BELFAST (1824): Possibly Belfast holds the distinction of being called the most names. Various names used in the early years included Orrinsburg, Buttsville, Huddle, Podunk, Poland and Portland. Finally, the Justice of the Peace, a man named John McKean, a native of Belfast, Maine suggested Belfast and it stuck. Rockville Lake is in the town of Belfast and named for the rock quarry in the area. Boulders for the locks on the old Genesee Valley Canal came from this quarry. Formed from Caneadea March 24, 1824, another portion was annexed from Caneadea in 1831
Belfast is one of the twelve towns of Allegany County which originally formed a portion of the Holland Purchase. The land was mostly wooded and the early settlers were afforded to make payments on their land-contracts while enlarging their tillable land. The first saw-mill was erected on the river near the village in 1809 by David Sanford. There was a time in the town when the people depended largely on the lumber trade for a subsistence. As the timbers receded and pastures increased the products of butter & cheese became a leading industry evidenced by the White Creek Cheese Factory erected by Justus H. Neely in 1872 and The Belfast Cheese Factory 1869. Several other smaller also specialized in this manufacture. About a mile above the mouth of White creek is a quarry that large quantities were taken annually, a grindstone quarry was worked in the vicinity of Rockville where town residents would make effective grindstones for home use. According to the history of the Holland Purchase the first contracts for land in Belfast were issued in 1804 to Benjamin Chamberlain, Calvin T. Chamberlain, Jedediah Nobles, Elisha Chamberlain, William Pinkerton, Marvin Harding, Isaac Sanford and Abraham D. Hendern.
French's Gazetteer of the State of New York states that "the first settlement was made on Genesee river in 1803 by Benjamin, Elisha, Calvin and David Chamberlain, brothers, from Pennsylvania." Some of these settlers remained and some did not. Elisha Chamberlain's son, Henry, married Hannah Reynolds, daughter of another early settler. Henry,Jr., born in 1818 lived on the land his grandfather cleared. In 1805, from Newtown (now Elmira), came Nobles William Littleton. John Crawford from Skinner's Eddy, on the Susquehanna, PA, came to settle on the creek which still retains his name. The Mapeses and Jenkinses were early settlers. In February 1812, Rockwell Hopper came from Chemung county and the next year Simon C. Moore, native of Oxford, Worcester county, Mass., walked to Belfast arriving on April 13, 1813. Harry Byrnes, native of Oneida county arrived in 1813 with his father from Scio. The senior Byrnes had the first painted frame house in town in 1929.
Joseph T. Ford and wife came from Connecticut and his brother Lewis H. Ford came the next year. In 1820 came Mrs. Milton Millett, a native of Canada, and in 1824 Mrs. Ezra Tibbets, Charles Drew and Matthew Lounsbury in different localities. In 1837 Drew erected a saw-mill on the north branch of White Creek which provided good water power at the time. Other names of early settlers are as follows: Elliott Emery; Starkey Gleason and his father, Jonathan Gleason; Samuel C. Wilson (1826); Stephen Howell & son, George W. Howell (1828); Mrs. Lucinda Crawford (1830); John A. Sellon (1837); Stephen Wilson (1839); William Pasco (1839); Silas Angel (1841); Justus H. Neely (1844); Homer Murdaugh (1849); William D. Burlingame (1850).
FIRST BIRTH - 1806, August - Deborah Reynolds
FIRST MARRIAGE - 1807 - John Sanford & Mary Collar
FIRST SCHOOL - 1807 - Elijah Reynolds, Teacher
FIRST STORE - 1824 - Samuel King & Martin Butts
FIRST TAVERN - 1821 - Joseph S. Raymond
FIRST RELIGIOUS SERVICES - 1806 - Rev. Ephraim Sanford, Baptist
The Town of Belfast was formed from a portion of the old Town of Caneadea, March 24th, 1824 as Orrinsburgh. On the 25th of April, 1825 the present name was adopted. A portion of Caneadea was annexed in 1831. Pleasantly situated on the west bank of the Genesee River is the Village of Belfast. The first house on the hill where the village is now situated was a log house erected by Alexander V.P. Chamberlain in 1816. The Genesee Valley Canal was completed to Belfast in 1853 and became a point of considerable commercial importance to the town. In 1855 the population was 801. By 1879 the population was about 500.
The map below is from the 2004 edition roadmaps published by the Allegany County Department of Public Works.
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