, the rarefied air loses in great part its power of voice transmission, so that in the vast silent spaces of the sky one aeronaut must literally shout to another in the same basket to make himself heard. One would say that the great, calm heavens resent the chattering intrusion of noisy little men.
From: The Journal & Courier, Little Falls, NY, dated Tuesday, July 6, 1880
The Ever Glorious Fourth - Immense Celebration in Little Falls
15,000 people, Magnificent Balloon Ascension
The Balloon Ascension:
Meantime the rain came slowly but very persistently, and many feared that the balloon would not ascend. But Prof. Myers knew no such word as fail, and the work of inflation, though somewhat delayed, kept going forward. The crowd at this time on Main and Second Streets, and upon all the heights and tops of buildings that commanded the scene, was simply immense. And when it became known that "Carlotta" was none other than Mrs. Myers, and that this was to be her first ascension, the interest was greatly intensified. At a little before five o'clock, she stepped bravely into the basket, a beautiful carrier pigeon was sent from the balloon to carry the news to her home in Mohawk that she had started upon her perilous ride, and at the same time the words, "let go" were given, and the balloon "Aerial", with its precious freight - rose slowly and very majestically above the house-tops. At first it was borne northerly, till reaching an upper current, it floated off eastward, remaining in sight until a cloud obscured it. Mrs. Myers took as companions on the voyage four carrier pigeons which she was to let off with news to her Mohawk friends of her flight and of her safe arrival again upon earth. No finer ascension has ever been witnessed in this section, and the prayers of all ascended with the bold lady who made this her first venture in the clouds, and who did it so beautifully and so successfully.
THE BALLOON LANDS NEAR DEVEREAUX
The first news received here from the balloon was brought by Mrs. Myers herself who reached this village about ten o'clock in the evening. She reports a most magnificent voyage, the balloon speeding very swiftly but very gently along until at fifteen minutes past five o'clock, after a ride of about thirty-five minutes in which she traveled nearly twenty miles, she safely landed in a large field on the farm of Mr. John Davis in the town of Stratford near the village of Devereaux. All along the route she was seen by the people of the country, many of whom shouted to her and waved their handkerchiefs. As she came near the earth the people on the farm rushed to her assistance and she had no difficulty in effecting a safe landing. She then packed up her balloon and secured a son of Mr. Davis to bring her to Little Falls. She returned to Mohawk on the excursion train, which left here about half past ten o'clock. Doubtless the memory of this, her first air voyage, will never pass from her mind, and all who saw the ascension will unite with us in warmly congratulating her upon her success and safety.
Sources: The book "Herkimer County at 200", published in 1991, by the Herkimer County Historical Society
Town of Frankfort Editor