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County History

Peaks of Allegany County-Introduction

Transcribed from the Alfred Sun, January  18, 1940.
Transcribed by Karen Meisenheimer.


 

PEAKS OF ALLEGANY
By Hubert D. Bliss

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Taking a peek at Allegany County has brought out some mighty interesting things that justify coining of the phrase “Peaks of Allegany”. By that we mean the things where old Allegany County sits at the top of the Empire State. There’s nothing new under the sun; just some things that come to light in respect to their telling. In a series of 10 articles, the Sun will review the particular peaks that appear most significant. Others will follow this initial account.

Do you know of a peak? If so, we would be glad to hear about it. If it works into a story that fits into the series picture, we will so include it. Because back of it is the idea to give the picture of an Allegany County that has a lot of things to tell about among Empire State peaks.



Peaks in Allegany County!

Nature has bestowed its bounty lavishly on Allegany County. And Allegany folks have been grateful. At a time when the world seems bent on its own destruction, it seems fitting to make a round-up of the simpler things that right here at home account for Allegany County as a favored spot.

Most of them are as old as the hills. Hence it seems appropriate to adopt the termology of the highlands to identify this series of articles that bespeak this Allegany County leadership.

Peaks of Allegany County is the result.

Peaks to you! Tops to you! Either way, one finds certain salient geographical, physical, educational and economic conditions that set Allegany County on top of the world. Or at least, of the Empire State.

Have you ever tried to enumerate the peak points of Allegany County?

Their genesis lies in the fact that it is the peak section of the Empire State, so far as being inhabited by a people maintaining a soundly-defined civilization in concerned. In other words, Allegany County exists as a functioning economic and political unit at the highest populated points, generally, in the state. One finds within the self-contained character of the people the capacity to maintain year-around pursuits at higher levels than is true elsewhere in the state.

The peak of population of the Empire State thus becomes an identifying phrase that delineates an Allegany County pattern of real distinction. By recourse to metaphor in a lighter vein, it might be said that Allegany County folks are tops among Empire Staters.

While the mountain tops of the Adirondacks and the Catskils rise to loftier heights than the Allegany hills, many villages and hamlets in Allegany County have approximately the same elevation as such mountain centers as Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. But in the mountains, population ends at the towns, generally. In Allegany County farms dot the hillsides and hilltops themselves at even greater elevations. They represent established home life on a normal work-a-day scale for hundreds of people, just as they have been doing for close to 150 years. Habitation at similar elevations elsewhere in the state for the most part is merely of the summer resort nature.

Back of this lies a geographical condition that stamps Allegany County in a unique way. Its land is arabile at higher elevations than other parts of the state; less fertile, ‘tis true, than some spots, but boasting a century and a half of achievement worthy of pioneer stock.

Through the years this phase of Allegany County has gained little recognition. Her people were too busy, perhaps, to claim their place among Empire State peaks. Then, too, the actual fact of the county’s elevation ahs been little sensed in a comparative way until recent years. The basic topography is elevated; with the surmounting peaks themselves known only as hills – the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. In most places they would be called mountains. So the idea that the hill country rivals, even excels, the Adirondacks and Catskills in such things as population heights lacked glamour of mountain rating to emphasize it.

Alfred, at 1,800 feet, is Allegany County’s highest incorporated village. Yet from its corporation line, up the Jericho Road where an elevation of more than 2,300 feet is reached, to the farm on which the flowing well is located at the upper end of Elm Valley a dozen or more farm houses are sighted. The farms have been worked since pioneer days.

But Andover, Bolivar, Friendship, Whitesville and quite a number of Allegany County towns range from 1,500-foot elevations upward. And each in turn is surrounded by hillsides and hilltops that are populated. Farming is the prevailing occupation, but gas and oil operations contribute to the thriving life in various parts.

From such as this ten does the idea of “Peaks of Allegany County” arise. Other things that make the term significant have their place in the county’s lore. All bulk together to spell an Allegany County that in its simpler life can boast contentment and achievement for a people who answer the formidable highland challenge by making it unique as an Empire State homeland.

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