History of Birdsall, New York
A Centennial Memorial
History of Allegany County, New York
John S. Minard, Esq. Historian
Mrs. Georgia Drew Andrews, Editor.
W. A. Fergusson & Co., Alfred, N. Y. 1896


THIS TOWN, composed of 36 sections, one mile square each, was formed from territory which belonged to the towns of Allen and Almond. It was organized May 4, 1829, and named in honor of Hon. John Birdsall at that time a circuit judge. The first settlement was made by Josiah Whitman on lot 24, in 1816. Not long after Wm. P. Schaack from New Jersey and J. Van Wormer, from Oayuga Co., settled on lot 11. In 1818 James Matthews from New Jersey settled on lot 21. In 1822, Wm. Dey and wife, two sans and two daughters settled on lot 5. John I. Dey and wife and two sons, James I', Lawrence J., and Catherine, an only daughter, John Messeral and family, all from Middlesex Co., N. J., settled on 5, in 1823. John Marlatt in 1820 on 4. Also John J. Davison and his brother William made the beginning on a newfarm on lot 5. In 1824 Thomas Randolph and Job Southard made a beginning on lot 6. There were but few that came into the town until after this time, but, in the next seven years there were enough settlers to make over 500 in population. The names of some of the settlers, and parts of the town chosen for settlement by them were: Jonathan Jackson on lot 6. C. Steteker, G. C. Little, H. B. Camp, J. B. Welch, A. J. Havens, A. C. Hull on lots 20 and 21, at what is now known as Knightsville postoffice, D. Bennett, S. Hodgeman, B. Thompson, Thomas Parker, John Riggs, on lots 14 and 15. When these sturdy pioneers came into the town it was principally with ox sleds bringing their families and a few of the most necessary articles of housekeeping, and the only roads were those they made with their axes. Some had been here before for a short time to erect a small log cabin, but most of them had to erect their habitations, as well as clear a spot in the forest for them to stand upon. The surface of the ground is rough and hilly and the soil is mostly adapted to agriculture. Since the first settlers made their home here in the woods, there has been great improvement. From the home of the writer (on the south side of the town) north to near the center of the town what was once an unbroken forest, wherein wolves ranged in large numbers, is now a succession of well-tilled farms; and where the little log cabins once stood, the place is now occupied by substantial farm houses, surrounded by orchards of the hardy kinds of fruit. The streams that were forded by the early settlers are now spanned by substantial bridges.

The town cannot boast of many improvements in the shape of manufactories, but the manufacture of potash has given place to what is called the Allegany Chemical Works, situated at Hiltonville, near the town's southeast corner on lot 7, in 1875. The products of these works are, acid (acetate of lime), alcohol and charcoal. For the manufacture of these articles about 2,000 cords of wood is used annually.

The Central & Southwestern railroad crosses the town north and south, but for a few years it was not of much benefit to our people, it being in control of men who had no sympathy for the farmer, and was almost sure to stop running when most wanted; but for the past two years it has been controlled by a company that keeps it going and it is a good medium for the people to convey their produce to markets, and will be better stifi when the southern, portion is completed, giving us an outlet both ways.

Elias Hull kept the first hotel at what is now Knightsville, and Joseph B. Welch kept the first store in town at the same place. The first sawmill was erected by William Lord on Black Creek in 1824. Other sawmills have been built in town as building material and lumber interests have called for them, and were removed to other parts, as the forests disappeared, until there are but two that now do business. One of them is owned by Albert Doolittle situated on lot 22, and the Keeney mill on lot 35.

The first school was taught by Hannah Scott in 1822 and there are now seven school districts with well built schoolhouses, and education is on a par with other more favored towns.

The first religious worship was held in the house of Wm. Dey in 1823 and the first chnrch was organized by Rev. E. Dewey in 1825. There are now three churches, one at the village of Birdsall, the Crittenden M. E. church erected in 1871 (first pastor Rev. Alfred J. Blanchard; present pastor Rev. J. Davis); another in the southwest corner of town called the Birdsall M. E. church, erected in 1872; the third, St. Joseph's Catholic church, is in the eastern part of the town.

There is but one small village, Birdsal, with 160 inhabitants. It contains one church, one schoolhouse. two stores, a postoffice, two blacksmithshops and one hotel.

The first birth was James E. Matthews, son of James Matthews, Mar. 7, 1820. The first marriage was that of Samuel Van Wickle and Harriet Freeman in 1821. The first death was that of Leah Riggs, daughter of Samuel Riggs in 1824.

The town of Birdsall was formed Mar. 2, 1830, at the house of James Matthews, pursuant to an act passed by the legislature May 4, 1829. The meeting was under these justices: James Matthews, Elias Hull, John P. Van Allen. Andrew Hull was chosen supervisor; Horace B. Camp, clerk; Thomas Parker, Riall Thompson, James Matthews, assessors; Samuel Hodgmen, Thomas Havens, David Bennett, commissioners; David Bennett, Abram Havens, Daniel Schenk, school commissioners; Joseph B. Welch, Horace Camp, John P. Van Allen, inspectors of election; Josiah Whitman, Gilbert C. Little, overseers of poor; C. Sleteker, T. Van Wormer, J. Jackson, constables; Josiah Whitman. Lawrence Dey, justices; Aaron Hale, sealer. The successive supervisors have been Andrew C. Hull, John P. Van Allen, Isaiah Whitman. James Matthews, J. G. Freeman, W. C. Matthews, Daniel Schenk, Isaac B. Stedman, L. E. Dungan, Jesse D. Carpenter, Jacob Young, Naaman Case, Henry Newton, Patrick Haire, Asa Helm. Henry Carpenter, Amos Southard, Peter M. Young, S. P. Stiles, Wilson Stiles, Albert Doolittle and James Haire, the present incumbent. Some served one year and others more.

Hay is the leading product. Large quantities are shipped every year. Wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn and buckwheat are the cereals raised. The potato crop is fast becoming the leading one. Apples, pears and plums are the kinds of fruit we raise. Apples were a large crop until within the last three or four years. Before that time there were from 2,000 to 3.000 barrels of apples shipped from this town alone. Stock is not raised in quantities equal to other places, but beef, mutton and wool can be produced here of as good quality as in other parts of the county.

The population is composed of diffierent nationalities, of which the Irish are a large part. Tn 1830 there were 534 inhabitants, in 1835 573. in 1840 there were but 328. This decrease was caused by many families removing to the western states, but for the next five years the number had increased to 475. The population is 878 in 1892, assessed valuation of real estate $217,228.

Many of the first settlers have not left any records or papers by which their native place, their age and residence at time of death can be determined. The first of those that can be ascertained is Lawrence I. Dey. settled in the town May 5. 1822, and resided there until March 4. 1869. when he removed to Angeilca where he died April 24, 1876. John Marlat came from New Jersey about the same time as the Dey families and located on lot 4. There are none of the old settlers now living. John J. Davison. born. March 10, 1785, in New Jersey. married Elizabeth Dillentay came to Birdsall in 1825 and carried on farming and carpentering. He had 8 children. His death occurred in 1867. Peter Young. now resides at the village of Birdsall. was born in Livingston county in September, 1827. and married Sarah Batterson May, 1849. Jacob Young also born in Livingston county in October, 1829, came to Birdsall when his brother did and married Harriett C. Dey in September, 1860. He died in October. 1890. Henry B. Newton. resident farmer born in September. 1835, served as supervisor. He married Olive Morley in September, 1863. Amos Southard born in September, 1830. married Jane Bardeen July. 1869. served as supervisor. Farmer. William. Selover. now the oldest resident in town lives in the village of BirdsallSome of the oldest residents are A. Gillies. T. Gillies. M. Clancy. M. Featherstone, Dickson Bros.. J. B. and J. K. Riley. E. J. Merz. farmers. H. J. Baxter, S. Buzzell. merchants. E. M. Halbert. carpenter.

Patrick Haire was born in County Clare, Ireland. March. 1817. In 1847 he came to America and settled in Wheatland, N. Y. In 1851 he came to Birdsall, and purchased a farm. He married Nancy Harrison who had 3 children. His second wife was Joanna Prendergast. They had 4 children. He has been twice elected supervisor of his town, several times town clerk and assessor, and was railroad commissioner. James Haire, son of Patrick, was born Feb. 24, 1862, has held the offices of collector and highway commissioner and in 1894 was elected supervisor.

Soldiers.- David Abbey, born March, 1841, moved to this town '55, served in 1st N. Y. Dragoons. Wounded at Cold Harbor. He married Amanda Bacon in '65. Resides in Allen. Jehiel Abbey born January, 1838, come to this town '55, enlisted in 1st N. Y. Dragoons, was wounded at Cedar Creek, and was ten months in hospital. He married Lizzie Willis in '75, now resides in Angelica. Henry Carpenter born in West Almond in March, 1841, served in the 188th N. Y. He married Axa Hall in December, '69, and has been supervisor. Loren G. Jennings, born in Angelica in August, '31, married in November, '62. Eliza Walker. He enlisted in '65. James McWaver born in Almond in February, '28, came to Birdsall in '48, married Amanda Stedrnan August, '53, enlisted October, '64, and was wounded at the battle of Gravelly Run. Arunah Willis was born in Angeica in February, '39, enlisted in 1st N. Y. Dragoons, and participated in a number of engagements. He married Julia Clark in October, '61, and now resides in Angelica. Edwin Ackley, now resident of town, enlisted from Almond in 104th N. Y. and was wounded at Antietam. He married Janet Halbert. - John Deming, enlisted in 1st N. Y. Dragoons, is a Birdsall farmer. Lyman Deming, enlisted in 1st N. Y. Dragoons. resides at Belmont. Gideon Stockwell member of 1st N. Y. Dragoons, is a mechanic and resides in Birdsall. George Helm served 1st N. Y. Dragoons. He married Mary Stockwell, and died soon after being discharged. Albert Doolittle, 1st N. Y. Dragoons, discharged with regiment, married Miss Gibson, engaged in lumbering and farming and has been supervisor. Theodore Ostrander enlisted in 1St N. Y. Dragoons and resides in Minnesota. Nelson Ostrander served in Co. I, 188th N. Y. He married Mary E. Young. Occupation, blacksmith. Asa Helm enlisted in 188th N. Y. was in several engagements and discharged with regiment, now resides at Canaseraga. He married Addie Young. Amasa Aber born in Birdsall, enlisted in the i88th N. V. Vol., was killed March 31, '65, at battle of Gravelly Run. John Selover married Elizabeth Young, enlisted in 188th Regt., was killed at battle of Hatcher's Run Feb. 5' '65. John Holleran was in the army and now resides in Olean. George Mapes, a blacksmith, enlisted under last call but was not sent to the front. Leonard Waver, son of James McWaver, enlisted under last call, was taken sick at Elmira and discharged, at close of war returned home and died in about two weeks. Wm. F. Young, a musician in 85th N. Y. was wounded in hip in '62. He resides in Angelica. David Terwilliger 85th N. Y. was taken prisoner and died in Andersonvile. Beniah Terwilliger 85th N. Y., was discharged for disability and died soon after reaching home. Joseph K. Weaver, the writer of these sketches, was born in West Almond in January, '39, married Lucy J. Harman in March, '66, and settled in Birdsall in '70. He was a member of Co. D, 86th N. Y., enlisting in November, '61. He is a farmer and surveyor. Leroy Odell, 104th N. Y. now resident of Birdsall, married Miss Berry. Simpson Travis of Co. D, 86th N. Y., was wounded in hand. He married Miss Phippen. Charles Riley, Co. D, 86th N. Y. Vol., discharged at expiration of service, married Miss Page and removed to Pennsylvania where he died. Will Riley, 86th N. Y., was wounded in right elbow. The joint was shattered, the bone was removed and the arm healed. He resides in Idaho. John Morley of 1st N. Y. Dragoons, was killed in battle in 1863.

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