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Passing Through Hallsport, N.Y.

From The Spectator, February 18, 1990.
Transcribed by Karen Meisenheimer.


Passing through….Hallsport
By OAK DUKE

Located in the Town of Willing, and southeast of Wellsville in Allegany County is the quiet hamlet that still contains a mystery.


Now, about 50 people live in Hallsport, at the headwaters of the Chenunda Creek, which spills into the Genesee River.

 Hallsport General Store
General Store, Hallsport. Photo from The Spectator by Oak Duke.

At the turn of the century, Hallsport was the second largest hamlet in Willing with a post office, general store, cheese factory, blacksmith shop, two wagon shops, a sawmill, a shingle mill, a feed mill, a school, and a population of 150.

It was named after Calvin Hall, one of its founders.

According to Margaret Billings, town clerk and tax collector for the Town of Willing, and proprietor of the Hallsport General Store, “The current population is about 50, and that’s being very generous.”

The Hallsport Christian Church on the Stout Road, was founded in 1901. “The store is turn-of-the-century too,” said Billings. It burned before the turn-of-the century and a new one was built, she said.

Fires are twisted into the history of Hallsport, and have created the present, still unsolved mystery.

Stout Brothers Sales and Service, and implement store, specializing in chain saws, closed in 1980, and then burned about five years ago.

During the space of a few weeks, during that summer, four barns, almost within sight of each other burned to the ground. And the suspected arsonist has never been apprehended.

A dairy barn owned by Lyle Stout; two barns owned by Harold Stout, a dairy barn and a little hay storage barn on the opposite side of the road; and a barn owned by Eldyn Smith. Roger Green, a brother-in-law to Smith, who lives up the Stout Road at the intersection of Route 22 in Independence, also last a barn during the spree.

Billings said, “It’s an unsolved mystery, but speculation has it that a person who did it died of an illness.”

Hallsport does not have a rapid turnover of people as many urban and suburban areas do. It has a high density of retired people, according to Billings.

She said, “Some of them, like Premo Pace and Faye Coats have shops with lathes. Faye turns out grandfather clocks; and Premo has small lathe. They spend time enjoying their shops.”

“There are still a few dairys, too,” she said.

“But now we are seeing a few younger people building. The younger generation is absorbing the grandparents’ land,” she said.

“Not may outsiders are coming in. The town is staying very much the same as ever family-wise. And that’s a nice feature. It’s an old family-type town,” Billings said, contrasting it with the average life-style of urban and suburban dwellers.

She added that in the outlying areas, land is being bought by people interested in retiring from the city.

She noted the large percentage of people in the 80- to 90- year age bracket. “We have longevity here; not too fast-paced a life. We live a quiet life.”

Her store is the entertainment center in Hallsport. “We have the old pot-bellied stove,” she said, “and the neighbors come in and chat here. They don’t come in just to buy a loaf of bread. Others come in and then several more -- and we talk.”

She noted that at one time, on the left hand side of the store, the phone was connected to the Wellsville system. And on the right side of the store was a Whitesville phone. To get information from Wellsville to Whiteville, a person, “had to run back and forth to get messages across”.

The store is also a museum of Hallsport and it has changed little as the decades have flipped by.

She said, “We left it as it was – have all the old memorable things displayed on the shelves. Neighbors have brought in 50 percent or better of the historical items. This store is part of the neighborhood.

“People come in with different things and say, “Hey, put this up on the shelves.

“And we enjoy it –very much so.”

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