Transcribed by Crist Middaugh
Birdsall Popular in Summer
By Bob and Ruth Dennis
In Birsdall nearly everyone is somebody official.
With a total population, according to the 1970 preliminary census report, of 152 persons in a township of 36 square miles, there just aren’t too many adults available for official responsibility.
The year-round population figures mean that there is an average of 4.2 persons per square mile in the township giving it the distinction of having the lowest population density in the Allegany County.
But there is a growing summer and weekend population and any conversation with Birdsall residents includes mention of these campers from Buffalo, Rochester and the suburbs.
The countryside is dotted with neat clean cabins, mobile homes, and other vacation homes. Nearly all have well-kept lawns, flower beds and some have swing sets and other play equipment indicating the summer family has children.
There is only one operating day farm in the township and this week following Labor Day and the end of summer, there were few persons to be found in the hamlet of Birdsall and surrounding township of the same name during the daytime hours. Nearly all men and many of the women work in Hornell, Danville, Alfred, and even as far away as Mt. Morris.
A county history shows the the population of Birdsall peaked in 1875 with 979 residents. In 1850 there were 597 residents.
At one time there were three district school, two post offices (Birdsall and Birdsall Center), a cheese factory, a lumber mill, and the Allegany Chemical Works which employed 75 men in the 1870’s.
There are Sunday services in the Birdsall Community Church, but the minister comes from Dalton. The Grange is active and holds round and square dances twice a month. Children attend school in Angelica and Canaseraga.
Jerry Broughton has a gas station and grocery store, but it is closed Wednesdays.
The busiest place on weekends is the Glenn and Helen Davis grill (formerly Buster’s Bar and Grill). There is live entertainment every Saturday night.
Mrs. Davis said life in Birdsall was a lot different than in Arcade. She worked in the Motorola Plant there for 18 years and prefers running the tavern and living in the trailer next door.
“People are wonderful,” she said. She had high praise for the summer people and for life in the country. Hunting season will be one of the busiest times with customers for breakfast beginning at 5 a.m. and the last of the day at 1 a.m.
The hunting and fishing are two of the reasons Birdsall is so popular for vacation homes. There are deer, bear, turkey and small game for the hunter. There is a trout stream and the county ponds are stocked with bass and bluegills.
Farms are broken up and parcels are sold in small lots. Taxes are moderate. The school tax rate is about $60 and town and county rate about $47 per $1000 of assessed value.
Land is assessed at $8 an acre if it is on a dirt road and $10 an acre if it is on a paved road. However, there is a possibility that assessments will have to be raised in the not so distant future. More than half of the acreage in the township is owned by the state. The county also owns a share.
The proposed development of Kenney Swamp into a lake is a topic frequently discussed in Birdsall. Mrs. Warren Stephens doesn’t expect to see it happen in the next few years, but admits it would change life for the community.
Mrs. Davis thought most of the summer people were not too anxious for the lake development preferring the peace and quite of the countryside as it is.
Young Rodney Carpenter thought there was not much excitement in Birdsall but agreed it was a good place to live. This comment was shared by Maynard Truax who drives to Mt. Morris each day to work at the Curtice-Burns plant.
The township has lost its voice in the county government with last year’s redistricting of the county board, but most persons are reluctant to have the township merge with the other small ones in the northern part of the county.
Typical of the interest and sense of civic responsibility of Birdsall residents is shown with Warren Stephens family.
He works for the town highway department on his vacation and Saturdays (he is employed at Alfred State College). He is also custodian of the voting machine and his wife is an election inspector. There are 67 registered voters. His mother, Mrs. Edna Stephens, is an assessor, and elected post she has held for 27 years. The other assessors are also women.
Birdsall may have the smallest population of any township in the county, but there are few if any of its people ready to write it off the map.