Transcribed by Jaylyn Thacher

The Evening Tribune, April 10, 1989


Passing Through Belfast Photo 1 of 1

Passing through… Belfast

By Don Tremblay

The hamlet of Belfast is bisected by Route 19 in the Town of Belfast, which has a population of nearly 1,500 people.

Originally organized under the name of Orrinsburg in 1824, the Allegany County community was given its present name a year later. The suggestion of the name is attributed to John McKeen, a justice of the peace at the time and a native of Belfast, Maine.

After the “great flood” of 1836, which washed away every bridge between Pennsylvania and Rochester and a lot of buildings, operations were moved to the higher ground where the hamlet now stands.

In the 1830s lumber was cut in Belfast during the winter months and floated down the Genesee River during the spring floods to Portageville, Mount Morris, and Rochester.

July 8 this year will mark the 100th year anniversary of the world championship fight between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain. Sullivan trained for this fight in Belfast under the supervision of William Muldoon, an accomplished wrestler and later commissioner of boxing.

Muldoon was born on a farm outside of Belfast and brought Sullivan there to whip him into shape in less than two months. The small buildings in which Sullivan trained still stand in the hamlet, across the street from St. Patrick’s Catholic church on East Hughs Street.

Sullivan won the fight in 75 rounds of bare-knuckle boxing in Richburg, Mississippi, on July 8, 1889.

In 1910 the Genesee Valley bridge of the Erie railroad line was completed just north of Belfast. The bridge was over ½ long and 140 feet above the Genesee River.

The line, known as the “cutoff,” was built so heavy freight trains could avoid the hills of southern Allegany County. This line was important to move cargo from the industrial cities in the middle of the country to the ports of the east coast. The bridge was guarded by troops during both world wars.

The bridge was disassembled in 1981 but nearly 100 concrete buttresses still stand in rank across the river plain as a monument to the engineering feat.

Today, Main Street of this lively little hamlet is lined with small businesses, a library, and several churches.