Transcribed by Crist Middaugh
Thursday May 23, 1974
Alma history told in report to legislators
The Alma Historian’s report given recently to the Allegany County Board of Legislators by Norman Ives, depicted on its cover the Alma Book of Time, with its wooden oil derricks of the 1870’s and the present steel relay town of the 1970’s.
He reported the wooden derricks were seldom torn down and rebuilt. Due to the abundance of lumber and low price, it was cheaper to build new ones.
Mr. Ives takes from the Alma Story, 1795-1850 by Hazel Shear: “A Moravian Missionary, David Zeisburger was the first white man to walk through Alma. He was born in 1721 died in 1808, and was buried in Goshen, Ohio near a restored Indian town which he founded. (The first white settlement in Ohio).
Around 1740 he came to Pennsylvania and became very friendly with the Indians, learning their language. No doubt he wandered into Alma from Coudersport where a marker is erected at the site he first camped. As far as can be learned no other white man ever stepped on Alma soil, prior to settling.
The first town meeting was held in Alma in 1855, in the first tavern built and owned by Warren Hough, first settler who came from Quebec, Canada in 1833. A new town hall build in Alma in 1973 is located in Allentown, the town of Alma business center.
How did Alma get its name? Some old people say that a Charles Wyvell did name the town. Mr. Ives reports that he has searched in many libraries and books and asked many people. Some say that the town was named after a Dr. Almy who was a lumber “king” in the area during the lumbering boom. He is still searching.
There is a legend about an ancient lead mine in the Alma area hills. Several times each year, several braves and a few husky squaws would leave their lands and follow the waterways eastward, stopping overnight at a tavern at Bloody Corners ear Honeoye (South Bolivar was Honeoye Corners) and the next day, very early, resume the trip. Chief White Fox, chief of the Reservation in Salamanca once told an Alma man now well past eighty, when the Indians were still coming to Alma, that he had learned of the mines through early descendants of Cornplanter.
Area white men tried to follow the Indians into the Four Mile Woods to learn their destinations, but none every succeeded. A day or two later, the Indians would reappear, each weighted down with slabs of lead on their backs, headed home.
At one time, when the postage stamp sold for 2 cents each, there were six Post Offices in the township of Alma and one at Allentown.
The first store in Alma was owned by Samuel Peet. It was in operation in the 1830’s. Today the Alma store is owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Horton. There are two stores serving Allentown.
In 1873, eggs sold for 10 and 16 cents a dozen and butter was high at 25 cents per pound. Today eggs sell for about 89 cents a dozen and butter is selling at 99 cents per pound.
Back in the 1870’s chestnuts sold for $5 a bushel. Nutting expeditions were a treat for young and old. Many old homes were built of chest number lumber. (Chestnut is now worth its weight in gold almost).
A quarter of a century following, the chestnut trees fell prey to a blight which riddled them, across the entire Appalachian range…their giant skeletons stood lifeless on the hillsides. They were later cut down for fence posts. It was learned that the blight was brought in from China.
Hemlock gum was once a big business in Alma. The late Milton Loring told of the old timers making hemlock gum. From and old newspaper clipping, the business also come to light. Big business, over 100 years ago, “the gum makes walked many miles seeking out damaged maple or hemlock trees. Where the bark had been damaged, the raw “gum” would ooze. This could be gathered and taken to whoever had the equipment to process it. The gum was also used to make salves and medicines.”
The “tin peddlers” also had a big business in Alma areas. They walked, laden down with bright tin pots and pans. When the early settlers were out of money, the peddler would take other goods in trade. As time went on, they used horse and buggy to deliver their tinware. Countless stories are told as to how some of the tin peddlers disappeared. One story heard in the last few years was that one peddler was robbed and killed, and burned in the woods near where Mr. Ives lives.
A railroad once ran through the Four Mile Woods. Known as The Tremroad, it went up over Nigger Hill (at the dip on Alma Hill about where Mr. and Mrs. Donald Hall live). It was owned by Langdon Co. as a way to get lumber to the mills. Wood was very plentiful and the rails, about three feet apart, as well as the flat cars, were made of wood. Oxen were used to pull the flat cars at first, followed by engines. As the lumber boom faded, so did the railroad.
A Mr. Rogers in the Town of Willingh, worked on the railroad and kept a record of his daily work from Feb. 8- Oct. 30, 1856. Some items read “June 5 - 6, worked on Tramroad on Fords Brook”; JUNE 14-17, “Was brakeman on Tramroad for Landgon Co.”’ July 10-15, “Worked for Lamb at $20 month on Fords Brook Tramroad.”
In addition to Nigger Hill, other names still exist in Alma Township. Kimble Hill, named from a Mr. Kimble; Hoppy Place, named from a man named Hopkins; and Cole Hollow, named for a Cole Family. Foundations of homes are still to be found in these long forgotten places. There are many other places back in the woods where homes also once stood, according to Mr. Ives.
Deaths in Alma, 100 years ago included Polly Adams age 80; Seth G. Halbert, age 22; and Steven Chaple, all buried in Sunnyside Cemetery, Alma. Deaths in 1973 include Ethel F. Jones Harder, age 90; Lela Christine Ellsworth Ives, age 49; and Charles E. Dickerson, age 82. Mrs. Ives was wife of the Alma historian.
In addition to the early history of Alma, present history is included in the report. Alma has two fire companies. Alma, with 49 members and seven honorary members, and Allentown. Officers of both were included, together with a report on Alma’s own “Weather Girl.”
The Allegany County Bird Club held its field trip last June in the Four Mile Woods area, led by Mr. Ives. On this trip, 22 species were sighted including with soaring Turkey Vultures. Several bird nests were sighted which included strips of plastic.
Thanking all those who had assisted him, Mr. Ives closed his report with the thought of how rewarding it would be, if the whole Four Mile Woods area could be preserved for sightseeing, nature hikes and study, and some fishing.