History of Cambria , New York



This was the earliest town erected in Niagara county, and the mother of all the other towns. The act of the Legislature, passed March 8, 1808, that created Niagara county, contained the following language: And be it further enacted that that part of Niagara county lying north of the main stream of the Tonnawanta creek, and of a line extending west from the mouth of said creek to the boundary line between the United States and the dominion of the King of Great Britain, be erected inro a town by the name of Cambria and that the first town meeting in the said town be held at the house of Joseph Hewitt.

It will be seen by this language that the town of Cambria included precisely the territory now embraced in Niagara county.

The first town meeting was held on the 5th of April, 1808, as above directed, Robert Lee presiding. Joseph Hewitt was elected supervisor; James Harrison, town clerk; Robert Lee, Benjamin Barton, and Charles \Vilber, commissioners of highways; Lemuel Cook, Silas Hopkins, and John Dunn, assessors; Stephen Hopkins, collector; Philomen Baldwin and Thomas Slayton, overseers of the poor; Stephen Hopkins, Ray March, Stephen H. Baldwin, and Alexander Haskin, constables; Enoch Hitchcock for the eastern district, and Thomas Hustler, for the western district, poundmasters Sixteen overseers of highways were also elected.

The second town meeting was held at the house of Stephen Hopkins. Among the earliest records of ordinances voted for the simple government of this great town was one for the erection of "one other pound in addition to the one ordered by a former town meeting of the then town of Erie, in the eastern district, near the school house, on the land of Gad Warner, Esquire." A wolf bounty of five dollars was provided, and also "that one hundred dollars be raised for the destruction of wolves by a direct tax on the said town." This latter was a very unusual proceeding and indicates that the destructive animals were very numerous.

At the first election for State senator after the erection of the town, the aggregate vote was only sixteen. For member of congress, Peter B. Porter had 43 votes. Nathaniel W. Howell 28, and Archibald Clark 2. In the year 1815 the town was divided into nine school districts. The supervisors of the town have been as follows:
Joseph Hewitt, 1808-09; Silas Hopkins, 1810; William Molyneaux, 1811-12; Silas Hopkins, 1813; Bates Cook. 1814; Joseph Hewitt, 1815-16; Rufus Spalding, 1817; Asher Saxton, 1818: Daniel Pomeroy, 1819-20; Ephraim D. Richardson, 1821-22; Eliakin Hammond, 1823-26; John Hills, 1827-28; William Scott, 1829-30; John Hills, 1831; William Scott, 1832; William Molyneaux, 1833-35; Charles Molyneaux, 1836; Darius Shaw, 1837; Hiram McNeil, 1838-40; Eli Y. Barnes, 1841; John Gould, Jr., 1842; John Whitbeck, 1843; Moses Bairsto, Jr., 1844-45; Henry Snyder, 1846; Charles Molyneaux, 1847-48; Hiram McNeil, 1849; John Gould, jr., 1850; Sparrow S. Sage, 1851-52; Hiram McNeil, 18.53; John G. Freeman, 1854; Thomas Barnes, 1855; Lewis Daggett. 1856-59; Hezekiah W. Nichols, 1860-62; Artemas W. Comstock, 1863-64; Lewis Daggett, 1865; Thomas Barnes, 1866-67; Artemas W. Comstock, 1868-69; Thomas Root, 1870-Ti: James A. Pool, 1872-73; 5amuel Kittinger, 1874; George W. Gould, 1875-76; Salem L. Town, 1877-81; George L. Freer, 1882; Edward Manning, 1883-85; Edward Harmony. 1886-88; James L. Barnes, 1889-90; Edwin Harmony, 1891-92: Walter V. Peterson, 1893-98.

The other town officers for 1897 are:
William D. Crozier, town clerk since April, 1890; Isaac B. Blackman, Theron S. Elton, Franklin D. Habacker, and Willard F. McEwen, jnstices of the peace: Abram K. Levan, Edward D. Ortt, and William J. Baker. assessors; Frank Roberts, collector; John Farnsworth. Edward Manning, and Joseph B. Town, highway commissioners.

The town of Cambria, as it now exists, lies in the interior and west of the center of the county. The mountain ridge crosses through the center of the town, and the lake ridge crosses the north part. In the northern and the southern parts of the town the surface is level or undulating. The principal stream is Twelve-Mile Creek. The soil is chiefly made up of alternating sandy and clayey loam. The population is about 2,200.

Philip Beach, the first mail carrier between Batavia and Fort Niagara, in which occupation he became familiar with this region, was the first permanent settler in this town, locating on Howell's Creek in 1801. During that season his brothers, Jesse and John, came and settled near by. They came from Scottsville, N. Y., where lived Isaac Scott, father of Mrs. Jesse Beach. These families brought with them provisions for a year's supply, but they ran short through aiding others, and were forced to return to Scottsville for more. Philip Beach was a prominent citizen and died in 1840, after having lived on several different farms and last a little east of Molyneux's Corners. In 1810 Jesse Beach settled finally on the farm occupied in recent years by his son, Cyrus Beach, west of the Corners. An older brother of these men, Aaron Beach, settled on the south ridge in 1811.

Joseph Hewitt succeeded Philip Beach on the farm first taken up by him, but about two years later exchanged it with William Howell and removed to the mountain above Lewiston. This transaction with Mr. Howell took place in 1808, and the farm has long been known as the Howell place. Mr. Howell built the first saw mill on Howell's Creek, and also kept a tavern which was next in succession to those established at Molyneux's Corners and Warren's Corners. Nathaniel Cook, who came to Lockport from Onondaga county when the work on the rock cutting of the canal was let, purchased his farm of the Holland Land Company in 1824; he married a daughter of William Ho well.

Joash Taylor settled early on the south ridge a mile east of Molyneux's Corners. Harry Steadman (father of Adelia, who married Homer, son of Joash Taylor) purchased 190 acres of the Land Company in 1808, on the north side of the east terminus of the south ridge; there he boarded the men working on the log road across the swamp between Wright's and Warren's. Mr. Steadman died in August, 1815.

The place known many years as Molyneux's Corners, the name of the post-office now being Cambria, is situated near the northern line of the town. In early years it was a point of considerable importance and was even at one time a contestant for the location of the county seat. Mr. Ellicott, the surveyor, caused the survey of a lot here before other surveys were complete, mainly to meet the pressing necessity for shelter for prospecting parties; this aecounts for the irregular lines of the lot, which do not correspond with the section lines of the purchase. This arrangement is believed to have been made with two settlers named Plant and Klink. In 1809 John Gould purchased of Plant and opened a tavern in the original log house built here. In 1811 he sold to one Odell, and he to Silas Hopkins in 1812. Gould removed to Cambria Center, as noted further on. Hopkins transferred his purchase to William Molyneux, from whom the hamlet took its name, and he continued in possession until his death, November 7, 1830. His sons Charles, William and Robert were associated with him in conducting the tavern and a large farm. The log house was superseded by the frame hotel in 1826. In the old tavern was established the first post-office in the town, and William Molyneux was the first postmaster; he was succeeded by Charles Molyneux. Subsequent to the death of the latter the office was kept in various private dwellings, and was ultimately located west of the Corners and given its present name of Cambria. Another post-office with the name of North Ridge was established many years ago and still continues, about three miles west of Cambria. Here at present are the stores of George Smith and Burt Lafler. At Molyneux Corners is the store of Wakefield Woods.

The settlement on the site of Warren's Corners was first made by John Forsythe in 1805; in the next year he opened a tavern there. There were at that date only three or four settlers between the site of Lockport and Dunham's. The following statement was given to the author of the History of the Holland Purchase by the widow of Mr. Forsythe:

We brought in a few sheep with us; they were the only ones in the neighborhood; they became the especial object of the wolves. Corning out of the Wilson swamp nights, their howling would be terrific. Two years after we came in. with my then small children, one day when I heard the sheep bleating, I went out to see what the matter was. A large wolf had badly wounded a sheep. As I approached him he left the sheep and walked off snarling, as if reluctant to leave his prey. I went for my nearest neighbor, Mr. Stoughton, to come and dress the sheep. It was threefourths of a mile through the woods. On my way a large gray fox crossed the road ahead of me. Returning with my neighbor, a large bear slowly crossed the road in sight of us.

Warren's Corners took its name from Ezra Warren, who was a native of Vermont and served on this frontier in the war of 1812. His company was stationed along the Ridge road to arrest deserters. Mr. Warren and a squad of his men were posted four weeks at the tavern then kept by the widow of Mr. Forsythe After his discharge Warren returned to Vermont, but an attachment which he had formed for the widow brought him westward and he married her. He thus became landlord in the tavern and so continued until 1825. Another early settler on the Ridge near Warren's Corners was Dr. Artemas Baker, who was the first physician in the town; he came in 1815.

Early settlers in and about the site of Cambria Center, which is almost exactly in the geographical center of the town, were Benjamin and Suchel Silly. Peter Nearpass, William Scott, Enoch Hatch, Asel Muroy, David Waters and a family named Crowell. These all came in prior to 1812. Mr. Scott purchased 500 acres from the Holland Company, which included the site of the hamlet, of which he cleared sixty acres the first season. He also built and kept a tavern which was a popular resort, and was afterwards occupied as a dwelling by his son, Homer Scotc. The father died in 1841.

John Gould, who has already been mentioned, moved from Molyneux's Corners to Carnbria Center in 1812 and purchased 240 acres of Nearpass, on a part of which his grandson. John B. Gould, lived in later times. Christopher Howder purchased 15o acres in 1812, a mile and a half east of the Center. In the following year he sold a part of his purchase to Adam Houstater, father of Philip.

William Campbell located in 1817 on 138 acres purchased of Enoch Hotchkiss. John M. Eastman settled two miles east of the Center in 1821; he was father of eleven children, among whom was Anson Eastman.

Jacob Flanders purchased 150 acres of Elias Rose in 1820, two and three-fourths miles west of the Center, and later bought the farm and stone grist mill east of Pekin.

The first burial ground in the town was situated a mile east of the Center on the Lockport stone road, and was donated by William Campbell. Later another was provided a little south of the Corners, the land of which was given by William Scott.

Russell Weaver and Joshua Cowell settled in the town prior to i8io; Pomeroy Oliver in 1815; John Hitchcock in 1816; Daniel P. Oliver in 1817; and John Ingersoll, Jason Lane, John Miles, Hezekiah Hill, Elijah Smith, Coonrod Keyser and Samuel Faxon in early years in different parts of the town. Col. Andrew Sutherland and Philo Cowell came into the town as early as 1812; the former served in the war of 1812, and died in this town in 1838. Other early settlers were Reuben Hurd, James Barnes, John Carney and Jairus Rose, the latter two in the southwestern part of the town. Mr. Rose purchased at first 6oo acres, to which he soon added enough to bring his tract to 2,000 acres; the land lay in the extreme southwest part of the present town. In 1813 he planted two acres with apple seeds, thus starting the first nursery in the county; the trees were later sold by him for twelve cents each. Mr. Rose was made a prisoner in the foray upon Lewiston in 1813 and was confined for a time in Canada. He was father of seven children, one of whom was George P. Rose, who passed his life on a part of the original purchase.

Dr. Myron Orton settled in Cambria in 1815, and here passed theremainder of his life; he died in June, 1873. He was one of the founders of the County Medical Society, and combined farming with the practice of his profession in the later years of his life.

Among other settlers before 1820 were Jonas Chamberlin, Charles Trowbridge, Daniel Alvord, Obed Smith, Eli Bruce, Jabez Rogers, David Jeffers, Andrew Sutherland, Roderick Royce, Arthur Saxton, Thomas Fowler, Caleb Bugbee, Daniel Cross, Joshua Campbell, Charles Sweet, Ira Smith, Harvey Hitchcock, Russell Scott, Jason Lane, Abel Baldwin, William Carney, Philip Shaver, Aaron Rice, Alexander Free man.

Prior to 1830 there were Eliakim Hammond, Hiram McNeal, John Hills, John Gould, James Burnett, Myron Orton, Jared Comstock, Edwin M. Clap, Ezekiel Campbell, Isaac Canfield, Moses and David Beach, Calvin Wilson, David Gould, Frederick Saxton, Daniel Oliver, William G. Hathaway, Silas Belding, Henry Springsteen, George Rose, Thomas C. Judd, William Prey, Ira Gregory, Warren Chaffee, Ralph G. Warner, James G. White, Stephen Barnes.

William Crosier, father of William H. Crosier, was long a leading citizen of this town, in which he settled in 1821, a little east of Pekin village. In 1822 a post office was established on the line between Cambria and Lewiston, and given the name of Mountain Ridge; John Jones was appointed postmaster. The name of the place was changed in 1831 to Pekin, at which time a considerable hamlet had grown up. Mr. Jones had opened a store on the Lewiston side of the line, and in 1832 John Cronkite built a large hotel, while soon afterward Benjamin Thresher erected a smaller one. Mr. Cronkite also conducted a mercantile business and had a large ashery. James McBain kept a grocery and dry goods store, and Josephus Taylor opened a store on the Lewiston side. Calvin Hotchkiss put a stock of goods in the store built by him, which was occupied in later years by George Beaber as a tavern. Peter F. Loucks was another prominent business man of the place, continuing in trade many years and finally removing to New York. E. H. Cox had a hardware store and tin shop here, and for a considerable period Pekin was an active business center; in later years it has somewhat declined in this respect. The place now has four stores, kept by F. C. Williams. William Beaber, J. H. Parker, and Charles D. Timothy. There is also a frame church, called Church of Christ (Disciples), built in 1888, on the Cambria side, and an old stone M. E. church edifice, in Lewiston.

The following were all residents of the town before 1850: Sparrow S. Sage, S. Cady Murray, Thomas Root, John Fletcher, Hezekiah A, Nichols, John M. Eastman, John G. Freeman, William Elton, Josias T. Peterson, Josiah Pratt, Lorenzo Averill, David Gould, Calvin Thompson, Nathaniel Cook, Anson Eastman, Hunt Farnsworth, Hiram Flanders, Richard Hall, A. H. Houstatter, Thomas and Nelson T. Mighells, George W. Rose, John Williams, Erastus Weaver, Alfred Eddy, James Dutton, Joseph Miller, Elijah Parker, William O. Rogers, Gilbert Budd, William S. Howe, Samuel Saddleson, Henry Platt, Christopher and Ransom Saddleson, Lewis Bevier, Nathaniel Brockway, David S. Brockway, Lewis Burtch (in 1851), Ransom Campbell.

Among present prominent citizens are Charles Angevine, Joseph Bowers, Lewis Burtch, William H. Crosier, Anson Eastman, Albert G. Eighme; Albert Flanders, George S. Freer, Edward Harmony, A. K. Levan, Walter V. Peterson, Thomas Root, Ransom Saddleson, Elisha B. Swift, Paul B. Worden, Charles and Joseph Young.

Hickory Corners is a little settlement and a post-office on the eastern line of the town, which will be further noticed in the history of the town of Lockport.

On August 14, 1815, the town was divided into nine school districts. There are now twelve, with a school house in each. The amount of public money received in the town is about $1,500, and a little more than that sum is raised by tax for school support. The first school in this town was taught in a log building in what is now district No. 1, and accommodated Indian as well as white children. The building was on the Ridge west of Howell's Creek, and had been temporarily used as a sort of arsenal in the war. A frame building was subsequently built on the opposite side of the road. District No. 2 was formed next, between Warren's and Molyneux's Corners, and a log school house built in 1815. At Molyneux's Corners the first school house was built in 1819, within district No. 2; a disagreement caused the abandonment of this district and the district at Warren's Corners was set off as No. 2, and the former No 2 was made No. 10. A number of other log school houses were built in the town, one at Pekin, in early years, but no records remain of them.

The First Congregational church of Cambria was organized in 1817, by Rev. David M. Smith, then preaching at Lewiston. It was through Mr. Smith's influence that the Holland Company donated 100 acres of land to this church, under its proposition to thus favor the first church in the town. This land was situated in what is now the town of Lockport; it was sold in 1827, and other land purchased with the proceeds nearer the center of this town. The first resident pastor was Rev. Silas Parsons, who came in 1827. Until 1836 meetings were held generally in the school houses or dwellings, and later in the hall of William Scott's hotel in Cambria. The first church building was completed in 1836, and was occupied until 1877, when a new edifice was begun and completed at Cambria Center in the following year.

A Methodist society was early organized at Warren's Corners, and a church erected on land donated by Ezra Warren. John Copeland was the organizer of the class. The first church was a small wooden building and was replaced by the present brick edifice about 1860.

Of the four churches that have existed on the Ridge, the Methodist was the first that kept up its existence. The society erected a cobble stone church in 1845, on land given by Reuben Wilson, and the organization has since been maintained. Near the west end of the Ridge were established the First Universalist church, the Roman Catholic church and the German Lutheran church. The first named was organized in 1867, and in the following year its brick edifice was erected on land given by H. C. Denison. The Roman Catholic church was erected on the north side of the street; it is a small wooden building. Opposite to this was erected a small building by the German Lutherans.

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