History of Mina, 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



Mina- When on March 23, 1824, Mina, a town of 22,028 acres, high in altitude and of rolling, hilly surface, was set off from the town of Clymer, it included its present area and what is now the town of Sherman, which was taken off eight years later. Findley Lake, a rival of Chautauqua Lake in beauty, if not in size, lies within the town, its waters, shores and two beautiful islands forming pictures of beauty with the varying changes of light temperature and season. Findley Lake, situated among the high hills, is the second largest body of water in Chautauqua county, its waters finding an outlet through French creek, a stream which in earlier years furnished water power in abundance and turned the wheels of many mills. The town is a part of the natural watershed which turns the waters north and south into the valleys of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi. There are two villages in the town, Mina and Findley Lake, the latter located at the north end of Findley Lake. The population of the town, according to the State census of 1915 is 1,016 citizens and 5 aliens. There is little manufacturing in the town, owing to the insufficiency of the water power and the absence of rail transportation. Mina has been fortunate in having good records of its early days preserved by participants in making the history of the town. The following historical matter relative to Mina is gleaned from an article written by a pioneer of the township and published in 1861:

The town of Mina was settled between forty and fifty years ago. Among the first settlers were: Alex. Findley, Geo. Haskell, Roger Haskell, Damon, James Skellie, H. J. Skellie, Robt. Corbett, Philip Mark, Woolcutt, Jos. Palmer, John Keeler, Asa Madden, Potter Sullivan, James Ottaway, Nath. Throop, Seth McCurry, S. Park, S. Curtiss, Benj. Hazen, C. Barnes, Samuel Ellithorp, D. Babcock, Samuel Gott, E. F. Bisby, Hial Rowley, Z. Beckford, A. Whitney. Alexander Findley, I believe, was the first settler. He came in the year 1816 erected mills soon after. His wife died at the age of nearly one hundred years.

The first store was kept by Charles Brockway, on Findley Lake. In 1825 our first inn was kept at Mina Corners by Cullen Barnes. The first death, the mother of Nathaniel Throop, was in 1827. Nathaniel Throop was the first supervisor, elected in 1825; town clerk, Roger Haskell. In 1824-25 Mr. Throop lived on the farm now occupied by Newell Grover. He was the first postmaster and brought the mail on his back once a week from Mayville. Our second postmaster was Potter Sullivan; next, I believe, H. J. Spalding. First physician in town was Dr. Wilcox. He lived in a log house on the farm now occupied by N. Grover. The next was Alma. We have had eleven: Wilcox, Alma, Barnes, Truesdale, Pierce, Sanders, H. J. Rumsey, Philips, Green, A. F. Jenning, Bowen.

The first militia training was held at the house of Z. Rickard, near Mina Corners, where Hugh Skellie lives. The captain's name was John R. Adams.

We have six sawmills and one gristmill, owned by Robert A. Corbett. The water privilege at Findley Lake is second best in the county. We have eleven school districts, in which school is kept from six to nine months in the year. We have thirty-one road districts and the roads throughout the town are mostly in good condition. We have three meeting houses- the Methodist Episcopal in the west part of town; one at Findley Lake, called the United Brethren; and one near Mina's Corners that belongs to the Germans, Presbyterian.

Peter R. Montague, a venerable gentleman who was born in 1809 and without whom a thorough history of Mina could not be told, said:

With my parents I came from Middlebury, Wyomrng county, N. Y., in April, 1824, and took up land on lot 36, in an almost unbroken wilderness, with but a few settlers in town. As soon as our house was constructed I set about to make myself a bed with nothing but an augur and axe to work with. It was made out of round poles, and for the cord II used elm bark, quite different from the beds of the present time. In those early days the making of black salts was the chief industry, that commodity always bringing cash. Another young man and myself took a job to clear one acre of land, for which we received ten bushels of wheat and the ashes. The black salts made from the ashes we sold for twenty-one dollars. Those who had pine timber suitable for the purpose could shave shingles and get one dollar a thousand for them in trade at the stores. The price of eggs was six to eight cents per dozen; butter eight to nine cents a pound. Wolves were troublesome and sheep had to be guarded each night. The settlers trapped them by building a pen of logs about twelve feet square at the bottom, tapering to a smaller diameter toward the top till at the height of eight feet it would be but three feet across. With fresh meat used as bait the wolves were often lured into this area during the night, whence they of course could not escape. The two early industries were tanning and distilling. Benjamin Hazen had a few vats and tanned leather for many years. Another Hazen had a small distillery and distilled whiskey from potatoes and corn meal, which readily sold for twenty five cents a gallon.

The following is from "Child's Gazetteer":
"It is said that Nehemiah Finn made the first butter sent to New York from Chautauqua county, and John Shaver made the first firkin and owned the first dog-power of the county. The first birth was that of a daughter of Nathaniel Throop in 1823, and the first death that of the mother of the same individual, in 1825. The first marriage contracted was that of Isaac Stedman and Nancy Wilcox in April, 1826. Elisha Moore taught the first school in 1826 near Findley's Mills. The first store was kept in 1824 by Horace Brockway on lot fiftytwo."

Early Land Purchases.
1811-September, Alex. Findley, 52.
1815-October, Alex. Findley, 42; Jona Darrow, 57 or 58.
1816-March, Geo. Haskell, 58.
1818-October, Aaron Whitney, 59; Robt. Haskell,
1821-May, Geo. Collier, 45; November, Nathan Leach, 44.
1822-September, Hiel Rowley, 37.
1823-August, John G. Acres, 38; September, Jas. Ottaway, 14; Wm. Tryon, 31; October, Silas Hazen, Jr., 23; Horace Brockway, 44; November, Jos. Palmer, Palmer, 11; John Barnes, 20.
1824-March, Elisha Morse. 39; Nathan Morse, 45; Edw. P. Morse, 45; April, Ezra Bisby, 26; Ezra F. Bisby, 26; June, Josiah Morse, 61; Elijah Heyden, 33; Chas. T. Bailey, 7; August, Edw. Chambers, 14; September Robt. Corbett, 2 or 3; October, Jas. Nichols, 3.
1825-March, Seth McCurry, 13; Wm. Craig, Jr., 22; April, Squire King, 7; Benjamin R. Teft, 60; Nath. Herrick, 7; May, Jesse Oaks, 27; Josiah R. Keeler, 3; Zina Rickard, 28; October, Nath. Throop, 6; Hugh Findley, 42; Oliver B. Bliss and Henry Bliss, 56; December, West Barber, 47.
1826-January, Hugh I. Skellie, 50, 51; April, Gideon Barlow, 16; June, Jas. Ottaway, Jr., 35; October, Horace Brockway, 59; Jesse Robertson, 62.
1827-March, James W. Robertson, 43.
1828-January, Isaac Fox, 46; February, Geo. Collier, 54; May, Theodore Whitten, 40; Cyrus Underwood, 4o; August, Wm. Tryon, 31; November, Jas. W. Robertson, 34.
1831-May, Daniel S. Richmond, 32; Geo. Pulman, 45.

In 1875, of the original purchasers named in the foregoing, Aaron, Whitney, Hiel Brockway, Gideon Barlow and John W. Robertson were the only persons who owned the lands they bought from the Holland Company. Peter R. Montague owned the farm on which he settled with Ezra Bisby, his step-father, the original purchaser, in 1824.

Alexander Findley, who is credited with having been the first settler of Mina, came from the North of Ireland about 1790 with his family. He first settled in Greenville, Pa., from where he made excursions as a hunter of wild game and lands that should suit his fancy as the seeker of a permanent home. Being charmed with the situation at the foot of the lake to which his name was later given, he selected and bought in 1811 land on lot 52 there. The Holland Land Company gave him the privilege of building mills. He began to build a sawmill in 1815 and in 1816 he made his permanent home there. In this year he completed his sawmill and soon after a gristmill. The water which first received the name of Findley's Pond later received the more dignified name of Findley's Lake. A settlement sprung up about the mills, which at this time is a prosperous village of some five hundred people, with several stores, a good hotel, a creamery, shops, two churches, an excellent school building and a newspaper.

Young says: "By the construction of the dam (for Findley's Mills) several hundred acres of land were overflowed. The dam was several years later swept away by a June freshet and on the land which had again become uncovered, a luxuriant growth of herbage sprung up before a new dam was erected; and the subsequent decomposition of the herbage under the water caused sickness, and Mr. Findley was indicted for maintaining a nuisance." The litigation that was begun as a result was not concluded as long as Mr. Findley lived. About 1827 Findley built a carding mill in which he also dressed cloth. He and his son William served in the War of 1812. Of his eleven children three sons, Hugh B., Russell and Carson, became residents of Mina; Hugh B. and Carson, who inherited the mill properties, sold the upper site to Robert Corbett, who built new mills and stopped the sickness.

James D. Findley, a farmer, son of Hugh B., served as postmaster at Findley's Lake. He and his brother, Henry B., served in the Civil War. Henry was killed June 1, 1864, at the battle of Cold Harbor; James D. lost his left arm, June 26, 1864, at Petersburg.

Among the early settlers, Aaron Whitney bought on lot 59 in 1818; he lived there all his life and reared a large family. Jonathan Darrow, George and Roger Haskell settled in the same neighborhood, on lots 58 and 59, in the southwestern part of the town, previous to 1820. Aaron Whitney, who bought on lot 59, became a lifelong resident and reared a large family. Jeremiah Knowles, an early settler, was a surveyor and laid out the first road in the western part of the town. Zina Rickards settled on lot 18 in 1818, and Cullen Barnes settled in Mina about the same time. George Collier bought a farm on lot 45 in 1821 and long resided there. His son, George H., went to Oregon from Mina, where he became professor of chemistry and physics in the University of Oregon. In the next three or four years after 1821, new roads were laid out, bridges built, and talk was heard of school and "meeting houses." On the east side of the town, pioneer settlers were coming in from County Kent, England. James Ottaway, whose descendants held important positions in the county, came in 1823. Other settlers were Edward Buss, William and George Relf, Edward Chambers, Edward Barden and Thomas Coveny. The Sons of Edward Chambers were Joseph, Frederick, William and John. George and Isaac Reif, sons of William, were prominent in business and held office. In 1824 Robert Corbett came from Milford, Mass., and bought part of lot 3. The rebuilding of the Findley saw and grist mills at the village by him has already been mentioned. Robert A. Corbett, his son, succeeded to the mills, which were sold in 1864 to William Sellkregg.

The officers elected at the first town meeting, held at the school house near Alexander Findley's, in April, 1824, were as follows: Supervisor, Nathaniel Throop; town clerk, Roger Haskell; assessors, Aaron Whitney, Zina Rickard, Otis Skinner; collector, Isaac Hazen; overseers of the poor, Alexander Findley, Orlando Durkee; commissioner of highways, Benjamin Hazen, Jeremiah Knowles, Potter Sullivan; constables, Isaac Hazen, Thomas Downey; commissioners of schools, Zina Rickard, Jeremiah Knowles, Alexander Findley; inspectors of schools, Daniel Waldo, Jr., Isaac Hazen, Samuel Dickerson.

The first regular religious meetings were those of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1826, in the barn of Benjamin Hazen, with Rev. Mr. Bradley as the clergyman. Findley Lake Church (United Brethren) was founded in 1855 by Rev. J. W. Clark, pastor. The society built a church in 1862. The American Reformed Church was formed December 19, 1856, with forty-four members, by Rev. J. W. Dunewald. The original members included Lorenzo Buck, Adam Himelein, George Hammer, J. G. Barringer, Adam Merket, their wives, and Margaret B. Phifer. In 1859 a church edifice was built costing $1,400. The Methodist Episcopal church at the Corners was formed May 18, 1858. The first members were Thomas R. Coveny, Daniel Fritz and wife, Alexander D. Hoidridge and wife, Daniel Declow and wife, William Baker, Charity Chase, Lucy and Melissa Hoidridge, Jane Tryon, Lucinda Relf and Betsey Baker. The trustees were A. D. Holdridge, William Baker and Nehum M. Grimes. About the same time, the Methodist Episcopal church, West Mina, was formed. Among its first members were John and Alexander Skellie, Uriah and Azan Fenton, Henry F. and James F. Moore. A church was built in 1859 with capacity for seating three hundred.

From the school offices it is noticeable that the pioneers were very particular about their schools. They desired that their children should have the best opportunities for education possible in such primitive surroundings. Considerable attention was paid to the making of roads, too, and keeping them in passable condition.

In 1824 the vote in Mina for governor was: Young, 44; Dewitt Clinton, 20. From 1841 to 1845 the strength of the Whigs and Democrats was practically equal. A tie vote occurred for supervisor several times. At one election the vote for highway commissioners was 63 on one side and 64 on the other.

The principal era for the building of sawmills and gristmills using water power in the town was from 1825 to 1840. The first steam mill was built by Davidson and Greenman in 1866, in the northwest part of the town, on lot 64. The firms of E. Chesley & Co. and Elmer Chesley & Sons owned it afterwards successively. The Chesley family in America is a very old one, dating back as far as 1633 in Dover, New Hampshire. The Chesleys of later generations have been prominent in New England and elsewhere to the present time. A. D. Hoidridge, an active citizen, built a saw, shingle and lath mill in Mina in 1872. Samuel Gill owned and operated a sawmill on lot i6, in the north part of the town near Ripley line, on Twenty-mile creek, from 1852 to the time of his death in 1879. The business was continued by his son, Samuel H. Gradually, as the timber was cut away, the fields and hillsides became pasture and meadowlands, the herds increased and dairying came into greater and greater prominence as the industry upon which the people relied.

Supervisors- 1824-27. Nath. Throop; 1828, Roger Haskell; 1829, Nath. Throop; 1830-31, Otis Skinner; 1832, Elias E. D. Wood; 1833, Joshua LaDue; 1834-37, Joseph Palmer; 1838, David Declow; 1839-42, Valorous Lake; 1843, Jesse B. Moore; 1844, David Declow; 1845, William Putnam; 1846-48, Gideon Barlow; 1849, Cyrus Underwood; 1850, Luke Grover; 1851, Edward Buss; 1852, Gideon Barlow; 1853, Alex. Eddy; 1854, Ora B. Pelton; 1855, Geo Ross; 1856-57, Luke Grover; 1858, Edw Buss; 1859, David Declow; 1860-61, Geo. Relf; 1862, Thos. R. Coveny; 1863; Edw. Buss; 1864-65, Geo. Reif; 1866, Franklin Declow; 1867, Geo. Relf; 1868, Thos. R. Coveny; 1869-70, Henry Q. Ames; 1871, Franklin Declow; 1872, Geo. Relf; 1873-75, John E. Ottaway; 1876-77, Ebenezer Skellie; 1878-82, Dana P. Horton; 1883, John E. Ottaway; 1884, Dana P. Horton; 1883, John E. Ottaway; 1886, Dana P. Horton; 1887, Samuel Barringer; 1888-90, William A. Knowlton; 1891, Dana P. Horton; 1892-93, Alfred M. Douglass; 1894-97, Dana P. Horton; 1898-01, John A. Hill; 1902-03-04-20, W. Layerne Nuttall. In 1906-07-18-19, Mr. Nuttall was chairman pro trm., and in 1920, chairman of the board, that being his nineteenth year of continuous service as supervisor.

The full value of the real estate in Mina was placed at $598,110 in 1918, and the assessed value was $469,259.

Mina schools have kept pace with the other improvements of the town and are very efficient.

Findley Lake is a charge of the Erie Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, the same pastor also supplying Mina and South Ripley, the three churches having a membership of 110.

The United Brethren Church was established at Findley Lake in 1855 by a missionary, Rev. E. B. Torrey; in 1857 Rev. John W. Clark was sent to the mission, and in 1858 a church was, organized. A church edifice was completed in 1860, which was succeeded by the present edifice in 1894. The original church was also used by the Methodists and by the Baptists.

The Lakeside Assembly, on the west shore of Findley Lake, was founded in 1895 by Rev. C. G. Langdon, a minister in the United Brethren Church. Rev. Langdon lived in the parsonage on the east shore of the lake. He had succeeded in erecting a fine new church in the village, but as he sat in his study and looked out over the lake into the woods on the west side of the lake he thought of the large audiences that might be gathered in the shade, to rest and at the same time to learn. A plot of ground was secured of J. A. Hill, and Rev. Langdon taking an axe began to cut and clear away the brush and logs. After a short time Dr. F. E. Lilly, who lived at the foot of the lake, was taken into partnership with him. A large tent was secured, several small buildings were erected, lots were laid off and the first season announced. About forty lots were sold and preparations made for the erection of many buildings. Feeling the need of a strong company, the two owners of the new Assembly organized a stock company and secured a State charter, sold stock and planned for a permanent institution.

Lakeside Assembly is modeled after Chautauqua in its system and is doing a good work for the section in which it is located.

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