The Tragedy at Taylor Driving Park
Written by Cole Webster. Narrated by Sarah Alden. Cooperstown Museum Studies Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta. Researched in 2023.
The Taylor Driving Park was a bustling and popular attraction that offered a variety of entertainment options for visitors.
Situated southwest of Little Falls between the Erie Canal and the Mohawk River, it is approximately a half mile walk Southward on the bike trail to the Carver Creek bridge. From the bridge Taylor Driving Park sits 300 yards North-West from this spot. The park’s expansive land included a half-mile racing track, a grandstand, a baseball diamond, and several other outbuildings. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the park was alive with the excitement of harness racing, bicycle racing, baseball games, and other activities that drew crowds of enthusiastic fans.
While there were several ways to get to the park, the most popular mode of transportation was the steamboat, the Titus Sheard, which operated every ten minutes to ferry passengers to and from the park. This convenience made the park accessible to everyone and helped it become a favorite destination.
Tragedy on June 18, 1896
However, tragedy struck on June 18, 1896, when the Titus Sheard was on its way to the park. As the boat docked, a malfunction in the boiler caused a massive explosion that rocked the area. The spectators in the grandstand initially mistook the explosion for the start of the race, but their confusion quickly turned to horror as they witnessed shrapnel and body parts flying through the air and landing on the towpath and in the canal. The disaster claimed the lives of ten of the sixteen passengers on board, with two more dying shortly after the incident. The accident had a significant impact on the Little Falls community and the park.
The Taylor Driving Park was once a thriving and popular destination, that offered something for everyone. The catastrophic accident in June of 1896 had a profound impact on the park and the Little Falls community. The incident was thoroughly investigated but the cause of the explosion was inconclusive. The explosion of the steamboat and the resultant loss of life cast a shadow over the park that led to its rapid decline.