|The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
|17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770
Portville, New York
The lovely watercolor
in our toolbar above is
a depiction of the office
at 17 Maple Avenue.
The artist is Portville's
very own talent,
Portville Historical and Preservation Society Opens Its Doors
When May rolls around every Spring, we get out our cleaning supplies and spiff up the office at 17
Maple Avenue. We opened a few weeks ago on the first sunny day in weeks. Now that we have the
ladybugs under control, please feel free to stop by for a visit. We are open every Thursday from 10
a.m. until 4 p.m. through the end of September. As a registered charitable 501 (c) (3) organization,
we can offer a tax write-off for your donations, cash or otherwise. Please remember us when you
are cleaning out the attic or basement and you come across interesting items that you think would look
great in our new Col. Eshelman museum.
Annual Trustee Meeting Held
On Saturday, May 7, 2011, the Officers and Trustees of PHPS gathered for our annual business
meeting. Our agenda included reporting on the fiscal year, 2010, including an activity report, curator
report, and treasurer report. Our current Officers were reelected for the 2011-2013 term and three
Trustees renewed their 3-year terms.
This year we also focused on a detailed planning budget. With the bequests of Col. Eshelman, we
have the added responsibility of renovating his former home at Bedford Corners for the museum.
Progress has been slow so far, but we plan to have the entire house rewired this summer and we
volunteers will continue stripping the old wall paper and doing other clean-up activities. Now that we
have spent an entire winter in the house, we must also focus on the heating and insulation to minimize
the impact of energy expenses there and in the school house building.
Memorial Day Yard Sale
On Monday, May 30, 2011, we plan to hold a yard sale on the lawn of the Bedford Corners School
house at 1290 Portville-Obi Road, Portville. Terri and Mike Batt came up with the idea and in addition
to their own yard sale items, we decided it was time to "weed out" some of the extraneous items of
Col. Eshelman's estate. There will be furniture, household items, and collectibles at the sale which will
start at 10 a.m. and go until 4 p.m.
Come on up before or after the American Legion parade down in the village and search for treasures.
Many of Charles' possessions included the household of his aunts from Pittsburgh, Emma Carpenter
Wainman Blair, and the sisters of Sarah Eshelman Holcomb, Aunts Emma and Lillian Hopewell.
Annual American Legion Memorial Day Parade and Chicken Barbeque
Also on Monday, May 30, 2011, the Ernest Lamb Post #814 American Legion will host their annual
parade through the village of Portville. The participants line up at the school parking lot on Elm Street
and the parade begins at 1:30 p.m. From Elm Street, they march down Main Street to Temple, then
on up to the Chestnut Hill Cemetery. They always have an interesting speaker and the traditional gun
salute to honor our veterans and all soldiers serving in the Armed Forces. Bring your tissues, it is an
emotionally moving tribute.
Chicken dinners are available starting at 12 noon this year, behind of the Legion building at 24 S. Main
Street. Proceeds go toward a charitable project of the Legion.
Welcome to PHPS
This page was last updated on 5-17-11
If you have a fascination with the canal and hope to see it for yourself, you can visit several locations
where there is still some evidence of the canal's existence. Several of the closest to Portville are Lock
98, Lock 102, and the Bulkhead Reservoir in Ischua. They are located just off the Hinsdale Highway
(Route 16) and Route 446 in Maplehurst. These sites are depicted on hand-drawn maps in "Genesee
Valley Canal - 100 Years Gone By. Lock locations in the Southern Tier" by Jonathan J. Woodworth.
He also describes, in detail, the canal sites at Lock 37 in Nunda and Lock 90 near Belfast. Local
Historians present a canal history lesson, every so often, as shown in a newspaper article from 1992
As for Portville, the Mill Grove extension was abandoned with the rest of the canal by an Act of
Legislation on September 30, 1878. To recoup some of the loss, the State eventually sold the
right-of-way to the Pittsburg, Shawmut, and Northern Railroad, and other railroads throughout the
Southern Tier. You can still drive down Pine Street and around Mersereau Place and see some of the
depressions where the old canal had been filled in and forms the watershed for the village. However,
much of that area was covered by the dykes when they were installed for flood protection in 1950.
For more information, visit our office at 17 Maple Avenue in Portville.
Elinor Wormer, Lila Pollock, and Helen Barnes
Genesee Valley Canal in Portville ~ 1861 - 1878
Every so often, we get an inquiry about the Genesee Valley Canal and its location in Portville. Many
people may not even know that there was a canal in Portville, but it seems appropriate that we revisit
the history of the Genesee Valley Canal since this year marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of
the canal's extension from Olean to Mill Grove, way back in 1861. This is not something that is
taught in our local schools, however, we think it is pretty interesting that something as important as a
canal was brought to Portville and many articles have been written over the years that tell of its
unique role in our history.
Initially, the State of New York had decided that the canal would end in Olean, at a pond near Bradner
Stadium. But some very influential Portville men, namely John G. Mersereau, pursued the extension
of the canal to Mill Grove, in order to provide a means of transporting the lumber and other goods
shipped from Portville. At that time, there were lumber interests near the River Road in Mill Grove,
Mersereau Mills at Pine Street, Wheeler Dusenbury Mills at Dodge Creek/Mayville, Gordon's Mills at
Steam Valley, and Weston's Mills at Westons, not to mention several smaller mills along the Haskell
Creek. The Dusenburys ran a well-stocked general store and Smith Parish also had a large shingle
business that could benefit greatly from the upstate markets.
Before the canal was opened in 1861, merchants only had the Allegheny River to reach the markets
down river, to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and points even further south to the Mississippi, if they wanted
to go that far. They usually stopped in Pittsburgh because it was a long walk home! The heyday of
the canal would not last though. Also at this time, railroads were fast becoming the popular means of
transport and were connecting all places that could not be reached by the waterways. The popularity
of the railroad would eventually lead to the canal's demise in 1878.
A few years before the 100th anniversary of the Mill Grove extension, Maud D. Brooks, Olean City
Historian, wrote several interesting articles about the canal for the Olean Times Herald. They
appeared in the paper in January 1952 and another in 1956 and tell of the early days of the canal and
how it came to Olean and later, Portville. On October 6, 1856, the canal opened in Olean, the
terminal depot being located at the present site of the Olean Center Mall parking lot, across from the
old PRR depot near JCC. We have collected three of her articles and present them for you at the link
1967: Watching the parade from 10 Temple Street. B. W. and Mae
Harrison (rt), Duane and Lois Jennings (ctr), Mary Lou Harrison
with daughters (lt). Note the gray Peckham house, now
Echo/Masonic Building Parking Lot.
1964: Boy Scouts march in the Memorial Day parade.
1967: Armadings and other neighbors gather for the
Memorial Day parade at 13 Temple St.
1974: Chief Lyman Baker escorts the parade in front of
31 Brooklyn Street. Before the Elm Street entrance to
the school was built, the parade route started down
School Street to Brooklyn to Main.
1976: The Portville Marching Band, proudly lead by David
Dunbar (in maroon jacket) and Donald McClarin (not shown)
in the Bicentennial Celebration. The building behind them
was John Petruccelli's tailor shop on S. Main near the end of
Brooklyn Street (now Ice Cream Island).
1974: The PCS Marching Band was just getting started and did
not have uniforms yet. Here they are playing a tune and
marching up Temple Street. Today's band now wears similar
black and white attire for their annual appearance in the
1981: In front of Marsh's home on Brooklyn Street. (L to R):
Reuben Hatch, Kenny Marsh, Izzie Marsh, Vivian Marsh
1988: The Portville Central School Marching Band
(wearing later uniforms).
1977: Arnold and Jane Miller (long-time Portville
Historian) head for the cemetery on upper Temple.
Just across the tracks you can see what was the
oldest business in the village (now apartments).
1976: Bicentennial Celebration float
1976: Bicentennial Celebration
The Color Guard marches in front of Reuben Hatch's home
on Brooklyn Street.