EARLY SETTLERS OF PORTVILLE
FROM: "THE HISTORY OF CATTARAUGUS COUNTY, NY", ed by Franklin Ellis, pub 1879 by LH EVERTS. Pages 408-9.
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.