History of Chautauqua, 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


Chautauqua- The town of Chautauqua antedates the county, and may be called the "Mother Town," as it originally included all of now Chautauqua county except that part comprised within the limits of the eastern range of townships. The town was set off from Batavia, April 11, 1804, and when the county was organized, March 11, 1808, the town was enlarged by the addition of the eastern or tenth row of townships. All the other towns of the county have been formed from the original town, reducing it to its present irregular dimensions on both sides of the northern part of Chautauqua Lake. Pomfret was taken off in 1808; Portland in 1813; Harmony in 1816; Clymer, Ellery and Stockton in 1821. Notwithstanding its losses, Chautauqua is one of the largest towns in the county, containing 41,318 acres. The surface is hilly, and forms the watershed between Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake. Chautauqua creek forms part of the western boundary, and other streams are within its borders.

Although the town is hilly and broken, and by reason of its elevated situation is exposed to deep snows and severe storms in winter, it has fine and striking scenery. From the high hills in its northern and western parts a magnificent view is presented to the grape belt, and the wide and blue expanse of Lake Erie bearing upon its bosom the commerce of the west, and, in the distance one may see the shores and hills of Canada. The upper portion of Chautauqua Lake extends into the eastern part of the town, and from Mayville a fine view may be had of the shores of the lake, with its beautiful bays. Within the town limits is the viilage of Mayville, the capital of the county, with which is associated so much of historical interest; the far-famed Chautauqua Assembly grounds; picturesque Point Chautauqua; the villages of Hartfield, Summerdale and Dewittyule, and the county alms house and asylum. The first settlement was made by Dr. Alexander McIntyre, of Meadville, in 1804. He built a log dwelling at Mayville near the steamboat landing. Around it he erected a stockade "to protect it from the Indians," as he said. He had been captured by and resided with Indians many years, acquiring their habits, and claimed to have learned the healing art of them. Dr. McIntyre's stockade had been built when in the fall of 1804 the Holland Land Company sent William Peacock to survey and map out a town at the head of the lake. In the fall of 1804 Paul Busti, an agent of the company, was with his family at what is now Mayville, and at a meeting of Holland Land Company representatives held there a name for the new settlement was considered. William Peacock thus related the story of the naming of the village:

A great many names had been suggested, but none upon which all could unite, when Mrs. Paul Busti, wife ot one of the agents and attorney for the company, came into the room where we were gathered with a baby in her arms. One of the gentleman present asked the name of the baby and she replied, "May." Then some one suggested that we name the settlement after the baby and call it Mayville, which was quickly agreed to and the new settlement was at once named in honor of May Busti.

William Peacock completed his survey and mapped a territory two miles wide from Chautauqua lake to the two Chautauqua creeks, and "the work was done with wonderful accuracy," as many subsequent surveys have fully proven.

In 1807 Captain John Scott, who had located at Canadaway in 1804 and had married Brilliant, daughter of Deacon Orsamus Holmes, of Sheridan, came and opened on the present site of Mayville a public inn, the first made of logs, and upon the east side of Main street, between the Episcopal church and the Mayville House. Mr. Scott was supervisor in 1813. He removed from Mayville about 1826, and died in Illinois in 1845. In 1808 George Lowry settled in Mayville, and also opened a primitive inn. He was one of the celebrated family of ten brothers who with their mother Margaret emigrated from Ireland. Their names were Samuel, Hugh, John, Robert, James, Andrew, William, George, Alexander and Morrow. Most of them became early settlers of Erie county, Pennsylvania. In George Lowry's old bar-room occurred a desperate fight between some settlers and Pennsylvania boatmen, which furnished business for several of the earliest terms of court. His son, James B. Lowry, was county clerk in 1828.

In 1808 the county of Chautauqua was organized, and that year Jonas Williams, Isaac Sutherland and Asa Ransom, commissioners appointed to decide upon the county seat, "erected a large hemlock post" at Mayville to designate the spot fixed by them. Darius Dexter had come from Herkimer county that spring. To him the contract was given by Joseph Ellicott to cut and clear a road commencing at the head of Chautauqua Lake, extending one and one-half miles toward Westfield. He cut this road, now Main street, six rods wide, and cleared it to the width of three rods. He also cleared the land of the public square. Dr. John E. Marshall, a well educated physician, now moved into the woods that covered the site of Mayville. He married Ruth, daughter of Deacon Orsamus Holmes, of Sheridan, in 1810. In 1809, Artemas Hearick, a native of Massachusetts, came from Chenango to Mayville. He was early appointed one of the associate judges.

The anticipation of a complete organization of the county with Mayville as its county seat, now influenced people to take up residence there. As courts were soon to be held, attorneys were the first to be attracted. Anseim Potter, the first, and Dennis Brackett, the second lawyer of the county, both came in 1810, and Casper Rouse a little later. Brackett built an office, which was crushed soon after by a falling tree. The same year the Holland Land Company erected an office for the sale of its lands, and William Peacock, its agent, took up his residence here. Jonathan Thompson, one of the first associate judges of the county, came from Saratoga county to Mayville in 1810; four years later he removed to Pennsylvania.

Waterman Tinkcom, from Saratoga county, for many years an innkeeper in Mayville, became a resident here that year. In 1811, the county having become fully organized, Captain Scott enlarged his log tavern by a plank frame addition for a court house. In it, the June before it was completed, the first court of record was held, and in October the Board of Supervisors here met. There were but two members -Matthew Prendergast, of Chautauqua, and Philo Orton, of Pomfret. This year Morrow Lowry settled in Mayville. His son, Morrow B., born in Mayville in 1813, afterwards was a distinguished citizen of Western Pennsylvania. Nathaniel A. Lowry, son of Alexander, settled in Jamestown, and Hugh W. Lowry, a merchant of Westfield, was the son of another of the brothers. Jediah Prendergast came to Mayville in 1811, he was the first physician. William Prendergast, his nephew, the second physician, soon followed. William Prendergast, son of Martin and Phebe (Holmes) Prendergast, grandson of William, the physician, and great-grandson of Matthew, was born in Chautauqua in 1854. He was educated at Mayyule Academy and was graduated from Jefferson Medical College at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1883, and located at Mayville. In 1811 the first store was established in Mayville by Jediah and Martin Prendergast. William Smith was one of the early settlers of Mayville. He was born in Massachusetts in 1808, emigrated to Oneida county, and a few years later to Mayville, where he opened a law office. He was appointed surrogate in 1821, which office he held for nineteen years; was one of the founders of the "Mayville Sentinel," and died in 1860.

Other parts of the town of Chautauqua were also being settled. In 1805 Peter Barnhart, a soldier of the Revolution, located a short distance north of Point Chautauqua. His sons, Jonathan, Peter and Henry, also settled in the town. Jonathan Smith the same year made the first settlement on the west side, near the grounds of the Chautauqua Assembly. The Prendergasts in March, 1806, contracted for a large tract of land near the Chautauqua Assembly Grounds, and the same month James and William Prendergast, Jr., erected a log house there. In June the family arrived. Filer Sackett in June, 1805, bought land at Dewittyule, where John Mason early settled. He married Maria, daughter of Captain Anson Leet. Darius Scofield settled early at Dewittyule. Nathan and Daniel Cheney early settled a mile north of Dewittville. John Miles with a large family settled on lot 9 near the east line of the town. Dr. Lawton Richmond, the third physician, settled near Dewittville in 1811.

Philo Hopson, from Herkimer county, settled a mile north of Hartfield upon land bought in 1809. At an early day he and William Bateman built a sawmill at Hartfield.

Zaccheus Hanchett settled on lot number 23. Dexter Barns, a noted axe-maker, first settled in Stockton, where he built its first blacksmith shop. He removed to Hartfield, where he died. Darius Dexter, after cutting out Main street and clearing the public square in Mayville in 1808, returned east and came back the next spring with his wife and purchased land on lot 20, northeast of Hartfield. John, William, Daniel, Winsor, Otis, Samuel, George and Stephen, brothers of Darius, it is believed came with him in 1809. His brother William and John W. Winsor took up other parts of the lot. Samuel in 1809 took land on lot number 17. John was county clerk thirteen years. He and Darius had a store and ashery at Dewittville. In 1830 they removed to East Jamestown and built mills, and the place took the name of Dexterville. Captain Anson Leet, of Connecticut, who came to Stockton in 1810, and in 1814 purchased the land at Point Chautauqua, formerly known as Leet's Point, was the first to settle at Point Chautauqua. He had eleven children. The next year William Hunt settled on lot 29, township 3, his land including the Chautauqua Assembly Grounds. In the southeastern part of the town Samuel Porter, Jared Irwin, Ichabod Wing, Ephraim Hammond and Robert Lawson were early settlers. Richard Whitney settled upon lot 21, David Morris upon lqt 38. In the south part of the town the early settlers were: Alfred Paddock, David Adams, Robert Donaldson, Palta Sweatland, Dennis Hart, Ava Hart, Samuel Hustis and William Fowler. In the southwest Jacob Putnam and in the north Joseph Davis found homes. William T. Howe settled a mile northeast of Mayville in 1816. Samuel B. Porter bought 200 acres four miles south of Mayville, cleared one acre, built a log cabin, and brought his second wife, Mary Justina Johnson, and his two youngest children to their new home in the wilderness. Mrs. Porter died in November, 1848, Mr. Porter in October, 1863.

Mayville, as the place for holding the courts, the meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the keeping of the public records and the transaction of the general business of the county, naturally attracted influential citizens to become residents. Samuel S. Whallon, when a boy, came with his parents to Mayville about 1812 and resided there until his death in 1858. He was a prominent merchant, a member of Assembly, and in 1856 was elected canal commissioner and held that office until he died. About 1815 Jedidiah Tracy moved to Mayville from Erie county, Pennsylvania, and kept for many years one of the best inns in the county.

Robertson Whiteside settled in Chautauqua about 1820; he was subsequently county treasurer and a member of Assembly. Jesse Brooks came to Mayville and became a merchant; he was postmaster for twenty years, succeeding Jedidiah Tracy. William Green, long a wellknown lawyer, came to Mayville in 1824. His brother, Richard O., once a county clerk, and George A., surrogate, came later. In 1828 increased communication with Jamestown was given to Mayville by the sidewheel steamboat "Chautauque;" she made her first trip July 4, 1828. This year Omar Farwell came and engaged in the tanning business and established a store. John Birdsall about this time became a resident and one of its most distinguished citizens. Daniel Tennant, from Scotland, about 1748 settled in Connecticut, where his son Daniel was born about 1761 and when eighteen entered the Revolutionary army, was at West Point at the time of the treason of Arnold, saw the American cannon spiked preparatory to a surrender to the British and saw Major Andre, after his capture. He married Miss Hale, of Irish birth, who had two brothers in the American army. After the war he settled at Waterville, Oneida county. Daniel Tennant, his son, born in 1802, came to this county in 1827 and bought wild timber land about three miles northeast of Hartfield. He married Hephzibah M. Leech, who was born in Connecticut in 1807, moved to Buffalo with her parents, whose home was burned by the British in 1812. Mrs. Tennant died in 1874; Mr. Tennant died in 1890.

Between 1830 and 1835 many public improvements were made in the town and many citizens of worth came to Mayville. In 1830 it was incorporated as a village. In 1831 Matthew P. Bemus, son of Charles Bemus, came to reside. He was born in Ellery, January 4, 1831. He was one of the most public-spirited citizens, took an active part in the building of the Cross Cut railroad, and held many important public positions. In 1832 the county poorhouse was erected and the jail was built. An act was passed that year to incorporate the Mayville & Portland Railroad Company, capital $150,000, to construct a railroad from Portland Harbor to Chautauqua Lake; the design was not carried into execution. In 1833 Donald McKinzie came to Mayvilie. He was one of the most distinguished citizens in the county. August 18, 1825, he married Adelgonda Humbert Droz, daughter of Alphonzo Humbert Droz, of Berne, Switzerland. He resided here until his death, January 20, 1851, after a life of much adventure. He was a man of ability, of enterprise and of honor, and left a large respected family. In April, 1834, Mayville Academy was incorporated, and a substantial building of brick erected. In the fall the "Mayville Sentinel" was established by William Kibbe. About a year afterward, Beman Brockway became proprietor and conducted it successfully for ten years, when he removed to Oswego. It was then conducted by John F. Phelps until his decease in 1878.

In 1835 the new court house was built, and the public execution of Damon occurred in Mayville on the sidehill not far from the Academy. February 6, 1836, the land office was destroyed by a mob, and was thereafter opened and kept at Westfield.

William A. Mayborne came to Mayville to reside about 1836, and William Gifford about 1841. In 1854 Milton Smith was elected sheriff, and became a lifelong resident of Mayville. Amos K. Warren, afterwards sheriff, came in 1862. One of the most important events favorably affecting the interests of Mayville was the building of the Buffalo & Oil Creek Cross Cut railroad, now the Western New York & Pennsylvania railroad, chartered in 1865.

A county farm of one hundred acres having been purchased near Dewittville, a substantial brick building was erected in 1832, which was used until the present one was erected in 1870. Buildings for the unfortunate have been successively erected there in 1839, 1851, 1858, 1868, 1903 and 1904. The present main building is four stories high, with frontage of 104 feet and depth of 68 feet. From the rear there is a center wing twenty-two feet wide, fiftyseven feet six inches long, two stories high. The cost of the building was $36,226, and its furnishings $1,500. When it was built it was the most beautiful building in the county, and was declared by official visitors to be the finest and best managed county house in the State. The farm now has 338 5/10 acres, and the whole property is valued over $100,0000.

As a result of the Chautauqua movement begun in 1873, Fair Point has been transformed into a permanent village of importance, while the lands bordering the upper part of the lake within the town have wonderfully increased in value. On September 30, 1875, Point Chautauqua Association was incorporated, that being the beginning of the improvement of Leet's Point, many fine homes now adding to the beauty of that most sightly point on the lakeshore. These enterprises assured Mayville's permanent prosperity, and water works, paving, electricity and railways followed in a triumphal march of modern progress. The Chautauqua Institution will be made the subject of a special chapter.

The First Baptist Church of Mayville was organized with thirty-eight members, by Elder Jonathan Wilson, a pioneer missionary from Vermont, February 7, 1820. Mr. Wilson was the first pastor of the church. The church edifice was built in 1834.

The Chautauqua Society of the Methodist Episcopal church at Mayville was formed about 1820. A house of worship was erected in 1851.

St. Paul's Church of Mayville was organized with about twenty members in April, 1823, by Rev. David Brown, the first pastor. The first church edifice was completed in January, 1828, and consecrated by Bishop Habart, September 4, 1828. The present house was built in 1859, and consecrated by Bishop Coxe, May 18, 1865. Rev. G. W. Sinclair Ayres entered upon the rectorship of this church, November 1, 1893.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Dewittville was formed with ten members in 1835, by William Gifford. This house of worship was purchased of the Baptists the same year. The first pastor was Rev. Mr. Burgess.

The First Free-Will Baptist Church of Chautauqua Hill, four miles north from Hartfield, was organized with five members in 1840, by Rev. T. V. Main, the first pastor, and a Mr. Neely. A house of worship was built about 1842.

Summit Church, Methodist Episcopal, near Summit Station, where a class had been formed, built a house of worship through the instrumentality, it is said, of John H. Flagler in 1849. The first pastor after the completion of the church building was Rev. John K. Hallock.

The Christian Church at Dewittville was organized December 25, 1852, by Rev. E. H. Mosher, the first pastor, and E. H. Halladay. Their church edifice was erected in 1856.

Mount Pleasant Church, United Brethren, three and a half miles southeast from Mayville, was organized with eight members in 1858 by Rev. Z. Sullivan, the first pastor. A church edifice was built in 1865.

The United Brethren in Christ, of Elm Flats, was organized with eight members, February 1, 1863, by Rev. N. R. Luce, the first pastor. A house of worship was erected in 1861; the present one in 1870.

St. Peter's Church, German United Evangelical Protestant, at Mayville, was organized with twenty members in 1871 by Rev. O. Schroder. Their church edifice was erected in 1871. The first pastor was Rev. Jacob Weber.

The Swedish Lutherans organized a church at Mayville in 1870, built in 1872. Church and parsonage are worth $4,000.

Summit Lodge, No. 312, Free and Accepted Masons, was instituted at Mayville, in 1818, and derived its name from its location on the summit of the watershed between the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence river systems. The first meeting was held in Asahel Lyon's rooms; the first officers were John Dexter, worthy master; James M. Cochrane, senior warden; Asahel Lyon, junior warden; David Eason, treasurer; Calvin Macomber, secretary. The lodge was discontinued in 1824, and was revived on November 4, 1850, as No. 219. Its last meeting at Mayville was held February 14, 1851, and it was moved to Westfield.

Peacock Lodge, No. 696, Free and Accepted Masons, held its first meeting U. D., February 28, 1869, and received its charter June 9, 1869. The lodge perpetuates the name of a distinguished and worthy brother, William Peacock, who was ever governed by true Masonic principles. The first officers elected were N G Luke, worshipful master; George Wood, senior warden; John F. Young, junior warden; Amos K. Warren, treasurer; O. E. Tiffany, secretary; William S. Gleason, senior deacon; Peter M. Pickard, junior deacon.

Supervisors-John McMahan, 1805-07; Arthur Bell, 1808; Thos. Prendergast, 1809; Matt Prendergast, 1810-11; Samuel Ayres, 1812; John Scott, 1813; John E. Marshall, 1814; Martin Prendergast, 1815-15-18; and 1819-33; John Dexter, 1817; Jabez B. Burrows, 1834-36; Wm. Prendergast, 1837-39; Alva Cottrell, 1840-41-46; Dexter Barnes, 1842; Cyrus Underwood, 1843-44; Wm. Green, 1845; Williard.W. Crafts, 1847-48-53; Martin Prendergast, 1849-61-64; Stephen W. Hunt, 1850-51; Hiram A. Pratt, 1852; David. Woods, 1854-55; John Birdsall, 1856-57; Wm. Gifford, 1858-59; Milton G. Freeman, 1860; Daniel H. Hewes, 1865; Wm. P. Whiteside, 1866; Matt. P. Bemus, 1867-72; John Birdsall, 1873-74; Sidney R. Lawson, 1875-76; James M. Hunt, 1877; Lewis T. Harrington, 1878-79; Ezra J. Scofield, 1880-83; Eldred Lott, 1884; J. Franklin Hunt, 1885-87; Herman Sixbey, 1888-89; Geo. W. Hewes, 1890-93; Thos. Hutson, 1894-96; Willis H. Tennant, 1897-99; August Anderson, 1900-03; Thos. Hutson, 1904-07; Marion W. Scofield, 1908-13; Martin P. Whallon, 1914-20.

The population of Chautauqua, according to the New York State census of 1915 was: Citizens, 3,854; aliens, 79; Mayville reporting 1,201.

The Chautauqua Print Shop at Chautauqua and the Chautauqua Cabinet Company at Mayyule are the principal industries, although Mayville has four small plants and Summervale two. The assessed value of real estate in the town in 1918 was $3,371,384; full value, $4,297,105. Good schools abound in all parts of the town.

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