The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770

www.portvillehistory.org
History of Portville, NY
Glimpses of Fifty Years (Page Three)
by
Harry C. Holcomb  

(Continued from Page Two)


There have been many fraternal societies in Portville.  Some remain until this day, others flashed on the
scene made more or less of a name and then passed because of lack of depth, strength or because
there was no need of the work they tried to do.

The oldest so far as I know is the Masonic lodge, organized in 1865.  The first officers were Rev.
Wilson Collins, Master, and supported by M. B. Bennie, S. M. Gaston, C. W. Van Wart, Marcena
Langdon and others.

The late John H. Warden was the first man to be initiated after the lodge was organized and among the
early members was A. G. Packard, M. P. Keyes, B. A. Packard, C. K. Wright, and E. M. Bedford.  B.
A. Packard is the only one of these now living and is the oldest member on the rolls.  He still retains his
membership and has as keen an interest in it as when he left Portville fifty years ago.  He now lives in
Douglas, Arizona.  This lodge is still active and fills a useful place in the fraternal life of the community.

Another growing permanent society is the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows.  This lodge was
organized by George Davis of Delevan who was District Deputy at that time some time about 1896,
tho I am not certain of the exact date, and has been a useful factor in Portville to the present.  Its
members are loyal and devoted and have been a real help to the community.

In 1881 there flourished two fraternal societies.  The A. O. U. W. was a strong growing organization
and did a great deal of good during its life, and the E. A. U. was another similar society.  Both had a
large membership, but like so many others gave too much for the cost and had to fail, and now very
few of the old membership remain.

The K. O. T. M. started in he same way but the leaders saw the way they were going and by keeping
at work brought about a reorganization that has put it on a substantial basis and it now promises to be
permanent.  These have all filled a place and been a real help to many people in distress for the cheap
insurance protection they gave was of great value at the time.

Other organizations whose object has been charitable and who have had a strong influence for good
are the Eastern Star now over thirty-five years old in Portville and the Rebekahs, younger but useful.

Mrs. Frank E. Tyler was the first Matron of the Eastern Star and her last attendance was on the
evening of her death.  H. F. Keyes was the Patron and served for several years.

One of the most active organizations was H. W. Wessel's Post G. A. R., which was established in the
1870s.  It was the first G. A. R. Post in Cattaraugus County I have been told.  At one time it had a
membership of upwards of two hundred members and they came from Eldred, Ceres, Duke Center
and the surrounding country.  Among the most active in the organization were the Both Brothers,
Jacob and Guy, J. A. Burdick, A. O. Burdick, L. D. Warner, William Holden, A. G. Burdick, Lyman E.
Carr, W. M. Skiver, D. E. Page, James S. Barnes, George baker, E. M. Bedford and many others.  
These with the exception of George Baker, W. M. Skiver and Mr. Page were mustered out of service
long ago.  Many of the early members withdrew to join posts nearer home.  O. F. Maxson of Main
Settlement is another veteran of the Civil War who was active at one time.  The only Civil War soldiers
now living here are George Baker, O. F. Maxson, Wallace Skiver, D. E. Page, and A. O. Burdick, all
well advanced in years and far from strong.

Wessell's Post surrendered it's charter a number of years ago and affiliated with Olean.

Old residents of Deer Creek when I came to Portville are all gone, but some descendants still are
there.  Matthew Frair was one, Oscar Hanks and a son, Squire, John Champlin, Myron P. Keyes,
Foster Dickinson, and Payson Tyler were among the best known.  John and Floyd, two sons of Mr.
Frair, still live on the Creek.  Champlin has two sons living, Lewis at Little Genesee and Frank in
Pennsylvania.  Squire Hanks moved to Portville many years ago and died here about twenty years ago.  
His widow still lives here in the old home.

Of the above, John Champlin, Squire Hanks, and Foster Dickinson saw service in the Civil War.  Mr.
Dickinson moved to Florida and died there some years ago.  Leonard Hatch was another well known
resident of the Deer Creek Valley where he died some time ago.  A son, Orson L., lives in Portville as
well as his widow.

Sherry Hill Valley was a branch of Deer Creek and took its name from the Sherry Brothers, James and
William.  A son of James, James, Jr., still lives on the old farm.  Two sons of William, William Jr. and
George, are in Portville.  Other old residents of this section were John Cronin, who later moved into
town and died here many years ago.  Two sons of Mr. Cronin still live in Portville.  Amos Parsons
another Civil War soldier lived near Bedford Corners.  He has been dead for nearly fifteen years.

Lyman Roberts also was an old resident of this part of the Valley.  He was a mason by trade and for
many years did the plastering and brick laying for people of this section.  One daughter, Mrs. S. D.
Lamb still lives near the old Roberts home.

Across the river toward the west is the valley we know as Steam Valley.  Here is the old farm once
owned by William Baxter, now owned by a son William and a sister Mrs. VanSise and her husband.  
Near it is the farm formerly owned by Frank Spencer who sold it several years ago and purchased a
smaller place near the river bridge where he now lives.

Just across the river lies the farm owned for many years by David L. Parish.  A number of years ago
this farm was sold to a Mr. Smith who still owns it.  Adjoining it is the farm owned by Joseph Flicker,
but when I came to Portville was owned by Patrick Hinchey as a stock farm.  The heirs of Mr.
Hinchey sold this place to O. A. Devore who later sold it to the present owner.

Oil has contributed in a large degree to the prosperity of Portville though none has ever been produced
here.  However within a few miles considerable has been found and rich long lived territory has been
developed.  On Indian Creek, Mix Creek and Haymaker more than fifty years ago, oil was discovered
and I believe the first well on Indian Creek was drilled by a company composed of B. A. Packard, now
of Douglas, Arizona, M. B. Bennie and Frank Taylor.  Mr. Bennie was a hardware merchant owning a
store on the corner where Smith Parish now has his store.  He afterward sold out and went to Olean
where he continued the hardware business for some years.

Mr. Tyler was the local representative of the Gordons of Brockport and had charge of the lumber mills
one mile north of the village.  Mr. Bennie and Mr. Tyler are both dead.

Dusenbury and Wheeler owned extensive tracts of timber land in the Haymaker valley on which they
developed a large oil production.  This company also owned large tracts of timber on Dodges Creek.  
Coon Hollow and Daggett Hollow on which oil was found and proved a rich field.  Both the above
mentioned sections are still producing the "liquid gold" and have furnished employment to many men.

Other Portville men interested in the Allegany field are O. L. Hatch, G. N. Hill, and the Trenkle Estate.

Another active business center of the township, not of the village, but so closely associated with it that
no record would be at all complete without some notice, was Westons Mills, three miles north.  This
place took its name from the Weston Brothers who established mills there long before my day and
continued the business for more than fifty years and gave employment to a large number of men and
the name still belongs to that section of Portville though the Brothers have long been gone.  A son
Wallace Weston still lives there with large business interests in Olean.

What we now know as the Pennsylvania railroad was the first steam road constructed through
Portville in 1871.  It was first known as the Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia and still later merged
with the Pennsylvania lines.

Henry Phillip was the first agent so far as I know and served until about twenty years ago when he
retired.  The day telegraph operator for many years was George Barnard.  There were many night
operators but for many years George was on duty during the day.  W. B. Hill was one of the early
clerks, later being transferred to the freight office in Olean where he now lives.

At one time besides the agent there were two clerks and the telegraph operator.  Twelve hours was a
regular trick.  Then for a time there was a crew of men at the transfer station at White House, where
freight was transferred to the Narrow Gauge railroad to go to Little Genesee, Bolivar and Allentown.  
This road was known as the Allegany Central, running between Olean and Bolivar.  This road was
afterward absorbed by the P. S. and N. and became a part of the Shawmut Lines.  Another Narrow
Gauge Line was laid between Eldred and Allentown, N.Y., and known as the B. E. & C., which stands
for Bradford Eldred and Cuba.  It connected at Eldred with another Narrow Gauge for Bradford and
covered nearly the same line that the P. S. & N. now occupies from Ceres by way of Prosser and
Carroll.

Thirty years ago there was a Post Office at Carroll also a cheese factory.  This office was
discontinued about twent-five years ago and that section served by Rural Free Delivery from Portville
and Eldred.  The Eldred route coming through Barbertown and the Portville route reaching Carroll by
way of Main Settlement.

We have referred to Chestnut Hill Cemetery several times as the last resting place of those who have
passed on, and I wish it were possible to make a pen picture of it for these Glimpses, but that is
beyond the power of my pen.  No one who has ever visited it can forget the beauty and peace of this
home of our dead.

When I first remember it, it was as most rural burial places of those days, except that it was better
cared for, but was supported by voluntary contributions and the small charge made for lots.  The land
was given by Wheeler and Dusenbury and for many years these men contributed liberally toward the
support.  But realizing that this was most unbusinesslike, steps were taken to take out papers of
incorporation and to elect officers with authority to levy taxes, make improvements and take such
action as would insure its perpetual existence and upkeep.  J. E. Dusenbury, E. G. Dusenbury, William
E. Wheeler and Charles K. Wright were among the first trustees chosen and all served until claimed by
death.  Increasing demand for space has been met by clearing several acres, additional grading and
improving the grounds, setting shrubbery and otherwise improving until Chestnut Hill is a real beauty
spot admired by every visitor.

The first superintendent after incorporation was Jerry Howe and he served for many years.  Thomas
O'Brien came next and continued to serve for several years assisted by Fred Connor, who succeeded
him as Superintendent and is still in charge.

The entrance has been beautified by the erection of the American Legion Gates as a memorial to the
men who served in the World War.  Just inside these gates stands the magnificent monument
reminding all who see it of men who served during the Civil War.  This was erected a number of years
ago by voluntary contribution of the people of Portville.  A monument, not only to the soldiers of the
Civil War, but is also a monument to the people who thus commemorate their soldiers living and dead.

The present officers of the Chestnut Hill Cemetery Association are William A. Dusenbury, President;  
C. L. Vergason, Secretary and Treasurer.  Other trustees are F. W. Fairchild, N. A. Trenkle, Wallace
Weston, Jr., and H. C. Holcomb.

Going up Dodges Creek recently and passing what is known as the Hooker farm above Mayville, I was
reminded of the owners of thirty-five to fifty years ago.  There was the old Van Wart place and
adjoining it the farm owned by Luther Deming and next to the county line the I. P. Roberts farm.  
These owners, all probably entirely unknown by those now living except a very few.  Milo Hooker
bought the Van Wart and Deming farms and added them to his holdings, later buying the Charles
Holcomb farm just above Mayville and adjoining the Dusenbury farm at Mayville.  After the death of
Mr. Hooker these properties were sold and are now owned by people named Klist with the exception
of a part of the Holcomb place which was sold to D. C. Dusenbury and added to the Mayville farm.

Mr. Roberts sold the farm at the county line to Mr. A. T. Keller, who later sold it to the present owner
Mr. J. M. Hopkins.  At an earlier date, Mr. Hopkins built and for a number of years operated the
Bedford Corner cheese factory, which he sold to Leslie Humphrey, who carried on the manufacture of
dairy cheese for a number of years.  When he in turn sold it to the Jones interests of Delevan who
after a few successfulseasons closed it and sold it to J. W. Frost.  He transferred it to the Portville
Grange, who remodeled and now occupy it as a lodge room and community house.  Mr. Hopkins is
now a resident of Portville and Mr. Humphrey is living in Pittsburgh.

On the Ceres road just east of the Pennsylvania railroad is the farm owned for many years by Justin N.
Searles.  This farm was afterward divided, Mr. Searles selling that part lying east of the highway to the
Roulette Leather company who built and for many years operated the Northwestern Leather company.  
This company continued to carry on the tanning business there for many years, but a few years ago
abandoned the plant and about one year ago it was sold to the present owner the Portville Lumber
company.

Next to the Searles farm and lying just east of it lay the R. A. Crandall place, where the Crandalls lived
for many years and where the late H. J. Crandall and his brother, H. O. Crandall grew to manhood.  
This farm has been sold and is now owned by Arthur Capin.

Charles E. Lewis now one of Portville's retired business men, coming here in the early 1880s, he
established and carried on a hair curing and bailing establishment on Temple Street.  He also owned and
operated a Dairy farm on upper Brooklyn Street the same now being owned and carried by Lewis
Johnson and his sons.

Going up Brooklyn Street not long ago I was reminded of some of the people who lived there in the
80s.  I was especially reminded of Henry Ludden, who lived in the house now owned by George
Dixon.  Henry for many years owned a big strong horse and did draying for the merchants around
town.  No trucks in those days to deposit freight and express on your front steps.  All had to be hauled
from the railroad station, and for many years Mr. Ludden faithfully performed this service for the
modest price of four cents a hundred.  His delight was to collect his bills in the evening after his work
was done and often he would sit down for a visit after his business was concluded.  His life work was
completed many years ago and his only son, Perry, succeeded him as the owner of the property.  He
also died a few years ago.  Perry was a chicken fancier and for a number of years was successful in
this business.

The house now owned by E. W. Johnson was owned and for many years occupied by Amariah Berry,
who afterward moved to Olean and died there many years ago.

Rev. Filmore Roulo also was an old resident of this section.  He owned the house now owned by his
grandson Douglas Roulo.  For more than fifty years Mr. Roulo was honored by his neighbors.  He was
a lover and keeper of bees, having at one time about one hundred and fifty swarms which he and his
wife cared for.  Both are now in the other world.

John McGavisk owned the house now owned by Charles Chaffee, but which for many years was
owned and occupied by John T. James, who has been mentioned elsewhere in these sketches.  Mr.
McGavisk moved to Olean and died there many years ago.

Another character fifty years ago was Henry Ferris, an old time shoe maker who lived in a little house
on Temple Street on a lot now occupied by Clark Hayes.  Mr. and Mrs. A. F. Holcomb purchased this
place after the death of Mr. Ferris, later erecting the pleasant home now there, and lived there for many
years, a happy, hospitable couple.  I've often heard people say "If I could grow old as gracefully as
Mr. and Mrs. Holcomb, I would welcome the years."  Both these good people are now resting in
Chestnut Hill.  It is said that there was always an extra plate on the table.  Someone might drop in
hungry.

The first insurance agency in Portville was established by Olin A. Devore about thirty-five years ago.  
After his appointment as special agent of the Provident Life and Trust Company he opened an office in
the Opera House building and carried on the business very successfully until the Life Agency was
moved to Olean, when he sold the business to his brother-in-law Edward C. Nagel.  Mr. Nagel proved
a worthy successor to Mr. Devore and added a real estate department which he carried on for a
number of years, when he sold it to the present agent, Mr. Carl A. Holcomb.  Mr. Nagel went to
Buffalo and later located in Cleveland, Ohio, where he remained until failing health compelled his
retirement from active business, when he returned to Portville where he lingered until a few months
ago.

The Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company is now represented in Portville by Walter W. Strait and
the Prudential Insurance Company by Earl L. Eldridge.


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