Who was on "Red Cloud" crew?

Asked by The Ilion Sentinel Newspaper

January 25, 1950

By Aileen Carney Sweeney
March 2015


"When winters were winters in up-state New York"
Photograph courtesy of Ilion Library


The Ilion Coasting Club

The winter of 2015 might go down in history as one of the coldest on record. Do you think Ilionites could ever enjoy winter? Well, apparently they did, with great gusto and nerve, back in the 1880s and 1890s. The Ilion Coasting Club hosted weekly bobsled contests down Second Street hill and the adventure for participants was not for wimps.

Ilion Methodist Church, Reminicenses by John Hutchins

James H. Hutchins, a Methodist class-leader, documented his Methodist pastoral experiences in the book, "The Narrow Way, Experience Illustrated". The book was published in 1891 and was in a diary format.

One chapter of the book describes a winter when he lived in Ilion. Mr. Hutchins was a resident during the height of the Coasting Craze.

He devoted an entire chapter of the book for his personal account of watching a night of coasting in Ilion. Now you can read his first person version of the excitement of watching "The Red Cloud" race down Second Street.

Because there are no copyright restrictions on the book, the chapter, "Coasting on West Hill", has been reproduced for this story, along with photographs of other Ilion bobsleds. The chapter was dated February 23, 1883.

The Narrow Way, Experience Illustrated - John Hutchins


The Hill Claims its Victims

A dog, a cat and a young man

On February 14, 1884, The Brookfield Courier, reported on a night of coasting in Ilion. "Ilion people participated in a grand coasting carnival on Thursday night of last week. The course was illumninated by electric light pyrotechnics. There was but one accident and that occurred to a cur which suffered death under the runners of a sled."

Reminicenses by John Hutchins

In his book, "The Narrow Way, Experience Illustrated", James H. Hutchins also included details of a sledding incident on February 23, 1883. Regarding his night of watching the coasting carnival, he stated "...No accident happened during the evening except the killing of a cat that undertook to cross the street in front of one of the sleds, and was cut in two."

The authors of the Ilion Centennial booklet, "Ilion 1852-1952", stated, "...In 1884 'The West Shore' skipped the track, crashing into the bridge on Second Street with the result that one passenger was killed and another seriously injured."

The Utica Weekly Herald, reported on the same accident that occurred on the night of February 16, 1884. The names of the victims were published in the local newspapers. "At a coasting carnival in Ilion Saturday night, a double ripper, carrying six or eight persons, ran into the stone coping of a bridge and was broken. H. W. Martin, the steersman, received a severe cut over one eye and his collarbone was fractured. Carl Geone sustained a concussion of the spine and was taken away in helpless condition. John Hulser, a farmhand, aged nineteen was picked up insensible having sustained internal injuries which may prove fatal. The accident is attributed to the inexperience of the steersman."

Rome Daily Sentinel also published details about the deadly accident of February 16, 1884. "John Hulser, aged 19, died at Ilion, Tuesday from the effects of injuries received in a coasting accident the 16th. Mr. Jenne, who was injured at the same time, is not expected to recover."


1950 Ilion Sentinel reprint of Red Crew photograph

"The Red Cloud"

On January 26, 1950, The Ilion Sentinel published an article titled "Bobsledding Down Ilion's West Hill Was Great Winter Sport in the Old Days". The editors asked their readers if they could identify the members of the bobsled crew.

The answer was forthcoming, in the following weeks, but not before some readers offered their own versions, ala Brian Williams, of the identity of the riders.

Even the writers of the Ilion Centennial book, "Ilion 1852-1952", perhaps had the owner of the "Red Cloud" misidentified as Philo Remington.

"It was during the 80's that Ilionites first became enthusiasts of the bobsled run promoted by the Coasting Club. The cost to the club was about $16.00 an evening, from which we may judge how highly the sport was rated. Two evenings a week, Second Street hill was flooded, ruts made, and 2,000 spectators watched the runs of "Red Cloud," owned by Philo Remington, "White Cloud," by Fred Ingersoll and others bearing such romantic names as "Comet", "Flyaway", "Nightmare", "Tally ho", "Red Jacket", "West Shore", and "Nancy Hawks." "

Not only would the owner of the "Red Cloud" bobsled and the team members be identified, they would turn out to be very, very prominent Ilion alumni.


Follow-up Story
Falsely Identifies Participants

On February 2, 1950, The Ilion Sentinel published a follow-up story titled, "Thrills and Spills In Wake Of Flying Red Cloud."

Reader George Coleman stopped into the paper's office and offered his recollections about the sled, including saying that he appeared in the photograph.

Red Cloud George Coleman Version

That account must have sparked the interest of Ilionite Edwin Ashley, who sent his 90-year-old aunt a copy of the January 26th article that contained the photograph.

Mr. Coleman's account was quickly disputed by someone in the know.


Second Street bobsled coasting run
Second Street bobsled coasting run

Mrs. Marion Irlam Hakes, 90, tells of llion Bobsled Days

The true identities of the people in the photograph was revealed by former Ilionite, and sharp as a tack, 1873 alumnus, Marion (Irlam) Hakes.

Mrs. Hakes sent a letter to the editors and her letter was published on February 16, 1950. Her letter offered specific details about the photograph that, after much research, one would deduce are the most credible.


Bobsled Riders Identified

"My nephew, Edwin Ashley [of 33 Hakes Road, Ilion NY], has sent me a copy of the Sentinel dated Jan. 26th [1950] containing a picture of the Bob Sled "Red Cloud" and its crew. As I was a member of that crew and in that picture, I can tell you who they all were. The picture was taken in front of my old home on Prospect Street, West Hill, which then occupied the lot where the E. E. Barney home now stands. It was built for my father, John Irlam in 1875, and the "Red Cloud" was kept in a barn there when not in use."

Ilion Sentinel February 16, 1950


Red Cloud Crew Members included Ilion Teachers and Officials

January 26, 1950 Ilion Sentinel Headline

Mrs. Hakes Names 'The Red Cloud' Crew Members

Below is the content of Mrs. Hakes letter to the Editors of the Ilion Sentinel as it was published on February 16, 1950

"In this picture front row standing is Sam Irlam (who always steered the Bob), Mabel Dodge and Lizzie Irlam. Seated are Charles Hutchins, Cornelia Seamans (a high school teacher and myself (Marion Irlam). In the back row is Joe Downs, Isabel King (a high school teacher), Frank Steber, Nellie Irlam, Seward Hakes, Dick Morgan, Ellen Beach and Fred Bernett. There may be some who will recall these names."

"I still have one of those photographs taken that day."

"It was a very comfortable Bob with cushioned seat and foot rests on each side and a rope was conveniently arranged on the sides for as to hold on to if necessary, that can be seen in the picture, and it carried the 14 members of the crew; with comfort each trip with never an accident."

"As I look at the picture of the Red Cloud, now it recalls the pleasures we enjoyed, when winters were winters in up-state New York and furnished us with so many kinds of sports."

"I was born in llion and lived there for 75 years. My husband, Seward Hakes, and I graduated from the Ilion High School in 1878 and retained our interest in it as long as he lived.

"The Red Cloud picture has brought me many happy memories of those days as well as sad ones, as I find that I am the only surviving member of that jolly crew today."

"Now I am presently situated in Maplewood, New Jersey, with my daughters, Mrs. John E. Dale and Mrs. Goodsell Herron, with many relatives near us who helped me celebrate my 90th birthday, last November."

"I hope you will understand that being a member of the famous Red Cloud crew, in those days of long ago, you have received the correct maiden names of all the ladies from one of its members, though all but one of them were married later on."

"I am glad to be able to give you all this information and to let you know that in this way you are giving much pleasure to us old folks in recalling those pictures of llion and the interesting events in the days of long ago, as well as many interesting articles of the present time."

Sincerely yours,
Marion Irlam (Mrs. Seward) Hakes


The Irlams - Owners of "The Red Cloud"

John Irlam was born in England, at Manchester, in 1829. His wife, Jane Qualtrough, was born in Liverpool, England in 1832. They married at the Cathedral, Manchester, Lancs, England in 1850 and immigrated to Ilion, NY in 1851.

The Ilion Directory, for the Year 1883, from "Utica City Directory for the Year 1883, with a General and Business Directory of Utica, Frankfort and Ilion" listed John Irlam as a contractor.

John Irlam
John Irlam 1829-1917
Souvenir of Ilion 1904

The "Boyd's New York State Directory, 1872-3" by Andrew Boyd, Syracuse, NY, listed John Irlam as having a toys and confectionery business on Main Street. Perhaps that was a fitting occupation for the father of five daughters and one son. His contracting skills may have helped him build his family home on Prospect Ave in Ilion in 1875.

John Irlam served as a Village Trustee from March 1883 - March 1886.


The Irlam House on Prospect

E. D. Moore - stepson of Samuel Irlam
Souvenir of Ilion 1904

The eldest daughter, Alice Irlam, was born in 1851 in Manchester England. The other five children were born in Ilion. Celestia was born in 1854, Sameuel Edward (often referred to as S.E. Irlam) was born in 1855. Elizabeth J (Lizzie) was born in 1858. Marion, the author of the letter to The Sentinel was born in 1860 and the last daughter, Nellie, was born in 1865.

Such a large family requires a large house. A 1906 map of Ilion shows the property as that of S. E. Irlam and nearby, on Second Street, is the John Irlam home. The house pictured above was owned by S. E. Irlam, who was John Irlam's only son, Samuel Edward Irlam. Later the home was identified as occupied by E. D. Moore who was Sam Irlam's stepson.

Marion (Irlam) Hakes stated that the picture of "The Red Cloud" was taken in front of their home on Prospect Street, West Hill, and that the house was built for her father, John Irlam in 1875. She also stated that the "Red Cloud" was kept in a barn there when not in use.

[Note - The house depicted in "The Red Cloud" newspaper photograph does not appear to be the S.E. Irlam home, on Prospect, which is shown above. Could it be the newspaper house was really the John Irlam house on the corner of Prospect and Second St.?]


The Crew Steersman

Samuel Edward Irlam
aka S.E. Irlam

Samuel Edward Irlam, "The Red Crew" steersman, and President of The Ilion Coasting Club, was the brother of Mrs. (Marion Irlam) Seward Hakes. Samuel Edward married Carrie Belle Maynard Moore (her second marriage) and they had 2 sons, Samuel Ed Irlam Jr born 1887 and John Gardner Irlam born 1888 both in Ilion. They also had two daughters who died at young ages. Carrie B. Irlam 1890-1891 and Jane Irlam 1894-1894 are buried in Armory Hill Cemetery. Samuel's wife, Carrie, had a son by her first marriage, and he was born in 1878. That son's name was Edward Moore. The Samuel Irlam family moved to Toledo, Ohio by 1910. That explains why the house was listed as the residence of E.D. Moore in the "Souvenir of Ilion 1904" booklet.

You can zoom in to see this copyright protected 1906 map of Second Street and Prospect St in Ilion.
www.gettyimages.com - Ilion zoomable Map 1906


Second Street from top of the hill
Second Street Hill

Other Crew Members

Nellie Irlam was the sister of Marion (Irlam) Hakes. Nellie Irlam graduated from Ilion High School in 1882. Nellie Irlam married her classmate, Fred Shepard.

Cornelia Seamans, Ilion 1873 Salutatorian and sister of Clarence Seamons, also rode "The Red Cloud". Clarence Walker Seamans, also known as C. W. Seamans, conveyed the property that the Ilion Library now occupies to his sister, Cornelia M. Seamans, and to Carrie L. Richardson, and J. Holland Rudd. They were on the Library Committee of the Ilion Academy Alumni Association that was influential in the founding of the Ilion Public Library.


The Hakes Family Head

The grandfather of Harvey Hakes was one of the first settlers of the county. His father, Solomon Hakes, was born in 1806 and a native of Little Falls. Harvey Hakes was born in the US and was a well-known and respected florist in the Village of Ilion.

The wife of Harvey Hakes, Elizabeth, was also born in the United States. They raised their sons, Seward and George Hakes, in Ilion.

Mr. Harvey Hakes
Mr. Harvey Hakes

Mr. Harvey Hakes served as a Village Trustee from 1875 through 1880. From 1877 until 1879, he was also the Village President. He was chosen by the Board of Trustees, from among them, when he was the President. It was not until 1884 that Village residents directly voted for the position of President/Mayor of Ilion.


Mr. Seward Hakes - Man of Distinction

Seward Hakes was born on December 12, 1859 the eldest son of Harvey and Elizabeth Hakes. He graduated from Ilion High School in 1878 and was Salutatorian of his Ilion 1878 class. Mr. Seward Hakes married Miss Marion E. Irlam, December 10, 1884. Marion Irlam was born on 27 Nov 1859. She was also a member of the IHS Class of 1878. Seward Hakes was Vice-President of the "Ilion Coasting Club".

Mr. Seward Hakes
Mr. Seward Hakes

Village Official

Mr. Seward Hakes served in many influential capacities while a businessman and resident of the Village of Ilion. He was also a florist like his father. He also served as Village Trustee like his father and his father-in-law. He was Village Trustee from March 1889 - March 1893 and from March 1909 - March 1911. He was elected twice, for one-year terms, as Village President in 1905 and 1906.

Devoted Alumnus

He was a devoted Ilion alumnus and was the Toastmaster at the very first alumni banquet held in 1883. The alumni reception was held on Friday evening, June 28, at the American Order of United Workmen's hall. Supper was served at the Osgood House. He also served as President of the Ilion Alumni Association

Board of Education Trustee

The Ilion Citizen reported, on March 9, 1894, that Seward Hakes was re-elected to the Ilion School Board of Education. "In the re-election of Seward Hakes to the office of school trustee, the schoolboard secures the services of a gentleman who is himself a graduate of the academy and has long been known for his interest in educational matters." He served on the Ilion School Board from 1894 through 1896.

Ilion Library Advocate

The Ilion Academy Alumni Association first presented the idea of a village library to Abner Clark Seamans, father of Clarence Seamans. The new library began when Clarence Seamans purchased property on the corner of Second and West Street, from Michael Giblin in December of 1891, for a library building. In January 1892, the community was challenged to raise the additional funds for the library. The Alumni Association appointed a committee to raise the money and Seward Hakes was a member of the committee.

Library Opening Ceremony

President of the Ilion Academy Alumni Association and local florist, Seward Hakes, began the opening ceremony for the Ilion Free Public Library, which was held on Friday, October 27, 1893. The "...last person to speak was 8 year old Marion Hakes, daughter of Seward, who was chosen to thank Seamans' wife Gertrude Watson Seamans for her gift of juvenile books, which were given in memory of their sons Ralph Walker and Harold Frances who had died in 1892 and 1891."

Ilion Board of Trade

Other Organizations

Mr. Hakes was Secretary of the Ilion Homestead Association and The Ilion Board of Trade. He served as Secretary on the Ilion Cemetery Association.


The Seward Hakes Family

Seward and Marion (Irlam) Hakes were high school classmates and married December 10, 1884. They were the parents of four daughters who were raised and educated in Ilion too. They resided at 25 Maple Place, Ilion.

Their eldest daughter, Marion Hakes, was born in 1886. She was the Editor-in-Chief of the Alumni book published by the Senior Class of Ilion High School, June 1, 1904. Much of the material presented in the District History was derived from that wonderful book. Marion became a teacher at East Orange High School in New Jersey.

Ruth Hakes was born in 1890 and graduated from Ilion High in 1908.

Elizabeth Hakes was born in 1893. She graduated in 1911 from Ilion High School.

Miriam Hakes

Jane, the youngest daughter, was born was born March 1, 1895 and graduated from Ilion High in 1913. She was a graduate of Oswego Normal School and was a former elementary school teacher in East Orange, N.J. She married John E. Dale on August 28, 1919 in Ilion NY. Mrs. Jane (Hakes) Dale, age 92, a resident of The Meadows, New Hartford, died Jan. 24, 1988, at her residence.

Mr. Seward Hakes died March 13, 1927 at the age of 68.

Mrs. Seward Hakes, born Marion Irlam, and the person who identified the members of "The Red Cloud" bobsled crew, died on December 16, 1956 at the age of 96 years old.

References Cited

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