History of Chautauqua County - Introduction

History of Chautauqua County


AFTER the lapse of a period much longer than was anticipated, the writer offers to the public the result of his protracted labors. Although he has no assurance that the work will fully meet the expectations of all for whom it has been written, he indulges the hope that it will receive a good measure of the popular favor. But how much soever it may fall short of universal Commendation, he has the satisfaction to believe, that its supposed defects will not be ascribed to any lack of effort, on his part, to fulfill the pledge of his "best endeavors to produce a history which should meet the expectations of the people, and reflect honor upon the county." This has certainly been his paramount object, irrespective of the time deemed necessary for its accomplishment.
The author takes occasion here to suggest to the reader the advantage of a careful reading of the Introduction before proceeding to the perusal of the History. Portions of the work which might otherwise appear somewhat obscure, will be rendered quite intelligible by the previous reading of the explanations in the introductory pages.



SELDOM has a publication made its advent so long after its inception as this history of Chautauqua county. Fifty years ago, a distinguished citizen of the county conceived the idea of such a history, and commenced the collection of material. This labor was, for many years, unremittingly continued, so far as his professional and public duties permitted. His removal from the state and other causes conspired to hinder the progress of the work, until disease and the infirmities of age forbade the accomplishment, by his own hands, of his favorite and long-cherished object and the people of the county, who had long awaited its appearance, abandoned the hope of its publication.

At this juncture, the name of the author, then in a distant state, was communicated, by a friend, to the projector of the work. A correspondence ensued, which resulted in an engagement, on my part, to assume the entire responsibility of its publication. It was a great, and, pecuniarily, a hazardous undertaking. To examine more than twenty large volumes of manuscript and printed scraps from county newspapers, and a large number of printed volumes, for such matter as could be made available in the compilation of the work; and to collect, in person, an equal amount of additional matter from the twenty-six towns in the county, was a task which few who had a just conception of its magnitude would have readily assumed.

An important characteristic of a work is accuracy. Yet in publications of no other kind than this is it so difficult. Few of the earlier settlers remain; and the recollections of these few are so diverse and conflicting as to render them unreliable, unless confirmed by the concurrent statements of others. The collections of matter for several works containing historical sketches of this county, appear to have been too hastily and carelessly made. One of them, though a valuable work, abounds with errors. Several appear in the sketch of a single town, and more or less in the sketches of many other towns. Probably to save time and labor, most of these erroneous statements have been taken, on trust, from the first person applied to for information, and, without further inquiry, inserted in the forthcoming publication; and, through that and succeeding histories, they will be transmitted to future generations.

A large portion of this History is based on the collections of Judge Foote. These were commenced long before there were any old settlers in the county; and they consist chiefly of the experience and observation of the persons from whom they were obtained, and before their memories were impaired by time or age. A large portion of this matter has been examined by some of the early and well informed settlers still living, and has been found singularly free from inaccuracies. In the collection of new material, unusual pains have been taken to guard against errors. To ascertain the truth in the hundreds of disputed cases, has required an amount of labor of which few can form a just conception. And after the county had been several times traversed, and the newly collected matter written out, I was unwilling to permit it to be printed until I had again visited every town, and submitted the manuscript to my informants and others for examination. Any person, therefore, who questions the truth of any statement, has reason to doubt the correctness of his own memory, or of the source from which his information was obtained. Yet it would be a marvel if no inaccuracies should be discovered. Persons, not a few, have erred in relating transactions which occurred under their own observation, or in which they had themselves participated. If, with all the pains taken to insure a correct history, the object has not been attained, it may be confidently pronounced unattainable. In family sketches, inaccuracies are most likely to appear. Persons intimately acquainted with families they have described, have not in all cases been quite correct; and some sketches received in manuscript have not been entirely legible. Sundry errors, discovered since the body of the book was printed, are corrected on pages immediately preceding the Index, at the end of the work.

Of the merits of the work, different opinions will be formed. Matter which some will appreciate, others may regard as unimportant. Some, perhaps, will read with little interest the adventures and experience of the early settlers, with which they are already familiar. Others will read this part of the work with greater interest than any other. A large portion of this History has been written, not so much for the present generation, as for the generations which are to follow. Many remember how earnestly they listened to the stories of pioneer life from the lips of their ancestors. Before the present generation shall have passed away, not an individual will remain to relate, from his own personal knowledge, the experiences of the first settlers which have so deeply interested us. This interest will not be abated by the lapse of time. The written narrative of incidents of "life in the woods," will be no less acceptable to those who come after us, than was the oral relation to ourselves. Hence, to commemorate the events and occurrences of the past-to transmit to our descendants a faithful history of our own time-is a duty. Many to whom such a history shall be transmitted, will estimate its value at many times its cost. Without it little will be known of early times, except what shall have come down to them by tradition, always imperfect and unreliable.

This History is written for a population of 60,000, differing greatly in their views and tastes, which the historian can not entirely disregard. Hence, in addition to pioneer history, which constitutes a considerable portion of the work, the reader will find a great variety of other matter, civil, ecclesiastical, educational, commercial, agricultural, statistical and biographical, which will render it convenient and useful as a book of reference, now and hereafter. It is believed that the exclusion of either of these subjects would have materially impaired its value.
There was early manifested a desire among settlers to see the names of themselves or their ancestors associated with the history of the county. This desire is a natural and a proper one. A large portion of the early settlers in every town have been mentioned, and many others will be disappointed at not finding their own names. The omission was unavoidable. A notice of one-half of the families of this large county, would have infringed too much upon the space required for other topics. To visit every family was impossible: those only were called on who were most accessible and most likely to furnish the desired historical information. Hence the names of many of the more worthy and prominent citizens have necessarily been omitted
Biographical and genealogical sketches form a prominent feature of this History. They will generally be found in the historical sketches of the towns in which their subjects respectively resided or now reside. Sketches of persons who have resided in several towns, are in some cases inserted in the histories of the towns in which they passed the earlier or more eventful period of their lives. Probably no part of the History will be more frequently referred to than this. Many of these sketches contain much interesting historical matter, and will amply compensate a perusal. Their number has been materially increased by the unusual and unexpected number of portraits furnished by citizens, who, by their generous contribution to the embellishment of the work, deserved a full biographical and family sketch of the person represented by the portrait. One characteristic of these biographical notes can hardly escape the notice of the reader-the absence of eulogy, especially of the living. As persons widely differ in their estimate of the characters of their fellow-men, it was deemed prudent not to venture beyond a simple statement of the more noticeable incidents and events of the life of any living subject.

The attention of the reader is invited to the plan and arrangement of the work. Matter of general interest and application, and relating to the early history of the state and county, is first introduced, and is arranged under appropriate heads or titles. This greatly facilitates the finding of historical facts. The general history of the county is followed by a particular history of the several towns, in alphabetical order. The historical sketch of each town includes the names of early farmers, mechanics, business and professional men, and notices of mills, manufactories, schools, churches, etc. This will aid in the search for matter relating to the towns. The Table of Contents at the beginning, and the Index at the end, of the volume, will generally enable the reader to find what he seeks for. His searches, however, will be greatly facilitated by making himself familiar with the arrangement of the work. But the greatest advantage would be gained from at least one perusal, in course, of the entire History. Many interesting occurrences therein recorded, might, without such perusal, never come to the knowledge of the reader.

It soon became apparent that the work would far exceed its prescribed limits. To keep it within a proper and convenient size and weight, type one size smaller than was at first intended, was selected; the printed page was greatly enlarged; and the reading matter was increased twenty per cent beyond the quantity promised. And paper of less than the usual weight and thickness was taken to render the book more convenient in the using, and to insure its greater strength and durability.

Those who have read the foregoing pages will need no further apology for the unexpected delay in the issue of this work. No one regrets it more deeply than myself. To my patrons this delay is a gain at my expense. A history of the county might have been written in half the time expended upon this; but I would not offer to the public what was not satisfactory to myself. I presumed they would rather be served later with a good book than earlier with an indifferent one. In respect to its embellishment they will be more than satisfied. No definite number of portraits was promised. Instead of fifty, which, it was hoped, might be obtained, the publIc are presented with double that number, of which one-half are fine steel engravings, in which the subjects of the pictures will be readily recognized, except, perhaps, in a few cases of defective photographs, or of pictures taken twenty-five or thirty years ago. The aggregate cost of the portraits exceeds eight thousand dollars.

To the numerous friends who have given me assurances of their interest in this enterprise, I offer my grateful acknowledgments. All who have been applied to for information, have cheerfully rendered the desired service.

Next to Judge Foote, the projector of the History, who has devoted years of gratuitous labor to his favorite object, Hon. Obed Edson has the strongest claim to the gratitude of the people of this county. The "prehistoric matter," (as it has been appropriately termed,) with which the work commences, and which has cost much time and elaborate research has been gratuitously furnished; and it will be regarded, by most appreciative minds, as an invaluable contribution to the work. The lectures of the late Hon. Samuel A. Brown, delivered in the Jamestown academy, in 1843, and Judge E. F. Warren's Historical Sketches of Chautauqua County, have furnished valuable mattter. Some has also been obtained from the sketches of early settlers in Stockton and Ellery, by J. L. Bugbee, and S. S. Crissey, Esqs. As the greater portion of the matter thus obtained is interwoven with what has been collected from various other sources, specific credit could not, in all cases, be given to these authors, without unpleasant interruptions of the narrative, and the disfigurement of the printed page. Thanks are also due to Dr. Taylor for the free use of his History of Portland. Having devoted to his work several years of careful investigation, it is presumed to be, as respects the history of that town, generally correct and reliable. Hence much of what appears in this work relating to the history of Portland, has been taken from, or is based upon, that History. The few errors discovered in it are in matter relating to other towns, and come from those hastily prepared, unreliable histories elsewhere referred to. Dr. Taylor has done his fellow-citizens a valuable service, for which, doubtless, they are duly grateful.

Matter was received from many sources after the greater portion of the work had been printed. Much of it was intended to supply omissions in preceding pages, among which were parts of several biographical and family sketches accompanying portraits. This matter, together with some that had been prepared, and intended for the body of the work, appears in a "Supplement' of 50 pages, to which the special attention of the reader is invited. Much of this supplemental matter will be found arranged under the titles of the towns to which portions of it properly belonged. Other parts of it, among which is a sketch of Chautauqua lake and its surroundings, have been prepared since the printing was far advanced.

Lastly, I congratulate myself on the termination of my arduous and protracted labors. If those for whom these labors have been performed shall be satisfied, my highest object will have been attained.

A. W. Y.
December, 1875