History of Newfane , New York



This town was erected on March 20, 1824, its territory being taken from the older towns of Hartland, Somerset and Wilson. It lies on the lake shore and centrally in the northern tier of towns in the county. James Van Horn, a prominent citizen, gave the town its name. The surface of the town is generally level, and the soil mostly a sandy loam, with clay in some parts. Eighteen-mile Creek flows northward across the town, dividing it into two nearly equal parts.

The first town meeting was held at the house of James Van Horn, April 6, 1824, and the following officers elected:
Supervisor, James Wisner; town clerk, Jonathan Coomer; assessors, Cornelius Van Horn, Solomon C. Wright, and Jacob Aibright; collector, John B. McKnight; poormasters, Ezra Barnes, Zehulon Coates; commissioners of highways, Robert McKnight, Archibald McDonald, and Jacob Aibright; commissioners of common schools, Alexander Butterfield, John Warner, and Archibald McDonald: school inspectors, Simon Newcomb, jr., Peter Hess, Heman Pratt; constables, John McKnight, George Bennett.

These were nearly, all prominent residents of the new town at the time of its erection, many of them having settled in its early years. At the general election held in 1824, 119 votes were cast in this town for governor. The customary regulations were voted, among which was the imposition of a tine of $5 upon any person who might let Canada thistles go to seed on his land.

The supervisors of Newfane have been
1825-27, James Wisner 1828, Stephen Hays; 1829-31, James Van Horn; 1832, Stephen Hays; 1833. James Wismer; 1834, Cornelius Van Horn; 1835, John U. Pease; 1836-40, James Wisner; 1841, David Kemp; 1842-44. Henry A. Reynolds: 1845, James Wisner; 1846, John W. Pulver; 1847, James Van Horn, jr. ; 1848, John Henning; 1849-50, Peter McCollum; 1851, John Henning; 1852, Walter Shaw; 1853, John Henning; 1854, James Van Horn, jr. ; 1857-60, James Van Horn; 1861-62, John McCollum; 1S63-65, Marcellus Washburn; 1866-67, Alexander Campbell; 1868-69, Charles S. MeCollum: 1870. Ziba Richardson; 1871, John McCollum; 1872, Benjamin S. Laughlin: 1873-74, Anthony McKie; 1875-77, William V. Corwin: 1878, James A. McCollum; 1879, William V. Corwin; 1880-81, Phineas H. Corwin; 1882-83, T. Webster Hoyt; 1884-86, T. Marville Harwood: 1887, James D. Lockwood: 1888-90, James A. McCollum; 1891-94, William Shaw; 1895-98, George E. Shaw.

The present (1897) town officers are:
John F. Beers, town clerk; L. A. Myers, C. B. Tompkins, A. H. Lee, and James D. Lockwood, justices of the peace; James A. Martin, overseer of the poor; John Dowding, highway commissioner; William T. Wilson, Edward A. Mix. and Charles Anderson, assessors; Charles B. Enderton, collector.

The territory of this town was the theater of important historical events that took place long before the town was erected, and like all of the lake shore territory, was settled early in the present century. William Chambers and John Brewer came from Canada in 1807 and settled at or near the mouth of Eighteen-mile Creek. In 1825 Mr. Chambers attempted to cross Niagara River above the falls in a skiff and was drawn into the rapids and carried over the precipice. A man named Cotton, of whom little is known, also came into the town in 1809.

In 1808 Burgoyne Kemp and Peter Hopkins arrived in this town; James Wisner, the first supervisor, and William and James Wisner, in 1810, and Levi Lewis in 1811. There were a number of other settlers in the northern or central parts before the war broke out, as noticed further on, most or all of whom fled before the British and their red allies. In the raid of the enemy along the lake shore in 1813 an incident took place in which the bravery of a woman saved her furniture and part of the flour in the Van Horn mill, which structure was burned. A sergeant with a squad of men was sent up Eighteen-mile Creek to burn the mill and the dwellings of the few settlers. Arriving at the house of Joseph Pease, a little north of the mill, the officer told Mrs. Pease to move her furniture out of the house, as he was ordered to destroy the building. She was forced to comply and after carrying out their little store of household articles, she asked the officer to aid her in removing two barrels of brandy which were concealed in a potato hole under the floor. The officer consented and in doing so, he and his men took a drink from a barrel and followed it with several others. The fumes of the brandy, as they frequently do, inspired feelings of generosity toward the woman who had given them access to the barrels. and they went away leaving her building standing, and also at her request released her son, Enoch. who was their prisoner, and also permitted his brother to save several barrels of flour from the burning mill.

With the close of the conflict, some of those who had fled returned to continue the improvement of their homes, and new settlers arrived in many localities. Among these were Benjamin Coomer, who settled in the western part, where a hamlet and post-office perpetuates the name of the family at the present time. Benjamin Haisted, Benjamin Stout and others settled in the north part; James McClew and the McKie and Patterson families along Eighteen-mile Creek; Alvin Buck and Solomon C \Vright in the south part; James Hess and Ira Tompkins in the east part. The official list of the town contains the names of several other prominent citizens of early years, among them Jonathan Coomer, Elisha and Almeron Newman, Nathaniel Church, James D. Cooper, Stephen Hays, James Van Horn and Cornelius Van Horn, John Pease, David Kemp, Henry A. Reynolds; many others are noticed in Part III.

To facilitate communication several important highways were opened across the territory of this town The so-called Coomer road was established very early by Benjamin Coomer; it extends south from the hake, about parallel with the west line of the town. It is on this road that the post office of Coorner is situated. Mr. Coomer died in 1817.

The well known Hess road was laid out in 1821 by the highway commissioners, and Peter Hess assisted in clearing the roadway, as also did his brother James Hess. The road extends from the lake road on the north nearly parallel with the east line of the town southward to the town line, and about three-quarters of a mile from the east line.

What is known as the Creek road extends from Wright's Corners, in the town of Lockport near the southern boundary of Newfane to near the central part of the latter town where it strikes Eighteen mile Creek, which it follows to Olcott, on the Lake road in the north part of the town. This road was opened as early as 1809.

The Ewing road extends along the west side of Eighteen-mile Creek from the Lake road southerly, following the creek a few miles and on in a southerly direction into Lockport.

The Lake road extends across the north end of the town, nearly parallel with the lake shore, and on eastward across the county.

A bridge of wood was erected across Eighteen. mile Creek at Olcott in 1825 by contract with Gen. James Wisner; it cost $500. It was taken down in 1878 and the present iron bridge substituted. There are many other minor bridges across that stream in the town.

The land on which a part of the pretty village of Olcott stands, near the mouth of Eighteen mile Creek, was owned in 1808 by William Chambers, who later sold to Benjamin Haisted. On the east side of the stream it was owned by Burgoyne Kemp, who gave the hamlet that gathered there the name of Kern pvi lie. J. D. Cooper was a later owner on this side of the creek, and he was instrumental in laying out the early village and selling lots. William Chambers and John Brewer built their log housesof 1807 at what became the corner of Lockport and Main streets, and the next year Burgoyne Kemp built a double log structure a little northwest from the site of the later Grove House in Olcott. Up to 1810 Chambers's, Kemp's and Brewer's were the only buildings east of the creek. In that year Ahbright, the Wisners and others settled on that side on the lake road. Between this road and the Ridge was then still a dense wilderness and no settlers had located for some miles to the eastward excepting Mr. Fitts, of Somerset.

In 1809 Mr. Hopkins built his log house near the mouth of Hopkins's Creek, and about 1811 Benjamin Hahsted built at the mouth of Eighteen-mile Creek. Martin Burch, one of the pioneers, built the first frame house in town, which stood on the Lake road. James Van Horn built the first brick house on the Creek road, one and a half miles south of Olcott. The first frame barn was built opposite the Cooper House in 1814.

In 1812 Asa Douglass opened a small store at Olcott, then called Kempville, and in 1816 was succeeded by John Eddy. Another early store was conducted by Boyce & Falwell. In 1821 Archibald McDonald opened a store. Soon after the building of the Van Horn mills he opened a store at that point.

Benjamin Halsted opened the first tavern at Olcott (Kempville) about 1812, in the double log house before mentioned. It stood on the site of the present Cooper House. He was succeeded as landlord by Brady, Harris, Nichols and William D. Cooper, who built the Cooper House. In 1819 Dr. Alexander Butterfield, who was the first resident physician and settled at Olcott in 1814, kept a tavern in a building opposite the Cooper House site. Dr. Butterfield was an early justice of the peace, had a large medical practice during his long life, and died in 1867. Asa Douglass also kept a tavern for a time in the early years.

The well known Van Horn mills of early times were begun in i8io by Levi Ellis, who came in from Seneca county. Before he had completed the dam Mr. Ellis and nearly all of his workmen were attacked with fever and ague and returned to their homes. James Van Horn then finished the mills and placed them in operation ; these were both saw and grist mills. The British learned of the existence of the mills and set up the claim that they were being operated for the benefit of the government. A sergeant and a 'squad of soldiers were sent to destroy them, which they did, as before related. The mills were rebuilt in 1817 by Mr Van Horn, only to be burned in 1839. They were promptly rebuilt on the. site and in recent years were fitted with improved machinery for flouring business. About 1894 the mills were torn down.

Ira Tompkins built a grist mill on Eighteen-mile Creek, about six miles from its mouth, in 1869; this site was occupied in early years by a more primitive mill, which went to ruins before the Tompkins mill was built. This mill was washed away in a freshet. The site is now occupied by the Anderson grist mill, which w'as also built by Mr. Tompkins. The grist mill at Charlotte (Newfane post-office), about four miles south of Olcott and in the central part of the town, was built in 1835. It is now operated by William Collins. Burgoyne Kemp built a grist mill in 1814 near the mouth of Honeoye Creek, east of Olcott; it went to decay and out of use about 1835.

A saw mill was built in 1811 by Jacob Albright, on Keg Creek, a little south of the Lake Road. It was burned by the British in 1813 and rebuilt by Mr. Albright. In 1827 there was a saw mill on Honeoye Creek, east of Olcott. Shubal S. Merritt had a saw mill on Keg Creek north of the Lake road in 1827. There was a saw mill also at the grist mill of Ira Tompkins and another at Charlotte.

The only tannery ever operated in this town was owned by John D. Cohler about 1820; it stood on the west side of Eighteen-mile Creek. It was not operated long.

Among other prominent residents of the town, past and present, may be mentioned the following:
Nathaniel Swartwout, Jonathan Coomer, Elisha Newman, Nathaniel Church, Almeron Newman, James Van Horn, jr., Abraham Smith, George Mann, Daniel Dix, I. B. Ransom, Anthony McKee, Daniel T. Odell, I. W. Allen, Jeremiah Angevine, Henry Betzler. Jacob and Moses Bixier, O. C. Boardwell, William Bradshaw, George W. Brown, Alvin and Fernando Capen, Josiah Chapman, George Chase, George E. Clark, Peter Collins, P. H. Corwin, William V. Corwin, John Coulter, William S. Dailey, David Demorest, James Dickinson, P. T. Dix, John Dowding, Herman S. Earle, William H. Haight, Irving Haisted, Morris and Oliver Haisted, John Henning, Walter S. Hill, M. H. Jaques, Michael Kinsella, Peter and Henry Krupp, Albert H. Lee, Jacob Lentz, Charles W. Lindsay, James D. Lockwood, William H. and Jesse O. Lockwood, Charles and Eugene MeClew, J. A. and Charles S. MeCollum, T. J. McKee, Frank A. McKnight, Philip H. Meseroll, Henry and Peter D. Miller, Charles Newman, Peter Phillips, Andrew H. and Charles Rood, Franklin and Homer D. Shaver, Horace C. Smith, C. J. Spalding, William H. Staats, Martin V. and Dolphin E. Stout. James A. Tice, Benjamin C. Warren, Daniel and Edward Wilson, Robert D. Wilson, Stephen S. Wilson, William T. Wilson, R. M. Matthews (keeper of the lighthouse at Olcott.)

The village of Olcott (formerly Kempville) is pleasantly situated at the mouth of Eighteen-mile Creek on the lake shore. No more attractive site could be found for a village than this. It has one of the best harbors on the lake, is a port of entry, with a custom house. Two extensive piers, one on either side of the mouth of the creek, have been built out into the lake, by the United States government, to a distance of over 8oo feet, providing safe harbor facilities for large vessels. This work was done between 1870 and 1877, at a cost of about $200,000. Mortimer C. Swarthout, who has been postmaster at Olcott since 1893, was for nine years inspector of the harbor improvements here, at Wilson, and other points along the lake front. The improvement of this harbor was due originally to the enterprise of James D. Cooper, who built a pier and warehouse on the east side. On the outer end of the present west pier is situated the government lighthouse, the light in which is fifty feet from the water. A line of steamers running to various lake ports stops at this place. The early settlement of this village was promoted by James D. Cooper, who came into possession of the land on the east side of the creek, which he surveyed into lots and sold at prices that brought in settlers. Nearly all the business of the village has always been conducted on that side of the stream. The first post-office in the town was opened here as early as 1817, with Dr. Alexander Butterfield postmaster. The early mails were brought from Hartland Corners by any one who happened to be going there on other business. Besides the early business places in this village, which have been mentioned, Thomas Armstrong began blacksmithing here in 1814. Although the business operations of James Van Horn were not directly in this village, they were near by and closely identified with it. He established a woolen factory in 1842, on the creek south of his mills; this was closed in 1874. He also operated a distillery in 1825, near his home. The first physician in Olcott was Dr. Alexander Butterfield, who located there in 1814 and died November 19, 1867. His wife died about thirty minutes afterward. Dr. John Warren came in very early and died May 24, 1834. Henry Reynolds was a merchant here many years. The present merchants are Lombard Brothers (George F. and Charles L.), Charles F. Shaw, Silas Noble (succeeded recently by Nelson Shaver), and Abram Diamond.

The hamlet of Charlotte, now Newfane post-office, was named by George R. Davis, the former owner of the land on which it stands, from his daughter Charlotte. It is situated four miles from Olcott on Eighteen-mile Creek Arthur Patterson opened a hotel here in 1823. The early mills here have been noticed. The Charlotte Woolen mills were built in 1863 by Niles & Van Ostrand, who operated them until i866, when they were succeeded by H. B. Gulick. Swift, Osgood & Co. purchased the property, and it subsequently passed through the possession of several persons and firms. It is now used for manufacturing felt goods by the Lockport Felt Company.

The business of manufacturing baskets was started here a number of years ago by Shaw & Vincent, and is-now conducted on quite a large scale by the Newfane Basket Manufacturing Company, of which S. D. Redman is president, R. D. Wilson, secretary; and C J. Miller, treasurer. The company also has a saw and planIng mill.

Among the old merchants of the place were L. A. Bristol, J. J. B. Spooner, William S. Pike, Amelia Follett, and Charles Mason. The latter was succeeded by E. M. Dutton. Mr. Dutton and Beers & Shaw now have general stores and D. R. Maxwell is postmaster.

Coomer post-office (formerly Coomer Road), is situated in the west part on the Coomer road, and was established in February, 1863, with Theodore M. Titus, postmaster.

Newfane Station post office is on the railroad one and a half miles south of Olcott, and was established in August, 1876, with J. H. Mandeville, postmaster.

The post-office of Appleton, situated at the junction of the railroad with the old Hess road, was originally established as Hess Road. In 1896 it was changed to Appleton. F. H. Ferguson was one of the earliest postmasters. John G. Swigert has a general store; among other business men of the place are Frederick Ferguson, Ira Dickson, and Henry Betzler.

Ridge Road post-office is located on the Ridge road in the southeast part of the town. The merchants there are William Reed and Harvey Wakeman.

Wright's Corners is a hamlet in the south edge of the town, lying mainly in the town of Lockport. Alvin Buck opened a log tavern there in 1817 and in 1823 was succeeded by Solomon C. Wright, who served as postmaster for forty-five years.

The first school in this town was opened at what is now Olcott in 1815 and was taught by Bezaleel Smith. In 1816 a log school house was built in what later became district No. 4, and Martin Burch taught there. There were educated among others of this town, F. Newton Albright, Benjamin Stout, Asa Coates, Shubal S. Merritt, Charles Halsted, Ransom Halsted, Silas Mead, and others.

A meeting of the first school commissioners of the town was held April 19, 1824 at which the town was divided into eight school districts. This number was gradually increased until 1860, when there were sixteen. At the present time there are eighteen with a school house in each.

The first burial place in the town was located on the west bank of Keg Creek, on what became the farm of Stephen Wilson. A burying ground was opened at Olcott as early as 1817.

It was known that there were religious services held in this town as early as 1816 by a Methodist itinerant named Mairs, and that Baptist services were held in 1812 by Rev. Jehiel Wisner, who was later connected with a church here. The Methodist services were generally held

in the house of Silas Mead, until church buildings were erected. Probably the first church society organized in the town was the Methodist at Olcott, where a class was in existence in 1815 ; Samuel Lockwood is believed to have been the first leader. On the 29th of October, 1832, Nathaniel Church deeded to the society the lot on which the church edifice was erected in the next year. The first trustees were William Henderson, Samuel Lockwood, Nathaniel Pease, Enoch Pease, Abram Phillips, Nathaniel Corey and Talcott Merwin.

The Methodist church at Charlotte was organized April 22, 1844, a class having been formed at Adams's Mills twelve years earlier; James Matthews was the leader of that class. Meetings were held in the log school house in that locality until 1842, when they were transferred to Charlotte, with Rev. W. D. Buck in charge. Upon the full organization of the church the trustees chosen were James McKinney, George Steele, Walter Shaw, Reuben Godfrey, Samuel C. Brown, Oliver Lewis and Daniel Shaw. The present stone church edifice was erected in 1844, the site having been donated by George R. Davis.

The First Baptist Church of Newfane was organized May 27, 1829, with twenty-five members, and with Elder Jehiel Wisner as pastor. The early meetings were held at the school house near Judge Van Horn's and in private houses. The pulpit was supplied for about a year, when Elder Amos Reed became the settled pastor. In 1835 the public services were transferred to Olcott, which caused a temporary division in the society; the factions were reunited in 1839. The present cobblestone church edifice was erected in Charlotte during the pastorate of Elder Burtt, who came in 1842; the building was repaired and improved in 1856.

A society of Wesleyan Methodists was organized at Olcott in 1849 with about ten members, and William Henderson as the first class leader. In the next year a modest church edifice was built of cobblestone. The first regular preacher was Asa Warren.

The First Universalist church of Olcott was organized in April, 1858, with forty-two members. The present brick church building was erected in the same year. The first pastor was Rev. R. H. Pullman, and the first trustees were James D. Cooper, Benjamin Stout and A. T. Lane.

St. Bridget's Roman Catholic church, on the Ewing road in the southwest part of the town, was organized in June, 1859, under direction of Rev. Thomas Shehan. An acre of land was donated to the society by John Mulloy and the edifice was dedicated November 30, 1859.

The Roman Catholic church at Olcott was built about 1884. It is a frame structure.

The Free Methodist church at Charlotte was erected about 1886, a society having been organized a few years before.

The Wesleyan Methodists have a frame church on the Hess road, between Appleton and Ridge Road, that was built more than twenty years ago.

The Methodist church, situated on the west side of the creek in Olcott, was erected about 1834, the builders being Ira Tompkins and Nathaniel Swarthout.

The Presbyterian church of Wright's Corners was organized May 12, 1872, with thirty members. In 1873 the society erected abrick edifice, which was dedicated January 29, 1874. The site was donated by Miss Janette Henning.

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