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Alma Related Articles

Alma History Aided by Oil, Lumber

From the Times Herald Weekender, March 8, 1975.
Transcribed by Crist Middaugh.



 

By George C. Crawford

Alma was formed from Willing, Nov 23, 1854. An 1860 record states that lumbering was the chief pursuit but an 1895 source reads: “Here the Allegany oil field was first shown to exist, and today, after 18 years, the oil is found in paying quantities and furnishes the chief revenue of the town” The 1860 history noted Alma village contained a sawmill and 15 houses.

The first settlement was made by Myron Hough (also spelled Warren Huff) in 1833. Other early settlers were John Longcore, Azor Hurlbutt, William Smith, Samuel B. Stebbins, Rev. Reuben Kent and daughter, Clarinda, who taught the first school in 1839, Myron Allen, Samuel Wyvell, Jared Emerson, J.W. Post, William Andrus, R.R. Russell, Samuel Peet, Jacob Crandall, Paris Clair, Joseph Smith and others named Cole, Chamberlain, Oviatt, Bartlett, Elliott, Garrison, Nobles, Wilcox and Foland. Foland was elected supervisor at the first town meeting, March 6, 1845.

The first tavern was opened in 1837, the first sawmill in 1843, the first store in 1844, and the first religious services were performed by Rev. Kent in 1838. The first religious association (Methodist) was formed in 1850.

Allentown became very prosperous after the discovery of oil and stores, hotels, and shops were rapidly built of wood. The streets were crowded with men and horses at all hours of the day and night. Terrence Higgins opened a general store here about 1880, forming a partnership with his brother in 1888.

By 1896 the Allentown High School was “in a very healthy condition.” Prof. O.M. Burdick introduced a course of study “by which the school is graded and capable of doing better work. Too much praise cannot be given the people of Allentown who have aided and encouraged this work. The school as 130 scholars on its roll with an average attendance of nearly 100.” The school building was constructed in 1883 for $2,000.

First charter for a chapter of the Eastern Star came in 1887 and the charter for the Marshall Phillips Post, GAR, No. 640, was granted in 1889.

The 1895 town officers were T.F. Higgins, supervisor; G.S. Wilcox, clerk; James McCarriston, collector; W.A. Vance, overseer of poor; D.S. Johnson, E.C. Baker, F.E. Elliott, justices of the peace; H.J. Coyle, W.F. Lane, commissioners of exist; E.H. Gigee, H.H. Hanhet, H.L. Elliott, assessors.

Hugh J. Coyle was born in Scio in 1857 and came to Allentown in 1881, built a store and established himself in the mercantile business. After seven years he sold his store and formed an oil business partnership with Riley Allen. In 1885 he married Mary E. Culbert.

Riley Allen, the veteran oil producer, was born in Wirt in 1848. He was an industrious individual as shown by his interests in addition to oil. He at one time owned and operated seven farms. He laid out and plotted the village of Allentown, which bears his name, in 1881. His marriage to Melvina Prince resulted in a family of five daughters and three sons. He was a staunch supporter of the school and was a trustee for many years.

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