Jim Saunders beside the mules in "Winston's Dream" in Lyons, New York. The massive painting, inspired by a 1910 postcard of the Erie Canal in Lyons, is part of Mural Mania. With its mission, “Preservation of History through Community Art,” Mural Mania creates time travel focal points in canal towns along the Erie Canalway Trail.
Augustus Mortimer Leach (1825-1901): contribution to the Enlarged Canal (completed 1862):
Augustus Mortimer Leach was educated at Geneva Academy, now Hobart College. Born the year the first Erie Canal opened (in 1825), Augustus died in 1901, four years before construction began on the modern Erie Canal (once referred to as New York State Barge Canal).
In the 1850s, Augustus, was employed by the corps of civil engineers and was promoted to overseeing the section from Syracuse to Buffalo. According to his 1901 obituary, Augustus "also invented and drafted plans for the drop gate for locks that were accepted by the state and have continued in use to the present time." (Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, August 12, 1901, Page 4).
As of this writing, 3/2/21, I haven't found proof of the drop gate invention in State of New York documents, but found the following in Google books: August M. Leach is listed among four "First Assistant" Engineers on the Western Division in "Manual for the Use of the Legislature of the State of New York",1853, p.440, and as 1st Engineer under "Eastern subdivision in the western division of the Erie Canal Enlargement "AND 1st Engineer under "Genesee Valley Canal" in "Documents of the Senate of the State of New York, Volume 1," 1854, p.142.
Augustus Leach's obituary tells of his career and states that Augustus "secured an early business training under his father Jacob in the milling business. In his college course he showed a natural talent for drafting and drawing, and after his graduation he worked as a draughtman for the corps of civil engineers engaged in plotting a new route for the Erie canal through [the Lyons] section. From them he acquired knowledge of civil engineering and he soon rose to a position of prominence in the department of state engineer and surveyor. In the early  fifties he was placed in charge of the engineering work on the western section of the Erie canal, having under his supervision the section extending from Syracuse to Buffalo. On the completion of this work he surveyed the Genesee Valley canal from Rochester to Olean [south and a little west of Rochester] and built a big storage dam at Cuba [near Olean]. During this period he also invented and drafted plans for the drop gate for locks that were accepted by the state and have continued in use to the present time . According to an obit: "From 1855 to 1857 [Augustus] was assistant state engineer under Van Rensselear Richmond of Lyons who was then state engineer and surveyor. During the latter part of that period, Mr. Leach lived in Rochester and Cuba, Allegany County. Later he became engaged in the milling business in Brooklyn together with his father-in-law and a Brooklyn miller under the firm name of Smith, Leach and Jewell. In a few years Mr. Leach, whose early training in the milling business under his father had adapted him for the work, bought out his partners and for ten years conducted the business alone. During the Civil War he had many contracts for furnishing supplies to the government, and both then and at its close his business was remarkably successful so that in 1870 he had amassed a fortune on which he was well able to retire... "("The Sisson Family of Lyons, New York", Sisson, David Arne, 2005, p. 234-243)
Augustus built a large house on a hill in Lyons when he returned from Brooklyn. Calling it Terrace Lawn, it still stands today at 27 Cherry Street. After his death, his son Francis (Frank) Leach lost the family fortune in a bad investment. The dwindling funds could no longer support Augustus's widow and Frank committed suicide in 1912.I descend from his daughter, Emma (Leach) Sisson, seen at the bottom left. (Images from "The Sisson Family of Lyons, New York", Sisson, David Arne, 2005, page 262.)References:
- Cowles, George W., History of the Town of Lyons, 1895
- "Grip's" historical souvenir of Lyons, N. Y, p. 13,1904.
- Sisson, David Arne, "The Sisson Family of Lyons, New York", 2005, pages 234-243
- Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York, Page 4, August 12, 1901,https://www.newspapers.com/clip/50741272/democrat-and-chronicle/
(1) NOTES ABOUT AUGUSTUS M. LEACH: One of several Augustus M. Leach obituaries, the following appeared August 12, 1901, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York, Page 4: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/50741272/democrat-and-chronicle/ Transcribed:
PEACEFUL DEATH OF AUGUSTUS M. LEACH
Lyons Has lost an Honored and Influential Resident.
Retirement in 1875
Youngest Son of Lyon's Prominent Pioneers Did Valuable Work as Civil Engineer and Surveyor--Wayne.
Augustus M. Leach, a prominent retired business man of Lyons, died unexpectedly Saturday morning at the advanced age of 75 years. He had been in impaired health for a long time, the result of old age and affection of the heart, but his condition last week had shown nothing to differentiate it from his general health for some months. Friday he took his usual drive and retired at his customary hour with no sign of the approaching end. He passed away between midnight and 7 o'clock so quietly that knowledge of the fact did not come to the members of the family until they entered his room to awaken him for breakfast Saturday morning.
Mr. Leach was the youngest of 10 children born to the late Jacob Leach, one of the most prominent and progressive of the pioneer settlers of Lyons. Jacob Leach went to Lyons in 1809 from Litchfield Conn. and in the course of an active career devoted to the development of the section, constructed and operated the first grist mill in Lyons, the first brewery and in 1812 one of the first general stores.
Augustus M. Leach was born November 1, 1825. He attended a preliminary education in the Lyons union school and a collegiate education at Hobart college from which he graduated with the class of '48. He selected as his profession that of a civil engineer for which the enlargement of the canals and railroad construction offered abundant opportunity. Soon after his graduation from college he obtained a position under the state engineer and surveyor and he showed so much adaptability for the work that in the early  fifties he was placed in charge of the engineering work on the western section of the canal, having under his supervision a section extending from Syracuse to Buffalo. During this period he invented and drafted plans for a drop gate for locks that were accepted by the state and have continued in use to the present time. At the conclusion of his work on the Erie he surveyed the route for the Genesee Valley canal from Rochester to Olean under the direction of Van Rensselaer Richmond, of Lyons, who was then state engineer and surveyor.
Just before the outbreak of the Civil war Mr. Leach secured an opportunity to engage in the milling business, a pursuit which his father had been the first to follow in Lyons and in which he himself had training under his father. The business was located in Brooklyn and was conducted under the firm name of Leach, Smith and Jewell. In a few years Mr. Leach bought out his partners and then for fifteen years conducted it alone under the name of Williamsburg Mills. It was the largest establishment of its kind in the city and amassed for its owner a fortune on which he was well able to retire from business in 1875.
He then returned to Lyons on the spacious Leach grounds on Cherry Street, erected a residence that is one of the costliest, the most attractive and the finest fit in the county. There he had since resided, enjoying a well earned leisure among the comforts of home life and the pleasures he always took from literary study and reading. He was a man of refined mind and brought culture and his library and art collection was one of the largest and best selected in the vicinity. He never embarked in business after his retirement in 1875 and never cared to enter public life.
Apart from his literary study he took no active interest in matters away from his home village, but in affairs of concern to the community he was always ready to give the advantages of the experience of his successful business career and of his literary accomplishments. In this way he served as president of the village and for several years as school trustee. He was also deeply interested in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of which he was an elder for many years.
In June, 1855, Mr. Leach married Mary Jane Smith, of Lima. She died in 1868, and in 1874 Mr. Leach was married to Miss Emma Jerome Richards, of Norwich, Connecticut, who survives. Other surviving relatives are four sons: Frank Leach, a lawyer of Kansas City, Albert Leach, a physician at Mt. Morris, and Frederick and Arthur Leach, of Lyons, and two daughters, Miss Minnie Leach and Mrs. [Emma Louise Leach ]Sisson, of Lyons.
JACOB AND AUGUSTUS LEACH AND HOW I DESCEND FROM THEM
One of the features of the 2016 Global Mural Conference was the 12 x 16 mosaic mural painted on Evolon. “They Call me Sal”. This mural has 728 six-inch squares painted by art students from elementary to students in college across NY State. This mosaic mural was organized by art teacher Lisa Petrosina. They Call me Sal features the history of New York State, and the flora and fauna. If you look closely you will find roses, blue birds, Harriet Tubman, and the World Trade Center featured. This mural is the tenth mural in Lyons, and is a gateway mural on the abutment greeting the bikers or others on the Empire Trail. This mural is mounted on the Rochester-Syracuse Trolley abutment. This mural was made possible from a grant from the Erie Canalway, Canal Corporation and donations from Greystone Paper (Evolon) and paint from Golden Artist Colors. Mural Mania would also like to thank F.S. Short & Son Contractors “For all your excavating needs.” for the donation to seal the mural. Mural Mania would like to thank the Lyons Heritage Society for this plaque.
Mounted on the old trolley bed abutment in the newly dedicated G. Winston Dobbins Memorial Park, at Lock 27, this duplicates a scene from an actual postcard from 1910. It’s complete with packet boat, mules, hogies, a trolley, and the famous Hotchkiss Peppermint building. The mural was created by James Zeger. This mural and park was completed with the help of over 200 volunteers.