A runaway balloon, 1860

It was a time of high political turmoil — and an election year — as Syracuse’s 1860 Fourth of July celebrations got underway. The daylong slate of festivities in downtown Syracuse was presented mainly by the Temperance League and if the wall-to-wall coverage in the Central City Courier was any indication, it was an eventful and memorable holiday–although maybe the climactic event, a balloon launched over downtown, was a bit more memorable than anticipated.

An immense crowd of people assembled on Hanover Square for the purpose of witnessing the ascension, and as the Balloon became inflated with gas from one of the large mains, the interest kept on increasing until the whole square was crowded with enthusiastic spectators. The crowd was so immense that the whole Police force found the utmost difficulty in keeping them back from the balloon. About half-past four o’clock the balloon was filled, the bags of sand that held it down were detached, and hundreds of hands held it down by the basket or car attached to the netting.

Mr. Johnson stepped into the car, which was very neatly decorated with the stars and stripes, and after a few moments preparations, he gave the orders to let go, and the balloon rose gracefully and almost perpendicularly over the heads of the assembled thousands underneath. The intrepid aeronaut took off his hat and waved it to his friends below, and his salutation was returned by thousands of hats and handkerchiefs.

It was intended to have held the balloon by a rope at an elevation of about a hundred feet, but most of the persons who held the rope were so excited that they let go, and the others were unable to keep it from sailing away. The balloon, after attaining considerable elevation, passed a little southward, and then sailed off in a westerly direction, remaining in sight for some time, until it was finally noticed to gradually settle down, and was lost to the view.

The Balloon sailed about six miles westward, and approached the earth in the village of Fairmount, in the town of Camillus. As the aeronaut passed over the farm of James Geddes, Esq., the ladies invited him to tea, and he accepted the invitation. A few rods west of the house he threw out his grappling iron which fastened in a meadow, and Mr. Johnson descended in perfect safety.

Mr. Geddes assisted him in packing up the Balloon, and after tea he harnessed up his team and brought the Balloonist and his baggage to the city, where he arrived about 10 o’clock last evening.

The meadow mentioned in this story was likely around the present-day location of Holy Family School or perhaps below Shrineview Drive.

Balloons of this type would soon be in service to the Union during the Civil War.