West Almond Photo 1 of 1

Transcribed by Crist Middaugh


Undaunted, West Almond plans 150th celebration during the third week of July 1985, West Almond will celebrate its sesquicentennial. This summer man committees and plans were organized, only to be interrupted and postponed by menacing flood waters. Ironically, the flood of two weeks ago struck during the last committee meeting. Everyone hurried home without even settling a date for the next one.

Being small in numbers and remote in location has not protected the community from damage by recurring floods. Residents and town crews have been hard at work with clean-up.

Top priority is the bridge site on South Road between Rt. 244 and County Road 2. A convenience to many, this road is the shortest route from the Town of Ward to the Southern Tier Expressway. A tube 14 feet long, has been bulldozed in and covered up to connect the road where the former bridge of 70 years gave way to recent high tides.

At the South Schuyler Road bridge only the pipe remains. All else was washed away, including large portions of road. Fortunately, there are no permanent residents on this road, but several small camps are not inaccessible to city landowners. They must now drive to the washed out bridge site, park their cars, and Welk to their country retreats.

West Almond highway superintendent Chet Gosper said state engineers have visited twice to assess damages. He hopes Allegany County will get federal aid. He noted that he will be unable to replace the South road bridge without county help.

As for the Schuyler Road bridge, Gosper said he is waiting for the state to bring in a big dozer for repairs. “Meanwhile, we’ll just have to plug away ourselves,” he said, and to the best we can. We’ll manage somehow. We always have.”

If some pride and experience is evident in that statement, it’s because both exist. Chet Gosper has been the West Almond highway superintendent for 25 years. He was born and raised in West Almond where his father held the title before him. Gosper is the land committee chairman for the 150th birthday celebration. He is usually found sporting a West Almond hat bearing the legendary stagecoach.

The stagecoach lines once ran through the town on Turnpike Road where Gosper and his wife now live. One of the plans for next summer is to offer rides on an old coach, owned by the Herdman family, although it needs a few repairs first.

West Almond’s first settlers arrived in 1816. Its first town charter was drawn in 1835 when it was formed from parts of Alfred, Almond and Angelica by valley residents who felt they were too far from those towns to benefit from their services.

The community as seen its up and downs. Once a prosperous settlement with 800 to 900 residents, two general stores, a blacksmith shop, and a thriving cheese factory where all the dairy famers took their milk. West Almond now has a census of 200 to 300. Despite the diminishing count, the quiet beauty remains untouched.

Chairman of all the sesqui committees is Bob Howe. He and his wife, the former Ella Tucker, are summer residents at her family’s homestead in the valley where she also was born and raised. Their home, like the town, dates back to 1835.

The Howes are enthusiastic about next year’s events. “I can remember my father and Mr. Kelly doing he Irish Clog at the dances in the old Grange Hall. People used to flock here for those dances. We’re hoping to have a street dance and band concert during the centennial.”

Other plans include a strawberry and ice cream social, a town picnic, a small carnival, and softball games. Howe stated, “West Almond at one time was very famous for baseball teams, having spawned a few major league players.”

The Town Hall has undergone a major cleaning campaign in the past two weeks. Flood waters reached two feet inside, leaving wall-to-wall mud. Situated on the creek’s bank, the building is in danger of collapse. Mrs. Howe said she would like to see it moved. Gosper said it needs to be dug out underneath with a backhoe and large rocks laid to reinforce the foundation. The hall will be used next summer for exhibits. Ella Howe said many residents’ attics are packed with West Almond memorabilia.

Allegany County Legislator Leonard Watson is preparing a book of historical data and pictures to be sold during the sesquicentennial. Many original dates and events have to be researched as numerous records have been lost in files.

A project of prime concern to the Howes is the restoration of the community church, long deserted as a regular Sunday meeting place. The church was painted as a memorial to Reeva Gosper Coombes and in 1982 Ella Howe used her brother Guy Tucker’s memorial fund to initiate a preservation campaign.

The stained glass windows have been removed and are being repaired. “Hopefully it will become a landmar,” stated Mrs. Howe, “one reason being we would like to be able to receive funding to keep it up.” Both Gosper and town supervisor Chris Blades were married in the old church. Residents are anticipating services being held there next summer in commemoration of West Almond’s earlier days when church activities play an important role in daily life.