The Pioneer History of
 Orleans County, NY
Village of Knowlesville

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb




Wm. Knowles, founder and First Settler -- First Clearing -- First Framed House -- First Tavern -- First Warehouse -- First Boat Load of Wheat -- First Ashery -- First School House -- Post Office -- First Religious Society

Knowlesville, situate on the eastern bounds of the town of Ridgeway, as at present bounded, owes its existence to the Erie Canal. When work was begun on the canal, but two or three families had located on the ground now covered by the village.

Mr. William Knowles, the pioneer and founder of the village, was the first settler. He took up from the Land company and settled upon lot three, township fifteen, range three, in the winter of 1815.

Shortly after John Caniff took up one hundred acres of the north part of the lot fifty-nine, in township fifteen, range three, adjoining Mr. Knowles' land and east of it.

The first tree cut on the site of Knowlesville stood where the resident of R. P. Wood now stands, and was felled in March, 1815. There Mr. Knowles built the first log cabin, in which he resided. He hired a Mr. Hill to work for him in clearing land, and his wife was their house-keeper. In course of that season, 1815, Mrs. Hill died, being the first person who died in what is now Knowlesville.

The Erie Canal was finished from Lockport to Rochester a year or two before it was completed from Lockport to Buffalo; but as this long level had to be fed mainly by water let into it from Genesee river, it was impossible to raise the water in the western part more then two or three feet deep; but even then some little flat-bottomed boats were run through to Rochester regularly to carry passengers and light parcels, before the water was let in from Lake Erie to fill the Canal.

In 1825 Mr. Knowles built the first framed house, on the south side of the canal, and west side of Main street, yet standing, in which he kept the first tavern for several years. Afterwards he built the first brick house erected, near the canal, and north from his old tavern house, and kept a tavern some time there.

Mr. Knowles built the first warehouse in 1825, and Mr. Wm. Van Dorn kept the first store in Knowles' warehouse.

Nathan S. Wood opened the second store in 1825-26.

In 1827 Mr. Knowles bought twenty thousand bushels of wheat at Knowlesville. The first boat he loaded with this wheat is said to have been the first boat load of grain shipped from Orleans county by canal.

Moses Huxley kept the first grocery store on the canal in 1825. Philo Dewey kept a grocery here in 1830.

The first tanner and shoemaker was Andrew Betts.

The first blacksmith was Daniel batty. The first carpenter and joiner was Andrew Ryan.

The first schoolhouse was built of logs in 1817, and stood a little north of where a brick schoolhouse was afterwards built, on the west side of the street, north of the canal.

The post office was established here in 1826. It became necessary to give the village and post office a name. The inhabitants met together and requested Mr. Knowles to give the name, and he called it Portville. It was afterwards ascertained that there was already a post office in new York named Portville, and the name was then changed to Knowlesville.

The Presbyterian church was first organized after the Congregation C form, by Rev. Eleazer Fairbanks, with eleven members, Aug. 27, 1817. In June, 1820, it united with the Presbytery of Rochester, and since then has been Presbyterian in its form of Government.

This was the first religious society organized in the present town of Ridgeway, and as such received the deed of the "Gospel Lot," so called, of one hundred acres given by the Holland Land Company. The first fourteen years of its existence its meetings for worship were held in the school houses, and sometimes in the dwellings of its members in this part of the town.

Their first public house of worship, now standing in Knowlesville, was built of brick, and dedicated in 1832.

The first Baptist meeting house of worship, and the first Methodist meeting house, which was afterwards burned, were erected in 1833.

The village of Oak Orchard, on the Ridge road, in Ridgeway, was the principal village in town before the Erie Canal was made. After the canal was completed, Oak orchard began to decline, and Knowlesville took the trade, population and business.

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


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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