History of West Union, 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

WEST UNION. - On the 25th day of April, 1845, the State Legislature divided the town of Greenwood, and taking substantially township one, of range six, erected it into a separate jurisdiction under the name of West Union. Then, and now, the new creation contained 23,900 acres of land, being nearly as large as the mother township from which it was formed. It was the design of the promoters of the new town scheme to adopt the name Green, in allusion to the mother town, but as Chenango county had a" town named Greene the petition was changed and the name of Union adopted. This also was found to be in conflict with the name of an existing town in Broome county, therefore West Union was accepted as the designation of the new formation.

The town occupies a position in the extreme southwest corner of the county, Pennsylvania line being its south boundary with the Allegany county line on the west. Rexville, the only village of any note in the town, is distant thirty miles from Bath and nineteen miles from Hornellsville. The land surface is hilly and broken, the highest summits being about 2,500 feet above tidewater. Bennett's Creek is the principal stream. The soil is a heavy, slaty loam.

The pioneer settlement of the town of West Union, then, however, known as Troupsburg, was begun about the year 1821, when Abraham V. Olmstead came from Delaware county and made a clearing on the site of the present village of Rexville. Later on Mr. Olmstead erected the first tavern in the town, and his son Walter B. was born November 4, 1823. also the first event of its kind in the town. About the same time, probably in 1821, came Jonathan and John Mattison and David Davis, and located in the east part. The other pioneers were William Burger, also from Delaware county, Frederick Hauber from Pennsylvania, Uriah and B. Ingley, Vencent Compton and his sons William and Vincent, Adam Young, William Bray, John Wiley, William Fisher,

Benjamin Wilkes, William and Ephraim Young, Henry Young, Daniel Hamilton, David Baker, Stephen Boyd and others whose names are now forgotten. Henry Young settled at West Union Corners. John Wiley settled near where the hamlet of Wileysville was afterward built up.

In the north part of West Union there settled about the year 1840 a number of hardworking Irishmen, from whose coming there eventually grew a strong settlement. Among the first of them were John Sheehan, Dennis Malone, Luke Fox and others. Some of the later settlers in the town at large were Philip Failing, Mr. Bigelow, Abel Mattison, David Sherman (the pioneer dairyman of West Union, and also first supervisor of the town) Alvin Chapin, Alexander Keenan, Daniel Hamilton, Charles and Daniel Rexford and others now forgotten.

It is a well known fact that settlement in this particular locality was materially delayed, a large share of the land being owned in England and by heirs who were under age, The settlers in this township in 1830 were somewhat affected by the distress prevailing among the occupants of the Pulteney and Hornby estates, but at that time this territory formed a part of Troupsburg, and the settlers in that town were the most active in all local proceedings. The delegates to the Bath convention were Samuel Cady, Samuel Griggs, Joshua Slayter, Jesse Wilden and Nathan S. Hayes.

Referring briefly to the first events of town history we may mention that Walter B. Olmstead was the first white child born; Abram Olmstead kept the first tavern in a log house on the village site; the first marriage was that of John Hauber and Jane K. Hauber, May i8, 1832; Uriah Stephens taught the first school, about 183o; Jesse Jones and Dr. Cyrus Knight were about the first storekeepers; John Wiley built the first saw and grist mill in 1849-50.

The erection and organization of a new town in the southwestern part of Steuben county was an absolute necessity. In the old town of Greenwood, the center of population and business lay in the northern part of that jurisdiction, and nearly all the principal officers chosen for the town also lived in the same locality. The result was the inhabitants of what is now West Union were denied privileges and improvements to which they were justly entitled. This being the case, the residents in the neglected locality petitioned for the erection of a new town, and West Union was the result of that action. The first election of town officers was held at the house of John Hauber on May 6, 1845. The officers elected were David Sherman, supervisor; Moses Forbes, town clerk; Jeremiah B. Millard, Cornelius Rosa and William H. Olmstead, justices of the peace; David Collins, Peter A. McLean and Marcina Cummings, assessors; Jeremiah B. Millard, Jeremiah Ingley and Alvin Chapin, commissioners of highway; Thomas F. Hubbard and Henry B. Baker, overseers of the poor; Walter B. Olmstead, collector.

David Sherman held the office of supervisor twelve years, and Moses Forbes was town clerk for six years. A succession of the several town officers would be interesting in this connection, but unfortunately in 1881, at the time the cheese factory was burned, the town records were also destroyed.

The officers for the year 1895 are as follows: W. P. Cary, supervisor; U. E. Vanfleet, town clerk; A. W. Barney, George Dennison and Andrew Boucher, justices of the peace; Palmer Warfield, Norman Haseltine and Josiah Sanders, assessors; Hiram Barney, collector; Philip R. Sanders, overseer of the poor; Archie McAllister, highway commissioner; David Smith, John Lewis and William Anderson, commissioners of excise.

West Union had a population of 1,150 in 1892. When organized in 1845 the inhabitants numbered 539. Five years later the number was 950, and in 1860 had increased to 1,392, the greatest population in the town's history. In 1870 the number was reduced to 1,264, and in 1880 was 1,271. The population in 1890 was 1,167.

Among the civil divisions of Steuben county, this town has not occupied a position of special prominence, nor have her inhabitants ever sought to establish a condition of things other than for their own general welfare and for the benefit of their descendants. Still, the region is the comfortable abiding place of a hardy, thrifty and persevering class of people, whose chief pursuits in life is agriculture, while lumbering for many years has also engaged the attention of a strong contingent of the local population. In fact, in this part of the county settlement was much delayed and not until within a comparatively recent period have the lands been generally cleared; and even now there still remains considerable areas of excellent timber lands. In farm crops the land yields well in return to proper cultivation, while the dairy products of West Union are recognized as standard throughout the county. But notwithstanding the disadvantages of location and the many other obstacles which the inhabitants of West Union have had to contend against, they have ever shown themselves to be a loyal and patriotic people. During the period of the war of the Rebellion the loyalty of the people displayed itself, and we find that the town sent to the service a total of sixty men. They were divided among several regiments, principally the 86th, the 107th and the 141st.

During the period of its history, there has been built up in the town one small yet progressive village, known as Rexville, and two other settlements of less note, and known respectively as West Union and Wileyville. West Union is but a post office station in the northwest corner of the town, postmaster, Alvin C. Barney. Wileyville is in the southwest corner of the town, the postmaster, also merchant, being Frederick Stebbins, The village of Rexville, and also its churches, will be mentioned in another department of this work.


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