Transcribed by Crist Middaugh

Olean Times Herald - Tuesday, January 20, 1976


The Era Brought Storms, Floods, Silkworms, Republicans, Railroads, Canals and A New Courthouse In Belmont

Allegany County Saw Good - Bad Times 1830 - 1860

(Mr. Crawford of Delevan, retired superintendent of Pioneer Central School, occasionally writes history features for the Times Herald.)

By George Crawford


The decade prior to 1830 had been distinguished for a rapid increase in population and the formation of new towns in Allegany County. School houses and churches were being erected in this prosperous era.

In 1830 the populations were: Alfred 1416, Allen 898, Almond 1804, Amity 872, Andover 598, Angelica 998, Belfast 743, Birdsall 543, Bolivar 449, Brusn 702, Caneadea 782, Centerville 1195, Cuba 1059, Eagle 892, Friendship 1502, Genesee 219, Grove 1388, Haight 655, Hume 951, Independence 877, Nunda 1291, Ossian 812, Pike 2016, Portage 1839, Rushford 1115, Scio 602.

A great flood on the Genesee occurred in 1835. Crops, houses, barns and mills were destroyed as well as all bridges from Rochester to Pennsylvania.

A wind storm in 1838 destroyed houses, barns, wagons, fences and trees in a three-quarter mile swath. It was reported that “the water in the river was swooped up leaving the channel dry for a few minutes. The mud and water were scattered over everything and soil was swept off plow-deep from one field. The storm came from the west and passed in a southeast direction.”

Work on the Genesee Valley Canal and the Erie Railroad began in 1839, furnishing opportunities for many to work with their teams to earn some much-needed money.

By 1841, 30 towns were represented by supervisors. The old office of town inspector of common schools was abolished to be replaced by deputy superintendents, one for the northern and one for the southern district. County taxes were $10,623.07.

Work on the canal was suspended in 1842 to resume again 1848. A change in state administration had a different philosophy concerning public works. The railroad construction was held up that year due to lack of money. It was resumed also in 1848.

Propogation of silk worms and the production of silk received mention in the 1842 minutes of the county board of supervisors. Otis Ward raised 9 15-16 pouns of silk cocoons and Arid French 25 1/4 pounds. For some reason, the county treasurer was authorized to pay 15 cents for each pound of cocoons. Everyone did not have money, however, for there were 47 paupers in the poorhouse.

Candles and sperm oil were still used for illumination, and the sheriff was directed to purchase four pairs of snuffers, a shovel and tongs for use in the court house. Postage was with a letter from Utica requiring 19 cents.

In 1845 a bounty of $30 was allowed for two wolves killed, the state also paying $10. This may have been the last year of paying bounties. In the 27 years of records kept, 1,255 wolves and panthers were certified as having been killed.

At the general state election, November 4, 1845, a convention was ordered for the purpose of framing a new Constitution. The convention began June 1, 1846, and adjourned Oct. 9. The county was represented by William G. Angel and Calvin T. Chamberlain.

The towns of Eagle, Pike, Portage and Nunda were set off in 1846 to Wyoming and Livingston Counties. The Mexican War began and a number of volunteers enlisted at Buffalo, the nearest recruiting station. The two-year war had little effect in the county.

In 1851 the canal was opened to Oramel and the railroad was completed. Enterprises of all kins were stimulated and many sawmills were built with many being driven by steam power. As he forests disappeared, cleared fields provided land for crops and livestock.

The first Republican newspaper in the county and perhaps the nation, the Genesee Valley Free Press, appeared in 1852 in Belfast by Asahel N. Cole. “It’s fearless and pronounced position in politics, its boldness in the proclamation of its doctrines, together with the fact of Mr. Cole’s connection with, and being a ruling spirit in, the first Republican Convention every held, which convened in the old court house at Angelica, October 7, 1854, gave to Mr. Cole the rightful claim in minds of many to the paternity of the Republican Party, and so the old court house is looked upon by ardent partisans as the veritable birthplace of their party.”

This was the last year the Whigs presented a candidate for the Presidency while in 1854 the Republicans named a sate and county ticket with a national one appearing in 1856.

As early as 1855 talk of the project of removing the county seat to some point on the Erie began. The poor condition of the old buildings and the great changes in routes and modes to travel, brought about by the railroad, were the reasons given by the advocates of the change.

Rushford, Centerville, Almond, Alfred and Independence became foremost in the manufacture of butter and cheese. Woolen factories at Rushford, Almond, Angelica and Friendship turned out large quantities of cloth and yarn.

Scio was the largest town in 1855 with a population of 3,184. Next were Amity with 2,655, Caneadea 2,400, Belfast 2,130, Cuba 2,116 and Hume 2,094.

The classification of occupations in the county showed 7,364 farmers, 7 barbers, 242 blacksmiths, 1 boardinghouse keeper, 5 boat builders, 27 boatmen and watermen, 4 boilermakers, 16 butchers, 59 cabinetmakers, 377 carpenters, 1 drayman, 1 caulker, 80 clergymen, 18 clothiers, 93 coach and wagon makers, 6 cooks, 52 coopers, 1 gambler, 8 Gardners and florists, 5 gate keepers, 49 grocers, 9 gunsmiths, 7 hat and cap makers, 66 hotel and innkeepers, 5 jewelers, 892 laborers, 52 lawyers, 1 lecturer, 1 lime burner, and 9 livery-stable keepers.

Also, 21 musicians and 9 music teachers, 19 peddlers, 4 photographers, 85 physicians, 1 pilot, 23 printers, 3 sailors, 176 sawyers, 1 sculptor, 1 sexton, 22 shingle makers, 3 speculators, 11 stone and marble cutters, 156 Taylors, 171 teachers, 4 telegraph operators, 20 tinsmiths, 12 wheelwrights, 1 woodcutter and 1 wood dealer.

Twenty people were listed as insane.

There were 13 stone dwellings, 29 brick, 6,287 framed, 966 log houses and 806 of all other kinds of houses.

Rushford had a rake factory and a large bakery. Centerville had two asheries, Belmont a match factory and saleratus was made in New Hudson. A clothing factory in Almond employed 132 men. Schoolhouses were listed as “246 framed, 10 log, 1 plank and 1 stone, very poor 33, very good 4.”

Belmont became the county seat in May, 1858. New county buildings were erected by C. S. Whitney in 1859 using an appropriation of $20,000.

Angelica fought the transfer so a law had to be passed providing that courts were to be held alternately in the two places. This procedure ended in 1892, leaving Belmont as the only place where court was to be held. The arguments at times became so heated that they caused “discord, ill feelings and contributed to a condition of unrest, apprehension and alarm.”

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President and representatives form the Southern States, convening in South Carolina on Dec. 20 passed an “Ordinance of Secession” with a unanimous vote of 169 yeas. The Civil War was to have a great influence on the county.

(Next week” 1861-1895)