The History of New York State
Book V, Chapter III

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

 Chapter III

Alleghany County. #1

On the southern line of New York State, two hundred miles from Albany, lies Alleghany County, with its hills, farms and prosperous towns. It was organized from a part of Genesee County, April 7, 1806, and has an area of 1,033 square miles. Because of its broken surface, high summits and abruptly descending valleys, it was rather lake in being settled and developed. The Genesee river, which flows toward the northeast through the county, while of value in draining the region, led in the wrong direction to enable the pioneer to arrive at its source. The land to the north is less rugged and more fertile, and it was here that the first comers located, but settlement of the county did not begin until the early years of the nineteenth century.

The two western tiers of towns in the county were a part of the Holland Land Purchase, while the remaining sections were apart of the Morris Reserve. John B. Church became the owner of 100,000 acres of this Morris tract, and his son, on becoming the possessor of half of his father's land, made it his home and was the pioneer of the Angelica district, 1804.

The forests were probably the main attraction in the early days, for the hills, which rise to a height of 2,500 feet, were covered with line and in sections, with hardwoods of great size. The Genesee and its many tributaries gave easy outlet for the cut timber, and the streams on the south side flowed into the Susquehanna. The forests have never been completely wiped out, and form a source of income today. As the timber was removed from the lower levels, and the land laid bare, agriculture crept in, and it is this industry that is paramount in the county now. Grain was at first the principal crop, this to be displaced by wool growing and cattle raising as canal and railroad opened the way to other grain lands. But these in turn have been displaced by dairying, mixed farming, and, to quite an extent, fruit culture. Apples and grapes do well, while the humble potato is one of the main productions next to milk and hay.

The inaccessibility of the early days passed away with the building of the Genesee Valley Canal, which extended from the north boundary of the county through to the west side. The Erie and other railroads tapped other parts of Alleghany. Not only were farm products and lumber given an opportunity to reach markets, but the growth of towns hastened, and the location within the county of many manufacturing industries encouraged.

The discovery of a great oil pool beneath the surface of the county was perhaps the most momentous occasion in its history. Strangely the first petroleum in the United States was noted by Roche-d'Allion, a French Jesuit, July 18, 1627, near Cuba in this county. Until the coming in of the famous triangle well in June, 1879, nothing had come of the priest's find. Although the oil boom was long since passed, a fabulous amount of money came into the county, and there were towns growing overnight. For fifteen years the oil brought to the surface had more value than all the rest of the county's products combined. It could not last, at least on the scale at which it had started, and the oil production of Alleghany occupies a very back seat in the home of its prosperity.

Upon the erection of the county, Angelica was made the shiretown. A brick courthouse was erected in 1819, a wood jail constructed, but these were not kept in repair and soon depreciated. A movement started in 1857 for the removal of the courthouse to a location on the railroad, and a law passed to this effect the next year, but the execution of this law was delayed by legal proceedings. Buildings were rushed to completion in the new county seat, Belmont, with the expectation that it would be the would be the sole shiretown. And such it was for two yeas, but in1860 the Legislature passed an act whereby Th. county was divided into two jury districts and the courts were ordered held alternately in Angelica and Belmont. This condition ruled until 1892, when the latter place gain full possession of the field, and the courthouse in Angelica was sold for $855.

As originally formed in 1806, the county comprised but five civil divisions: Nunda, Caneadea, Angelica, Alfred and Ossian. 

 

In 1925 there were twenty-nine such divisions. These with their population in 1920 are:

Alleghany County

1920

Alfred town, including Alfred village

1,269

Allen town

324

Alma town

643

Almon town

1,121

Amity town, including Belmont village

1,843

Andover town, including Andover village

1,809

Angelica town, including Angelica village

1.502

Belfast town

1,279

Birdsall town

464

Bolivar town, including Bolivar village and part of Richburg village

1,979

Burns town, including Canaseraga village

1,214

Caneadea town, including Oramel village

1,183

Centerville town

668

Clarksville town

770

Cuba town, including Cuba village

2,395

Friendship town, including Friendship village

1,788

Genesee town

911

Granger town

590

Grove town

602

Hume town

1,701

Independence town

1,028

New Hudson town

663

Rushford town

1,118

Scio town

1.062

Ward town

400

Wellsville town, including Wellsville village

6,171

West Almon town

416

Willing town

755

Wirt town, including part of Richburg village

974

Total

36,842

 

Alfred, formed from Angelica, March 11, 1808, was one of the large original towns which has been greatly reduced in the making of other divisions. The well known Alfred University is located here,, the largest institution for higher education under the Seventh-day Baptists. Alfred village is a live college town, with several industries and most beautiful location among the hills. The first settlement of the village and town was that made in May, 1807, by Clark Crandall from Rensselaer County, and the first church (Seventh-day Baptist) was formed in 1816.

Allen, named in honor of the "Hero of Ticonderoga," was created from angelica, January 31, 1823. Birdsall was taken from it in 1829, leaving it with its present area of 22,764 acres. The soil is for the most part heavy, and it used mostly for grazing and hay purposes. Dairying has come to be the main industry. Allen and Allen Center are the two hamlets of the section. The permanent settlement of the region did not take place until 1820, although Moses Van Campen is supposed to have come here in the spring of 1811.

Alma is a rugged, hilly town on the south border of the county. Oil was found here in paying quantities, and while it lasted, produced a large revenue and brought in many people. It is now a dairy section with many of its farms in fine shape. The town was organized from Willing November 23, 1854. Lumbering is still an important industry. The first settlement was named in 1833 by Warren Huff, from Quebec, Canada. A village of the same name is the town's mercantile and social center.

Almond, formed from Alfred March 16, 1821, is on the east border of the county, just north of the center. The land is mostly upland, gravelly and adapted to potatoes, which is one of the main crops. The first to locate in the region was Rev. Andrew Gray, who settled in Karr Valley in 1796. With him were others and he held the first religious service, and organized the first church in all that region the next year. Almond is the principal village and store place, it having at one time a population of more than a thousand. Center almond and North almond are hamlets.

Amity, organized by an act of the Legislature, February 22, 1830, was formed from a strip of land three miles wide and nine long, taken from both Angelica and Scio. Parts were cut from this to form Birdsall in 1829, and West almond in 1833. The present area comprises 21,960 acres. In 1803, John T. Hyde came to the region from Andover and took up land near the present hamlet, Belvidere, being the first to locate in the section. There was little development of Amity until about 1825, the first mill being then being three years old, and the first store not erected until 1830. The rounded hills were heavily covered with pine and furnished much lumber in their day; they also suggested the name given the principal place and country seat; Belmont. The latter village owes its origin to the water power and timber nearby, and its choice as the shiretown because of its accessibility. The sawmill is almost a thing of the past and the half dozen factories of Belmont are of a minor character. The population is nearly 1,200. Belvidere village, once known as Hobbyville, is on the northwest part of town; Withey, a hamlet, lies to the east.

Andover was formed from Independence January 28, 1824. The heavy loamy soil of the town has been a heavy producer of potatoes, but dairying is the main industry. It has gone through the lumber stage, and an oil and gas boom. The first of its settlers was Nathaniel Dyke, who came from Tioga Point in the spring of 1795. Andover village, with a population of about a thousand, is the main mercantile and industrial center of this region. It was founded in 1807 by Alpheus Baker, covers a square mile, is the shipping point for a large agricultural area, and has several important industries, such as the making of chiffon and cutlery.

Angelica, was taken from Leicester (Livingston County) February 25, 1805. For a time the only town of Alleghany , the larger portion of its territory has gone to the making of other divisions. Settlement was begun by Philip Church in 1801, when he arrived with a party and explored his tract of 100,000 acres. The site for a village was chosen, a sawmill erected the next year, and a public house and store the year following. The village, founded as it was before the town gave the name to the latter, and for many years contained the most of the population of the town. For half a century Angelica was the shiretown of Alleghany. It was and is an important dairy and lumber point; railroad car repair shops give employment to many, and the total population of the village approximates a thousand.

Belfast, originally Orrinsburgh, was established from Caneadea March 24, 1824. It is distinctly a grazing section, with a few flats along the Genesee River, Black and White creeks, which are suitable for more varied farming. The first settlement was on the Genesee in 1803, by four Chamberlain brothers from Pennsylvania. The main village, Belfast, was the result of the coming of saw mills about 1830. Rocksville and Transit are hamlets.

Birdsall, formed from Allen and Almond, May 4, 1829, is one of the hilly interior towns whose main industry is agriculture, usually in the form of dairying. John Whitman located on Lot 24 in 1816, and was, for two years, the lone settler of the region. The town is composed of thirty-six sections, each one mile square. Birdsall is the only village.

Bolivar, taken from Friendship, February 15, 1825, lies on the north border of the county. Much of the land is too steep and rough to be arable, and it is in the valleys of the Little Genesee, Honeoye and Horse creeks that the farms are located. Zephaniah Smith built a hunting cabin in the town in 1816, but timothy Cowles of Vermont was the first permanent settler, 1819. Bolivar village, at the conjunction of two narrow valleys, is typical of the towns which grew up under the influence of an oil boom; while not handsome, it is a bustling, wide-awake business point. Oil still has an important place among its industries. The population is about 1,200. South Bolivar and Honeoye Corners are pleasant hamlets, and the village of Richburg is partly within the borders of the town.

Burns, formed from Ossian (Livingston County) is hilly but well suited for dairying. The first settlement was made on Canaseraga Creek in 1805 by the Gregory brothers. Burns was the principal village until 1840, but since then Canaseraga (Indian for "among the elms) came to the fore. It now has a population of nearly 750, with several small factories and fine stores. Two grist mills still turn their wheels a short distance up the stream from the village.

Caneadea, formed from Angelica, March 11, 1808, has lost much of its territory in the making of Friendship, 1815; Rushford, 1816; Belfast, 1824, and an addition to Belfast in 1831. The name is the only Indian title given to any of the towns of Alleghany, and the place is connected with the history of the Aborigines, for it was here that the "western door" of the Iroquois was located. When Joel Seaton came, in 1830, he bought a lot on which the Indian town of Caneadea, including the large council house. In 1872 this old building, reconstructed, was re-dedicated by descendants of the famous Six Nation chiefs. The first settler of the town was one Schoonmaker, who located in 1800, burned over the land and established the first apple nursery in the county. Oramel, a place of about 200, is the main village, with Caneadea as the remaining hamlet.

Centerville, formed from Pike (Wyoming County) January 15, 1819, is the northwest corner town of the county. The heavy soil is adapted to grazing and potato culture. Six Town creek, with its branches, furnish drainage. The first settlement was made in 1807, April, by Joe Maxon and James Ward. The village of the same name is the rural center of the town.

Clarksville, formed from Cuba, May 11, 1835, is situated in one of the hilliest parts of the county. Most of the fenced land is in pasture fields, or meadows. The first man to settle in the region was Horatio G. Slayton, who came in 1832 from Cuba, of which Clarksville was then part. The village of the same name and Obi, a hamlet, are the two settlements.

Cuba, taken from Friendship, February 4, 1822, lost to form Genesee in 1830, and Clarksville in 1835. The famous Cuba reservoir, formerly the largest artificial body of water in the State (1,600 acres) is almost wholly within the town, and is one of the popular resorts of Alleghany. It was constructed as a feeder to the Genesee Valley and Erie Canal. The first settlers of the district were Salmon Abbott and other in 1817, although the "Holland Land Company" had articled plots to a number in 1806. North Cuba was the first hamlet in importance in the early years, but the completion of the Olean Turnpike in 1822, turned the streams of immigration through the present village of Cuba, which has since been the mercantile and industrial center of the district. This latter village, which has a population of 1,500 was incorporated November 11, 1850. There are some twenty factories within the place, and among the products are wood pulleys, cheese and gristmill products. This town was one of the banner cheese towns of the county when cheese was the most valuable of the county's exports.

Friendship, taken from Caneadea, March 24, 1815, is an interior town, with dairying as its main industry. Samuel Wardell is credited with being the first to make the region his home, the date being 1807. Peter, or Richard Frier, is said to have located within the town in 1806 or 1808. Whoever made the start, the town grew rather more rapidly than some, this growth continuing until near the close of the last century. Butter and cheese have been the main products of this area. Friendship is the village center, having not only a good mercantile section, but also an industrial part with ten factories manufacturing. Among other things, stoves and several kinds of wood work. Nile is a hamlet in the south part of the town.

Genesee, organized from Cuba, April 16, 1830, is the southwest corner town of the county. It is almost mountainous in character, was formerly a timber section, had its oil period from the drilling of its first well in 1877, and is now a farming country. The first to come within its borders was James Burdick who, in 1823, made his home on the Genesee Creek, or John Bell of England, who is supposed to have settler here in 1817. Ceres and Little Genesee are the hamlets of the section.

Granger, formed from Grove as West Grove, April 18, 1838, took its present name in 1839. It contains 20,450 acres, the greater part of which are under farm fence. Formerly many sheep grazed its hills, but with the low price of wool attention was turned to cows. Among the hamlets are Short Tract, Granger and Grove. The first settlers was Reuben Smith, who settled with his family near Short Tract.

Grove, formed from Nunda (Livingston County) March 8, 1`827, lies on the northern border, is a dairy section, and contains a little more then 20,000 acres. John White was the first settler, May, 1818, coming from Herkimer County with an ox team. Alexander Bailey of Vermont, who came the next spring, was his first neighbor. The villages of the town are: Swains, the business center, Grove Center, and Chautauqua Valley.

Hume, formed from Pike (Wyoming County) February 20, 1822, is rolling upland bordering on the Genesee River. it contains 24,247 acres, some very fine lot lands, and much high land which is arable. Its water powers early made it one of the foremost grain sections., The Caneadea Indians once owned some of the best of the land in the town. the first settlement was made at what became known as Mill's Mills by Roger Mills, 1807, who used the "upper falls" for a power site. Villages in Hume are: Cold Creek (Hume), Fillmore, Mill's Mills, Mixville or Wiscoy.

Independence, formed from Alfred, March 16, 1821, was divided in 1824 to make Andover, and in 1851 aided in the erection of Willing. The surface is mountainous with narrow valleys, the soil light and sandy in places. Potatoes are grown with success and dairying is carried on extensively. John Cryder, a squatter, located on the creek which now bears his name, but neither owned the land not stayed long. The first permanent settlement was made by Samuel s. White, in the spring of 1819 at Whitesville. This latter place is the main village of the region and the principal shipping point. Spring Mills and Green's Corners are the two other settlements.

New Hudson. Formed from Rushford, April 10, 1825, as "Haight," which name was dropped in 1837, is on the west side of the county, and is one of the rugged dairy districts. The first to come to the town were John Spencer and Joseph Patterson, both of whom settled in the northern par of New Hudson in 1847. In 1820 Spencer Lyon located just north of the present liens of the town. the digging of the Genesee Valley Canal brought a marked increase in the population in 1840. The three hamlets of the area are McGrawville, new Hudson and North Valley.

Rushford, formed from Caneadea, March 8, 1816, lies on the western border. Divided into two districts by the Caneadea Creek, the soil on the slopes is a gravelly loam which answers to cultivation with large crops of potatoes, vegetables and grains. Dairying is, however, a large part of the business of the town. Building stone has been quarried in the hills, and mineral plaint has been made from another rock. In 1808, Enos Garey settled on Lot 30 and has the honor of being the pioneer of the district. Rushford, the main village, was the first in the State to specialize in the manufacture of pineapple cheeses, in which it was a leader for half a century. East Rushford is the other important village.

Scio, organized from Angelica, January 31, 1823, has given of its area to form Amity, 1830; Willing, 1851; and Wellsville, in 1855. It is a mountainous central town with a present acreage of 22,289 acres. Joseph Knight was the first to settle within the borders of the town, locating at the mouth of the creek which bears his name. The principal village is Scio, which reached the height of its business life just before the civil War, when there were eight sawmills within sight of the place.

Ward, formed from Alfred and Amity, November 21, 1856, is situated among the hills of the center of the county. The keeping of cows is the main occupation of the town. Abraham Waldruff came in 1817 and founded the first settlement. Around his home grew the main village of the region, Phillips Creek.

Wellsville, organized November 22, 1855, from parts of Scio, Andover, and Willing, is one of the center towns. The upland on which it is located has many slopes too steep for cultivation and some of the summits are still well wooded. The Genesee is the principal stream, and the seat of the early mills. Cows were brought in almost with the first settlers, and a dairy business quickly attained prominence. But the long hard haul to market soon made this unprofitable, and the industry was not revived until the coming of the railroad in 1840. The pioneer of the town was Nathaniel Dyke, who built what probably was the first tannery in the county. The village of Wellsville, the most populous place in the county, was one of the last points to attract the pioneer, and it is doubtful whether anyone located here before the squatter, Job Straite, in 1822, and there was no mill, store, school house or tavern until 1832. In 1839 the Erie road began to lay its tracks through the village, and by the time the road was completed in 1852, Wellsville had outstripped all the other places in population and business. Immediately after the close of the Civil War it made another expansion. The present Wellsville is an industrial town with thirty factories turning out a wide variety of things, including oils, gasoline, and the machinery used in the production of these, turbine engines, aluminum ware, silk articles, couches, carbon and caskets. The population in 1900 was nearly 3,000. It was incorporated March 20, 1859. The name was changed to Genesee by the railroad in 1852, and by the Legislature in 1871 to the same title, but the citizens secured a re-incorporation in April of the same year with the retention of the original title. The beautiful residential suburb, Riverside, is the only other village in the district.

West Almond, formed from Angelica, Almond and Alfred, April 15, 1833, is an agricultural town in the central part of the county. It was first settled by Daniel Atherton in 1816, who opened the first tavern the next year. The main village is West Almond.

Willing, formed from Independence and Scio, November 19, 1851, lies on the south border of the county. Dairying is the main occupation in all except the Beach Hill section which is a fine potato section. Lumbering was kept up in the area rather longer than in most district. Elijah Robinson of Madison County located neat the Genesee river in 1825, built a sawmill and made other improvements. The hamlets of the section are; Shongo, Hallsport, Stanard, and Mapes.

Wirt, organized from Bolivar and Friendship, April 12, 1838, is a rugged upland town, in which most of the lands are used for grazing or hay. Benjamin Crabtree and Levi Abbott were the earliest of the settlers, locating in the north part of the town in 1812. Wirt is the principal hamlet wholly in the town; the village of Richburg, which was at one time an oil time, is only partly within this district.

 

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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