The Pioneer History of
 Orleans County, NY
Village of Holley

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb




Areovester Hamlin -- First Store -- Post Office -- Frisbie & Seymour -- Early Merchants -- First Sawmill -- Lawyer -- Tavern -- Justice of the Peace -- Salt brine -- Mammoth Tooth -- Salt Port -- Presbyterian Church -- Salt Spring.

Holley, situate in the town of Murray, is a village which owes its existence to the Erie Canal. The site of this village was originally covered with a heavy growth of hemlock trees. These were mostly standing when the canal was surveyed through, but it being apparent a ton must grow up here, a vigorous settlement had been begun when work on the embankment was commenced.

Areovester Hamlin took up one hundred acres of land of the State of Connecticut, which included most of the present village of Holley, about the year 1820, and immediately commenced clearing off the timber and laid out the village.

Col. Ezra Brainard was the contractor who built the embankment for the canal over Sandy Creek, and while that work was progressing settlers came in and began to build up the place.

Mr. Hamlin erected a store in which he traded. He built an ashery and carried on that business; he also built the first warehouse on the canal.

To help his village, and accommodate the settlers who were coming in, he got a post office established here of which he was first postmaster. He was an Enterprising, active business man, but attempted to do more business than his means would permit, and failed. All his property was sold out by the Sheriff about the year 1828 or 1829.

Mr. John W. Strong opened at store here a little after Mr. Hamlin, and he also failed about the time Mr. Hamlin did, when Hiram Frisbie and James Seymour purchased all the real estate that Hamlin had not sold to other settlers.

Mr. Frisbie cane here in 1828 and opened a store and commenced selling goods, a business in which he has more or less been engaged ever since.

Mr. Frisbie bought out the interest of Mr. Seymour many years ago, and he has sold out the greater part of his tract of land into village lots.

Among the early merchants, after those named, were Mower and Wardwell, and Shelby & Newell. Alva Hamlin, Geo. A. Porter, S. Stedman, and E. Taylor were carpenters and joiners, who settled here in an early day. John Avery and brother were the fist blacksmiths. Samuel cone was the first shoemaker, Dr. McClough first physician.

Harley N. Bushnell built a sawmill on the creek north of the canal, in 1824.

Reuben Bryant settled as a lawyer in Holley about the time the canal was made and was the first lawyer. John Onderdonk was the first tailor.

A man by the name of Samuel cone built and kept a tavern where the Mansion House now stands; and a Mr. Barr built and kept another tavern house, a little west of the Mansion House. Both of these taverns were before the Canal was navigable.

-----------Turner was the first Justice of the Peace.

The Presbyterian and Baptist meeting houses were built in 1831.

Major William Allis came here as a clerk in the store of John W. Strong. After the closing out of Mr. Strong's business Maj. Allis carried on business as a produce dealer and served a term as Sheriff of Orleans County.

Salt was found in the ravine on the bank of the creek south of the canal. A brine spring was located near where the railroad crosses the creek. In its natural state this was known as a 'deer lick.' When the State of Connecticut sold the land on which this spring was found, in the deed given they reserved all mines, minerals and salt springs. The State afterwards agreed with Mr. John Reed hat he should open the spring and test the water and share half the avails with the State. Mr. Reed dug out the spring, set two kettles near the creek in the ravine and commenced boiling the water for salt. When the water was pumped from the well it appeared limpid and clear, after boiling it became red colored,. And if then boiled down to salt it remained red colored salt. To remedy this he boiled the water, then drew it off in vats to settle, the coloring matter fell to the bottom, the clear brine was then returned to the kettles, and made white salt.

Reed commended boiling in 1814. After a time sixteen kettles were set here to make salt and used until navigation was opened in the canal, when Onondaga salt could be furnished here so cheap these works were abandoned. Indeed, they never afforded a profit to those working them.

The wood for the fires was cut on the west side of the creek mainly, and drawn upon the top of the bank, of proper length to put under the kettles, and thrown down the bank through a spout made of timber. A load of wood was sold at the works for a bushel of salt, or one dollar. Although the brine so obtained was comparatively weak, they made hundreds of bushels of salt, which was sold to settlers in this vicinity, and carried away in bags.

Some years after the canal was dug, Erastus Cone bored for stronger brine to a depth of nearly one hundred feet, near the old spring, but the result did not warrant his making salt there and none has been made since.

The first school house in the village of Holley was ma e of logs, about the year 1815, and stood not far from the present railroad depot. It has no arrangements for making a fire in it, and was used for a school only in the summer, for several years. The first teacher in this school was Lydia Thomas, afterwards Mrs. Henry Hill.

When the laborers were excavating and building the canal embankment, a tooth of some huge animal, a mammoth, perhaps, was dug up. The tooth was a grinder, and weighed two pounds and two ounces. No other bones of such a creature have been found, and it has been conjectured this tooth must have been shed there by the animal to which it belonged, when it came after salt. It is now in the State collection in Albany.

Holley was sometimes called 'Salt Port,' by the boatmen; but that name was soon dropped for Holley, a name given to the village in honor of Myron Holley, one of the Canal Commissioners, when the cabal was dug.

On the 5th of January, 1819, a congregational Church was organized at the village of Sandy creek, in Murray, which was distinguished as the 'Congregational Church of Sandy Creek.' July 13, 1831, by act of the presbytery of Rochester, this church was united with the Presbyterian Church in Clarendon, and removed to Holley, where the new organization was thereafter known as the 'Church of Murray.'

The village of Holley was incorporated under the general Act of the legislature, July 1, 1850.

The Pioneer History of Orleans County, NY, By Arad Thomas


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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