The History of New York State
Book V, Chapter II

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam




The rise, growth and history of Cattaraugus County is closely connected with the question of transportation. Located on the Pennsylvania line near the west border of New York, it was the only section with a navigable river leading out to the southwest country. The route down the smoothly flowing Allegheny and Ohio rivers was very attractive to those who wished to immigrate to Ohio and the nearby States. The head of navigation was at the sit of Olean, and it was from this point that the traveller entered his boat and made his way, without change, to his western destination. Naturally the first permanent settlement in the county was made at Olean in 1804, which quickly became a place of importance. In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed and the stream of immigration was diverted from the river route, and there followed a very dull period in the expansion of the county. But when impetus was given to the growth, enterprise and industries of Cattaraugus, which was slow in losing its force.

The first white settlement in the county was made an the results of a mission to the Indians of the section by Quakers of Philadelphia. Joel Swane, Halliday Jackson and Henry Simmons were sent by the Friends, in 1798, to locate among the Senecas, which they did in the present town of South Valley. They tried to teach the Indians agriculture, and it is an interesting fact that they offered premiums for the growing of tine crops forty years before there were any such prizes given among whites.

Just after the close of the Revolution there were a number of books written in the most glowing language, describing the advantages of western New York and particularly that section of it in which the county lies. These led to the so-called Holland Purchase in 1792-93, and the issuing of more boosting literature. Major Adam Hoops was the first to become interested in the lands of Cattaraugus, and to him was issued, in 1803, the first contract for a piece of land at the junction of Oil Creek (Olean Creek) with the Allegheny River, and here was started the earliest of the settlement which were soon after to dot the surface of the county.

The Indians had the final say so in the Holland transaction, and from the lands ceded to the Holland Company by the Six Nations in 1797, three reservations were made within the limits of Cattaraugus: The Oil Spring, one mile square; The Allegheny, forty-two square miles, extending along the Allegheny for twenty-five miles, with a width of two, containing the best of the farm lands of the county; and a small part of the Cattaraugus. The county as a whole has an area of 1,334 square miles, mostly uplands rather badly broken in character, with a multitude of small streams draining it and forming innumerable valleys. Most of the streams furnished water power, and were thus valuable to the pioneers. As there were very heavy forests, these waterways greatly aided the getting out of the logs, or cut lumber. These forest have never been completely exhausted. Naturally this is a dairy region, with grazing in plenty, and sufficient lands suited to growing the grains need for feeding stock. The soil and location in many parts are fitted for the production of fruits, and apples are one of the mainstay in the farming. Certain vegetable crops, including potatoes, are grown on a large scale.

The county was formed from Genesee, which in turn was taken from Ontario, on March 11, 1808. Ellicottville, near the south center of the county, was chosen as the shiretown. But until 1817 the county affairs were merged with Niagara, and the first court held in the county was at Olean, July 3, 1817. A court house was erected in Ellicottville before the end of the next year. These were burned in 1829, but promptly rebuilt. Little Valley was made the county seat in 1867.


The civil divisions of the county, with their populations as given by the census of 1920, are as follows:





Alleghany town, including Alleghany village




Ashford town




Carroll town, including Limestone village, but exclusive of part of Alleghany Indian Reservation




Cold Spring town, exclusive of part of Alleghany Indian Reservation




Conewango town, including part of East Randolph village




Dayton town, including South Dayton village




East Otto town




Elko town, exclusive of part of Alleghany Indian Reservation




Ellicott town, including Ellicottville village




Farmersville town




Franklinville town, including Franklinville village




Freedom town




Great Valley town, exclusive of part of Alleghany Indian Reservation




Hinsdale town




Humphrey town




Ischua town




Leon town




Little Valley town, including Little Valley village




Lyndon town




Machias town




Mansfield town








New Albion town, including Cattaraugus village




Olean city




Olean town




Otto town




Perrysburg town, including Perrysburg village, but exclusive of part of Cattaraugus Indian Reservation




Persia town, including part of Gowanda village




Portville town, including Portville village




Randolph town, including Randolph village and part of East Randolph village




Red House town, exclusive of part of Alleghany Indian Reservation




Salamanca city




Salamanca town, exclusive of part of Alleghany Indian Reservation




South Valley town, exclusive of part of Alleghany Indian Reservation




Yorkshire town, including Delevan village




Alleghany Indian Reservation




Cattaraugus Indian Reservation (part 1)










Alleghany, formed from Great Valley, as Burton, April 18, 1831 (name changed March 28, 1851) is a hilly town with its main valley that of the Alleghany River. Lumbering is still one of the main industries, but it is also one of the best of the farm sections of the county. It was settled by Ebenezer reed from Connecticut near the mouth of Nine Mile run in 1820. Alleghany village is the mercantile and industrial center of the district. The population in 1920 was 1,350; there were several small factories, principally engaged in the canning of vegetables; is noted for its large modern store district. Rockview is a hamlet, the result of an oil boom, while Rock city derives its name from a wonderful collection of rocks placed by some twist of nature inmost peculiar situations.

Ashford, formed from Ellicottville February 16, 1824, is a dairy and apple town in the interior of the county. The pioneers of this district were Henry Frank and his two sons, who contracted for one hundred acres in 1816. The main hamlets are: Ashford, West Valley, and East Ashford. West Valley had two apple evaporating houses in 1913.

Carrolton, formed from Great Valley march 9, 1842, lies in the center of the south border and is one of the good agricultural towns, and at the same time one of the best timber sections. The early settlers were led to this district by the timber prospects, the first of them being Charles Foster, Horace Howe and Marcus Leonard, who located in 1814, of whom the latter built the first saw mill in 1826. Limestone and Tuna are the main hamlets.

Cold Spring, formed from Napoli March 20, 1837, had parts taken from it to erect south Valley in 1847 and 1848. It is one of the well timbered interior towns from which much lumber has been shipped. Farming is carried on only in a minor degree. The first settlements were made by Charles Crooks and others in 1820. A part of the village of East Randolph is in this district; the only hamlets wholly within Cold Spring are Steamburg and Cold Spring.

Conewango, formed from Little Valley January 20, 1823, lost to form Randolph in 1826 and Leon in 1832.

It was first settled in 1816 by Eliphalet Follet near the village of Rutledge. Dairying is the present main occupation. Rutledge is the principal village and rural center. Axeville is a small hamlet, and apart of East Randolph is also within this town.

Dayton, organized from Perrysburgh February 7, 1835, lies on the west border and is one of the better farming sections. The first settlement was made by Silas Nash and Simeon Bunce in 1810, but they were soon followed by many others. This was formerly a premier dairy town. Among the several hamlets are: West Dayton, Sociality, Markham, Pine Valley, and South Dayton, the largest.

East Otto, formed from Otto, November 30, 1854, is situated on the north border. The rugged hills have little arable land, but there are many fine farms in the valleys. Joseph Bates, who contracted for Lot 20, and Horace Wells were the pioneers of the town in 1816. Otto Corners and Plato are the principal hamlets.

Ellicottville, erected from Ischua, now Franklinville, April 13, 1820, lost territory to form Ashford in 1824. It has a number of fertile low-lands near which the farms of the town are mostly located, although the higher areas are used for grazing. In 1816 David Waldo and Orin Pitcher made the first settlements. The village Ellicottville lies nearly in the geographical center of the county, and was chosen for the county seat at the formation of Cattaraugus because of this fact. It is somewhat of an industrial place with a half dozen factories; wood lasts and condensed milk being the main products. The population in 1920 was just under 1,000.

Farmersville, formed from Franklinville March 29, 1821, located on the east border, is the farming section that the name implies. A wide variety of soils permits of a wide variation of crops, but dairying is the main standby. The town had for its pioneers, in 1817, Peter and Cornelius Ten Broeck and Richard Tozier, all from Otsego County. The village of Farmersville and the hamlet Fairview are the two principal settlements.

Franklinville, formed from Olean, June 16, 1812, had a variety of names; Hebe until 1816, Ischua after that until 1824. It gave of its area to organized Perrysburgh in 1814, Ellicottville, Freedom and Yorkshire in 1820, Farmersville in 1821, and Lyndon in 1829. It still remains one of the larger town, with an area of more then 31,000 acres, the greater part of which is under farm fence. The first settlement was made in 1806 by Joseph McClure on the site of the present village of Franklinville. This place is the main village of the region and had a population in 1920 of 2,015. It was incorporated with an acreage of 647 on June 17, 1874. Besides being the trading point of a fine agricultural region, it has factories turning our wood products, condensed milk and cutlery.

Freedom, formed from Franklinville, April 13, 1820, had Yorkshire taken off in 1844. It is the northeast corner town of the county and has a soil which is being used successfully in the growing of general crops and fruits. The first settlement was made in 1811 by Warren Stanley and others from New Hampshire and Vermont,. Sandusky, Freedom, and Elton are the principal hamlets.

Great Valley, formed from Olean, April 15, 1818, lost area to organize Alleghany in 1831, Carrolton in 1842, and part of the Alleghany Reservation in 1847. It is a rugged interior town with many high hills too steep for cultivation. At one time a great timber section, the land, as it has been uncovered, has in part been made in pasture and hay fields. Judge James Green was the pioneer of the town, coming in 1812. The main hamlets are Killbuck and Great Valley.

Hinsdale, formed from Olean, April 14, 1820, an east border town, was settled in 1806 near the present village of the same name, by Horace Noble and others. The clay and gravel loams of the district are used mainly for the raising of stock feed, and the growing of fruits. Hinsdale village, a canal and railroad point, is the commercial center of the region. Scott's Corners and Haskel Flat are the two remaining settlements.

Humphrey, formed from Alleghany, May 12, 1836, is a former timber town southeast of the center of the county. Dairying has taken the place of the lumber industry to a great extent. The first settler in this region was Russel Chappel, who came in 1815. Chappelsburg, better known as Humphrey, was named after the pioneer although he did not remove to its site until about 1819. Until then he lived at Sugar town, the other hamlet of this district.

Ischua, formed from Hinsdale, February 7, 1846, was known as Rice until 1855. Its surface is broken and hilly, suited to grazing, and at one time furnished a good grade of building stone. Abraham M. Farrel, of Massachusetts, was the pioneer of the town in 1812; the first religious service was held in his home three years later. Ischua (Rice) is the main hamlet.

Leon, formed from Connewango, April 24, 1832, has much low land not valuable fro farms, but the remaining area has been brought to a good state of cultivation. Settlements were made on Mud Creek in 1819, by James Franklin and a group of eastern people. By the next year the numbers in the town has increased sufficiently to support a regular religious service and to form a church a few years later. Leon, south Leon, and Thompsonville are the hamlets of this section.

Little Valley, formed from Perry (Perrysburgh) April 10, 1818, derives its name from the fertile valley in which it is located. It is a small valley only relatively to one lying farther east, for its ha an average width of two miles. The first settlement of the section was in 1807, when John Green, Judge Benjamin Chamberlain and others located their homes near the present village. These pioneers left during the War of 1812, so that the first permanent settlement may be said to have been made by Stephen Crosby, in 1816.

Little Valley village, incorporated on May 9, 1876, with bounds of 649 acres, was but a small hamlet, until made a station on the railroad in 1850. Then began a growth which the selection of the place as the shiretown in 1867 increased. It had, in 1920, a population of 1,253, and seven factories, several of which were important makers of cutlery and milk products.

Lyndon, formed from Franklinville, January 24, 1827, changed its name to Elgin in 1857, and back to the present title in 1858. The first of the settlements was that of Solomon and William Rawson in 1808. The hamlets Elgin and Rawson are principal places in the town.

Machias, formed from Yorkshire April 16, 1827, is a cereal, stock and apple town in the interior of the county. Machias village and Limestone Lake hamlet are the two main settlements. The pioneers of the town were Timothy Butler and Jeremiah Ballard, who came from Maine in 1813.

Mansfield, formed from Little Valley, February 23, 1830, is one of the hilly interior towns, with an upland soil that is little used. In the valleys are many fine dairy farms. Eddyville is the rural center of the section. The first settlement was made by Amos Morgan in 1817.

Napoli, organized as Cold Spring, from Little Valley, January 20, 1823, changed to the present name in 1828. Since the cutting of much of the timber in the section, there has been but little farming to take the place of the former industry. The main settlement is Napoli hamlet, near which the pioneer, Timothy Butler, located in 1818.

New Albion, formed from Little Valley, February 23, 1830, is a well drained hilly town, which, from its settlement in 1818 by Matthew Dimmick, has grown and held its own better than most agricultural sections. The main village is Cattaraugus, a railroad town dating its active life from May, 1851, when the Erie Railroad made it one of its stops. It has since grown to a population of 1,477, is one of the bustling business places of the county, with its full share of the industrial plants and stores. New Albion is a hamlet south of the center of the town.

Olean, formed March 11, 1808, at first included the whole area of Cattaraugus County. The section left after the formation of five of the early townships, consists of 21,846 acres on the south line of the county, near the southeast corner. There are two distinct valleys to the district, from both of which great quantities of lumber and logs were sent out by way of the Alleghany River. Some time prior to 1805, the first settlement was made. The town has changed from a lumber section to one of the better of the agricultural districts.

Olean city, incorporated in 1854, is the metropolis of the county, with a population in 1920 of 20,508, having more then doubled since 1900. In 1804 Adam Hoops acquired about 20,000 acres where Olean is now located, and laid out a village which he called Hamilton. The first settler in this planned village was James G. Johnson, who cam in 1808. The great expectation for the place was that it should be the head of a permanently navigable Alleghany river, an expectation never to be realized although a steamboat ran from Olean to Pittsburgh in 1830. The Genesee Canal, in 1856, and the completion of the Erie in 1851, started Olean off on the industrial career which it has followed with increasing impetus. In 1874 petroleum became the great thing, a pipe line was built, and in 1876 more than 20,000 barrels of oil was the daily production. Oil plays but a small part in the industrial life of today, for while there are more then a hundred manufacturing concerns in the city, only a half dozen are interested in petroleum. The railroad repaid shops employ ore than any other one plant. Products too many in number and variety to be mentioned are exported from Olean. A city charter was bought out in 1914.

Otto, formed from Perrysburgh, January 29, 1823, lost area in the organization of East Otto in 1854,m a part of Perrysburgh in 1823, and a part of Ashford in 1835. It lies on the north line; is hilly with much land that is not arable; and has for its main village Waverly. The first settlement of the town was on Cattaraugus Creek in 1816, by Joseph Adams.

Perrysburgh, formed from Olean and Franklinville, April 13, 1814, as Perry, changed to the present form in 1818. Little Valley was taken off in 1818, Otto in 1823, and Dayton and Persia in 1835. The first settlement dates from 1815 when John Clark set up his home near the village. The water power of Cattaraugus Creek was early utilized, with the hamlet of Versailles as one of the results. Perrysburgh is, however, the larger and busier place.

Persia, formed from Perrysburgh, February 7, 1838, lies on the north line of the county. It has many fertile spots, and, in addition to the general run of farming, specializes on vegetable and fruits. In 1810, Ahaz Allen, of Vermont, purchased two lots and the following year hired a John Russel to clear some of the land on his possessions. In 1814 Allen came and made his home on the little clearing that Russel had made and left. Part of the lovely village of Gowanda is within the town. It was finally settled in 1816 by members of the Society of Friends, and the name finally settled upon it means, in the Seneca, "Beautiful Place among the Hills." Incorporated with an area of 746 acres on September 23, 1848, it had to be re-incorporated in 1878. It has ten manufacturing plants, a population of 2,673, derives its importance from its location in a rich farming section.

Portville, formed from Olean, April 27, 1837, is the southeast corner town of Cattaraugus. It was formerly a great timber section, but the "flats" uncovered by the axe have been turned into some of the finest farms in the county. Although there were a number who contracted for land in this section, it seems as though William Atherton, with other members of his family, were the first to stay, 1809, although James Green, on Haskell Creek in 1805, is sometimes mentioned as the pioneer. Portville, population 606, on the Alleghany, and Mill Grove, are the principal villages in the township.

Randolph, formed from Connewango, February 1, 1826, once occupied the whole of the southwest corner until a part of South Valley was taken off in 1847. The first settlement was made near the site of Randolph village by Edmund Fuller in 1820. This beautiful place of nearly 1,500 people has been the rural center of the region since its rise. Its start was along mercantile lines, the factory side never having become either large or dominant. East Randolph is a hamlet of about 500.

Red House, formed from Salamanca, November 23, 1868, derives its name from a cabin built on the bank of the Alleghany for the accommodation of raftsmen. It was formerly a rough, rocky forest section, and even today has the most of its land not under cultivation. In 1827 the first of the settlers came in the person of Darius Frink from Connecticut. There are several hamlets in the town, the hold-overs from the lumber settlements of a more early period.

Salamanca, erected from Little Valley, March 9, 1842, is centrally located among the hills, and was the most noted of the lumber sections of the county. As timber was the main products sought in the early days, it renders uncertain the question of who was the first to locate permanently in the town. Credit is usually given to James Rosenbury, who came in 1816.

Salamanca city is the second place in population in the county, 9,.276 in 1920. It was, until 1868, little more then a logging town located in a swamp so soft that the toads were of corduroy. Its importance as a railroad town and shipping point mad it grow in spite of its unusual location, incorporated under the general act of 1870, it did not use its privilege until eight years later. In the change that has taken place in the exports of Salamanca, there has been no retrogression in the city. Although many of the products of the forty-five factories of the city were of native woods the larger plants are engaged in the making of good that range from mirrors to machinery and from locomotives to worsted yards.

South Valley, formed from Randolph and Cold spring Aril 2, 1847, is the southwest corner town. The surface is mountainous and the principal industry has been lumbering. Farming can hardly be said to have taken the place of the sawmill. The first settlement in this region has been mentioned earlier as being that of Friends, in their mission to the Indians in 1798. The main village of Onoville.

Yorkshire, formed from Franklinville, April 13, 1820, used to be the famous maple sugar town of the county. There are still a number of sugar camps, but the rather fertile uplands of the town has become a grazing and hay area, with a number of fine orchards on many of the farms, the first settlement as made in 18109 by Abner Bomp. . Delavan, population 564, is the main village.


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

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