TOWN OF CLARENCE.
Clarence lies on the northern boundary of Erie county, with Niagara county on
the north, Newstead on the east, Lancaster on the south, and Amherst on the west. The town was formed March 11,
1808, and originally included all of the northern part of what is now Erie county; at present it includes township
12, range 6, of the Holland Company’s survey and has an area of 33,637 acres. The surface is generally leyel, but
there is a limestone terrace about fifty feet high, facing the north, extending across the town from east to west
a little south of the center. The town is drained by Tonawanda Creek, forming its north boundary, and Ransom’s
Creek, which flows northwest through the central part. The soil is clayey loam in the north part and sandy and
gravelly loam in the south.
The early settlement in Clarence territory by Asa Ransom, at what is known as Clarence Hollow (1799), and incidents
connected therewith, have been fully described in earlier chapters of this work; that was the first permanent settlement
in Erie county. Aside from the Ransom family there was probably no other arrival in the town until 1801, when Joseph
Ellicott opened a land office for the Holland Land Company at Clarence Hollow; from that time during a number of
years the locality had several names, but gradually became known as Clarence Hollow. Asa Ransom kept a tavern in
his house and Ellicott probably boarded with him. Christopher Sadler purchased land in the town in March, 1801,
situated about a mile west of the Hollow, and settled on it in the next spring. In the same year Timothy S. Hopkins
and Levi Felton took contracts for land, and the former became a prominent citizen. In June, 1801, Asa Ransom,
jr., was born—the first child born in the town.
Settlers of 1802 were Gardner Spooner, John Warren, Frederick Buck, Resolved G. Wheeler, Edward Carney, Elias Ransom,
Abraham Shope, sr., and William Updegraff. In 1803 Zerah Ensign, Jacob Shope, George Sherman, Andrew Durnet, Julius
Keyes and Lemuel Harding purchased land; in 1804 David Bailey, Peter Pratt, Daniel Robinson, Isaac Van Orman, Riley
Munger and David Hamlin, jr. Julius Keyes died in that year, which was the first death in the town.
In 1804, or 1805, Asa Ransom built a saw mill on the stream at the Hollow (Ransom’s Creek), and in 1805 Thomas
Clark, Edmund Thompson and David Hamlin, sr., were added to the inhabitants. In 1806 Justus Webster, John Taylor,
Jonathan Barrett and probably others settled in the town, and in 1807 William Barreft, Thomas Brown and Asa Harris
located there. Harris settled on the road to Buffalo, four miles west of Clarence Hollow, on a rise of land which
became known as Harris Hill and was a noted rendezvous during the war of 1812. These pioneers found an attractive
region for their new homes; the land was very productive, and the forest was broken by small prairies or oak openings,
which were ready for the plow and brought the settler excellent returns.
The names of other settlers are Anthony Rhodes, Bishop Lapp, Simeon Fillmore, Rev. Glezen Fillmore, Orange Mansfield,
John Eshleman, Samuel Beman, Matthias Van Tine, David Van Tine, Christian Metz, Robert McKillip and others. Other
residents of the town in later years were John C. Root, who came with his father Jacob in 1810; Rev. John Stickler,
1816; William Leopard, 1815; Daniel Rhodes and Rev. Peter Rhodes, 1825—6; G. G. Hunt, 1825; Jonas Hershey, an early
settler; George Gallup, born in town 1820, father came in that year; Francis Carr, settled 1810, son James born
1817; Almon Eldred, 1821, son H. B. Eldred, born 1828; Jacob Eshleman, 1826; Peter Lenman, born in town 1828; Philip
Schrader, settled 1833; William Henry Lusk, 1835; David Martin, 1832; George K. Van Tine, born in town 1831; C.
G. Van Tine, born in town 1846; Jacob Wagner came 1848; Alexander Burns, 1844; Paul Wailer, 1849; George Winborn,
When immigrants of German nationality began to arrive in Erie county many sought this town for settlement and there
is a large German element in the population at the present time. All of the territory of Clarence was taken up,
settled and improved comparatively early, and the town is one of the most prosperous in the county. Grain raising
and general farming are still pursued to some extent, but in late years dairying has been the principal industry;
there are two creameries in the town.
The first town meeting in Clarence was held in April, 1808, at Elias Ransom’s tavern, which was in what is now
There Jonas Williams was elected supervisor; Samuel Hill, jr., town clerk; Timothy S. Hopkins, Aaron Beard and
Levi Fenton, assessors; Otis R. Hopkins, collector; Otis R. Hopkins, Francis B. Drake and Henry B. Annabill, constables;
Samuel Hill, jr., Asa Harris and Asa Chapman, commissioners of highways; James Cronk, poormaster.
Many of these resided outside of the bounds of the town.
The following is a list of the supervisors of the town of Clarence since its organization,
although some of those selected previous to 1833 resided outside its present limits: John Williams, 1808; Samuel
Hill, jr., 1809—11; James Cronk, 1812—13; Simeon Fi]lmore, 1814; Otis R. Hopkins, 1815-22; Simeon Fillmore, 1823—25;
Otis R. Hopkins, 1826—28; Benjamin 0. Bivins, 1829: John Brown, 1830—32; Benjamin 0. Bivins, 1833—35; Levi H. Goodrich,
1836; Amos Wjight. 1837; Thomas Durboraw, 1838— 41; Archibald Thompson, 1842; Orsamus Warren, 1843; Archibald Thompson,
1844; Orsamus Warren, 1845; Thomas Durboraw, 1846; Archibald Thompson, 1847; Orsamus Warren, 1848—49; Thomas Durboraw,
1850; James D. Warren, 1851—54; Thomas Durboraw, 1855; Henry S. Cunningham, 1856—59; David Woodward, 1860—64; Livingston
G. Wiltse, 1865; Jacob Eshleman, 1866—72; Livingston G. Wiltse, 1873; J. O. Magoffin, 1874; John Kraus, 1875—78;
Lyman Parker, 1879—80; Living ston G. Wiltse, 1881—85; Jacob F. Humbert, 1886—90; Theodore Krehbiel, 1891—97.
Clarence Village (or Clarence Hollow).—
This village is situated in the southeast part of the town, and bore the name of Ransomville for several of the
early years. The first business in the place was a store kept by Otis K. Ingalls about 1811. A post-office was
established with the name Clarence, and Archibald S. Clarke postmaster, sometime between 1808 and 1811; it was
in the present town of Newstead and was removed to Clarence Hollow about 1816. The building of Asa Ransom’s grist
mill and saw mill was an important event and they were a boon to the pioneers. When they went to decay Abraham
Shope bought the property (about 1842) and built the present grist mill; it had several owners and finally passed
to J. H. Ebersole, who rebuilt it in 1895—97.
Dr. Orlando Wakelee was an early and prominent physician in the village. Dr. Jared Parker settled there in 1S30
and practiced until 1877. Dr. Henry Lapp (son of the late Bishop Lapp) studied with Dr. Orlando K. Parker, and
began practice here in 1864. Dr. Carey W. Howe was a later physician.
The Sadler House was built of stone by William Spoor, probably in 1812, as it had a tavern license in 1813. He
and his son kept it many years. James B. Sadler became its owner in 1850; it passed through the later ownership
of several different persons to Richard W. Larkin, and is now kept by his son, Burt Larkin. The Bernhard House
was built in 1872 by Charles Bicker and was sold to Peter Bernhard; it is unoccupied. The Hoffman House was built
by John Fidinger in 1878. Philip Heath kept a hotel in the Felton building for forty years.
Prominent early merchants in the village were 0. Warren & Co., who were succeeded by Henry K. Van Tine; J.
B. Bailey; J. F. Humbert, who began business in 1877; A. J. Miller, John Fidinger, Peter Burns and others. Charles
Jewett and a Mr. Shaffer were cabinetmakers. Charles Sein, shoemaker; Daniel Stickler was in the grist mill at
one time; John Guise, a Mr. Wennockle and Mr. Goddard were blacksmiths. In the hardware trade a Mr. $umeriski was
engaged, who was succeeded by John H. Rothenmeyer and Charles G. Parker. The village now has 2 general stores,
1 hardware store, 1 grist mill,
2 hotels, a basket factory, built by Jacob F. Hoffman, who was succeeded by Jacob G. Schurr and H. Fidinger, and
another by Humbert & Kibler; 1 saw mill, 1 creamery, a Union school and 5 churches.
Clarence Center.— This village
is centrally situated in the town, where a large tract of land was owned in early years by Robert McKellip. David
Van Tine setted there about 1829, kept the first store, and the place was called for some years Van Tine’s Corners.
When the post-office was established in 1847 it was given the name Clarence Center. Mr. Van Tine was the first
postmaster and was succeeded by Robert Purcell. John Eshleman was postmaster for a time and John C. Roàt
four terms. Andrew Metz took the office in 1861 and afterwards Dr. R. S. Myers and others. William Riegle kept
a store where John Eshleman was afterwards located. Andrew Metz began business in 1849 and John Eshleman in 1851.
George Winborn was a wagbnmaker of past years. The first hotel was kept by Alonzo Crawford, who began in 1853.
Several different proprietors kept the Clarence Center House in later years and it is still open. The Farmers’
Hotel was first kept by Charles Pickard, and later by Peter V. Mehl. John Schuetler opened the Travelers’ Home
in 1882, but it was subsequently discontinued. The village has now 2 general stores, 1 drug and grocery store,
2 hotels, 1 creamery, 1 feed and cider mill, 1 blacksmith and 2 churches.
Harris Hill (Sitimerville P. 0.)—
This is a hamlet in the southwestern part of the town. It acquired local fame through being the resort of many
Buffalo citizens in 1813, when driven out of Buffalo by the British. Early in the spring of 1814, when Buffalo
began to be rebuilt, the refugees returned thither and Harris Hill relapsed into its former condition. A post-office
was established there in 1843, with William Criqui postmaster; he also kept a store. His successors were John Clicker,
Augustus Fiegel and Henry Scrase. A second store was opened by R. K. Kelly. John Shimer established a lime kiln
in 1875, which is now owned by his son; from him the post-office takes its name.
Swormville is a hamlet and post-office
on the line between this town and Amherst, and took its name from Adam Sworm, who was postmaster and kept a store.
His successor in business is Samuel E. Lapp; there is also one grocery there.
Wolcottsburg (locally called West
Prussia, from the fact that many Prussians settled in that vicinity) is a settlement in the northern part of the
town. Two stores are kept there and a hotel. East Clarence is a station on a branch of the New York Central Railroad.
There are no business interests there. Sturnerville is a settlement east of Harris Hill, without business interests.
Gunville is a station on the West Shore Railroad in the south part of the town, where lime works were formerly
carried on. Millersport is a hamlet in the northwest corner of the town and partly in the town of Amherst. A small
mercantile business has been conducted there for many years; at the present time there are two stores by George
Emerdofer and George Diethorn. A German Lutheran church is situated near the place.
The Methodist church at Clarence Hollow was organized in 1833 and in. the following year a stone house of worship
was built. This was burned in 1872 and the present edifice built in 1873. The Presbyterian church at that village
held a meeting in July, 1821, and claimed the gospel lot from the Holland Land Company. An organization was effected
April 30, 1822. The first house of worship was not built until 1836, and was rebuilt in 1879; it was sold to the
West Shore Railroad Company in July, 1833, but was subsequently repurchased by the society and is still in use.
The German Reformed church was organized in 1859 and Rev. Henry Bentz was in charge until 1882. The house of worship
was previously built by the Seventh Day Baptists; it was rebuilt about 1887. The Christian church of Clarence Hollow’
was organized in early years and built its edifice in 1877. A German Methodist society was organized and built
a house of worship about 1879.
A German Lutheran church was organized at Clarence Center in 1857, a house of worship having been erected a few
years earlier. A German Reformed society was organized there in 1865 and built a brick church in 1877; the society
The United Brethren church at Harris Hill was formed in 1858 as a class, and services were held in the old stone
church until 1862, when the society occupied its new edifice. The church has had an active existence since. A German
Evangelical church was organized there and built the old stone edifice in 1833. The society subsequently declined
and became extinct. The First Baptist church at Hunt’s Corners was organized in 1837 with thirty-seven members.
A wooden church edifice was erected in 1844, which was occupied until the present brick structure was completed
in 1877. Two miles north of Harris Hill there is a Mennonite church.