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.