(1787 – 1866)
By Douglas H. Shepard, 2011
Charles Burritt was born in Connecticut on 25 July 1787. His parents are said to have died when he was quite young and he was taken in by an aunt who lived in Oneida County NY. He learned the trade of shoemaking and after he turned 21, in 1808, he relocated to Canadaway in 1809. He built a small log cabin about at today’s 2 West Main Street where he lived and had his shop. Hezekiah Barker, who had the land contract, paid it off in 1812 and took title in November. On 15 March 1813 he sold the ¼-acre lot to Burritt. On 9 December 1813, Burritt married Orpha Tucker the daughter of Samuel Tucker of Silver Creek, later of Portland.
Burritt’s biography in Taylor’s History of Chautauqua County says that because he became ill, he gave up shoemaking and set up a grocery instead. That was in a different building. On 18 February 1814 he bought a 1-acre lot about at today’s 59-75 West Main Street. There he put up a small building for a home and store. (Levi Risley’s account of Fredonia in 1821 says that that building was a shoe shop and later a grocery.) In 1896 their son Franklin, writing about early libraries, described the place. (Franklin was born in February 1827, so his recollections refer to what the place looked like in the 1830s at the earliest.)
It was a log house standing “very nearly on the site of the dwelling now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Meacham [63 West Main Street, later moved back to a 6 Forest Place address] ” “the interstices between the logs were well chinked with puddled clay; the floors were made of split logs, smoothed with an axe. An open fire place, ample enough to burn three feet wood, graced one end of the main room on the first floor. A mud-and-stick chimney, well plastered on outside and inside to protect from fire, rose from the outside close to the cabin.” Franklin remembered “the open fire place, piled high with blazing three feet logs, in my father’s quaint old ‘Curiosity Shop’ of a drug, grocery and general merchandise store, upon whose shelves, in whose store rooms and in whose out of the way corners most everything could be found. . . . [with] slab benches that encircled the blazing hearth in lieu of chairs, in that primitive shop.”
“In one corner of the main room a ladder gave access to the garrett through a hole in the floor. This loft afforded room for promiscuous storage and a rude dormitory. . . . That dwelling was the early home of Capt. Charles Burritt.” In 1812 Burritt had married Orpha Ianthe, daughter of Samuel and Anna (Logan) Tucker, then of Silver Creek. Their four children were William Henry, Mary Jane (married to Elbridge W. Meacham), Harriet (married to David McClure), and Franklin (married to Ann, daughter of Elisha and Harriet L. Norton.) Charles Burritt served as Ensign at the Battle of Queenston, later promoted to Captain, and for many years was Town of Pomfret Supervisor. He died on 9 March 1866 and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.