Fun Facts
Fun Facts, Firsts, Fables, & Famous Folks

Return to Chautauqua County Gen Web page.

One of Chautauqua County's natural wonders is the Panama Rocks, located near the village of Panama, Town of North Harmony. The formations are the aftermath of a geological upheaval millions of years ago. The rocks are mammoth and most bear signs with their names. The Mayflower, is a boat shaped rock. Python Rock, has a tree limb growing around it like a coiled snake. Giants Casket - says what you see. There are dozens of appropriately named rocks. There are winding trails leading to caves, crevices, and more rocks. The foliage of weirdly shaped trees, with exposed and twisted roots, moss and other strangely growing plants add to the eerie feeling of the Panama Rocks. What must our ancestors have thought of these wonders of nature?

Ripley was once called Quincy

Stockton was once called Delanti and before that Bear Creek.

George Washington gave the town of French Creek its name.

Two districts listed in the National Register of Historical Places that are located in Chautauqa county: are, the Chautauqua Institution, and Barker Commons in Fredonia.

The commercial fishing industry in Dunkirk, Town of Dunkirk, had its start in 1851. Irish -born JAMES MALONY equipped a row boat with gill nets and made his own nets and rigging. Then came the JOHNSON brothers from Fort Erie, Canada with homemade nets and a 26 foot sailing skiff. They used flat stones to weigh down their nets.

Chautauqua County has an abundance of famous one room school houses which are on the Historical National Register.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN traveled through Chautauqua County and made a special stop at Westfield to visit an 11 year old girl, GRACE BEDELL, who had written him a letter suggesting that "he would look a lot better if he wore whiskers and promised to get her brothers to vote for him - if he grew a beard. Lincoln answere the little girls letter and said he did not think a beard would help his appearence. When he detrained in Westfield he was sporting a very nice beard. The Lincolns sought to adopt the orphaned little girl, but her family said no. A copy of Lincolns reply to Grace is framed and hangs in the Chautauqua County Historical Society headquarters in the McClurg mansion in Westfield.

Month of May Facts
The first U.S. Postcard was issued on May 1st 1873.
The First Mothers day was celebrated on May 12th 1908.
The Empire State Degree of Honor Insurance Co. was incorporated and opened office in the (now) Seymour Library Building in Stockton, NY.
The First Post office in Chautauqua County was opened at Westfield on May 6th 1806.

Month of June Facts
June 1 1866 - The Holland Land Company ceased to exist.
June 13 1880 - Lily Dale Grounds was first dedicated.
June 25 1895 - Cassadaga's Sacred Song composer Philip Phillips died. He was known as the "Singing Evangilist" and traveled around the world singing his biblical messages.

Fredonia is the home of twin Barker Commons (Parks) in the heart of its downtown section. In the early days justices of the peace, under the terms of the village law, sentenced each convicted drunk to pull up a stump in the park and in that way it was soon cleared.

Month of September Facts
September 12th 1852 - 8 young people were drowned in a boating accident on Cassadaga Lake. They were buried in a common grave in Stockton, NY.
September 14, 1814 - Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner" which later became our national anthem. (nothing to do with this county, just an interesting fact.)
September 15, 1797 - The Holland Land Company acquired Western New York.
September 26, 1950. a Blackout caused by Canadian Forest Fire Smoke covered most of northern Chautauqua County This author was at the movies and when we exited at 3p.m. it was dark as night.

Month of October Facts
Oct 10 1859 - Chautauqua changed spelling from "QUE: to "QUA"
Below are several facts which although they did not take place in Chautauqua county still effected the people living there.
Oct 12 1492 - Columbus discovered America.
Oct 26 1835 - the Erie Canal was opened
Oct 28 1886 - the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.

From 1833 to 1843 Mary E. Osborne, a Quaker widow, conducted a boarding school for young ladies in Jamestown, NY. The young ladies attening the school came from all parts of the country.  In 1843 Mrs. Osborne's brother,  Alvi Cornell, killed his wife and attempted to kill himself in the kitchen at the school.  This led to the demise of the school.

Chautauqua is the most westerly county in New York state.
Until 1849 the official spelling was CHAUTAUQUE.
Chautauqua in the Indian languages translates to:

"bag tied in the middle" - referring to the hour-glass shape of Lake Chautauqua.
"where the fish was taken out " Indians caught a huge sized muskie and it leaped out of their boat back into the lake.
"the place of easy death" from another Indian legend- about an Indian maiden, who after eating a root which caused a terrible thirst, bent down to drink from the waters of the lake and disappeared into its depths - never to be seen again.

Some profess that Chautauqua is of Spanish origins and some say it came from the French. Perhaps we shall never really know its origins.

From "The Westfield Messenger", October 8, 1850:

"Yesterday morning a schooner was seen making her course toward the land about three miles below Barcelona harbor.  She was evidently in distress and shortly being discovered struck upon a bar half a mile from shore.  Some of the residents in the neighborhood immediately boarded her and found her to be the schooner Martha Freeme, of Buffalo, and a total wreck.  Two dead bodies lay upon her deck, much bruised and mutilated.  The schooner was doubtless wrecked during the severe gale on Sunday afternoon.  She was water-logged, her main mast gone and her cabin carried away.  She had been loaded with staves and probably had taken her load at Erie.  It is supposed that all hands, perhaps eight or nine, have perished.  The bodies discovered on deck were those of young men, each apparently about 25 years of age, when found..."

This reprint was part of the obituary of Parthena Medberry, whose husband, Joseph Medberry Jr., and children Joseph and Eliza were all killed in the wreck.  Joseph Jr. and Eliza were washed out to sea.  Her son Joseph was one of the two bodies found on board.  He is buried at Nashville Cemetery, Hanover, Chautauqua Co., NY. Markers exist for Joseph Jr. and Eliza.

Dee Alexander -


The first bank ; The Chautauque County Bank. was erected in Jamestown in 1831 and burned in 1861.  Judge Elial T. Foote was the first president of this bank.

The FIRST TRAIN arrived in Jamestown on August 25 1860.

The FIRST TRAIN arrived in Dunkirk on May 15 1851.

The first factory (in this county) for making wooden pails and tubs. Was built in 1829 in Jamestown, NY.

The First DEATH in the County was that of EDWARD MCHENRY who drowned in Lake Erie in 1803.

The First White child born in the county was JOHN MCHENRY son of Edward above - he was born in 1802.

The first marriage in the county was in 1805 when JAMES MONTGOMERY md

In 1818, Elijah Fay, a New Englander and a deacon of the Baptist church, planted the first grape vines in New York State west of the Hudson river. In 1830 he made 5 gallons of wine from the Isabella and Catawba grapes he had planted. This was the start of Chautauqua Counties vineyard industry. Which still thrives today.

The first horsecar trolley line wass started between Dunkirk and Fredonia in 1866. It was replaced by an elecrical line in 1890.

I hardly think even Fredonia, home of so many firsts, can claim to be the actual birthplace of Sears.Roebuck. But Frank Howard a Fredonia watch maker had the idea to send his watches to railroad station agents throughout the country on consignment. If the agent sold the watch, he got a commission and could order more. Otherwise he could return the timepiece. One of the Howard watches fell into the hands of an agent in a little station in Illinois. His name was Sears and he disposed of the first watch so easily he sent back for more. He figured if watches could be sold by mail, so could hundreds of other articles. He interested a man named Roebuck in his mail order scheme and --- you know the rest of the story.

The FIRST MEMORIAL DAY, as it is currently called was originally called Decoration Day. Henry C. Wells, of Waterloo in Seneca County, NY first proposed the idea that it would be fitting to devote an entire day to honoring the Civil War soldiers fallen in battle. Gen. John B. Murray, Seneca County Clerk at the time heartily agreed and quickly gained community support for the event. The date of the first observance was Saturday May 5, 1866. Wreaths and bouquets were prepared for each soldiers grave. Throughout the village flags flew at half- mast. Parading veterans and townspeople marched to the cemeteries to conduct prayer and other patriotic ceremonies. The reason for and the format of Decoration Day had been born! Men in the Grand Army of the Republic organization took up the concept and instituted it in the towns they lived in. It was in 1873 that New York State proclaimed Decoration Day a public day of rememberance and other states soon followed suit. Eventually the day became a National Holiday and was set on the 30th of May. The name was changed to Memorial Day when soldiers from other wars were included in the honoring. Several years ago it was deemed convenient to celebrate it on the last Monday in May making it simply a long weekend. Some of the reverence and pomp has disappeared since that time. Although this FIRST didnot occur in Chautauqua County- I thought it fitting for this months column. REMEMBER THE VETERANS on MEMORIAL DAY. Take part in whatever services are being held in your community.

The first incense company in the United States- the American Incense Company is still alive and well in Jamestown. It was started in 1907 in Frewsburg by Mrs Louis Lucas, who used to collect pine needles to make into balsam pills. One day she was struck with the idea of making pine cone shaped incense. Which were well received by her customers and friends. The company moved to Jamestown in 1947 and now manufactures over 50 different scents. Ingrediants are measured into a commercial dough mixer. The mix is then pressed into the form machine, which turns about 250 cones per minute. The cones are then dried in a hot water oven over night. The cones are then packaged and shipped throughout the US and Canada. Next time you buy incense- check out the package for where it is made.

Ellen Proudfit (Yates) Miller, elected County Clerk in 1918, was the first WOMAN in the state ELECTED to such an office. She was born in Jamestown, Town of Ellicott, 1882.

The first radio was at Silver Creek in 1924.

The first movie theater was in Fredonia in 1905.

The oldest club in America, which has studied Shakespear without interruption, was formed in Silver Creek, NY in 1874 by Rev. R.N. Stubbs. There were 44 charter members.

The first TELEGRAPH OFFICE in Chautauqua county was opened at Sinclairville in 1849- the first telegraph operator was GEORGE F. BRIGHAM. The first MESSAGE was the news of the inauguration of General Zachary Taylor.

The first TELEVISION BROADCAST to Chautauqua county was in 1949.

The First NEWSPAPER in the county was the Chautauqua Gazette published at Fredonia (Pomfret) in 1817. It was short lived and the second paper also published at Fredonia was the Fredonia Censor started in 1821 and was published until 1964. The CCGS has published extractions from this newspaper from 1821-1899. Further editions 1900 on are being prepared for publication.

The FIRST woman of Chautauqua County to be inducted into the National Womens Hall of Fame at Seneca Falls, NY was Alfreda Irwin - Historian of the Chautauqua Institution and author of several books.

The first street cars in the county were operated between Dunkirk and Fredonia in 1864. Using strip rails for track. The cars were horse-drawn until 1890 when the road was rebuilt and the cars were operated electrically.

The first post office in the County was at Westfield, Town of Westfield. The first postmaster was JAMES MCMAHON.

The first NATIONAL CHAPTER of the GRANGE was formed in Fredonia, Town of Pomfret on April 16, 1868. The nine founding members were: A.S. Moss; H. Stiles; W.H. Stevens; Ulysses E. Dodge, who served as the first Master; Louis McKinstry; A.P. Pond; D. Fairbanks; Willard McKinstry; Wm. Risley; and M.S. Woodford. A Fredonia man, Sherman J. Lowell, served as a state and national master of the Grange.

* note Grange number 2 was formed at Portland, Chautauqua County.

The first CHAPTER of the Women's Christian Temperance Union [W.C.T.U.] was formed in Fredonia, Town of Pomfret in 1878. 208 ladies joined at the first meeting. Although Ohio claims the "birth place" of this organization - Fredonia rightly claims the first organized chapter.

The first GAS WELL in the United States was at Fredonia, Town of Pomfret. This village was lit by gas as early as 1825. Some say it was lit when Lafayette visited the village, but recent research has proven this erroneous and the actual date of the first gas lights was several months after Lafayettes' visit.

The first LIGHTHOUSE in the world that was LIGHTED BY GAS was at Barcelona, Town of Westfield, in 1831. The gas-fed beacon shone out on Lake Erie for many years. The lighthouse still stands.

The first ELECTRICITY IN the COUNTY was at Chautauqua Institution in 18--. When Thomas Alva Edison, furthering his experiments, lit the cottage of his father-in law, Lewis Miller.


Our First Thanksgiving

In sixteen hundred and tweny-three
    The Pilgrims planted corn
Near Plymouth's Rock,  beside the sea
    Where Freedom's hope was born.
Soon warmed with sun,  refreshed with dew,
    The little blades appeared.
But faint indeed their promis grew,
    When drought the leaves had seared.  

Now famine looms in winter's cold,
    Where savage foes abound;
The wolf of want within the fold,
    And fiercer beasts around.  

Those earnest souls did not despair;
    The world's transpalnted hope
Had unseen roots in pious prayer,
    And faith of ample scope.  

Thus Freedom's hardy pioneers
    In truth and right grew strong,
For fear of God kills other fear
    But that of doing wrong.  

They fasting prayed,  with might and main,
    As sinking Peters pray,
And Heaven's response was gentle rain
    Ere night of that Fast-day.  

The earth refreshed,  grew grren again
    The drooping corn revived,
The autumn brought them golden grain
    And Freedoms germ survived. 

That shining love the cloud is o'er,
    Though dark the shadow cast,
Was proved by basket and by store,
    And famine's peril past.  

To own God's hand in all their ways,
    And sure foundations lay,
A day was kept in public praise,
    Our First Thanksgiving Day!  

The above was written by Leroy Whitford - a dairy farmer of Stow, Chautauqua County, NY.  Leroy Whitford was a son of Orison Whitford born near Saratoga Lake, NY on April 27, 1800 and in 1818 settled with his father Dennis Whitford, "on the west side of Chautauqua Lake below the narrows" Have more information on the Whitford family if anyone is interested.  Leroy Whitford wrote many other stories and poems throughout his lifetime.


The following piece was written by Pat Pfleuger and was published in Golden Glow of History Past by Marie B. McCutcheon, Town Historian of Ripley, NY.

"...HOT TIME in the OLD TOWN..."   October 7, 1879

Hoboes,  Alcohol, misfiring guns and an unarmed posse were the rather ludicrous ingredients that brought about the Ripley rumpus.

The small community drowsing in the Indian summer atmosphere of a morning in 1879 showed scant interest in the half dozen hoboes who appeared on the scene and bivouacked by the railroad track near the depot...

The gentlemen of the road,  settling down and partaking of their scant morning repast,  decided that it needed topping off with something stronger than water,  so delegated one of their number, John Dailey, to ferret out some of the stronger stuff. Dailey headed for the nearby J.W. Baker drugstore where he put on a good act,  saying he needed half a pint of spirits for his sore feet.  Baker reluctantly gave him a six-ounce bottle of alcohol. When Dailey got back to his companions the small bottle was greeted with scorn as not being enough and Dailey was offered a new pair of pants if he would get some more spirits.  Being sorely in need of the aforementioned necessary apparel,  Dailey again returned to the drugstore.

This time he was unsuccessful and his blandishments went by the board. The proprietor remained adamant at his refusal.  At this,  Dailey lost his temper,  became abusive and suddenly drew and leveled a pistol at the startled proprietor saying that if his companions did not get the alcohol they would wreck the store and the town too, most likely. But Baker stood his ground and told the gun wielder the strong equivalent of "get out and stay out".

After the miscreant had left,  Baker hurried over to the law office.  There he found and told his story to Constable  Collins,  lawyer Kingsbury, and Sheriff Frank Wright of Westfield,  who happened to be there on business.  The constable and sheriff promptly left to apprehend Dailey.

In the meantime,  Dailey had returned to his companions who, angry at his failure to get more alcohol,  turned on him.  Dailey (not overly endowed with bravery even when wielding a gun,  as we have seen), took fright and ran back to Main Street toward Stone's grocery store, hotly pursued by the tramps and their firing pistols.

Outside the store Dailey took refuge among some loungers who treated the gun-waving vagrants with good humored derision.  One of them, Robert Jones,  took to his heels to get help and a tramp named Smith fired after him but he missed and Jones continued on.  He arrived panting at the court room,  where Judge Horton was holding court, and reported the incident.

The judge ordered the hoboes arrested and called for a posse.  Court was adjourned and everyone rushed out,  headed for the railroad and the disturbers of the peace.  On the way they were joined by the local physician,  Doctor Heard and Constable Bryant.

It was then that someone brought up the fact that,  with the exception of Bryant,  no one was armed.  So some were sent back to get firearms.

By now,  the hoboes,  realizing that the strength lay in unity,  had called a truce with Dailey and the group had started out of town, headed east along the railroad tracks.  Meanwhile Sheriff Wright and Constable Collins had learned of their new location and were coming in their direction.  When the main posse caught up with the sheriff he divided it into two parties with one going further up the tracks to head off the vagrants.

Before long,  both parties came within sight of their quarries trudging along the tracks.  Seeing they were being advanced upon from both sides,  the recalcitrants stopped and started firing.  A royal battle followed with the sheriff and constables returning fire and the rest of the posse dodging the bullets.

Eventually,  the awaited reinforcements came up in the form of hurriedly acquired shotguns and everybody then got into the act. Miraculously,  no one was killed in the melee of fist fighting and shooting which followed.  The sheriff was wounded in the leg and others received minor wounds.  There seem to have been remarkably bad marksmen among the participants:  numerous shots went wild and guns misfired.

Most of the vagrants finally gave up peacefully,  but Smith was shot in the legs and stomach by Doctor Heard before he called it quits.

Following the fracas and after the doctor had treated wounds and removed bullets the truculent tramps were hustled over the hill to the Mayville lockup.

Following their release they were last seen swaggering around Westfield trying to trade some of their knives and razors for traveling money.  They were unsuccessful except for a knife which they exchanged for some cheese and crackers at a local store.

They had, at last report, browbeaten a Brocton restaurant owner into giving them supper.


 Fire! Fire! Fire!

We often wonder why our ancestors moved west. Here is one answer.

In 1852 the buildings on the east side of Main between Second and Third streets (In Jamestown) burned down. The old Allen Tavern on the corner of Main and Third streets, built by Capt. Dix and Jesse Smith in 1815, was included in this fire which originated in the store of Higley and Kellogg, situated about the center of the block. Henry Crippen, a millwright, slept with a dozen others in the ballroom of the tavern at the time of the fire. The other occupants of his bedroom had been up and in the street nearly an half hour, but Crippen continued to sleep. Finally they commenced removing the furniture, as it had become evident that it would be impossible to save the building. Crippen awoke in a crazed condition, poked his head out of the window and cried "fire!, fire!, Fire! " with all of his might; and then much to the danger of the many skulls below, threw out of the window a looking glass and several frangible articles of furniture. HAving performed this feat of a too quickly aroused mind, he poked his legs through the arm holes of his vest instead of putting on his trousers and thus equipped made his appearance in the street below, carrying an enormous pair of iron firedogs. The fire was not so far advanced but that he was able to rescue the balance of his clothing; but the laugh was greater than Henry could endure and soon after he went west.


Pigeons- Pigeons- Pigeons!

Wild pigeons came to Chautauqua County in enormous flocks. In the early spring, at night and morning, they would pass back and forth over the county, and over Lake Erie, between their roosting and feeding places, in Canada and Pennsylvania. The immense flocks would appear in the distance like large black clouds, sometimes a mile in length, moving rapidly through the air. A little later in the season they would descend into the woods, flock after flock, to feed upon beechnuts. The forest would be vocal with their pleasant voices. The noise of their wings as they would arise or descend would sound like distant thunder. The people would kill them in great numbers while they were on the wing, and as they traveled in flocks over the ground in search of food. In 1822 one family killed four thousand in one day knocking them down with poles. Their roosting and their nesting places were in the wilder portions of the county, where they would gather in even more astonishing numbers. Limbs would be broken from the trees by their weight, and the noise of their wings was almost deafening. In the spring of 1834 they nested in the woods of the town of Gerry. At night and in the morning the air would be full of pigeons moving to and from their nesting places in every direction. A snowstrom came in May and great numbers perished. The next morning dead pigeons were gathered by the thousands along the shores of Chautauqua Lake. For many years after this, pigeons in immense numbers passed over the county in the spring, but during each succeding summer not a pigeon could be seen. They ceased to visit the county in large flocks between the years 1850 and 1855. Most of the pigeons were not eaten but their feathers were used for bedding and other such uses.


Swimming Lessons

One day *Jimmy and two other boys about his age (I think he was seven then) were playing by the creek in Timothy Judson's meadow. The small boys were given quite a long play time every morning and it was called Recess. They had wandered along on the bank watching the ducks in the deep water for it was early spring and the water ran very swiftly and was cold and icy. Suddenly one of the boys had a great idea strike him. He espied Mr. Judson's old hen turkey and he thought they might catch her and teach her to swim. The other boys thought it a good scheme so they rummaged in their pockets and found some corn and oats that they scattered on the ground near her. When she got busy trying to get the grain all eaten before the chickens found it, the boys easily surrounded her and caught and carried her to the creek. They put her well into the water holding her down while they made her kick her legs forward and back as the ducks did. Of course as soon as their hands were taken off - Mrs. Turkey flapped squawking out of the water and started to run away, but her feathers were so full of water and she was so chilled and frightened that it was no trouble for the boys to get her again. Back they carried her to the starting place, saying "She did pretty well for the first time and it takes quite a while for anyone to learn to really swim but if we make her keep at it she will get over being scared and soon swim as well as the ducks." The second time she stayed in longer and went quite a ways down the stream. Of course it was the swift current that carried her along but the boys were sure she was learning fast and were delighted. Finally she managed to drag herself out on the bank and staggered slowly toward the Judson barn. She fell down every few steps and lay gasping and croaking. The boys decided she needed a rest but before she got to close to the barn they caught her and put her in again telling her how well she was doing and how proud she should be to be the only turkey who could swim. This time she never flapped or squawked but went sailing down the stream as easily as the ducks had done. Finally they noticed that while the ducks held their heads high hers was drooping to one side. She went on for quite a long way and the boys followed along the bank. At last when they took a bend she came out on the grass and lay perfectly still, not trying to get up or run away. When the boys got there and picked her up they saw, to their horror that poor Mrs. Turkey was dead. They went soberly and quietly back to the school yard and were playing ball when the big boys came out to their recess. The teacher noticed they were rather wet and told them they better come inside and stand by the stove to let their clothes dry and to keep away from the creek until warm weather. They all solemnly said "Yes Mam, I will." When Jimmy got home that night his father said "Jimmy didn't you know that chickens and turkeys can't swim? Why did you put Timothy Judson's hen turkey in the creek ?" Poor naughty little Jimmy burst into tears and sobbed out his side of the story, then his under- standing father sat down and explained to him that ducks feet were made different from turkeys and that turkeys could never swim no matter how long and hard they tried. He said Mr. Judson had been to see him and had said he saw the boys at their mischief and he wanted pay for his turkey. He considered her worth nine schillings and so each boy owed him three shillings. Jimmy's father made him take the money to Mr. Judson. Next morning Jimmy started for school with his money clutched tight in his fist. As Mr. Judson took the money he remarked " Hope your father tanned your jacket well" After he got to school he found the other boys hadn't fared as well as he did. Their fathers had "Tanned their jackets well" and had refused to give them any money to satisfy Mr. Judson's claim, so they went around for the rest of the school year in fear of Mr. Judson and what he might do to them.

* Jimmy was James Adams born 8 Feb 1848 growing up on a farm in the township of Portland, NY. This adventure as narrated by James to his daughter Miss Ellen Adams author of Tales my Father Told Me and Tales of Early Fredonia. More of Jimmy's adventures will be forth coming.



The following poem dedicated to the memory of William Barker Cushing and his heroic deed in destroying the Albemarle is from the scrapbook of the late Mrs. Ruth B. Seaver of Sinclairville. Mrs. Seaver was well known for her poetry and her historical articles.

I know a tale of the Roanoke A Chautauqua boy with "heart of oak", Year. eighteen hundred and sisty-four, Scene, North Caroline's eastern shore, October, darkness and silence save Rustle of leaf and ripple of wave, And, dim on the river, like a snarl Of the wasp of night, the Albemarle.

The Albemarle, who had faced a fleet Of northern gunbeats, no known defeat, Protected now by her great log raft At thought of danger had proudly laughed. Never was there a craft afloat Could force its way to this monarch boat. With sharp-eyed pickets far and near What cause had the Albemarle to fear? But, as still as phantom boats adrift Two shadowy forms steal sure and swift Against the tide, 'neath the black mouthed guns Where the Roanoke to the ocean runs. Ho, Sentinels, have you lost in Sleep All thought of the sacred watch you keep? Is there no whisper that bids you awake, No call to arms for your good ship's sake?

Nearer and nearer, unnoticed yet, All faint sounds lost in the water's fret, Nearer and nearer the strange shapes crawl, The mantle of darkness covering all, They part, a cutter well-armed, has drawn The fire of sentries, a launch has gone Like shaft from bow, or like beast run mad, Straight at the hulk of the ironclad.

Now awake the Albemarle in ire And roars her anger with tongues of fire. Like speech replies, and a slim youth springs O'er the wavering raft and cooly swings A fatal shell 'neath the great ship's side.

What of the valorous one who planned And wrought the work with fearless hand? Did his life end with this brave deed done, The Albemarle prove his Acheron? The raft is sinking, the launch no more, The southern pickets still line the shore. But down the stream, through thicket and fen He was pressed to the union lines again. But for this victory who shall say If home or country were ours to-day Save one, not another life was spared Of the boys in blue who this peril shared.

Often again through the weary days Of waning was he won the praise Of a grateful country, and proud Fame High on her record wrote Cushing's name.

William Barker Cushing was the grandson of two of Chautauqua county's earliest settlers. Hezekiah Barker and Zattu Cushing. Although William was not born in CC he returned here as a young boy, following the death of his father. A memorial to him and his two brothers and their mother stands in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Fredonia- where they resided.


The Cow and the Hollow Tree

"About 1818, directly after my father arrived in Charlotte, he purchased a small cow which was expected to give us ample rations of milk. Feed being short, a bell was suspended to the cows neck and she was sent out as Noah's dove, and like it did not return and could not be found. There was weeping among the juveniles of our family, of whom I was the youngest, for the milk of that cow with the johnny cake crumbed in was the staff of life with us, and we were sorely afflicted. After three days, the search being given over, the two boys of the family were sent into the woods to gather bean poles; and while we young hopefuls, not having the force of wholesome discipline before our eyes or in our hearts, were playing upon a large sycamore that had fallen to the ground, strange and almost unearthly sounds seemed to issue from the tree immediately beneath us. So frightened were we that bean poles and all else were forgotten but personal safety. We made tracks for the house at a speed that was marvelous. We told our story as soon as we were able and my father started for the woods at once - against our pleas. On arriving at the spot and looking in at the end of the tree where broken, he beheld with delight his long lost cow. She had crawled into the hollow so far that she could not get back out. She had probably stepped in to avoid the sun and flies and she was in so far she was unable to avail herself of the alternative in a bad scrape- backing out. Some neighbors kindly came to the rescue and by the aid of axes, in a short time a door was opened in the side of the tree and the cow was taken out and driven home to the great joy of all of the Jackson children." Quoted from Golden Glow Of History Past by Marie B. McCutcheon Ripley Town Historian This delightful little booklet is packed full of stories of "old" Ripley, with much family information included.



About 1817 two boys- Harlow Crissey and Jason Silsby, left their settlement, which is now called Stockton, for a leisurely hike. They were about 15 years old. During the hike, they came to a place that is now called Bear Lake. Wandering around, they came upon two little bears up in a tree. They decided that Harlow would run home for a gun while Jason stayed to keep an eye on the bears. All went well until the old mother bear returned for her missing cubs. She ambled up to where a frightened Jason stood rooted to the ground, and she remained there in a typically unpreturbed mother-fashion until her little bears had safely climbed down the tree. Jason put on an unconvincing performance of scolding and shaking his fists in the old bears face. When the cubs disappeared into the bushes the old mother bear turned and followed. Jason fled home. His story so amused the settlers that the Lake was nicknamed "Bear Lake" and the name stuck. Still called Bear Lake today. This version of how Bear Lake was named is a family hand-me-down, On Feb 10, 1935, Jason Silsby's granddaughter, Josephine S. Blake, then 86 years old and living in Sinclairville, put it down on paper for her heirs. " My mother was Jason Silsby's daughter and I have often heard her tell this." she concluded. The story was donated to the Library by Mrs. William Putnam of Stockton, who was the niece of Josephine S. Blake. Harlow Crissey was born 1802. His family came to Stockton in 1815. He died in 1892 and is buried in the old Stockton cemetery. Jason Silsby died in 1880.


Here's another tale of the pioneers and their "War with the Wolves" The following description of a "wolf hunt" was written by Mr. Judge L. Bugbee of Stockton.

"Perhaps no town in the county suffered so severely as Stockton. The deep recesses of the Cassadaga swamp, in this town, formed for wolf a secure retreat, where during the daytime he could quietly digest his mutton of the night before. At length the inhabitants became deeply exasperated and resolved on the extermination of the wolf. Meetings were held and a plan was devised. The battle ground was selected nearly east of the fork of the Cassadaga and Bear creeks. The plan of battle was a simultaneous attack upon all sides of the swamp at once. On the east the line was formed on the town line, between Stockton and Charlotte; on the north by the line of lots near Cooper's mills; on the west by the Cassadaga creek and on the south by another line of lots near the Swamp road, east of the residence of Abel Brunson. The ground was prepared under the supervision of Col. Charles Haywood of Ellery, assisted by Return Taber, Bela Todd and Royal Putnam. These lines were rendered very plain by blazing trees and lopping brush.

By previous arrangement, the forces met on the second day of October 1824. The north line of attack was commanded by Gen. Leverett Barker of Fredonia, assisted by Elijah Risley and Walter Smith as lieutenants. Col. Obed Edson, of Sinclairville, with Judge J. M. Edson and Joy Handy commanded the last division; Major Asael Lyon and Gen. George T. Camp on the west, and Col. Charles Haywood on the south, with Elias Clark, of Ellery, as his lieutenant. These Commanders all wore pistols in their belts to designate their office, and were assisted by the four men as guides, who had prepared the lines a short time before. Before going into the swamp, each division had chosen its place of rendezvous: The east at Sinclairville, the north at Cassadaga village, the west at Delanti (now Stockton village), and the south at the residence of Newell Putnam Esq., in the south part of Stockton. Dr. Waterman Ellsworth, of Delanti, was the captain of the men from Stockton and very active in getting up the 'hunt'.

Early in the forenoon the men were all upon the ground, forming a continuous line and encircling a goodly portion of the swamp. Mr. Royal Putnam, who assisted in marking the lines on all sides, thinks the square was a full one mile and a half upon each side. The number of men on the lines were sufficient to be within easy speaking distance from each other. The signal for advance was 'Boaz' being given by Gen. Barker, and as it returned, the lines moved forward in splendid order, growing more compact until they arrived on the battle grounds, forming a square about one mile in circumference. No man was to fire his gun until he received the password from the general, and it was known that the lines were closed up. The men now stood shoulder to shoulder. 'Jachin', the password, quickly made its round, and the signal gun was discharged, and in a moment the firing became general. After the first discharge of fire-arms the deer and rabbits within the lines became frantic with fright making the rounds and seeking an opening through which to escape. One stately buck, making the rounds, gallantly charged the line, by forcing his head between the legs of Charles P. Young, from Ellery, and carrying him several rods astride his neck, then bounding away, unharmed, into the free wilderness, save a few sore ribs, from the numerous punches received by the muskets in the hands of the men, before they had time to reload their pieces. After all the game had been dispatched that could be seen, a committee of three or more was sent within the inclosure, to search under old logs and fallen trees to ascertain if any game had fled to any of these places for safety. Dr. Ellsworth is the only man remembered to be upon that committee. After the return of the committee, the men, by orders, moved towards the center of the inclosure, bringing in the game, consisting of two large wolves, one bear, several deer and other small game."

3 other hunts were conducted following the one described above. The wolf pelts were turned in and bounty collected and the money was used to buy ammunition and whiskey for subsequent hunts.

The state offered a bounty of $20. for a full grown wolf and half that for a young one and the county gave the same bounty and most if not all towns gave a $10 bounty. Making a total of $50. for a full grown wolf.


Still another tale of the old pioneer days. This one concerns the GREAT ECLIPSE. This remarkable phenomenon occurred in 1806, when there were but a few settlers in this county. "and the large number who witnessed it before coming here, there are few now living who can give a minute and correct description of it. Nor will its like again occur in the United States, during the life-time of the youngest person now living." (Young's History of CC 1875).

The following description of this sublime phenomenon was given: "The atmosphere at this place, on Monday last [June 16th], was serene and pure. The sun was majestically bright, until 50 minutes past 9 o'clock, a.m., when a little dark spot was visable about Forty- five degrees to the right of the zenith. The shade increased until 15 minutes past 10, when stars began to appear, and the atmosphere exhibited a gloomy shade. At 12 minutes past 11 the sun was wholly obscured.... THe fowls retired to their roosts and the doves to their windows. The birds were mute except for the Whip-poor-will, whose notes partially cheered the gloom. The temperature fell nearly 18 degrees and the dew fell. Mother nature and her creatures assumed that night had commenced. The totalness lasted for about 3 minutes. and at 15 past 11 a small spot of light appeared on the left of the suns nadir. The birds left their retirement- the Whip-poor-will ceased its melody; and the face of nature again smiled."


The "biggest tree in the world" once grew in Chautauqua county. It was a black walnut tree that grew in Silver Creek, Town of Hanover on the banks of Walnut Creek. It measured 27 feet in circumference and 9 feet in diameter and its lowest branch was 70 feet above the ground. This giant of nature was blown down in 1822. It was hollowed out and contained a room that was large enough to hold over fifty people. It was used for ladies tea parties and then as an annex to a grocery store and later as a barber shop. This oddity in 1825 was bought by John Brigham and a friend, who sought to make their fortune hauling the tree around the country for all to see. They used an Erie Canal boat to transport the tree and made it to Lockport where they ran out of money. They sold the tree for $25. to another pair of enterprising young men, who transported the tree to New York City and there it was bought by a museum which displayed the giant for several years. It was then loaned to a museum in London England, where it was advertised as "The Black Walnut from Lake Erie." Fire destroyed the museum in the early 1830's and the Lake Erie Giant was no more.



Stephen H. ALLEN prominent attorney of Topeka, Kansas and member of Kansas Supreme Court was born in Sinclairville, NY in 1847- died Kansas 1931.

George C. COOK - Naval Commander born Forestville - 1858.

Mortier Franklin BARRUS - Professor of plant pathology at Cornell University in 1914.  born Forestville 1879.

George ABBOTT - one of the most successful theatrical producers on Broadway.  Born Forestville 1899.

John BIDWELL - California Forty Niner; helped organize that state; Prohibition Party candidate for president in 1892. born on a farm near Ripley in 1819 died 1900.

Guy Rex TUGWELL - prominent member of first FDR administration. born Sinclairville in 1891.

Forrest CRISSEY - a Chicago Journalist and author.  Many years on staff of the Saturday Evening Post.  born Stockton in 1864.

Charles Fremont AMIDON: U.S. District Judge of North Dakota from 1896-1928. born Clymer, NY 1856. Home in Fargo, ND.

Neal Dow BECKER: NY manufacturer and attorney, Consul general of Bulgaria in the U.S. 1922. born Cherry Creek 1883.

Early Venon WILCOX: Agricultural Scientist and author; with U.S. Ag. Dept. from 1899. born Busti 1869. Editor of Farmers Cyclopedia

Edwin Mead WILCOX: Botanist; born Busti 1876 - brother of above.

Edward H. FREEMAN: pianist and conductor of Muskinggum College, New Concord, Ohio. born Fredonia 1890.

David Hanson WAITE; Governor of Colarado 1893-94 born Jamestown, NY

Loren BLODGETT: Pioneer Climatologist; long associated with the Smithsonian Inst. in Washington, DC; born Busti 1823 died 1901

Ralph PLUMB: coal mine and railroad promoter in Illinois; Republican member of Congress 1885-89; born Busti 1816 died Streater, ILL 1903.

NEAL DOW BECKER born Cherry Creek 1883. NYCity Manufacturer and attorney. Consul general of Bulgaria in 1922.

OZRO A. HADLEY born Cherry Creek 1826. Acting Governor of Arkansas 1871-73. Became land owner in New Mexico.

GEORGE PORTER EDWARDS - born Dunkirk 1878. San Francisco publisker of business journals.

CHARLES EMERSON BEECHER - born Dunkirk 1856 Yale Professor of Paleontology.

EMILY MONTAGUE BISHOP born Forestville 1858. Distinguished Lecturer when Chautauqua Institutions were popular throughout America. Author of "Seventy Years Young."

GRACE E. MCKINSTRY born Fredonia. Portrait painter of Washington, DC.

EDWIN ROSEWELL SALMON - born in Dunkirk 1867. Naturalist of the New York Zooilogical Park and photographer of animals.

CHARLES ALDRICH - born in Ellington 1828. Pioneer editor and political leader of Iowa. Curator of the Historical Dept. of Iowa.

BELLE WEAVER COLE - born Mayville. Famous singer of the late 19th century, started career in NY 1883.

SAMUEL HOPKINS ADAMS - born Dunkirk 1871. Author - wrote Night Bus which was original of It Happened One Night.

FRANK MICHAEL O'BRIEN born Dunkirk 1875. Journalist of NYCity, awarded Pulitzer Prize for best editorial in 1921.

JAMES H. MCGRAW - co-founder of the publishing company of McGraw-Hill- was born in Panama, Town of North Harmony.

ALBION WINEGAR TOURGEE - resided in Mayville - a noted author, soldier and jurist. His novel "Button's Inn" was set in a real life, well known tavern by that name on the road from Westfield to Mayville.

HUGH BEDIENT and RAY "BUGS" CALDWELL, both born in Jamestown, were pitchers in baseballs major league.

RICHARD T. ELY - eminent educator and political economist was born and raised in Fredonia, Town of Pomfret.

DANIEL A. REED - Congressman- chairman of the House Ways and Means committee was born in Sheridan, Town of Sheridan and later resided in Dunkirk.

LUCILLE BALL - famous for her comedy in "I Love Lucy" was born in Celeron and raised in the area. She often visited family there. Recently, a museum dedicated to her was opened in Jamestown.

HORACE GREELEY - noted newspaper editor- famous for his "Go West young man" quote. Lived and worked in Chautauqua County. His parents resided in Clymer.

Nine presidents have vacationed and/or lectured at the Chautauqua Institution. The first was ULYSSES S. GRANT and the last was now President BILL CLINTON, who was here in 1996 preparing for the presidential debates.

CHARLES M. HAMILTON - born and raised in Ripley - was a United States Congressman and Republican whip of the House.

He and his wife BERTHA LAMBERTON HAMILTON had no children. They loved all dumb animals, especially dogs. Charles raised hunting dogs and showed them all over the country. His kennel had a sunroom. Mr. Hamilton died in 1942 and his wife in 1944. She left her entire estate of $750,000 and the family mansion "for the aid and comfort of dumb animals" The Hamilton Foundation for Dumb Animals was formed with a board of trustees administering the funds. Relatives waged a long court battle to break the trust but when the New York Supreme Court ruled against them- they gave up. So today on the grounds of the former Hamilton estate in Ripley, stands the Hamilton Hospital for Animals A research and diagnostic center.

SUSAN B. ANTHONY a famed pioneer of the women's movement, from nearby Monroe County, NY, often visited, vacationed and held rallies throughout Chautauqua county. She stayed at the Chautauqua Institution, where she was a guest lecturer. She also spent some summers at Lily Dale, a spiritualist camp on the Cassadaga Lakes.

BENJAMIN F. GOODRICH - the rubber tycoon - was born in Ripley, Town of Ripley - but did not stay long in that village.

REUBEN E. FENTON - one of two persons from Chautauqua County who became Governor of New York State. He was born in the Town of Carroll, where his family came in 1807. Reuben made his fortune in lumbering and afterwards moved to Jamestown. His former home is headquarters of the Fenton Historical Society, which maintains a museum and research library on the premises.

ERASTUS DOW PALMER- won renown for his sculptures in marble of which his "white captive" is a prized exhibit at the New York Museum of Art. He came to Dunkirk, Town of Dunkirk in 1834 where he made his living as a joiner and carpenter and helped to build many houses in that city.

MARY E. "pants" WALKER - celebrated in her time as an eccentric feminist - was an advocate of mannish dress for women resided in Fredonia, Town of Pomfret, for many years.

GEORGE PULLMAN - designer and builder of the "pullman" car", so successful in railroad history - was born in Brocton, Town of Portland and spent much of his childhood there.

GEORGE ABBOTT - theatrical and Broadway producer - was born and raised in Forestville, Town of Hanover.

HOWARD EHMKE - pitching hero of the 1929 World Series between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Chicago Cubs - was a native of Silver Creek, Town of Hanover. His 13 strikeouts for the Athletics still stands in the record books. Although Howard moved to California, many of the Ehmke name still reside in that village.

DOUGLAS HOUGHTON - eminent naturalist and credited with discovering the first iron ore mine in Minnesota - spent his formative years in Fredonia, Town of Pomfret. Houghton Park, stands near his former home and a boulder honoring him and his father Judge Jacob Houghton is displayed there.

Samuel LANGHORNE CLEMENS better known as "MARK TWAIN" - was a frequent visitor to the village of Fredonia. He bought a house for his mother there and often visited her and his niece and her husband, CHARLES L. WEBSTER. The two men joined in publishing General U.S. Grant's memoirs. Mr. Webster also wrote a biography of Pope Leo XIII, which so pleased the pontiff he made Mr. Webster a knight of the Church. In later years, a daughter of Mr. Webster and grandniece of Mark Twain, JEAN WEBSTER, (Mrs. Glenn Ford McKinney) wrote a series of books for young girls. Her most famous opus was Daddy Long Legs, which she made into a play and which became a silent movie in which Mary Pickford starred and in the 1950's was made into a musical starring Fred Astair.

ROBERT HOUGHWOUT JACKSON - was born in PA. but came as an infant, to Frewsburg, Town of Ellicott. He was associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and served as chief council for the United States at the trials of Nazi war criminals.  (See below.)

Sent in after checking in with the Chautauqua County, NY USGenWeb Page!

Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997

You may also want to add the dates that Jackson served on the Court. 1941-1954. He also served as US Attorney General from 1940-1941. The current Chief Justice of the United States, Chief Justice Rehnquist, was a law clerk to Justice Jackson.

I enjoyed you site while researching the net to confirm the burial site of Justice Jackson in Frewsburg.

Catherine Fitts, Assistant Curator Supreme Court of the United States

And Another Addition

Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998

You might want to add Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs to you list of famous folks.

Tara Meyers <>