The Pioneer History of
 Orleans County, NY
Town of Shelby

By Arad Thomas

Online Edition by Holice & Deb




Jo. Ellicott Locating Land -- Ellicott's Mills -- Road from Oak Orchard Road to Shelby -- Salt Works Road -- Anecdote of Luther Porter -- Col. A. A. Ellicott -- Ball in Ellicott's Mill -- Abner Hunt -- Fiddler Hackett -- First Physician -- Post Office -- Iron Foundry --Tannery -- Biographies of Early Settlers.

Shelby was set off from Ridgeway, March 6th, 1818, and was named in honor of Governor Shelby, of Kentucky.

In surveying the Holland Purchase for the proprietors, Mr. Joseph Ellicott notices those tracts of land that seemed to possess peculiar advantages, and located some of the best for himself. The falls on the Oak Orchard Creek attracted his attention as affording a good site for mills, and he laid off for himself and purchased seven hundred acres of land here in a body, including this water power. At an early day he located some of his relations here and furnished means to begin a settlement and improve the water power, and in the year 1812, he built a sawmill, and in 1813, a gristmill, under the supervision of his nephew, Col. Andrew A. Ellicott.

To facilitate the growth of this settlement, the Ellicotts, with the aid of the Holland Company, opened the first highway from Shelby Center east to intersect the Oak Orchard road in Barre, and the Holland Company build the Salt Works Road from the Brine Springs, north of Medina,, one branch of which led south-west through Shelby, to the Lewiston Road.

The mills first built at Shelby Center were small, coarse and clumsy affairs, which, when driven to their utmost capacity for work, could not supply all the wants of the settlers.

The little grist mill was generally crowded with customers at all seasons of the year, some coming many miles. And at seasons when the water was lot it could not do half the grinding required, and grists sometimes lay weeks at the mill before they were ground.

Late in the summer one year, when the water was lowest in the creek, Luther porter, of Barre, then a boy fifteen years of age, was sent there, some ten miles, to mill with two bags of grain, on horseback, and told by his father to stay till he got his grist. Arriving at the mill, Luther hitched his horse and went in. he was the mill full of bags, unground, and a number of men waiting their turns, and concluding at the rate things moved it was likely to be several days before his turn would come, he resolved to try a little strategy to get his meal sooner. Saying nothing to anybody he unloaded his bags on some lumber, and watching his opportunity when the miller had put in a fresh grist and gone out to wait upon his customers at a little grocery he carried on near by in connection with his mill, he carried his bags into the mill, nobody seeing him, and set them back ina retired place among the most dusty bags in the mill, collected some mill dust and sifted it carefully over and about his bags and the place where he set them. This done, he waited the return of the miller, and going to him asked very innocently if his grist was ground? "When did you bring it here? Said the miller. "Oh, a great while ago." Says Luther.

The miller had forgotten said he would look. Luther went and helped find the bags. The miller seeing the dust, said they had accidentally been overlooked, and if he would put out his horse and stop at his house he would try and put them through before the next morning.

Luster staid of course, the work was done, and by daylight next morning he started for home with his meal.

"Col. Andrew A. Ellicott was the patroon of Shelby village. He is remembered for his many acts of kindness to the new settlers, and especially for the interest he took in the welfare of the Indians at Tonawanda. He was adopted into their nation, under the Indian name of "Kiawana," which means, "a good man." He often helped them to bread in seasons of scarcity.

Col. Ellicott removed from Batavia with his family to reside in Shelby, in 1817. He had been employed with his uncle, Joseph Ellicott, in surveying the Holland Purchase.

He built a second grist mill at Shelby Center, or Barnegat, as it was then called, about the year 1819. It was afterwards burned. When this mill was finished, it contained the largest and best floor for dancing then in town, and the young people of Shelby and vicinity used it for the first ball in town. It was several times afterwards used by dancing parties, a man by name of Hackett, who resided in Shelby, furnishing the music on a violin.

The young people were very fond of dancing, and got up parties to enjoy that amusement frequently whenever they could find a floor, and whenever they could secure the services of Hackett wit his violin. If he was not to be had, they managed with such other musicians as they could get, and some of the old people yet remember attending parties at an early day in this neighborhood, and dancing right merrily to the music of a Jewsharp.

Col. Ellicott died in September, 1839.

The first birth in Shelby was that of Asa Coon, son of Alexander coon, senior, February 14th, 1811.

The first death was that of William Bennett, October 4th, 1812.

The first tavern was kept by Daniel Timmerman, in 1816, and the first store by Christian Groff, in 1818.

The first school was taught by Cornelius Ashton in the winter of 1815-16.

In the winter of 1819, in order to get money to pay his taxes, Abner Hunt threshed wheat for John Burt, for every tenth bushel.

The work was done the floor of a log barn ten by eighteen feet and the chaff was separated from the wheat with a hand fan made of boards. Mr. Hunt carried his share of the wheat on his back two miles, and sold it to Micah Harrington for Twenty-five cents a bushel.

The first regular physician who settled in Shelby was Dr. Christopher Whaley, who came in 1819. Dr. George Norton came soon after.

The first post office in town was at Shelby Center, and the first post master was Colonel Andrew A. Ellicott.

John Van Brocklin built and carried on a small iron foundry at Shelby Center, about 1821-22, which is aid to be the first iron foundry established in the county of Orleans.

Justus Ingersoll built and carried on a tannery in Shelby about 1821.

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


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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