Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time
by Marion Thomas


If one pauses today at the four corners in Smith Mills, he will see on the northeast corner a huge native boulder with a bronze tablet inset, bearing this inscription:

“Birthplace of Mary Smith Lockwood 1831-1922, Pen Founder of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Erected by Benjamin Prescott, Ellicott, Jamestown, Major Benjamin Bosworth and Patterson Chapters, 1940.”

When this memorial was dedicated, several hundred persons were present, not only the Regents and members of the five Chautauqua County chapters of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution which had given it but representatives from all parts of the county and many from the state and the national capital.

The Regent General of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mrs. Henry Roberts, Jr. of Annapolis, Maryland, accepted the marker for the National Society. Mrs. George Duffy of Fort Plains, New York, State Regent, accepted for the state and Supervisor Hall Clothier accepted it for the Town of Hanover, adding these words, “We pledge watchful care of it.”

The pledge has been kept; care has been taken of this marker, and it stands today to perpetuate the name of Mary Smith Lockwood and the cause to which she gave so much of her life.

Mary Smith Lockwood was born in 1831 to Henry and Beulah Blodgett Smith, granddaughter of Isaac Smith, the original settler from whose mill the sparse little community took its name. She grew up in Smith Mills and had such education as was available in the Town of Hanover in that day of native slate and quill pens. She was very interested in education, avid for books, and in her more mature years taught school in Brocton, New York. She was well-known in all this vicinity and much enjoyed by her contemporaries.

After her marriage to Henry Lockwood whose father was Silver Creek’s first  apothecary, hers was a very definite social position in both Silver Creek and Buffalo. In Washington, which was to be her home for over 50 years, she became interested in some of the progressive movements that were beginning to gently stir in the minds of women.

In the 1880’s when there was little for women outside the home, her activities and accomplishments were of far reaching importance, particularly in furthering the welfare of womankind. She espoused the cause of women’s rights and was a close friend and advisor of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, well-known national figures. As a newspaper contributor, she not only expressed herself forcibly on this subject but began to subtly sow the seed which was germinating in her mind and which was one day to blossom in the founding of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1890. For this reason, she was known as the Pen Founder of the Organization. The first meeting was held in 1890 in Mrs. Lockwood’s home.

It was the mind of Mary Smith Lockwood which first conceived the idea of this National Headquarters and promoted it until it became a reality with the laying of the corner stone in 1904. Though built by the National Society of the D.A.R. for the annual Congresses, due to both the size and the excellent acoustics of its tremendous auditorium, it soon became the cultural and educational center of the National Capital. What a contribution to the Nation’s Capital!

Mrs. Mary Smith Lockwood was a most unusual woman, with her sparkling mind and unfailing graciousness. She was a well-known Washington hostess and many of the Capital’s most distinguished personages, as well as international guests, were familiar figures in her drawing room.

After a long, unusual and significant life of important accomplishments, Mary Smith Lockwood, native daughter of the Town of Hanover, died in 1922 in Plymouth, Massachusetts — Honorary Chaplain General and Honorary Vice President General of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Published February 1966


Despite a deep-seated love of God and the life-long custom of attending worship, it was many a year before the pioneers’ thoughts could be turned to a place for worship only. To subdue the wilderness sufficiently and to achieve a clearing for the planting of corn demanded all their time and energy. Their minds were free to worship only as they toiled.

Had there been churches in that faraway day, to whom would they have turned for leadership where no emissary of the Gospel had as yet penetrated to the western territory? They worshiped where and as they could, two or three meeting together in prayer. From such tiny beginnings came the established church edifices of many years later, some of which were to remain through the years as a memorial to their early founders.

There were sources from which were to come some very able preachers and earnest evangelists. The Congregational Connecticut Missionary Society was one, and it is due to its faithful agencies that the first sermon was preached in the Reserve. This sermon was delivered over the body of one “late lament me Henry” in 1803 by a Rev. Joseph Badger, a missionary located in Erie. A second service was the Presbyterian General Assembly, and to this body goes the distinction of the first appointed minister. Robert Patterson, ordained at a Presbyterian meeting in Erie, Pennsylvania, was assigned to preach at the Crossroads (Westfield) for a quarter of a year, the services to be maintained the rest of the year by the use of printed sermons supplied by the assembly.

The most beloved and the most frequently welcomed representatives of religion were the faithful Baptist itinerant missionary and the legendary Methodist circuit rider. They devoted selfless lives of hardship and unbelievable endurance to the carrying of the Gospel through the early Chautauqua wilderness, risking their lives as they rode over Indian trails, beset by bears and wildcats, their axes, Bibles, and hymn books ever with them.

The first Methodist circuit formed by the Philadelphia Conference to meet the needs of the new country opened up by the Holland Land Company, was called “Holland Purchase” and embraced all the state of New York west of Genesee. A Reverend George Lane was appointed over the circuit and the first Methodist “class” in the Chautauqua area was organized in Sheridan by Lane in 1808-9. Another was organized in Silver Creek in 1812 with Artemis Clothier and Norman Spink as members. The best known of the Baptist missionaries was Reverend Frink, who during his years of indefatigable service baptized over six hundred.

The preaching service was the early settler’s religious inspiration, and more: his emotional outlet, his intellectual stimulus, his one form of entertainment and social intercourse. The coming of the preacher was an event of greatest moment. The news was heralded with speed from cabin to cabin, and the settlers were there to a man. They gathered where best they could, in cabin, shed, barn, school, or in the great outdoors when season permitted. From these early missionary efforts grew the church organizations which were to influence the life and the future of their respective communities.

The year 1808-1809 seems to have been the time that was ripe for the first organizing of churches: the Baptist Church of Chautauqua (really Stockton), the Presbyterian Church of Westfield, and the Baptist Church of Fredonia. The Stockton Church consisted of nine members and paid a salary of thirty dollars for half a year. In twelve years it increased twelve fold but by its own act was dissolved. In consequence, the Westfield Presbyterian and the Fredonia Baptist are the oldest churches in existence in the county. The Westfield Presbyterian Church was organized by a missionary, Reverend John Lindsley, sent out by the Presbyterian Assembly of Genesee. This church fell into decline but was revived in 1817.

The Fredonia Baptist group was the result of a covenant meeting held for two or three years under the leadership of Walter Cushing. It was organized by a council held in Mr. Cushing’s barn, the largest assembling place in Fredonia. Mr. Cushing was made a deacon and later a preacher. This brave man’s moral courage and intelligence were transmitted to this church as well as to his grandson of later years, the hero of the Merrimac and Albermarle historic episode.

These, then, were the two church societies which not only survived the rugged days of the first pioneer period and the hazards of the second but had the vitality to withstand the trials and vices of all the years.

In the following year, 1809, the Methodist Church of the county was organized in Sheridan with Reverend Billy Brown as its first pastor. The Reverend Spencer, who was by far the most distinguished missionary of pioneer days, organized a Congregational Church in Sheridan in 1809 and a Presbyterian Church in Fredonia in 1810. After nineteen years in Sheridan he focused his efforts on other settlements, ending his days in Busti in 1826. At his request he was buried in Sheridan. It is said that never having time to be alone, his only opportunity for study was when making his solitary way through the woods on horseback. During such hours, he read the Bible eight times.

The next church organized was the Baptist Church of Nashville in 1811, the first church in the Town of Hanover.

The year 1812 seems to have been a rich one for the Methodist Church, one being organized in Fredonia, another in Villenova, and still another in Charlotte.

Jamestown’s first church, the Congregational, was organized in 1816 and Forestville’s first church, the Baptist, in 1817. Stockton’s and Panama’s Baptist churches were also formed that same year. The First Free Methodist Church appeared in Portland in 1819 and, interestingly enough, in Portland appeared the Universalist Church in 1821. Portland, evidently, was not settled by conservatives alone, hide bound and shackled by doctrine. Independent thinkers, they did not hesitate to depart from orthodoxy.

The first Episcopal Church in the county was formed in 1820 when Trinity Episcopal Church of Fredonia was organized. St. Paul’s of Mayville is the second and the only Mayville church mentioned in the Pioneer Period. During 1825 appears the record of a Christian Church in Delanti making in all thirty-five church organizations in the county, representing eight denominations. Few, if any of these earliest church groups consisted of more than twelve members, some as few as six.

The barn, as has already been noted, had its place in the growth of these religious bodies, as did the crude schoolhouse and the tavern. Actual church buildings were slow to materialize. These earliest structures in their extreme simplicity were more or less uniform, a one-storied, single room, unadorned rectangular building. This simple structure was not without its practical advantages. The hand-hewn beams and hand-pegged timbers, the result of logging and raising “bees”, promised to stand firm against wind and weather. This was a fine symmetrical basic form to which with the years and prosperity, could be added more high narrow windows in the long side walls, pillars to dignify the entrance, a square cupola to proclaim to the world the building’s undeniable significance, as well as its own intentions of one day becoming a steeple. All this could be accomplished progressively without affecting the basic structure itself. The Sheridan Methodist Church was typical of this earliest American ecclesiastical architecture, with its open horse shed extending at right angles to the building at the rear. After long years of service and building progression, it was content to end its days in 1926 when it gave way to the needs of the present century and was replaced by the modern church edifice on the same site.

Few are the original church buildings in Chautauqua County today. Fire or convenience has demanded their being replaced, but there are still to be found a few buildings with a claim to history and a very few which are the originals.

The Westfield Presbyterian is not the primitive plank meeting house erected in 1821 on South and Portage Streets. That was sold and moved to Pearl Street for a dwelling. The new brick building erected on the present site was destroyed by fire and likewise two succeeding churches. The red brick American Gothic, very steep, gaunt, austere building which looks out aloofly over the Westfield Common of today was dedicated in 1879, a replica of the building burned a year earlier.

Zattus Cushing’s Baptist Church in Fredonia is a fine old building, cubically rectangular, simple in lines and symmetrical in proportions with its high narrow windows and its truncated spire atop an octagonal shuttered cupola, masking clock dials in two sections. This church was not dedicated until 1853, a mere youngster compared with the original little meeting house built in 1823, a whole generation earlier. This building out-ages the present Westfield church by twenty-six years and is, in its own rights, a truly historic church, but not the original.

The Presbyterian Church of Fredonia, though organized in 1810, did not achieve a church building until 1835. The present building, dated 1874, bespeaks age a plenty with its sharp peaks and severe angles. But the very features which out mode it today eloquently proclaim it as modern from the standpoint of a pioneer church.

Trinity in Fredonia was the first Episcopal Church in this county. The church society was organized in 1820, but it had no building until 1835. A school house served as a place of worship until a red brick rectangular building was erected overlooking the Common. There its services were conducted until fire destroyed all but the outer wall. The church was rebuilt on a larger and more pretentious scale in 1926. The church today is on the original site, but the structure as such is very much the product of the present century.

The Fredonia Baptist Church building has a ribbon of continuity binding it to the society’s first beginnings. Marvelous stained glass memorial windows perpetuate the names of founders and earliest members dating back to 1804. It may not be an original, but it is truly an historic church, not by years only, but in achievement. In this building one reads on a bronze tablet, “In this church on December 5, 1873, two hundred eight crusaders met, organized and became the first Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of the world”.

In our Township of Hanover there are no churches built before 1825. Though the Methodist Church of Silver Creek dates its foundation as a “class” in 1812, there was no building until 1848. For those twenty-four years this group held its services in the old Patchen schoolhouse on Main Street. The church built in 1848 was abandoned for a larger modern structure in 1888. This was destroyed by fire in 1921, was succeeded on the same site by the modern brick edifice.

The Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, now the First United Church, had its beginnings in 1831 in Oliver Lee’s barn with thirteen members under Reverend Grey and Reverend Timothy Stillman of the Buffalo Presbytery. Within a year the church building was underway and was completed in 1834, on land given for the purpose by Oliver Lee. Improvements and additions were made to this church, but the basic structure remains intact. The original features and beauty are preserved. As typical of New England as any church in Vermont or Massachusetts, this church is the oldest original church edifice existing in the county.

To Irving goes the distinction of having the second oldest original church in the township, the Methodist Church built in 1836. This meeting house built in progressive stages reached completion in the form as it stands today. It is typical of the Methodist plan for their earliest buildings and is eloquent of the period it represents.

Hanover Center’s little white meeting house, more authentic than any in the township, stands in its original location at the crossroads. Its burying ground is easily visible in the near distance. It was built in 1851 as a Baptist Church by the earlier generations of the families which for many years attended and supported it. It has been raised within recent years to provide a basement, dining room, and kitchen, but the church itself remains unchanged on a new foundation. It is picturesque in both its simplicity and rural setting and is historical mainly as the first church organization in the Town of Hanover, “the Nashville Class of 1811”. During the intervening forty years its members convened in barn, schoolhouse or both.

The First Baptist Church, Nashville, was erected on land reportedly the gift of the Gidley Family. It is one of Hanover’s landmarks, conspicuously at the center of the township.

Forestville’s first church organization was a Baptist congregation dating back to 1817. Its thirty members paid thirty dollars a year in produce, not currency. The first meeting house built in 1825 was destroyed by fire in 1859 together with all its records. The stately aging Baptist Church of today with its excellent lines, handmade bricks, and two tiered cupola dates back to the Civil War.

The same holds true of the Methodist Church of Forestville. Its cornerstone bears the date of 1861. It, too, belongs to the Civil War era.

The Episcopal Church is Forestville’s one original church building. That simple, dignified chapel which invites attention for its chaste simplicity and early unpretentious architecture is the original, built and dedicated in 1860, and sponsored by the Fredonia Church. The names of the early families on the memorial windows, include the second settler of the Town of Hanover.

The churches of Villenova, Nashville (once a part of Hanover), the Baptist Church of Irving built in 1837, and Smith Mill’s well known “Emory Gage Chapel” built in 1856, are striking examples of the prevailing second pioneer period. How sad to see them standing in disuse! These are churches with a history and original buildings with the township’s progress chartered in their storied walls.

These then are the old churches of the county representing the first missionary movement in the newly opened “Western Territory”. Hanover Township’s heritage of four original churches is indeed rich in proportion to the few left in the whole county. They are Silver Creek Presbyterian, 1833; Irving Methodist, 1836; Hanover Center’s First Hanover Baptist Church, 1851; and Forestville’s St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 1860.

Published November 1952


The organization of the Presbyterian Church of Silver Creek is presumed to be October 28, 1831, but the absence of records for the first sixteen years presents a difficulty. Silver Creek was a hamlet of some twenty-five or thirty families, almost all of whom lived along one street, and nearly all of whom knew the full value of a dollar earned. The forest had not been wholly cut away on the south side of Main Street, and on the other side of the street were only five or six dwellings. Central Avenue was still one broad meadow.

Though the community had been served by various itinerant ministers during the formative years, the first stated Presbyterian ministry in this region was that of the Reverend Abiel Parmalee, who took up his residence in Forestville in 1830 and divided his time between that settlement and Silver Creek. He preached every other week in the little school house of Silver Creek for nearly two years. At this time, the first Sabbath School, superintended by Dr. Daniel Rumsey, produced Bible scholars who committed Bible verses, and sometimes, whole chapters to memory. The best scholar was the one who memorized the most verses.

On October 28, 1831, a committee from the Buffalo Presbytery came to organize “The First Presbyterian Church of Silver Creek” at the request of the following individuals: Dr. Daniel Rumsey, Mrs. Unicy Rumsey, David Anderson, Mrs. Phebe Farnham, Ephraim Hall, Margaret Nevins, John Reid, Margaret Hall, James Brace, Hannah Sproul, and Lucy Holt. Mrs. Polly Prentiss and Adelia Mixer were examined in religion, baptized, and added to the others to complete the group of thirteen persons who constituted “The First Presbyterian Church” of Silver Creek. Dr. Rumsey, David Anderson, and Ephraim Hall were then chosen and ordained to serve as elders; David Anderson was chosen to act as deacon, and Dr. Rumsey was chosen clerk. “On the eighth of December 1831, a Society had been formed to cooperate with the church under the title ‘The Trustees and Associates of the First Congregational Society of Silver Creek’. The reason the name Congregational appears in this title is because a part of the members of the church were Congregational in their preferences, and the matter was compromised by giving the church one name and the Society the other.” (Dr. Chalon Burgess, Historical Discourse)

In the summer of 1833, a “protracted meeting” was held in a barn belonging to Oliver Lee. Crowds attended, and great solemnity prevailed. Before the meeting closed, the barn being wanted for hay, the services were moved to the grove on Oak Hill. On February 10, 1834, the congregation authorized the trustees to procure the site of Lyman Howard’s property for a meeting house. A plain wooden building was soon erected, standing where Mr. Sherman Barbour’s house now is. This meeting house, seating about one hundred fifty persons, was built mainly by contributions of material and the work of four persons and cost about six hundred dollars.

As membership grew, a new and better house must be had. A subscription was drawn for this purpose, the house to be forty by fifty-six feet; and the location was to be determined by vote, each subscriber to have one vote for every twenty-five dollars subscribed. The whole amount should cover the cost of three thousand dollars. Eventually the present site was agreed upon by unanimous vote.

The first stick of timber for a sill was from a big whitewood tree and was drawn to the site by Mr. Warren Montgomery with a team belonging to Dr. Chalon Burgess’ father. I am told that Dr. Rumsey, Isaac P. Atwater, Loring Chapin, and Artemus R. Clothier went into the woods and selected this tree. Mr. Clothier struck the first blow, and while he cut it down, the others searched out more timber. James Brace rafted his quota of lumber down the lake. Built of the personal contributions of materials and labor, much interest in the building was naturally elicited.

At the laying of the cornerstone, Reverend Mr. Beardsley made the address while the large congregation sat on the sticks of timber lying around the foundation. A list of the officers and members of the church and some coins of the time were put into a sealed bottle and laid in the stone under the northeast corner of the building.

At the completion of the church edifice, Oliver Lee furnished a bell as his gift, the first bell this valley ever heard. For a long period it was rung three times each day. The church was dedicated in December 1841.

In the 1860’s, during the pastorate of Reverend Frederick W. Flint, the house of worship was remodelled at an expense of four thousand dollars, or one thousand dollars more than the original cost. Upon completion of these changes, the house was rededicated in June 1864.

Probably the church owes its existence more to the efforts of its first elders and Dr. Daniel Rumsey than to any other one man. He continued the longest in office and was exemplary in the matter of church going, being found regularly in his seat after he became quite unable to hear. As it was his habit to stand during prayers, he would sometimes make a mistake and rise when no prayer was going forward.

Dr. Chalon Burgess, whose pastorate began in 1875 and continued until 1891, was the only young man bred in the church to ever return as its minister. During his ministry, extensive repairs and additions were made to meet the growing needs of the congregation. Some special trees from the Bailey farm were floated down the lake to the sawmill for the columns, and they were carved during the winter months by Mr. Warren Montgomery. The sanctuary was redecorated, a new belfry was erected, and the first “Church House” with its prayer meeting room, parlor, and kitchen was added.

This marked the beginning of a new epoch. The “Bee” was definitely on the wane, and the “Social” had come into its day. With these new accomodations, there could be suppers, suppers, and suppers, and socials of all kinds and description. Fun, life and laughter could now have their place in a part of the church designed for that purpose. This rededication was in February 1885.

During the ministry of Reverend E. M. Sharp, the Maternal Society, which was formed in 1834 with twelve members, became the “Ladies’ Aid”. Later it was to become the “Women’s Society”.

It was almost ironic that in this staid period should occur the most dramatic experience in the church’s history. It was in the early spring, as Miss Agnes Mc Andrew was rehearsing children in the Sunday School room that she heard the sound of horses in stampede. The thundering hooves pounded up the front steps, through the swinging doors, and down the main aisle of the sanctuary.

Herding her charges onto the stairway of the Church House, she saw one crazed horse come plunging through the open door from the Sunday School room and out the side door which fortunately was open. Simultaneously its even more crazed companion plunged through the door on the right to the prayer meeting room and became tightly wedged between the wall and the red-hot pot-bellied stove lit for the occasion. Pawing wildly, snorting, and rending the air with agonized cries, it finally dislodged itself from the stove sufficiently to free itself and make its dazed way out into the path of the first.

The fumes of singed hair and horsehide hung in the air for days. More than one child had hysterics after the tornado of terror was over. Only the presence of mind of Miss McAndrew saved the children from disaster. It took days to repair the ravages.

Young people were an important part of the church life during Mr. Sharp’s tenure. The Christian Endeavor, the first youth movement in the church, was organized, and the Sunday School library was established.

Mr. Sharp had been heavily handicapped by the distance of his residence on Buffalo Street from the church. In those days there was no foot bridge. The purchase of the old Dr. Rumsey home, the present day manse, marked the beginning of another era, one of greater availability of the minister to his people and their needs.

During the pastorate of the Reverend E. J. Ward, the church proper was again enlarged by a third. In order to preserve intact the early New England architecture with the front exterior, the vestibule and gallery unchanged, the church was split
and this front section moved forward on the lot. The seating section of the sanctuary was extended to join this with the alter section. At this time the rose window was placed over the entrance by the Tew family, and the pipe organ was given by Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Talcott. In 1925 the organ was electrified and several new sets of pipes were added.

The highest point in the history of the church, other than property improvements and changes was doubtless its centennial which was observed for three days in 1931 during the ministry of Reverend Joseph Lindsay. Under Reverend Lindsay’s management, with Mrs. Reverdy Clothier’s choir, and with Mrs. J. D. Denny to furnish facts and costumes, a truly remarkable centennial was held.

The pastorate of Reverend Leslie Doerschug saw the burning of the mortgage in 1943, a day toward which every minister had steadily worked. At this time the manse, which had been somewhat neglected, was completely and tastefully redecorated.

A total of nineteen ministers have labored in the parish of the Presbyterian Church (and three more from the date of this writing to the present.)

Music has always been an important part of the life of the church. In the earliest times, a good sister or brother lead the singing. In 1832, William O. Talcott became the first regular choir leader of the church. Among those memorable in the church’s musical history are: Mrs. Will Talcott, Miss Etta Montgomery, Mrs. Carrie Bacon, Anne Colberg, Mabel Stewart, Sadie Chapman, Alice Montgomery, Ralph and Fred Erdle, Lester Colberg, Howard Montgomery, Mary Clothier, Mary Montgomery, and Mrs. Reverdy Clothier.

With the erection of the Church House in the late 1800’s, the Presbyterian Church came to act as a civic center in the village. The social rooms have been the meeting place at times for various organizations, such as the Hanover Farmer’s Club, the D. A. R., the Shakespeare Club, the Chautauqua County Historical Society, the High School Alumni Association, the Garden Club, Kiwanis, Hi-V Club, and the Better Baby Clinic. Until the Municipal Hall was built, the American Legion and its auxiliary gave the annual Armistice Day dinner in the Church House. It was also used as headquarters for the Homecoming Day in 1909.

In time of war, the Church House served as the Red Cross rooms where women of all denominations met to roll bandages and fill kit bags. It still serves the Red Cross Blood Bank. In its sanctuary were held the community farewell services for the draftees the night before the departure of each contingent and the services of thanksgiving the night of the Armistice in 1918 and on V J Day, 1945. The church, by virtue of precedent, location, facilities, and progressive attitude has been the center of community activities and has rendered a valuable service.

The classic simplicity of the church building has remained unchanged since pioneer days. It has survived five wars, one for each of its generations, epidemic, floods, and the fire which consumed many of the buildings around it. And through all the change, the church stands, its dignity unimpaired, offering sanctuary to its sixth generation.

Published October 1956


The Golden Jubilee celebration (1957) of the fiftieth year of Ordination of the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Edmund J. O’Connor, S.T.B., V.F., Pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Silver Creek, brings recollections of the interesting history of the parish.

The Reverend Peter Colgan, appointed pastor of the Dunkirk parish in 1851, was the first priest on record to celebrate Mass for the few Catholic families at Silver Creek. At irregular intervals he visited families in Silver Creek and along the lake shore as far east as North Evans, administering to the spiritual needs of the people who were yet without a church.

Soon the Passionist Fathers, whose Religious Society had taken over the spiritual care of the Catholics in Dunkirk, became also the occasional visitors to Silver Creek. Mass was celebrated in some convenient home where Catholics gathered for the divine service.

In 1871 Father Ledwith was appointed as Angola’s first resident Catholic priest, and Silver Creek was made a mission of the Angola parish. Among the priests who came from Angola and still affectionately remembered by some were Reverend George Burns, Reverend James McCarthy, and Reverend Richard Burke.

In the late 1800’s, Major Clark C. Swift had built the “Bank” block, later known as Stewart’s and now as Ludeman’s block. Despite his own deep seated Presbyterianism, he allowed the few Catholic families of the town to hold their services here in the so called “Bank Hall” (or Stewart’s Hall) on the third floor. There they met until 1882 when a frame church of modest dimensions was erected under the leadership of Reverend George Burns on the lot procured from Miss Caroline Young at Monroe Street and Porter Avenue. The church was later enlarged by Father McCarthy to serve the needs of the growing congregation.

In 1908 the parish ceased to be a mission of the Angola church, and Reverend Joseph F. Jacobs was appointed pastor with his residence in Silver Creek. On May 5, 1912 the Reverend Edmund J. O’Connor became pastor following the appointment of Father Jacobs to the church at Blasdell.

Due to the increasing Catholic population the need for parish expansion became apparent, resulting in the purchase of the Major Swift property on Central Avenue. In 1914 the frame church on the hill at Porter Avenue was successfully moved to the new site. The moving required six weeks, during which time services at the church were never interrupted, being held also when the church was midstream over the junction of the creeks on a Sunday morning in early July 1914.

With the incorporation of the parish in 1908 Frank Minehan and Peter Keifer became the first trustees. Other trustees who served during these forty years were John E. O’Connell, Charles A. Metzger, Louis J. Kollig, Edward Radigan, J. G. Aud, and Charles Cronauer.

In the fall of 1914 a parochial school was opened in the spacious brick house built by Major Swift. The “mansion” as it was called, provided a chapel, school, and living quarters for five Franciscan Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis; Sister Genevieve was the first Superior.

In 1926 land was purchased on Main Road (Route 20) for a parish cemetery. Landscaping was immediately undertaken and a mortuary chapel built. The burial place is named Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

The parish saw a new climax of achievement when, on March 21, 1931, ground was officially broken for a new church when the old frame house of worship was no longer adequate to accomodate the increasing numbers attending services. The corner stone of the new edifice was laid on July 19, 1931. On May 29, 1932 the new church of thirteenth century English gothic architecture, built of Medina sandstone, with trimmings of Indiana limestone, was dedicated by His Excellency, the Most Reverend William Turner, D.D., Bishop of Buffalo.

The original church building was enlarged to become the Parish House. In December 1937 the adjoining house and land on Parkway were purchased to provide an ample rectory and gardens.

A distinct honor was bestowed upon Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish when, on December 7, 1942, its pastor, Reverend Edmund J. O’Connor, was elevated to the rank of Domestic Prelate with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor by His Holiness, Pope Pius XII. Under the half century of Msgr. O’Connor’s guidance, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish has contributed to the progress of the village.

Published May 1957


Scattered over the face of the township were quaint little cemeteries. Where are they now, these cemeteries of the past, what became of them, and where were people buried in the earliest days? Doubtless they were sacrificed to progress over the years. People were buried anywhere, just anywhere. A gravestone could appear in a corn field, a backyard, a barnyard, or by the roadside. Individuals were buried where sentiment or convenience prompted. There were no laws to be considered then.

The grave of Amos Sottle, Chautauqua County’s first white settler, would be hard to locate without a guide, although the marker is there to designate it on a stretch of farmland near Irving.

When Alexis C. Barbeau’s Main Street home was sold as a site for the new Babcock Avenue school and excavation and grading were in progress, a marble slab was unearthed. This clearly bore the inscription “Martha Day” and caused great interest and curiosity among the workmen. The story reached the ears of Mrs. Daphne Cole Wilde. “Martha Day!” exclaimed Daphne, hastening to the scene, “Martha Day was my great aunt; what’s she doing up here?” Daphne promptly had Aunt Martha’s marker removed to her own home, formerly owned by Gus Day, whose second wife was Martha. Thus, leaning against a tree at Daphne’s back door stands Martha Day, where her great niece can keep an eye on her.

Of course, the Barbeau property was formerly owned by Norman Babcock, and it may just be that Norman chose to have his sister, Martha Babcock Day, buried in his backyard. Neither Daphne Wilde nor another great niece, Mrs. Frances Watson, can give any light -- just a case of a stray grave with nothing to explain it but conjecture.

Not only were unexpected gravestones found in odd spots, but they were not always found in the ground as is usually assumed. There are two instances in local lore of gravestones being found within buildings: one in a barn and another in an abandoned shed. Each could be accounted for in its own way, but both made strange stories.

The children who were growing up on upper Main Street above the bridge and on Middle Road in the 1890’s and the early 1900’s could tell you tales of a weird spot they used to explore on days when they felt especially brave and daring, It was where Middle Road adjoins Main Street. If they went just beyond the house which was once the schoolhouse of the earliest “Fayette Days” (1820-848) and then made their way carefully through the undergrowth, on a slope behind the building, in a jungle of wild berry bushes, they could see gravestones above the ground. Some were small, others larger and leaning; some were chipped or even broken with pieces scattered on the ground. This was an awe-inspiring spot and one where no child tarried long and departed as fast as the wild berry bushes and underbrush would permit him, once his curiosity was satisfied. What a pity no one can now remember what he saw, no names, dates or initials, just the spookiness of the adventure! It is not hard to conjecture that since there was no church, the Fayette graveyard had been behind the schoolhouse which, doubtless, housed many a church service. When the Buffalo-Lake Erie trolley line was built (westward) through Silver Creek in 1908, the road bed was that of the present Route 20. When the excavation was in process, these graves were a matter of much curiosity. All the bones were exhumed at that time. It has since become established as a fact that this was Fayette’s first burying ground.

The downtown children had their experiences too. All the children who went to the Methodist Sunday School could stand on the precarious plank walk that led from the church kitchen door to the outside closet and, stretching on tip-toe, peer breathlessly up over the slope at the tops of the gravestones on the level above.

Frank J. Kelloway, the jeweler of that day, built the brick block known as Goodell’s store (next to the Methodist Church) and with his wife and daughter Gladys, occupied the second floor. From the back door of this apartment a ramp led to the level stretch of land, behind which lay a unique lawn with a few gravestones punctuating it here and there. It was a fascinating spot for all of Gladys’s playmates.

One gravestone was marked “Caroline.” She was an infant daughter of Mrs. Caroline Lee Young who lived in the old brick house that is today the Presbyterian Manse. She was the daughter of Oliver Lee, who owned the Lake Front and wharf and laid out the Silver Creek of today. It is not unlikely that other graves represented this same early family. It is possible, too, this section might have served as a churchyard burying ground at some early day, since the Methodist Church was so close.

When the Goodell Building and the adjoining land at the rear was purchased by Petri Homelike Cookies in the early 1960’s, the bulldozers began bringing up headstones. Again mystery and amazement spread through the town. Countless people fairly seethed with questions and inquiries.

Yes, people were buried anywhere and everywhere. One Revolutionary soldier’s grave is to be found in a barnyard on a little frequented road outside of Forestville.

As the early settlers increased in numbers, and localities had more definite boundaries, the burial plots became more definitely established. The Doty Cemetery on Stebbins Road and the Log Village Cemetery, both of which had been abandoned, were reclaimed for their historical value by the Benjamin Bosworth Chapter, N.S.D.A.R.  In the Doty Cemetery are four Revolutionary soldier’s graves.

Nashville Cemetery, too, has its Revolutionary soldiers and soldiers of the War of 1812. West Irving was the first settlement in the township, and its first cemetery was on the site of the present Ebling home. Two very old cemeteries in Irving were private or family cemeteries. The Sackett Family Cemetery was on the land at the rear of the Thorn Sackett home which was later bought by Walter Risley. The Newton Cemetery was on the Bebee Road and was plainly to be seen from the main highway (Route 20). Enclosed in its high iron fence, it was a landmark in the horse and buggy days.

Of the Cemetery Associations in the Town of Hanover today, the Pioneer Cemetery in Forestville (on Route 428) is the aristocrat. It has the earliest history and written records dating back the farthest. It is interesting to read the names of those earliest interments, some of which have come down to the present day.

Hanover Center has a very old cemetery with epitaphs as amusing as any in New England. These are to be found at the rear of the section nearest the high bridge. In this cemetery are to be found some of the best known names, like Angell and Stebbins, family names for which roads have been named. Interments here date back to one 1806, “Harriet,” December 24. This lot is owned by the Beech family. Whether Harriet was a Beech or just “Harriet” is unknown. It is also unknown if there was actually a cemetery in Hanover Center that early or if this was a transfer interment after it was established. This proves to be true in many cases.

The Smith Mills Cemetery is an old timer, too, and Ball Town has very old gravestones and inscriptions, while Silver Creek comes last of all because it was the last village settled in the township.

Glenwood Cemetery originally comprised the space between its southernmost fence and main driveway. It was originated by the Presbyterian Church, and the first interment was in 1833. The church, finding it a problem, turned it over to the village and the management of an appointed board. Although the first burial was in 1833 and the second the same year on the Abiathar Gates lot, there stands a child’s marker on the Gates lot bearing the date 1832. This, research reveals, was a transfer burial from that first little Fayette cemetery back of the old schoolhouse at Main Street and Middle Road. According to Mr. Graf, retired Glenwood sexton, there are other instances of dates which preceed the opening of the cemetery and which were transfers from that same little first Fayette cemetery. That would explain the 1823 date on two-children’s markers directly across the driveway from the Gates monument. -

To the children of fifty or sixty years ago there was one spot of unfailing fascination: the thirteen unmarked graves which represented the unknown dead from the tragic lake disaster of 1841. When the lake steamer “Erie” was consumed in flames before it could reach the Silver Creek harbour, many helpless passengers perished from the flames or by drowning. From Sheridan Bay to Silver Creek the shore was strewn with the bodies of those who perished. These were buried in Sheridan and Silver Creek, and a newspaper article of that date states that each grave was marked with a stone bearing the inscription “A life lost on August 9th, 1841, on the steamship ‘Erie’ near Silver Creek.” This may be true of the Sheridan Cemetery, but no markers were erected in Silver Creek, and there were no inscriptions to perpetuate the date nor the disaster.

These thirteen graves, eloquent in their anonymity, comprise a row to the right after the main driveway swings to the right at the crest of the upgrade. They were behind the original tool house of earlier days. There you will find them today, but with one change. One grave now bears a marker which reads “Noah P. Crittenden, 1841 -- and thereon hangs a story.

Not too many years ago a stranger appeared in the cemetery inquiring for the graves of the victims of the “Erie” of August 1841. He proved to be a druggist from Chicago enroute to a druggists’ convention in Buffalo. He had grown up on the story of the grandfather who had perished so dramatically in the Silver Creek harbour and was greatly moved to stand before these thirteen unmarked graves. Not long after, a stone arrived to give name and honor to at least one of the thirteen and to perpetuate the date on which all perished.

Stories, stories, stories – the stories every cemetery represents! Each grave a life, and each life a volume in itself, and each section a period in the history of its locality.

Published May 28, 1964