"The History of Cattaraugus County, NY"
published 1879 by Everts, edited by Franklin Ellis

Chapter: Town of Humphrey, pages 413-417

Transcribed by Claudia Patterson January 2004

This town was erected from Burton (now Allegany), May 12, 1836, and received its name from Charles Humphrey, of Tompkins County, at that time, speaker of the Assembly. It is a little southeast of the centre of the county, and is known in the Roland Land Company's Survey town 3, in range 8. The town is bounded north by Franklinville, east by Ischua and Hinsdale, south by Allegany, and west~ by Great Valley. Its area is 22,583 acres, mostly hilly uplands. Some of the highest summits are several hundred feet above the level of the Allegany River, and bear the names of the early settle in their localities, as Chapell, Howe, Riley, Cooper, and Bozard hills. The surface was originally well timbered with the various hard woods, and hemlocks and pines. Most of the latter we. long ago converted into lumber, but occasional groves still remain. On the farm of the late James Hitchcock a fine cluster of these stately trees has been preserved, and coveys scene idea of the beauty and richness of the primitive pine forests. About half of the town is under cultivation, and although much of the ground is rough, it is well adapted to grazing and dairying, which forms the chief industries.

Humphrey is watered by three streams of considerable size - Sugartown Creek, in the northwest part of the town, flowing southwest is a tributary of Great Valley Creak; Wright's Creek, lowing south through the centre of the town, is an affluent of the same stream; and Five-Mile Run, in the southeast, having a southwesterly course, empties into the Allegany River. These streams have several small tributaries, fad by good springs - which render the natural water supply abundant, and, usually, of an excellent quality.

Pioneer Settlers

Russell Chapell, who came from Schenectady County in 1815, and settled on lot 56, on Sugartown Creek, was the first permanent settler. After a toilsome journey through the then wilderness, he made a stand on the fine interval along the creek, and erected a log house, which soon formed the nucleus of a settlement. Mrs. Chapel was formally a Mrs. Shepard, and was soon followed by her son., Thomas. B. Shepard, then a boy, who is still a resident of the town. After a resident of several years at Sugartown, Mr. Chapel moved to the place, which afterwards became known Chapellsburg, where he made some good improvements, which caused this point to be one of time most important in the town. His place was on the stage road from Buffalo to Olean, and about 1824 Mr. Chapell opened a tavern, which he conducted many years. He also I served as postmaster, and held various town offices. He died May 30, 1857, aged seventy-two years, and Phoebe, his wife, survived him nearly six years. She died Feb 3, 1863, aged eighty-three year.

It is related of Mr. Chapel that he sometimes went to Pittsburgh in a flatboat for provisions for himself and neighbors, and propelled the boat up the Allegany by means of setting-poles, pushing on the poles and walking the boats length to the stern, and so repeating. Although this was tedious work, the voyage of 300 miles was accomplished in less time than would seem possible. Mr. Chapel was a man of robust constitution, and well calculated to make s successful pioneer.

Richard Wright came from Washington County about 1819, and fist settled on Wright's Creek, in Great Valley, where he built a saw-mill, and began improvements. on a farm. In a few years he sold that property to David Chamberlain, and buying Mr. Chapel's place at Sugartown, moved there. He made additional improvements, built a good house and barns; and in later years he became a colonel of militia, and was elected sheriff of the county, and also for some years held the office of associate judge of Cattaraugus.

Shortly after Mr. Chapel settled at Sugartown, Capt. Nathan Howe came. He remained only a few years in that locality, and then rumored to a place near the mouth of Great Valley Creek, where he had a saw-mill, and was engaged in the lumbering business. Alonzo Berry also fist settled at Sugartown, but finally settled on a farm near Humphrey Centre.

Stephen S. and Benjamin Cole., brothers, came from Ontario County, in 1823, on foot, with all their worldly effects in bundles, which they carried on their backs, and only one dollar in money. They selected a track of land near the centre, upon which they erected a rude shanty, and covered it with elm bark. Better Improvements soon followed. Stephen S. was the first supervisor of the town, and held that office many years. In 1851 he was elected a member of the Assembly of the first district of Cattaraugus County. They both continued to reside in Humphrey until the summer of 1877, when they died within two weeks of each other. Benjamin Cole remained a bachelor, but Stephen S. married a daughter of Alonzo Berry, and had a large family. The oldest son, Prof. M.S. Cole, is a prominent educator in Cattaraugus.

In 1825, Foster B. Salisbury came and settled near the Cole's, being related with that family by marriage. He was one of the prominent men of the town, and built the first mills. His eldest son, Bernard Salisbury, is the present supervisor of the town.

James Hitchcock, Eri Tracy, Parker and Freeman Hall, G. Worden, F. and H. Hitchcock, and Barber Wilber, all from Onondaga County, came alittle later, and settled on Five-Mile run, in the southeast part of Humphrey. About the same time, R. Bozard, L. B. Pierce, Joseph Learn, and Nicholas Linderman settled on Bozard Hill.

William Baxter first settled near Chapellsburg, and afterwards moved to Sugartown. Hatfield Cooper first settled at Chapellsburg, on the lot next west of Mr. Baxter, and afterwards moved to Cooper Hill, which took its name from him. Among other early settlers were Henry Reed, Niram Storrs, Abijah Rowley, Nathan Scott, Abraham Wright, Almon Guthrey, John J. Northrop, Frances Mattison, J. W. Dickinson, John McWilliams, Thomas Barker, Phillip Bonesteel, Ichabod Chapman, Sanforth Marsh, Samuel Reynolds, and Dr. Augustus Crary. Of those last named, Abraham Wright is still living in the adjourning town of Great Valley, at the advanced age of ninety year.

Many other settlers came to the town soon after 1925. They were mostly men of small means to begin with in the rugged wilderness, but strong, resolute, and determined to secure comfortable homes, if hard work and energy would avail anything. They were, as a class, intelligent and hospitable, and ready to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate than themselves.

Early Improvements

Russell Chapell put in the first crop of grain, in 1816, on lot 56. Richard Wright built the first frame house, and S. Cole, the first frame barn, on lot 38, in 1834. Russell Chapell had the first tavern, and F. B. Salisbury built the first store at Humphrey Centre, which was kept by Sawyer and Foote, the goods having been hauled from Buffalo by wagons. The store was opened about 1848. Oliver Marsh was the first settler near the centre, by the farm now occupied by B. W. Manning. Jeremiah Crandall was the first to pay for and deed the first piece of land, being 50 acres. Jonathan McIntosh, father of George S. McIntosh, of Olean, and S. D. McIntosh, of the Five-Mills Run, was an early settler in the North of Humphrey. He died recently, at an advanced age, at the resident of his son, in Allegany. Simeon Bacon settled at an early day on lot 27, now occupied by P. Ryan. This is the farm on which a test well for oil was drilled in the fall of 1878 to a depth of over 1800 feet. Oil in paying quantities was not found.

Three water-powered sawmills were formally in use, on Wright's Creek, in the town of Humphrey. They have been discontinued, and all have disappeared within a few years, and no saw-mill is at present standing upon that stream in town, except the one on lot 59, owned by John B. Guthrie, and build in 1870 by Marshal Barker.

Pioneer Incidents

It is supposed by some people that bears formerly infested the town of Humphrey. But we cannot learn of their doing any greater damage than to destroy the young corn or to occasionally carry off a pig or a lamb. Hunger sometimes emboldened these animals to come quite close to the settlers' premises, and several are known to have been killed while making raids on pig-pens. Nathan Howe dispatched a large bear with an axe while Bruin was trying to steal one of his swine; and Almon Guthrie also shot one which came prowling around his premises.

It was customary among the Indians of the Allegany Reservation to allot the adjoining wilderness to different members of the tribe for hunting grounds. In this distribution Humphrey fell to John Logan and David Snow, two braves, then living near the present site of Great Valley depot. They constructed a brush fence diagonally across the main valley, from hill to hill, to assist them in securing the game, which was shot while seeking a place to get through the fence. Logan claimed the first bounty on a wolf killed in the town - $20. At the same time Snow presented a claim for six whelps on which was a bounty of $7.50 a piece. Both claimed the entire bounty and Justices Wright and Salisbury finally settled the matter by giving Logan the wolf bounty, and Snow the remainder. Hatfield Cooper was the first white man to claim a bounty on a wolf, having hilled one on Cooper hill. The above-named Indians put in a claim for the same bounty, and urged it to the extent of a law-suit before Justices Cole and Wright, who decided that the bounty should go to Cooper.

Early Marriages, Births, And Deaths.

The first couple married in the town was Edward Bryant and Pauline Shepard, at the residence of Judge Wright, by Rev. Mr. Dow. These parties separated, and afterwards Mrs. Bryant married Wm. S. Morris, and still lives at the old residence of her step=father, Russell Chapell. Jack Hall and Cornelia Rowley were married at an early day by Judge Wright and were the parents of the first child born in the town. They soon after removed to Niagara County.

The first death was that of a man who was an emigrant, and who had encamped on lot 56. His name is not recollected. He was buried in a rude grave at that point.

Early Professional Men.

Dr. Augustus Crary, who settled in the Sugartown Valley after 1820, was the first physician. He came from Tompkins County. A son=in=law, Dr. Calvin Chickering, came about the same time, and was in practice several years. Upon the death of the latter his widow married Dr. Virgil Reed, who practiced as a physician in town until after 1860. Since then the only resident physician has been Dr. N. F. Marble, who came to Chapellsburg about 1858, and remained until 1876, when he removed to Great Valley.

Philemon O. Berry was the first lawyer. His business was confined mostly to justices' courts. His brother, Milo Berry, of Humphrey Centre, also frequently attends to suits in justices' courts. F. B. Salisbury was often employed as counsel in suits before justices of the peace.

Civil Government

The first town-meeting of Humphrey was held at the house of R. Chapell, in the spring of 1837, with the following results: Supervisor, Stephen S. Cole; Town Clerk, Thomas Barker; Justices of the Peace, John W. Dickinson, Foster B. Salisbury, Parker Hall, Almon Guthrie; Collector, Francis Mattison; Commissioners of Highways, Jeremiah Crandall, John McWilliams, Thomas Barker; School Commissioners, Alonzo Berry, James Hitchcock, Parker Hall; School Inspectors, J. W. Dickinson, F. B. Salisbury, John McWilliams; Overseers of the Poor, Philip Bonesteel, Almon Guthrie; Constables, Ichabod Chapman, S. Marsh, Samuel Reynolds.

Since 1837 the principal officers have been as follows:

Town Clerks
1838 Stephen S. Cole Russell Chapell
1839 " "
1840 " Abraham Wright
1841 " "
1842 " "
1843 " Russell Chapell
1844 " "
1845 F. B. Salisbury "
1846 " "
1847 " "
1848 " O. Hitchcock 
1849 Stephen S. Cole A. E. Sawyer
1850 Foster B. Salisbury "
1851 Thomas Barker S. S. Cole
1852 F. B. Salisbury John C. Heacham
1853 " "
1854 Stephen S. Cole
1855 Archibald C. Crary Austin March
1856 F. B. Salisbury S. S. Cole
1857 Almon Guthrie J. C. Meacham
1858 " Wm. S. Morris
1859 Chase Fuller "
1860 " "
1861 Benjamin Crary II. M. Bozard
1862 F. B. Salisbury W. S. Morris 
1863 " Chase Fuller
1864 Parker Smith W. S. Morris
1865 " "
1866 Chase Fuller II. M. Bozard
1867 " Marshall Barker
1868 Jos. B. Miller Ezra Marsh
1869 Parker Smith W. J. Sherman
1870 Gilbert C. Sweet Milo Berry
1871 Parker Smith M. Barker
1872 G. C. Sweet "
1873 Parker Smith W. S. Sherman
1874 (No Choice) Milo Berry
1875 Marshall Barker "
1876 Bernard Salisbury Harvey Pierce
1877 " Samuel Moffatt
1878 " Cyrus P. Bozard


Justices of the Peace


    1842 S. S. Cole 1856 Henry M. Bozard
    1838 John W. Dickinson 1857 Jos. B. Miller
    John J. Northrup Frederick Wright
    1849 Hale H. Crary 1858 Chase Fuller
    F. B. Salisbury 1859 John Putman
    Almon Guthrie 1860 Milo Berry
    1841 Almon Guthrie 1861 Geo C. DeGolier
    1842 Almon Guthrie 1862 Chase Fuller
    1843 Stephen S. Cole 1863 John Putman
    1844 H. H. Crary 1864 Milo Berry
    1845 H. H. Crary 1865 H. A. Pierce
    1846 Almon Guthrie 1866 C. Fuller
    Richard Wright 1867 D. T. Raub
    1847 John Putman 1868 Milo Berry
    George Adams 1869 Pat Quinlan
    1848 James Bond 1870 Fred'k Wright
    1849 H. Pritchard H. Pierce
    1850 Wilder Parker 1871 John Moyer
    1851 S. S. Cole J. M. Whitney
    John O. Pierce 1872 Milo Berry
    C. Wilber 1873 J. M. Whitney
    1853 F. B. Salisbury Edwin Guthrie
    Stephen West 1874 Fred'k Wright
    George Adams 1875 Richard M Learning
    1853 John Putman Judson Bowen
    1854 Geo. Adams 1876 Milo Berry
    Stephen West 1877 M. Wilber
    Almon Guthrie 1878 L. G. Sweet

    Public Highways

    At the first meeting, in 1837, the town was divided into 9 road districts, in charge of the following overseers, viz. (elected in 1838): District No. 1, Almon Guthrie; District 2, F. B. Salisbury; District No. 3, S. S. Cole; District 4, Wm. Baxter; District No. 5, D. Skeels; District No. 6, Calvin Chickering; District No. 7, Joseph Learn; District No. 8, Francis Mattison; District No. 9, James Hitchcock.

    In 1851 the number of road districts had increased to 23, with the following overseers; viz: 1st, Thomas Barker; 2d, James Kinyon; 3d, Parker Smith; 4th, James McMurphy; 5th, A. S. Cleveland; 6th, James Bond; 7th, Erastus Wheeler; 8th, Samuel D. Kinyon; 9th, Solomon Moyer; 10th, Wm. S. Morris; 11th, David A. Wheeler; 12th, Roswell Williams; 13th, J. M. Williams; 14th, Oliver Scott; 15th, Wm. Baxter; 16th, Alenander Ray; 17th, John Putman; 18th, S. S. Cole, 19th, Jospeh Learn, 20th, Lester McWithie; 21st Richard Bozard; 22d, Daniel Skeels; 23d, Levi Moffat.

    The roads in the town are kept in tolerably good condition for a town not yet entirely settled and improved. The Holland Land Company and its successors paid a non-resident road-tax on such unsold lots as were passed through or lay adjacent to new roads, which was applied under the direction of the commissioners of highways, towards paying the expense of cutting out and making roads and bridges in town. They aided also in the surveys and opening of the first important roads through the wilderness. From this source, and the road-taxes assessed to the settlers, a large amount of labor has been performed from year to year on the highways in town. In some cases the overseers have added the one-third of each tax by assessment, as authorized by law, in cases where the labor was much needed to keep the roads in repair.

    Dairy and Farm Statistics

    The town has 4 cheese factories, 1 located on lot 2, owned by Brownson & Abell; another at Humphrey Centre, by Gilbert C. Sweet; and 2 in the Sugartown Valley. These factories consume the milk of about 800 cows, and make about 200,000 pounds of cheese annually. The average amount earned by each cow during the dairy season is about $20.

    In the valleys excellent crops of hay, oats, wheat and corn are produced, and of late much attention has been paid to fruit culture. Nearly every farm has a good orchard of apple-trees, which generally thrive well. A severe frost on the 4th of June 1858, destroyed nearly the entire fruit and other crops. And now, after a lapse of twenty years, the fruit copy has again been severely damaged by frost.

    It may here be noted that the early settlers of the town eked out the scarcity of hay and grain by "browsing", or letting their cattle feed on the buds and twigs of trees, which had been cut for this purpose. But even this resource was sometimes rendered difficult by the deep snow and by ice on the trees, and now and then suffering ensued by reason of want, at times, of supply of feed for the stock. Large quantities of maple-sugar were formerly manufactured in the town, - especially in the valley, - which from this circumstance has since been known as "Sugartown."

    Public Schools

    The people of Humphrey early took a deep interest in the education of their children. Schools were provided, and rude but comfortable houses erected, which have long since given place to good and convenient frame school-houses.

    The first school in town was taught, in 1820, in a house near Mrs. Reed's residence, on the Sugartown Creek. A Mr. Marsh began the school, and taught awhile until some difficulty arose between him and some of the scholars, which terminated in the boys being too much for him, and he quit to the school. John W. Howe, a son of Capt. Nathan Howe, was then engaged to teach, and he made a success of it. He afterwards studied law, and became distinguished in that profession; and was elected a member of Congress from the Franklin district in Pennsylvania.

    At a later day Foster B. Salisbury taught a school half a mile above Chapellsburg at ten dollars a month, to cut his own wood, and build the fires. The settlers paid him by chopping on his farm.

    The town has a present 7 school districts, in which schools are maintained at a cost of $1218.21 for the year 1877. The number of children of school age in the town was 381, and the average daily attendance for that year was 157.

    At an early day the wages of school-teachers were generally much lower than at the present time. Male teachers were paid about $10 or $12 a month, and commonly boarded around with those sending children to school. Females taught at from $1 to 12 shillings per week, and also boarded with the patrons of school. In later years teachers' wages have advanced 100 percent or more.


    There are two buriel-places in Chapellsburg. The Protestant cemetery, near the Baptist church, is enclosed with a good substantial board fence, and there have been erected several tombstones, with suitable inscriptions thereon. And near the Catholic church is a well-inclosed cemetery containing a number of graves, with tombstones to commerarate the names and the resting-place of the dead.

    Near Humphrey Centre there is a cemetery protected by a good fence, inclosing the graves of several persons who took an active part in the early settlement and improvement of the town. A few have marble tombstones and monuments to indicate the resting place of the departed pioneers.

    There is also a burial place at Sugartown. It is, however, just over the Great Valley line, and near the Free Will Baptist church.

    The burial-place in the Five-Mile Valley is near the Baptist church, which stands on the town line between Humphrey and Allegany, and is used by the people of both towns in that locality. It has been well fenced, and kept in commendable order for a country burial-place.

    Religious Societies

    The Baptist were the first to hold religious meetings in town. In 1824 the Rev. Benjamin Cole settled in Humphrey Centre. He was a Baptist minister of culture, having been educated for the Catholic priesthood. He died about 1838. The first meetings were held in barns, private houses, and in the school-houses. The following societies have been organized in town:

    Baptist Church of Humphrey

    This church was organized Feb. 14, 1871, at a meeting held at the house of S. S. Cole. The trustees elected at that time were Lewis J. Parker, Andrew J. Bozard, and James M. Whitney. On Nov 9, 1872, at a meeting of the members of the church and congregation, duly called, the name was changed to "Free Baptist Church of Humphrey," and at the same meeting, L. C. Miller, Ezra Marsh, and Lafayette G. Sweet were duly elected trustees. Meetings for religious worship are held a the church at Chapellsburg. In the spring of 1873 a frame meeting-house was begun at Chapellsburg, of ample dimensions, to accommodate the society. The house was not completed until 1876. It has an attractive appearance, having towers, etc, and the Rev. Mr. Schoonover, of the Five-Mile Church, officiates every two weeks. There is a Sunday-school, which has usually been held durng the summer season at the school-house. Present trustees, A. J. Bozard, J. M. Whitney, and William J. Sherman.

    The Humphrey Free-Will Baptist Church

    The Free-Will Baptist had occasional preaching in town before 1838, but no society was regularly organized until that year, when the Rev. D. W. McKoon became the pastor of this faith in town. On the 16th of August, 1858, a legan organization was effected by electing Sidney Nowell, L. C. Miller, D. W. McKoon, Almon Guthrie, Parker Smith, Chase Fuller, and Benjamin Crary trustees of the temporalities of the church. A neat house of worship was erected in Sugartown Valley, near the town line of Great Valley, capable of seating 250 persons. Rev. D. W. McKoon maintained his connection with the church until his death in 1870. Since that period the pastors have been a brother of Mr. McKoon, who labored with the church for a year or two, and afterwards Elder Jackson was resident minister. He left in 1973, and since then Rev. Mr. Armstrong, of Great Valley, has ministered to the Sugartown society. There is a Sunday-School well attended, of which N. W. McKoon is superintendent.

    St. Pacificus Church (Catholic)

    At Humphrey, was organized with about 15 members n 1855, in which year was erected a church edifice (about one-fourth of a mile east from the village of Chapellsburg), at a cost of $1200, which will seat 250 persons. The first pastor was Father Pafilo; the present one is the Rev. John Brady, who resides at Ellicottville. There are about 200 members. The church property is valued at $2000. There is a Sunday=school in connection with the church.


    This little hamlet better known as Humphrey post-office is located one and a half mile southwest from the geographical centre of the town. It contains a store, post-office, hotel, several mechanic shops, a school-house, and 2 churches Free Baptist and Catholic, - and several dwellings.

    The hotel at this point was first kept by Russell Chapell, and continued by him until his death in 1857, when Wm. S. Morris, who married a daughter of Mrs. Chapell, became the proprietor, and at his death, in 1868, the present proprietor, Wm. J. Sherman, a son-in-law of Mr. Morris, became the owner. The place was, in the early years of Cattaraugus County, one of considerable note. The mail stage then running between Buffalo and Olean arrived and departed daily, and there was, besides, a large amount of teaming and travel on the stage road. Often the hotel was crowded to its utmost capacity with teamsters and travelers. In 1838, Archibald McMurphy built a saw-mill on Wright's Creek, a few rods below the hotel. The mill was afterwards owned and run for some years by Thomas B. Shepard. In 1874, the supply of logs for stocking the mill becoming scarce it was discontinued and went to ruin and is now to be reckoned only among the things of the past. In 1867 one David Van Tile built a small grist-mill at Chapellsburg for custom work, which on account of injury by a flood was discontinued in 1877. At various times several small stores and groceries have been started here, but were continued only a few years at most. Harvey A. Pierce is the present storekeeper. He began trade after 1870, and in 1877 he erected a good store building and dwelling. He keeps a variety of goods and groceries for the retail trade.

    Humphrey Centre

    Is a small village situated two and a half miles northeast from Chapellsburg. It has about 75 inhabitants, a store, a number of mechanic shops, a school-house, post-office, and a cheese factory. There was formerly a steam saw-and grist-mill, built by F. B. Salisbury, which was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1871. There are three store buildings in the place, in which goods have been sold at various times by Sawyer & Foote, John C. Meacham, J. B. Miller, Parker Smith, Moffatt Bros., Milo Berry, and F. B. Salisbury. At present the only store doing business is that of Mr. Moffatt, who also keeps the Humphrey Centre post-office. The mail is carried to Kill Buck (Great Valley depot) and back three times in each week, stopping at Chapellsburg and Great Valley Post-offices. The distance is about 12 miles.

    Humphrey Centre is often called "Tickletown, " This nickname was first applied by Abraham Wright, who resided at Chapellsburg at a time when the Centre people were somewhat jubilant over a town-meeting triumph.

Back to Cattaraugus County

If you have anything of genealogical or historical interest to add to this site, or if you are interested in becoming a member of the Painted Hills Genealogy Society, please contact us at:
Painted Hills

This page is maintained by the PHGS
Last Update February 2, 2020