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CLIMATE. The county has a high reputation for the salubrity of its climate. Fruits thrive well here, and attain great persection both of size and flavor. From the elevation of its surface, the winters are long, but the cold is somewhat moderated by the proximity of the lake.
GEOLOGY AND MINERALS. This county belongs entirely to the Chemung sandstone group. The rocks of the county consist of alternate layers of sandstone and slaty rocks. In Harmony, Carroll, and some other sections, this sandstone furnishes a fine building material. The crest of the dividing ridge is occasionally crowned with the conglomerate of the Catskill group.
Bog iron ore has been found in several localities, but in no great quantity. Shell marl is abundant in the vicinity of the Casadaga lakes. Alum and copperas are spontaneously formed in the town of Sheridan.
Mineral Springs. Sulphur springs are quite numerous in the neighborhood of Lake Erie. One in Mina is considerably visited. The inflammable springs, or those containing carburetted hydrogen gas, are worthy of notice. number of these along the shores of Lake Erie. The village of Fredonia, in the town of Pomfret, is lighted by this natural gas. It also furnishes material for the light house at Barcelona, and might be employed in the same way at numerous other points along the shores of the lake. It is entirely free from any unpleasant odor.
SOIL AND VEGETABLE PRODUCTIONS. The soil is generally very good. The section on the shores of Lake Erie, extending back for a distance of three or four miles, is a rich alluvium, highly fertile, and well adapted to grains and fruit. The uplands are better fitted for grass, and yield abundant crops.
The timber of the county is oak, maple, beech, black walnut, butternut, hickory, with some pine and hemlock.
On Walnut creek, about a mile from its mouth, formerly stood a black walnut tree, 150 feet in height, thirty-six feet in circumference at its base, and tapering regularly eighty feet, to the first limb. This enormous tree was blown down in 1822. It was supposed to be more than 500 years old. The butt, nine feet in length was excavated, and used for a grocery, at Buffalo. When the Erie canal was opened, it was transported to New York and exhibited to thousands.
Pursuits. Agriculture is the pursuit of a majority of the inhabitants. More attention is paid to the rearing of stock and the produce of the dairy, than to the culture of grain. The principal grains cultivated are corn, oats, wheat, and some barley and buckwheat. Large quantities of flax and potatoes, are also raised. In the latter crop it occupied a high rank among the counties of the state.
Munufactures. The county is not very largely engaged in manufactures. Flour, lumber, leather and iron, are the principal articles, and their entire value is between $700,000 and $800,000.
Commerce. The county has some commerce. Van Buren, Dunkirk, Barcelona and Portland are its principal harbors.
STAPLE PRODUCTIONS. Butter, cheese, wool, pork, potatoes, flax, corn and oats.
Schools. There are in the county 308 public schools. In 1846, schools were taught an average period of seven months 18,376 children received instruction, at a cost of $17,581. The district libraries contained 30,010 volumes.
There are in the county thirty-one unincorporated schools, with 562 pupils ; and five academies, attended by 326 students.
RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS. Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Episcopalians, Universalists and Friends. There are seventy-three churches, and 106 clergymen, of all denominations.
History. Tradition relates that the French early established a post at Portland, in this county; but at what time is not certainly known. The only Indian settlement within the limits of the county, when first explored, was in the present town of Carroll, on the Connewango creek.
In 1782, a party, consisting of about 800 British and Indians, with a train of artillery and other munitions of war, spent the months of June and July around Chautauque lake, constructing canoes, and making other preparations to descend the Allegany river and attack Fort Pitt, now Pittsburgh. For this purpose they obstructed the channel of the Chautauque outlet, in order to raise the waters of the lake.
The first purchase of lands made in this county, for the purpose of settlement, was in 1801, in the town of Ripley, by Gen. John McMahan. No settlement was effected, however, till 1802, when Col. James McMahan, brother of the general, located himself in the town of Westfield. The same year Edward McHenry settled in the same neighborhood.
In 1796 one Amos Sottle had located in Hanover, but removed in 1800 from the county, and did not return for several years. John McHenry, born in 1802, was the first child of white parents born in the county.
The privations of the early settlers were very great. Often they were compelled to subsist upon the precarious products of the chase, for months, without tasting bread or other provisions.
In 1804, the first town was constituted, and embraced the whole of the present county. In 1808 the county was provisionally organized; but not having a sufficient number of inhabitants to entitle it to a separate organization, it remained attached to Genesee county till 1811.
The whole of this county was included in the Holland Land Company's purchase, and from that company and its successors, the titles to the property were derived.
During the war of 1812, the lake coast was several times invaded by small parties of the enemy, who, however, never accomplished any feats of valor in the county. A party of British landed at Dunkirk, in 1813, to deposite some property which they had plundered from the coast above. Twelve of the boat's crew deserted, immediately on landing, leaving only the officer who commanded the boat, and a single sailor, whom the militia soon compelled to return to their vessel.
In 1814, an armed schooner pursued some lake boats into Canadawa creek, and attempted to capture them, but was repulsed by ihe militia. About 200 of the Chautauque militia were called out by Governor Tompkins, for the defence of Buffalo; undisciplined and unaccustomed to withstand regular troops, they fled early in the action, but were pursued, and a number killed and scalped by the Indians. Ten or twelve of the citizens of the county fell in this retreat, and others were severely wounded. After the close of the war, the growth of the county was extraordinarily rapid.
In 1835 the Holland Land Company sold out the lands, together with the outstanding and expired contracts, to Trumbull, Carey and others of Batavia. They had made a like sale of their lands in Genesee county, and the new company had compelled such of the settlers as were unable to complete the payments on their farms, to pay an additional sum per acre, as the price of forbearance. This exaction was known as the Genesee tariff. It soon became generally understood, that the principles of this tariff were to be applied to Chautauque county. Meetings were held by the citizens who felt themselves aggrieved, and definite information demanded from the company, as to their intentions.
After some delay the company announced their determination to exact the principal and compound interest from all who would immediately pay for their lands, and to require 25 per cent, advance from those who asked for an extension of time in payment.
These exactions, at this period, would have deprived many of the settlers of their farms, and reduced them to ruin.
Upon learning the demands of the company, resolutions were passed by the citizens, denouncing their course and declaring their determination not to submit to it. On the sixth of February, 1836, a mass of people, mostly from the interior towns, assembled at Barnhart's inn, about two miles from. Mayville, about four o'clock in the afternoon, armed with axes, crowbars, &c.; and having organized, proceeded to Mayville, about eight o'clock in the evening. They attacked the office of the Land Company, demolished the wood building, and finally forced open the stone vault, containing the company's books and papers, carried them to Barnhart's, and burned them in the highway.
From this time, till 1833, all intercourse between the Land Company and the settlers ceased. In that year a sale was effected of the property, to Messrs. Duer, Morrison and Seward, (late governor of the state,) and by them an office was opened in Westfield, and the outstanding claims adjusted to the satisfaction of all parties.
VILLAGES. MAYVILLE, the county seat, is a flourishing village, in the town of Chautauque. It was incorporated in 1830. It is beautifully situated, commanding a fine view of the lake. Its public buildings are neat and substantial.
The Mayville academy was incorporated in 1834, and is a well conducted institution. A steamboat plies between this village and Jamestown, daily, during the summer. Population 500.
Jamestown, situated on the outlet of Chautauque lake, in the town of Ellicott, is the largest village in the county. It has a fine hydraulic power, which is extensively used in manufacturing. Lumber, wooden ware, sash, lath, flour, cloth, &c., are manufactured here. The Jamestown academy was incorported in 1836, and is in a prosperous condition. This village was incorporated in 1827. Population 1700.
Fredonia is a beautiful village, in the town of Pomfret, four miles from Lake Erie. It has some trade, but is chiefly remarkable for its inflammable spring, which furnishes a sufficient quantity of gas to light the village brilliantly. It was incorporated in 1829. The academy here, established in 1824, was the first in the county, and sustains a high reputation. Population 1000.
Westfield, in the town of the same name, incorporated in 1833, is situated on Chautauque creek, one and a half miles from Lake Erie. It is a thriving, busy village, and has a fine academy, incorporated in 1837. Population 1000.
Dunkirk, on Lake Erie, in the town of Pomfret, has been designated as the western terminus of the New York and Erie railroad. It is a village of some business. The United States government have expended about $80,000 in the improvement of its harbor, which is now commodious for vessels drawing eight or nine feet water. It is open usually somewhat earlier than that of Buffalo. Population 1000.
Fayette, at the mouth of Silver creek, in the town of Hanover, has a good steamboat landing, and some trade. Pop. 700.
Portland has a good harbor. Barcelona has a light house, illuminated with the gas evolved from an inflammable spring near it.
TOWNS. 1. Homer, 1794.
8. Freetown, 1818. 2. Solon, 1798.
9. Marathon, 1818. 3. Virgil, 1804.
10. Willett, 1818. 4. Cincinnatus, 1804.
11. Cortlandville, 1829. 5. Preble, 1808.
12. Hartford, 1845. 6. Truxton, 1808.
13. Lapeer, 1845. 7. Scott, 1815. Rivers. Q. Tioughnioga. a. Cold Creek. h. Otselic. Villages. CORTLAND. Homer.
BOUNDARIES. North by Onondaga county; East by Madison and Chenango; South by Broome and Tioga; and West by Tompkins and Cayuga counties.
THE SURFACE is elevated, and gently sloping to the south,