Significant Portville Women of the 20th Century
Elsie Borst Collins was born in Westons Mills on December 26, 1893, the daughter of Ezer and
Cora Borst. Elsie graduated from Geneseo Normal School and was a teacher in several of the
county schools in the area.
She taught in the Humphry Township School in the Town of Allegany, the Portville School
District 10 Lillibridge School, Portville School District 6 of Weston’s Mills, and School 4 in
Olean. Her dedication to her students was unwavering. If she was unable to get a ride from her
house in Westons Mills to her teaching job at the Lillibridge School, she often walked up the
Promised Land Road and hiked over the hill.
In 1925, Elsie married Clyde W. Collins and they lived in the home next door to the Kinney Hose
Company, named after Elsie's step-brother, Louis Kinney.
She was a life member of St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Westons Mills and served as pianist
and organist of that church for over 50 years. Elsie taught Sunday school and was active in the
women’s organizations of that church. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Elsie organized her Sunday
School class of teenage girls into a group, known as the Busy Bees. They met in her home
monthly, where she taught them embroidery and jewelry making, quilting, ceramics, and other
artistic skills which they used to make bazaar items for the church. The girls carried these skills
into the their adult lives and remember her fondly. They became the daughters that Elsie never had.
Elsie Collins was a member of the United Methodist women, the Olean Retired Teachers
Association and Electa chapter 894, Order of the Eastern Star.
Mr. Collins died in 1985. Elsie died on June 25, 1987, at her home in Westons Mills.
|The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
|17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770
Portville, New York
Lilla Clarke Wheeler was born on September 1, 1859, in Portville, the daughter of William French
and Marilla Clarke Wheeler. Miss Wheeler received her early education in Portville Schools,
graduated from Olean High School, and attended Vassar College. She lived a distinguished life in
the Wheeler family home, “Interpines,” at 46 North Main Street.
Lilla spent her early years traveling extensively, but soon learned that nothing was as rewarding as
spending her time and effort to support new undertakings in the interest of her fellow men and
women. She became interested in public health work, and helped to organize the fight against
tuberculosis in New York State in the early twentieth century. As a pioneer in this field, she
devoted the rest of her life to that work. She supported the work of treatment and research in
tuberculosis by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau at Saranac Lake. She contributed liberally of
funds and energy in the building of the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium, where “Wheeler Cottage”
was a gift in memory of her father.
The fight against tuberculosis in Cattaraugus County was significantly aided by Miss Wheeler,
who was a moving spirit in the campaign. She became member and officer of the Olean
Tuberculosis Committee in 1909, and played an important role in the establishment and direction
of the Rocky Crest Sanitarium outside of Olean. She held the post of President of the Board of
Directors for many years. Miss Wheeler is recognized as the founder of the Cattaraugus County
Health Department, the first such department in New York State.
She devoted many hours to Red Cross work in the two World Wars and personally crocheted
over 170 afghan blankets for military hospitals. She was a noted speaker across New York State
on health issues, and was associated with Randolph Children’s Home in Randolph, N.Y. She was
the oldest benefactor of that institution and Wheeler Cottage bears her family name. Lilla served
as a trustee of the Portville Free Library and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Olean
Upon her death in 1951, Lilla left most of her estate, including her family home, to the Olean
General Hospital with the wish that it be used for hospital purposes. The house has since been
used by hospital administrators for many years. Miss Wheeler donated her collection of oil lamps
to The Portville Free Library where they are presently on exhibit.
|LILLA CLARKE WHEELER
(1859 - 1951)
|ELSIE BORST COLLINS
(1893 - 1987)