1894 Letter Brings History to Forefront - News of the 1st White Settler

"the Cradle of Allegany's Civilization"

 Andover News, February 22, 1945 article submitted by William A. Greene 2004; Photo from files of Allegany County Historian Archives. 

'A copy of the Hornellsville Times, dated Nov. 22, 1894 , was brought to our desk this village. A feature article, “A Visit to Elm Valley ” written by J. S. Minard, will prove of interest to residents of this vicinity.'

“A Visit to Elm Valley ” Gives Interesting Facts

"Meeting Prof. S. A. Early, the veteran educator of Wellsville, at Belmont on the 16th ult. Whither he had come for the purpose of attending the meeting of the historical society which he supposed was to be held in the afternoon, he promised upon my coming to Wellsville to drive up with me to Elm Valley . Wednesday being a fine day, I resolved to avail myself of the kindly offer, and put into effect a resolution I have long entertained to visit that interesting locality. Arriving in Wellsville at nearly eleven o’clock , I went directly to the Reporter office where I was very kindly received, and immediately repairing to the telephone was soon talking with Mr. Early. He regretted his inability to go with me that day. He stated, however, that he would be up on half and hour and give me some pointers. So returning to the Reporter office and making known the predicament I was in, Mr. L. H. Thornton, who now has editorial charges of the paper, kindly volunteered to take Mr. Earley’s place. Accordingly he hitched up a beautiful, spirited horse, a genuine premium taker, we jumped into a buggy which from the width of the seat I should judge was made for the exclusive use of young lovers. It might be well to remark right here in the parenthetical way that I require considerable space east and west myself. We were soon flying with lightning speed up the valley to Dike’s Creek, a strong west wind at our backs assisting, on past the pump station, the largest on the entire line, and in a short time arriving at our destination.

Stopping at the house of Mr. E. R. Leonard, who owns the historic old Dike place, we were fortunate in finding him at home. He soon appeared and our business being made known, he expressed himself as pleased with our visit. So, after hitching the horse, he accompanied us across the lots and down to the site of the old mill, house and tannery. The mill, local historians tell us, was built in 1803.

Nathaniel Dike dam

One of the timbers of the old dam is still to be seen spanning the entire channel of the creek over which the water fall in a silvery sheet, while some of the bed timbers of the old structure are still seen under the water to which they owe their preservation.

A clump of alders occupies the exact site of the old mill, which from the little we could see could not have been a very imposing affair.

Mr. Dike also built a tannery, which, it is presumed, was the first in the county, as he died in 1813. Mr. Leonard pointed out its exact location, as he distinctly remembers seeing the remains of the vats, which were made of hewn logs. The site of his house, which was some thirty rods from the mill, can only be approximately determined now.

We next made our way to the old cemetery, on the north side of the highway and some little distance from it, on a commanding elevation, just in the rear of the orchard which now partially hides if from the view of the passer-by. In the northwest corner of this old ground are perhaps in all, 80 or 40 graves, some simply marked with small stone slabs, others of more pretentious size, all found in the immediate neighborhood, naturally dressed, save perhaps a little trimming of corners. On these larger stones are rudely cut inscriptions some nearly effaced by time and storm, chiseled, Mr. Leonard says, by Nathaniel Dike, he (Leonard) having been so informed by Daniel Cole, who in turn, when Mr. Dike died, inscribed his name and age upon the rude stone which once marked his grave, but which cannot mow be found. Mr. Leonard says he remembers it well and pointed out its former location. Mr. Early says he knows several persons who have seen the stone there.

I am thus particular in regard to this matter for the reason that I had been informed that he was buried in the old cemetery at Canisteo. Here, then, without doubt, is the oldest cemetery in the county. The oldest inscription we noted was as follows,

“To The Memory of Zeriah Dike,

Daughter of James and Phebe Dike.

Died January 21 Day AD 1798,

Aged 10 Months and 5 Days old”

This burying ground is in present Andover, as also is the site of Mr. Dike’s house; the site of his mill and tannery being in Wellsville. It was to this place that Nathaniel Dike came in 1795 and where he lived until his death In 1813, as before stated. Just what considerations induced him to plunge so far into the wilderness from the nearest white settlement, which was what we now know as Hornellsville, where the first improvement was made three years before, we shall probably never know. That it was a considerable undertaking must be conceded by all. An enduring slab of stone or bronze with an appropriate inscription should be placed here in a position such as to be readily seen and read without alighting, by people as they pass, calling attention to the fact that this was once the home of Nathaniel Dike, a Yale college man, an officer on the staff of General Joseph Warren, a member of the great Washington’s military family, the pioneer settler of Allegany, and that this very spot is the cradle of Allegany’s Civilization."-- J. S. Minard.