The History of New York State
Book V, Chapter I

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam



The western section of New York, comprising the counties of Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Alleghany, is sometimes spoken of as the Allegheny Valley, because the greater part of these divisions are drained by that stream. To the river is owed it settlement, and from it much of the early prosperity was gained. The pioneer not only came and went on its waters, but made its powers grind his grain and saw his timber so plentiful in the region. And, both logs and lumber, imports and exports, were shipped by this primitive highway.

The geologist speaks of the section as the Chautauqua Basin. Once its waters flowed to the north through great gorges. Then came the Glacial period, the Great Lakes became icy seas, changes in the elevation of the surface took place, and, when the glaciers began to melt, the only outlets for the water were to the south by way of the Alleghany river and its tributaries. The glaciers did more then change the direction of the drainage; they ground the rugged hills into soils and left their own debris brought from hundreds of miles north, and thus made the Chautauqua Basin fertile and varied, productive and scenic.

The archeologist knows the region as the Erie Valley, not because of its proximity to the lake, but because of its former occupancy by the Erie Indians. This tribe had settled in the valley, and were the first to plant its lands. Carantouan was their principal village, visited by Etienne Brule, interpreter to Champlain, in 1615. But in 1656 the Eries were destroyed by the Iroquois and ceased to exist as a nation.

By the thousands to whom this western part of the State is either home, or the home of their forefathers, the valley is considered the section where the thrift of the East is combined with the progressiveness of the West where bustling Buffalo is the lusty leader in industry, Chautauqua and its assembly, representing culture and pleasure, spreads it fame; where a great section of more than 5,000 square miles (including parts of the neighboring Pennsylvania) is one vast farm on which the fruits, grains and cattle approach perfection.



The extreme western county, Chautauqua, has Pennsylvania on its south and part of the west lines; lake Erie to the west and north; while Cattaraugus bounds it to the east. It is a large district, 1.099 square miles, larger than one of the States, larger then some of the European countries, and yet less than half the size of one the New York State counties. Chautauqua has a terrain more varied than some States or countries, with climates and productions as varied as its surface. The lake shore, or belt,. Of low altitude, has the softened delayed autumn and the nearly frost free spring. And the fruits, grains and vegetables raised in this section have an earliness and belong to classes of a much more temperate region. There are relics among the lake shore trees of wood that rightly belong to southern species. From the shore belt to the interior lake reigns another climate, and among the highlands of the southeast, where there are summits 2, 500 feet, the sever climate of the mountains rules and the residents must be content with the short hard winter and to grow crops which have hardiness.

Chautauqua County is known throughout the world as a result of its Chautauqua Institution. Thousands have gathered yearly at this assembly and spread a knowledge of this part of New York. The long, narrow lake, the home of the Institution, is only eight miles from Lake Erie, and yet 726 feet above it. One almost expects its waters to creep over the brink and rush down to the great body; instead, its flows by a devious route into the Gulf of Mexico. Much has been written lauding the Chautauqua country, the lake, its assembly; it has a potent charm for the visitor who comes here for rest, study, love of the beautiful, or recreation.

The situation of the county on Lake Erie, the rolling, changing character of its area, the great variety of its soils, brought about by the forces of the Glacial Period, all conspire to make Chautauqua a leader among the agricultural counties of the State. In 1920 there were 35,000 acres in vineries, from which was harvested 69,494,394 pounds of grapes. It is second in the quantity of currents produced; fourth in poultry; second in the total value of all crops ($14,983,216). With one exception, more orchard fruits re shipped from the county than any other; in strawberries, a side line, only two counties picked more. And still the county's rural prosperity rests upon its dairies and vegetable farms rather then on fruits.

Chautauqua's standing in industry must not be overlooked, nor in fact that two -thirds of her population are urban. In 1920 the number of manufacturing establishments in the county was 463, the number employed 17,000, and the value of the products $95,340,353. Jamestown was, of course, the leader, with Dunkirk second. But Falconer, with its worsted mills, Fredonia with its manufacturing plants, Silver Creek with its specialty factories, and Westfield, known everywhere for its grape juice, all swelled the total of the productions.

Historically, the county goes back, as a far as the white race is concerned, to La Salle, who in 1679 sailed his little "Griffin" past the forested shore of Chautauqua. Returning two years later, he stopped for a time on the shores of Lake Chautauqua. Prior to this time the Erie Indians had roamed the region, but had been destroyed as a tribe by the Iroquois, in 1656. And back of the Erie is the evidence of the many mounds uncovered in the county, indicating some unknown race had its homes in this section.

The French gave the name Tohadakoin to the lake within the district, which if pronounced according to the rules of French ortheopy, sounds much like Chautauqua. The Holland Company, in a map of 1804, spelled the work Chautaughque; in 1859 the present spelling was first used.

The Eries, or their conquerors, the Senecas, were the owners of the county previous to the coming of the whites. The French claimed the territory by right of discovery by La Salle. These rights she ceded to England, in 1763. The Province of Massachusetts, incorporated in 1691, covered the larger part of the district, and even Connecticut owned a "two minute" strip along the southern border. And New York and Pennsylvania also had their claims. The claim of Massachusetts was settled in 1791, the Pennsylvania lines were arranged in 1787; the Indian titles were disposed of in 1797 and 1824. The Holland Company became the final owners and the attempt was made to colonize the region.

Aside from the French, the first white sojourner in the county was a rather inconstant wanderer by the name of Sawtell, who built his cabin in the district in 1796. On the 4th of July during that same year, a party of surveyors, consisting of fifty-two persons, reached Ohio by the way of Lake Erie. Among them were Augustus Porter, Seth Pease and Wareham skinner, all future settlers in Chautauqua. A man by the name of Skinner opened a tavern in the county in 1800; between Sawtell and Skinner lies the honor of being the first settler of Chautauqua. A rude road was built into the section in 1802, and the tide of immigrants which soon flooded the region started about this time.

Chautauqua as a town was erected April 15, 1805, including all the present area of the county, except the tenth range of the Holland townships. On March 11, 1808, it was made a county. Just prior to this, the Land Company had built a log office in Mayville, and although the place was nearly without residents, it was chosen for the county seat, which it still remains. The present civil divisions of Chautauqua consists of twenty-six towns, two cities; and there are fourteen incorporated villages, including: Bemus Point, Brocton, Celoron, Cherry Valley, Falconer, Forestville, Fredonia, Lakewood, Mayville, Panama, Sherman, Silver Creek, Sinclairville, and Westfield.


Chautauqua County
















































Cherry Creek
























Dunkirk City
































French Creek
































North Harmony








Jamestown City
























































































Cattaraugus Ind. Res. (part)








Institution Inmates


















Jamestown City is named after the first man to see the advantages of its location for settlement, James Pendergast. By 1806, the member of his family had bought 3,500 acres in the vicinity of Mayville. James, the youngest, in search for a straying team, discovered the Chautauqua outlet and rapids in the midst of a great pine forest and recognized its possibilities as a site for mills and a village. He bought a thousand acres for $2,000, and in 1809, again visited the place with John Blowers. The next year Blowers came and built the first house to be erected in Jamestown, following it with a dam and mill. In 1812, William Forbes moved into the second house in the future city. In 1815, the crude lumber camp had a boom, and much of the site was surveyed and platted. But the place had grown sufficiently to incorporate as a village by March 6, 1827. Population, 393. The first manufacturing plant aside from saw mills seems to have been a cabinet-making shop, started in 1815; a textile mil was built shortly after.

In 1915 there were ninety-six large and seventy-three small factories in Jamestown, turning out an endless variety of things. Furniture factories are now in the majority, the successors of the cabinet shop of 1815. Twice a year a furniture market is held and a nine-story building erected for its display. Textiles are next in importance. In 1920 there were 263 factories in or around Jamestown, and in 1925 the number was estimated at more than 300. There is a very large wholesale and retail business done in the mercantile line by the merchants of the city. The greater impetus to industry and merchandising was not give until after its first railroad had entered the village in 1860.

Jamestown became a city on April 19, 1886. Within the next few years it began to buy or build its city plants; in this it was one of the pioneers in municipal ownership. The electric light plant was secured and running in 1891; sewers and paving in 1893; a city hall in 1895; improved water system in 1901. Needed improvements came thick and fast, the most recent being the municipal milk plant voted in 1920. The area of Jamestown is nine and a half square miles. There are more then forty miles of paved street. The assessed valuation of 1920 was more than $25,000,000. Population, 38,917.

Dunkirk City, with a long season harbor on lake Erie, with some of the best lands in the county back of it, was rather neglected in its early days as a place of settlement. Timothy Goulding, coming in 1808,. was the first to locate and build his home within the present corporate limits of the city. The first settler at the "Harbor" was Solomon Chadwick, from whom the place received its name, Chadwick's Bay (1809). For years these two had few neighbors, and not until the War of 1812 did the district become known at large, and then, only as a place where the British could land forced and invade the county. When the Erie Canal was authorized, in 1817, the knowledge that Chadwick's Bay was the best harbor New York had on Lake Erie, roused an interest that brought a number of settlers. Several stores were built at this time, a hotel erected, the village platted, and many bits of property change hands. In 1818 the "Walk-in-the-Water," the first steamboat to navigate the Erie, made Dunkirk one of its ports. But the bay was not chosen for the harbor of the canal and a setback resulted. AS there were no good roads connecting the hamlet with Buffalo, nor bridges over the intervening stream, there seemed little possibility of Dunkirk amounting to anything more then a fishing village. Relief came, and the settlement stimulated when, in 1851, the New York and Erie Railroad ran its first train into Dunkirk. It was the longest railroad in the world! And Dunkirk was its terminus.

There had been some development of the hamlet prior to this. By 1830 there had been an increase in the population in ten years from fifty to 300, but this marked the peak. With a railroad Dunkirk steeped out from its insignificant position among the lesser villages and became the seat of industries, and the home of wholesale mercantile establishments. Other railroads laid their rails through the village. One of these systems located its shops here, now on of the largest in the State. The Brooks Locomotive Works, incorporated in 1869, had for its initial order the building of twenty-five locomotives. Iron foundries had been going for many years before the Atlas Steel Company, organized in 1907, built their great plant. In 1915 the Dunkirk and other glass companies were founded. The products of the city today include: Locomotives, radiators, bottles,. Silks, knit good, automobiles, vehicles of many kinds, lumber, furniture, bricks, lamps, boxes, grape juice, and many others.

The fishing industry is important. In 1913 Dunkirk shipped nearly 4,000 pounds of fish. There is a municipal wharf costing $100,000. There are parks, public institutions and public utilities of the finest. Dunkirk was settled in 1808; became a hamlet in 1814. Population, 1826, 48; incorporated as village, 1837, population, 688; chartered as city, 1888.


Arkwright, area 29,152, in the northern part of the county, was formed from Pomfret and Charlotte, April 13, 1829. It is elevated, suited for dairying, milk being the main export. The earliest settlement was made in 1807. Arkwright was the first town in the State to establish cooperative cheese making on a large scale. The villages of the town are: Arkwright and Griswold.

Busti, area 29,152 acres, extends from Chautauqua Lake to the Pennsylvania line. It was formed from Harmony and Ellicott April 16, 1823. The town is strictly an agricultural section except along the lake shore, which is an almost continuous cluster of summer resorts. The villages begin with Lakewood, above which are Clifford Lowe and Sherman parks. In the western part of the town is Boomertown, and in the south central the peaceful village of Busti.

Carroll, area 20,658, is in the extreme eastern part of the county. It was formed from Ellicott, in 1825, and included Kiantone until 1853. The first settlers were John Frew and Thomas Russell, who came in 1809. This was one of the heaviest wooded of the sections of Chautauqua, and became one of the foremost lumber towns. Its present main industry is dairying. The villages are: Fentonville, in the south; Dodge, in the east; and Frewsburg, a thriving settlement on the railroad. There are four factories, engaged in canning, the manufacture of furniture, and the making of milk products.

Charlotte, area 22,964 acres, is one of the fine rolling agricultural towns. The first settlement was made in April., 2809, on Lot 62, by John Pickett, and the hamlet that eventuated was known by his name. Charlotte Center was settled by Robert Seaver, in May, 1809. Sinclairville, originally Sinclearville, had for its pioneer, in June. 1809, Maj. Samuel Sinclear. The last-mentioned place was incorporated in 1887, and has a population of about 500.

Chautauqua, the mother of towns, since it originally included all the county except the eastern tier of towns, was set up from Batavia on April 11, 1804. It is one of the hilliest of sections, much exposed to the rigors of winter, lying to the northeast of Lake Chautauqua. Although greatly reduced in the making of so many towns, it is one of the largest, areas 41,318 acres. The pioneer of the section was Dr. Alexander McIntyre, who, in 1804, built himself a house enclosed in a stockade, "to protect it from the Indians." From this stockaded cabin came the village of Mayville, the shiretown of the county. The honor given it attracted settlers to what as almost an unpopulated bit of woods. By 1830 a sufficient growth led to its incorporation. Five years later a new set of county buildings were erected, and shortly before this a county farm had been bought at Dewittville.

With the development of the Chautauqua movement, Dewittville, in 1873, with its location on the lake, became an important village.

Cherry Creek, in the northeastern part of the county, was formed from Ellington May 4, 1829. It is one of the noted fruit districts, at one time a great producer of the cherry, from which the creek and town were named. Its first settler came in the spring of 1815, Joseph Kent. Cherry Creek village is the main settlement, the shipping and canning point for the products of this rich horticultural section.

Clymer, area 21,985 acres, was formed from Chautauqua, February 9, 1821. The town of Mina was set off in 1824, and French Creek in 1829. The town is well fitted to dairying, which is its main occupation, although it formerly had many tanneries. Settlement began in 1820, when John Cleveland located on Lot 58. Clymer village and station is the rural and social center.

Dunkirk--See Dunkirk City.

Ellery, area 30,098 acres, was formed from Chautauqua February 29, 1821. It is a hilly well-drained and watered farming section, where nearly al the fruit, vegetable and general crops can be grown. Twelve miles of its southwestern boundary is formed by lake Chautauqua, and is well taken up by the summer resorts. Among the lake resorts are: Bemus Point, Griffith's Point, Greenhurst, Long Point, Maple Springs and Midway. In other parts of the town are the settlements, Ellery Center, West Ellery, and Towerville. Bemus Point is the largest of the resorts, with a population of about 250.

Ellicott, formed from Pomfret June 1, 1812, has an area of 19,065 acres, the most of which is under cultivation. From the town has been set up: Busti, 1823; Carroll, 1825; Poland, in 1832; and Jamestown, in 1886. The pioneers of the town were William Wilson, George Fenton, and James Culbertson, the date of their coming, 1806. Falconer village, incorporated in 1891, adjoins Jamestown. It has excellent shipping facilities provided by two railroads; and artesian supply of water, not only sufficient for itself, but to supply Jamestown; and a large factory district. Its population in 1920 was 2,742. Lakewood, another incorporated village, 1893, is a popular summer resort, with a population of 714. Celoron, uncorrupted in 1896, is also on the lake and has residents to the number of 757.

Ellington, embraces about 23,000 acres, and was formed from Gerry April 1, 1824, including cherry Valley until 1829. It is an undulating upland section, where agriculture has a high place. Dairying has been the foremost occupation fro years. Joseph Bently is supposed to have been the first to build his cabin in the district, 1814. Ellington village is the main settlement of the township.

French Creek, area 21,832 acres, was formed from Clymer April 23, 1829. The town is cut up into three valleys by the creeks that drain them, and it is this valley section that is the seat of most of the dairy farms for which the town is noted. The first settler came during the War of 1812, although Andrew Nobles is said to have had his home in the town before 1811. The rural hamlets of the township are: French Creek, Marvin, and Cutting.

Gerry was formed from Pomfret June 1, 1812, and included Ellington until 1844, and Charlotte until 1829. The wide and fertile Cassadaga Valley is the seat of most of the farming operations. It was an almost unbroken wilderness until 1815, when a number of industries started in the town, of which the most successful is the making of veneer. One of the largest veneer factories in the Untied States is located in the village of Gerry. This place was the home of the inventor of the veneer cutting devise, Riley Greenleaf, who built the first machine to slice a slowly revolving log into a thing continuous sheet of wood. Gerry village is the principal settlement.

Hanover, the extreme northeastern town of the county, was formed from Pomfret, June 1, 1812, and included Villenova until 1823, and Sheridan until 1827. With an area of 30-402 acres, it lies to the southeast of lake Erie, placing it within the Chautauqua grape district. The first individual owner of land in the town was Charles Avery (1802), but there is a tradition that Amos Sottle (Sawtell), who helped in the survey of 1798, located in Hanover in 1801. Silver Creek incorporated in 1856, is the largest place in the township., it has a population in 1920 of 3,280, and was the seat of a number of industries. Forestville, the other large village, incorporated in 1848, with an earlier start as a lumber town, failed to hold its won after the destruction of the timber and severe fire in 1870.

Harmony was taken from Chautauqua February 14, 1816, and included parts of Busti until 1823, and North Harmony until a century later. It is hilly, and most of the farm lands are used fro grazing, hay and grain growing. Settlement began with the coming of Reuben Slayton and others, in 1809. Slayton built the first mill of the town in that same year. The streams were used in the early years top drive saw mills, the region being finely timbered. Panama, the former main village, incorporated in 1861, is the seat of a number of factories dependent on the dairies for material. Panama Rocks is the chief scenic feature of the town.

Kiantone, area 211,456 acres, was formed from Carroll November 16, 1853. It lies on the south border, its surface is gently rolling and admirably adapted for cultivation, and there are a number of fine streams, from one of which it derives its Indian title. Settlement began about 1807, with Joseph Atkin or James Prendergast, as the pioneers, Kiantone village is the only settlement in the township.

North Harmony--See Harmony.

Mina, area 22,028 acres, was formed from Clymer march 23, 1824, and included Sherman until 1832. The town is favorably known for its beautiful lake, Findley, being the second largest in the county. Findley village is located on the north end of the lake, as is the Lakeside Assembly, an association on the order of the Chautauqua Institution of the Untied Brethren. Mina is another of the villages. Settlement of the town started prior to the War of 1812.

Poland, in the eastern tier of towns, with an area of 22,447, acres, was form from Ellicott April 9, 1832. It was originally heavily forested with great pines, and the lumber industry overshadowed all other occupations for a long period. With the timber gone, the town is now almost exclusively agricultural. A Mr. Dunn was the first to settle in Poland, 1804, but Dr. T. R. Kennedy, who had, the next year, a mill erected for the sawing of a large tract of pine, had more to do with the development of the region than any of the other early pioneers.

Pomfret, area 28,899 acres, was formed from Chautauqua March 11, 1808, the first division of the county after its erection. The three first settlers of the district sold their holdings to Zattu Cushing, in 1806, making him the first permanent pioneer of Pomfret. Grape growing, including the growing of nursery stock, is the backbone of the town's agriculture, but all forms of general farming are practiced. Fredonia village, in the heart of the grape belt, is the pride of the township. Incorporated in 1829, with a population of about 650, in 1920 it had probably 6,000 residents. It was the largest settlement in the county until 1851, when the coming of a railroad gave the supremacy to Dunkirk. Fredonia was the first place in the United States to use natural gas, 1821. Here also was the first subordinate Grange organized in this country, 1868. The Woman's Christian Union also was started in this notable village.

Portland, areas 20,749 acres, was formed April 9, 1831, and lost territory in the separation of Ripley in 1816, Westfield in 1829. The town lies on Lake Erie and, although one of the smallest in acreage, is one of the largest in grape production. The earliest of the pioneers of Portland was Capt. James Dunn, who, in 2804, settled on 1,100 acres near the center of the town. He also brought apple trees from his Pennsylvania home. Brocton is the largest village, incorporated March 20, 1894. Portland and Prospect are two other settlements.

Ripley, on the extreme western end of the county, has an area of 31,110 acres, mostly devoted to the grape industry. It was formed from Portland in 1817. James McMahon was probably the first large land owner in the town, 1801, and it was upon his purchase that the earliest settlements were made a few years later. Ripley village, first called Quincey, was started in 1804 by William Alexander, and early became the mercantile point to which the folk of a fine fruit section came. It is now a village of one industry, grape growing, with the allied interests.

Sheridan, one of the nearly level Erie Lake towns, has an area of 22,675 acres. Formed in April, 1827, from Pomfret and Hanover, it was settled in 1804 by Francis Webber. While now an agricultural town, its early days were ones of varied industries, many of which grew out of its proximity to Lake Erie. Sheridan village is the main rural center.

Sherman, formed April 7, 1832, from Mina, has an area of thirty-six square miles. The first of the settlers was Dearing Dorman and near relatives, who came in 1823. The region was well wooded, and for many years supported a number of saw mills. Dairying is the present occupation of the section, although fruit growing approaches it in importance. Sherman, an incorporated village, September 8, 1890, is the only settlement of consequence.

Stockton, formed from Chautauqua February 9, 1821, contains an area of 29037 acres. A principal natural feature is Lake Cassadaga. Jonathan Bugbee and Amos Adkins bought 205 acres in the district in 1809, and Bugbee settled on the property in 1811. Stockton is a dairy town, with Cassadaga village and Moons as its principal places. Other hamlets are: Stockton (Delanti), Denton, Centralia, Burnhams and south Stockton.

Villenova, formed from Hanover January 24, 1823, has an area of 22,836 acres. One of the hilly district, with much of its soil leaning toward the heavy, dairying has come to be the main industry. New Englanders were largely the first settlers,, and it was one of these, John Kent, who bought land and located on it in 1809. Apples were one of the first things planted, and even today the town is one of the largest producers of this fruit in the county. The villages of the town are: Balcomb, Hamlet and Wango.

Westfield, was formed from Portland and Ripley March 29, 1829. Although eighth in area, 29,341 acres, it is third in the value of its real estate and fourth in population. About two-thirds of its acreage is on the sloping shores of Lake Erie in the grape belt. James McMahon was the pioneer of the section, visiting it in 1795, and in 1801 made a contract for his brother John for more than 22,000 acres, and for himself 4.074. He built the first home in the county in 1802, and by him was the first post office kept, 1806. Westfield village is one of the important settlements of Chautauqua, ranking next after Fredonia. Its industrial section contains a number of factories, but Westfield is best known for the quantities of grape juice it exports. The village was incorporated in 1833, and had a 1920 population of 1,668. Barcelona, started in 1831, was expected, because of its location on Lake Erie, to become the metropolis of the region, but the railroads destroyed the greater part of its importance.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie Axtman

You are the Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since September 5, 2004.


[Index][Book Index][NY][AHGP]