A GLIMPSE OF ELLICOTTVILLES PAST 1808-1880
By: Clement F. Smith Ellicottville Historian
Based on the best authority of the day, the community of Ellicottville one hundred years ago bears little resemblance to the energetic skiing and small business community that it has become since the late 1870's.
The story of the village and town in its first fifty years has; however, many early settlers in this area came from the New England states. Ellicottville's first was Grove HURLBUT, a native of Connecticut, who built a log home in the township about 1815.
By 1817, Ellicottville was starting to grow. Its first school went into session in the summer of that year. There were only children of two families in attendance. But by 1822, the assessment roll of Ellicottville showed upwards of fifty families that had purchased lots either in the village or the town. The following names excerpted from this assessment-roll: Nathaniel BRYANT, Roger, COIT, Benjamin CHAMBERLAIN, David C. McCLURE, Quartus RUST, James REYNOLDS, Chauncey FOX, Henry HATCHEL, Orrin PITCHER, Artemus BLAIR.
These are but a few names, but they may be familiar to present day residents of Ellicottville.
Of course this land would never have been available except for the fact that it had been developed by the Holland Land Co. David GOODWIN was the first agent for the company. With support from the Company, many firsts took place in rapid succession. The town came into existence on April 20, 1820. The first schoolhouse was built on Bryant Hill in the same year.
Between 1824 and 1848 the Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Catholic faiths were represented in the town and village.
There are some interesting footnotes to the early history of the school district. In 1821, the district was divided into four parts. The number of "scholars" in attendance was 55. With a budget balance of $20.24 the commissioners reported that a total $54.69 had been expended for each pupil. By 1878 the school system had grown to "great size."
There were 411 books valued at $246. There were 755 students of school age and 277 in average daily attendance. The total expenditures for eleven teachers for the 28-week year were $2,679.42. The state reimbursed the district $1,524.46. The total tax revenue was $1,543.38.
The village within the town is also an important area for investigation of past history. The Indians had a name for the village, De-as-hen-da-qua, or "place for holding courts." The Holland Land Co. laid the village and it served as the County seat from 1808 until 1868. By 1870, the population had expanded to 579 people. The village contained two hotels, a post office, a school house, band, land office, four dry goods and grocery stores, two drug stores, seven blacksmith shops, two tailor shops, a printing office, a jewelry store, a grist mill, four mills, three shoemakers, a foundry, a carriage-shop, a railroad station, eight lawyers, and four physicians. A fire company was also organized in 1874.
Farming and industry were closely linked together in the early years of this community. One hundred years ago, Ellicottville produced 89,105 pounds of butter and 8,800 pounds of cheese. The number of cows registered was 2058. Eleven thousand, nine hundred and sixty pounds of maple sugar were made and 37,590 bushels of oats were harvested. Mr. Walton FOX, in the year of 1877, made $70,000 profit from the sale of 644,486 pounds of cheese manufactured in and around Ellicottville.
Interest in all kinds of societies and clubs was also a feature of Ellicottville's lifestyle. The Masonic Lodge was very active as early as 1823. Such groups as the "Independent Bachelors" a political club made their impact on the town. These self styled politicians felt it a duty "that the ummarried men of Ellicottville, being unencumbered with wives, and the responsibilities attendant on married life deem it our duty to run for public office." The "Bachelors" did not elect a single candidate in 1848 of that year and it was the last active campaign they ever waged. Much more controversial was the attempt at the establishment of an abolition society about 1836. Initial attempts failed at doing so, but, the Rev. Sylvester COWLES and Pliny L. FOX, Esq., did succeed in the eventual formation of a society.
This is but a superficial glimpse of Ellicottville's past between the
years of its founding and roughly 1880. The amazing thing is that
so much of its early history still can be found in the town and village
on display in its museum. Whether it may be the task of researching
a family genealogy or simply an interest in early Ellicottville this community
resource is available to the public.
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Last Update February 2, 2020