CHAPTER VI.

WESTERN NEW YORK IN 1797 - SETTLEMENT OF THE MILE STRIP.



One hundred years ago, viz. in 1797, there were not a dozen families of white persons residing on all of the Massachusetts lands west of the Phelps and Gorham tract. A few hundred of the Seneca, Tuscarora and Cayuga tribes of the Iroquois or Six Nations had about a dozen Indian villages several miles apart and a few huts or wigwams between and near these villages with one to ten acres of cleared land near the wigwam or village, on which the squaws raised corn, beans, and gourds. The footpaths or trails from wigwam to village, and between the villages were all the signs that showed that any part of this territory was occupied by human beings.

The 7,000 square miles of territory bounded by the Genesee River on the east, and Niagara River and Lake Erie on the west was to be known as Western New York. The mountains, valleys, hills, plains, rivers, creeks and streams were practically the same as we find them today but it was all an unbroken forest, except the small patches of Indian clearings which were the homes of the Indian, the bear, the wolf, the panther, the deer, and other wild animals.

The Seneca tribe of Indians was the undisputed owner of all this great tract of country (except the New York Reservation, which was a strip one mile in width from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie along the east bank of Niagara River) the title having been confirmed and guaranteed to them by treat y with the United States. This whole forest region was covered with a heavy growth of oak, pine, hemlock, hickory, ash, black walnut, butternut, sycamore, maple, beech, elm, basswood and many other kinds of timber, and was an ideal home and hunting-ground for the native Indian.

WESTERN NEW YORK IN 1900.

One hundred years have passed, and in 1900 we find in this same Western New York that these Indians have sold all their lands to the white man, except four small reservations, a few thousand acres in all, and in the place of a few hundred Pagan Indians there are more than 1,000,000 civilized Christians, intelligent and industrious white people. We find the great city of Buffalo and several smaller cities and hundreds of villages and hamlets dotted here and there over the whole territory It is hardly possible to tell the number of miles of paved and asphalt streets and roads in the cities and villages and between them; or the number of miles of street railroads which are spread across and around these cities and villages, and that reaching miles into the surrounding county form a great iron and steel net on which the cars run, being propelled by that subtle power, electricity, of which we see and hear so much, and realty know so little. The steam railroad, the steel tracks of which cross and recross almost every town, with trains coming and leaving the cities almost every minute of every clay of the year, the steamboats arriving and leaving the city wharves; the hum and whir of 10,000 machines in the factories, the hundreds of palatial residences, the churches, schools, public and office buildings, the more than 1,000,000 of busy hurrying people are in such marked contrast with everything 100 years ago that the mind is filled with wonder and amazement.

In the place of the scattering Indian huts and half acre clearings in the great forest, we find everywhere well-cultivated farms with fine buildings, the houses finished and furnished with all the modern appliances, the homes of a prosperous and happy people.

Instead of the foot path or Indian trail from and between the Indian villages with a tree fallen across the stream for a bridge, we have the whole country crossed and recrossed with well worked highways, with iron and steel bridges across the streams. These are only a few of the many things that come to the mind of persons residing in Western New York in the year 1900. The mind wanders when we attempt to take in all the changes of the 100 years, and we can only say this is truly an age of wonders, if not of miracles, and we are ready - to ask if some magic wand was passed over this region, that produced this change, this transformation from Pagan barbarism to Christian civilization.

HOLLAND LAND CO. - OGDEN CO.

The purchase, July 20th, 1793, and survey of this 7,000 square miles of territory, by the Holland Land Co. was the first step to bring about this change. Next came the hardy pioneer as magician with axe in hand as the magic rod with which he made a few motions and passes towards the trees of the forest which caused them to tremble and fall at his feet. The fire and smoke from the burning brush and log-heaps were his burnt offering; the thanksgiving for the harvest followed which was the next step.

These acts of persistent labor and strict economy, continually and intelligently applied, changed the forest to the farm and village on the Holland Purchase.

Twenty-five years of such work brought the white man's cleared fields to the North, east and south sides of the Buffalo Creek Reservation.

The Ogden Company, a syndicate of capitalists, tried for several years to purchase of the Indians all their lands in Western New York. Finally, by the treaty of August 31st, 1826, they purchased the whole of a few of the Reservations, and a part of some of the others. That part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation which lies in the town of Elma and was a part of this purchase was a strip of land one mile wide, and is known as the Mile Strip, and after having been surveyed by John Lamberton, was opened for settlement as an addition to the Holland Purchase. This was the third step in the progress of Western New York.

THE MILE STRIP.

The south side of this Mile Strip is the south line of the present town of Elma, and the Elma part of this Mile Strip was divided by survey into thirty-seven lots of about one hundred acres each.

Lot No. 1 was at the southeast corner of Elma. Lot No. 2 next north of Lot No. 1, and as each lot was half a mile in length, the two lots reached across the Mile Strip in this town. The lots were numbered North and South as the ranges extended to the west until Lots 35, 36, 37, which form the west range in the town lying west of the Cazenove Creek, brings Lot 37 at the southwest corner of Elma.

The first settlements made by white people in this town of Elma were on this mile strip in the then town of Aurora, and the settlers came mostly from Aurora, Wales, Colden and Hamburgh; all coming from the Holland Purchase, where they or their families had been among the early settlers of that tract and had there learned by experience what it meant to go into the woods to begin for a home.

At that time, 1828, sawmills, gristmills, villages, postoffices, churches and schoolhouses had become common on the Holland Purchase so that man y articles of necessity and convenience were within easy reach, and friends and neighbors were near by. To leave these and go into the woods meant many privations and much hard work for all the members of the family. It meant a repetition to a certain extent of the labors, difficulties and dangers through which they had passed during the last few years. They knew and realized what was before them. It meant the same hard work, the same strict economy, small returns for much hard labor, and the result has proven that they were in every way prepared and fully competent for the task.

The old Indian trail from the Allegan y Reservation in Cattaraugus County to the Seneca village near Buffalo via Machias, Holland, Aurora, Spring Brook, and Ebenezer village crossed this mile strip and today the mainly traveled road through these places is very nearly on the old trail, and by this trail and road the travel went from Wales and Aurora to Buffalo before the Ogden Company made any purchase of the Seneca Indians.

The lots on the Mile Strip in Elma were offered for sale by the Ogden Company on January 1st, 1828.

EARLY SETTLERS ON THE MILE STRIP.

The following named persons and their families were the first settlers on the Mile Strip in the year and as nearly in the order here given as can be ascertained:

Taber Earl, on Lot 24, bought January 2nd, 1828.
Lyman Chandler, 16, February, 1828.
Isaac Williams, " 15, moved on April 10, 1828.
Russel Brooks, " 19&20, moved on April 10 182S.
Timothy Treat, 17, May, 1828.
Daniel F. Cole, " 26, May, 1828.
Hiram Pattengill, 2, January 1st, 1829.
Jacob R. Davis, 35, May 5th, 1829.
John Divens, 21, 1829.
John Fones, 24-, 1829.
Salathiel Cole, 32, 1829.
Chester Adams, 33, 1829.
Jas. & Willard Fairbank 13, 1830.
Anasa & Luther Adams, 11, (Cousins) 1830.
John Adams, 20, 1830.
James Davis, " N. part 35, 1831.
Martin Taber (N. Star) 29, 1831.
Jacob Pattengill,
Taber Pattengill, " 2&3, 1831.
Zina A. Hemstreet, 1831.
Wilder Hatch, 1, 1832.
Joshua & Wm. Mitchell, " 23 & 25, 1832.
Seth M. BulHs, 37, March, 1833.
Samuel Harris, 24, Sept., 1834.
Thomas Coverdale, " 18, 1834.

There were probably other families living on the Mile Strip before 1835, but their names and the year of their moving on could not be positively learned. A short biographical sketch of some of the above named heads of families is here presented.

FIRST SETTLERS ON THE MILE STRIP.

Taber Earl was the first purchaser of lands on the Mile Strip. On January 2, 1828, he bought Lot 24 of Josiah Waddington. The next year Earl and Blair built a tavern on the north side of the trail, and near the northwest corner of the lot where the house still stands in 1900. Samuel Harris bought this lot of Taber Earl on September 16th, 1834, and kept tavern there for several years. December 31st, 1849, Hiram Harris bought the place and lived there until he died on July 26th, 1889. He was supervisor of the town of Aurora, when the Town of Elma was formed from Aurora and Lancaster in 1856.

Lyman Chandler, in February, 1828, bought of Susan Ogden Lot 16. He was unmarried but built a small log house and his deed is dated September 8th, 1830. He disposed of seventeen acres from the northeast corner of the lot where James Blood has resided for many years. The title to the balance of the lot, eighty-three acres, remained in Lyman Chandler to the time of his death in October, 1889, at the age of eighty-nine years. The Chandler heirs still hold the title.

Isaac Williams moved with his family on Lot No. 15 April 10, 1828, built a log shanty on the low ground south of where he was to build a house, and lived in the shanty that summer. During this time he made a small clearing and erected the upright part of a frame house. That frame house is still there, and is the front part of the house now and for many years occupied by the son, Thomas D. Williams. Thomas, born February 18, 1827, was one year and a month old when the family moved on the lot and that has been his home all these years. He died December 1, 1900.

Timothy Treat moved on Lot 17, in May, 1828, where he built a log house and lived there several years, when Horace Blood became the owner and lived there when the Town of Elma was organized. That lot is now owned by Wilham H. Williams, a son of Thomas D. Williams, and grandson of Isaac Williams. The north and south road from the Aurora town line to the Jamison station on which these Williams families have for so many years resided is known as the Williams Road. The east and west road from the Girdled Road to the Aurora Plank Road on which Horace and James Blood resided for so many years is known as the Blood Road. These roads were laid out April 21, 1832.

Russel Brooks moved on the west part of Lot 19 April 10, 1828, built a log house in which he lived several years. The place, in a few years, passed into the hands of Stickney Billington and remained in the Billington family until two or three years ago, when John Vrndt, the present owner, came into possession of Lot 19. A part of Lot 20 is now owned by C. J. Hamlin as a part of his Aurora Village Stock Farm. The east and west road from the Aurora Plank Road to the east terminus on Lot 13, and on which road the Billington family lived for so many years is known as the Billington Road and was laid out April 21, 1832.

Daniel F. Cole moved on Lot 26, in 1828 into a log house. Members of that family reside on the old homestead; the title always remaining in the family.

Hiram Pattengill moved on Lot 2, January 1, 1829, where he lived in a log house. Trouble with a brother and a threatened lawsuit so worked on his mind that in March, 1846, he cut his throat with a razor, thus being the first suicide on Elma soil.

Jacob R. Davis moved into a log house on Lot 35, May 5, 1829. The son, William R. Davis, who now resides about one and one-half miles southwest from Spring Brook, was born May 4, 1827, and so was two years and one da y old when the family moved on the Mile Strip. Jacob R. Davis built a sawmill on the Cazenove Creek on the end of Lot 35 in May, 1830. This was the first and only sawmill ever built on the Mile Strip in the town of Elma. In 1831, Jacob R. sold the north half of Lot 35 to his brother, James, where he and his family lived for many years. Albert Davis, the youngest son of Jacob R., now owns and for all his life has lived on the south half of said Lot 35.

Chester Adams built a log house and moved on Lot 33 in 1829, where he lived until a few years ago when he moved into the village of Aurora, where he now resides.

Salathiel Cole settled on Lot 32 in a log house in 1829. John Divens settled in Lot 21 in a log house the same year. James and Willard Fairbanks settled on Lot 13 in a log house in 1830.

Horace Scott Fairbanks, son of Willard Fairbanks, was the first white child born on the Mile Strip, May 27, 1831.

The south part of Lot 13 is still owned and occupied by descendants of Willard Fairbanks. H. Scott Fairbanks resides on the Bo wen road, one-fourth mile north from Aurora Plank Road in the town of Aurora.

John Adams, in 1830, bought the east part of Lots 19 and 20, where he spent the remainder of his life, and his descendants now reside there.

Amasa and Luther Adams, cousins, settled on Lot 11 in 1830. John Q. Adams, son of Luther, is the present owner. The east and west road from the Girdled road to the Marilla town line on which Luther and John Q. Adams lived is known as the Adams Road and was laid out April 21, 1832.

Martin Taber erected a frame building in 1831 on the northeast corner of Lot 29 across the road from the Taber Earle tavern. This new building was to be a tavern by which name all places kept for the entertainment of travelers was known. Tavern was the name - no hotel in those days and both houses did a good business, being on the mainly traveled road from Aurora to Buffalo and close to the line between the Mile Strip and the Indian lands.

This Martin Taber tavern was given the name of ''North Star," and it has always been kept as a tavern and known as the North Star.

Joshua and William Mitchell built log houses and settled on Lots 23 and 25 in 1832, where they lived and where Wilham died, January 26, 1836. Some of their family now live with John P. Cole on Lot 26.

Seth M. Bullis built a frame house on Lot 37 and moved on in March, 1833. Marion was born January 16, 1834; later she became the wife of John W. Cole. She in 1900, lives with her son, Bordan J, Cole, on the old Cole homestead on Lot 26.

Thomas Coverdale bought of Joseph Fellows Lot 18 and settled on the Mile Strip in 1834; sold the lot to Caleb Foster February 6, 1849. Caleb Foster and his family resided there all the balance of his life and his descendants now own and occupy a part of the lot,

SCHOOLHOUSES ON THE MILE STRIP.

The first school house on the Mile Strip was made of logs and was built on the north side of Lot 15, at the corner of the Williams and Billington Roads in 1831.

The first school kept in that school house was taught by Miss Emily Paine in 1831. She married Nathan K. Hall, later a partner in the law firm of Hall & Fillmore of Buffalo, and Postmaster-General in President Fillmore's cabinet. A frame schoolhouse was built on the same site about 1848. The schoolhouse is continued and that school district is in 1900, known as School District No. 4 in the town of Elma.

The second school house built on the Mile Strip was on Lot 25, a plank building 18x22 feet in size. It has been replaced by a larger and better building on the northwest corner of Lot 28. The district is now known as School District No. 5 in the town of Elma.

The third schoolhouse was built near the center of Lot No. 36 in 1833. That schoolhouse, District No. 11 is now gone, and the territory west of the Cazenove Creek in that part of the town is joined to school districts in the town of East Hamburgh.

The early settlers in the town were anxious to give to their children the elements of a good education, and so schools were provided at this early day.

Settlers continued to come and in 1842 when the Ogden Company by treaty, obtained the balance of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, forty-two families had found homes on the Mile Strip and about three-fourths of the lots had been purchased of the Ogden Company and had become farms with what was then called comfortable buildings and surroundings.

CLEARING THE LAND.

The work was of the same old kind and carried on in the same way as in the past twenty years on the Holland Purchase. It was chop, burn, clear, fence, raise wheat, corn, potatoes and flax. The same ''Wood's Bull plow, "but they have iron drag teeth. The grain cradle, introduced in 1830, slowly took the place of the sickle for harvesting grain. Before 1842, more than three-fourths of the wheat, rye and oats raised on the farms was threshed with the flail; the threshing being done by the farmer and his boys or threshed for every tenth bushel, by some man who wanted work and had no threshing of his own to do. Eight horse-power, open-cylinder threshing machines had been introduced that would thresh one hundred and fifty bushels of wheat and two hundred bushels of oats in a day if the grain was good, but as there was no separator or fanning mill attachment, the straw was separated from the grain and chaff by three or four rakings, and when quite a pile of the grain and chaff had accumulated in front of the thresher, all must stop and get this grain and chaff out of the way. Then they threshed another pile and so on - the fanning mill to be used later to separate the grain from the chaff. Improvements came later, but slowly.

The flax was prepared for the women, and they worked it into cloth, etc., in the same way as was done twenty or forty years before. They had better conveniences for cooking over the fire and doing the house work; a few cookstoves had come into use after 1832, but they were not much used in the log houses. Carding machines, to convert the wool into nice rolls, were then within easy reach of the settler. This saved the hand-carding of the wool, but they had plenty of work in hand carding the flax and tow, and in spinning and. weaving the various kinds of cloth needed by the family, and in making their clothes and stockings.

Most of these early settlers have passed away; only a few remaining with us in 1900, but they made their mark in the world while here. We can see the result of their labor; and their industry, economy and perseverance is before us, as a lesson for us to learn, if we shall finally be successful in our various callings.

We honor them for the examples they have set before us, and that by their labors and their lives they have made the present high civilization and pleasant surroundings a possibility and certainty.

FINANCIAL STORM.

Every person must be prepared for the trials, difficulties, labors, the hopes and fears, that are certain to be encountered through life, which as an individual or as a family or community, or, in a general way, as a nation, are to be met with and overcome if success be gained.

Whether the individual, family, community or nation shall be able to pass safely through and overcome these obstacles, or whether he or they shall be overcome by them, depends largely on the conditions, surroundings, perseverance, and will-power put into operation.

An obstacle, so great that a feeble person cannot stir it, can be readily removed by one of greater strength. A financial load, so great as to bankrupt a person of limited means, can be safely and with profit taken up by a person financially strong. But when the thing to be carried is so great that neither individual or national strength is sufficient, then disaster, if not ruin, is for every person to face, and only the most careful and persevering will be able to outride the storm in safety

Signs that such a storm was near were to be seen, clouds were gathering and the political sky was gradually growing dark. Occasionally the mutter of distrust, and the low rumble as of distant thunder was heard. This occurred soon after the first settlers moved on the Mile Strip, and the prophesy was that ''the first few years with the early settlers on the Mile Strip were to be years of hardship and trial," which proved true.

The Act of Congress, to re-charter the United States Bank, which passed both houses with considerable majority and was the clap of thunder that told the people that the storm was here, was vetoed by President Jackson in 1830. This bank had, by its charter, been made the repository of the public moneys. In 1832, rumors were started that the deposits were not safe, and the Secretary of the Treasury caused an examination to be made of the condition of the bank. The report showed a surplus of $42,297,000, over all liabilities, and that the security of the public money was above question.

The tariff did not produce sufficient revenue to meet the expenses of the government, and the proceeds from the sales of the public lands were used to meet the deficiency; but these sales were so large that the surplus was continually increasing.

A surplus in the United States Treasury was with President Jackson, as later with President Cleveland, a dangerous condition and must not be allowed to continue. So on September 18th, 1833, he directed the Secretary of the Treasury to withdraw the deposits from the United States Bank and place the money with state and local banks. The removal occurred October 1st, 1833. The United States Bank then began to curtail its loans, and to make arrangements to gradually close up its business.

Soon a severe money pressure pervaded the whole country. To overcome this financial embarrassment in every State, a great number of State Banks were chartered; many of them with little or no real capital, by which to secure the redemption of the great amount of paper which they put into circulation. This flood of money induced speculation, and wild-cat money and city lots had a great run.

In 1836, the deposit banks were hoarding all the gold and silver they could obtain, to enable them to meet the government calls. The local banks, being crowded for specie, were all over the country thrown into a panic, and most of them suspended specie payment, while many failed entirely. Money matters were fast coming to a crisis and every speculator and business man tried to get clear before he should be buried in the financial ruin which was sure to come soon, and might come any day.

The climax was reached in Erie County in August, 1836, when the forgeries of Benjamin Rathbun were exposed, and his failure was announced. As banker, capitalist, builder, speculator and boomer, he had been the leading business man in Buffalo, having had almost unlimited credit. It was found when the crash came that he was owing hundreds of men, who by his failure were in a clay reduced from wealth to poverty; the acting and reacting influence extending to almost every man in western New York. This business sure was especially severe upon many of the settlers on the Mile Strip, as they had trusted Mr. Rathbun to lumber,

The election of Martin Van Buren as President of the United States in November, 1836, bought no financial relief, and all through 1837, prices of real estate as well as of all other property continued to go down. Banks continued to fail, counterfeit money and broken bank bills were causes of fear and distrust with every business man, and "Thompson's Bank Note Reporter and Detective, " a weekly paper published in New York City which described counterfeit bills (which were legion) and reported broken and suspended banks, with the rates of discount at which the bills would be redeemed, was the constant companion of the business man, and even then he might go to bed at night with his pocket full of money and not be sure that he would have a dollar the next day which would help him to pay a debt, or to buy food for his family. These hard times continued with greater or less severity, generally greater for several years, and many families were forced to sell their homes, or have them sold by the Sheriff, when they would take the little they had left and go to Michigan, Illinois or Wisconsin, where they could find government land at ten shillings per acre, and begin again for a home in a new country.

MILE STRIP IN 1840.

This caused many changes of ownership in real estate on the Mile Strip, and was a great hindrance in making improvements, especially on the new farms where the owners were forced to observe strict economy in all their expenditures.

The Patriot War, so called, commencing in December, 1837, was no help to the farmer.

The balance of trade between the United States and foreign nations in the eight years, 1832 to 1840, being the excess of imports over the exports of $111,000,000, an average of about $14,000,000 for each year, had drained the country of gold and silver; nearly all the State banks had suspended specie payments, and the manufactories had largely shut down because of the operations of the tariff of 1828, and business generally was about as bad as it could well be.

The financial condition being nearly the same in 1840, the presidential campaign of that year under the log-cabin, hard cider, "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" enthusiasm, served to secure to the Whig candidates a victory, and Wm. H. Harrison and John Tyler were duly elected as President and Vice-President of the United States and were inaugurated March 4th, 1841.

The population of Buffalo in 1840 was 18,213, and of the balance of Erie County 34,252, and of the Mile Strip in Elma about 180 persons of all ages.

These persons, with occasionally a family taking a lot, or part of a lot, continuing their struggles against all these difficulties made progress slowly, but all the time they moved ahead. Their land was cleared in the same old way, by chopping and burning. They worked up the best of the pine, ash and whitewood trees into lumber for the Buffalo market and after 1850, other kinds of timber as well as some cordwood was taken to the same market.

PLANK ROAD TO BUFFALO.

In 1849, a plank road was completed from Aurora to Buffalo. This road crossed the Mile Strip, and so furnished a good road all the year for the people to haul their heavy loads of lumber, wood and surplus farm produce to Buffalo.

The Davis Cemetery on Lot 36 of Mile Strip was laid out in 1854.

Notwithstanding that thousands of people were going west, and continued to go, the lands of the Mile Strip were, in 1856, practically all occupied by the sixty-five actual resident owners, only three hundred acres being non-resident land at that date. Improvements in the buildings and on the farms were being made. In 1856, the log house had nearly disappeared from the Mile Strip, having been generally displaced by the frame building, often painted white, and in many cases the windows were protected with green blinds, so that a white farm house with green blinds was not uncommon. Occasionally a farm house painted red with white trimmings would be found on some back road. Frame barns had taken the place of the log barn. The farms were gradually being cleared of stumps, so that the Mile Strip when the town of Elma was formed in December, 1856, had every appearance of being a long while settled and prosperous part of the country.

RESIDENTS ON THE MILE STRIP IN 1856.

At that time, many of the first settlers who came before 1842 were still residents and in addition, we find the names of Thomas Aldrich, John Q. Adams, D. K Adams, Harmon Bullis, Salem Baker, Warren Brown, William Bates, John W^. Cole, Salathiel Cole, Charles P. Cole, Stanlius Chicker, James Davis, William H. Davis, Isaac Ellsworth, James Ellis, Edward Fowler, James Head, Paul B. Lathrop, William Paine, George Peek, Christopher Peek, John W. Peek, Whipple Spooner, Harvey D. Paxon, John Scott, William Thompson, Robert Wiley, William D'. Wallace, and others.

Some of these names will appear later as having held important offices in the town of Elma, and as having been leaders in public improvements, and as true and tried patriots when the country was threatened by the tornado of secession, and torn by that great cyclone, Civil War, in 1861-1865, when we, at the north had to meet friend and foe in our every day business, and the country was nearly split in twain and our existence as a nation was in jeopardy. Then was needed the public spirit and patriotic expression, which was given by most of the residents of the Mile Strip. All honor to their names! May their memories ever be held in sacred remembrance!

SOURCE:  History of the Town of Elma Erie County, N. Y. 1620 To 1901; Warren Jackman; Buffalo; G. M. Hausauer & Son; 1902

CHAPTER VI.

 

WESTERN NEW YORK IN 1797 - SETTLEMENT OF THE MILE

 

STRIP.

 

One hundred years ago, viz. in 1797, there were not a dozen families of white persons residing on all of the Massachusetts lands west of the Phelps and Gorham tract. A few hundred of the Seneca, Tuscarora and Cayuga tribes of the Iroquois or Six Nations had about a dozen Indian villages several miles apart and a few huts or wigwams between and near these villages with one to ten acres of cleared land near the wigwam or village, on which the squaws raised corn, beans, and gourds. The footpaths or trails from wigwam to village, and between the villages were all the signs that showed that any part of this territory was occupied by human beings.

 

The 7,000 square miles of territory bounded by the Genesee River on the east, and Niagara River and Lake Erie on the west was to be known as Western New York. The mountains, valleys, hills, plains, rivers, creeks and streams were practically the same as we find them today but it was all an unbroken forest, except the small patches of Indian clearings which were the homes of the Indian, the bear, the wolf, the panther, the deer, and other wild animals.

 

The Seneca tribe of Indians was the undisputed owner of all this great tract of country (except the New York Reservation, which was a strip one mile in width from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie along the east bank of Niagara River) the title having been confirmed and guaranteed to them by treat y with the United States. This whole forest region was covered with a heavy growth of oak, pine, hemlock, hickory, ash, black walnut, butternut, sycamore, maple, beech, elm, basswood and many other kinds of timber, and was an ideal home and hunting-ground for the native Indian.

 

WESTERN NEW YORK IN 1900.

 

One hundred years have passed, and in 1900 we find in this same Western New York that these Indians have sold all their lands to the white man, except four small reservations, a few thousand acres in all, and in the place of a few hundred Pagan Indians there are more than 1,000,000 civilized Christians, intelligent and industrious white people. We find the great city of Buffalo and several smaller cities and hundreds of villages and hamlets dotted here and there over the whole territory It is hardly possible to tell the number of miles of paved and asphalt streets and roads in the cities and villages and between them; or the number of miles of street railroads which are spread across and around these cities and villages, and that reaching miles into the surrounding county form a great iron and steel net on which the cars run, being propelled by that subtle power, electricity, of which we see and hear so much, and realty know so little. The steam railroad, the steel tracks of which cross and recross almost every town, with trains coming and leaving the cities almost every minute of every clay of the year, the steamboats arriving and leaving the city wharves; the hum and whir of 10,000 machines in the factories, the hundreds of palatial residences, the churches, schools, public and office buildings, the more than 1,000,000 of busy hurrying people are in such marked contrast with everything 100 years ago that the mind is filled with wonder and amazement.

 

In the place of the scattering Indian huts and half acre clearings in the great forest, we find everywhere well-cultivated farms with fine buildings, the houses finished and furnished with all the modern appliances, the homes of a prosperous and happy people.

 

Instead of the foot path or Indian trail from and between the Indian villages with a tree fallen across the stream for a bridge, we have the whole country crossed and recrossed with well worked highways, with iron and steel bridges across the streams. These are only a few of the many things that come to the mind of persons residing in Western New York in the year 1900. The mind wanders when we attempt to take in all the changes of the 100 years, and we can only say this is truly an age of wonders, if not of miracles, and we are ready - to ask if some magic wand was passed over this region, that produced this change, this transformation from Pagan barbarism to Christian civilization.

 

HOLLAND LAND CO. - OGDEN CO.

 

The purchase, July 20th, 1793, and survey of this 7,000 square miles of territory, by the Holland Land Co. was the first step to bring about this change. Next came the hardy pioneer as magician with axe in hand as the magic rod with which he made a few motions and passes towards the trees of the forest which caused them to tremble and fall at his feet. The fire and smoke from the burning brush and log-heaps were his burnt offering; the thanksgiving for the harvest followed which was the next step.

 

These acts of persistent labor and strict economy, continually and intelligently applied, changed the forest to the farm and village on the Holland Purchase.

 

Twenty-five years of such work brought the white man's cleared fields to the North, east and south sides of the Buffalo Creek Reservation.

 

The Ogden Company, a syndicate of capitalists, tried for several years to purchase of the Indians all their lands in Western New York. Finally, by the treaty of August 31st, 1826, they purchased the whole of a few of the Reservations, and a part of some of the others. That part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation which lies in the town of Elma and was a part of this purchase was a strip of land one mile wide, and is known as the Mile Strip, and after having been surveyed by John Lamberton, was opened for settlement as an addition to the Holland Purchase. This was the third step in the progress of Western New York.

 

THE MILE STRIP.

 

The south side of this Mile Strip is the south line of the present town of Elma, and the Elma part of this Mile Strip was divided by survey into thirty-seven lots of about one hundred acres each.

 

Lot No. 1 was at the southeast corner of Elma. Lot No. 2 next north of Lot No. 1, and as each lot was half a mile in length, the two lots reached across the Mile Strip in this town. The lots were numbered North and South as the ranges extended to the west until Lots 35, 36, 37, which form the west range in the town lying west of the Cazenove Creek, brings Lot 37 at the southwest corner of Elma.

 

The first settlements made by white people in this town of Elma were on this mile strip in the then town of Aurora, and the settlers came mostly from Aurora, Wales, Colden and Hamburgh; all coming from the Holland Purchase, where they or their families had been among the early settlers of that tract and had there learned by experience what it meant to go into the woods to begin for a home.

 

At that time, 1828, sawmills, gristmills, villages, postoffices, churches and schoolhouses had become common on the Holland Purchase so that man y articles of necessity and convenience were within easy reach, and friends and neighbors were near by. To leave these and go into the woods meant many privations and much hard work for all the members of the family. It meant a repetition to a certain extent of the labors, difficulties and dangers through which they had passed during the last few years. They knew and realized what was before them. It meant the same hard work, the same strict economy, small returns for much hard labor, and the result has proven that they were in every way prepared and fully competent for the task.

 

The old Indian trail from the Allegan y Reservation in Cattaraugus County to the Seneca village near Buffalo via Machias, Holland, Aurora, Spring Brook, and Ebenezer village crossed this mile strip and today the mainly traveled road through these places is very nearly on the old trail, and by this trail and road the travel went from Wales and Aurora to Buffalo before the Ogden Company made any purchase of the Seneca Indians.

 

The lots on the Mile Strip in Elma were offered for sale by the Ogden Company on January 1st, 1828.

 

EARLY SETTLERS ON THE MILE STRIP.

 

The following named persons and their families were the first settlers on the Mile Strip in the year and as nearly in the order here given as can be ascertained:

 

Taber Earl, on Lot 24, bought January 2nd, 1828.

Lyman Chandler, 16, February, 1828.

Isaac Williams, " 15, moved on April 10, 1828.

Russel Brooks, " 19&20, moved on April 10 182S.

Timothy Treat, 17, May, 1828.

Daniel F. Cole, " 26, May, 1828.

Hiram Pattengill, 2, January 1st, 1829.

Jacob R. Davis, 35, May 5th, 1829.

John Divens, 21, 1829.

John Fones, 24-, 1829.

Salathiel Cole, 32, 1829.

Chester Adams, 33, 1829.

Jas. & Willard Fairbank 13, 1830.

Anasa & Luther Adams, 11, (Cousins) 1830.

John Adams, 20, 1830.

James Davis, " N. part 35, 1831.

Martin Taber (N. Star) 29, 1831.

Jacob Pattengill,

Taber Pattengill, " 2&3, 1831.

Zina A. Hemstreet, 1831.

Wilder Hatch, 1, 1832.

Joshua & Wm. Mitchell, " 23 & 25, 1832.

Seth M. BulHs, 37, March, 1833.

Samuel Harris, 24, Sept., 1834.

Thomas Coverdale, " 18, 1834.

 

There were probably other families living on the Mile Strip before 1835, but their names and the year of their moving on could not be positively learned. A short biographical sketch of some of the above named heads of families is here presented.

 

FIRST SETTLERS ON THE MILE STRIP.

 

Taber Earl was the first purchaser of lands on the Mile Strip. On January 2, 1828, he bought Lot 24 of Josiah Waddington. The next year Earl and Blair built a tavern on the north side of the trail, and near the northwest corner of the lot where the house still stands in 1900. Samuel Harris bought this lot of Taber Earl on September 16th, 1834, and kept tavern there for several years. December 31st, 1849, Hiram Harris bought the place and lived there until he died on July 26th, 1889. He was supervisor of the town of Aurora, when the Town of Elma was formed from Aurora and Lancaster in 1856.

 

Lyman Chandler, in February, 1828, bought of Susan Ogden Lot 16. He was unmarried but built a small log house and his deed is dated September 8th, 1830. He disposed of seventeen acres from the northeast corner of the lot where James Blood has resided for many years. The title to the balance of the lot, eighty-three acres, remained in Lyman Chandler to the time of his death in October, 1889, at the age of eighty-nine years. The Chandler heirs still hold the title.

 

Isaac Williams moved with his family on Lot No. 15 April 10, 1828, built a log shanty on the low ground south of where he was to build a house, and lived in the shanty that summer. During this time he made a small clearing and erected the upright part of a frame house. That frame house is still there, and is the front part of the house now and for many years occupied by the son, Thomas D. Williams. Thomas, born February 18, 1827, was one year and a month old when the family moved on the lot and that has been his home all these years. He died December 1, 1900.

 

Timothy Treat moved on Lot 17, in May, 1828, where he built a log house and lived there several years, when Horace Blood became the owner and lived there when the Town of Elma was organized. That lot is now owned by Wilham H. Williams, a son of Thomas D. Williams, and grandson of Isaac Williams. The north and south road from the Aurora town line to the Jamison station on which these Williams families have for so many years resided is known as the Williams Road. The east and west road from the Girdled Road to the Aurora Plank Road on which Horace and James Blood resided for so many years is known as the Blood Road. These roads were laid out April 21, 1832.

 

Russel Brooks moved on the west part of Lot 19 April 10, 1828, built a log house in which he lived several years. The place, in a few years, passed into the hands of Stickney Billington and remained in the Billington family until two or three years ago, when John Vrndt, the present owner, came into possession of Lot 19. A part of Lot 20 is now owned by C. J. Hamlin as a part of his Aurora Village Stock Farm. The east and west road from the Aurora Plank Road to the east terminus on Lot 13, and on which road the Billington family lived for so many years is known as the Billington Road and was laid out April 21, 1832.

 

Daniel F. Cole moved on Lot 26, in 1828 into a log house. Members of that family reside on the old homestead; the title always remaining in the family.

 

Hiram Pattengill moved on Lot 2, January 1, 1829, where he lived in a log house. Trouble with a brother and a threatened lawsuit so worked on his mind that in March, 1846, he cut his throat with a razor, thus being the first suicide on Elma soil.

 

Jacob R. Davis moved into a log house on Lot 35, May 5, 1829. The son, William R. Davis, who now resides about one and one-half miles southwest from Spring Brook, was born May 4, 1827, and so was two years and one da y old when the family moved on the Mile Strip. Jacob R. Davis built a sawmill on the Cazenove Creek on the end of Lot 35 in May, 1830. This was the first and only sawmill ever built on the Mile Strip in the town of Elma. In 1831, Jacob R. sold the north half of Lot 35 to his brother, James, where he and his family lived for many years. Albert Davis, the youngest son of Jacob R., now owns and for all his life has lived on the south half of said Lot 35.

 

Chester Adams built a log house and moved on Lot 33 in 1829, where he lived until a few years ago when he moved into the village of Aurora, where he now resides.

 

Salathiel Cole settled on Lot 32 in a log house in 1829. John Divens settled in Lot 21 in a log house the same year. James and Willard Fairbanks settled on Lot 13 in a log house in 1830.

 

Horace Scott Fairbanks, son of Willard Fairbanks, was the first white child born on the Mile Strip, May 27, 1831.

 

The south part of Lot 13 is still owned and occupied by descendants of Willard Fairbanks. H. Scott Fairbanks resides on the Bo wen road, one-fourth mile north from Aurora Plank Road in the town of Aurora.

 

John Adams, in 1830, bought the east part of Lots 19 and 20, where he spent the remainder of his life, and his descendants now reside there.

 

Amasa and Luther Adams, cousins, settled on Lot 11 in 1830. John Q. Adams, son of Luther, is the present owner. The east and west road from the Girdled road to the Marilla town line on which Luther and John Q. Adams lived is known as the Adams Road and was laid out April 21, 1832.

 

Martin Taber erected a frame building in 1831 on the northeast corner of Lot 29 across the road from the Taber Earle tavern. This new building was to be a tavern by which name all places kept for the entertainment of travelers was known. Tavern was the name - no hotel in those days and both houses did a good business, being on the mainly traveled road from Aurora to Buffalo and close to the line between the Mile Strip and the Indian lands.

 

This Martin Taber tavern was given the name of ''North Star," and it has always been kept as a tavern and known as the North Star.

 

Joshua and William Mitchell built log houses and settled on Lots 23 and 25 in 1832, where they lived and where Wilham died, January 26, 1836. Some of their family now live with John P. Cole on Lot 26.

 

Seth M. Bullis built a frame house on Lot 37 and moved on in March, 1833. Marion was born January 16, 1834; later she became the wife of John W. Cole. She in 1900, lives with her son, Bordan J, Cole, on the old Cole homestead on Lot 26.

 

Thomas Coverdale bought of Joseph Fellows Lot 18 and settled on the Mile Strip in 1834; sold the lot to Caleb Foster February 6, 1849. Caleb Foster and his family resided there all the balance of his life and his descendants now own and occupy a part of the lot,

 

SCHOOLHOUSES ON THE MILE STRIP.

 

The first school house on the Mile Strip was made of logs and was built on the north side of Lot 15, at the corner of the Williams and Billington Roads in 1831.

 

The first school kept in that school house was taught by Miss Emily Paine in 1831. She married Nathan K. Hall, later a partner in the law firm of Hall & Fillmore of Buffalo, and Postmaster-General in President Fillmore's cabinet. A frame schoolhouse was built on the same site about 1848. The schoolhouse is continued and that school district is in 1900, known as School District No. 4 in the town of Elma.

 

The second school house built on the Mile Strip was on Lot 25, a plank building 18x22 feet in size. It has been replaced by a larger and better building on the northwest corner of Lot 28. The district is now known as School District No. 5 in the town of Elma.

 

The third schoolhouse was built near the center of Lot No. 36 in 1833. That schoolhouse, District No. 11 is now gone, and the territory west of the Cazenove Creek in that part of the town is joined to school districts in the town of East Hamburgh.

 

The early settlers in the town were anxious to give to their children the elements of a good education, and so schools were provided at this early day.

 

Settlers continued to come and in 1842 when the Ogden Company by treaty, obtained the balance of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, forty-two families had found homes on the Mile Strip and about three-fourths of the lots had been purchased of the Ogden Company and had become farms with what was then called comfortable buildings and surroundings.

 

CLEARING THE LAND.

 

The work was of the same old kind and carried on in the same way as in the past twenty years on the Holland Purchase. It was chop, burn, clear, fence, raise wheat, corn, potatoes and flax. The same ''Wood's Bull plow, “but they have iron drag teeth. The grain cradle, introduced in 1830, slowly took the place of the sickle for harvesting grain. Before 1842, more than three-fourths of the wheat, rye and oats raised on the farms was threshed with the flail; the threshing being done by the farmer and his boys or threshed for every tenth bushel, by some man who wanted work and had no threshing of his own to do. Eight horse-power, open-cylinder threshing machines had been introduced that would thresh one hundred and fifty bushels of wheat and two hundred bushels of oats in a day if the grain was good, but as there was no separator or fanning mill attachment, the straw was separated from the grain and chaff by three or four rakings, and when quite a pile of the grain and chaff had accumulated in front of the thresher, all must stop and get this grain and chaff out of the way. Then they threshed another pile and so on - the fanning mill to be used later to separate the grain from the chaff. Improvements came later, but slowly.

 

The flax was prepared for the women, and they worked it into cloth, etc., in the same way as was done twenty or forty years before. They had better conveniences for cooking over the fire and doing the house work; a few cookstoves had come into use after 1832, but they were not much used in the log houses. Carding machines, to convert the wool into nice rolls, were then within easy reach of the settler. This saved the hand-carding of the wool, but they had plenty of work in hand carding the flax and tow, and in spinning and. weaving the various kinds of cloth needed by the family, and in making their clothes and stockings.

 

Most of these early settlers have passed away; only a few remaining with us in 1900, but they made their mark in the world while here. We can see the result of their labor; and their industry, economy and perseverance is before us, as a lesson for us to learn, if we shall finally be successful in our various callings.

 

We honor them for the examples they have set before us, and that by their labors and their lives they have made the present high civilization and pleasant surroundings a possibility and certainty.

 

FINANCIAL STORM.

 

Every person must be prepared for the trials, difficulties, labors, the hopes and fears, that are certain to be encountered through life, which as an individual or as a family or community, or, in a general way, as a nation, are to be met with and overcome if success be gained.

 

Whether the individual, family, community or nation shall be able to pass safely through and overcome these obstacles, or whether he or they shall be overcome by them, depends largely on the conditions, surroundings, perseverance, and will-power put into operation.

 

An obstacle, so great that a feeble person cannot stir it, can be readily removed by one of greater strength. A financial load, so great as to bankrupt a person of limited means, can be safely and with profit taken up by a person financially strong. But when the thing to be carried is so great that neither individual or national strength is sufficient, then disaster, if not ruin, is for every person to face, and only the most careful and persevering will be able to outride the storm in safety

 

Signs that such a storm was near were to be seen, clouds were gathering and the political sky was gradually growing dark. Occasionally the mutter of distrust, and the low rumble as of distant thunder was heard. This occurred soon after the first settlers moved on the Mile Strip, and the prophesy was that ''the first few years with the early settlers on the Mile Strip were to be years of hardship and trial," which proved true.

 

The Act of Congress, to re-charter the United States Bank, which passed both houses with considerable majority and was the clap of thunder that told the people that the storm was here, was vetoed by President Jackson in 1830. This bank had, by its charter, been made the repository of the public moneys. In 1832, rumors were started that the deposits were not safe, and the Secretary of the Treasury caused an examination to be made of the condition of the bank. The report showed a surplus of $42,297,000, over all liabilities, and that the security of the public money was above question.

 

The tariff did not produce sufficient revenue to meet the expenses of the government, and the proceeds from the sales of the public lands were used to meet the deficiency; but these sales were so large that the surplus was continually increasing.

 

A surplus in the United States Treasury was with President Jackson, as later with President Cleveland, a dangerous condition and must not be allowed to continue. So on September 18th, 1833, he directed the Secretary of the Treasury to withdraw the deposits from the United States Bank and place the money with state and local banks. The removal occurred October 1st, 1833. The United States Bank then began to curtail its loans, and to make arrangements to gradually close up its business.

 

Soon a severe money pressure pervaded the whole country. To overcome this financial embarrassment in every State, a great number of State Banks were chartered; many of them with little or no real capital, by which to secure the redemption of the great amount of paper which they put into circulation. This flood of money induced speculation, and wild-cat money and city lots had a great run.

 

In 1836, the deposit banks were hoarding all the gold and silver they could obtain, to enable them to meet the government calls. The local banks, being crowded for specie, were all over the country thrown into a panic, and most of them suspended specie payment, while many failed entirely. Money matters were fast coming to a crisis and every speculator and business man tried to get clear before he should be buried in the financial ruin which was sure to come soon, and might come any day.

 

The climax was reached in Erie County in August, 1836, when the forgeries of Benjamin Rathbun were exposed, and his failure was announced. As banker, capitalist, builder, speculator and boomer, he had been the leading business man in Buffalo, having had almost unlimited credit. It was found when the crash came that he was owing hundreds of men, who by his failure were in a clay reduced from wealth to poverty; the acting and reacting influence extending to almost every man in western New York. This business sure was especially severe upon many of the settlers on the Mile Strip, as they had trusted Mr. Rathbun to lumber,

 

The election of Martin Van Buren as President of the United States in November, 1836, bought no financial relief, and all through 1837, prices of real estate as well as of all other property continued to go down. Banks continued to fail, counterfeit money and broken bank bills were causes of fear and distrust with every business man, and "Thompson's Bank Note Reporter and Detective, " a weekly paper published in New York City which described counterfeit bills (which were legion) and reported broken and suspended banks, with the rates of discount at which the bills would be redeemed, was the constant companion of the business man, and even then he might go to bed at night with his pocket full of money and not be sure that he would have a dollar the next day which would help him to pay a debt, or to buy food for his family. These hard times continued with greater or less severity, generally greater for several years, and many families were forced to sell their homes, or have them sold by the Sheriff, when they would take the little they had left and go to Michigan, Illinois or Wisconsin, where they could find government land at ten shillings per acre, and begin again for a home in a new country.

 

MILE STRIP IN 1840.

 

This caused many changes of ownership in real estate on the Mile Strip, and was a great hindrance in making improvements, especially on the new farms where the owners were forced to observe strict economy in all their expenditures.

 

The Patriot War, so called, commencing in December, 1837, was no help to the farmer.

 

The balance of trade between the United States and foreign nations in the eight years, 1832 to 1840, being the excess of imports over the exports of $111,000,000, an average of about $14,000,000 for each year, had drained the country of gold and silver; nearly all the State banks had suspended specie payments, and the manufactories had largely shut down because of the operations of the tariff of 1828, and business generally was about as bad as it could well be.

 

The financial condition being nearly the same in 1840, the presidential campaign of that year under the log-cabin, hard cider, "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" enthusiasm, served to secure to the Whig candidates a victory, and Wm. H. Harrison and John Tyler were duly elected as President and Vice-President of the United States and were inaugurated March 4th, 1841.

 

The population of Buffalo in 1840 was 18,213, and of the balance of Erie County 34,252, and of the Mile Strip in Elma about 180 persons of all ages.

 

These persons, with occasionally a family taking a lot, or part of a lot, continuing their struggles against all these difficulties made progress slowly, but all the time they moved ahead. Their land was cleared in the same old way, by chopping and burning. They worked up the best of the pine, ash and whitewood trees into lumber for the Buffalo market and after 1850, other kinds of timber as well as some cordwood was taken to the same market.

 

PLANK ROAD TO BUFFALO.

 

In 1849, a plank road was completed from Aurora to Buffalo. This road crossed the Mile Strip, and so furnished a good road all the year for the people to haul their heavy loads of lumber, wood and surplus farm produce to Buffalo.

 

The Davis Cemetery on Lot 36 of Mile Strip was laid out in 1854.

 

Notwithstanding that thousands of people were going west, and continued to go, the lands of the Mile Strip were, in 1856, practically all occupied by the sixty-five actual resident owners, only three hundred acres being non-resident land at that date. Improvements in the buildings and on the farms were being made. In 1856, the log house had nearly disappeared from the Mile Strip, having been generally displaced by the frame building, often painted white, and in many cases the windows were protected with green blinds, so that a white farm house with green blinds was not uncommon. Occasionally a farm house painted red with white trimmings would be found on some back road. Frame barns had taken the place of the log barn. The farms were gradually being cleared of stumps, so that the Mile Strip when the town of Elma was formed in December, 1856, had every appearance of being a long while settled and prosperous part of the country.

 

RESIDENTS ON THE MILE STRIP IN 1856.

 

At that time, many of the first settlers who came before 1842 were still residents and in addition, we find the names of Thomas Aldrich, John Q. Adams, D. K Adams, Harmon Bullis, Salem Baker, Warren Brown, William Bates, John W^. Cole, Salathiel Cole, Charles P. Cole, Stanlius Chicker, James Davis, William H. Davis, Isaac Ellsworth, James Ellis, Edward Fowler, James Head, Paul B. Lathrop, William Paine, George Peek, Christopher Peek, John W. Peek, Whipple Spooner, Harvey D. Paxon, John Scott, William Thompson, Robert Wiley, William D'. Wallace, and others.

 

Some of these names will appear later as having held important offices in the town of Elma, and as having been leaders in public improvements, and as true and tried patriots when the country was threatened by the tornado of secession, and torn by that great cyclone, Civil War, in 1861-1865, when we, at the north had to meet friend and foe in our every day business, and the country was nearly split in twain and our existence as a nation was in jeopardy. Then was needed the public spirit and patriotic expression, which was given by most of the residents of the Mile Strip. All honor to their names! May their memories ever be held in sacred remembrance!