The town of Portville lies in the southeast corner of the county, and is bounded on the north by Hinsdale, east by the county of Allegany, south by the State of Pennsylvania, and west by Olean.
The surface is mostly a hilly upland, especially in the southern part, the highest summits being from 500 to 600 feet above the valleys.
Its principal water-course - the Allegany River-enters the town about the centre of the south border, and flowing in a northerly and northwesterly direction, leaves it about the centre of the west border. It receives as tributaries Haskell Creek from the north, Dodge's Creek from the east, and Oswayo Creek from the south, all of which enter it on the east bank. Many smaller streams unite their waters with these, the principal of which is Wolf Run.
The soil is a sandy loam, and quite fertile, especially in the valleys, The people in the southern part are chiefly engaged in the manufacture of lumber, shingles, and leather. In the northern part the pursuit of agriculture more particularly engages the attention of the people. Ultimately, as the forests disappear, and lumbering ceases to occupy so large a share of the employed capital and labor, good farming lands will be opened all over the township.
At the depth of about 1600 feet, petroleum has been found in the west and southwest parts, and indications point to it as lying within that region of the Bradford district which may yet be developed into good oil-producing territory.
The town contains a total area of 23,106 acres, of which 7000 acres are improved; and in 1875 bad a population of 2140 inhabitants, of whom 261 were foreign born, and 21 colored.
During the year 1806, Jacob Swartz, John Young, Asahel Atherton, Rufus Atherton, Wm. Atherton, Daniel Edwards, John Holdrich, Simeon Munson, Samuel Todd, Richard Frayer, Isaac Phelps, Ira Higgins, Daniel Church, Daniel McKay, Reuben Clark, and James Green made contracts for land in township 1, range 3, of the Holland Purchase.
Now, while several or all of those named in the foregoing list may have
been settlers for a time, and then, becoming discouraged with the
Herculean task before them - ie, of converting the bowling wilderness
into cultivated fields during their lifetime,-had sold out their "
betterments" and removed to other more inviting localities, it seems to
be a conceded fact-by those who have been in a position to know-that
the only residents in the territory now known as the town of Portville,
in 1809, were the Athertons. William Atherton seems to have been the
leading spirit among them. It is stated that he came in
from the Genesee River country in 1809, and settled upon the east bank
of the Allegany River, just below the mouth of the Oswayo Creek. The
following year he built a saw-mill on the, same creek, about forty rods
below the present site of Smith's Mills.
He was joined soon after by his brothers, Asahel and Rufus. The Athertons remained in this vicinity until about 1819, when they removed farther west. In 1810, Gideon Haskell and Hill, his brother-in-law, came in and settled on Haskell Creek, in the western part of the town.
The same year they built a saw-mill on Haskell Creek about sixty rods above where the railroad crosses, and soon after Haskell erected the first framed house in town. This house is described as having been 1 story in height, 18 feet wide, and 50 feet long. In 1820, Haskell & Hill owned
parts of lots 63, 64, 65, 73, 74, and 75, comprising in all about 550 acres.
John Morris, in 1813, became the first settler upon site of the village of Portville. Although still a Young man, his life had been an eventful one. A native of Rhode Island, be had been with Aaron Burr on Blennerhassett's Island, and, during " Mad Anthony's'; campaign against the Indians, served with Gen. Shelby's command of Kentuckians. He arrived in Olean in 1811, and for some two years was employed by Maj. Hoops. During this time he married the daughter of an emigrating German family, whose destination was the valley of the Hockhocking River, Ohio, and in 1813, as before mentioned, he became a resident of Portville. Here was born, in 1814, the Rev. Dexter Morris, of State Line, whose birth is the first of which there is any record in the town- The elder Morris, after a residence of but a short period, sold his improvements to the Dodges, and joined his wife's people in Ohio. Returning to the Allegany River or Valley again, he opened a tavern, and for many years after as his son states it, he kept tavern all along the river from Olean to Pittsburgh."
The same year, 1813, the brothers Jonathan, Alfred, and Daniel Dodge settled in the central part of township 1, range 3. Jonathan located upon lot 27, and Lynds upon lot 28. Their lands embraced all the territory lying within the present limits of the village of Portville,, and the creek which flows through it derives its name from this family. The Dodge brothers are described as having been large, muscular men, peculiarly well fitted for the period in which they lived, when the sole occupation of the people was lumbering and rafting, when brains, in comparison with brawn and muscle, were at a discount.
Dennis Warner, from Ontario Co., N. Y., settled in 1816, and until 1819 was employed as salesman in Judge Martin's store. The latter year he became a resident Portville, and located at Weston's Mills, then Rice's Mills. Mr. Warner was an active and prominent man in the town of Olean, and as a town officer served in various capacities. He died at the age of twenty-six years.
Settlements did not increase very rapidly in this town until about 1840, for it is found by referring to an assessment-roll of the town of Olean, for 1820, that the only resident land-owners in township 1, range 3, at that date other than those already mentioned, viz. : Haskell, Hill, and the Dodge brothers, were John J. Cook, who was settled on lot 13; Jacob Downing, lot 28; Ebenezer Jones, on lot 29 Kennard and Mead, who owned parts of lots 1, 2, and 9 William Pinkerton, who resided on lot 11, and owned parts of 2, 11, 20, and 21 ; Allen Rice was at Weston's Mills, and owned an extensive saw-mill (for that time) and 1000 acres in the immediate vicinity; Luman Rice owned 137 acres of lot 47; Elihu Fobes was on lot 17 ; David Fosbinder, who owned 378 acres on lots 3, 9, and 10 ; John Thompson, Jr., who owned about 525 acres on lots 23, 24, 25, and 26; Ebenezer Reed, on lot 40; and John Thompson, lot 39.
A majority of the pioneers of Portville came in from Allegany County, where they had first settled after coming from sections in Eastern New York and the New England States.
Joel Wakefield and Rodolphus Scott made contracts for land in township 2, range 3, as early as 1815, but it seems that the Wakefields and Scott did not become residents until some ten or twelve years later.
In 1824, Samuel, John, and A. V. P. Mills were settled in the valley of the Oswayo, in the south part. John Pinkerton was also in the south part, and Truman Parker on lot 47. Walter Rea was on the southwest part of lot 22, Elias Williams on lot 39, John, John Jr., and H. H. Wilson were south of the village of Portville, and Daniel Weymouth on 55.
The year 1832 found Loyal Stevens on lot 9, Alexander Woodruff on lot 1, Joseph Crandall on lots 10 and 22, David McCormick on lot 21, Henry T. Leighton on lots 23 and 38, Roswell Jackson, south of the village. Luman Rice, who had become a settler in 1822, was keeping tavern on lot 27, John Wolcott was on lot 29, John W. Baxter on lot 9, Reuben Rice on lot 46, Paul Reed on 63 and 62, Josiah F. Mason on lot 73, Ransom Bartlett on lot 74, and Newton Parker on the north part of lot 63 ; all in township 1, range 3.
In township 2, range 3, there were John Conrad, on lot 25, Joel, Jonathan, Enoch, and Alpheus Wakefield, on lot 20, Rodolphus Scott on lot 19, and Alfred Dodge on 18. Other residents, not land-owners, in 1832, were David Bales, Milton Main, Marion Reynolds, Prentiss Moore, Cyrenus Ackley, Daniel W. Disbrow, Thomas T. Wasson, James Bowers, Silas Ferry, Clark Cooper, Peter Cooper, Samuel Brown,, Jacob Nichols, S. Judd, E. Tubbs, V. Tubbs, J. Tubbs, V. Caswell, S. Horner, William Palmer, Alexander Sykes, Miles Andrews, John Searl, Charles Jewell, Erastus Boyington, Robert Lacey, Jeffrey Godfrey, Thomas Bissell, Smith Parish, Jonathan E. Parker, Loomis Bartlett, Asahel Slafter, and Thomas Sherlock.
Smith Parish, then a young man, became a resident of Portville in 1830, and from that time to the present has been prominently identified with its history and business interests. He has served his town in various official capacities, and represented the county in the State Legislature during the session of 1864.,
William F. Wheeler, from Delaware Co., N. Y., settled in 1834, and has since become widely known as a banker, manufacturer, and lumber-dealer.
By an act of the Legislature of the State, passed April 27, 1837,
Portville was formed from Olean, and comprises all that part of the
Holland Purchase known as township 1, range 3, and the south half of
township 2, range-3.
It derives its name from the fact that at an early day it was a prominent point for the shipment of lumber, shingles, etc., down the Ohio and Allegany Rivers to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and other points on those rivers.
At the first town-meeting the electors of -the town of Portville assembled at the house of Luman Rice, in the village of Portville, March 6, 1838. William Wales, a justice of the peace, called the meeting to order, when Luman Rice was chosen moderator, and Isaac Senter and Harvey D. May poll clerks. The meeting then adjourned to the district school-house in the village of Portville, and the following-named town officers were elected:
Supervisor, Luman Rice; Town Clerk, Addison J.; Wheeler ; Assessors, Lemuel Smith, Harvey D. May, Alplieus Wakefield; Commissioners of Highways, Ezra May, Smith Parish, Joseph Crandall; Overseers of the Poor, John Conrad, Isaac Senter; Collector, Henry T. Leighton; Constables, Charles C. Jewell, Henry T. Leighton, Harlow M. Hopkins - Commissioners of Common Schools, Henry Dusenbury, Walter Rea, Darius Wheeler; Inspectors of Common Schools, Lemuel Smith, Harvey D. May, Ambrose P. Willard; Justices of the Peace, Smith Parish, Stanton H. Laing, Olcott P. Boardman; Sealer of Weights and Measures, Addison J. Wheeler; Overseers of Highways, Henry Terry, , Albert Burdick, Clark. Lillibridge, Gardner Coon, Amos Scofield, Barzilla Scofield, Rodolphus Scott.
|The following is a list of the supervisors, town clerks, and justices of the peace, from 1838 to 1878, inclusive:|
The following is a list of resident land owners in township 1, range 3, 1820. Showing the number of acres owned, and the assessed valuation.
|John J Cook||285||$2135|
|Haskell & Hill||547||3142|
|Kennard & Mead||557||3085|
The following is a complete list of all the
residents of the town who were assessed for highway labor in 1832:
Loyal Stevens, David Bales, Milton Main, Marion Reynolds, Alexander
Woodruff, Prentiss Moore, Cyrenus Ackley, Joseph Crandall, David
McCormick, Walter Rea, Daniel W. Disbrow, Thomas T. Wasson, James
Bowers, Silas Ferry, Clark Cooper, Peter Cooper, Henry T. Leighton,
Roswell Jackson, Luman Rice, Lynds Dodge, John Wolcott, John W. Baxter, Ebenezer Jones, William Plimpton, Reuben Rice, Jacob Nichols, S. Judd, E. Tubbs, J. Tubbs, V. Tubbs, V. Caswell, S. Horner, William Palmer, Paul Reed, Josiah F. Mason, Alexander Sikes, Miles Andrews, John Searle, Charles Jewell, Erastus Boyington, Daniel Weymouth, Robert Lacy, Jeffrey Godfrey, Thomas Bissell, Ransom Bartlett, Newton Parker, Smith Parish, John Conrad, Freeman Parker, Jonathan E. Baker, Loomis Bartlett, Jonathan Dodge, Joel Wakefield, Jonathan Wakefield, Enoch Wakefield, Alpheus Wakefield, Ashel Slafter, Rodolphus Scott, Alfred Dodge, Thomas Sherlock.
By an act of the legislature, passed in 1857l,
and extension of the Genesee Valley Canal was authorized from Olean
eastward across Olean Creek, and thence along the bottomlands on the
north bank of the Allegany river, to Mill Grove Pond; the distance
being 61/2 miles. This extension has been of great usefulness to
merchants, lumbermen, and others, but, with the main line, it was
abandoned at the close of the season of 1878.
The Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia Railroad enters the town near the centre, on the west border, and extending up the valley of the Allegany River on the north bank, leaves the town near the centre, on the south border. Portville and Weston's Mills are stations. The road was completed in 1873. The citizens of Portville subscribed $1100, and erected the depot in their village.
The early settlers were mainly engaged in the manufacture of shingles and lumber. The fall and winter season was devoted to the preparation of a stock on hand, so that with the coming of the spring floods they were ready to make the trip down the rivers to the markets of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Louisville. They were enabled to return about the first of June, and debts which had been accumulating during the preceding twelve months were then canceled. Scarcely a man can be met who has lived along the river for twenty years or more, or who is "to the manor born,: who has not made the voyage on a raft down the Allegany and Ohio Rivers. The life was a rollicking one, and country youths, while down the river, were enabled to obtain a glimpse of city life, as represented in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Not to have made the trip and walked back, once at least, lessened one's worth, ability, and manhood in the estimation f himself, his fellows, and all veteran raftsmen. But the hill-sides and valleys have been denuded of their primeval growth. The towering pines have almost disappeared from view, and rafting, as an occupation, has become a thing of the past.
The tanning and leather-manufacturing establishment of Messrs. Wright, Wheeler & Co., situated in the village of Portville, is one of the leading industries of the town, and as it is one of the largest and most completely appointed of its kind in the State, a brief sketch of its inception and history to the present time is deemed proper.Mark Comstock, in 1849, erected upon its site a small tannery, which had a capacity for tanning 500 hides yearly, and gave employment to one and sometimes two men besides himself. He continued this with indifferent success for a period of six years, when Mr. C. K. Wright, in 1855, bought a one-half interest. The firm of Comstock & Wright continued two years, when Mr. Wright bought out Comstock's interest and became sole owner. Up to that time the power used was obtained by water, and the capacity of the establishment had not been increased.
In 1858, Mr. Wright rebuilt and enlarged the works, applied steam-power, and bought the capacity up to 10,00 yearly. The same year, B. B. Thompson and A. W. Bingham were admitted as partners, and the firm then assumed the title of Thompson, Wright & Bingham. After a lapse of three years, this firm and the copartnership expired by limitation, and C. K. Wright again became sole proprietor. Soon after he sold a one-half interest to Daniel Munson. In 1862 the firm of Wright & Munson enlarged the capacity of their tannery to 20,000 hides annually. In 1864, Munson sold his interest to J. & H. H. Clark, of Keokuk, Iowa. The firm of Wright, Clark & Co. continued until November, 1870, when the Messrs. Clark sold out to William T. Wheeler & Co. The firm of Wright, Wheeler & Co. soon after admitted as partners B. F. Thompson & Co., of Boston, Mass., and this partnership continues at the present time. The firm-name in Boston is B. F. Thompson & Co., and in Portville, Wright, Wheeler & Co.
In 1875 the works were again rebuilt and enlarged, new engines and boilers were put in place, and the capacity increased to 40,000 sides of finished leather yearly. Previous to this time the finishing had been done in Boston.
As and idea of the vast amount of business done by this firm can be inferred, when we state that an 80 horse-power engine and 4 immense boilers are employed to propel their machinery, which consists of the best and latest improvements; and instead of 2 men, not less than 150 skilled artisans are steadily employed. 3000 cords of hemlock-bark are used yearly; and from 10 to 12 tons of finished leather are shipped weekly, mainly to Boston and St. Louis. The manufactured goods consist of imitations of pebble goat, morocco, French kid, straight grained, buff, white leather, and splits of all kinds. The disbursements of this company in the village of Portville aggregate $1200 per week. They own 2500 acres of timbered lands in the towns of Portville and Olean, of which several hundred acres in the latter town have been developed a good oil-producing territory. In fact, this is an establishment which is an honor to its projectors and owners, and one in which the citizens of Portville--may take a just pride and interest.
The saw-mills of Messrs. Weston Bros., Weston & Meserrau, Wm. F. Wheeler & Co., and Luther Gordon, manufacture 12,000,000 feet of lumber, and many thousand shingles yearly.
Portville, situated on the Allegany River and the extension of the Genesee Valley
Canal at the mouth of Dodge's Creek, and southeast of the central part
of the town, is a station on the line of the Buffalo, New York and
It contains two churches (Presbyterian and Methodist Episcopal), a boarding-house, four stores of general merchandise, two drug-stores, one hardware-store, two grocery-stores, one flour and feed store, one furniture-store, two millinery-stores, post-office, a district school-house with four departments, one leather-manufactory, shingle-mill, steam grist-mill, various small mechanic shops, and about 700 inhabitants.
Jonathan and Lynds Dodge, who settled here in 1813, were the original owners of the site. Lynds Dodge built a framed house on lot 28 in 1818, and in 1820 the 133 acres (with improvements) of Jonathan Dodge on lot 27 was assessed at $2000.
In 1822, Luman Rice built a house in the village, and soon after it was opened by him as an inn or place of entertainment. About 1836 he sold the first goods and became the first postmaster at the same time.
The village was visited by a disastrous conflagration in 1875, which destroyed its hotels, stores, and in fact all its business centre. The stores have since been rebuilt, and in point of numbers, size, and architectural beauty, the village enjoys the pre-eminence of having the finest business houses in the county, but hotel accommodations are sadly lacking.
Westonville (Weston Mills Post Office)
is situated on the Allegany River, Genesee Valley Canal, and the
Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia Railway. It derives its name
from the Weston brothers, who have here an extensive lumber and shingle
manufactory; and it contains, besides the mills, a store of general
merchandise; post-office, district school-house, shoe-shop,
blacksmith-shop, and about 150 inhabitants.
The original owner of its site was Allen Rice, who, in 1820, owned 1000 acres of land in its immediate vicinity. His land and improvements on lot 63 were then assessed at $3202, and improvements on lot 72 at $1308. Mr. Rice threw the first dam across the Allegany River above Pittsburgh, at this point, about 1818. Permission to do so was granted by a special act of the Legislature, and that act required him to construct a lock to admit the passage of boats and canoes.
a hamlet situated on the Allegany River, at the terminus of the extension of the Genesee Valley Canal; and on the line of the B., N. Y. & P. R. R., contains a store, grist-mill, two saw-mills, blacksmith-shop, and about ten dwelling-houses. Jonathan Dodge owned the site--100 acres of lot 22--in 1820, and it was then assessed at $400.
Portville Lodge, No. 579, F. and A.M., was
organized in January, 1865, and chartered June 9, 1866, with the
following-named officers: Wilson Collins, M.; M. B. Bennie, S. W.;
Massena Langdon, J.W.; T.S. Jackson, Treas.; Henry C. Scofield, Sec.
The officers for 1878 are Ezra M. Bedford, M.; H. D. Smith, S. W.; C. W. Van Wart, J. W.; M. B. Bennie, Treas.; B. A. Packard, Sec.; John H. Warden, S. D.; Charles Parks, J. D.; H. M. Hopkins, Tyler.
The Past Masters are M. B. Bennie, Schuyler M. Gaston, John H. Warden, Lewis D. Warner, John Hendy, and Ezra Borst. Number of present members, 60. Regular communications are held the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, at Masonic Hall, in the village of Portville, N. Y.
Portville Lodge, No. 170, A. O. U. W., was instituted Aug. 28, 1878, with 25 charter members and the following board of officers: Wallace Sibley, P. M. W.; C. W. Van Wart, M. W.; H. L. Rice, G. F.; D. L. Parish, O. S.; H. J. Crandall, Recorder; E. M. Bedford, Receiver; H. Phillips, Financier; De Witt Page, Guide; William P. Roberts, J. W.; Thomas McKinlay, O. W. The lodge meets weekly at their lodge-room, in the village of Portville, N. Y.
This band was organized by W. H. Gray, their
first leader, in January, 1878, and is composed of the following-named
members and pieces: C. M. Maxson, E-flat cornet; Defreest Barber,
E-flat cornet; Lee Langworthy, B-flat cornet; G. W. Nichols, B-flat
cornet; Jacob Frenkle, solo E-flat alto; William Percival, solo E-flat
alto; Friendly Langworthy, tenor; C. L. bullock, baritone; Martin Lord,
tuba; George Barton, tenor drum; F. McDougald, bass drum.
The citizens of Portville have subscribed very liberally towards the organization and equipment of this band; besides, they have caused to be erected a band-stand, or pagoda, which occupies one of the prominent corners of the village. Their contributions for the present year will aggregate $400.
Rev. Dexter Morris relates that in the winter of 1830-31 he taught the school in the district which then included the whole of the present town of Portville. The school-house--which was a frame one, and had a large, old-fashioned fireplace--stood near where the road crossed the creek at Gordon's Mills. Mr. Morris was then about fifteen years of age. He received $12 per month for a three-months" term, and "boarded around." The number of his pupils would aggregate about 40. Of this number, Jonathan Dodge sent 13 children. Among other pupils were Smith Parish and D. Rice, now prominent residents of the village of Portville. Mr. Morris thinks this house had been erected but a year or so, and that but one other regularly-employed teacher had preceded him in the town. The school-books in use were "Webster's Spelling-Book," "English Reader," the "Testament," "Daboll's Arithmetic,": and "Murray's Grammar."
In comparison with the foregoing the following
statistics, taken from the report of the county school commissioners
for the year ending September 30, 1878, are appended.
The town at present has 10 school districts, with 10 school buildings, valued, with sites, at $7300. Volumes in library, 369, valued at $137. The number of teachers employed was 14, to whom was paid in wages, $3358.58. Number of weeks taught was 316 3/5. Number of children of school age, 844. Average daily attendance, 302. Amount of money received from State, $1713.91. Amount of money received from tax, $2972.03.
methodist episcopal church
About 1822, the agents of the Holland Land
Company deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church, of township 1, range
3, 100 acres of land, described as being the south part of lot 7, in
said township. James Brooks, Darrar Swain, Luman Rice, Dennis
Warner, and Dennis Lamberton were named as trustees. The
trustees were not all members of this church, neither were all of them
residents of the territory since known as the town of Portville.
Matters regarding this church seemed to have remained quiet until 1831,
when a society was formed, of which Smith Parish, Joshua F. Mason, John
Wolcott, Delila Wright, Olive McCormick, Clarissa Warner, Marcia
Boardman, Amy Dodge, and her two sisters, were the members.
Their first meetings were held in a small school-house, which stood near the present site of Gordon's Mills.
In 1844 a reorganization took place. Smith Parish, Lemuel Smith, Joseph Crandall, Horace B. Hooker, and Peter Keyes were elected trustees, and the church was duly incorporated December 23 of the same year.
The church edifice, which will seat about 300 persons, was erected in 1845, at a cost of $1500. there has since been expended in repairs about $1200. The present membership is 75; Rev. O. M. Leggett, pastor.
In 1849, Rev. Sylvester Cowles visited
Portville, in response to a request that had been made to the buffalo
Presbytery for the organization of a church her, and on the 27th of
June in that year an organization was effected, the meeting for the
purpose being held in the Methodist church. The names of those
who united at that time in the formation of the church were Henry
Dusenbury, Caroline Dusenbury, William F. Wheeler, Flora Wheeler, A. T.
Warden, Lucinda Comstock, William Larabee, Mary Ann Larabee, Gilman
Sanderson, Lucy Sanderson, and Caroline Gleason.
Some two years previous to the time when the church was organized, Rev. John Lane had preached here part of the time. After the organization Rev. J. A. Woodruff preached for nearly two years. He was followed by Rev. C. Kidder, who was here about eight months. In 1856, Rev. E. H. Taylor came, and remained about two years. Rev. I. G. Ogden took charge of the church in October 1858, and remained for nine years. He was followed by Rev. O. Myrick, who remained for a year and a half. The present pastor, Rev. J. E. Tinker, came in the spring of 1870.
The church edifice was erected in 1852 at a cost of $2200. It was remodeled in 1873 at an expense of $5000, and has sittings for about 300 persons.
The present membership of the church is 85. Number of scholars in the Sabbath-school, 90; Mr. E. W. Wheeler, superintendent.
The Seventh-Day Baptist Church of Portville was organized with 20 members in 1862, by Rev. J. C. West, and was incorporated March 2, 1874. Elder J. S. Huffman presided, and Rowland A. Barber, Sanford I. Maxson, and Ashley G. Packard were elected trustees. The society, numbering about 75 members, worships in a school-house, situated in the eastern part of the town.