Chapter 11 - Town of Elma - 1856-1858


TOWN OF ELMA - 1856 - 1858.


When the town of Elma was formed, December 4th, 1856, about one-half of the land of the last purchase of the Ogden Company in the new town, consisting of 9,000 acres, was owned by about three hundred actual residents. More than 5000 acres were owned by non-residents who had bought for speculation. The Ogden Company had about 3500 acres, and as it advanced the prices, it seemed that it was not very anxious to sell, for it was sure of still higher prices. This statement does not include the Mile Strip part of the new town, as that had been in the market nearly thirty years, and in that time had been changed from a wilderness to well cultivated forms.

The method of clearing the land of timber on the last purchase was very different from that" practiced by the early settlers on the Holland Purchase and on the Mile Strip. Instead of cutting down the trees and burning the timber so that crops could be raised, only the decayed parts of the trees as were not fit for cordwood, were burned in log heaps. The new plan was to utilize the timber to turn it into money; so every tree of every kind that was suitable for a sawlog was taken to the sawmill and made into lumber to be used for buildings or fences on the farm or hauled to Buffalo where there was a ready market and where all necessary supplies could be obtained.

The timber not suitable for sawlogs was worked into cordwood, the soft wood, viz.: bass, elm, ash, hemlock and pine, had a ready market at the railroad station, steamboat docks, brick yards, glass factories and at all shops and factories where steam power was used. The hard woods, viz.; maple, beech, oak and hickory was the fuel for the families and offices. This was before coal was very much used as a fuel in Buffalo and every manufactory, steamboat, railroad locomotive, as well as every family used wood for fuel.

Hemlock bark found a ready market at the tanneries at Aurora, Springbrook, Ebenezer, Buffalo, Lancaster and Williamsville.

This method of clearing the land was much slower and required even much more labor than the old way of chopping, logging and burning; but the object now was to have the timber pay for the necessary labor, support the family, and pay for the land. Sawmills were built on every stream and in almost every neighborhood in Elma to work up the timber, consequently lumber was easily obtained. After 1854, very few log houses were built on this last purchase, the new houses being made of plank, or of balloon frame and clapboards, with shingle roofs. The doors and window sashes were made by machinery- a long step in advance of the old way of the carpenter hewing and framing timber for the frame of the house and from the rough boards to saw and plane and work all the lumber for the house by hand and hard work.


Cookstoves and ranges had largely supplanted the fire-place and Dutch fire for cooking and heating, and when the town of Elma was organized in 1856, in many of the houses rag carpets were on the floors of the best rooms. The farmers raised little or no wool or flax. The older women did not have to card and spin, and the girls were not taught these branches of housekeeping in order to furnish the family clothing; these kinds of labor were for the days of ''long ago." All the cloth for the family and much of the clothing, ready made, was obtained from the village or city stores. Before the town was formed in 1856, there had been built and operated the following mills for working up the timber, viz.: The Estabrook or Indian Mill built in 1826, having two saws and later known as the Bullis Mill on the Big Buffalo Creek, to which Mr. Bullis had added a lathmill, machinery to saw and cut shingles and a box factory.

The Davis mill was built on the Cazenove Creek in 1830 by Mr. Jacob R. Davis, on the Mile Strip. The Hatch mill was built in 1836 on the Big Buffalo Creek at Frog Pond, now East Elma, later known as the Hemstreet mill, with planingmill and lathmill attached. Northrup's two sawmills were on the Cazenove Creek at Spring Brook. The Shindler mill was a few rods south of the south line of the Mile Strip on the Cazenove Creek with lath and shingle mills. Howard & Crane's steam shinglemill at East Elma, Hanvey's sawmill on a brook three-quarters of a mile north of East Elma, Barto's sawmill on the Big Buffalo Creek, a few rods east of the east line of the town of Elma, the Simanton mill on the south side of the Big Buffalo Creek a few rods east of the Girdled Road, Hurd & Briggs' double mill at Elma Village, with machinery for sawing shingles and lath, Eleazer Bancroft's sawmill, lath and shinglemill on Pond Brook at Elma Village, Clark W. Hurd's sawmill on Pond Brook, William Standards sawmill on Pond Brook, north of Bullis Road, George Orr's sawmill on Crooked Brook on Bullis Road, Bowen & Standart's mill on the north side of the Big Buffalo Creek, three-quarters of a mile below Elma Village, William Winspear's mill on the south side of the Big Buffalo Creek on the Winspear Road, the Ebenezer mill at Upper Ebenezer, now Blossom, on the Big Buffalo Creek, Orvil Titus' sawmill on the Little Buffalo Creek on Lot 3, and Bradley Moore's sawmill on the Little Buffalo Creek and on south side of Clinton Street Road. Besides these water mills there were several steam mills, viz.: A steam sawmill and pail factory at Spring Brook, built by Corbin, French & Roscoe; changed to Meeker & Wattles' tannery, a steam sawmill, built at Springbrook, by George and Edward Good, but owned by George Leger and Anthony Diebold; one built on Lot 52 of the Aurora part of Elma, west of Eron Woodard's barn; Samuel Pound's mill on the Bullis Road, on Lot 90, Dimert & Rost's mill on the road north of Schmaltz corners; and J. B. Briggs & Co. steam mill in Elma Village, built by Clark, Briggs & Co., with lath, shingle, planing and factory machinery.

These nineteen water mills, with twenty-three saws, and five steam mills with Mulley saws, and the lath and shingle mills were working up the timber before the town of Elma was formed; and most of the water mills were run night and day a large part of the year, the streams generally furnishing a steady supply of water.

When by heavy rains or the thawing of the snows there would be a freshet, a large part of the water was held back in the swamps and low grounds, gradually making its way to the streams, thus furnishing a steady and continuous supply.

After the lands were cleared, the farmer, by means of drains would take the water off his lands as soon as he could. The rush of water after a heavy rain would cause a flood for a few hours; then would follow a season of short supply of water for the mills, until we had another rain, but drains were not much in use until the timber was pretty well worked up, when there was not so much need for a steady supply of water for the mills.

Several of these mills had been built and running only one, two, three or five years with the result that in 1856, when the town of Elma was organized, about one-fourth of the timber on the last purchase had been worked up as here stated, and as the work continued, more mills were being built and timber removed, and as the years pass we find the old growth of timber is rapidly going.

Lumber had all the time been cheap, hemlock bringing in the Buffalo market five to eight dollars per thousand feet, and for a year or two before the town was formed, there had been signs of an approaching financial crisis. Prices for lumber, wood and manufactured articles were gradually going down and the settlers on the last purchase were having the same financial experience, that had come to the early settlers on the Mile Strip. Very few of those who had bought lots of land of the Ogden Company had paid in full for their lands; many had paid down only a small part of the purchase price; expecting that from the timber and their labor they could support their families and make the payments as they would come clue; and as but little land was cleared from which to raise crops, most of the family supplies had to be bought, and the interest, and payments must be provided for. As lumber and cordwood were the only articles they had by which to raise money, these were sent to the market regardless of the price.


There had been a great increase in the population of Buffalo within the last few years, but that increase had been made largely by people of moderate means, or of the poorer and labor classes; and while every family in the city used wood as their fuel, the hard times with scarcity of work, made it hard for the city laborers, and so only the wealthy were able to buy a full load of wood, and many times the whole or a part of the price would be paid out of the store. These were the conditions in 1856, and continued with but little improvement until the commencement of the Civil War in 1861.

The early settlers in the town of Elma will remember to their last day the hard times from 1854 to 1861

1856 - 1857.

During this time there was a great disturbance and mix-up in the political parties of the country. The Whig and Democratic parties were broken to pieces on the slavery question; the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; the new Fugitive Slave Law, and the complications caused thereby. The Native American or Know Nothing organization, but most of all, the slavery question, between 1854 and 1860, kept the country in a very disturbed condition. Old party lines were wiped out; new conditions and combinations caused such changes in parties that the results of an election were all uncertain, and a general breaking up of old party lines and ties brought about the forming of the Republican party in 1854 and 1855.

The Democratic party elected James Buchanan as President at the November election in 1856, but this did not settle the differences which were of a national character, while the local elections passed off with but little interest. "

The first town meeting in the town of Elma, held at the house of Clark W. Hurd in Elma Village, on the 3d day of March, 1857, was, under the circumstances, a matter of great interest, and, by many persons at that time thought to be the most important town meeting ever to be held in the town. There had been a very strong feeling of opposition to the formation of the new town, especially among the residents of the Mile Strip; as they lived, many of them, within two to three miles of Aurora Village where they had always went to elections and for all of their town business. They did not like the idea of going four to seven miles and among strangers to do their voting. As the time for the town meeting drew near, the feeling of opposition grew stronger; and when the call for a caucus was called, the "Opposition," or as it was called "The Peoples' Party" met in the Woodard schoolhouse at the corner of the Bowen and the Rice Roads at 2 o'clock on Saturday afternoon April 30th, and made up a full ticket, called the "Peoples' Ticket." Party lines were not thought of. Those in favor of the formation of a new town met the same afternoon at the hotel in Spring Brook and made up a ticket of those who were in their way of thinking.

On December 4th, 1856, when the Board of Supervisors of Erie County, by a vote of twenty-eight to three adopted the resolution forming a new town, from parts of Aurora and Lancaster to be named Elma, they directed that the first town meeting should be held at the house of Clark W. Hurd on the first Tuesday of March, 1857; and they appointed James H. Ward, then an acting Justice of the Peace in the town of Aurora, Lewis Northrup, Joseph B. Briggs and Deforest Standart, to preside at that first town meeting. The said Board, in organizing, appointed Warren Jackman as clerk.


This was a very spirited meeting, no thought of whether the candidates on the tickets were Democrats, Republicans, Know Nothings, or Abolitionists, but the issue was joined and the contest though the day was in favor of, or in opposition to the formation of the new town. The result was that the entire "Peoples' Ticket" was elected, viz:

Supervisor, Paul B. Lathrop; Town Clerk, Warren Jackman; Justices of the Peace, Addison Armstrong, Thomas Aldrich' Nathan W. Stowell; Collector, Asa J. W. Palmer; Assessors, Zenas M. Cobb, Horace Blood, Theoron Stowell; Com. of Highway's, Whipple Spooner, Benj. P. Lougee, Alfred Marvel, (held over from town of Aurora); Overseer of the Poor, Wm. Standart; Constables, Asa J. W. Palmer, Aaron Hitchcock, Isaac Freeman, Franklin Mitchell, Wm. J. Jackman; Inspectors of Election, Wm. H. Bancroft, John W. Cole, John Schmalls, appointed; Town Sealer, Elbridge G. Kent..

It was voted that the next town meeting be held at Kurd's tavern which was being built at the corner of the Bowen and the Bullis Roads.

See tables in Chapter XXL, of officers elected at the town meetings in the years 1857 to 1900.


As stated in a previous chapter, the Ebenezer Society bought of the Ogden Company, Lot 45, in the Lancaster part of the town, with their other Elma lands, and this was called their pine lot. On this lot they built a house on the Woodard Road, now occupied by Fred Heitman, for their men when they were cutting logs, and that house came later to be called their ''Prison house." It got the name in this way. The Ebenezer Society had a branch of their company in Canada, and it was one of the rules with the elders or rulers that if a single man or unmarried woman, either here or in Canada, had an idea of marriage, that they must be separated for a year; the man if living here, being sent to Canada, and if living in Canada, being sent here, and for a year to be without correspondence or communication in any way. If at the end of a year they were of the same mind, the marriage ceremony would be performed.

It happened about the year 1857, that a couple, members of this society, came to an agreement as to marriage, and they decided between themselves, that they would not be separated a year before marriage; so they were secretly married, probably in Buffalo. The fact of the marriage, and in that showing a disregard of the Society, soon came to the ears of the ruling elders; and the culprits were called upon to answer yes or no to the charges in the complaint. Their plea of guilty, was accepted; and as a punishment they were banished, and sent to this house, there to remain in solitary confinement, so far as they or any member of the society was concerned for one year. They were supplied with clothing and provisions, the man to work in the woods, peeling bark, cutting logs or wood, but they must not speak to any member of the society who came there, nor was any member of the society to speak to them, and no written communication was allowed to be sent either way. The only way they could know what was going on, or hear from, or send word to their friends, was for some friendly German, not a member of their society to act as a go-between. This was kept up for the j^ear when the prisoners were released and went among their friends. It caused much talk and indignation among the people of the town. About this time the Ebenezer Society applied to the Legislature, at Albany, for an extension of their charter. The Legislature refused and it was reported that this prison incident was used against the society, the claim being made that their rules and requirements were not in conformity with the spirit of our institutions. The managers then sent agents to the west to find a suitable location. After obtaining a charter from the Legislature of Iowa for a long term of years, they bought a large tract of land in that state, and then they sold their lands in West Seneca and Elma and gradually left for their new home and in 1863 or 1864, they all removed to Iowa.

The manners and customs of the people in this country were very different from the practices of the Prussians in Europe, and this difference was soon noticed by the young people of the Ebenezer Society.

They were near the growing city of Buffalo and were surrounded by thousands of people who had come from Germany who were enjoying greater liberty and many privileges which were forbidden to them, and this acquaintance and association with these neighbors naturally led them to think that some of the rules of their society were altogether too arbitrary, especially this rule about marriage, and these ideas growing and extending caused much trouble for the managers of the society.

On December 18th, 1856, Meeker & Wattles sold the tannery property to Thomas B. Tilden and on March 28th, 1857, Tilden sold to Johnn Eighme and Israel P. Bowen, and on June 24th, 1858, Eighme sold his interest to Henry Meeker.

In the spring of 1857, George Leger bought Diebold's interest in the steam saw and gristmill in Spring Brook, and operated both mills on his own account.

The first bridge across the Big Buffalo Creek on the Winspear Road was built-in the summer of 1857, the town board having authorized the Commissioner of Highways to build the bridge.

The Assessor, on completing the first assessment roll of the town of Elma for 1857; found as follows: Personal property $9,400, real $530,840, total $540,240. The board of Supervisors on equalizing, reduced the Assessors' valuation $56,477, made of personal property $9,400, real $474,363, total $483,763 on which they assessed a tax of $4,290.98; of this amount the town audits were $335.94 and for roads and bridges $861.47.

For assessment of personal and real property, town audits, road and bridge expenses and taxes from 1857 to 1900, see chapter XXI.

The first general election in the town of Elma was held November 3d, 1857, in Wm. Standart's house on the north side of his millyard, the same house that George and Washington Standart built in 1848. The people in the town did not take a great interest in the election, the total vote being 164. James Clark moved from Missouri coming to Elma Village December 15th, 1857.

C. W. Hurd had the hotel on the northeast corner of Lot 60 enclosed that fall and was ready for occupancy in the spring of 1858. This hotel was named the Elma Centre House and by that name known for many years. It is now owned by Mr. Nosbisch. The hotel was more than a mile north from the centre of the town, the actual centre being about sixteen rods north of the Rice and two rods west of the centre of the Bowen Road.


James Head bought and moved on to Lot 89, on the west side of the Davis Road in the spring of 1858. Peter Grader, Sr., moved on to Lot 45 on the south side of the Rice Road, February 9th, 1858.

The second town meeting in Elma was held at Hurd's hotel, Alonzo Crawford, lessee; at the corner of the Bowen and Bullis Roads on March 2d, 1858. Party politics had no place, the same issue prevailed as the year before, viz.: "New town or no new town," still being the leading question, but the feeling of opposition was gradually growing less. Still enough of that sentiment remained to make the meeting very interesting, and at times exciting, but the day closed without any serious quarrel.

For town officers who were elected, see Chapter XXI.

Samuel Pound's steam sawmill on Lot 90 on the Bullis Road burned this year.

The Town Board on March 3d, voted $450 to finish the Winspear bridge. The Hemstreet bridge across the Big Buffalo Creek at East Elma, built in 1846, broke down in June, 1858, under a load of lumber, with Christopher Peek on the load; team and all going into the millpond. Mr. Peek sustained only slight bruises, and the horses were released from the wagon without cutting or breaking the harness, when they swam ashore, the water being six feet deep. No other injury to man, horses or wagon occurred.

The Hemstreet lattice bridge (standing in 1900) was built in the summer of 1858; the Town Board directing the Commissioner, July 7th, to build the bridge. Little and Bowen had the contract to build a bridge across the Big Buffalo Creek at their mill, three quarters of a mile below Elma Village, the contract price of which was $220.00.

George Leger sold his steam saw and gristmill in Spring Brook to Peter Bower in 1858.

James Clark bought the goods of the J. B. Briggs & Co. store in Elma Village in April 1858 renting the store of Warren Jackman; Clark's family living in the back part of the building.

Russel Howard sold his interest in the steam shinglemill at East Elma to Fowler Mungfer, and Hunger and Crane carried on the shingle business there for many years and worked up a great amount of timber.

In the summer of 1858, Clark W. Hurd built a store and dwelling house combined on the northwest corner of the Bowen and Bullis Roads; occupied a few years later by W. W. Standart as store and saloon.

Henry W. Stitz bought a building lot next, west of the store on the north side of the Bullis Road, and on the lot built a house and blacksmith shop and carried on business for several years.

Theodore Noyes died July 27th, 1858, age sixty-one years, nine months and was buried in Elma cemetery.

Rev. Lucius A. Chapin was sent by the M. E. Conference to supply Lancaster, Bowmansville and Elma, he living in Lancaster Village preaching in the schoolhouse in Elma Village every other Sunday at 2 p. m., alternating with Rev. William Waith, the Presbyterian minister, who also lived in Lancaster.

Lewis Northrup, in the summer of 1858, tore down the sawmill on the south side of the Cazenove Creek at Spring Brook and on the same place built a gristmill, owned in 1900 by his son, Eli B. Northrup.

Mr. Jacob Wooster, of Strykersville, then considered one of the best millwrights in the country, made and put in the mill machinery. Mr. Harvey assisted in putting in the machinery for making flour and was the first miller working for Mr. Northrup. He remained with Mr. Northrup about four years.

Hurd & Briggs put an addition on the west end of their sawmill for a gristmill and put in a run of stone for grinding feed.

Stephen Markham moved from Brewerton, Onondaga County, New York to Elma in October 1858, and bought the Hurd sawmill and lot on Pond Brook, with eight acres of land on the north part of Lot 59 and east side of the Bowen Road, later owned by Joseph C. Standart.

The second general election was held in Hurd's tavern, on the Bullis Road, on November 2d, 1858. Greater interest was manifested at this election as more state and county officers were to be elected. There were there hundred and fifty-one votes polled.

Israel P. Bo wen and Henry Meeker sold the Spring Brook tannery November 19, 1858 to Walter L. Curtis and Frederick Deming. They carried on the store and tannery until the tannery burned in 1861.

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