History of the Village of Hammondsport Steuben County, NY
From: Landmarks of Steuben County, New York
Edited by: Hon. Harlo Hakes
Assisted By: L. C. Aldrich and Others
D. Mason & Company, Publishers,
Syracuse, New York, 1896

THE VILLAGE OF HAMMONDSPORT. - In the year 1802, Gen. George McClure purchased several hundred acres of land in Pleasant Valley, near Cold Spring, on which he caused to be built a saw mill, fulling mill, flour mill and carding machine. About the same time he also opened a store on the site of Hammondsport, and by all his operations laid the foundation for what has now become one of the most progressive villages in Steuben county. General McClure also built the first vessel on the lake, the Sally, a small schoner of about thirty tons burden, and thus was the pioneer in opening Lake Keuka to navigation. The schooner is said to have been built in 1803.

However, it remained for a later corner to found the village in fact. Capt. John Shether was the original settler on the village tract, in 1796, and a portion at least of his lands afterward passed to Judge Lazarus Hammond. This was in 1807, and about the same time the purchaser came to reside on the land. He at once saw the possibilities of a village at the head of the lake, hence laid out a series of lots, and also donated a pleasantly located tract of land for a public park or square. Still many years passed before the settlement assumed the proportions or cfiaracter of a settlement, and even as late as 1825 the lands in the vicinity were used chiefly for farming purposes.

In the year last mentioned, William Hastings opened a well stocked store, and Lemuel D. Hastings acted in the capacity of clerk. In the following fall Ira G. Smith, of Prattsburg, built a store and soon afterward a number of business interests were established about the public square. In 1830 the Crooked Lake canal was begun, and finished the next year, and from this time Hammondsport became a place of considerable importance in the commercial world and the future success of the village was assured. Among the varied industries of early and even later days, was that of boat building. The Keuka was put upon the lake in 1835, a steamboat of good capacity. Others followed in succession, as necessity required, or as competition suggested, until at length historic and beautiful Lake Keuka became known for the number and quality of her steam craft. In 1831 General McClure built a saw and plaster mill in the village, also a good dwelling for his Own use. John Randel came in 1833, and built a store, and was a prominent merchant and citizen for the next quarter of a century. The stone mill was built in 1835-6, by Meredith Mallory, and though the enterprise was not successful as a business venture, the old mill buildings became one of the conspicuous landmarks of the region.

Among the early business men of Hammondsport, in addition to those already mentioned, we may recall the names of A. M. Adsit, Delos Rose, William Hastings & Co., Adsit & Co., J. W. Davis, Lemuel D. Hastings, and G, W. Nichols. The first school house was built in 1827, and stood where St. James' church was afterward erected. The large and attractive stone school house was erected for academic purposes in 1858. J. W. McLaurey was it principal for the first six or more years.

One of the most desirable public improvements, and one which has proven of the greatest material advantage to the village, was the construction of the Bath and Hammondsport railroad, begun in 1872 and opened for traffic in 1874. By the opening of this thoroughfare of travel and traffic the county seat and the interior of the county were given direct and rapid communication with the Erie Canal and the New York Central railroad, while the benefit to Hammondsport interests were greatly increased. For this short road the town of Urbana bonded to the extent $40,000, and the village $30,000. In fact they built the road or at least furnished the means with which it was constructed.

As the hamlet grew and increased in population and importance, the inhabitants became desirous to make improvements and establish institutions which were not directly beneficial to the town at large, and to which the people of the tatter were not inclined to contribute. Therefore it was determined that a corporation should be established, and to this end Delos Rose, S. B. Fairchild, William Hastings, S. Watrous, Henry Benham and Benjamin Bennitt petitioned the court for an order of incorporation under the provisions of the law. The order was granted and Hammondsport became a body corporate and politic on the t6th of June, 1856. The area of the village at that time was about 172 acres, and within its boundaries were 530 inhabitants. At an election held June 29, 1856, the electors ratified the corporation measure by a vote of forty seven to thirty four, Thus it is seen in this case, as in nearly all other similar movements, the opponents were a strong minority of the voting element. However, the spirit of progress and enterprise prevailed and the village of Hammondsport took a place among the municipalities of Steuben county.

The first election of village officers was held November 22, 1856, and resulted as follows: Trustees, William Hastings, John Randel, J. N. Crane, J. W. Davis, Clark Bell; assessors, Orlando Shepard, Benjamin Bennitt; collector, Lewis Wood; treasurer, John Watrous; clerk, B. Frank Drew. In January, 1871, a village charter was granted Hammondsport, and our little municipality increased and broadened her powers and advanced her corporate character. The first meeting for election of officers under the charter was held March 21, 1871, and Absalom Hadden was elected president; George W. Nichols, Allen Wood and Walter L. Moore, trustees; Benjamin F. Drew, treasurer, and George C. Wise, collector. The first clerk of the board of trustees was William W. Wright; David Burch, police constable, and J. B. Van Auken, chief engineer of the fire department.

At this time the fire department was carefully reorganized and became an important adjunct of the village. In fact all departments of local government were then firmly established and Hammondsport advanced to the degree of a municipality of the second class. The present department consists of a good horse power fire engine, a hook and ladder, and also a hose company. In 1894-5 a water works system was established, the source of supply being the abundant springs on the well known Scofield farm. Fire hydrants have been distributed throughout the streets, placed at convenient points, and with simple gravity pressure the village has excellent fire protection, and is moreover, supplied with pure and wholesome water for all domestic purposes. The plant complete was constructed at a total cost of about $25,000, and is owned by the village.

Hammondsport enjoys the pleasant notoriety of being one of the most attractive and desirable residence villages in Steuben county. Situated as it is in the very midst of a vast vineyard region and on the head waters of charming Lake Keuka, added to which may also be mentioned a rich agricultural and fruit producing country, all elements combine to make this one of the most delightful localities in the Genesee country. The people, too, are known to be hospitable, entertaining and progressive. The manufactures are chiefly wine and other products of the vine and fruit tree.

The officers for the year 1895 are as follows: Trevor Moore, president; Henry Frey, Milan H. Hall, Phineas H. Casterline, trustees; G. W. Hubbs, clerk, and Aaron G. Pratt, treasurer. The president and trustees constitute a board of village assessors. The estimated population of the village is 1,000; in 1890 the number was 934, and in 1880 was 775.

The manufacture of wines may be regarded as the staple industry of the village and its immediate locality, and in this production much capital is employed, while directly and indirectly hundreds of workmen are engaged. So great indeed is this industry that we may briefly refer to some of the more important wine producing companies. The Urbana Wine Company was organized in 1865, having an original capital of $250,000. The present capital is $100,000. The extensive cellars are located on the west side of the lake, four miles below the village. Among the many and various grades of wine manufactured here may be specially mentioned the famed "Gold Seal," a purely dry wine much prized by epicures. The officers of the company are Harlo Hakes, president; D. M. Hildreth, vice president; H. A. Switzer, secretary; W. W. Allen, treasurer, and John W. Davis, general manager. It is only a just compliment to say that much of the success achieved by the Urbana Wine Company is due to the untiring efforts of Mr. Davis.

The Pleasant Valley Wine Company may be sufficiently introduced to the reader by the mere mention that at its cellars is manufactured the noted "Great Western," an exceedingly choice dry wine. The works are located at Rheims, a small hamlet and station on the line of the Bath and Hammondsport railroad, and less than two miles south of the village. This company was organized in 1860. Its officers are James Lyon, president; De Witt Bauder, secretary and treasurer, and Jules Masson, superintendent.

The Germania Wine Cellars are located between Hammondsport and Rheims, but, like the others, is regarded as a village industry. The proprietors here are Frey Brothers ( John and Gottlieb), who are owners of a large and well established plant Jacob Frey established the business of which this company is the outgrowth about thirty five years ago.

The cellars of the Columbia Wine Company are also located at Rheims, and are owned by Henry Frey and J. S. Hubbs. Here is conducted a large and successful business, though the industry itself is of more recent founding than some of those mentioned above.

The Hammondsport Wine Company is distinctly an industry of the village, and was incorporated October 24, 1880. Its capital is $50,000, and the output is justly noted for purity and general excellence. The officers of the company are Edwin S. Underhill, president; G. I. Allen, treasurer; G. H. Wheeler, secretary, and H. G. Layton, superintendent.

The Port Glen Wine Company's cellars are algo to be mentioned and are in all respects worthy of patronage. They are under the proprietorship of A. F. Bricout.

Auxiliary to these leading industries are several manufactories devoted to box, package and basket making, all furnishing employment to workingmen and women, and contributing in some degree to the general welfare. H. M. Champlin has a good roller flouring mill, with a capacity for the manufacture of fifty barrels of flour per day. Another flourishing industry is a broom factory, located just outside the village limits. On the inlet are a number of busy enterprises, chiefly box or basket factories, while" the latest acquisition up the stream is the State Fish Hatchery. For the convenience of the inhabitants living in the town south of the village post offices have been established at various places.

One is at Rheims, with DeWitt Bauder postmaster, while a second, still further up the stream, is called Taggart; John W. Kirkham, postmaster. In the village of Hammondsport is an excellent school, for the people of this town have ever been noted for generosity in the matter of affording proper education to the youth of the locality. A. reference to the town history will disclose the fact that as early as 1795, long before a village was thought of, Messrs. Reed, Stone and Baker were given by Charles Williamson fifty acres of land for the benefit of a public school. This tract was afterward deeded to trustees, this being one of the few towns in which the people received the full benefit of the donor's generosity. The first village school stood where St. James' church was built, and was erected in 1827. The academy was built in 1858, and and was afterward used by the district under the Union Free School system. The present members of the board are J. W. Keeler, Will S. Wood, J. S. Thorp, H. Y. Rose, H. J. Moore and Mrs. Matilda Bennett.

All branches of mercantile business appear to be well represented in Hammondsport, and there is little evidence of overcompetition. There are several hotels, the largest being the Fairchild House, near the landing. The others are the Steuben House, the Park Hotel and the Grand Central. At present the excise commissioners have granted eight village licenses. The merchants are Rothschild & Oloskey, clothiers; C. A. Champlin, general merchandise; George H. Keeler, hardware; Frank Crookston, grocer; George Vroom, grocer; Orson Brundage, grocer; John R. Brown, shoe dealer; Mr. Brough, clothier; James H. Smellie, druggist; L I. Rose & Son, dry goods; F. W. Fawcett, furniture dealer. At Lakeside the business men are George M. Chapman, grocer; H. J. Moore, druggist; E. K. Chapman, baker.

The Bank of Ham mondsport, as now known, is the outgrowth of a banking business started in the village in 1876 by H. C. Ainsworth, as a branch of a still older business in Prattsburg. At one time the firm of bankers was Ainsworth & Co. The bank was continued uninterruptedly until 1894, and was then purchased by John J. Frey and Aaron J. Pratt, by whom it is now conducted under the firm name of Frey & Pratt. The members of this firm are tried business men, prompt and reliable in all their transactions. Their office contains one of the best banking equipments in the county, and is provided with a remarkably secure safe and a correspondingly strong and firmly constructed vault.

The church history of Hammondsport is interesting and worthy of record, for a perusal of which the reader is directed to another department of this work, wherein will be found at least a brief sketch of each organized church society in the county.


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