The History of New York State
Book V, Chapter V

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER V.

WYOMING COUNTY. #1

The two first white person whose names were closest connected with the settlement of the region which is now known as Wyoming County were a woman and a man. The woman was noted, the man notorious. Dehewamis, or Mary Jemison, who was called by the Seneca simply "the white woman," was a resident of the Genesee Valley, for seventy-two years, fifty-two of which were lived at Gardeau Flats, in the town of Castile, Wyoming. Captured by Indians in 1755, she was adopted by two Seneca women, and later married a Delaware. In 1759 she came to Genisneyo and, for a time, she stayed at Little Beard's town, a large Indian village near where Cuylerville is now located, but after its destruction by Sullivan in 1779m she came to live on the Flats, called in the Seneca, "Kautam," or in the English, "Gardeau." Later she became known and respected by the whites, although she would not desert her Indian friends who loved her. She died in 1833 at the age of ninety or ninety-one. In the treaty made by the Senecas with Robert Morris in 1797, they reserved for Mary Jemison a tract of 17,927 acres, the most of which was located in the future town of Castile. Upon that tract she lived with her descendants until 1816, when she sold all but two square miles on the west side of the river to Micah Brooks and Jellis Clute. The remaining land was purchased in 1831 by Henry Gibson and Jellis Clute. Aside from this tract, the most of the land in the county was parts of Morris reservation and the Holland purchase.

The first white man to live within the boundaries of the county was Ebenezer white, called at the time "Indian Allen," a Tory, who, towards the close of the Revolution, made his home at the house of Mary Jemison fro whom he farmed until 1783. He was a "swindler, a polygamist, an adulterer and murderer, one of the foulest characters of his day." He later built a saw and gristmill on the site of Rochester, and eventually fled into Canada. With the exception of Mary Jemison and Indian Allen, the first settlers of the district came in 1802, John Tolles, Jacob Wright, Nathaniel Sprout, and Stephen Crow. They were quickly followed y others, and it a few years the finest lands had been taken. The early settlers were from New England for the most part, but those who came later were predominately German.

Wyoming is one of the western counties, centrally located south of Genesee, with only Erie county separating it from Lake Erie. The Genesee River forms a part of the east boundary, where it runs through deep cliffs, 200 to 400 feet high. There are many streams draining the section, which partakes of the nature of a broad rolling upland. The land is fertile, but varies greatly, for it is for the most part made up of glacial drift, which in turn has made many natural dams forming lakes and low lands where there is a muck soil or marl. The county is almost wholly an agricultural section, with grains, hay, and dairying as the main form of farming, although there are heavy plantings of fruit trees and, in some parts vegetables, particularly potatoes, are the main crops.

The organization of the county was not completed until May 14, 1841, when the southern half of Genesee was erected as Wyoming County, with Warsaw chosen as the shiretown. County buildings were erected the next year at a cost of $12,000. At the time of the erection of the county, horse drawn vehicles were still the only means of transportation but the Tonawanda and Rochester Railroad was completed to Attica in 1843, and, although there were no more railroads built until nearly ten years later, there was a marked boom in the growth of the county. Many other roads were built in later years, but these years on each side of the date of the organization of the county see to have been those of the most rapid growth and the coming to the district to maturity. The unsettlement of the Civil War, and the opening of the Western States, caused a check, as it did to all the agricultural sections of the east.

 

The Civil divisions of the county, with their population in 1920, 1920, and 19900 are as follows:

Wyoming County

1900

1910

1920

Arcade

1,877

2,131

2,412

Attica

2,677

2,740

2,743

Bennington

1.904

1,742

1,557

Castile

2,539

2,406

2,290

Covington

930

923

788

Eagle

1,114

1,141

1,059

Gainesville

2,325

2,690

2,276

Genesee Falls

658

615

542

Java

1,770

1,633

1,469

Middlebury

1,400

1,395

1,204

Orangeville

1.007

952

838

Perry

3,862

5,360

5,400

Pike

1,277

1,194

1,003

Sheldon

1,801

1,712

1,593

Warsaw

4,341

4,308

4,396

Wetherfield

927

928

744

 

TOWNS.

Attica, formed from Sheldon, April 4, 1811, was settled by Zerah Phelps, who arrived in 1802, to whose household was born the pioneer baby of the town in July of the next year. he was joined by several newcomers in 1803, and by 1805 quite a settlement had grown. Farming was the main occupation of these pioneers as it is of the residents of Attica today. Dairying soon become the dominate interest and in the time of the civil War, this was a cheese producing district. The country is rolling and well drained, with much soil suited to potato growing.

The principal village is Attica with a population of more than 2,000. It is located on Tonawanda Creek, and was incorporated May 2, 1837. Around the unusually large mercantile district are scattered a dozen factories. Attica Center and Vernal are hamlets.

Arcade, the southwest corner town of the county, was known as China until 1866, when its name was changed to that of its principal village. It was formed from Sheldon, March 6, 1818. Dairying is still one of its most prominent industries although apples and vegetables are grown to a great extent. Abraham Jackson of Vermont, explored this part of the Holland purchase in 1807, and after a visit to his home, returned in 1809 to settle with his son and Silas Parker. From other accounts, it seems likely that in point of actual settlement these were preceeded by Silas Meech on Lot 28, in 1808, but he also is supposed to have left, not to return until 1810. Arcade village, incorporated August 15, 1871, with a present population of 1, 609, is the business, banking and industrial center of the town. The making of show lasts is the largest manufacturing several of the ten factories of Arcade are interested in some form of milk product, made from the supplies of the dairy section surrounding the village.

Bennington, the northwest town of the county, was formed from Sheldon, March 6, 1818. John Tolles, Jacob Wright, and William Barber, all Vermonters, were the first settlers to locate within the boundaries of the town, 1802. By 1805, there were twenty families in the district. Orchards were set out almost from the beginning, and the town is still one of the best of the fruit towns of Wyoming. Dairying is the present principal business. The main village, Bennington Center, was settled in 1807 by Chauncey Loomis, who opened the first store. Cowlesville and Folsomdale are settlements of later birth.

Castile, set off from Perry, February 27, 1821, has a central position among the towns of the east border. It was developed rather late because of the reservation of half of the area by the Indians for the "White Woman" Mary Jemison, who did not begin to sell her land until 1816. Before this, however, Robert Whalley, of Rhode Island, had settled near the present village of Castile in 1808. This latter place is the result of the wise forethought of Ziba Hurd, who bout and encouraged the settlement of the area. It made its greatest growth from 1824 to 1830, when the Erie Canal had opened a way for the transportation of grain from this region. The village was incorporated June 19, 1877, with a population of 809. In 1920 it had a population of 1,013. A part of Perry village is also within this town.

Castile, formed from Le Roy (Genesee) County and Perry, January 31, 1817, is the northeast town. the terrain is hilly with wide flats along the Oatka creek, the principal stream. Settlement began in 1802 with the coming of Jairus Cruttendon and others from New England. They were a fruit loving people and, in 1825, established apple nurseries, which were grafted to many of the now famous varieties. Covington Center, La Grange, and Peorus are three of the hamlets of this area.

Eagle, formed from Pike, January 21, 1823, is one of the rugged towns on the southern border of the county. There are three hamlets: Eagle, Bliss, and Lyonsburg. The principal feature of the agriculture of the town are: dairying, fruit culture, and growing the coarser farm crops. The first settlement was made by William and Silas Hodge, from Cayuga County, in 1808. Lumbering was one of the early industries; large quantities of wild cherry being cut at one time.

Gainesville, formed from Warsaw, as Hebe, February 25, 1814, changes to the present name April 17, 1816. It is one of the interior towns with much fertile soil and many good farms. Potato growing is one of the specialties of the agriculture. At Rock Glen, among the hills, there was formerly a large amount of sandstone quarried. Yellow ochre is another of the natural resources. William Bristol, the pioneer of town, came in 1805, and spent a half century on the farm he cut from a wilderness of trees. Of the more important villages, Gainesville is the eldest, a pleasant rural place; Silver Springs, more modern, with several industries, of which salt making is the largest; and Rock Glen, which is both a quarry and sale making hamlet.

Genesee Falls, formed from Pike and Portage, April 1, 1846, lies on the Genesee River with the famous portage Falls opposite. The scenery of this part of the river, known as Glen Iris, is noted and visited y many. Lumber was the attraction to the early settlers. The first of the pioneers in the town were the Field brothers, who came in 1804 and settled near the present largest village, Portageville. This place was at the end of what was the longest wooden bridge in the world, 800 feet and 234 feet above the river. Portageville was incorporated in 1866, and made its best growth during the period of the building of the bridge and the aqueduct of the Genesee Valley canal which crossed the river at this point.

Java, formed from China, April 20, 1832, lies on the west border, in a an elevated region. Hay, cereals and milk are the main products of the section. There were no settlements in the town until 1810, when William Richardson and Timothy Kirby, from Lowell, Massachusetts, located on Lot 32. The hamlets of the district are: North, East and Center Java, Williamsville and Curriers.

Middlebury, erected from Warsaw, March 20, 1812, lies on the north border. It was first settled in 1802 by either Jabez Warren or Jonas Sellick. Since both these and some of those who came later were from Middlebury, Vermont, it is easy to understand how the town received its name ten years later. The main village, Wyoming, is on land purchased in 1809 by Silas Newell, after whom the place was named; the postal authorities changed the title to the present form in 1829. The village has never been large, 386 in 1920, and most of the industries are those growing out of its location in a farm section.

Orangeville, formed from Attica, February 14, 1816, is a central town. it was a one time rival of Warsaw for the county seat. The first settlement was made on Lots 12-3 in 1805, by John Duncan and Elias Doty. Others came later in this same year, for an orchard was planted on Lot 14 by a James Sayre. Dairying came to be the prominent industry in 1825, and cheese the principal export. The hamlets of the area are: Orangeville Center, Johnsonburgh, and Halls.

Perry, formed from Leicester (Livingston County), March 11, 1814, was on the four main highways of the pioneer times. The first of the white men to live in the town was Josiah Williams of Vermont, 1806, who opened the first tavern three years later. The land was good, level slightly rolling, fertile and well timbered. The first moneys were made out of the potash salts obtained by burning the timber. Perry village, on the outlet of Silver Lake, is the largest place in this region, and county. Incorporated in 1830, it gave promise of becoming a thriving place shortly after the first mills were built in 1811. It received somewhat of a setback when steam began to replace water power in factories, but it recovered and now has more than twenty concerns engaged in the manufacture of various articles, among which are: Cotton hosiery, knit goods, knives, balbriggan articles, etc.

Pike, taken from Nunda (Livingston County), March 6, 1818, is one of the hilly agricultural towns on the south border of the county. Stone quarries are among the natural resources. The pioneers of the town were Peter Granger, and others who came in 1806. The principal village is Pike, incorporated 1848.

Sheldon, erected from Batavia, (Genesee), March 19, 1808, has lost territory to form Attica, 1811; Bennington and china (Arcade) in 1818. Roswell Turner was the first settler, an agent of Phelps and Chipman, original purchasers of the town area. There was an accession of Germans in 1833 and French and Belgians a few years later. It has always been a farm and orchard district. The principal villages are: Sheldon, Johnsonburgh, Varysburgh, and Strykersville.

Warsaw was organized from Batavia (Genesee County) March 19, 1808. From it was taken Middlebury in 1812 and Gainesville in 1814. It is an interior town, consisting of the two ridges bordering the valley of the Oatka Creek. Elizur Webster, in 1803, purchased about 3,00 acres along the Oatka Creek, and on it started the first settlement. This, being some of the finest land in the county, soon drew other settlers, and there grew up the little hamlet which became the county seat, Warsaw. The hamlet was little more than a cluster of buildings until 1816, when the erection of mills was begun. It made a steady growth fro the next twenty years. it was chosen as the shiretown in 1841, and incorporated April 1`7, 1843. At the earlier date there were just two brick buildings in the place. The 1920 population was 3,622. The number of factories is more than twenty, in which agricultural implements, knit goods, buttons paper boxes, lanterns, and elevators are produced.

Wethersfield, formed April 12, 1823, from Orangeville, is one of the upland interior towns, where the main interest is farming. The first settlement was made on Lot 11, in 1810 by Lewis H. Hancock, Guy Morgan, and Calvin Clifford from Jefferson County. The most important of the villages is hermitage, founded in 1802, with the erection of mills on the land of James Cravath by Lewis Blodgett, who in many ways aided in the development of the place. Wethersfield Springs and Wethersfield are the remaining hamlets.

 

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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