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Alma Hill – From Peaks of Allegany by Hubert Bliss

The following story was researched and transcribed by Mary Rhodes

From the Allegany County Democrat, Owned & Edited by Hubert Bliss

 witness post elevation marker

The above sign is about the only way to identify location of the marker.

elevation marker

        Photos by Ron Taylor (2012)

Alma Hill – From "Peaks of Allegany"

by Hubert Bliss

Alma Hill in the town of Alma is the highest point in Allegany County.  It rises 2548 feet above sea level.

That elevation, in turn, brings to Allegany County the rating of the highest peak in the Southern Tier.  But Alma Hill “out peaks” several hills in Alma and Bolivar by only a little.  This cluster of hills is surpassed in Empire State altitudes only by the mountain tops of the Adirondacks and the Catskills.

This fact was established through correspondence with the United States Geological Survey, in research conducted for these articles.

At its 2548 foot elevation, Alma Hill carries a bench mark of the Geological Survey.  White Hill, almost due west of Alma Hill on the western border of Alma Township, is rated on the survey map with an even 2500 foot elevation.

White Hill has at times been regarded as the highest point in Allegany County.  In “The History of The Genesee Country”, a four-volume publication issued in 1925, and its 2500 foot altitude is the highest mentioned as within the Genesee Country.  The Geological Survey maps, however, officially put Alma Hill at the top by 48 feet, though I have been unable to find that any public notice of this fact ever was made previous to this article.

To compare Alma Hill with the highest points in Steuben and Cattaraugus Counties, the elevation maximums of the two counties were asked of the Geological Survey.  The information supplied by the survey director lists Alma Hill as 128 feet higher than anything Cattaraugus offers and 146 above Steuben’s best.

The Cattaraugus high spot is in the Salamanca quadrangle.  This is an unnamed top, identified by the survey director as “just east of the headwaters of Wing’s Hollow, 3 ½ miles northeast of Russell and 5 miles south of Humphrey.”  The altitude is 2420 feet.

The Steuben County top elevation is given as in the Greenwood-Rexville sector. The altitude is 2402.76 feet.  This is not quite two feet higher than a point known by the Geological Survey as the Call Hill Triangulation Station in Hartsville Township.  Both are southern Steuben points, near the Allegany border.

Since from the three counties, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Steuben, the altitude both east and west drops off, there could be no other parts of the Southern Tier to challenge any Allegany title to being tops.  Alma Hill at 2548 feet, White Hill at 2500 feet and their surrounding ramparts, with numerous peaks exceeding 2400 feet, all emphasize how southwestern Allegany’s terrain commands the Southern Tier.

Except for the Alma-Bolivar sector, the only part of the county that could be located on the Geological map as having 2500 foot altitudes is Whitesville, with its intervening territory toward Andover.  South Hill, just outside of Whitesville village, rises to that height; the same as White Hill, but not equal to Alma Hill.  In the Town of Independence, Whitesville lies close to the Pennsylvania border.

Between there and Andover, it is one vast domain of peaks and valleys.  It is on top of the plateaus of this Independence-Andover area that Allegany County derives some of the most substantial basis for its claims as the highest arable region in the Empire State. Some of the best potato land in the country lies thereabout.  Elevations run up to 2400 feet frequently, and some points rate higher.  Sullivan’s Peak or Round Top in Andover Township is an outstanding survey-rated peak.

As for Alma Hill, it is rather central in the town of Alma.  Peer among hills that would rate as mountains anywhere else, it is cleared and cultivated to its very top from the Wellsville side and to the north. This unquestionably means that it is the highest tilled section of New York State, but facts on its arable features belong in a subsequent article.  The hill on its western border is ringed with woods, and from there west and south it is heavily wooded.

What saves the south and western slopes from classification as wild land is the existence of oil.  There are wells at the very top, but a dry streak is encountered toward the eastern rim. Then again down slope toward Wellsville, more oil is found.

A good road, some of it hardtop make Alma Hill accessible over its very top.

What then remains for the rest of Allegany County for “peak” laurels? In a physical sense, Allegany County can be described as a rim or series of rims, around its one major ribbon of declivity – The Genesee River.

That rim accounts for the divides that also send some of southwestern Allegany’s water into the Allegheny River and eastern Allegany’s into the Susquehanna River.   But primarily Allegany County is rimmed as a Genesee River watershed.

Along the eastern part of the county, marking the Susquehanna divide, ridge altitudes range from 2000 feet up.  Independence and Andover, already ranked in the higher brackets, lie within that group of towns.  But Alfred has one 2350 foot point, at least.   Also towns within the Genesee watershed, comprising its eastern rim, such as Ward and Willing and probably Wellsville and Scio, have elevations of 2300 or more.

Likewise the western slope of the Genesee watershed included some rugged country. Centerville and Rushford townships account for some 2100 foot peaks in the northern section, with Cuba and Clarksville rating some appreciably higher along the divide between the Genesee and Allegheny Rivers further south.  Genesee, the southwest border town, has altitudes close to 2400 at its own Rock City.

In fact Caneadea and Hume are the only two townships in the county were the Geological Survey map does not list a 2000 foot elevation.  Caneadea has one point about 1950 high and Fillmore one around 1900.

Nor should the points of lesser elevation be neglected, because even these emphasize the basic altitude on which the hills of Old Allegany are surmounted.  Rossburg, near where the Genesee River flows on into Wyoming County, is about the lowest point in the county and there the altitude is 1150 feet, Fillmore at 1170, Houghton at 1190 and Belfast at around 1240 are decidedly up in the air - with ridge views all around.

Over such terrain, then, does Old Allegany claim dominion?

So we can hail Old Allegany as “The Peak” of the Southern Tier – with Alma Hill at 2548 feet officially rated tops by the United States Geological Survey.

 

 

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