History of Portland, 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


Portland- The act erecting the original town of Portland was passed April 9, 1813, but the town as originally created did not long continue. An act, passed March 1, 1816, erected the town of Ripley as at present constituted, and in addition took from Portland all of the present town of Westfield lying west of Chautauqua creek. Friction arose between the people of the village of Westfield and Portland, which finally resulted in an act erecting the town of Westfield, passed March 19, 1829. This brought Portland down to smaller proportions than the other towns of the county, save Kiantone and Dunkirk, its assessed area 20,510 acres, including roads, and a real area of 20,749 acres. The town borders Lake Erie along its entire northern border of more than eight miles, Pomfret forming the eastern boundary, Chautauqua and Stockton the southern, and Westfield the western boundary. The town has few streams, and these in summer dwindle to mere rivulets, yet in rare cases the rainfall has been sufficient to keep the streams full and the source of considerable water power. Slippery Rock creek is the principal stream, rising in the southern part of the town, flowing north and northwest to Lake Erie. Springs abound in profusion and furnish an abundance of pure water. Natural gas was found in Portland as in the entire lake region from Erie, Pa., to Cattaraugus creek, and sulphur springs have been found in various parts of the town.

The first in the town of Portland was Capt. James Dunn, who came from near Meadville, Pa., in 1804, and located about 1,100 acres near the center of the town, not yet surveyed into lots. In 1805 he built a log cabin on lot 31, town 5, and with his wife and six children moved in. This was the actual beginning of the town population, a town which one hundred and ten years later reported a population of 3,352. The first year (1806) Nathan Fay, Elisha Fay, Peter Kane, John Price, Benjamin
Rutchins, David Eaton and Nathaniel Fay came; of these, Elisha Fay was the last survivor. In 1811 Deacon Elijah Fay came, and to him Chautauqua county owes the great grape industry of which Portland is the center.

Original land purchases in Portland Township 5.
1804-May, James Dunn, 25, 30, 31, 34, 35.
1806-June, Benj. Hutchins, 37, 41; July, David Eaton, 37; Nathan Fay, 25; October, Peter Kane, 38.
1808-February, Thos. Klumph, 37, 41.
1809-June, Rufus Perry, 33; July, John Price, 39; Peter Ingersoll, 41; October, Philo Hopson, 27, 33; November, Jere. Klumph, 19; December, Martin Potter, 12; Robert Sweet, 21.
1810-February, Absalom Harris, 33 (sold to Jere. Potter); Rachel Perry, 33; March, Daniel Barnes, 3, 4; June, Nathan Fay, 12.
1811-May, Elijah Fay, 20; July, Wm. Hutchins, 41.
1813-December, Hollis Fay, 13.
1814-September, John R. Gibson, 13; November, Roe Goldsmith, 5, 6.
1815-April, Moses Sage, 2, 6, 4, 14, 21; Jethro Gerry, 32.
1816-January, Aug. Soper, 12; February, Wm. Corell, 36; May, Samuel Geer, 8; July, Wm. Dunham, 27; Calvin Barnes, 32; Isaac Baldwin. 36: October, Solomon Coney, 42; Lewis Hills, 3; Elijah Fay, 42.
1817-March, Oliver Spafford, 22; Simon Burton, 22; Elijah Fay, 40; May, Isaac Baldwin, 40; June, Martin Smith, 45; July, Asa Brooks, 2; Jewett Prime, 16; September, Zadoc Martin, 2, 3.
1818-April, Geo. A. Hitchcock, 16; May, James Bennett, 32; Moses Titcomb, 16.
1820-January, Jewett Prime, 21.
1821-October, Wm. Harris, 18; Jos. Harris, 18; Wm. Harris, Jr., 18; David Hurlbut, 18; Sylvester Andrews, 18.
1822-February, Sophia Williams, 24; Wolcott Colt, 17; September, Seth Shattuck, 10; December, John Corning, 14, 15; Wm. Corning, 14; Joshua Crosby, 14.
1823-September, Isaac Howe, 10.
1824-January, Rufus Moore, 11; February, Samuel Anderson, Jr., 28; October, Jos. Gibbs, 42; Hollis Fay, 42; November, Amos C. Andrews, 1.
1825-November, Joshua S. West, 17.
1826-April, Isaac Denton, 1.
1827-July, Samuel Thayer, Jr., 23.
1828-September, David Dean, 2; December, James Bennett and others, 11; Isaac Sage and others, 11; Frederic Comstock and others, 11.
1829-February, Oliver Elliot, 28; March, Henry Mumford, 15.
1830-September, William Case, 13; Lewis Chamberlain, 13.
1831-May, Lemuel Thayer, Jr., 23.

Original Land Purchases in Township 4.
1810-March, Jerry Bartholomew, 63; April, Leonard Vibbard, 62; Perry Hall, 62.
1811-March, Benj. Hutchins, 62; September, Wilder Emerson, 55.
1812-November, Josiah Gibbs, 14.
1815-March, Perry Hillard 61; May, Wm. Stetson, 55; John T. McIntyre, 55; Ethan A. Owen, 54.
1816-March, Jona. Burtch, 62; May, Calvin Hutchins, 46; June, Jere. Klumph, 47; Arch. Ludington, 45; Thos. Klumph, 47; July, Jacob W. Klumph, 47; October. Jos. Babcock, 48; November, Benj. Hutchins, 54; James Barnes, 54; Asa Fuller, 48; Timothy Carpenter, 48.
1817-February, Reuben B. Patch, 61; Jedediah Thayer, 61; Stephen Smalley, 48; April, Elisha Rogers, 60; Wm. Cotton, 47; Gideon Jones, 45; May, James Lee, 47; August, Lewis Macomber, Stephen B. Macomber, 38; October, Erastus Andrews, 40; November, Brewer Hubbell, 40.
1818-July, Zuriel Simmons, 31; August, Reuben B. Patch, 60.
1819-January, Perry Hall, 39; August, Aaron Hall, 60.

Settlement of the town went on rapidly, and at the outbreak of the War of 1812 there were thirty families. By 1823 scarcely a corner unexplored, and log cabins were everywhere. On May 11, 1811, Elijah Fay located all of lot 20, township 5, which included all of the west portion of Brocton, and erected his log cabin. Hollis Fay, on December 11, 1813, located 160 acres, including the east part of Brocton, cleared a few acres, and built a log cabin. The purchases of James Dunn, 1804, Calvin Barnes, 1816, Abner B. Beebe, 1822, covered the whole plot of Centreville, the site of the village a dense forest through which no road was laid out until 1815.

The first post office, Chautauqua, was established, and the first postmaster, James McMahan, appointed in 1806. The second post office in the county was Canadaway, four miles east of Fredonia, established June 18, 1806, Deacon Orsamus Holmes, the first postmaster. The third postoffice was established at now Fredonia, May 6, 1809, Samuel Berry the first postmaster. Mayville private postoffice was established July 1, 1812, Casper Rouse postmaster. Portland postoffice, December 7, 1814, Calvin Barnes the first postmaster, his commission dated December 13, 1814. He held the office continuously until September 2, 1829, when the office was discontinued. At the time this office was established, Portland included all east of Chautauqua creek to the Pomfret line, and the Portland postoffice was the first within the bounds of the present town of Portland. North Portland postoffice was established September 3, 1828, Moses Sage, postmaster. He moved to Fredonia in 1830, and with the appointment of his successor, John R. Coney, the name was changed to Portland. Salem Cross Roads postoffice was established February 16, 1835. the village and postoffice retaining that name until September 7, 1857, when it was changed to Brocton. D. Howell was the first postmaster at Salem Cross Roads.

The first school in the town was opened in the spring of 1810, in a small log building near the dwelling of Capt. James Dunn, who owned the cabin, and was at first attended only by his children. Soon a few others were allowed to send their children, each contributing to the expense of maintaining the school. Later the same year a school house was built by voluntary effort, that first school house standing in District No. 3, opposite the site of the later "old stone school house." Miss Anna Eaton taught the first school in town at Capt. Dunn's. Augustine Klumph taught the first and only school in the new school house in the winter of 1810-11, for the location proving inconvenient, it was abandoned after that first winter. With the introduction of the modern public school system, Portland fell in line and with pride and good judgment erected suitable houses in all the districts and a standard of education has been maintained most creditable to the town. The Portland Library was organized November 9, 1824, and $100 subscribed for the purchase of books.

The first religious service in Portland was at the home of Capt. James Dunn, in 1810, Rev. John Spencer the preacher. The first regular meetings for worship were instituted in 1814 at the log house of Peter McKenzie. Those meetings were usually conducted by Amasa West, a teacher at the Cross Roads, now Westfield, who later became a preacher. The first Congregational church was formed January 3, 1818, by Rev. John Spencer, with eighteen members.

Methodism was introduced in 1816 by William Dunham, who held meetings in his home, a class being formed June 9, 1817, by a circuit rider, Rev. Mr. Goddard. A church was organized in 1822; it was reorganized February 3, 1834, as The First Methodist Episcopal Society in Portland. A church was built in 1868, although a parsonage was built at Portland Center in 1843. The Methodist church at Brocton, a part of the original church, was organized in 1853, and a church edifice erected the same year.

The first Baptist church was organized September 20, 1819, with eleven members, increased the first year to sixty-three. On April 6, 1822, this was organized as the First Baptist Society of Portland, and in 1834 a house of worship was erected near the center of the village of Brocton, the lot on which it stood donated by Deacon Elijah Fay, one of the first trustees. A brick church was dedicated December 18, 1867. The West Baptist Church in Portland was set off June 22, 1842, and a brick church erected the next year. In 1867 a parsonage was built.

A Universalist Society was formed September 21, 1821, by fourteen persons, at the house of Simon Burton. On September 24, trustees and a clerk were chosen. About a year later a church was formed with thirty-five members and regular services were practiced for a number of years. On March 24, 1824, the First Universalist Society in Portland was incorporated, but no property was acquired and the church later ceased to exist. A Roman Catholic church was built at Brocton Station in 1873. The Evangelical Lutheran Church was formed in 1872, with a Swedish congregation, and a house of worship dedicated in 1883 at Brocton. The Brotherhood of the New Life, commonly known as The Harris Community, was founded by Rev. Thomas Harris of Amenia, Dutchess county, in October, 1867, with about 2,000 acres of farm lands in Portland, mainly along the lake. About seventy-five people formed the community, which apparently prospered, several industries having been established-haypressing and shipping, a general nursery business, pure native wines, in addition to general farming and grape culture. A hotel and restaurant were conducted at Salemon-Erie, as the village on the Lake Shore & Allegheny Valley railroad was called. The members, men and women, were of high character, absolutely unselfish, but the enterprise was badly managed, and in 1883 the community was disrupted, a few going with Harris to near Santa Barbara, California, while the others secured what they could of the property and turned to other pursuits.

Sawmills were found on every stream, the Dunham and Sage mills, built in 1816, being the first. Simon Burton built a gristmill at the mouth of Slippery Rock creek in 1817, and other gristmills were Coney's, on the same creek; Godfrey's, on Correll creek; Van Coven's, the Brocton, Portland Center, and the Harris Brotherhood Mill. James Parker built the first tannery in 1807, and a carding machine was put in operation at Portland Center in 1825 by Orrin Ford, the first proprietor of the Laona woolen factory, which later was converted into a paper mill. Luther Crosby was the first blacksmith, also a gunsmith. Colton Nash, the first settler of Centerville, was the first wagon-maker, David Eaton the first shoemaker.

There were sixteen taverns in Portland prior to 1839, the first kept by Capt. James Dunn, at his home in 1808. Peter Ingersoll opened a tavern in 1809 on the McKenzie farm. Daniel Barnes and William Berry in 1811, David Joy, 1814; Martin Smith, 1815; John R. Coney, 1822; Moses Sage, 1824; and Martin Coney, 1828, were all early tavern keepers.

Dr. Lawton Richmond was the first physician in the old town of Portland, coming in 1809-the second licensed physician in the county. Other early practitioners were Drs. Fenn Deming, Silast Spencer, Marcius Simons, Carlton Jones, and Daniel Ingalls.

The first store in the present town of Portland was in a small room in the log house of Augustus Klumph, the proprietor in 1817, Thomas Klumph, the Klumph home standing on lot 37, township 5. Abial and Frank Silver opened the second store in 1830. The Klumph store was small, worthy of mention only as being the first attempt at merchandising in the town. The Silvers had a good trade, but only operated for two years, when they sold out to William Curtis and E. Tinker.

Dr. Daniel Ingalls and Joseph Lockwood opened the first store in Brocton in 1830. Thomas Klumph, the first merchant in the town, was also the first merchant in Centerville, opening a store there on Main street in 1832.

When considered in the light of a fruit growing community, Portland takes high rank. It was in here that grape culture was first introduced in the county, all but a very small portion of the town being well adapted to grape growing, apples, pears, peaches, cherries, plums, strawberries and raspberries are grown extensively. The first orchard in the town was set out by Capt. James Dunn, who brought a small bundle of young apple trees from his Pennsylvania home in 1807. David Eaton planted a nursery in 1807, using seeds brought from Massachusetts. In 1809 he planted a dozen young apple trees, and the same year pear seeds, which bore fruit thirteen years later, David Eaton's pears being famous. Elisha Fay planted seeds brought by him from Massachusetts in 1807, and later set out an orchard. There were later nurseries, and in 1824-25 fruit trees of various kinds were introduced from a Long Island nursery. Lincoln Fay, a lifelong market fruit grower, raised and sold trees for many years. Cherries and plums came soon after the apple and pear; peaches were grown from pits planted in 1807, but have never been a standard crop. Strawberries were first grown in 1855, and raspberries in 1860.

The greatest crop the town produces is grapes, the growing of that fruit having been established in 1818 by Deacon Elijah Fay. From a small beginning, grape culture has spread all over the town, and is a great source of wealth. Wine was first manufactured in Portland by Deacon Fay in 1830, and the few gallons he made was the first made in Western New York from cultivated grapes. Each year saw an addition to the amount of wine made, and in 1859 the wine house of Fay, Ryckman & Haywood was built and put in operation, 2,000 gallons being made the first season. There are many large and innumerable small vineyards in the town.

According to the census of 1915 (State), W. E. Dudley was manufacturing grape baskets at Portland, and the Naboth Vineyards were manufacturing grape juice. Other industries are the Paul De Laney Company, Inc., manufacturers of fruit products; The Brocton Fruit Juice Company, manufacturers of fruit juices, both located in the village of Brocton; the Brocton Furniture Company and the Crandall Panel Company.

Two newspapers are published in the town, "The Mirror" and "The Grape Belt." There are now three postoffices in the town-Brocton, Portland and Prospect. The railroads are all trunk lines-the Lake Shore & Michigan Central, the New York Central, and the Pennsylvania, stations being established at Vineyard, Brocton, Portland and Prospect.

Brocton was made an incorporated village, March 20, 1894. The first village election was held April 17, 1894, Garrett E. Ryckman being the first president of the village. In 1915 Brocton reported (State census) a population of 1,292.

The State Bank of Brocton was organized as a private bank in 1886 by Dean & Hall, reorganized as a State bank in February, 1892, with $30,000 capital, Ralph A. Hall, president. The Brocton Land and Improvement Company bought the remaining property of the Harris Community, about five hundred acres, which was later parceled out in vineyard tracts of five and ten acres.

Both Brocton and Portland are prosperous communities, and in them are found opportunities for self-culture through library, society and club. The fraternal orders are well represented and the mercantile establishments are in keeping with the demands made upon them.

Dr. Horace C. Taylor practiced medicine in Brocton for half a century until his death, December 21, 1903. He wrote a history of the town of Portland, which was published in 1873-an authority on town history, and has been freely drawn upon in all subsequent histories.

In 1829 the assessed valuation of real estate in the town was $99,485; in 1871, $703,815; in 1918, the full value was $3,735,387, the assessed value, $3,175,079, equalized value, $2,930,676. The population of the town in 1915 was 3,352, of whom 219 were aliens.

Portland has furnished men for every war waged by the United States since its settlement in 1812, when Col. McMahan led his Chautauqua regiment to Buffalo. Portland furnished 137 men to the army and navy during the Civil War, besides others credited elsewhere. Aid was furnished soldiers direct and through hospitals and commissions by three ladies' associations of the town-The Baptist Sewing Circle, Soldiers' Aid Society of Portland, and The Universalist Social. The Ahira Hall Memorial Library of Brocton will have attention in the special chapter on libraries.

John McMahan, the first supervisor of the old town of Chautauqua, was elected in April, 1805, 1806, 1807, meeting with the board of Genesee county at Batavia. Arthur Bell, the second supervisor, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, was elected in 1808. The first supervisor after the division of the town was elected in 1809, and was the first supervisor of the old town of Portland elected in 1814. David Eaton, the second supervisor, served from the old town of Portland in 1815, for the second town of Portland in 1816-17, and for the present town in 1833-34-35. Thomas B. Campbell was supervisor nine years, and chairman of the board 1820-25.

Supervisors-1814, Thos. Prendergast; 1815-17, David Eaton; 1818-26, Thos. B. Campbell; 1827-29, Elisha Arnold; 1830, Nath. Fay; 1831-32, Elisha Arnold; 1833-35, David Eaton; 1836, Asa Andrews; 1837-39, Timothy Judson; 1840, Asa Andrews; 1841-43, Timothy Judson; 1844, Elisha Norton; 1845, John R. Coney; 1846-47, Timothy Judson; 1848, Ebenezer Harris; 1849, Timothy Judson; 1850, Asa Blood; 1851, John R. Coney; 1852-53-54, Timothy Judson; 1855, Chas. A. Marsh; 1856, Darwin G. Goodrich; 1857, Ralph D. Fuller; 1858, Darwin G. Goodrich; 1859, Horace C. Taylor; 1860, Gurdon Taylor; 1861-62, Horace C. Taylor; 1863-64, Albert Haywood; 1865-66, Joseph B. Fay; 1867-68, Albert Eaton; 1869, Joseph E. Harris; 1870-77, Theo. S. Moss; 1878, Horace C. Taylor; 1879, J. A. H. Skinner; 1880-84, Herman J. Dean: 1885-86, Elisha H. Fay; 1887-88, Theodore C. Moss; 1888-90, Brewer D. Phillips; 1891, Aug. Blood; 1892, Brewer D. Phillips; 1893, Oscar L. Porter; 1894-97, Chas. O. Furman; 1898-99, Theodore C. Moss; 1900-1905, Charles F. Crandall; 1906-07,. William H. Pay; 1908-09, Dr. B. S. Swetland; 1910-19, Geo. R. Pettit; 1920, Charles F. Crandall.

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