Pieces from The Life of


by Ronald G. Taylor, 2006

Several references of biographical history have been noted throughout the years regarding the life and accomplishments of Harry W. Breckenridge.

Harry was quite obviously an influential force in the area of oil, gas, community involvement and several subsidiary business activities.  He owned large holdings in the Town of Alma gas fields.   

I first became interested in his background when I purchased and lived for several years in the home he built at 64 Maple Avenue, Wellsville.  The blueprints of the building and gardens along with the “character” of the home proved to me that a family of esteem had developed the property.  Upon Harry’s death in 1934, his daughter, Susan, assumed the property ownership until about 1950 when it was owned by Thomas Woolard and later Fred Canova prior to my ownership.     

Presented here are the notes and clippings of others that show only a few of his varied accomplishments. 

Harry Wallace Breckenridge died on October 6, 1934 and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Wellsville, NY, along with his wife and one daughter.

NOTE:  As new items are found regarding Harry they will be published here.  Check back again……….rt

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For forty-three years Wellsville has numbered Harry W. Breckenridge among its leaders of business activity and loyal citizens, and his record is that of a self-made man whose constantly expanding powers have carried him from a lowly position to a field of broad usefulness. For more than a half century he has been instrumental in promoting the development of the oil fields of this region and his name also figures prominently in connection with other lines of business. He was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania, September 20, 1847, a son of William B. and Nancy (Adams) Breckenridge and a member of one of the old families of the Keystone state. William B. Breckenridge was born in 1813 and died in 1885, at the age of seventy-two years. He devoted his attention to agricultural pursuits and always resided in the vicinity of Meadville. His father, David B. Breckenridge, established his home in that district about the year 1800 and was numbered among its pioneer settlers.

Harry W. Breckenridge attended the district schools and completed his education in the Meadville Academy. For about four years he worked as a clerk in grocery stores of his native town and in 1870 arrived in the oil country, locating in Rouseville, Pennsylvania, on Oil creek. There he secured a similar position and with his savings bought a half interest in a well, assisting for a time in it's operation. After selling his interest therein he entered the employ of a pipe line company, which was later taken over by the Standard Oil Corporation, and he was thus engaged until 1884. Mr. Breckenridge dates his residence in Wellsville from 1881. He embarked in business as an independent oil producer and later built the pipe line for the National Transit Company. He is now operating in Pennsylvania, as well as in the Allegany county oil fields, and has been very successful in his ventures. Realizing the need of an industry for the manufacture of artificial ice, Mr. Breckenridge organized the Acme Ice Company in 1919 and has since been it's president. He is also a stockholder in various local business organizations, and his name appears on the directorate of the Citizen National Bank of Wellsville.

On the 10th of May, 1888, Mr. Breckenridge was married to Miss Ellen McEwen,  a daughter of Duncan and Susan (Ewing) McEwen and a member of one of the pioneer families of Wellsville. Her parents settled in the village in 1864 and Mr. McEwen was one of its early manufacturers.  Mr. and Mrs. Breckenridge became the parents of two daughters, Susan and Jeannette. The former was born in 1886, and resides at home. She is a graduate of Wells College of Aurora, New York. Her, sister was born in August, 1904, and died in 1924, when a young woman of twenty: She was graduated from the local high school and afterward spent two years as a student in a seminary in Washington, D. C.

Mr. Breckenridge is a member of the Congregational church, and gives his political support to the democratic party when national issues are involved but at local elections votes independently. He is serving on the village board, and the growth and. progress of his community is a matter in which he takes much personal pride. He is a Rotarian and also belongs to the Wellsville Country Club. He is identified with the Masonic order, having membership in the lodge and chapter in Wellsville; the commandery in Hornell; the consistory in Corning; and the Shrine in Buffalo, New York.

1907 – 1910 – Diamond King Mining Company; Harry W. Breckenridge was Vice-President & Director listed in reports of the Company during these years.  Copy of the reports is on file at Dyke Street Museum, Wellsville, NY.  This company was started by the Taylor Brothers (Sons of O.P.Taylor) and others and was involved in dredging/mining for Gold, Diamonds, Platinum and other precious metals in Brazil.

(Timeline Items of Interest; Compiled by Jane Pinney, President – Rogers Historical Society – Wellsville, NY.)

1855 - Ella (Mrs. Harry W. Breckenridge), born in Wellsville Oct. 21, 1855

1870 - ("Wellsville Landmarks" by Mrs. Albert D. Howe, Town Historian 1962) - History of property to the right of the Madison Street overhead bridge - Progress seems to demand the replacing of old landmarks by new. What, in recent years, has been known as the Fresh Water Ice Company property on Madison Street along the railroad by the overhead bridge, has been demolished to make way for a new super-market. Considerable history has been associated with this location. As early as 1870, Mark Tremain and others deeded it to Isaac W. Fassett (builder of the Fassett House) who owned hundreds of acres of land nearby and dealt in lumber - at that time one of the principal businesses of this section. In 1882 he owned this property and conducted his business from it. In 1886 I.N. Fassett (proprietor of the Fassett House) owned the property and in 1904 Frederick W. Fassett, who built the office building and the lumber sheds with sixteen sections each holding a carload of lumber, conducted a retail lumber business. At that time lumber was moved by horses and wagons so a large barn was situated on this property. In 1919 Harry Breckenridge became the owner of the property at which location he manufactured and sold ice under the name Acme Ice Company. The barn was converted into the engine room for the ice plant. One of the last of our deep water wells is located there. Following the death of Mr. Breckenridge, his daughter Susan carried of the ice business until it was sold in 1938 to W. Arthur Davis of Bradford, Pennsylvania. Associated with Mr. Davis was Elmer W. Lundy who managed the ice plant, which business was carried on as The Fresh Water Ice Company. In 1951, the plant and property was sold to Edward R. DeGroff and Albert D.Howe. The latter continued to own the property but disposed of the ice business in 1954. No ice was made at this location after 1956.

1885 - McEwen Hose Co. Biography:  Harry W. Breckenridge - Elected to Honorary Membership 9/2/1885; Paid 50 cents 2/15/1892.

1889 - Town Supervisor - Harry W. Breckenridge

1895 – (Allegany and Its People 1795-1895 by John S. Minard) – OIL AND GAS IN ALLEGANY COUNTY by Lewis H. Thornton – Among the representative producers of oil in this field have been: Asher W. Miner, George V. Forman, McCalmont Oil Company, Hazelwood Oil Company, Willett’s Oil Company , Duke and Norton Company, Sawyer Bros. of Allentown, who own the only refinery in the county; Schofield Company, Anchor Oil Company, Hochsteter and Shirley, Scott and Fuller, Macken and Breckenridge of the East End Company, Thornton and Brown, Johnson and Pittenger, William McBride, John Haymaker, Charles Conroy, Franchot Company, Duke and Raydure, Anderson Bros., L.S. Anderson and others. At present E.C. and J.B. Bradley, the officers of the Empire Gas and Fuel Company are the largest producers in the field. The East End Company, the Norton Company, Hochsteter and Shirley and Riley Allen are also large producers. Mrs. O.P. Taylor and Wm. O. and Charles, sons of the pioneer, possess valuable oil properties. To the indefatigable efforts of O.P. Taylor, a biographical sketch of whom appears elsewhere, was due the discovery of oil in Allegany in commercial quantities. He was, in the early days, a large producer.

1914 - (Wellsville Main Street Businesses - Intermittently 1897 through 1985 by R. Dow Stannard) –

56 N. Main St - Columbia Pipe Line Co. - Hugh King (N.Y.C.) - pres; W.H. Norton - v.pres; H.W. Breckenridge - sect; W.J. Richardson – treas.

1920 – 1923 Village Trustees – Fred Knox, H.W. Breckenridge, F.E. Lunn, Paul Frederic

1924 [1926?] - (Wellsville Main Street Businesses - Intermittently 1897 through 1985 by R. Dow Stannard) – 150 S. Main St - Kerr Turbine Co. – W.S. Elliott - pres; W.T. Hamilton - v p & gen mgr.

rear – Pure Carbon Co. – H.W. Breckenridge - pres; E.J. Atwood - v pres; W.J. Richardson - treas; Howard B. Eynon – sect.

1934 - (from the Official Program of the Southwestern Association Volunteer Firemen of New York - Convention held at Wellsville 8/1,2,3/1934) - Wellsville Burial Case company - For many years the business of manufacturing caskets has been carried on in Wellsville.

As a matter of history the company has been a vital part of the industrial life of this community for the past 40 years.

The nature of its products is such that production is seldom effected by economic conditions, and as a result many people have had continuous employment; all employees are residents of the village. Many own their own homes, thereby supporting the schools, churches and public improvements through taxation or otherwise, directly and indirectly making Wellsville a better place in which to live and educate their children.

Upon the inception of the Wellsville Burial Case Company in 1907, immediately new buildings were erected and the company made progress from the start. As the business grew and new customers were added in many states of the Union, further expansion of buildings and equipment was necessary and as a result the present modern factory now exists, employing approximately 50 people every work day of the year.

The personnel of the organization is made up as follows: George J. Hagenmaier, president; Harry Breckenridge, vice president; John A. Dolan, treasurer and general manager and Mrs. J.C. Darcy, secretary, all of whom are active in the affairs of the company.

The business consists of the manufacturing of wood and cloth covered caskets, either for immediate use or stock purposes. All products are sold to the public through licensed funeral directors. Lumber, such as chestnut, oak, cypress, walnut and mahogany, is cut from virgin forests in the south and west, brought to the yards by rail, there put through the mill to be worked into durable as well as beautifully designed burial containers. All silks are fabricated into artistically designed interiors by skilled employees, long identified with the company. Much of the company's success is due to the high character of their work and the excellent quality of materials used.

In addition to the factory here in Wellsville, the company owns and operates a large showroom in the city of buffalo at 551 Genesee street. Here a complete stock of funeral furnishings is carried; caskets from the cheapest to the finest. Coppers and bronzes manufactured are on display.

The show rooms and factory are open for inspection at all times, and visitors will be welcome.

Through the sale of their products, which are trade marked, Wellsville is known in many parts of the country.

Below is from a scrapbook at Dyke Street Museum, Wellsville NY & submitted by curator, Shirley Engle.  The clippings, undoubtedly, were taken from the Wellsville Daily Reporter and was dated October 6, 1935.

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