History of Arkwright, NY
FROM: History of Chautauqua County, New York and its people
John P. Downs - Editor-in-Charge.
Fenwick Y. Hedley Editor-in-Chief.
Published By American Historical Society, Inc. 1921



Arkwright -The town of Arkwright, in the northern part of the county, surrounded north, east, south and west by Sheridan, Villenova, Charlotte and Pomfret, was formed from Pomfret and Villenova, April 13, 1829. The highest points in the town range from eleven hundred to twelve hundred feet above Lake Erie. Sheridan separates Arkwright from Lake Erie and Villenova from Cattaraugus county. While the original forests have all been felled and given way to the fields, and the soil is well adapted to the raising of crops, agriculture is not the leading industry of the town, the hilly nature of the town making it more profitable for grazing. The chief source of wealth is the dairy product, which compares favorably with the other towns of Chautauqua county.

Arkwright has the distinction of having absolutely no aliens among its inhabitants, the entire population in 1915 - 843 - being all citizens, according to the New York State census.

There are many points of comparison in which the town is surpassed by its neighbors, yet there is no scenery in the county so picturesque and beautiful as that at and near Arkwright Falls. There banks of shale rise precipitately from one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet, their tops covered with shrubbery and delicious wintergreen to tempt the skill of the visitor in climbing. The student of geology, go where he may, will find much to interest him, as nature's work is plainly demonstrated.

Original Purchases:
1807-November, Zattu Cushing, 63 (articled to Uriah L. Johnson).
1809-June, Benj. Sprague, 56; August, Aug. Burnham, 60; Ed. McGregor, 62; September, Oliver Taylor, 55; October, Aaron Wilcox, 56; November, Nathan Eaton, 64; Benj. Perry, 64.
1810-January, Horace Clough, 42; May, Aug. Burnham, 56.
1812-March, Robt. Cowden, 54.
1814-October, Moses Tucker, 62; November, Daniel Harris, 53.
1815-October, Robt. W. Seaver, 37.
1816-February, Abirarn Orton, 55; December, Thadius Barnard, 16.
1817-March, Robt. Cowden, 53; April, Jabez Harrington, 39.
1818-March, Silas Matteson, 8.
1821-July, Isaiah Martin, 3; October, Bela Kingsley, 13; Hiram Kingsley, 13.
1822-March, Simeon Smith, Jr., 39l Caleb Weaver, Jr., 39; April, David Weaver, 31; John Weaver, 32; Bethnel Harvey, 12; October Ashbel Scott, 10; November, Asahel Burnham, 26, 27; Moses and Aaron Luce, 18.
1823-July, Sylvester Gould, 42; August, Stephen Chase, 2; November, Orestes Thatcher, 18.
1824-September, Simeon Clinton, 21; October, Benj. White, 28; Arna Wood, 51.
1825-September, Stephen Chase (2d), 9; October, Ellsworth Griswold, 25.
1826-January, Andrus M. Huyck, 16; July, Wm. F. Peebles, Jr., 33; October, Zephania Briggs, 42; Abijah Mason, 8.
1828-January, Benj. Perry, 47.

Among the early settlers were: Byron T. Orton, Benjamin Perry and Augustus Burnham, who settled in the northwestern part of the town in 1807; Aaron Wilcox, 1809; Nathan Eaton, 1810; Uriah Johnson and John Sprague, 1811; A. Z. Wilson and Robert Cowden, 1812. On May 11, 1811, the first white child, Horatio Nelson Johnson, was born in the town; the first death was that of Augustus Burnham in 1813; the first marriage, Chauncey Andrews to Louisa Wilson, was solemnized in 1814. Isaiah Martin built the first frame house in 1814, and kept the first tavern. Lucy Dewey taught the first school in 1813. Benjamin Orton built the first saw mill in 1818. The first religious services were held in the house of Aaron Wilcox in 1810 by Rev. John Spencer, and in 1820 Elder Thomas Grennel organized the first Baptist church. William Wilcox was elected the first supervisor of the town in 1830.

One of the oldest and most influential citizens was Simeon Clinton, born in Ballston, Saratoga county, February 13, 1779. In early life he moved to Fly Creek, Otsego county, where he remained about fifteen years. In 1813 he journeyed to Buffalo and thence along the shores of Lake Erie until he nearly reached the present site of Dunkirk, then leaving the lake he arrived at the present township of Gerry, near Canadaway or Mill Creek, where he sold his horse and invested the proceeds in a farm. He then returned home, sold all of his possessions except some cooking utensils and furniture, loading these into his wagon together with his wife and three children, the youngest, one year old, and started with his ox-team for his newly purchased home. When he arrived at Buffalo he found it had been burned by the British, and only a single house standing. While passing from Buffalo to Dunkirk he and his family had a narrow escape from being thrown from a rocky cliff into the lake. After many hardships they arrived at their Gerry home. He remained here only a short time, for the creek overflowed and came near carrying away his dwelling. Selling his place, he purchased a new farm at the center of the present site of Arkwright, 1813, on which he resided to the time of his death, April 29, 1858. Mr. Clinton, an honest and educated man, took great interest in public affairs and was instrumental in forming the township of Arkwright. He was the first postmaster, and held his office for twenty years. The first town meeting was held at his house, May 2, 1830. At different times he held the office of justice of the peace, superintendent of schools, town clerk and commissioner of deeds. He made the first survey of the plot of Dunkirk. He also surveyed the present site of Sinclairville, and with the help of Mr. Peacock laid out the Chautauqua road. He understood weaving plain cloth and flowered and figured flannel. A short time before his death he was talking to a neighbor, when a fly lit on his hand, which he killed with the other. "There," said he, "when I pass from time to eternity, I wish to go just as quick as that." It seems that his request was granted, for while he was standing in his barn door he was struck by lightning and instantly killed.

Arkwright was the first town in the State to establish extensively the cooperative system in the manufacture of cheese. Asahel Burnham was the first to institute that industry on a large scale. He was the grandson of the pioneer of that name, the first settler of Arkwright. He was born in Arkwright, about 1826. He had poor opportunities for education and no business experience; he had, however, energy and natural business ability. In early years he was a farmer. Prior to 1861, each farmer manufactured his own butter and cheese; that year Mr. Burnham built in Arkwright the first cheese factory in the county upon the cooperative plan, at Burnham's Hollow on Canadaway creek, and was called the Canadaway Cheese Factory. While still owner of this factory, in 1865 he built the second of the kind in the county at Sinclairville, which it is believed was at that time the largest in the State. That year in this factory he manufactured into cheese 4,349,364 pounds of milk from 1,450 cows, belonging to 120 patrons and made 7,200 cheese, each weighing 60 pounds, a portion of the time 60 cheese a day. He also built and owned factories in adjacent towns. He was called the "Cheese King," because he bought and handled a large portion of the cheese made in Western New York.

The cooperative system in the manufacture of cheese thus established by Burnham grew into a great industry. In Arkwright in its three cheese factories were made 263,403 pounds of full-cream cheese in 1902. In the county the same year in thirty-five cheese factories 3,307,938 pounds were made. Of the fifty-four butter and cheese counties in the State, Chautauqua county ranked eleventh. In 1902 in its thirty-four butter factories 3,243,940 pounds of butter were made, and the county stood fourth in rank in the State in quantity. The four counties that exceeded it were each much greater in extent, and Chautauqua ranked above them according to its territory in the quantity of butter made.

Mr. Burnham was noted all over the United States as the owner of a famous stable of thoroughbreds, his most noted racer being "Brambaletta." He had for an emblem a pineapple cheese, which he emblazoned on his jockey's colors.

Supervisors-1830-36, Wm. Wilcox; 1837-40, Levi Baldwin; 1841, Lewis E. Danforth; 1842, Levi Baldwin; 1843, Lewis E. Danforth; 1844-32, Wm. Wilcox; 1853-4, Levi Baldwin; 1855-6, Chauncey Abbey; 1857, Levi Baldwin; 1858-9, Chauncey Abbey; 1860-1, John C. Griswold; 1862-5, Chauncey Abbey; 1866, John C. Griswold; 1867, Delos J. Rider; 1868, John C. Griswold; 1869, Oscar H. Houck; 1870, Levi C. Baldwin; 1871-2, Leander S. Phelps; 1873-5, Geo. W. Briggs; 1876, John C. Griswold; 1877-8, Edson I. Wilcox; 1879-80, Ezra Scott; 1881-2, Richmond Putnam; 1883, Eaton Burnham; 1884, John C. Griswold; 1885, Ezra Scott; 1886-7, Cassius M. Griswold; 1888, Richmond Putnam; 1889-91, Chas. E. Cole; 1892-5, Marvin Cardot; 1896-9, Frank W. Horton; 1900-1, Marvin Cardot; 1902-5, Marvin Horton; 1906-9, Edes A. Tarbox; 1910-13, Chas. C. Cole; 1914-17, Rawson A. Matthewson; 1918-19, John A. Griswold; 1920, Edgar M. Towns.

There are 22,083 acres included within Arkwright limits, of which the equalized assessed value in 1918 was $354,414; full value, $451,731. The villages of the town are Arkwright and Griswold. The schools are excellent, and several religious denominations are represented by congregations and church edifices. Arkwright's farmers and public men have always been of a high class and influential in county affairs.

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