HISTORY of AMHERST, NY
FROM OUR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE
A DESCRIPTIVE WORK ON ERIE COUNTY
NEW YORK
EDITED BY: TRUMAN C. WHITE
THE BOSTON HISTORY COMPANY, PUBLISHERS 1898


TOWN OF AMHERST.

The town of Amherst was formed from the town of Buffalo (now extinct) on the 10th day of April, 1818, and included what is now the town of Cheektowaga, which was set off March 22, 1839. Amherst is situated on the northern boundary of the county, with Clarence on the east, Tonawanda on the west, Cheektowaga on the south, and Niagara county on the north. It comprises township 12, range 7, of the Holland Company’s survey, excepting about 120 acres included in Buffalo, and all that part of township 13 lying south of Tonawanda Creek, and a strip about three-eighths of a mile wide at the east end and five-eighths at the west end reaching nearly across township 11. The total area of the town is about fifty-three square miles, or 33,608 acres. The town is watered by Ransom and Eleven-mile Creeks, and by Tonawanda Creek on its northern boundary. The surface is generally level Through the south part extends a ledge from which limestone is quarried, and beneath this is a layer of hydraulic limestone, which is extensively quarried at and near Williamsville and burned to produce water lime. Large quantities of quick lime are manufactured by the Williamsville Quick Lime Company. The soil is sandy and clayey loam and quite productive. The principal industry of the farmers is truck gardening, general farming, raising fruits, etc. The soil furnishes good pasturage, and in late years dairying has assumed considerable importance.

The settlement of the territory of Amherst began with the purchase, in 1799 by Benjamin Ellicott and John Thompson, of 300 acres of land from the Holland Company, which included the mill privilege at Williamsville; they paid $2. an acre. During that summer Thompson got out timber for a saw mill, but did not build it until 1801. In 1803 land contracts were made by Samuel Kelsy, Henry Lake, Benjamin Gardner and William Lewis, most of whom, probably, became settlers. In 1804 William Maitby occupied Thompson’s log house which he had built in 1799. Gen. Timothy S. Hopkins, Samuel McConnell, Caleb Rogers, Stephen Colvin, Jacob Vanatta and Joel Chamberlain were additions to the settlement in 1804. At about the same time Jonas Williams and David E. Evans bought the mill property, and in 1805 Elias Ransom opened the first tavern. From Mr. Williams the place became known as Williams’s Mills, and so continued until after the war. James Hershey bought land in 1806, and in 1807 John J. Drake, Samuel Fackler and Gamaliel St. John were settlers. In 1808 James S. Youngs, John Long and John Frick came in. From that time to the war the follow-. ing settlers came in: Isaac F. Bowman (who was the first merchant), Adam Voliner, John Bieser (who also kept a store), John Reid, Jacob Hershey, Thomas Coe, Darius Ayers, John Reist, John Fogelsonger, Daniel Fry and Dr. David S. Conkey. Jonas Williams built a grist mill in 1810—11. For a few years after the war Juba Storrs & Co. were the leading merchants; but they failed before 1820, and Mr. Storrs removed to Buffalo, where he became a prominent early business men. Among other citizens of the town were:

Hon. Jasper B. Youngs, Harry Foster Bigelow, Hon. Timothy A. Hopkins, Albert D. Ayres, Charles C. and Austin Ayer, Valentine Bruner, John G. Bush and sons Stephen and Ira M., George Burgasser, Henry B. Campbell. George Cretsenger and son George. George Fiegel and son John B., Christian Frick, Jacob Graf, C. C. Grover, John Grover, Isaac Hershey, George W. Hoover, Henry S. Hoover, Joseph Leffler, Sr., and son Joseph, John Lutes, Christian Long, David Long, John D. Long, John M. Magoffin, Christian Michael and son Philip, Emanuel D. Miller, Lewis D. Miller, Abram Metz, Christian C. Metz, Jacob Metz, George Peters, Adam Rinewalt and son Adam L, Miranda Root, Jacob Schenck, Michael Schenck, John Schoelles, David Sheesley, Isaac Shisler and son Jacob, Abraham Snyder and son Michael, Louis Snyder and son Philip 3., Tobias Witmer, George Wolf, Sr., Jacob and George J. Wolf, James F. Youngs.

The first town meeting for Amherst was held in the spring of 1819, when the following officers were chosen:
Supervisor, Timothy S. Hopkins; town clerk, John Grove; assessors, William A. Carpenter, Christian Hershey and James S. Voungs; commissioners of highways, Alexander Hitchcock, Abram Long and Abraham Miller; collector, Joseph Hershey; overseers of the poor, Peter Hershey and John Fogelsonger; commissioners of schools, Nathaniel Henshaw, Alexander Hitchcock and Christian Hershey; inspectors of schools, William A. Carpenter, Foster Youngs, Benjamin B. Congdon, Lucius Storrs and Abraham Miller; constables, Palmer Cleveland and Joseph Hershey.

Following ‘are the names of the supervisors of the town of Amherst from its organization to the present time:

Timothy S. Hopkins, 1819; Oziel Smith, 1820—24; Job Bestow, 1825—26; Timothy S. Hopkins, 1827—30; Jacob Hershey, 1831—32; John Hutchinson, 1833—37; Jacob Hershey, 1838—39; Timothy A. Hopkins, 1840—43; John Hershey, 1844—46; Jasper B. Youngs, 1847—49; Emanuel Herr, 1850—52; Christian Z. Frick, 1853; Peter Grove, 1854; Samuel L. Bestow, 1855; Peter Grove, 1856; Miranda Root, 1857—58; Charles C. Grove, 1859—63; Benjamin Miller, 1864-67; Leonard Dodge, 1868—70; Michael Snyder, 1871—72; Demeter Wehrle, 1873; John Schoelles, 1874—76; Edward B. Miller, 1877; Aaron W. Eggert, 1878—80; John B. Fiegle, 1881—84; George J. Wolf. 1885—97.

Williamsville.— This is the most important village in the town, and a place around which centered the deepest interest in early times, and especially immediately after the burning of Buffalo. The village was incorporated November 4, 1850, with the following officers: Benjamin Miller, president; John S. King, Henry B. Evans, Philip J. Zent and John Hershey trustees; Dr. William Van Pelt, clerk. The first postmaster was Jonas Williams, from whom the village took its name.

A considerable mercantile and manufacturing interest has always existed in Williamsville, owing largely to the water power on Ellicott Creek at that point. Among the merchants in the village in past years were Eli Hart, Juba Storrs & Co., Henry Lehn, Abram M. Dunn, Emanuel & Henry Herr, Benjamin Miller, Alexander Gotwalt, William Nolte, John W. Van Peyma and John Hoffman; later merchants are Snyder & Heifter, John P. Snyder, John H. Kline, S. H. Smith, John T. Hoffman, Milton J. Hoffman, Stephen A. Westland and Charles L. Haupt. Demeter Wehrle engaged in the manufacture of furniture in 1850, and since 1874 has carried on a large retail establishment. John Lehn is another long-time business man.

The water lime works, which were established before 1825, soon passed to Oziel Smith. Later they were carried on by the firm of King & Co., who continued the manufacture until 1844, when they were sold to Timothy A. Hopkins. They were afterward operated by Benjamin Miller and his heirs until the supply of stone was exhausted. A large stone building was erected many years ago for a paper mill, but the business did not succeed and the machinery was removed to Niagara Falls. The building was afterwards used for a broom factory, and now as the power plant of the Buffalo and Williamsville Electric Railway. The old grist mill of Jonas Williams was successively operated by Juba Storrs & Co., Oziel Smith, J. Wayne Dodge, and others; it was burned in 1895, Henry W. Dodge losing his life in the fire. About 1812 Jonas Williams also built a tannery, which was afterwards conducted by John Hutchinson for fifty years or more; it was burned in 1872. In early days the village was an important point on the great stage route between Albany and Buffalo. In 1832 Oziel Smith built the Eagle House, which was burned before completion and immediately rebuilt. As early as 1840 John Reist erected a second grist mill, which passed to his sons, Daniel, Elias and Jacob Reist, and later to Joseph Coon, by whose heirs it is now owned. Prior to 1850 Urban & Blocher established a brewery, which they sold in 1856 to J. Batt & Co.; it was later owned by Mrs. John Nehrboss and now by Jacob Fisher & Son (William J.) Burnett & Graybiel operated a forge for several years during and after the Civil war. In 1872 Kline Brothers erected a hub and spoke factory, which John Grove finally converted into a planing mill. The gelatine factory was started in 1872 by James Chalmers and is now owned by James Chalmers’s son (James).

The Amherst Bee, a weekly newspaper, was established March 27, 1879, by Adam L. Rinewalt, who still conducts it. Aaron W. Eggert settled in the village as a lawyer in 1868, and after 1881 removed to Michigan. Dr. David S. Conkey was the first physician in the village and town; other practitioners were Dr. Peter Hershey, Dr. Spaulding, Dr. William Van Pelt and Dr. H. P. Trull (in practice). Caleb Rogers built the first school house in Williamsville in 1812, and a Mr. Johnson was the first teacher. The old stone school house was erected in 1840. The Williamsville Academy was built in 1853, the following persons being the first trustees: David Graybiel, John Frick, Isaac Hershey, George Cross, Christian Rutt, John Hershey, Timothy A. Hopkins, Samuel L. Bestow, Benjamin Miller, John Witmer, John D. Campbell and James W. Stevens. The building is now used by the Union High school. Union free school district No. 3 was organized May 7, 1892, the first Board of Education being Henry W. Dodge (president), Adam L. Rinewalt, James Chalmers, Demeter Wehrle, Philip J. Snyder and John Hoffman. The principals have been George E. Smith, W. M. Pierce and D. B. Albert, who has five assistants.

Among the postmasters of Williamsville were Jonas Williams, Joseph Hutchinson, Philip J. Zent, Loren Pond, John Ordner, S. L. Bestow, Edward D. Smith, Eugene B. Rogers, Adam L. Rinewalt, John Grove and Charles L. Haupt. A water system, owned by the village, was established in 1895, bonds being issued for $28,000. A fire department, consisting of one hose company, was formed about the same time. The Buffalo & Williamsville Electric Railway Company was incorporated July 27, 1891, with a capital of $50,000, since increased to $75,000, and the road from the village to the Buffalo city line, four and one-half miles, was opened April 5, 1893. A branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad was built through the place from Depew to Tonawanda in 1895—96.

The churches of Williamsville are the Methodist Episcopal, organized soon after the war of 1812, received a gospel lot of forty acres from the Holland Land Company, and built an edifice in 1844; the Christian, organized as early as 1834, erected a church which they sold to the Lutherans in 1871, and then built their present brick structure; the Roman Catholic, the Rev. John Neuman first priest, built in 1836, rebuilt of stone in 1862 under Rev. Alexander Pax; the Baptist, organized about 1834, edifice dedicated in 1843; the Reformed Mennonite, organized in 1834 by John Herr and his cousin, John Herr, Sr., with John Reist, first minister, built of stone in 1834, rebuilt in 1880; and the German Lutheran, which purchased the old Christian church in
1871.

The village of Williamsville now contains 5 general stores, 2 hardware stores, 2 shoe stores, a drug store, 1 jewelry store, a furniture and undertaking establishment, a weekly newspaper and printing office, 2 hotels, a large gelatine manufactory, 1 flouring mill, a feed mill, 1 brewery,, a tinsmith, 1 harness shop and feed store, 2 meat markets, 3 shoe shops, 4 blacksmith shops, a Union High school, and 6 churches. The population is about 800.

The hamlet of Eggertsville is on the Buffalo road, west of Williamsville, and derives its name from the Eggert family, well known in Erie county. St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran church, which was organized in 1838 and had received fifty acres of land from the Holland Land Company, was composed of a congregation wholly from Alsace and Lorraine. They erected a church in 1838 which was torn down in 1874 and rebuilt at a cost of $11,000. This was burned in 1878 and a new edifice built in 1880. In August, 1882, a post-office was established with Henry Wingert as postmaster; he was also a general merchant, and is still the postmaster and has the only store in the place. There is also a cider mill there. The village is connected with Williamsville and Buffalo by the electric railway opened in 1893.

Getzville is a station and post-office on the Niagara Falls branch of the Central Railroad in the central part of the town. Joseph Getz in early years had a cooperage business there. George J. Wolf now has a grist and cider mill there. The place also has a creamery and one store. The German Methodists hold services in a Union church just east of the station.

Transit Station, on the boundary of the town east of Getzville, was formerly known as East Amherst. A post-office was established there about fifteen years ago. It is now kept at Swormville, a mile north, where there is a small hamlet lying partly in Clarence. There is a creamery at Transit Station.

Snyderville is a small hamlet on the Buffalo road east of Eggertsville, and takes its name from Michael Snyder, a long time merchant and formerly postmaster. The first house was built by John Schenck, who also built the first store in 1837. L. F. Crout opened a hotel in 1883. The place now has one hotel and a store, the latter conducted by Jacob C. Fruehauf.

West Wood is a small rural hamlet in the northwest corner of the town, near the Erie Canal.

Return to [ NY History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]


NY Counties - Albany - Allegany - Broome - Cayuga - Chatauqua - Chenango - Clinton - Columbia - Cortland - Dutchess - Erie - Essex - Franklin - Fulton - Genesee - Herkimer - Jefferson - Lewis - Livingston - Madison - Montgomery - Niagara - Oneida - Onondaga - Ontario - Orange - Orleans - Oswego - Putnam - Queens - Rensselaer - Richmond - Rockland - St. Lawrence - Saratoga - Schenectady - Steuben - Suffolk - Tioga - Tompkins - Tryone - Ulster - Washington - Wayne - Yates


All pages copyright 2003-2012. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy