Elmira’s Railroad Avenue was once a rarely business, travel hub

“Chief Clerk,” the Erie Indian and his dog, who reigned for 70 years in “old Elmira,” is just a memory. For many today, not even that.

But the coming and going of “the Chief” recalls the memory of vibrant times in Elmira’s history when Railroad Avenue was alive and well.

According to former County Historian Tom Byrne, the “Chief” was one of a half-dozen statues with which Dr. Edwin Eldridge decorated his park around 1870. He was given to Eldridge by “Gentleman” Jim Fisk, of the Erie Railroad, who was a business associate. Dr. Eldridge’s will provide that if the city did not take over his park upon his death, the Chief statue would be moved to the Erie Depot on Railroad Avenue. Eldridge died in 1876, and with no action by the city until 1890, the statue was relocated.

Byrne noted that beginning in the 1940’s, “vandals” began to assault Chief Clerk. His tomahawk was taken numerous times, his arm was fractured, and in December of 1951, according to the Star-Gazette, “the coup de grace was administered by three Cornellians, police said. The statue was pretty well shattered even though a fence had been erected around it. The Erie sadly pronounced the old boy beyond repair.”

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