The First Alleganian

by Hazel M. Shear

(This is a sketch from the Wellsville,NY Centennial Program)

Nathaniel Dike, Allegany County's first settler, was a native of Connecticut and a man of whom all Alleganians can be justly proud.  He was the descendant of another pioneer, Anthony Dike, who came from England in the "Anne" in 1623 and served in the Pequot War.

Capt. Dike served at Bunker Hill, was on the staff of General Warren and our county histories also state that he served on the staff of General Washington.  Catherine Schuyler Chapter D.A.R. marked his grave at Elm Valley with a standard in recognition of his service to his country.

The story that he was educated at Yale has been disproved although he had an education better than average for the times.  His early record book was written on stamped paper dating to the Stamp Act and was owned in the town of Scio in 1895.

Dike followed the west-ward tide of migrations to Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley after the Revolution.  He soon removed from there to Tioga Point (now Athens,PA) where he remained for a time.  There he became interested in the Genesee Country and set out for what was then the far West.  They came to the Canisteo settlements for a brief stay.  They then came up Purdy Creek and over the hills into Allegany County.  Their party consisted of Nathaniel and his wife, Esther Burrill (Burrell) sons Isaac and James, daughter Phebe and perhaps others.  They located at what is now Elm Valley and became known as Dike's Settlement.  It was later known as Shoe-maker's Corners.

They were followed very closely by Stephen Cole who is referred to as "a relative" and may possibly have been a son-in-law.  The Coles' son, Daniel, born Feb. 18, 1797 was the first white child born in the county.

There is no known reason why Nathaniel Dike came directly to this spot in the unbroken forests of Allegany county and chose to spend the remainder of his life in that particular location.  There has been at least one published account that states that Nathaniel spent some time here as a prisoner of the Indians.  If true it is possible that he remembered this location.  His wife was an Indian girl whose sister, Rachel, married Samuel Adams, another early settler.  Nathaniel was not a young man when he came to Elm Valley.

Francis King, exploring the country for the Ceres Land Co., in 1798 found the little settlement and reported it as a settlement of three Dike families.  A pack-horse route was cut through that summer from Ceres to Dike's Settlement by way of Marsh Creek, and the Honeoye.  Almond was settled in 1796 and the next summer a road was cut to Dike's Settlement but there is no record of the road or path coming there from Angelica until 1805.  Pennsylvania histories tell of a blacksmith shop kept by the Dike's for those following the route from Ceres through to the Canisteo Valley which was known to them as the Dike's Settlement Road and later as merely the Dike Road.

The enterprising Nathaniel erected a sawmill in 1803 and in 1805 had crude vats in which he was tanning hides, thus, becoming Wellsville's first operator of a tannery.  The first religious services in the community were conducted in his home in 1808 by the Rev. Silas Hubbard, a Presbyterian minister.

James Dike, son of Nathaniel was born in 1776 and died Feb. 8, 1844.  He was a Captain in the War of 1812 and "won his title by genuine and patriotic service in the field."  He married Phoebe Pritchard of a prominent family of the Corning area.  The first death was that of their daughter Zeriah who died Jan. 21, 1798, at the age of two years and ten months.  Of their eleven children, five of whom were boys, only one boy survived infancy.  He, James Burrell Dike, was drowned in the Canisteo Creek at the age of 16.  There are many descendants through the three daughters who grew up and married.

Isaac Dike married Pamelia Gibson.  Their marriage in 1802 was the first in the town.  One of their children, a son, Nathaniel, married Mary, only daughter of Judge Timothy Ives of Coudersport and live in Potter County.

Benjamin Brookings and John T. Hyde came to the settlement in 1796 from Vermont.  Hyde settled on the adjoining lot and married Phebe Dike.  They took up a farm in Amity in 1803 or 1804 which was a half mile from Belvidere and became the first settlers in the town of Amity.  Their daughter Hannah Hyde, was the first birth in that town.  Their youngest son, Thatcher Hyde married Polly Gorton.  John Hyde was a brother of the pioneer physician, Dr. Ebenezer Hyde.  Their farm was acquired by Ebenezer who sold it to a Nathaniel Hyde in 1824 for $900.

There are many descendants of Nathaniel Dike, the Revolutionary hero and his Indian wife Esther Burrell, scattered throughout the United States.  He died at his home in Elm Valley in 1813, according to records in the Adams family.  After his death his widow, Esther, went to Almond and lived with her son, James, who was the proprietor of the well-known Dike's Inn.  She died there in 1814, 15, or 16 and is buried in the old Merwin Cemetery in the village of Almond.  Her marker still stands and with the first three letters of the date 181., just as they were in 1895 when John Major recorded it.

There is no record of when Dike became Dyke but it is purely local and comparatively modern spelling.  All the old histories and records spell the name with the "i" and it has always been the preferred spelling by the family and was used throughout the New England States.

Nathaniel Dike's entire life record as we know it, proves him to be well worthy of all honors paid to his memory.
Hazel Shear is a former Town of Wellsville Historian and Past Allegany County Historian.  Hazel was very active in & past Regent of Catherine Schuyler D.A.R.  Thanks go to the D.A.R. Chapter for safekeeping this sketch.

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Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009  Ronald G. Taylor All rights reserved.