Researched & Submitted by Richard Palmer
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Nov. 1, 1900
Angelica and its Antiquities
A Prosperous and Progressive Place With an Historic Past
NEW LIBRARY BUILDING
The Old Court House of Allegany Still a Landmark - A Storied
Structure Where the Republican Party Had its Birth.
Written for the Democrat and Chronicle.
Angelica, the historic village of Central Allegany county, was the scene of two important events in local annals, October 16th and 17th. At 4 o'clock on the afternoon of the former day, the first shovelful of earth was turned in the construction of the "Shawmut Line" of railway, and October 17th, at 3 o'clock, the corner stone of a library building was laid with appropriate ceremonies. The town had an air of more than usual activity on both occasions, from the fact that the teachers' institute for the for the first commissioner district of Allegany was in session, under the conductorship of Henry R. Sanford, A.M., and commissionership of G.W. D'Antremont. But from its advantageous location and increased railway facilities now assured, Angelica seems destined to become the center of enterprise projected by its founders in 1802.
The Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern railway extends, as surveyed, from the coal fields of Western Pennsylvania to Macedon, Wayne county, but as constructed and in operation, the southern terminus is Angelica and the northern termination, Wayland, Steuben county. The line winds through picturesque vales for some forty miles, following for a distance the Canisteo river in its course, skirting the southern highlands of the Dansville valley, and crossing the famed Stony Brook Glen, ere it traverses the marl beds at Wayland.
This route is one of great interest from geological and geographical points of view, as its extension is through the divides water-wrought at the subsidence of the glacial ice-sheet, and in its comparatively short length it passes over two summits of the "height of land," dividing the St. Lawrence basin from that of the Chemung. The present train service, however, is so arranged, that few others than those compelled by business have views the scenic beauties of this midland thoroughfare.
The Library Association of Angelica has long been an established institution, but it remained for a public-spirited citizen to provide a suitable library building. The structure is located at the corner of Main and Center streets, and is thirty-six by seventy-two feet in extent of ground plan. The lower story will be devoted to library purposes, and the upper one used as a lyceum. Its cost will be some $20,000. It is the gift of Mrs. Frank Sullivan Smith, in memory of her mother, Mrs. Lucia Cornelia Hapgood Higgins. The corner stone was laid by Master Harry Higgins, son of Senator Higgins, of Chautauqua. It included a box of coins of the present century, copies of local papers and daily newspapers of neighboring cities, the constitution of the Angelica Library Association, and a memorial paper by the donor, Mr. Clara A. Higgins Smith. The attendants at the institute, including teachers and instructors, were spectators of the memorable event.
Angelica is built about a public square, the center of which is marked by a stone, that is the geographical center of the township of Angelica, and from which all property surveys within its limits have original landmark. The main street of the village is six rods in width from curb to curb, and extends nearly east and west for upwards of a half mile, from narrows to narrows of the stream valley.
The place was laid out by Philip Church, who settled upon its site in 1802, and whose remains rest in the village cemetery, near those of Moses Van Campen, of Indian and pioneer-day fame. He was the son of John B. Church, and grandson of General Schuyler. He built the first saw and grist-mill, and kept the first store of Angelica, which was named in honor of his mother.
Many books, once in his possession, have recently been donated to the Angelica Library Association, by Walter O. Church, of Geneva. Hyde deNeuville resided in Angelica in 1807-1808. He was an exile during the government of the empire, and minister to the United States from 1816 to 1822, upon the restoration of the French monarchy.
The first school was taught by Widow S. Smith in 1804-05, and the first church, the Presbyterian, was formed by Rev. Robert Hubbard in 1811. Other denominations of the village at present are Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal and Catholic.
Allegany county was formed from Genesee, April 7, 1806, and courts were directed to be held at Angelica on the 2d of June, 1807. By an act of March 11, 1808, the county seat was permanently located in the place, but in pursuance of an enactment of April 2, 1858, providing for the removal of the county seat to the line of the New York & Erie railroad, the village of Belmont now has that honor, while the old court house, which was erected in 1819, remains a relic of departed glory.
The court house is crumbling to decay, but, if traditions be true, public sentiment should united for its preservation, for within its walls during the administration of President Pierce, at an assemblage of citizens of Allegany county, the Republican party had its birth. There was held the initial meting, where "free soil, free men, free speech" were promulgated as paramount principles of political action.