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From Whence We Came

by William Greene

(Mr. Greene is a former Allegany County Historian; Article reprinted from "SESQUICENTENNIAL - A Collected History of a Town & Its People"  Town of Amity 1830 - 1980)

In the beginning (1806), Allegany County came into being with 49 towns.  Among these only one had a name: Angelica.  The town we now call Amity was one of 12 townships in the first town of Angelica.  Two years later the county lines were redrawn.  Thirty-four townships were divided among the five towns of Nunda, Alfred, Caneadea, Ossian and Angelica.  In 1810 the entire population of the county was about 1600, including twelve slaves (but excluding Indians, who were not taxed).

As population increased and people demanded local government closer to home, more towns were created.  The land which is now in the Village of Belmont was reserved and held off the market until about 1830.  For this reason the township did not become as populous as did its neighbors.  On February 22nd of that year, an act of the State Legislature created a new town to be called Amity.

The present Village of Belmont was incorporated on February 21, 1853 as Philipsville.  The area east of the river had come to be known as Miltonville while the Erie Depot and local post office were called Belmont, the French word for beautiful hills.  It took almost 20 years to end the confusion over the village name.  In 1870 a local referendum, with 70 all-male voters gathering at the hotel, decided in favor of being called Belmont.

Little did Philip Church dream when he began holding meetings to secure a railroad or a canal through his tract, that they would result in demonstrations that would lead to the removal of the county seat from Angelica.  In 1858 a special commission was appointed to relocate the county offices to some point along the newly constructed Lake Erie and Western Railroad.  Belvidere was the favored site for a couple of years.  Unwilling to give up the fight, Angelica tried to have the Erie relocate its tracks over what later to become the Shawmut Route.

In 1859 a courthouse was ordered to be built on Table Knoll, Philipsville.  This land had been set aside for public buildings when the village was laid out.  Angelica kept up the fight to retain the courthouse and in two years had secured the half-shire system.  Court was alternately held in Angelica and Belmont until 1892.  The Allegany County Poor House (Infirmary) continued to function in Angelica until its closing in 1968.  At present all county governmental departments are located in Belmont with the exception of the Sealer of Weights and Measures (Angelica) and the Counselling Center (Wellsville).

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