May 24, 1881

Wellsville Daily Reporter (Front Page)


Alma’s First Railroad


The press dispatches of this morning announce the death in Newburg on Monday, of Halsey R. Stevens, one of their prominent citizens, aged 82 years. He was a brother of Capt. Moses Stevens, deceased, formerly a well known resident of this village. He was at one time largely interested in the lumber business in this region, and the firm of Halsey R. Stevens & Co. was the owners of a “narrow gauge” railroad up Brimmer Brook long years before oil or the Wellsville, Bolivar and Eldred railroad was thought of.


Owning an immense tract of timber land in the town of Alma and an extensive sawmill on the Honeoye near the present residence of Mr. Itaai Elliott, they conceived the idea of building a tramway from that point to this station to transport their manufactured product. This was nearly thirty years ago. Mr. Moses Stevens….(unreadable) at the time, and it proved much more expensive than was anticipated, and after operation for three or four years, it fell into disuse, but even now traces of its heavy log foundation may be seen along the Brimmer Brook Valley. Many of our citizens will remember well the man whose death at so advanced an age we announce.


Stevens, Moses

Moses Stevens was very influential toward future progress of both the Towns of Alma & Wellsville.  He, with his brother, Halsey, were responsible for the path of today's present County Route 18 which connects Wellsville and Alma Village.

They also were a very strong influence on the success of Alma's economy during the period from 1850's until the Oil Boom of the 1880's by building a large mill in the Alma area which handled much timber processing.

The following Biography is from "History of Allegany County,NY, 1879" F.W.Beers & Co, NY; Picture above from same source.
Mr. Stevens (deceased) was born in Eufield, Grafton county, N.H., March 1st 1819.  He came to Dansville in 1840 or 1841, and immediately began studying law with B. F. Harwood.  He was admitted to the bar May 14th, 1847.  He never left his profession, but soon commenced buying wild lands.  In 1850 he, with his brother Halsey R. Stevens, bought nearly four thousand acres on the Pennsylvania line.  They built a large mill in what is now Alma, costing $100,000.  Mr. Stevens, after surveying for a plank road, built a tramway directly through the forest twelve miles, employing a great many men.  Quite a number of residents of Wellsville and Alma came from Canada and different parts of this State to work for him.  At first this road, leading through Pikeville, did more than any other thing to open the way for those away from railroads to get out to market, and was a great stimulus to business in Wellsville, to which place Mr. Stevens removed from Dansville in 1852.

Mr. Stevens was mustered in July 1863, as a captain in the 13th heavy artillery, having raised a company by enlistment of almost one hundred and seventy men.  After being in Fort Hamilton two months he went to the defenses of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va., and was at different points within ten miles of the navy yard until the close of the war.  From the nature of the service he rarely had a superior officer in his camp.  Soon his legal experience gave him detached work, such as court martials, etc.  A paper which he prepared on one of these occasions coming to the eye of the general, he sent for him, saying he wanted the writer of it for a judge.  He then made a judicial district of eastern Virginia, with Mr. Stevens at the head, his duties embracing those of a justice of the peace, a surrogate and a supreme court judge.  In the summer of 1865 this arrangement was abolished and Mr. Stevens was made provost judge, until he went to Washington, the last of August, followed by two petitions, one from the black and one from the white citizens of Norfolk, to have him returned to them, "as under him they always had justice."  His health, however, was such that he was anxious to be at home.  He was mustered out of service September 3rd, 1865, and came directly to Elmira for advice.  He continued under medical treatment, which he had been obliged to have since suffering from a fever in the fall of 1864.  He never was able to do any business after coming to Wellsville.  As the last resort he was taken back to the water cure in Elmira in May, 1867.  He was never able to be brought away, and died there August 28th, 1867.

((Researched & Transcribed by Mary Rhodes & Ron Taylor)