Transcribed by Crist Middaugh
Angelica, Everyone’s a historian
By Kathryn Ross
The first town in Allegany County, Angelica has a rich and varied past.
Historically in 1801 Philip Church obtained half interest in 100,000 acres of land owned by his father John B. Church. According to “Allegany County and Its People” by John Minard, “Settlement was commenced in 1801 by Philip Church who that year with an exploring party, consisting of Evart Van Wickle, John Gibson, Moses VanCampen, Stephen Price and John Lewis made a thorough reconnaissance of the Church tract of 100,000 acres….Church selected a site for the nw town, naming it Angelica after his mother, Angelica Schuyler Church.”
Church went on to build a homestead, grist mill and a road was cut to Almond. Joseph Taylor settled in 1802 and opened the first public house and Capt. Church established a store. “In a short time there was quite a village, most of the houses being built of logs.” Minard said.
In 1803 the New York Herald Tribune advertised land for sale in Angelica.
In June 1805 following their marriage, Philip and Anna Matilda Church came to their home in the wilderness by horseback from Bath to Belvidere - 47 miles.
A few years later, when her husband visited England, Anna Matilda took another journey to one of the annual festivals of the Indians at Caneadea, contributing to the feast out of her stores, and enjoyed very much their rude sports and pagan rites and dances. According to Minard, the Indians received her very Kindly and were much pleased with her visit and gave her the name Ye-nen-ke-a-wa meaning “the first white woman that has come.” When the War of 1812 broke out, a party of Caneadea Indians went to Belvidere and offered to place a guard around her house to protect her, which Anna Matilda declined, the Minard said.
By 1808 there was a French Connection. The French Revolution 1789-1799 saw many aristocrats lose his and her heads via the guillotine. The monarchy collapsed and many aristocrats fled the country. Some moved to Towanda, Pa. where they formed Asylum County in 1793. Following the Revolution many returned to France, others like Madame Marie Jeane d’ohet d’Autremont and her sons Alexander and August decided to cast their lot with the fledgling Angelica. The d’Autremonts, according to the Angelica Bicentennial publication were familiar with John B. Church who had been head of the Commissary Department for the French Army during the American Revolutionary War. The d’Autremonts purchased land in Angelica in 1806 and moved from Asylum to a home they called the Retreat in Angelica and began farming, storekeeping and banking.
At about the same time Victor DuPont who was related to E.I. du Port de Nemours and Company, commonly referred to as DuPont, an American chemical company that was founded in July 1802 also lived in Angelica.
Allegany County was formed April 7, 1806, and courts were directed to be held at Angelica. By an act of March 11, 1808, the county seat was permanently located in Angelica - permanent being only 40 years long.
Minard wrote, “From 1812 for many years Angelica was the most important place in the county. The best lawyers of the country were attracted here by the prospect of good and increasing business, its enterprising businessmen supplied the people from the remote parts of the county with goods and for years, it was the best and the only market.”
In 1858, after the Erie Railroad was built though Belmont, a special legislative commission decided to move the county seat to Belmont, but a special act provided that for 20 years (1892) court be held alternately at Belmont and Angelica.
Historian Robert Dorsey researched the first Executions in Allegany County for this book by the same name. In 1824, 6,000 people arrived in Angelica to see the public hanging of David How who had been convicted of murdering Othella Church over a bad land deal and other insults How could no longer endure. He was arrested after a sweaty horse was found in his barn and a smoking gun under his bed. He also confessed to the deed.
At the start of the Civil War, Maj. R. Church organized the first company to march off to war from Allegany County. Nearly 80 men are from as far away as Whitesville and Centerville to join up Before departing to Elmira they received a special battle flag from the Church’s which was carried throughout the war as the regimental flag. This summer the restored flag will be part of a display in Albany.
In 1884 Corporal Wilbur Haver Post #502, G.A.R., was chartered.Haver of NY27th was killed in action at Fredericksburg, Va., in 1863; buried on the battlefield.
Angelica has many claims to fame.
* Historic Buildings - There are dozens of historic buildings in a 900 acre National Historic District. The Church home, Belvidere built in 1807, the VanCampen homestead built in 1809, and the original Allegany County Courthouse built in 1819 are all listed on the N.Y. State Register of Historic Places and the National Register.
* Disputed home of the Republican Party - Within the walls of the courthouse during the administration of the 14th President, Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) “at an assemblage of citizens of Allegany County, the Republican Party had its birth. There was held the initial meeting, where “free soil, free men, free speech” were promulgated as paramount principles of political action,” according to an article written by John Corbett for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in 1900.
* Roques - is the town’s unofficial sport. Each year in August the annual semi-finals of the Roque (croquet) Tournament on the specially built clay court in Park Circle. Somewhere around the 1860s the polygon clay court was built. The game played in Angelia allow the ball to be bounced off the side boards similar to billiards.
“I think if one understand the unswerving gentility of croquet, one could understand Angelica and the games lingering place here,” wrote Joyce Swan in 1990.
* In 1969 Dottie and Duane Graham purchased the salt rising bread recipe and went on to develop the Angelica Bakery in 1970 baking 900 loaves of the delicacy each week and sending it out to be sold in stores across western New York.
* In 1985 Edna and Leona Young created the first modern Shadow-dancers which became a business selling nationwide and employing up to 40 people.
* In 1985 the disappearance of Flossie Wilbur became the county’s most curious unsolved mystery and is still in the cold case file of the State Police.
* In 1997 part of the Reader’s Digest video “An Old-Fashioned Christmas was filmed in Angelica with locals taking part.
* In 1997 the first Angel Station cancellation was drawn by Pat Kaake and approved by the U.S. Post Office. The 2012 drawing was just as popular as the first.
Dave Haggstrom editor of the local Booster News and curbside historian for Angelica said, “Angelica is the town where history lives (the town’s motto) so everyone in town is a historian, just ask."