A Tale of "Panning for Gold" in the Microfilm!! 

transcribed & submitted by Mary Rhodes 

"I had a reason for going through the old microfilmed newspapers in the library, I was specifically looking for an old obituary, or at least a mention of a persons life, but I got sidetracked by the old headlines and never found what I was looking for."


Twenty Five Years Ago Today - A Page from Wellsville’s Early History”.    I was not perusing newspapers from the 1970’s, I was looking at the Wellsville Daily Reporter dated July 24, 1883, and the reporter was reminiscing about a day in 1858.  The following is the story, as best as I could read the microfilm….


“Just a quarter of a century ago,  (July 24, 1858) was an unusually eventful day in the history of Wellsville.. The village, which was incorporated early in that year was then quite a busy and thriving centre of trade, and had a population of something like fifteen hundred people.  The business places were unpretentious  wooden structures, and but for the frequency and destructiveness of fire, sufficed very well for the times.  There was not then, if our informant’s memory is correct, a brick building in the village.  Where the Fassett House now stands was the old Van Buren Tavern, and in place of the handsome and substantial brick blocks which now line either side of that portion of Main street stood a few wooden stores, where the principal part of the business was done.


Wellsville then possessed a sort of primitive “fire” department.  It consisted of a bucket brigade.  When a fire occurred the “brigade” got out in full force – which included about everybody in the town, male and female – with their buckets, forming a double line that (stretched to the river) men on one side and the women on the other, like an old fashioned Virginia reel, the men passing the full pails of water up to the fire, and the women passing the empty pails back to the river.


One of the most extensive and disastrous fires of those early times was the one which occurred just twenty five years ago this evening.  It was on Saturday, and was quite a gala day in the village.  “Yankee” Robinson’s Circus - “Two Big Shows in One”, with traveling theater, representing the great drama founded on the Revolution, “The Days Of ‘76” was in town.  The tents were put up on the old circus grounds adjoining the Van Buren House, and the grand pavilion was crowded with people.  About 10 o’clock, when the clowns and the trained mules were performing their most surprising feats, a cry of fire was sounded, which brought everybody to their feet, and a grand stampede for the outside of the tent occurred.  “The Genesee Valley Free Press”, a musty and dust covered file of which was unearthed by a Reporter representative, in the county clerk’s office last evening, gives the following account of the fire:


“On Saturday night last, about ten o’clock in the evening, a cry of fire called our citizens into the streets, when it was discovered that the blacksmith shop connected with the carriage manufactory of Henry G. Taylor was on fire.  The building, which was a large one, in a moment entirely enveloped in flames, which communicated with the carriage factory, a very extensive wooden structure and in a few moments longer this vast structure was one living volume of flame.  From the carriage factory the flames communicated to the neighboring buildings, when the store occupied by Dwight Goodrich, the boot and shoe store of D. K. Charles, the dwelling house of A. M. Hallett, and Hallett’s store in which the Free Press office was located, and the barn connected with Spicers tavern were burned to the ground.”


The total loss was about $15,000 which in those days, in a small village, was no inconsiderable sum.  It was a heavy loss for the then young town.  It was generally believed that the fire was of incendiary origin, and was evidently set to draw people away from the circus grounds for the purpose of robbing the ticket wagon.  The ticket wagon, however, was not robbed.  The buildings which were burned stood on the east side of Main street, between Mill and State Streets…”