History of Porter, New York

FROM LANDMARKS OF NIAGARA COUNTY, NEW YORK
EDITED BY: WILLIAM POOL
PUBLISHED BY D. MASON & CO. PUBLISHERS, SYRACUSE, NY 1897



CHAPTER XV.
THE TOWN OF PORTER.

The other one of the three towns which were set off from Cambria in 1812 (Niagara and Hartland having already been described) was Porter, which was erected on the same date with Hartland-June 1 of that year. When erected this town included what is now the town of Wilson which was set off in 1818. The town was named in honor of Judge Augustus Porter. It is the northwestern town in the county and includes Fort Niagara, Youngstown and Lewiston along its lake and river front-localities which, as the reader has already learned, were the scene of some of the most memorable early events in American history. The surface of this town is generally level and the soil along the lake shore a many clay, while in the central and southern parts it is sandy and gravelly loam. Four-mile and Six mile Creeks cross the town in a northerly direction and the west branch of Twelve-mile Creek crosses the southeastern part in a similar direction. The first town meeting was held at the house of Peter Tower, but the date is probably lost. There is an existing record that the town meeting was held April 11, 1815, two years after the erection of the town. In the old book with this record are meagre accounts of a few other meetings, but containing nothing of especial importance. It is quite probable that the war interfered to such an extent that these meetings were almost wholly interrupted in the early years ; but there is nothing to indicate that the meeting of 1815 was the first one held, while the absence of records for two or three years prior to 1819 could scarcely be attributed to the war troubles. Following is a copy of the proceed. ings of the meeting of April 11, 1815. as recorded in the old book:

Dexter F. Sprague, supervisor; Elijah Hathaway, town clerk; Joseph Pease, Nathaniel McCormick and Thaddeus N. Sturges, assessors; Conrad Zittle and Zebulon Coates, overseers of the poor; Benjamin Kemp, John Martin and John Brown. commissioners of highways; David Porter, constable and collector; Thaddeus McIntyre, constable; Conrad Zittle and David Porter, poundkeepers.

On the 20th of June of that year Reuben Wilson was chosen supervisor in place of Mn. Sprague, the reason not being recorded. At the town meeting of April 6, 1819, the following officers were chosen:

Michael Helms, supervisor; Thomas Brown, town clerk; Jonathan Bell, George Ash and William Doty, assessors; John Dunlap, collector; Conrad Zittle and Daniel Kelley, overseers of the poor; Conrad Zittle, Daniel Kelley and Richard Cuddaback, commissioners of highways; Moses Barto, A. G. Hinman and John A. Hyde, commissioners of schools; Jonathan Bell and Isaac Swain, inspectors of schools; John Dunlap. constable; Daniel Kelley, poundmaster.

The usual regulations for the government of the town were voted at this arid the preceding meetings. Among them was the appointment of fourteen pathmasters to have charge of the road districts.

The supervisors of Porter from 1819 to the present time have been as follows
Michael Helms, 1819-24; Moses Barto, 1825-27; William Doty, 1828-29; no election, 1830; Leverett Bristol, 1831-34; Timothy Hosmer, 1835; Leverett Bristol, 1836-41; John Porter, 1842; Ziba Henry. 1843; Jehiel C. S. Ransom, 1844; Solomon Moss, 1845-47; John Porter, 1848; Solomon Moss, 1849; Ira Race, 1850-53; Peter Simmons, 1S54; Ira Race, 1655; George Swain, 1856-59; James L. Fowler, 1860-62; Ezra S. Holden, 1863-64; Ira Race, 1865-66; Rensselaer Ward, 1867-70; Elton T. Ransom, 1871-73; James M. Foster. 1874; Elton T. Ransom, 1875-77; Richard D. Balmer, 1878; Peter S. Tower, 1879; Rensselaer Ward, 1880; Joseph Thompson, 1881-82; Alonzo U. Gatchell, 1883-84; Joseph Thompson, 1885; George Swain, 1886; Nelson D. Haskell, 1887; A. Judson Eaton, 1888; Harvey Cudaback, 1889-90; John E. Reardon. 1891-93; Elmer E. Brookins, 1894-96; Edwin S. Carter, 1897-98.

The other town officers for 1897 are:
Edward G. Hall, town clerk; William J. Sweet, H. H. Helms and Warren Curtis, justices of the peace; Francis Kyte, Frederick Kelley and William Hill, a.sessors; George Parker, highway commissioner; William N. Burmaster, collector; George C. McCormick and John W. Haskell, overseers of the poor.

The town has now a population of about 2,300.

John Gould came from New Jersey in 1788 as a drover. He gave some of his recollections to Turner as follows:

Col. Hunter was then in command at Fort Niagara. Our cattle and pack horses were ferried across to Newark in hateaux and Schenectady boats. Nothing then at Newark but an old ferry house and, the barracks that had been occupied by Butler's Rangers. The Massasauga Indians were numerous then in Canada. They had no fixed habitations; migrated from camping ground to camping ground in large parties; their principal camping grounds, Niagara and Oueenston. There were their fishing grounds. Sometimes there would be dye or six hundred encamped at Niagara. They were small in stature, gay, lively, filthy; antI much addicted to drunken ness.

We sold our cattle principally to Butler's Rangers. They were located mostly at the falls, along the Four and Twelve-mile Creeks. Oxen brought as high as cows, £20.

The settlement of this town which may be considered as permanent did not take place until about the beginning of the present century, although momentous events had preceded along the frontier. John Lloyd, who had been a soldier in the garrison in 1799, settled in 1801 about three miles from the fort. After the war he occupied a farm on lot 27. The following list embraces the names of all who took land from the Holland Company down to the year 1807, and are given in the order of the dates of their contracts: 1803, Elijah Doty, John Waterhouse, Silas Hopkins, Peter Hopkins, Obadiah Hopkins, Conrad Zittle, Ephraim Hopkins, John Clemmons, Robert Bigger, James Benedict and William McBride. 1804, Peter and Ephraim Hopkins, additional land, Samuel Hopkins, John Freeman and John Wilson. 1805, William Coggswell, Jonathan Jones, Abijah Perry and Samuel Shelly. i 8o6, Peter Ripson and John Brown, and William McBride took additional land. A few of these men were not actual settlers, but bought for speculation, among them Silas Hopkins. Conrad Zittie located at what became known as Zittle's Corners, later as Porter Center. Abijah Perry was father of William Perry, born August 11, 1812, the first birth in the town after this permanent settlement began. William Coggswell was a man of considerable education and taught the first school in town in 1806. Jonathan Lutts settled in 1806 and afterwards bought a farm of the Holland Company and lived in the town thirty years or more.

In 1808 Isaac Swain, who had previously settled on the Military road, in the town of Niagara, removed to this town and purchased eighty acres of John McBride. which was the southern half of lot 3 of the Mile Reserve. He had an exciting war experience and was father of William and George Swain. Michael Lutts came in about the same time with his brother Jonathan, and William Arbuthnot came during or directly after the war.

Settlement here was almost wholly stopped by the war, only two pioneers of importance coming in 1814; these were Rudolph Clapsaddle and Joseph McCullum. The former located on lot 4, and the latter on lot 9. John Vrooman came in at the close of the war, having been stolen by Indians during the Revolution and brought to Twomile Creek, where he remained a captive a number of years. He was afterwards rescued and taken to Montreal, whence he removed to his former home in Schoharie. John McLoughiin settled in town in 1815, coming over from Canada. Peter Tower also came that year, he and his brother Otis making their way from Massachusetts with a two horse wagon. Peter bought 100 acres of Conrad Zittle, and Otis settled on another farm in this town. Michael Helms was living in town before the war; Peter Tower lived with him before his marriage and worked at his trade of carpenter and cabinet maker. He was a prominent citizen in public affairs and caused the opening of the first road east from Four mile Creek to the Cambria line.

William and John Clapsaddle came into the town in 1816, John locating on lot 9. He built the first saw mill and grist mill about the year 1817, and kept an early tavern at what is now Tryonville. In the same year David Baker settled in Youngstown, worked there as a carpenter three years, and then removed to the site of Porter Center, where he purchased land of Gideon Curtiss. In the next year Mr. Curtiss took up land within the limits of Ransomville, and cut the first timber in that part of the town, and helped to lay out the road through the village and the one from the Ridge to the lake. His brother, Capt. Gilbert W. Curtiss, came in and ultimately made a home near by and went back to Connecticut, their native State, for his bride. They returned in a one-horse lumber wagon, and when they reached the Ridge they were compelled to cut a road through the woods to the site of Ransomville. They brought apple seeds with them. from which an orchard was started, which was the beginning of the large fruit growing interest of the eastern part of the town. He was a captain in the old militia, and from that position obtained his well known title. In 1825 he opened a tavern at Ransomville in a log building which stood in front of the later hotel. His brother Gideon had already opened an earlier inn at this place, but gave up the business before 1823. The tavern was kept in later years by the two Sons of Captain Curtiss, the well known business firm of Curtiss Brothers. Captain Curtiss died in 1868.

Other prominent settlers in the town between 1820 and 1840 were Stephen Eaton, who came about 1820 and settled where his son subsequently lived; Charles Quade, who was the first settler on lot 51, and in 1830 built a tavern at what was then called Quade's Corners, and afterwards Ransomville; Jonathan Moss, who came from Vermont in 1823 and took up 168 acres at Moss's Corners, a mile and a half west of Ransomville; David Force, who settled on lot 25, in 1825; Horace Munson Durand, who arrived about 1823 ; the Jeffords family, who came in 1826, and purchased of Richard Cuddaback the farm occupied in later years by James Warren; Jehial S. C. Ransom, after whom Ransomville was named, who came from Ulster county on foot about 1826; he was the first postmaster at Ransomville; L. C. Beals, William Kyte, and John Hutchinson, who came in 1829; J. B. Clark, father of P. C. Clark, came in 1830; Charles G. Willie, who settled on lot 11 in 1831; Lyman Whittaker and Erastus Downer, both of whom settled in town in 1831; David Johnson, William C. McCormick, John Robertson, and David Johnson, all of whom came in 1832 ; Chester Balcom, John Powley, and William and John Whitfield, who settled in 1834; James Warren and Henry Balmer, who came in 1836. Many other families are represented in Part III of this work.

Among the prominent residents of the town are S. Park Baker, Peter S. Tower, Daniel Bradley, Samuel Brookins, E. S. Carter, John and Joseph Clapsaddle, Robert and William Clapsaddle, James M. Foster, Francis Kyte, Henry Lutz, Madison McCollum, Richard McCracken, George L. Moot, George Parker, H. B. Timothy, George P. Tower, H. B. Tower, John E. Reardon, William Smithson, Christopher Quade, George C. McCormick, N. D. Haskell, Nicholas and Frank Hoffman, Edward Calvert, Almeron Barker, Smith Bradley, Leander Dutton, A. J. Eaton, Charles R. Ayer.

A tannery was in existence in this town before the war on lot 9 of the Mile Reserve, and was owned by Burton & Son. John Clapsaddle built a small grist mill in 1817, which was operated some years, when the water power failed and the town was without a mill until the building of the one at Youngstown in 1840. Mr. Clapsaddle also built a saw mill about the time of the erection of the grist mill; it long ago went to decay.

The village of Youngstown is one of the oldest on the frontier, as the reader has learned in earlier pages of this work. At the establishment of the Niagara customs district in 1799, the port of entry was located at Fort Niagara and remained there until 1811 when it was removed to Lewiston. Only a very small settlement was gathered at Youngstown at the time of the devastation of the frontier by the British in 1813, and that was wholly destroyed. After the war the locality again assumed considerable importance and activity; the cutting of the fine oak timber in this section gave employment to many of the early settlers, and the shipment of large quantities of the timber to England for use in shipbuilding was a source of a considerable commercial interest here for some years. Later on a good deal of wheat was shipped from here to Oswego, and other business interests came into existence which contributed to the growth of the place.

Robert Grensit kept the first tavern in this town on the site of Youngstown, and the house was conducted by his widow after his death. Colonel Hathaway, a prominent early resident, kept a tavern as as early as 1815 on the site of the present Ontario House; a small grocery was connected with the house. Peter Tower, before mentioned, opened a small public house here about 1819-20. John Young, who came from Niagara, Ont., probably kept the first store, and the village received its name from him; he was identified prominently with the early public interests of the place. A school was opened in the village in i8o6 by William Cogswell, and the first school house was built about 1823. The village was a small and quiet hamlet until towards 1825, after which the business interests were extended more rapidly. The following decription of the place in 1823 is taken from another work;

The woods grew down to the rear of the lots on Main street and between this place and Lewiston the road passed through the forest that extended to the eastward and to the edge of the river on the west. There were not more than a dozen frame houses within the limits of the present corporation. There was only one store, which from the color of the building in which it was kept, was called the "red store." It was conducted by two young men named Chittenden and Woodruff, but John Young furnished the merchandise, and the business was carried on in his interest. Of taverns there seems to have been more than the business of that time demanded, there being no less than three. The first was located at the north end of Main street and was kept by Phillips & Williams; the second about midway of the street, was that of Col. Elijah Hathaway, and the third, which stood at the end of the Street. was conducted by Robert Campbell. The accommodations were good for that day. There was one wagon shop and one blacksmith shop, the first being the property of two men named Squires & De Wolf, and the second that of Nathaniel Brown. Judge A. G. Hinman was the postmaster, the post-office being in his house, near the center of the settlement. Mail arrived daily by stage from Lewiston and points east and south

The foregoing gives a clear picture of Youngstown in its early business existence, and is sufficient evidence that as late as 1820 the village was not one of great importance or bright prospects. Gordon Davis came from Connecticut in 1823 and soon afterward began business in the shoe and leather trade. David Burge came from New Hampshire to the village the same year and afterwards was a partner with Mr. Davis; they added other goods to their stock and for some years carried on a large trade. Mr. Davis retired from the firm in 1830 and Mr. Burge continued it.

Jason Davis, brother of Gordon, came to Youngstown in 1835, with his sons, Bradley D. and Nelson R. Davis. They had previously in 1830 spent one year in Lewiston, and returned to New Hampshire. Soon after their arrival in Youngstown the father and Bradley D. Davis opened a grocery under the firm name of J. Davis & Son. A general stock of goods was later added and for twenty years the firm did a large trade for the times; the firm was dissolved by the death of the senior member. Bradley D. Davis, and later the firm of B. D. Davis & Co. carried on the business.

Dr. John A. Hyde came to Youngstown in i8i8, and for many years was the only physician there.

W. H. Doyle, who later became a member of the business firm of W. H. Doyle & Co., merchants, came to the village in 1835. Alfred Emerson, at one period a member of the firm of Alfred Emerson & Co, settled early in the village, became a leading merchant and buyer of produce. Alexander Barton, a painter, came to the village in 1823, worked at his trade for a time and afterwards opened a hotel, which was burned with other structures on the night of April 19-20, 1863, and was rebuilt by him. Ira Race settled in the place in 1826, followed farming until 1833, when he was chosen deputy sheriff and held the position three years; after that he held various local offices, and for about forty. seven years was a justice of the peace. He is still living (1897), with his wife, both being over ninety.

Judge A. G. Hinman was a conspicuous citizen of Youngstown for many years, was respected for his high character exhibited in his official life and his activity in promoting the early religious and educational institutions of the town. George Swain was a son of Isaac Swain, the pioneer, and became a prominent citizen. He was born in the town in 1819, was a successful farmer and held various public offices; his brother William, born in 1821, also was prominent asa farmer and fruit grower.

The stone grist mill in the village was erected in 1840 by Hezekiah H. Smith; it was burned on the night of February 22, 1851, but was soon afterward repaired and was operated by Jason and Nelson R. Davis, and still later by B. D. Davis. It is still standing, though used for other purposes.

In 1855 B. D. Davis & Co. erected their large brick block. The stone hotel (the Ontario House) was built in 1842 by Alexander Lane, near the site of the old Hathaway tavern; it subsequently became the property of Robert McKnight, and later of his heirs, and has been conducted under the name of the Ontario House by H. C. Root and others. It is now kept by Timothy J. Murphy. The El Dorado Hotel, of which Frank C. Steele is proprietor, was built about 1891.

A saw mill was built in Youngstown in 1866 by W. D. Clark. A foundry was established and long conducted by William Ripson & Co.; it is now conducted by Julius Ripson. D. & J. Onen manufactured barrels for a time. The present business interests of the village consists of Edward G. Hall, shoes, etc.; Charles L. Taylor, drugs; John A, Haskell, George M. Carter, and L. C. Beals, groceries; William A. Hutchinson, general store; F. C. Thompson, dry goods; and W. R. Robinson, hardware.

The Youngstown News was started March 4, 1881, by Nelson D. Haskell, who on January 1, 1889, was succeeded by G. Oliver Frick, the present editor and publisher. It is an eight-page weekly.

G. Oliver Frick, editor and proprietor of the Youngstown News, is the son of Joseph A. and Clara Elizabeth P. Frick, and was born in Pittsburg, Pa.. January 26, 1872. He came to Wolcottsville, Niagara county, in 1880, and in 1884 removed to Youngstown, where he finished his education, which was supplemented by attendance at the public schools of Buffalo. When thirteen he began learning the printer's trade on the Youngstown News, then owned by Nelson D. Haskell, and he also spent one year in Buffalo in the book department of Matthews, Northrup & Co. On January 1, 1889, he purchased the Youngstown News, of which he has since been the editor and proprietor, and which he has placed in the front rank of Niagara county weekly newspapers. He was married in September, 1893, to Sarah W., daughter of Aaron Winchester, of Youngstown.

The village of Youngstown was incorporated April 18, 1854, upon the presentation of a petition to the Legislature prepared by the following persons: Ira Race, A. G. Skinner, W. H. Doyle and L. P. Babcock. The boundaries of the village were made to include Jots and 2 and parts of lots 3 and of the Mile Reserve. The first village election was held on the 4th of October, 1854, and the following officers chosen:
President, George Swain; trustees, George Swain, Samuel Fosdick, Nelson R. Davis, Lewis C. Beals, and Alfred Emerson; clerk, S. Olney; assessor, David Burge; collector, Paul Durfee; treasurer George C. Hotchkiss; poundmaster, John Hart.

The present (1897) village officers are Frank C. Steele. president; Charles Ripson, August Turner, and Patrick Fitzpatrick, trustees; John W. Thompson, clerk.

The settlement on the site of Ransomville was of little importance until after the location there ofJehial C. S. Ransom in 1826, and the establishment of the post-office. He opened a store and established a good business. Other pioneers here were Lambert Hail and Leverett Bristol In 1839 William H. H. Ransom, a nephew of the pioneer, settled in the village and worked at his trade of carpenter until 1843, when he bought out his uncle's store, and was the leading merchant until his death; ; his son, Elton T. Ransom, was associated with him under the firm name of W. H. H. Ransom & Son, which is still retained.

The Curtiss Brothers, before mentioned, have long been prominently identified with the business interests of the village. Besides conducting the hotel, the Ransomville House, they. in 1877, built the Excelsior elevator and grain storehouse with a capacity of 25,000 bushels, and are engaged largely in the handling of grain and fruit.

W. H. H. Ransom & Son built a large brick store in 1872, and in 1877 erected a brick storehouse on a side track to the R., W. & O. Railroad, which runs through the village. They carry on an extensive grain, produce and general mercantile business.

Fowler & Harwick built a brick store building, which passed to possession of James Bullock, who carried on mercantile business there. Other old merchants were C. A. Barnes, Clark Ransom, A. U. Gatchell, S. D. McCracken and George I. Eaman. The present merchants are W. H. H. Ransom & Son, William T. Gentle, Corwin & Hubbell, F. D. McCormick, A. J. Barry, Dwight Sanger and A B. Thompson & Sons.

David Bagley also has a cider and vinegar works. The Ransomville Basket Manufacturing Company was started in 1894 and gives employment to a number of hands S. H. Morris is president and W. T. Gentle secretary and treasurer.

East Porter, Tryonville and Porter Center are hamlets in this town, the latter having a general store kept by C. C. Clapsaddle.

Fort Niagara is situated at the mouth and on the east bank of the Niagara River, and its historic periods are recorded in Peter A. Porter's book as follows:

Recognizing the title to the spot where Fort Niagara stands as vested in the Senecas after their conquest of the Neuters in 1651, we may divide its history into the following periods: Indian ownership, 1651-1669; Indian ownership, French influence predominating, 1669-1725; Indian ownership. French occupation, 1725-1759; indian ownership, English occupation, 1759-1764; English ownership and occupation, 1759-1783; American ownership, English occupation, the hold-over period, 1783-1796: American ownership and occupation (excepting December 19, 1813, to March 27, 1815), 1796-1896.

The history of the fort has been noticed in detail in earlier pages of this volume. It has been garrisoned, with the exception of a brief interim, since March 27, 1815, and the last defensive work of consequence-the brick facing of the bastions, facing east, dates from 1861. It is now the regimental headquarters of the 13th U. S. Infantry, Col. Alfred T. Smith commanding.

The village of Youngstown and vicinity in late years has attracted a number of summer residents, whose pretty homes have added much to the beauty of the place. In 1896 an electric railroad, known as the "Old Fort Route," was built by the Lewiston and Youngstown Frontier Railway Company, of which Laurence D. Rumsey is president Henry C. Howard, vice president; Kari Evans, secretary; George R. Teller, treasurer; and Robert B. Goodman, superintendent. The main line, opened August 11, 1896, is eight miles long; a branch extends to Rumsey Park and Beach on Lake Ontario.

The first school in this town has been mentioned. The town was early divided into districts and school houses gradually built, to accommodate the growing population. The first school house in Youngstown was built about 1823, and was subsequently moved away and a stone structure erected in its place. The first school house was used for religious meetings until churches were built. For the last fifty years the number of districts has been e.leven, and there is now a comfortable school house in each. The town with six others of the county constitutes the second commissioner's district A graded school building was erected of brick in Youngstown about two years ago.

The first religious services in the town were held in very early years at the fort, but there was little attempt to hold regular meetings elsewhere until 1823 Methodist itinerants came into the town with more or less regularity and held meetings. In 1823 a preacher named Everett visited Youngstown and finding a few persons who were inclined to co operate in the formation of a church, he appointed a meeting at the house of Judge A. G. Hinman for that purpose. The society was organized in the Presbyterian faith in 1823, with the following members: Mr. and Mrs. Bartol, Mr. Kelly, Mrs. Lutts, Mrs. McCormick, Mrs. Rebecca Hathaway and her daughter Pauline, and Judge Hinman. A church was built in 1836 under direction of Hezekiah H. Smith, John A. Hyde, Gordon Davis and David Burge. The building was enlarged in 1844 to accommodate the increasing membership. In 1896-97 this was replaced by the present structure.

The Baptist church at Ransomville was organized in March, 1834, with thirty seven members. The first pastor was Rev. Samuel J. Olney. The first church was built in 1840, of wood; it was remodeled in 1870.

A Methodist church was organized at Porter Center. a hamlet in the central part of the town, in March, 1838, with forty members. A church edifice was built in 1851. The first pastor was Rev. William Buck.

Another Methodist church was organized at East Porter, the class of which was formed in 1821; but the church (Fillmore chapel) was not built until 1852. The original members numbered fourteen. This society was in the Porter Center charge.

The Methodist church of Youngstown was regularly organized in June, 1852, with twenty members; meetings were held in the school house until 1854, when the church edifice, begun in the previous year, was finished. Through the prevailing division in this denomination, which took place in 1869, this church was sold at auction, and was purchased by John Carter for the purpose of having services continued. Regular meetings were held until 1869 after which no stated services were held. In July, 1872, regular meetings were renewed and in that year the conference united the Youngstown and Porter Center churches in one charge; they were again separated in 1876, in which year Mr. Carter deeded back the church building to the society under a favorable arrangement. It was re opened in May, 1877, and has since continued active.

St. John's Episcopal church at Youngstown is noticed in the chapter devoted to Lockport.

St. Bernard's Roman Catholic parish was organized in Youngstown about 1830, when a chapel was instituted, and services were conducted by priests from Suspension Bridge or Lewiston.

The Free Methodist church of Ransomville was built about 1880. The Wesleyan Methodists also have a church there.

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