History of Villenova, 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


Villenova

Villenova, meaning new village, originally the southern part of Hanover, was taken off as a separate town by an act of January 24, 1823. Its area is 22,826 acres. In the north part the surface is hilly, the highest lands having an altitude of 1,400 feet above tide water. The inhabitants follow agricultural pursuits, including dairying to a considerable extent, to which the surface and soil are adapted. The two branches of the Conewango creek join near the southeast corner of the town, and they receive the waters of a number of small streams which arise in the northern uplands and of the outlets of Mud Lake and East Mud Lake. The last named body of water is within Villenova, while the possession of Mud Lake is divided with Arkwright. In the southern part of the town the surface is rolling rather than broken and hilly, with soil of clay and a gravelly loam. The town is a great producer of apples. Villenova has felt the effects
of the disposition of the rising generations of people, since the pioneer days to leave the rural regions, especially in this part of the country, as it has had a net loss in population since 1835. In that year the population was 1,453. The population (State census of 1915) 1,148, including 26 aliens. It must be remembered, however, that Villenova is an inland town without railroads. There are four villages in the town, Balcomb, Hamlet, Villenova and Wango. The value of real estate in the town in 1918 was placed at $593,135; the assessed value, $465,357.

Original Purchases in Township 5, Range 10.
1809— October, Ezra Puffer, 19, 27, 36; John Kent, 2; Daniel Whipple, 3.
1810— March, John Kent, Jr., 3; April, Reuben Wright, Jr., 22; June, John Arnold, 19; July, Benj. Sweet, 11, 18; October, Chas. Mather, 4.
1815— June, Eldad Corbett, Jr., 11.
1816— March, Villeroy Balcom, 10.
1817— May, James Congdon, 14; November, Augustus Wright, 52.
1818— March, Daniel Wright, 20; April, Enos Matteson, 64; May, Sylvanus Wright, 20.
1819— May, Auren G. Smith, 43.
1820— May, Nath. Warner, 36.
1821— October, Nath. Warner, 35.
1822— March, Noah Strong, 64; June, Nath. Warner, Jr., 43; October, Wm. J. Straight, 58.
1823— May, Arad Wheeler, 14; June, James H. Ward, 15.
1824— December, Phineas T. Judd, 27.
1825— April, Samuel Geer, Jr., 48; Thos. White, 48; Josiah H. White, 24; Wheeler B. Smith, 24.
1826—January, Henry Waters, 33; August, John Pope, 62; December, Thomas Howard, 50.
1827— October, Villeroy Balcom, 17; Nathaniel Warner, 63.

The early settlers were largely of New England stock—people of sturdy strength and sterling character. Villenova comprises townships 5, range 10, in which purchases of land were made as early as 1809. John Kent, a native of Royalton, Vermont, came from Cortland county that year, and aided Daniel Whipple and others to locate desirable lands. Mr. Whippie, John and Eli Arnold, natives of Great Barrington, Mass., came in 1810 with their families. In 1811 came William and Benjamin Barrows and Roderick Wells, and about that time, also, Charles Mather, Captain Sweet and Nathaniel Bowen. Bowen served in the War of 1812 and was killed in the battle of Buffalo in 1813. Ezra Puffer, who came in 1812, a native of Sudbury, Mass., was a cultured man, of literary and scientific tastes. He was a first-class surveyor, and ran many of the lines, laid out the early roads, was the first justice of the peace and drew the legal papers called for in the early days. He moved to Indiana in the early forties. Villeroy Balcom, who for years held the first
office of the town, and Ezra Corbett, both from Massachusetts, came in 1815, as did William Pierce and Eldad Corbett, Jr. Charles Wright came from Herkimer county the next year. His four brothers, Augustin, Lewis, Daniel and Sylvanus, all settled in town, the first two named in 1817, and Daniel and Sylvanus in 1818. Numerous descendants of these pioneers live in the town. The business settlement to which the name of Villenova was finally given was formed at the cross roads on lot 19, near the line of 20. At first it was called Wright’s Corners. Grover & Norris established the first store in 1828, and V. Balcom an inn in 1829. Mr. Balcom was the first postmaster, as well as justice and supervisor. James Cong.don came in 1817, with sons, Amos, Ichabod and Lewis. Auren G. Smith and his brother in 1819 bought lot 43, and developed the power at Hamlet, where they built a sawmill later known as Orton’s Mills. Allen L. Brunson, who came in 1838 from Cherry Creek, was constable for twenty-three years. Gamaliel Collins was for many years a justice. George Wilson, a wagonmaker, was an early settler at Hamlet, and justice many years. Noah Strong bought lot 64 in 1822, and made it his home for life. The Crowells, early settlers, were a numerous family. Benjamin Vincent, a blacksmith, came early to Villenova.

Auren G. and Nathaniel Smith built a sawmill, as already noted, at Hamlet, and a gristmill was begun by Stephen Landers and completed by Crowell & Shepard. Kent’s mill on the Conewango was said to be the head of navigation in the busy days. Nathan Worden built a sawmill a mile and a half from Hamlet. In 1828 the Holland Land Company sold all the lands then held by it in ranges 10 and 11, and in township 1, range 12, excepting the town of Gerry, to the Cherry Valley Company, composed of James O. Morse, Levi Beardsley and Alvin Stewart. Of this, 5,246 acres were in Villenova. On a contract with the Holland Land Company, John and John P. Kent cut a road through the forest from Kent’s mill, Viilenova, to Kennedyville, through Cherry Creek, for the very reasonable compensation of ten dollars a mile. They also cut a road from the same point southwest to Sinclairville soon after 1812. Gardner Crandall and Isaac Curtis settled on this road in 1816.

The first white person born in town was Electa, daughter of Daniel Whipple, May 5, 1812. James Moffitt and Mary Dighton were the first couple married, in 1812. Mrs. Battles in 1815 taught the first school, near Wright’s Corners. For more than seventy years Hamlet, on the west branch of the Conewango creek, has been the principal business center.

The first town meeting in Villenova was held in 1823, when these officers were elected: Supervisor, Ezra Puffer; town clerk, Milton Foot; assessors, Daniel Wright, Isaac Martin, Vilieroy Balcom; collector, Charles Wright; overseers of poor, Alvah Simons, Nathaniel Warner; commissioners of highways, Nathaniel Smith, Stephen P. Kinsley; constables, Auren G. Smith, Charles Wright; commissioners of schools, Daniel Wright, Alvah Simons, John Weaver; inspectors of schools, Hiram Kinsley, Ezra Puffer, Milton Foot:

James L. Brown built the first carding and cloth dressing establishment at Hamlet, where afterwards was a gristmill. Carding was also done at the southeast part of the town, on the Conewango.

An iron foundry was built about 1860 by Hickey & Howard, which afterward was owned successively by James Howard, Martin Crowell, Crowell & Shepherd, Lemuel Hickey and others. A planing mill, propelled by the same power, was owned by Martin Crowell.

In 1810 ten Methodists formed a class consisting of the families of John Kent, John Arnold, and Eli Arnold. John and Eli Arnold were preachers. The class sent to the Genesee Conference at Lyons, asking for preaching. Three preachers were sent, including “Billy” Brown, a man of peculiarities, of great praying powers. Elijah Metcalf, preacher over a long route, from Villenova to Warren, Pennsylvania. John Arnold’s wife died in 1813, and Mr. Arnold devoted his life thereafter to preaching. Eli Arnold preached for over sixty years and led an exemplary Christian life. Roderick Wells, an early settler, was a man of piety and zeal. Religious services were held in private houses, most frequently at Daniel Whippie’s. The Methodists formed the first church in 1812.

The Methodist Episcopal Church at Hamlet resulted from a class formed December 25, 1823, by Elder Daniel Prosser. The members were Obediah Warner, Rebecca Warner, Polly Smith, Taylor Judd, Poiiy Judd, Lewis and Maria Barmore, Lura Nunn, Diadema Warner, Folly Baker, Hiram Kingsley, Milton and Lois Foot and Brinty Congdon. Earlier than this a class was formed at Wright’s Corners, which was embraced in the society at Hamlet. John P. Kent, Richard Wright, John Bull and James Ayres were among the early circuit preachers. Dwellings, and sometimes barns, were used for
the holding of meetings. A church building was built in 1836.

A Wesleyan Methodist church was organized in 1858, with twenty members. Rev. Mr. Sibley was the first pastor.

The Freewill Baptist church was organized in 1826, by Rev. Thomas Grinnell. The first members were: Enos and Mrs. Bronson, Judah and Mrs. Warner, Russell O. Smith and wife, Mrs. Stevens, and Amy Blackmar. A church was built in 1839 and the first parsonage in 1867. Rev. Washington Shepard was an early pastor of this church and served many years. The educational advantages of the town are good and many teachers of excellent qualifications have served as educators in the town.

Supervisors— 1823-24, Ezra Puffer; 1825-30, Villeroy Balcom; 1831, Daniel Wright; 1832, Villeroy Balcom; 1833, Henry Allen; 1834-36, Austin Pierce; 1837, John C. Dibble; 1838, Luther Pierce; 1839, Austin Pierce; 1840, Nathan Gurney; 1841, Daniel Wright; 1842-43, Joseph G. Hopkins; 1844, Nathan Gurney; 1845-47, George Hopkins; 1848, Villeroy Baicom; 1849, Austin Pierce; 1850-51, Timothy G. Walker; 1852, Martin Crowell; 1853, Hiram Cornell; 1854-55, Martin Crowell; 1856-57, James Wright; 1858-59-60-62, Martin Crowell; 1863, Horace Burgess; 1864, M. S. Corey; 1865-67, Martin Crowell; 1868-69, Tyler H. Sean; 1870, Horatio G. Pope; 1871, Rollin L. Shepard; 1872-73, Tyler H. Searl; 1874, Julius A. Terry; 187576, David S. Bennett; 1877, Rollin L. Shepard; 1878, Tyler H. Searl; 1879, Manley M. Sessions; 1880, Tyler H. Searl; 1881, Eugene A. Dye; 1882, Horace Sanderson; 1883-84-85-86, Hamilton B. Parker; 1887, William E. Judd; 1888-89, Frank M. Waite; 1890-91, Hamilton B. Parker; 1892-93, Austin P. Jay; 1894-95, Albert P. Libby; 1896-97, Blair F. Simons; 1898-99 Andrew N. Warner; 1900-01, Andrew H. Libby; 1902-04, Wallace J. French; 1905, Andrew N. Warner; 1906-09, Elbert J. Bronson; 1910-11, Andrew N. Warner; 1912-17, Charles D. Clement; 1918-19, John D. Butcher; 1920, Charles D. Clement.

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