SKETCHES OF ALBION
The village of Albion is situated in the town of Barre, Orleans county, New York, in latitude 43 degrees 45 minutes North, and 1 degree and 17 minutes West longitude from the Capitol at Washington. It lies 85 miles by the Erie Canal, and 80 miles by Railroad, west from Rochester. The Erie Canal and the Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls Railroad, pass through it.
Albion lies two miles south from the Ridge Road, that singular alluvial formation which runs parallel with the south shore of Lake Ontario, through the western part of the State, and eight miles from Oak Orchard Harbor, on Lake Ontario.
The whole county of Orleans was originally included in the town of Ridgeway. Gaines was taken from Ridgeway in the year 1816. Barre was set off from Gaines in the year 1818.
The village of Albion was originally called Newport. Its name was changed to Albion in the first Act of Incorporation, which passed the State Legislature, April 21, 1828.
Before the town of Ridgeway was organized, this territory formed a part of the town of Batavia, which extended to the Lake on the North. Ridgeway was from time to time subdivided into towns, until Orleans county was organized, Nov. 11, 1824; then consisting of the towns of Barre, Carlton, Clarendon, Gaines, Murray, Ridgeway, Shelby and Yates. The town of Kendall was set off from Murray in the year 1834.
In the settlement of Orleans county little progress was made until the close of the last war with Great Britain. Its vicinity to the frontier of the State, and the military operations that were carried on in its neighborhood, retarded the building of mills, the construction of highways, and the increase of population by immigration. The land was covered with a heavy growth of trees, which it required great labor to clear off. There was but little foreign market for the products of the soil, owing to the difficulties of transportation; and for considerable time after settlers came to this region, the only articles they had to send abroad were black salts and potash, made from the ashes of timber.
Until roads were made through to Rochester and Canandaigua, the only outlet to market was by Lake Ontario to Oswego, on the St. Lawrence; and the supplies of merchandise for the inhabitants of this country, and a large portion of territory south of this, for a long time came by water, from the east, to the mouth of Oak Orchard Creek, from whence they were carried over the Oak Orchard Road to the place of destination. Goods thus obtained were, in proportion to their present prices, enormously dear, and the products of the farm furnished in exchange were correspondingly cheap.
The Oak Orchard Road was originally an Indian trail or path, which they were accustomed to travel in their visits from the south to Lake Ontario, where they annually resorted to catch fish, which, in the Spring, came up the Oak Orchard Creek from the Lake; and the banks of this stream seemed to have been a favorite, burying place for this people - as the mounds of earth found there, containing human bones and Indian implements, would go to prove. This trail or path was traced by the Indians over the dryest portions of land over which they required to pass, without much regard to direct lines or the lessening of distance to be travelled. When white men began to use the road with carriages, it was found necessary to cut out the trees, construct sluices and causeways over a large part of the way, as the woodland, covered with thick timber, retained the water, rendering it very muddy. Land, now the finest in the County for agricultural purposes, was then a dismal swamp. Through a part of what is now Batavia street, the land was so level and wet, that a causeway of logs was laid for the convenience of travel, from Canal street north to the north bounds of the corporation.
About the year 1803, the Holland Company caused a survey to be made of the Oak Orchard Road. By that survey it was laid due south, from the Five Corners, in Gaines, to the forks 'of the road south of Barre Center; straightening, so far, the Indian trail. It was not, however, opened as laid precisely, Batavia street bearing north 5 1/2 degrees east, through the village.
The first settlements in the town of Barre were made along the Oak Orchard Road, from its being the first public highway in town, and affording the only feasible place where teams could pass between Batavia and the Lake - which were then the points between which communication was mainly to be had. And the location of the village where it is, must be mainly attributed to this road; the natural surface of the land, especially where the main business is now transacted, seeming, from its swampy character, to forbid its selaction as a place for building.
After the organization of Orleans county, the first County Courts were held at Gaines, in June, 1825. In the same year the site for the county buildings was located at Albion, where they now stand, on a lot conveyed for that purpose by Nehemiah Ingersoll.
The first County Clerk's Office was for some years kept in a room in the northeast corner of the Court House, and until the present Clerk's Office was erected, in 1836. The present Jail edifice was erected in 1838.
The county of Orleans generally was settled by emigrants from New England and the eastern part of the State of New York. The principal business men of Albion are of this stock, and exhibit a good degree of the enterprise and industry which characterises their eastern brethren. Like the early settlers of most western towns, they came here poor, and have grown with the country, and such property as they possess has been made here.
Some of the earlier merchants in Albion, after the Canal was opened, drove a profitable trade in white wood lumber, which was a common timber in this region. The boards were carried to Albany, and there found a ready market and good prices. The lumber trade from Albion is now ended, all timber trees in this neighborhood having been cut down.
As very little land is found, not capable of tillage and highly productive, in the vicinity of Albion, the desire for present profit has induced the farmers very generally to clear off their woodlands until wood is becoming scarce and high priced. Within a few years, the price of firewood has doubled, although large quantities of coal are now used. Firewood is offered in the Albion market, cut 3 feet or 3 1/2 feet long. Wood 4 feet long is never sold here. The average price of hard wood, per cord of 3 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long, is $2.00.
Large quantities of wheat are brought to Albion, on wagons, by the farmers of the County, and purchased here for shipment to eastern mills. Within a few years a great trade has grown up in apples, green and dried. Many thousands of barrels are shipped east and west yearly. Perhaps no part of our country is better adapted than this County to the growth of this fruit, and great pains have been taken by the farmers in grafting their trees, and growing the choicest varieties for sale. The peach, cherry, plum and grape, flourish here well, and scarce a garden is to be found in the village that has not a tolerable supply of many or all of these. Large numbers of fat cattle, sheep and other animals, raised in abundance by the wealthy farmers of this County, are sent on the foot by Railroad to eastern merchants from the Albion station.
This village lies upon a stratum of lime rock, which, in some places, comes near the surface, and affords quarries of excellent building stone. The County Jail, large School House, Ward's Mill, and several other buildings, besides cellar walls and the walls of the Canal, are made of these stone. They are easily dug and cut, and stand frost and water well, and the supply is inexhaustible.
The pine lumber used for building was formerly brought from Allegany county. It now comes from Canada, mainly, to the mouth of the Oak Orchard Creek, and from thence on wagons to Albion, or by the Canal from Buffalo or Rochester, Brick of a fair quality are made about one and a half miles north of the village. Lime, in abundance, is made from stone found in different parts of the town of Barre,
A branch of Sandy Creek runs through the eastern part of the village, which, before the country was cleared of trees, was a considerable mill stream. From draining the swamps in which it rises, removing the obstructions which lay in the stream, and clearing the land of trees along its banks, the volume of water is so reduced that for months in summer, south of the Canal, there is scarce a stream. Brown's Saw Mill, on this stream, does a good business for a short time in winter and spring, during high water. Ward's Flouring Mill uses the water of this stream, and from a waste wier in the Canal, and when these fail it relies on a steam engine. Near the northeastern boundary of the village, just off the corporation, Braley's Saw Mill and Woolen Factory stand on this stream. Here wool carding and cloth dressing is done for customers, besides considerable manufacturing of woolen cloth.
The Albion Plank Road Company constructed a Plank Road on the Oak Orchard Road, from Albion to the Ridge Road, at the village of Gaines, three miles; and the same year the Barre Plank Road Company made a Plank Road south of Albion, about five miles.
In wet weather, from the clayey nature of the soil and the level surface of the land, the highways leading into Albion are not generally in good condition for travel, and are sometimes very bad. In the village, from the Canal south, to Canal street, large quantities of earth and stone have been brought to build up Batavia street; and the present McAdamized surface of that street, in this locality, in some places, is five or six feet above the natural surface of the ground.
Since 1812, considerable attention has been given to building sidewalks of plank along most of the principal streets; adding much to the comfort of foot people on those streets, in wet weather. In the year 1852 the corporation expended $1,000 in grading Batavia and Clinton streets.
About 1840, large numbers of yellow locust trees were set in Albion, which for three or four years grew finely. They were then attacked by the Borer, for two or three years, and almost entirely cut to pieces. Many broke down and became disfigured. The Borer then ceased its depredations as suddenly as they came, and what locust trees remained are beginning to thrive; but other trees are now substituted for ornament or shade, among which the acer rubrum, or swamp or soft maple, is most common.
SOURCE: Sketches of village of Albion : containing incidents of its history and progress, from its first settlement, and a statistical account of its trade, schools, societies, manufactures, &c. (1853); Arad Thomas; Albion, N.Y.