Chapter 08 - East Elma 1837 to 1856


EAST ELMA 1837 TO 1856.


The first sawmill built in the town of Elma and the houses and barns for the accommodation and shelter for the men and their families and teams as before stated, were erected by Mr. Seth Estabrook on the Big Buffalo Creek in 1826, and were known as "The Indian Mill, the " Estabrook Mill," and later, as the " Bullis Mill.''

The second sawmill built in the town was by Mr. Jacob R. Davis on the Cazenovia Creek, about two miles south from Spring Brook in May, 1830.

The third sawmill, with log houses for the mill hands, and the first buildings put up in East Elma, were built by Leonard Hatch and Joseph Riley, in the spring and summer of 1837, known as the Hatch Mill, and later as the Hemstreet Mill. The three houses and the barns were about fifteen rods northeast from the sawmill.

The following statements as to the building and operating the mill, to the time the Ogden Company purchased that part of the reservation, were obtained from members of the Hatch family, who now reside at East Elma, and, from original papers and records in their possession, will thus settle beyond a doubt the question as to the year in which the mill was built.


Leonard Hatch of the town of Wales and Robert McKean of Aurora, on July 28, 1834, hired the sawmill at Jack-berry-town, now Gardenville, of John Seneca, an Indian Chief, and owner of the mill for a term of two years, to commence October 22d, 1834, at a yearly rent of $140. They operated the mill these two years and in that time Mr. Hatch became acquainted with many of the Indian Chiefs and Indians of influence in that locality. On December 3d, 1836, a few weeks after their lease with John Seneca expired. Hatch made an agreement with two Indians, James Young and William Crouse, to build a sawmill on Pond Brook. The agreement is here given:

"Memorandum of an agreement made this 3d day of December, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six, between Leonard Hatch of the town of Wales, in the County of Erie, of the first part, and James Young and William Crouse of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, of the second part, witnesseth, that the said party of the first part, for and in consideration of the covenants and agreements of the said parties of the second part, hereinafter contained, covenants to, and with the said parties of the second part, to build and complete on the lands owned by the said parties of the second part, on Pond Creek, (so-called) on the Buffalo Creek Reservation, an ordinary sawmill; said mill to be situated on the said Creek a few rods below the road leading to Estabrook's Mill on said Reservation, in case the parties of the second part shall obtain consent of a majority of the Chiefs living on said Reservation that said mill be constructed; and the said party of the first part, further covenants to construct and complete said mill on or before the first day of September, 1837. And the parties of the second part covenants, in consideration, that the party of the first part fulfill the covenants above made, to execute to the said party of the first part, on the completion of said mill, a lease thereof, and the appurtenances, for the term of four years and six months; said lease to bear date on the day on which said mill shall be completed. And the said parties of the second part further covenants, to furnish to the said party of the first part, the timber standing in the woods necessary for the construction of said mill.

In witness whereof, the parties aforesaid have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year above written.

Leonard Hatch [Seal.] James Young [Seal.]

his William x Crouse [Seal.] mark. On January 2, 1837, Young and Crouse went before the Chiefs of the Seneca Nation with their petition for the privilege to build a saw-mill on Pond Brook. The petition with the consent of the Chiefs is here given.


"To the Chiefs - We wish to know if you will allow us to build a sawmill at or on what is called Pond Brook, not far from the road that leads from Estabrook's mill to the Aurora and Buffalo road. We will go on and do what we can, and if we cannot finish it ourselves, we want the privilege of hiring white men to go on and finish the mill, and then hire it to them; white men to pay them, and when it is hired to white men, let them tend it. No white man shall cut any sawlogs on the Indian lands, but Indians may cut sawlogs, and may sell them to the white men if they want to, white man to not clear the land for the mill yard, but we will clear it ourselves.

his William x Krouse,

mark James Young. Buffalo Reservation, January 2d, 1837.

We, the Chiefs of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, are all willing you should build a mill; we give our consent, and are pleased that you should do so.

Buffalo Reservation, January 2d, 1837.

their their

Seneca x White, Me. x Doxtalor,

John x Snow, Jacob x Bennett,

Fall x Peter, Samuel x Wilson,

Job X Pierce, William x Jones,

Capt. X Polland, Daniel X Two Guns,

James x Stevens, Z. L. Jimeson,

John x Seneca, White x Seneca,

Thomas Jimeson, Tony x Young,

Little x Johnson, George x Jimeson."

marks. marks.


That sawmill on Pond Brook was never built and from what followed, it is presumed that Hatch preferred to build a mill on the Big Buffalo Creek, and that Young and Crouse were willing that the change should be made; as the next clay after the Chiefs had given their consent to the building of the mill on Pond Brook, the following petition was drawn up and signed: '' To the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, in and for the County of Erie:

We, the undersigned Chiefs, Head Men and Warriors of the Seneca Tribe of Indians residing on the Buffalo Creek Reservation, in behalf of ourselves and the Indians residing on said Reservation do hereby request you to grant to Leonard Hatch, of the town of Aurora, in said county, a license to build and erect on said Reservation a sawmill and other machinery, together with a sufficient mill yard for the convenience of said mill for a term of four years from the 1st day of September, 1837.

Dated Buffalo Reservation, January 3d, 1837. In presence of James Young, ^,

his William x Krouse. mark.


their their

Seneca x White, Jacob x Bennett,

Fall x Petee, Samuel x Wilson,

John x Snow, William x Jones,

Job X Pierce, Daniel x Two Guns,

Capt. X Pollard, Z. L. Jimeson,

James x Stevens, f* White x Seneca,

John x Seneca, Tony x Young,

Thomas Jimeson, George x Jimeson."

marks. marks.

This petition does not locate the mill, and no doubt the permit was granted by the Court. The license cannot be found among Mr. Hatch's papers.


Mr. Hatch, having by this license the right to build a sawmill, entered into a contract or agreement with Seneca White, White Seneca, Big Kettle and some other Chiefs to build the mill on the Big Buffalo Creek at East Elma, with the privilege to cut and use any timber standing in the woods for the construction of the mill and dam and the necessary houses and barns with the privilege to run the mill for four years from September 1st, 1837, when the mill was to become the property of the Indians; but they would lease it to him for a further term of years at a stipulated price.

Robert McKean's name does not appear in any of the writings or papers, and if he had any interest in the contract, he sold out to Joseph Riley of Aurora, for Hatch and Riley formed a co-partnership. They built the mill and operated it for some months as a company mill, after which Hatch bought Riley's interest and operated the mill, living with his family in the mill house until his death on June 21st, 1842. At the end of the first four years, viz., on September 1st, 1841, he made a bargain by which he had the lease of the mill for several years. The exact terms of that lease cannot be learned, as nothing can be found among the Hatch papers on that subject, but there must have been a contract, as he continued to run the mill until his death, nearly ten months after the first lease expired, and one month after the Ogden Company had made their purchase of the remainder of the Reservation. Mr. Zina A. Hemstreet, a brother of Mrs. Hatch, as administrator of the Hatch estate, carried on the business under this second lease and under contracts with the Ogden Company until he bought the property in 1855; then, and for many years the locality was known as ' ' Hemstreet 's Mill, " also as ' ' Frog Pond. " _ ^


The road from the Hatch sawmill to Bartoo's Mill, now Porterville, was southeast and east from the mill through the woods, very near where the road is now located. A log road from the mill led down the creek near the bank and west of the "Knob," coming off the flats north of Mr. Harvey C. Palmer's barn, then by a general east course over hills and through ravines to "Stave Town," so called from the great quantities of staves made from the oak timber in that locality. Alter 1843, lumber and staves went by the woods road, east to the "Two Rod Road," thence north through "Slab City," now Marilla Village, to Alden to be sent by the railroad to Rochester, where were many flourishing mills, and at that time the great wheat market for all Western New York. Rochester was then known as the "Flour City"; now they call it the "Flower City."

The road from the sawmill by which the lumber was hauled to Buffalo the first winter after the mill was built, was south on the ice, on the millpond, for about 100 rods, then south through the woods to the Adams Road, then west to the Indian trail or road from Aurora to Buffalo. In the summer of 1838, a bridge was built across the millpond about sixty rods south from where the present bridge is located; then westerly by a dugway to the high ground, and then by a general south course to the Adams road near Luther Adams' house, now owned by his son, John Quincy Adams, then to Buffalo. This road from the sawmill, took the Indian trail to the Adams Road, the trail still leading south to near the Rickertson place, crossing the town line into Aurora at or near the intersection of the road from Porterville, thence on near where the present road is located, to East Aurora. By this trail, the Indians living at and near East Elma, went to and from Aurora. The low places in this woods road between the sawmill and the Adams Road were crossed by the corduroy or causeway plan and patches of these log roads are to be seen in 1900, sixty years after they were built, on Col. Ellsworth Persons' farm on Lots 26 and 27. Most of the lumber was hauled from the mill in the winter until after the Ogden Company had surveyed their last purchase into lots, and many of the lots had been sold, when, on April 19th, 1845 the Jemison road was laid out on lot lines and worked as now traveled.


The same year that Mr. Estabrook built the "Indian Mill," viz.: 1826, the Ogden Company made their first purchase of part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation from the Seneca Indians. This purchase of a strip from the north side of the Reservation one and a half miles in width, across the east end three miles wide, and along the south side one mile in width, compelled the Indians to leave that tract; and as a result, they mostly came on to the lands they had not sold; where they lived for sixteen years when, in 1842, by a compromise treaty, they sold the remainder of this Reservation to the Ogden Company, and then gradually left, going mostly to the Cattaraugus and Allegany Reservations. So it happened that for several years before 1842, there were quite a goodly number of Indian families living in what is now the town of Elma; some of them Chiefs, Warriors, Headmen, or men of importance and influence in the Seneca Nation.

Along the shores of the Big Buffalo Creek, from half a mile to a mile and a half east from Blossom, was quite an Indian village with a Council House, some twelve to twenty-eight families, but the names of these Indians cannot now be obtained.

At Elma Village, which place the Indians called "Big Flats," were a dozen or more families. Jillings, John Luke and Peter Snow had houses in what was later Hurd and Briggs' millyard, John Baldwin, John Hudson and Isaac Johnny John had their houses on the hill northeast from the others, Ben Johnny John lived with his brother Isaac, Judge Moses lived near the milldam. Fall John lived on the high bank just north of the milldam, Thompson lived on the high bank north of the Elma Cemetery, Little Joe lived on the table land now occupied as the Elma Cemetery, Little Joe's Boy lived where Mr. Joseph B. Briggs' house now stands, Joe Dudley lived in the sugar bush near the James Clarke house, Sam Beaver lived in J.B. Briggs' orchard and Thomas Snow lived on south side of the Creek. Their cemetery was a little southwest from Mr. J. B. Briggs' house, and for many years after these Indians had moved away in the spring of 1847, some members of the families would come every year to visit the graves of their departed friends.

At East Elma and vicinity was quite an Indian settlement, and at the "Indian Openings," one mile north, were several families; among them, Chief Big Kittle, and one Jimeson, a relative of Mary Jimeson, the White Woman. Sundown lived at the openings with about a dozen other families whose names cannot now be learned. Tommy Jimmie and another family lived half a mile south of East Elma village on the west side of the Creek. Chiefs Elijah Cayuga and his son William Cayuga lived near the Indian Cemetery half a mile southeast from East Elma. Charley Spruce and Silversmith lived near the Cemetery. Silversmith died at East Elma in 1895, and was taken to Cattaraugus Reservation for burial.


Chiefs Seneca White, John Seneca and White Seneca, brothers, were frequent visitors at East Elma up to the time the Indians moved from the Reservation. The "Indian Openings," so-called, north from East Elma, as before stated, was the living place for several families. As it fell to the lot of the Squaws to clear the land and raise the corn, beans and other crops, it was but natural that they should selact as a place for a clearing, some spot where the timber was scattering or small, and this locality seemed to suit them; for they would selact such a place and cut away and burn the small trees and soon have from half an acre, to two or three, or more acres, as the needs of their family required, on which to raise their provisions. Another family would selact their place, it might be a few or several rods away from any other clearing, and so these little clearings or openings were scattered over quite a territory. In all, these clearings comprised some forty or fifty acres, mostly on the west side of the Creek; but one, of some ten acres on the east side with a good log house, was on land now owned by Mr. Edwin H. Dingman; the clearings on the west side of the Creek being mostly on lands lately owned by Mr. Frank Metcalf, Mr. Spencer Metcalf and the James Hopper estate. It is said by some of the old residents of East Elma that Chief Big Kittle was buried on land now owned by Spencer Metcalf, and a butternut tree is pointed out as having been planted at his grave at the time of his burial. Their Cemetery is one-half mile southeast from East Elma, and is preserved by the present owner of the land.


Several other families of Indians resided one to two miles northeast of East Elma, among them Jack Johnny John, who was lame, and always used a crutch, and was known as Old Jack, who lived near the "Two Rod Road." He, with his family, remained there for many years after the other Indians had left the Reservation. Many of the Indians thought they had been cheated in the last sale and treaty, and they hoped to have that treaty set aside, and he lived there to show that they still retained and held possession.

Some eight or ten families had their wigwams for several years before 1844, about one mile southwest from the Elma Railroad station.

Chief Daniel Two Guns lived in a log house on the high ground on the north side of the Indian trail, later known as the Aurora and Buffalo Road, thirty rods easterly from where the Catholic Church was later built in Spring Brook Village. This house, with additions was for many years kept as a tavern, known far and near as the "Mouse Nest." Two families of Indians lived near the " Devils' Hole," on the west side of the Cazenove Creek, about one mile south from Springbrook, and several Indian families were in that vicinity. The Indians moved from the Reservation one to five years after the sale to the Ogden Company in 1842, after it had been the home of the Seneca Nation for sixty-five years. The lands in the vicinity of East Elma did not find rapid sale when first put upon the market by the Ogden Company, but few families were living there before 1850.

Thomas Hanvey built a sawmill, in 1854, on a small stream three-fourths of a mile north from East Elma, on land owned by Hugh Mullen in 1900. Isaac Gail opened the first store on northwest corner in East Elma in 1854.

A general improvement was noticed in the spring of 1856, as in the early part of the summer the first school house was built and the first school was kept by Miss Maria Hall after July 4th of that year.


Nathan Howard had a blacksmith shop on the north side of the road at the east end of the bridge. Russel Howard and Albert Crane built a steam shinglemill, thus opening up a new industry.

The locality was known by lumbermen as " Hemstreets Mill" but generally, the little settlement was known far and near as ''Frog Pond" from a large swamp of some twenty acres a little distance east from the sawmill.

On December 4th, 1856, when the town of Elma was formed, we find the f oho wing persons residing in that locality, viz.: Abel N. Button, Albert Crane, John Darcey, Harry Dingman, Edwin Fowler, Isaac Gail, John W. Griffin, Thomas Hanvey, James Hatch, Niles Hatch, Zina A. Hemstreet, Daniel Hicks, James Hopper, Nathan Howard, Russell Howard, Thomas Ostrander, Amos P. Rowley, and Joseph G. Thompson. Only three or four of these persons are living in Elma in 1900.

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