Transcribed from the Wellsville Daily Reporter by Crist Middaugh.
Shongo - Like many towns and villages in the Southern Tier, moccasined feet first traveled the trails that grew into Main Streets and thoroughfares.
Shongo, located in the southern edge of Allegany County is such a place, and it still honors its buckskin heritage. Shongo was named for an Iroquois Indian who was described as a “war chief, a tall finely built fellow, uncommonly stout, military figure, about six feet tall, with a Roman nose, full chest, well proportioned limbs, and who had a dignified and quite pleasant countenance,” in the autobiography of Moses Van Campen, an early Allegany County settler.
But the present site of Shongo is not the original site of Shongo. According to a local historian, Chief Shongo and his followers left the Caneadea Reservation prior to 1834 and moved to an area around Alma. Although the spot already bore the name Alma, Shongo insisted the area be called by his name. When white settlers began to out-number the Indians, Shongo moved to a section in the Town of Willing called Lake-in-the-woods. Again the self-serving chief wanted the settlement called Shongo, even though the white settlers had dubbed it Beanville.
Although an early census lists Beanville as a thriving village with a blacksmith shop, a post office, a church, carpenters, inn keepers, store merchants, harness makers and show makers, by 1884 the area was known as Shongo. Rumor has it that when Chief Shongo found out the area was called Beanville, he made several dire pronouncements about its future.
Perhaps Shongo’s (he village) greatest claim to fame is the cyclone which passed through the area in Sept. 28, 1884, an event which today’s inhabitants mark every summer.
Although the village thrived for many years, as part of the lumber trade, it is now a sleepy little village with only a handful of residents and two businesses.
However, in recent years interest in the little village has grown with the opening of the Graves-Gale House every summer. The house is a museum dedicated to the career of the late Mark Graves. He was prominent in the state government and was once considered as a gubernatorial candidate. Visiting his home is a step back into the political folderol of the early part of this century and a reminder of the way we once lived.
The village is also the home of well-known woodcarver John Dempsey.