Collins was formed from Concord on the 16th of March, 1821; North Collins was taken off in November, 1852, leaving this town with its present area of about sixty-two square miles. It includes a large part of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, which extends northwesterly from Gowanda along Cattaraugus Creek, and over which it has a nominal jurisdiction. The portion occupied by white settlers comprises all of township 6, range 8, and the western three tiers of lots in township 6, range 7, lying north of Cattaraugus Creek, and the southern tier of lots in township 7, range 8, and three lots in the southwest corner of township 7, range 7, of the Holland Company’s survey, being in all about 29,496 acres. The reservation in Collins occupies about twelve square miles. The town is bounded on the east by North Collins and Concord, on the south and west by Cattaraugus county, and on the north by Brant and North Collins, the reservation occupying the western point.

This is the southernmost town in Erie county, Cattaraugus Creek being the southern boundary line. The south branch of Clear Creek waters the central part of the township, while the north branch cuts across the northwest corner; the two unite and flow westerly nearly through the reservation. The surface is undulating and broken into numerous ravines, and in the northeast part is rather high. The soil is clayey loam on the uplands and gravelly loam along the streams, and altogether is very productive. General farming and dairying are the chief industries; there are nine cheese factories and one butter factory in operation.

At the first town meeting, held at the house of George Southwick, jr., June 9, 1821, the following officers were elected:

John Lawton, supervisor; Stephen White. town clerk; Luke Crandall. John Griffith and Lemuel M. White, assessors; Arnold King, John Lawton and Levi Wood ward, commissioners of highways; Jacob Taylor and Stephen Wilber, overseers of the poor; Luke Crandall, jr., collector; Luke Crandall, jr., and Asa Jennings, constables; John Griffith, Stephen White and Levi Woodward, commissioners of common schools; Jonathan 0. Irish, Nathaniel Knight and John Stanclift, jr., inspectors of common schools.

The supervisors of Collins, with their years of service, have been as follows:
John Lawton, 1821; Henry Joslin, 1822; Stephen White, 1823; Nathaniel Knight, 1824—32; Ralph Plumb, 1833—43; John L. Henry, 1844—45; Thomas Russell, 1846—48; Ralph Plumb, 1849—50; Thomas Russell, 1851; Samuel C. Adams, 1852—53; James H. McMillen, 1854—55; Benjamin W. Sherman, 1856; Joseph H. Plumb, 1857—58; Anson G. Conger, 1859—60; E. W. Henry, 1861; Marcus Bartlett, 1862; Joseph H. Plumb, 1863-67; Stephen T. White, 1868—70; Stephen E. Sisson, 1871—73; John H. White, 1874—75; William A. Johnson, 1876; Anson G. Conger, 1877; William A. Johnson, 1878; Cyrenius C. Torrance, 1879—81; William H. Parkinson, 1882; John H. Johnson, 1883—86; Fred J. Blackmon, 1887—90; S. Lewis Soule, 1891—94; L. Lewis Hathaway, 1895—97.

The first white settlement, in Collins was made by a colony of Friends, consisting of several single men and women under Jacob Taylor, who had been sent out by the Friends Yearly Meeting of Philadelphia, to teach the Indians the arts of peace. They called themselves a “family,” and settled at what has since been known as Taylor’s Hollow, where they purchased 300 acres of land adjoining the reservation. This colony flourished for several years, devoting themselves to farming, milling, and teaching the Indians. About 1809 they erected a grist mill and saw mill—the first in the town.

The first white family in Collins was that of Turner Aldrich, who located on the Erie county side of the site of Gowanda village in the spring of 1810. Other settlers of that year were Stephen Lapham on lot 45, at what is called Bagdad; Stephen Wilber on lot 49; Joshua Palmerton on lot 50; Stephen Peters on lot 48; and Augustus Smith. In 1811 Luke Crandall, Allen King, Arnold and John King, John Williams, Jehial Abbee, Henry Palmerton, and others moved into the town. The first white birth was that of a son of Aaron Lindsay in 1810; the first marriage was that of Stephen Peterson to Sarah Palmerton in 1811; and the first death was that of a Mr. Strait, father-in-law of Turner Aldrich, in 1812.

About 1811 Stephen Lapham and John Lawton each erected a saw mill, the latter having located on lot 41. Turner Aldrich very early put up a saw mill on Cattaraugus Creek and after the war of 1812 built a grist mill, and for many years the locality was known as Aldrich’s Mills. Among the settlers in 1811 and 1812 were Abraham and Ira Lapham, Seth Blossom, Silas Howard, and George Morris. In 1813 John Hanford opened the first store in town at Taylor’s Hollow, and also kept tavern there. The first school was taught by John King in the winter of 1814—15. Soon after the war Smith Bartlett erected a tannery at Collins Center and John Lawton built a grist mill. In 1816 Nathan King opened the first tavern in Collins Center.

The first post-office in town was established at Taylor’s Hollow in 1822, and was named Angola, the postmaster being Jacob Taylor, who served until as late as 1840; the office was afterward discontinued. In 1824 the mail route was extended to Aldrich’s Mills and a new office established there, on the south side of the creek, called West Lodi. Another post-office was established at Zoar, in the southeast corner of the town, about 1830; JehialHill was the postmaster until 1840. This office was subsequently abandoned.

Among the later settlers of the town the following may be mentioned:
Nathaniel and O. J. Knight, John Millis, Avery Knight, Leman Howe, Leman H. Pitcher, B. W. Sherman, Edwin W. Godfrey, George H. Hodges, Paul H. White, William W. Russell, Joshua Allen, Sylvanus Bates and son Frank, John Beverly, Isaac C. Brown and son Francis M., Peter Cook and son Norman, Joseph Gifford, Joshua and J. H. Johnson, Joseph A. Palmerton, Thomas Russell, Humphrey Russell, Edgar A. Shaw, Stephen W. Smith, Isaac W. Tanner, Enoch Taylor, George W. Taylor, Elisha and Smith B. Washburn, John Wilber, David Beverly, Moses L. Conger, John C. Adams, Nehemiah Heath.

The first cheese factory in town was built in 1865, and soon afterward William A. Johnson founded the celebrated , “Marshfleld Combination,” which at one time controlled about twenty-five factories in Erie and Cattaraugus counties. This combination flourished for several years.

The Indians on the Cattaraugus Reservation are almost all farmers. The title of the land is held in common, but each man cultivates as much as he will, and the right to his field is respected. They have three churches—Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian—and several district schools. The Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children was founded in 1855, with B. F. Hall as superintendent. The Iroquois Agricultural Society was organized in 1857 and an industrial school was established by the Department of the Interior in 1876.

A few years ago the Board of Supervisors purchased 500 acres of land in Collins, just east of the reservation and north of Gowanda, for the purpose of erecting upon it an insane asylum. The land, however, was afterward conveyed to the State, and in 1897 a large brick building was erected and a sewer two and one-half miles long constructed. The Legislature appropriated $175,000 for this purpose.

Natural gas was discovered on the Monroe Kelley farm in April, 1888, and afterwards on the Kerr, Elmer White, and Fry farms. The gas is piped to Buffalo and also to Springville.

Gowanda is a thriving village on either side of Cattaraugus Creek, lying partly in Cattaraugus and partly in Erie county. Its principal business enterprises, churches and schools, and the greater portion of its residences, are in the county of Cattaraugus. The Erie county side has a population of about 1,000.

About 1823 Ralph Plumb purchased the Aldrich mill property and soon afterward opened the first store in the whole village, which. for over twenty years thereafter was known as Lodi, the post-office being called West Lodi. Later the village and post-office were named Persia, and on its incoporation on December 7, 1847, took the name of Gowanda. In this account only the part lying in Collins is noticed.

Ralph Plumb was the principal merchant on the north side for many years. About 1840 he erected a cloth and carding mill, which was afterward occupied by Slaght & Kellogg as a hardware store. In 1835 James Lock erected the Lodi furnace, which was sold in 1841 to Ashbel R. Sellew, who began the manufacture of plows and stoves; in 185l it passed to Sellew, Tucker & Stope, and in 1856 it was burned. It was, rebuilt and is still carried on. The grist mill of Charles. J. Howard was built about 1857. Joseph Straub established a large wagon and carriage factory in 1862, and in 1876 N. & J. P. Romer built an axe foundry, which was the leading manufactory in the village until 1895, when it was removed to Dunkirk. The’ building is now used by the electric light plant, which was started at that time by Keyes & Sons. The Eagle Tavern was erected by Joseph McMillan in 1824 and is still standing; in 1866 a brewery was added, and later was burned down. The Farmers’ Hotel was built by Conrad Fiegle in 1865 and rebuilt by Louis Fiegle in 1878; the Grand Central Hotel was erected in 1879 by A. F. Conger.

Among the merchants, past and present, on the north side are Chauncey Bigelow, H. N. Hooker, Gideon Webster, William Spencer, Elisha Henry, James H. McMillan, Robert P. McMillan, Theodore N. Kingsley, Rooker & White, J. A. Bestrip, Michael Moll. Hon. Cyrenius C. Torrance was for many years the only lawyer in Gowanda living on the north side.

A water system and a fire department were inaugurated about 1883, Sidney Torrance being the chief promoter of the former enterprise. The fire apparatus on the Collins side consists of a steamer, a hook and ladder and two hose companies. About six miles of sewers were constructed during 1896, the village being bonded for $20,000 for the purpose. The Presbyterian church was first built in 1826; it was burned in February, 1843, and rebuilt the same year, and again rebuilt in 1886. A Roman Catholic church and an Evangelical Lutheran church were erected in 1S88.

Gowanda village, on the Collins side, contains 1 dry goods store, 2 groceries, 1 grist mill, a saw mill, an iron foundry, a cutlery works (started about 1894), 2 carriage shops, 4 hotels, 3 churches and a few shops, offices, etc.

Collins Center is situated near the center of that part of the town occupied by the white settlers, and had its nucleus in the tavern which Nathan King opened in 1816. In 1830 it was reopened by John C. Adams, who soon changed it into a store. Messrs. Hathaway, Wood and others afterward kept hotel, and finally the Sons of Temperance erected a building, the upper part of which was a hail and the lower part a hotel kept by Job Wilber; it was sold to Smith Bartlett and was burned about 1894, and on the site Sylvester Haberer built the Commercial House. The first store was opened by Samuel Lake about 1827; later merchants were John C. Adams, Chauncey Bigelow, Thomas Bigelow, Adam White, Curtis I. Bates, Elmer E. Hudson, Joseph Mugridge, James Matthews, Herbert F. Clark and Milton B. Sherman. A furniture and agricultural implement factory was built about 1850 by H. B. Wood, who was succeeded by Wilber & Palmerton, 0. J. Knight, M. J. & R. G. King, King & Letson, A. A. King and others. Joseph Mugridge, in 1880, erected a planing mill and blind factory. The feed mill of Augustus Bolender was successively owned by William Popple and N. Bolender & Brother. A large lithographic board manufactory was established by Antone J., Alonzo G. and Joseph A. Setter several years ago, and about 1895 Charles C. White erected a large creamery. In 1895 Setter Brothers & Co. established a water system in the village.

The post-office was established in 1826 with John C. Adams as postmaster; he was followed by Chauncey Bigelow, Dr. Alexander Bruce, Stephen J. White, Curtis I. Bates, George H. Hodges, Herbert A. Reynolds, Edward C. Mugridge and Edward E. White. The first physician was Dr. Israel Condon, who came about 1830; later ones were Dr. Alexander Bruce, Dr. Young, Dr. W. A. Sibley, Dr. Erastus Letson and Dr. Harlow Atwood. The Union Free School was organized in 1883, the first Board of Education being William A. Johnson, H. A. Reynolds and Matthew Beverley. Among the principals were Wesley Lake, Leroy S. Greenwood, Ira W. Livermore, Edwin S. Kerr and John Garret Smith. The Methodist Episcopal church was built originally three fourths of a mile west of the village, in 1834, and in 1840 was removed to its present site; it was rebuilt in 1863. The Free Methodist church was erected in 1869.

Collins Center now contains 3 general stores, 1 hotel, a grist mill, 2 cider mills, a lithographic board manufactory, a saw and planing mill, 2 churches, a union free school (built in 1892), and several shops, etc. One and one-half miles southwest of the village is an old saw mill owned at different times by James Matthews, Edward R. Harris, Erastus Harris and others.

Collins is a station and postoffice on the Erie Railroad about three miles north of Gowanda, and has sprung up since the completion of that road in 1874. The post-office was established January 24, 1874, with L. L. Hathaway as postmaster; he was followed by John J. Quigley, B. W. Hathaway, and Timothy T. Clare. Among the merchants there have been L. L. Hathaway, Ambrose Sisson and Timothy T. Clark. About 1890 George H. Krebs erected a hotel, which was burned and rebuilt in 1897. A copper ware factory, established by the Johnson Manufacturing Company, was also burned in 1897. In 1885 Durand A. Palmerton built a large steam feed mill, which was sold to P. A. Willet in 1893; it was burned that year and rebuilt in 1894, and soon passed to John J. Quigley. The saw and planing mill and box factory of G. L. Soule and Charles H. Russell was started by them about 1891. In 1881 William A. Johnson erected a large cheese warehouse here. A new school building replaced the old school house in 1889, and about that time the Friends built a meeting house, the only one in the place. The village contains two general stores, a hotel, a saw and planing mill and box factory, a feed mill, one church, and a few shops, etc.

Bagdad is a small hamlet on the south branch of Clear Creek, about a mile south of Collins Station. For many years it had a saw mill and grist mill; the latter was rebuilt in 1896 by Burt W. Hathaway.

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