Transcribed from the Wellsville Daily Reporter by Crist Middaugh.
By Marc Rixford
Wellsville - The Village of Wellsville was chartered in 1857 and carved out of the Town of Wellsville. The town was originally formed from Scio, Willing and Andover in 1855.
The population of 8,000-plus in Wellsville makes up one-fifth of the population of Allegany County, making Wellsville the biggest municipality in the county.
According to Craig Braack, Allegany County historian, Wellsville was named after Gardner Wells - a member of the village fathers.
According to Braak, Wells missed a meeting in which the naming of the town was to take place. It was not unusual for him to miss meetings.
Therefore, the other members present decided to name the town after him.
Wellsville used to be called Tanbark City due to the fact that Wellsville was in the middle of a forest of hemlock trees, the raw material or the booming tanning industry.
According to David Lloyd Jones, Wellsville’s town historian, the six bustling tanneries brought many German and Irish immigrants to the area.
In 1879, high grade crude oil was found just outside of Wellsville (in Petrolia).
Wellsville nailed down the bid on a refinery, having a large work force at hand and a constant supply of water from the Genesee River.
Soon, local wildcat oilmen began perforating the local hillsides with drills. H. F. Sinclair captured 20 percent of the market. By 1921 Sinclair had bought out all the locals.
During Wellsville’s boom years, 1910-1958, nearly everybody worked or had something to do with the Sinclairs. After the production in the wild fields began to diminish, Sinclair announced his designs to move out in 1958.
In the late 50’s and early 60’s Wellsville, which had escaped national depression of the 30s because of the refinery, went into depression because of the nearly total dependence it had on Sinclair.
Later because of C-E Air Preheater, Worthington Steam Turbine Corporation and other industries, including Alfred State Vocations school, Wellsville began to grow again.
Some famous people came from Wellsville also.
“Gabby” Hayes grew up in Wellsville. At the age of 14 he ran away from home to join a vaudeville group and later became the famous sidekick in so many Western movies.
Reverend Charles M. Sheldon, born in 1859 in Wellsville, was the author of a best selling novel called “In His Steps: What Would Jesus Have Done: which was the seventh most publicized book in the world, at that time.
The plot centered around fictional town called Raymond where the people asked what could they do about the problems. The book explains what Jesus might have done.
And Grace Livingston Hill born 1864 in Wellsville wrote 84 books for adolescent girls. She was to young girls what Horatio Alger was to young boys, - helping them out with their adolescent problems and questions.