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County History

Some Firsts in Allegany County History

Transcribed by Crist Middaugh

Olean Times Herald, Tuesday, January 13, 1976

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Some Firsts In Allegany County History

By George C. Crawford

(Mr. Crawford of Delevan, retired superintendent of Pioneer Central School, occasionally writes historical features for the Times Herald).

Allegany County was formed by an act of the state Legislature, April 1, 1806, with Angelica being named the county seat. On March 11, 1808, an act divided the county into five towns: Angelica, Alfred, Caneadea, Nunda and Ossian. The population of these towns numbered 1,942 according to an 1810 census.

From the proceedings of the board of supervisors in 1812, it seems that the Town of Olean was required to be represented. The following are their names and the towns they represented: John T. Hyde, Angelica; Thaddeus Bennett, Caneadea; John Griffith, Nunda; Clark Crandall, Alfred; Richard W. Porter, Ossian; Cornelius Brooks, Olean.

An 1896 History of Allegany County provides a description concerning the health of the people. The author was a surveyor named Elisha Johnson who was in the county in 1807. Evidently he liked long sentences. He wrote:

“As the altitude, purity of the air, sweet softness of the water, are the governing influences as it relates to health, include me to conclude that this tract is healthy except the Valley along the Genesee River which is known and considered as producing many diseases, which must be attributed to the water of the river, and the depth of the Valley, being such, that the rays of the sun act every powerful on the flats and water, which necessarily produce copious exhalations, and the air becoming so rarified, the dew coming on at an hours sun, so that herbage on the flats is very wet with dew at sunset, while the hills it remains dry, fogs are common in the warm season, Night and Morning.

“Some peculiar property exists in the Valley that causes many of the natives and white inhabitants to have swelled throats. I think, however, when the land is more cleared, which will cause a more free circulation of air, some of the stagnant waters drained, and having the flats present fields of grass in place of the present luxuriant growth of natural vegetation, these complaints will not be so common.”

The first road was constructed in the county as early as 1801 or 1802. It followed the stream up from Hornellsville, entering the county at Almond, thence following the Whitney Valley Creek to Alfred, thence on to Andover, where, striking the source of Dike’s Creek, it passed down that stream to the Genesee River at Wellsville, thence by way of Marsh, Honeoye and Oswayo Creeks to the Allegheny River and on to Olean, then called Hamilton.” Nathaniel Dike’s old line of blazed trees and cutout sled road was largely followed.

Two years later a road was opened form the mouth of Dike’s Creek (Wellsville) through Scio and Belmont and very soon after, as far down as Caneadea.

The first painted dwelling in New York west of Canandaigua was supposedly that of Capt. Church’s at Belvidere. In 1804 he “erected for a temporary residence, a framed structure of liberal dimensions which from its being painted white, came to be known all over Western New York as “The White House’.”

Dr. Ebenezer Hyde was the first practicing physician. Arriving in 1805, he at once built “a very superior log structure of quite ample dimensions, the logs all nicely hewn and carefully dovetailed at the corners.” An upper room in this house was later finished off as a hall for the use of the Masonic order and the first meetings in the county were held there.

In his practice, Dr. Hyde would travel 40 or 50 miles over the worst of roads or follow paths and blazed trees. Indians were used as guides in some instances and some were his patients.

“The first Paris Green every seen in the county, and preceded by an ordinary lifetime the event of the potato bug,” occurred when a man named Paris Green settled in Alfred in 186.

The Genesee River was declared a public highway in 1818. The act of the Legislature read; “That so much of the Genesee River, from the confluence of the Canasearage Creek, up to the bridge near the house of Philip Church, Esquire, in the Town of Angelica, except from the foot of the falls to the head o the rapids, in the Town of Nunda, and so much of said river as is included from the Pennsylvania line down to Philipsburgh Mills, in the said Town of Angelica, be, and is hereby declared a public highway; provided that nothing in this act shall be construed to extend to or affect any mill, or dam for the use thereof, that may have been erected, or the building thereof commenced on either of the said streams of water before the passing of this act.

“And be it further enacted, that if any person or persons shall hereafter cut or fell any tree or trees into such stream, or roll any log or logs therein, except for the purpose of rafting the same, or place any other obstruction therein and shall not remove the same within 48 hours thereafter, every such person shall forfeit and pay the sum of five dollars for every such offense. Provided, nevertheless, that if any person erecting any mill or other works shall cut or dig a sufficient canal, or make a sufficient lock or locks, so that the navigation of the stream be not injured by means of such dam or dams, mills or works, such persons shall not be liable to any penalties of this act.”

The latter part of the decade of 1810 showed a great improvement over the preceding years. Important roads were opened and many settlers are. Monied interests were attracted by the pine forests. Older clearings provided farm lands and new areas were being cleared continually. The 1820 census revealed 9,330 persons in the by then nine towns. The four new ones were Friendship, Rushford, Centerville and Pike.

(Next week: 1830-1860)

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