History of Sheridan, 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



Sheridan- Sheridan, with Hanover on the east, Arkwright on the south, Pomfret and. Dunkirk on the west, and Lake Erie as the northern boundary, is beautifully located, a view of the lake to be had from almost any point in the town. The surface is nearly level except in the southeast part, which rises in places to a height of 500 feet above the lake level. It is well watered, and was once heavily timbered. There were plain evidences of former Indian occupation at the time of the first settlement, and some are discernable now. On the farm now owned by J. G. Gould, lot 35, was a fort in the form of a horseshoe, and a burying ground, from which in 1875 Daniel Sherman, at that time Indian agent, exhumed a quantity. of bones and sent them to the Smithsonian Institution for the purpose of throwing some light on the history of the mound builders. On the farm of George I. Button, lot 67, was a circular embankment inclosing a space about twenty rods across, with an eastern elongation extending to a small creek. The main road ran through this enclosure, and the embankment could be readily traced as late as 1860. Mr. Button collected a quantity of arrow heads, stone axes, stone hammers, and other implements evidently for skinning deer and dressing their skins. There are other stones nicely dressed into shape, but for what use cannot even be conjectured.

The first purchases of land by settlers were made in 1804- Francis Webber and Hazadiah Stebbins on lot 17, William Webber on lot 27, Abner Holmes on lot 43, and Alanson Holmes on lot In 1805 Gerald Griswold located on lot 35, Orsamus Holmes on lots 44 and 60. Joel Lee on lot 52, John Walker on lot 67. John Hollister on lot 66, Thomas Stebbins on lot 18 and Simeon Austin on lot 52. Purchases continued until in 1830 there were about one hundred homes in the town and approximately 1,000 people. The town is still a rural community and, according to the State census of 1915, has a population of 2,077, of whom 124 are aliens. The villages of the town are Havilah, a station on the New York Central, and Sheridan on the Erie, which crosses the town from east to west. There are 22,675 acres in the town, valued in 1918 at $3497,238, upon which the assessment for the same year was $2,743,832.

The first tavern was kept by Orsamus Holmes on lot 60, on the Usher property. Mr. Holmes was born in Pembroke, Mass., October 11, 1757; was a soldier in the Revolution; was taken prisoner and carried to Canada, and escaped. In 1804 he selected land in Sheridan, and in 1805 his family took possession. He was postmaster many years, and at the age of seventy-six removed to Holmer county, Ohio, and died there in 1835.

William Griswold kept the first tavern at the Center, where he located in 1805; it was discontinued in 1837. At what was afterward known as Robert's Corners, one Pryor kept an inn as early as 1811 or 1812. This was burned, and in 1815 he had a house containing only two small rooms, which with the farm, he traded with Benjamin Roberts for the Haskin farm on lot 53. Benjamin Roberts came from Madison county in 1811, settled on lot 34, afterwards on the Haskin farm; lot 54, north of the Main road, and in 1815 moved to the location yet known by his name, and into the small dwelling erected by Pryor. This was added to until it became quite a spacious hostelry; was kept by him until his death in 1836, then by his son Abner until 1848, and by other parties until 1852. After his trade with Robberts, Pryor built another tavern on lot 53, south of the Main road. This he sold to one Taylor, and in 1824 Taylor sold to Enoch Haskin; Mr. Haskin came from Rensselaer county in 1818. He had a fine span of horses and was employed by Colonel Abell to plow for the first time the grounds now known as the Barker Common, in Fredonia. In 1819 he moved to Sheridan, onto what is now known as the Earner farm, and in 1824 to the Taylor inn, which was burned in 1833, rebuilt by him, and kept until 1850. Mr. Haskin also kept the Orrington post office from 1824 until 1839. He moved to Minnesota, and died there in 1866. The Kensington tavern was probably established as early as 1812, as there was a store and postoffice there in i8i6. It changed landlords more times than any other tavern in town, was discontinued about 1850, and torn down about 1865. Huyck's Tavern was first established on the south side of the Main road by one Goodwin between 1815 and 1820. Afterward he built on the north side of the road. Richard Huyck came from Delaware county in 1831, and bought of Mr. Goodwin on the south side of the road, and in 1834 the tavern also; he kept it until 1851, and died in 1869. The Kensington and Huyck taverns were about one mile apart, with a fine stretch of gravel road between them, which was often used as a race course, many horses famous for their speed being brought here to make an exhibition before the people who assembled in large numbers to witness the racing.

John I. Eacker came from Herkimer county in 1835, and bought Edmund Mead's store building, at the Center, in 1837. This he moved to the northeast corner, kept it, the post office and a tavern until the stages stopped running in 1852. He died in Illinois, in 1877. William Ensign came from Delaware county in 1814, bought a farm one mile east of the Center in 1815, and commenced keeping a tavern in 1825. The house of brick was burned in 1847. It was rebuilt, but the tavern was discontinued. Kensington post office, with Dr. Terry as postmaster, was kept here for a few years. A tavern was kept at an early day in a log house on the hill in the south part of town by Nathaniel Loomis; it was replaced by a frame building. There were for many years seven taverns in the town, but emigration attained such proportions, that it was often impossible to furnish accommodations for all who wished.

Elisha Grey is said to have kept the first store, a little east of the Haskin tavern, on the Main road. Allen Denny kept groceries for sale at his residence on the John Spencer farm near Newell's Corners. William Holbrook kept a store at Kensington in 1816. Edmund Mead kept the first store at the Center. He was born in New York City in 1809, and came to Sheridan in 1830. His father, who was a merchant in New York, sent on a stock of merchandise, which Mr. Mead put into a store built on land owned by Israel C. Holmes on lot 44, about half a mile south of the Center. One year later he moved the building to the northwest corner at the Center, where he built a commodious residence. The store building proving too small, was sold and moved away for a dwelling house. A new building succeeded it, that was used by Mr. Mead until 1834, when he sold the goods to Leroy Farnham, who kept the store until 1837, when the building was sold to John I. Eacker, who moved it to the northeast corner and used it for a tavern, store and post office. It burned in 1871 while occupied by Arthur Gifford, but was rebuilt in 1872. P. H. Shelley bought the old Presbyterian church at the Center in 1874, remodeled it, added a public hall, and kept a grocery and the Sheridan post office.

The first marriage was Thomas Barris to Betsy Stebbins, a sister of Thomas and Hazadiah Stebbins, in 1807 or 1808. They settled in Hanover, where some of their descendants yet reside. The first death was that of Origen, son of Orsamus Holmes, January 1, 1806, aged eighteen years. It is stated in Young's History that Joel Lee built the first frame house. The first frame barn was built on the farm of Otis Ensign, lot 65, about 1809. The last log house used as a dwelling was occupied by Hiram Fessenden, Sr., until his death in 1886, after which it was torn down.

This town of Sheridan was formed in April, 1827, by taking thirty-two lots from the town of Pomfret, and thirty-five from Hanover. Nathaniel Grey, John E. Griswold and Haven Brigham made the journey to Albany in the winter and lobbied the Legislature until they succeeded in their mission. William E. Griswold, an elder brother of John E., contributed fifty dollars toward the expenses. Mr. Grey was a great admirer of the poet Sheridan, and proposed that his name be given to the newly formed town. His proposition was adopted and the name clung.

The first town meeting was held at the house of William Griswold, Tuesday, May 8, 1827, at which time the following were elected: Supervisor, Lyscom Mixer; town clerk, Enoch Haskin; assessors, Haven Brigham, Otis Ensign Sheldon Stanley; collector, Rodolphus Simons; commissioners of highways, Nathaniel Loomis, William Ensign, John N. Gregg; overseers of the poor, Otis Ensign, Jonathan S. Pattison; constables, Rodolphus Simmons, Orlow Hart; commissioners of schools, Benjamin Brownell, Royal Teft, Lyscom Mixer; inspectors of schools, Elisha Mason, Nathaniel Grey, Samuel Davis.

The first post office in the town and the second in the county was established in June, 1806, at the Holmes Tavern, with Orsamus Holmes postmaster, the office bearing the name Canadaway; but not the Canadaway, a name given later to the settlement which was the beginning of the present Fredonia. The next post office was at Hanover, afterward Kensington, established December 7, 1816, William Holbrook postmaster. In 1829 South Sheridan postoffice was established at the residence of John E. Griswold, who was appointed postmaster. In 1824, Canadaway postoffice was moved to the Haskin Tavern, and the name changed to Orrington; Enoch Haskin, postmaster. In 1839 Sheridan postoffice was established at the Center, with John I. Eacker postmaster, and Kensington, Orrington and South Sheridan offices were discontinued.

The first religious meeting was held, at the house of Orsamus Holmes, in 1807, conducted by Rev. John Spencer, who afterward located near Newell's Corners. He had been a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and held a commission as lieutenant in Captain Peter Van Rensselaer's company, Colonel Marinus Willets' regiment, New York Levies, which was organized at Fort Herkimer, October 7, 1781. He died in 1826 and was buried in a plot of ground contributed by him from his farm to the town for burial purposes. A frame for a church was erected by the Presbyterians at the Center in 1828, but was never enclosed, and was soon torn down. Worthy Allen, Joel Spencer, Haven Brigham and others, built a house of worship at Newell's Corners in 1822. In 1849 it was sold to Newell Usher, who moved it onto his farm and used it for a barn. In 1832, Jonah Howe and others erected a church at the Center. Mr. Howe also built a pipe organ for the church, and taught his daughter to play it. This church was used until about 1870. Later it was converted into a store, for which purpose it was used by its owner, P. H. Shelley. A Methodist Episcopal society was formed at the residence of Stephen Bush, one-half mile east of the Center in 1809. This is said to have been the first Methodist preaching place, and the first class formed in the county. This society built a church at the Center in 1834; it was remodeled in 1854, when Mrs. Eliza Mead, of New York City, presented the society with a bell. The church is still used as a meeting house, and presents a neat attractive appearance.

A Baptist society was organized in the south part of town in 1844, Martin Cary, Hiram Ranney and Ira Fuller among its first members. A church was erected in 1845, and services were held irregularly until 1860 or 1861. when the society was disbanded and the church building was used for a barn on the Week's place. Rev. Levi Wright, a Wesleyan Methodist minister, was instrumental in building a small church on the farm of Baxter Dodge about 1855. After about five years, services were discontinued and the church turned into a dwelling.

The first school was kept by William Griswold in his house at the Center in the winter of 1807-1808. There are now ten school houses in town, with a well attended school in each. The first tannery was built by Haven Brigham on Beaver creek in 1811. The next was established where Beaver Creek crosses the Main road, by Enoch Haskin and Nathaniel Grey, in 1820. It was sold to Perry Gifford, who continued the business, and also a shoe shop, until his death in 1850. William Doty, who came from Delaware county in 1820, built a tannery near the Ensign Tavern in 1836. A shoe shop was added to the business, but both were discontinued in 1847. The first and only gristmill in town was built by Haven Brigham on Beaver creek in 1811, where he also built a sawmill and tannery.

A lime kiln was built about 1845 by George Robinson and Alanson Denny, near the lake, on Denny's farm. It had a capacity of about five cords of stone, from which could be made four hundred bushels of lime. The stone was brought in schooners from Kelley's Island and Canada. In 1854 Orlando Elmore was the owner and it was discontinued in 1864.

A rope walk, fourteen by one hundred sixtyfive feet, was built in 1833, by Thomas Chapman, who emigrated from Jefferson county in i8io, and settled on lot 15 in 1811. Rope was made from flax and hemp. Previous to the erection of the rope walk some rope had been made by spinning it in the house and twisting it out of doors. Mr. Chapman was a soldier in the War of 1812, and was at the burning of Buffalo. He died in 1846 He had eleven sons and three daughters, all of whom lived to an adult age.

A brick kiln was established at a very early day by William Ensign and Jonathan S. Pattison, on the farm of the latter, on lot 16, and was operated periodically until about 1855, when it was discontinued. The house on the Pattison homestead, and the Baptist church at Forestville, were built of brick from this kiln. The main thoroughfare between the east and the great' west made a large amount of business for taverns and stages, but upon the completion of the Buffalo & State Line railroad in 1852 the stages ceased to run and the taverns lost most of their custom. The facilities for travel increased rapidly from the completion of the New York & Erie railroad in 1851 down to 1892, when the Dunkirk & Silver Creek railroad was built, a double track line, afterwards incorporated into the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern. The Nickel Plate and the Pennsylvania. were completed in 1882 and the old Lake Shore double tracked in 1872. A telegraph line was built along the Main road in 1847 - two wires twisted together like fence wire. Another line was built along the north side of the same road in 1848. There are now over five hundred miles of telegraph wire in the town of Sheridan alone. The New York & Pennsylvania Telephone was built along the Lake road in 1889, and in 1892 a loop was built by public subscription to the Center. The Hanover line comes from Silver Creek and the Home line from Fredonia.

During the great oil excitement in Western Pennsylvania in 1864, a good many farmers sold their land for fabulous prices and came to Chautauqua county, and invested their money in some of the best farms. Among those who came to Sheridan, was Samuel A. Patterson from near Titusville, who purchased about one thousand acres for which he paid $109,000.

Sheridan, although not having a lake port, has been very prolific of sailors. More than twenty have been masters of some of the finest and largest vessels on the lakes. Probably the first was Captain Zephaniah Perkins, who was attached to the lake marine in the War of 1812. He was captain of the schooner "Kingbird," running between Buffalo and Dunkirk in 1815. In 1831, George Reed, at the age of twenty-five, was captain of the schooner "Beaver." In 1836, Almon Robinson, when twentysix, was master of the schooner "Luther Wright;" Hiram Chapman, at thirty, was master of the schooner "Atalantic;" in 1837 Joseph Ferry, at thirty, was master of the schooner "Juliaette;" in 1842 John Reed, at thirty-five, was master of the schooner "John Grant;" in 1844 Reuben Rork, at twenty-eight, was master of the schooner "Alps;" in 1844 Theron Chapman was at twenty-eight, master of the schooner "Aetna;" in 1851 Joseph C. Doty, at thirty-one, was master of the schooner "William Buckley," running between Buffalo and Conneaut; in 1840 David Fisk, at thirty-five, was master of the schooner "Henry Roop," and A. W. Reed in 1859, at twenty-four, was master of the schooner "Richard Mott," running between Buffalo and Chicago. In 1861 M. M. Drake, at twenty-five, was master of the propeller "Genessee Chief," between Buffalo and Erie, and Henry H. Reed, at twentysix, master of the bark "Levi Rawson," between Buffalo and Chicago; also A. B. Drake, at twenty-six, of the propeller "Owego," between Buffalo and Toledo. In 1872 Walter Robinson, at twenty-eight, was master of the propeller "Olean," between Buffalo and Detroit, and B. F. Borthwick at twenty-six, master of the schooner "F. A. Georger," between Buffalo and Chicago; also Delos Waite in 1881 was master of the steamer "Empire State," between Buffalo and Duluth. In 1883 Will Borthwick, at twenty-eight, was master of the propeller, "George S. Hazzard," between Buffalo and Chicago, and Nelson Robinson, at thirty-four, was master of the steamer "M. M. Drake," between Buffalo and Chicago; also Frank B. Huyck in 1895, at thirty-six, was master of the steamer "New York."

Supervisors have been: 1827-30, Lyscom Mixer; 1831, Nathaniel Grey; 1832, Lyscom Mixer; 1833, Nicholas Mallet; 1834, Leroy Farnham; 1835, Nathaniel Grey; 1836-37, Jonathan S. Pattison; 1838, Nathaniel Grey; 1839-42, Willard W. Brigham; 1843, John I. Eacker; 1844, John N. Gregg; 1845-49, Harry Hall; 1850-52, Edmund Mead; 1853, John I. Eacker; 1854, Edmund Mead; 1855, Newton P. Smith; 1856, Edmund Mead; 1857, Newell Gould; 1858-59, William O. Strong; 1860-62, John C. Cranston; 1863-67, Buell Tolles; 1868, Joseph C. Doty; 1869-70, Buell Tolles; 1871-72, Joseph Doty; 1873, George W. Eacker; 1874, Stewart T. Christy; 1875, Henry J. Cranston; 1876, George Cranston; 1877-78, George W. Backer; 1879, Asahel C. Brace; 1880-81, George W. Backer; 1882, Asahel C. Brace; 1883, George Cranston; 1884, Harvey M. Bailey; 1885-90, William R. Miner; 1891-96, Edgar J. Griswold; 1897-1900-05, George E. McLaury; 1906-17, William J. Doty; 1918-20, B. O. Schlender.

On the farm owned by John Collins, at what was formerly Kensington, a monument was unveiled on the lot on which Francis Webber built his house, the dedication of the monument being a part of Sheridan's centennial celebration, held August 31, 1904. This monument marks the spot on which was the first white man's habitation within the town of Sheridan. The inscription reads: "Site of First Settlement in Town of Sheridan, by Francis Webber. Aug., 1804. Erected Aug. 25, 1904." The monument rests on a substantial base and is enclosed by an iron railing. Addresses were made by George E. McLaury, W. J. Doty, Obed Edson and S. Frederick Nixon at the monument, and Sheridan's centennial was properly celebrated.

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