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Jewettville is a station on the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburg Railroad, in the west part of the town, and contains the hotel of Adrian Metz and the brick yard of Brush & Smith. In 1878 H. C. and Josiah Jewett established here one of the largest horse farms in the country, upon which they built immense barns and a mile race course entirely covered.
Griffin’s Mills is a small village on the west bank of Cazenovia Creek, a little south of the west center of the town. It was originally known as Smith’s Mills, from Abram Smith and his son Humphrey, who first developed the mill privileges there. During the war of 1812 Obadiah Griffin and his two sons, James and Robert, from Canada, purchased the property, carried on the business many years, and gave the place the name of Griffinshire or Griffin’s Mills. About the same time Adams Paul opened a store and carried it on for about thirty years.
The Griffins had a saw mill, grist mill, distillery and ashery. Robert Griffin opened a tavern, and in 1822 a brick hotel was erected. In 1825 the Griffins sold their property and moved away. The mills passed to Henry Hill and from him to Henry P. Darrow. James Ives opened the second store in 1825 and was succeeded by Harry L. Baker, the first postmaster.
Other merchants were Aaron Riley, 0. B. Baker, Theodore Henshaw, Joseph R. Brookins and S. D. Avery. Of the physicians there were Dr. D. J. Williams, Dr. Caspian R. Morrow and Dr. L. F. Boies. The West Aurora Congregational church was organized August 18, 1810, with nine members. This is now a Presbyterian church. An M. E. church was formed about 1850. About 1868 a Baptist church was organized, but it finally disbanded. The village now contains two stores and the grist mill of Ferdinand Wanneke.
West Falls is a small village in the southwest corner of the town and astation on the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburg Railroad. It had its beginning in the grist mill of Abram Smith and store of Lawrence Read, both of which were started about 1818. For about thirty years it was known as Crockershire, from the Crocker family, and later for a brief time as Florence, but since the post-office was established it has been known as West Falls.
The grist mill was successively owned by Miner Strope, Willard Berry, L. B. Clark, John Willey and John Snashell. Several saw mills have also been run by this water power, notably those of Henry Haight, Smith Decker and Mrs. L. C. Burr. Aniong the merchants of the past are Reuben Baker, Allen Holmes, Hiram Green, F. C. Thompson, Byron A. Churchill, Wheeler C. Holmes 2d, George T. Harvey aud John J. Snyder; the latter was burned out October 26, 1897.
Joseph M. Henshaw was a very early tavern keeper; the West Falls Hotel was built by James H. Ward about 1835. The first physician was Dr. F. F. Bishop, about 1840, and after him came Dr. O. C. Strong. The Methodists held services in the old school house until 1849, when a union church edifice was built. The First Free Baptist church was - organized in 1858. The First Free Methodist church was formed in 1859 and in 1861 erected a meeting house. An Evangelical church was completed and dedicated June 26, 1892. A new school house was built in 1897. Besides these churches the village now contains a grist mill, a pickling establishment owned by W. & G. Klipfel, and a few stores, shops, etc
Several manufacturing establishments are or have been in operation in East Aurora. The Eagle furnace was erected about 1852 by Pratt & Bond, who were succeeded by Nathan M. Mann, William H. Mann, Darbee & Peek, Darbee, Peek & Brother, and Heineman & Smith. A planing mill was added in 1878 and is now owned by S. Harris Peek. D. K. Adams formerly had a saw mill which is now the water works plant. The carding and fulling mill built by J. S. Bartlett and later operated by his sons was burned in 1865, and in 1866 J. P. and 0. A. Bartlett erected a woolen mill.
Early Commerce and Merchants
The first store was opened in a log cabin at Blakeley’s Corners by John Adams and Daniel Haskell; there a post-office called Willink was established in 1814, with Simon Crook as postmaster.
In 1815 Robert Persons opened the first permanent store in the town, at East Aurora, and soon afterward the post-office was moved to that locality. In 181€ Gen. William Warren erected a frame tavern there, which was soon purchased by Col. Calvin Fillmore, uncle of Millard Fillmore.
About 1820 Lemuel Spooner built a grist mill in the southeast part of the town which was replaced in 1860 by another erected by Lyman Cornwall; David Nichols built a carding and fulling mill a mile and a half above the mouth of the west branch of Cazenovia Creek. About 1822 Sylvester McKay erected an oil mill on the same dam, Benjamin Enos built a tannery a little farther up that stream, and Joseph S. Bartlett put up a fulling and carding establishment near the Stephens mill.
Another tannery was placed in operation east of East Aurora and a third near South Wales. There were at one time upwards of twenty saw mills in the town. On the oil mill site E. S. Taylor built a pail factory in 1840; it was sold to Henry Van Vliet in 1844 and to William H. Davis in 1847, and was burned about 1849. In 1843 Aaron Rumsey erected a large tannery near Griffin’s Mills which he carried on about twenty years.
The following also became active citizens of the town: William N. Bennett, John Bragg and son George S., James G. Darby, Henry Moore and son Henry F., Gifford J. and Jeremiah Moore, H. L. Henshaw, Charles Boies, Don Carlos Underhill, Joseph B. Dick, Harry H. Persons, Medyard R. Phelps (who built a tannery at Griffin’s Mills in 1828 and carried it on for thirty-five years), Daniel Rowley, Caleb Calkins, Thomas Holmes, Josiah Maples, Isaac Blakeley, Mortimer K. Adams, Elihu Walker, Martin C. Bentley, Daniel Pierson, Harvey White, Edwin Fowler, Lawrence 3. Woodruff, Bryan Hawley, David P. White, Stephen Holmes, Seth McKay, Orange F. Allen, Robbins Stiliman, Emmons Fish. Among the earlier merchants were John W. Hamlin, Cicero J. Hamlin, Judson Prentice and Sylvanus B. Thompson. Among later merchants are H. C. Persons & Son, F. H. Fuller, Henry Keyser, Shubael Waldo, T. Fuller, Thompson & Hoyt, H. B. Millar, T. & T. S. Millar, G. A. Edwards & Co., Chisman Gibson, J. A. Case & Co., Spooner & Gundlack, Dr. Jabez Allen, Charles E. Lamb, Frank Kelsey, L. D. Mapes, Clarence Lamb, L. N. Hatch, B. D. Gibson, Gibson & Hammond, L. F. Persons & Co., J. P. Arnholt, W. G. Whitney, and F. W. Gardner. Of the later lawyers there are Charles W. Merritt, Charles H. Addington, and Frank N. Whaley. Dr. Horace Hoyt and Dr. William H. Gail were among the later physicians. The Persons House, now the Warner Hotel, was built by Byron D. Persons in 1872; Damon’s Hotel was erected on the Willink House site and Colvin’s Hotel on the site of the old Eagle tavern.
Roads and Railroads
The first railroad projected in Erie county was incorporated in 1830 by Joseph Howard, jr., Edward Paine, Aaron and Joseph Riley, Robert Persons, Calvin Fillmore and Deloss Warren, all residents of Aurora. It was styled the Buffalo and Aurora Railroad Company. The road was surveyed by William Wallace, but was never constructed.
About 1876 a fire department was organized and now consists of one chemical, three hose companies, and a hook and ladder, with an engine house in each end of the village.
First Electric Company
The East Aurora Electric Light Company was incorporated in August, 1890, by Frank R. Whaley, president, and Harvey W. Richardson, secretary and treasurer. The original capital of $12,000 has been increased to $20,000. The water works were built in 1890—91 and have cost to date $56, 000, the village being bonded in that sum. There are two plants, one pumping water from springs and the other from nine wells.
The Bank of East Aurora was organized in August, 1882, with a capital of $30,000, and with Stephen C. Clark, president; Henry Z. Persons, vice-president; and Henry H. Persons, cashier.
The first newspaper in East Aurora was the Aurora Standard, which was started by Almon M. Clapp in 1835. It was discontinued after about three years, and for a short time Deloss A. Sill published a paper at the Lower Village.
The Erie County Advertiser was established in August, 1872, by C. C. Bowsfield. Its name was changed to the Aurora Advertiser, and in January, 1878, Walter C. Wood, its present editor, became its publisher. He changed the name in March, 1897, to the East Aurora Advertiser.
In 1879 C. A. Hamilton started the Weekly Times, which was discontinued after about three years. In July, 1886, Dietrich Brothers established the Aurora Enterprise, which they published until about 1893. The plant was purchased in 1894 by White & Waggoner, who started the East Aurora Citizen, which was purchased by W. C. Wood and merged with the Advertiser two and a half years later. Newell W. White continues in the general printing business.
In the spring of 1853 Millard Fillmore, then twenty-three years of age, came here and opened the first law office in the town. He practiced law here seven years, taught school the first two winters, and also did surveying; he built the house on Main street which was afterward enlarged and occupied by Joseph Riley.
In May, 1826, Nathan K. Hall entered Mr. Fillmore’s office as a student, and in 1829 Goorge W. Johnson began studying law there and also opened a classical school. Another student was Deloss Warren, who practiced law there several years.
A fire in 1869 burned the Eagle tavern and an adjoining block and another in 1870 destroyed the brick block occupied by Isaac Ellsworth and the saw mill of Amos Roberts. The Willink House and the store of H. B. Millar & Co. were burned in 1875, the buildings on the northeast corner of Main and Buffalo streets in 1876, and the saw mill of Cyrus Rogers in 1878.
Other fires destroyed the Bartlett woolen factory; the East Aurora Preserving Company’s establishment, which was started in 1880; the grist mill erected by A. T. Hambleton in 1867; the Boynton & Waggoner felt factory (in 1895); and the tannery of D. M. Spooner (in 1897). The grist mill was burned in 1853 and in 1867 a new one was erected by A. T. Hambleton.
From Forests to Farmland
The forests of early years gradually gave place to fertile and well cultivated farms, for which the town is noted. Soon after the Rebellion dairying assumed much importance; cheese factories came into existence, and the formation of the “Cloverfield Combination” in 1874 by Johnson, Horton & Richardson, brought this industry to the front.
The head of this combination, locally, was Harvey W. Richardson, who, in 1879, built a large cheese warehouse in East Aurora. In 1878 the Union Fair Association of Western New York was organized, and held an exhibition each year at East Aurora until about 1890. The town has also become noted for its large stock farms, notably those of Cicero J. Hamlin, H. C. and Josiah Jewetf, and James D. Yeomans.
Other Notable Historical Information
The Aurora Manual Labor Seminary was incorporated in 1883; among its early principals were Daniel Howard, jr., and A. Garrison. On April 11, 1838, the name was changed to the Aurora Academy, and Hiram H. Barney served as principal from that year until 1847. He was followed by Calvin Littlefield, Rev. James M. Harlow, Hiram L. Ward, George Conant, Charles W. Merritt, Darwin Phelps, Lloyd Rice, David Sinclair, Leslie W. Lake, and others. In 1866—67 a new brick building was erected, and in 1883 the institution became a Union school.
The village is the result of the union of two hamlets, which for over fifty years were known as the Upper Village and Lower Village of Aurora, the latter having the post-office and styled in postal records as Willink. In 1818 these two villages were a full mile apart; at the Upper Village, or East End, were the tavern of Calvin Fillmore, the store of Robert Persons, the office of Dr. Jonathan Hoyt, and a few houses, while at the Lower Village were a few dwellings, the Eagle tavern, and the new grist mill erected by John C. Pratt on the site of Phineas Stephens’s mill, which had burned. Elihu Walker was the postmaster. About 1819 Polydore Seymour established a store at the Lower Village; other merchants there prior to 1832 were Samuel H. Addington, George W. Baker, Stephen Holmes, N. G. Reynolds and Samuel W. Bowen. In 1851 the Lower Village was incorporated as Willink. For several years afterward it had but three stores, while the Upper Village had only one or two. The construction of the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia (now the Western New York & Pennsylvania) Railroad in 1867 gave the latter place a new impetus, and in 1873 the old village corporation was extended over both villages, which took the name of East Aurora. Thenceforward it enjoyed a steady growth. At the Upper Village Robert Persons was succeeded in 1824 by his brother, Charles P. Persons, who converted the store into a tavern; this was the beginning of the present Globe Hotel. Joseph Howard, jr., opened a store and hotel in 1820 and in 1828 erected a brick block on the corner of Main and Pine streets. Other early lawyers were La Fayette Carver, Albert Sawin, James M. Humphrey, William C. Johhson, L. W. Graves, John F. Brown and Joseph H. Shearer. Dr. Jabez Allen settled there in 1834 and Dr. George H. Lapham in 1836. Among the early merchants were Joseph Riley, Aaron Riley, J. & J. 0. Riley, and Paine, Persons & Co., who were succeeded by H. Z. Persons. At the Lower Village Dr. Erastus Wallis became a physician in 1825. Early lawyers there were Peter M. Vosburgh and Isaac M. Vanderpoel.
Religious History (pre 1900)
There are eight churches in East Aurora. The Methodists erected an edifice in the Lower Village in 1827 which was long afterwards sold to James M. Boies and occupied for a time by the Evangelists and others; a new M. E. church was built in 1877. A Congregational church was organized about 1826 and with the Baptists erected an edifice at the Upper Village. On March 21, 1843, it became a Presbyterian body and in 1845 a new church was built; an opera house was erected on this site in 1893, a new Presbyterian church having been built in 1891.
The Baptist church was organized with ten members October 17, 1810; in 1844 they became sole owners of the CongregationalBaptist edifice, and in 1883 moved it back and erected a new church on the site. The Universalists were organized and erected an edifice in 1844. The Disciples church was founded in 1856, with ten members, and in 1865 built an edifice in the east end of the village. St. Mathias Episcopal church was organized February 27, 1869; in 1870 they erected a church which was enlarged in 1897. The German Lutheran- church was built in 1881 and the Roman Catholic in 1884.
The records of Willink and Aurora were burned in 1831, and it is impossible to give a complete list of the early supervisors. Among them were Peter Vandeventer, Elias Osborne, Asa Ransom, Joseph Yaw and Isaac Phelps, jr., all of the town of Willink. The supervisors of Aurora prior to 1897, so far as can be ascertained, are as follows:
John C. Fuller. 1825—26; Thomas Thurston, 1827—28; Jonathan Hoyt, 1830—34; John C. Pratt, 1835; Lawrence 3. Woodruff, 1836—37; Joseph S. Bartlett, 1838; Thomas Thurston, 1839-42; Jonathan Hoyt, 1843; Thomas Thurston, 1844; Hezekiah Moshier, 1845—46; Hiram Harris, 1847—48; William Boies, 1849; Hiram Harris, 1850; Daniel D. Stiles. 1851—52; George W. Bennett, 1853—55; Hiram Harris, 1856; Edward Paine. 1857—58; William N. Bennett, 1859—60; Seth Fenner, 1861—62; Dorr Spooner, 1863—65; De Witt C. Corbin, 1866; Pliny A. Haynes, 1867—68; Henry Z. Persons, 1869—70; Christopher Peek, 1871—73; John P. Bartlett, 1874—75; Lyman Cornwall, 1876—78; Henry B. Millar, 1879—80; Lyman Cornwall, 1881—82; James D. Yeomans, 1883; Henry H. Persons, 1884-86; Frank R. Whaley, 1887—88; Henry H. Persons, 1889—94; Byron D. Gibson, 1895—97.
Other Early Residents
Among other very early settlers were Enos, Luther and Erasmus Adams, Ira and Walter Paine, David Rowley, Samuel Calkins, Oren and Timothy Treat, Judge Isaac Phelps, jr., Chester Darby, Jonathan Bowen, the Stafford family, Moses Thompson, Russell Darling, and Amos Underhill, all before 1812.
Other early settlers were Judge Elias Osborne, Micah B. Crook, Israel Reed, Josiah Emory, Sr., Levi Blake, Daniel Thurston, jr., Joseph M. Henshaw, Ira G. Watson, Daniel Haskell, James M. Stephens, and Sumner and Asa Warren. Dr. John Watson was the first physician.
Probably the first death was that of a daughter of Humphrey Smith. Of the settlers prior to 1825 there were: Abijah Paul, Jedediah and John C. Darby, William Boies (father of Joel, Warren, Wilder, Eber, Jarvis, William and Watson Boies), Thomas Thurston, John Hambleton, Hawxhurst and Isaac Addington, Henry P. Van Vliet, Enos Adams and son Ira S., James Brookins, Elijah Darrow and son Edward S., Josiah Emory, jr., Moses Haynes and son Pliny A., David Paul and son James W., Gen. Aaron Riley. James W. Stiles. Cyrus Underhill, Rev. James P. Underhill, Henry Van Vliet, Samuel Wolcott.
In June, 1803, Jabez Warren surveyed and opened “Big Tree Road,” and on April 14, 1804, he contracted for 1,443 acres of land on lots 16, 24, 31 and 32, being the site of a large part of East Aurora and vicinity; he paid $2 per acre. The same day Henry Godfrey, Joel Adams, Nathaniel Emerson, John Adams and Nathaniel Walker took contracts for land covering the valley of Cazenovia Creek for three miles above Warren’s, the price being $1.50 per acre, which was the cheapest that any land was sold for in Erie county.
Mr. Warren built the first house in town and moved his family into it in March, 1806. The first resident family was Taber Earl and his wife, who arrived in 1804, settling on lot 15. In 1804 Joel Adams also came in with his family. Among the settlers in 1804 were Henry Godfrey, Nathaniel Emerson, Humphrey Smith and Gen. William Warren; in 1806 Timothy Paine, Phineas Stephens, Solomon Hall, Oliver Pattengill, Jonathan Hussey, James Henshaw and others arrived. Mr. Stephens built the first saw mill, at East Aurora; in 1807 he erected the first grist mill, and for several years the place was known as Stephens’s Mills.
In 1807 Gen. William Warren opened the first tavern that summer Mary Eddy taught a school in his old cabin, and the next winter he was the teacher. Ephraim Woodruff began blacksmithing in 1807, and became the owner of a large tract of land in the heart of East Aurora village. About this time Abram Smith purchased the mill sites at Griffin’s Mills and West Falls. In 1808 a frame school house was built in East Aurora, and in 1809—10 Humphrey Smith erected a grist mill at Griffin’s Mills.
Aurora was one of the three original towns—Aurora, Holland and Wales—into which the remainder of the old town of Willink was divided on the 15th of April, 1818. On December 4, 1857, a tract was set off to form a part of Elma.
The town is about six miles square and contains an area of 23,600 acres. It comprises township 6, range 6, of the Holland Company’s survey, which was surveyed into lots in 1802. The town is situated near the center of the county, east of the West Transit, and is bounded on the north by Elm; on the east by Wales, on the south by Colden and on the west by East Hamburg.
The principal stream is Cazenovia Creek, which flows northwesterly, the east branch passing through East Aurora village. The surface is high upland and somewhat hilly, and the soil is clay and gravel and very fertile. Dairying, general farming and fruit growing are among the leading industries.
Willem Willink was one of the original investors to the Holland Land Company, the first private company to formally own exclusive rights to the land in and around East Aurora. This area of land was named after him. Willink was part of what we now consider the Southtowns of Western New York.
Over the years Willink has been divided into several towns and villages including Colden (1812), Concord (1812), Eden (1812), Aurora (1818), Wales (1818), Holland (1818), Evans (1821), Elma (1827), Springville (1834), Marilla (1853), North Collins (1852), Angola (1873), and East Aurora (1874).
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