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History of Centerville, New York

from History of Allegany Co., New York, pub. 1879, edited by F. W. Beers, pp 238-240

The town of Centreville was formed from Pike, Wyoming county, January 15th 1819.  The following are the names of the first town offers:

  • Jesse Bullock, supervisor
  • Alfred Forbes, town clerk
  • Edward Crowell, overseer of the poor
  • Zaccheus Spencer, overseer of the poor
  • Benjamin Blanchard, assessor
  • Mark S. White, assessor
  • Strong Warner, assessor
  • Abraham Dayton, commissioner of highways
  • Mark Blanchard, commissioner of highways
  • Nathaniel Moore, commissioner of highways
  • Jess Hadley, constable
  • Calvin Cass, constable
  • Calvin Cass, collector
  • David Smith, school commissioner
  • Benjamin Weaver, school commissioner
  • Simeon Forbes, school commissioner
  • Calvin Cass, school inspector
  • Jesse Bullock, school inspector
  • Alfred Forbes, school inspector
  • Perkins B. Woodward, poundmaster

The supervisors of the town have been as follows since 1819:

  • Jesse Bullock - 1820-22
  • Alfred Forbes - 1823
  • Russell Burlingame - 1824, 1825, 1835
  • Jesse Hadley - 1836-28
  • David Oaks - 1829
  • Benjamin Blanchard - 1830, 1841
  • Strong Warner - 1831, 1832
  • Oren Pell - 1833, 1834
  • Hugh Gillis - 1836-38
  • Timothy Higgins - 1839, 1840, 1842-45, 1856, 1857
  • Gregory Metcalf - 1846, 1847
  • Ezra M. Hopkins - 1848, 1849
  • R. O. Billings - 1850-52
  • G. H. Jenkins - 1853
  • Allen Simmons - 1854, 1855, 1860, 1862
  • A. S. Barnum - 1858, 1859
  • Jonathan Couch - 1863-65, 1869, 1870, 1874, 1875, 1877-79
  • S. B. Freeman - 1866, 1867
  • Thomas B. Edwards - 1868
  • John D. Ballard - 1871-73, 1876

Since 1819 the town clerks of Centreville has been as follows:

  • Alfred Forbes - 1820
  • Calvin Case - 1821, 1822
  • David Oaks - 1823, 1824, 1827
  • John Boardman - 1825, 1826
  • Timothy Higgins - 1828, 1837, 1845
  • Loren Stacy - 1829, 1839
  • Russell Trall - 1830, 1831
  • Dudley C. Bryan - 1832
  • Marvin Trall - 1833
  • Porter Hanks - 1834
  • Daniel Veazie - 1835, 1836, 1844
  • Sheldon D. Trall - 1838
  • Royal O. Billings - 1846-49
  • Stephen Cook - 1841
  • Joel Nye - 1842
  • William McCray - 1843
  • Chester Kimball - 1850-68, 1870, 1871
  • David H. Brook - 1869
  • John W. Jones - 1872
  • Thomas Symes - 1873-79

In the early days, for the better accommodation of the scattered voters, elections were held two or three successive days in different parts of the town. The “anniversary election” of 1819 was opened at the house of Jesse Bullock, April 27th, and adjourned from there to the house of Strong Warner on the 28th and on the 29th to the house of Russell Trall.  Upon the closing of the polls the vote stood as follows:

For senator, Gideon Granger, 1 and Lyman Payne 1; Philetus Swift and Nathaniel Garrow, 47.  For member of Assembly, James McCall 48, John Dow 26, Clark Crandall 22.

According to the records the number of votes polled in 1819 was 48; in 1830, 83

The following are the names of those who were returned as jurors from Centreville April 27th 1819 Parckard Bruce, Benjamin Moore, William Palmer, Mark S. White, Clark Hopkins, Benjamin Blanchard, Edward Crowell, Joseph Fox and Abram Dayton

Under date of the 4th day of May, 1819, it is recorded that Russell Trall, James Farwell, Nathaniel Moore, Strong Warner and Simeon Forbes applied to the excise commissioner of Centreville for license to keep inns or taverns and to retail liquors under five gallons, and that Jesse Bullock, Lyman Blakesley and Matthew P. C. Cady, “the commissioners, believing the said persons applying to be of good moral character and of sufficient ability to keep an inn or tavern, resolved that” licenses should be granted in accordance with their petitions.  November 10th of the same year license was granted to Joseph Maxson. The great disparity between the number of taverns and the number of votes is explained by the fact that the inns were needed for the accommodation of large numbers of emigrants who were at that time journeying to the West by this route.  The travel was constant, and it is said all of these primitive hostelries were often filled, and that many applicants for admission were necessarily refused accommodations inside and were obliged to sleep in the out-buildings or in their wagons.

First Land Contracts -- Early Settlement

The first contracts for land in Centreville, granted by the Holland Land Company, were issued in 1808 to Joseph Maxson, Russell Trall, Thomas Clute, Strong Warner, David Gelatt and Samuel Webster.

Joseph Maxson was the primitive settler, and as Tuner remarks in the History of the Holland Purchase, his advent into the wilderness of Centreville is worthy of notice.  “Leaving his native place (Hartwick, Otsego county) when but eighteen years old, he arrived at Pike in April, 1808.  Two cents in money, a few articles of provisions and a scanty wardrobe constituted the worldy wealth of our young adventurer.  Taking a new pair of shoes from his feet, he bartered them for an ax and pushed into the wilderness away from any habitation.  Selecting his land he erected a rude shanty, and to supply bed and bedding peeled basswood bark, using one piece to separate himself from the ground and another for covering.  The snow fell to the depth of six inches after he fixed himself in his new home.  He spent eight months solitary and alone. It is noted on the books of the land office that he had five acres cleared July 28th, 1808, at which date he had his land ’booked’ to him, paying nothing down.  It is presumed he had only chopped down the timber and burned the brush. He raised the first season a few bushels of corn and potatoes, and in the fall sowed two acres of wheat.  Success rewarded the extraordinary efforts of the young pioneer.  He became,” (as we have seen) “an early tavern keeper,” and was the owner of a large tract of land, which he sold in after years to remove to Wisconsin, where he erected mills and engaged in lumbering.”  He preserved, as relics of his early advent upon the Holland Purchase, one of the two cents mentioned, the ax for which he traded his shoes, an old wooden fan with which he cleared the first wheat ever raised in the town, and one kernel of the seed corn he procured to plant in 1808.

Before the close of the year another settler, not mentioned as having contracted land of the Holland Company, made his way into Centreville, and became a resident.  This was James Ward, who is credited with having built the first framed barn in the town and planted the first orchard.  David Gelatt came next, accompanied by his brother Abraham.

Soon afterward settlement was started a little north of the center of the town, by Zaccheus Spencer, Thomas and Strong Warner and Perkins B. Woodward, from Ashford, Conn. the Warners located about a mile and a half northeast of the village of Centreville, where Strong Warner afterward kept a public house. He was an enterprising man, and was often chosen to positions of responsibility in the town. a few years since he removed to Michigan, where he died. He has descendants living in the town. Woodward settled about half a mile north of the village, where he lived until his death, about 1860.  He began the manufacture of brick at an early date, and conducted that industry on an extensive scale for that time, abandoning it about thirty years ago.  He was a leading member of the Presbyterian church.

In 1810 Sargent Morrell, from Vermont, settled in the south part of the town.  The next year Benjamin Blanchard, from the same State, located on lot number 25.  The latter was for many years a resident of the town, but finally removed to Rushford, where he died about ten years ago.  Four of his brothers, Mark, Lewis, Abel and Barnes, were also settlers in Centreville, where Mark died about thirty-five and Lewis twenty five or thirty years ago.  They all had large families, but their only representative in the town at this time is Orville, son of Lewis Blanchard.  In 1811 Luther Houghton located in the town.  He removed to Caneadea seven years afterward.  He was a native of Vermont.  He died in 1858, at the age of eighty-five.

Among those who settled in Centreville in 1812 were John and Samuel Leach, on lot number 26.  The former lived in the town during life, dying about a year since.  Other early settlers not already mentioned were ___ Perry, William Foy, ___ Carpenter, Eber Hotchkiss, ___ Thatcher, Russell Higgins, Russell Trall, Dr. Calvin Cass and Packard BruceJacob Potter was a settler in 1813, and remained during life.

Although Trall was one of those who took articles for and at the office in Batavia in 1808, he does not appear to have become a resident of the town until some time during the progress of the war of 1812.  He located where the village now is, and died there thirty-five years ago or thereabout.  One of his children became Mrs. Russell Higgins and is yet living in the town, at an advanced age.  One of his sons, Marvin Trall, who was at one time town clerk of Centreville, is a prominent member of the Wyoming county bar and has served honorably as judge of that county.  Russell T. Trall, another son, is a well known physician, lecturer, and medical author of New York.

The Terrys and Northrups were early settlers also. Settlement was comparatively rapid after the war in Centreville, as elsewhere on the Holland Purchase.

Reuben Potter came in during 1816.  He removed to Rushford in 1864.

Among the new comers in 1820 was Calvin Couch.  He came in from Pike, where his father had settled about ten years previously, and located about a mile northeast of the village of Centreville, where he lived until his death, in 1829.  His widow died in the town early in the present year.  His sons, Jonathan and William B. Couch, are living in the town at the represent time.  The former is an incumbent of the offices of justice of his peace, supervisor and postmaster.

Hugh Gillis, now living in the village, was a settler in 1825.  The only men living in the town who were there at the time he came are Bushnell Woodward, Ezra Woodward, William Terry and Riley NorthrupMr. Gillis moved in from Ontario county and located about one hundred rods from where he now lives.

Did space permit it would be interesting to give the names of settlers of a later period, together with the dates of their advent into the town. Such a record as has been given will afford an idea as to who were the pioneers in Centreville, and a glance at the list of successive town officials presented elsewhere will show who were the leading men in public affairs.

The population of Centreville in


Some Early Events and Beginnings

The building of the first framed barn and the setting out of the first orchard by James Ward have been mentioned elsewhere.

The first birth of a white child in the town was that of Calvin P. Perry, June, 1809, which is also the date of his death.  There is no record of an earlier death than his.

The first tavern was kept where the village now is, as early as 1810.  The pioneer landlord was a man named Thatcher.

William Foy and Ruth Morrell were the first couple to unite their hands and fortunes in matrimony, which they did in 1811.

Perkins B. Woodward, already referred to as an early settler, was the pioneer pedagogue, opening the first school in the winter of 1813-14.

A man named Carpenter erected the first framed house.

The first saw-mill was erected on Six Town creek by Eber Hotchkiss and Mark Blanchard in 1813.

Four years later (1817), Russell Higgins and Packard Bruce erected the pioneer grist-mill on the same stream.  Bruce did not long remain in the town. His son, Edwin S. Bruce, was sheriff of Allegany county.  Another son, Charles M. Bruce is an able preacher of the Baptist faith.  His daughter became the wife of Senator Teller, of Colorado.  Higgins was a well known resident of Centreville until his death, which occurred about 1860.

The first store was opened, it is said at the “Centre” as the location of the village was formerly known, in 1820, by Sparrow Smith, who subsequently removed to Pike, Wyoming county.  His store and residence are still standing.  The former is occupied by Fred Williams & Co.  The matter is the property of Mrs. Whitney, of the adjoining town of Hume.

Dr. Calvin Cass was the pioneer physician.  The second was Dr. Weld.  He was followed by Dr. William A. Stacy, father of Dr. O. T. Stacy, of Rushford, who moved in about the year 1828.  He lived in the town nearly thirty years, during which he enjoyed an extensive practice, and in 1857 removed to Rushford.  Dr. Stewart, Dr. William A. Ware and Dr. Porter Hanks all began practice in the town after the removal of Dr. StacyDr. William M. Body practiced here five years previous to the fall of 1878.  The resident practitioners at the present time are Drs. L. G. Waterman and E. I. Fish.

Centerville, Fairview and the Welsh Settlement.

The early history of Centreville village is given in connection with the record of the progress of events in the town.  The village contains three stores, a wagon shop, two blacksmith shops, a cheese factory, two churches and a hotel.  The population is about one hundred and seventy.

Fairview is a small hamlet lying partly in the southwest corner of Centreville, partly in Rushford and partly in the southwest corner of Centreville, partly in Rushford and partly in Cattaraugus county.  It contains a church (in Centreville), and a few dwellings.

The southwestern part of the town is often referred to as the “Welsh Settlement.”  A large proportion of the population of that section are Welsh, who began to settle there about 1840.  They are industrious and thrifty, and most of them have amassed considerable property.  There was formerly a welsh church in the western part of the town, near the county line.  The house of worship is now used as a school-house, the members of the society worshipping in Cattaraugus county.

Business and Resources -- Statistics

The progress of a community from the removal of the forest, which originally covered the ground, to the present time, could be traced in its successive business interests.  Centreville is now in the enjoyment of a good degree of prosperity, which has resulted from gradually changing opportunities for business and traffic within its borders, each of which has developed almost imperceptibly from those which preceded it.  With the clearing of the land and the burning of the timber which encumbered it, and opportunity was presented for speculation in the ashes which lay in the fallows.  Leading men in the branch of trade and manufacture were Messrs. Cook, Hale & Company, who had an ashery at an early day where the blacksmith shop of Thomas Jones now stands.  Sparrow Smith manufactured pearlash on the Pike road, between 1825 and 1845.  The manufacture of lumber was a leading industry for many years, and aided much to render the clearing of the land profitable.

Farming was always carried on to some extent, but it assumed a position as an important interest only after the land was well cleared.  The soil of Centreville is best adapted to grazing, and during the past few years the town has been advancing to an enviable rank among the dairy towns of the county.  The following statistics will be found pertinent in this connection. They are from the report of the census of 1875:

  • Average number of milch cows kept in the town in 1874 - 1,551; 1875 - 1,706;
  • Number of cows whose milk was sent to the factory in 1874 - 1,479; 1875 - 1,599;
  • Amount of butter made in families in 1874 - 42,422 pounds;
  • Cheese made in families in 1874 - 2,120 pounds;
  • Gallons of milk sold in market in 1874 - 112;

Could statistics of a later date be obtained they would show a marked advance in the amount of dairy products since the date mentioned.

According to the report of the board of supervisors of Allegany county for the year 1878, the assessed valuation of real estate in Centreville was $258,961; of personal property, $9,100. The amount of county tax assessed was $1,163.30; State tax, $868.86; town tax, $510.68

Biographies posted to the biography board:

  • Nelson Farmer
  • Edward N. Gilbert
  • Nelson Merwin
  • Solomon Williams
  • Perkins B. Woodward


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Last updated on July 19, 2006
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