Submitted by PHGS member Pam Davis

The early settlement of Machias was attended with all the hardships, difficulties, and dangers incident to, and shared in common by, the hardy pioneers of Cattaraugus during the two first decades of the present century.

     Placing their wives and children and a few household goods on a heavy, rudely-made sled, the whole drawn by the yoke of oxen, the settler and his elder children trudging along on foot, would they depart from the comforts and facilities of their homes in Eastern New York and the New England States, and wend their slow and tedious way through trackless forests and over roads well-nigh impassable to their future homes in the howling wilderness.  The journey was usually made in early spring time, as that season afforded the necessary amount of sleighing and gave the settler time to build a log house, to cut, burn, and clear an acre or so of land, and raise a crop the first season.  The cattle, meanwhile, and very often until the second and third year, had to eke out a scanty subsistence by “browsing.”

     Numerous parties of Indians from the Reservations traversed the country, both summer and winter, in their hunting and fishing excursions.  They were generally friendly, but a terror to the women and children.

    Bears, wolves, panthers, and wild-cats abounded in every thicket; and it was only the utmost care and watchfulness that the settlers could preserve their sheep, hogs, and other small domestic animals from the daily and nightly depredations of the savage beasts of the forests.

     Although contracts for land in township 5 range 5, of the Holland Purchase, may have been taken previously, it is believed that to MAJ. TIMOTHY BUTLER may be conceded the honor of being the first actual settler inn that part of Genesee County now known as Machias.  He came from the State of Maine, and, in 1807, settled on lot No. 14, on the Ischua Creek, about one mile south of Machias Village.  He was accompanied here by his family, and a young man named JULIUS UNDERWOOD who was in his employ.  At about the same time, or very soon thereafter, SAMUEL PHILBRICK and E. MAXSON came in from Main, and were also employed by MAJ. BUTLER.  On the farm now known as the “Cagwin place,” MAJ. BUTLER began an extensive improvement, and in the spring-time tapped 1400 maple-trees.  In 1810, he established a distillery, and began the distillation of rum from maple-sugar.  There are people residing here to-day who remember this distillery and its products.

     MAJ. BUTLER remained here until spring of 1818, when he removed to Napoli, being probably the first settler of that town.

     JEREMIAH BALLARD and a man named TIFFANY, also from Maine, came here in 1810.  BALLARD settled on lot 13, south of MAJ. BUTLER’S, while TIFFANY was on the west part of lot 14; neither remained here but a few years.  JULIUS UNDERWOOD was located on the knoll now owned by Welcome Camp.  His infant child crawled into the fireplace during the momentary absence of its mother and was fatally burned.  This was the first death which took place in the settlement.  All of these parties before mentioned, except PHILBRICK and MAXSON, removed from the town prior to 1818.

     In 1815, JOSEPH KINNE and his sons, FRIEND, ISAAC, and JOSEPH JR., settled on lot 23, on the west side of the present site of Machias village.  JOSEPH JR., was quite a prominent man during the early days.  He was one of he first justices of the peace.  The following year (1816) OBADIAH VAUGHN and JOHN MOREAU, from Essex Co., N.Y., and CHARLES H. BIGGS, from Trenton, N.Y., settled on lot 24; also JOHN GROVER, A German or Dutchman, on the north part of lot 6.

     The settlement was increased in numbers, in 1817, by the arrival of the families of ELIJAH T. ASHCRAFT and CHARLES BUTTON.  MR. BUTTON has visited this section the previous year, contracted for his lot, and built a log house.  He came in from Clinton Co., N.Y. (although from Vermont originally), and was accompanied here by his sons, --HARVEY, LYMAN, and HEMAN G., and three daughters.  He settled on the premises now owned by A. M. FARRAR.  Numerous representatives of his large family are to be found in the county at the present time, all highly respected citizens.  HON. HEMAN G. BUTTON, the third son of CHARLES, has proved himself worthy of the regard ad confidence in which he is held by his social and political friends and neighbors, and their hands has been the recipient of many positions of official trust and honor.  Besides the many years devoted to the interests of his town as supervisor, justice of the peace, etc., he represented his county in the State Legislature during the session of 1867.

     ELIJAH T. ASHCRAFT emigrated from Northfield, Vt., to Genesee Co., N.Y., in 1810.  In March, 1817, accompanied by his wife and children, viz., CHESTER NATHAN, and LUVIRA, he removed by sled and ox-team to Ischua.  When within three miles of their destination—the south part of lot 17—their sled broke down, and the remainder of the journey had to be performed on foot through snow knee-deep.

     SQUIRE ASHCRAFT was one of the foremost men in the new settlement, and was prominently identified with all that related to its best interests.  He was one of the first justices of the peace in the town of Yorkshire (which was formed in 1820), and also of Machias, in 1827.  His latch-string was ever out to the weary and hungry traveler, as well as to the needy of his own immediate neighborhood.  Even the dusky sons and daughters of the forest sought the shelter of his roof, and often during inclement weather, slept upon his kitchen floor to the number of a dozen at a time.

     MR. ASHCRAFT died at the age of eighty-two years.  His wife, BETSEY THOMPSON, died in 1877, aged ninety years.  Of a family of twelve children, ten lived to be men and women, and eight survive, as follows:  CHESTER and NATHAN, in Machias, LUVIRA, in Springfield; HIRAM, in Wisconsin; ALBERT and NORMAN, in Illinois; and CAROLINE and DANIEL in Michigan.

     In 1818, JOHN FARRAR and his family, which consisted of himself, wife, and sons WIGGIN M., GEORGE W., ROYAL C., JOHN, JR., and daughter ASENETH, came from Gilmanton, N. H., and settled down for a few years upon the lands which had been opened to cultivation by MAJ. BUTLER.   Afterwards they purchased lots upon sections 5, 7, 12, and 13.

     JOHN FARRAR, the veteran of the Revolution, who settled here about 1827, was not related to this family.  He came from Massachusetts, and is said to have been one of the Boston harbor tea-party.

     MR. WIGGIN M. FARRAR, now in his eighty-third year, and his sister, MRS. ASENETH LEEK, are the only survivors of the family who came here in 1818.  As a soldier, he represented the State of New Hampshire during the war of 1812.  During a long and eventful life he has ever taken a deep interest in all matters relating to the welfare of his town; and in the various official stations he has so worthily filled, has shared in all its burdens and may of its honors.

     In the fall of 1818, DANIEL VAUGHN, a brother of OBADIAH, came in, also JEREMIAH BENNETT, who took up a tract on the west part of lot 14.

     MR. FARRAR says that at the close of 1818, the only families and representatives of families residing in the settlement are those before mentioned, viz., the KINNES, VAUGHNS, ASHCRAFTS, BUTTONS, GROVERS, BIGGS, PHILBRICK, MAXSON, MOREAN, and the FARRARS.

     Under his own immediate eyesight, this little settlement of half a dozen families has spread out and become a broad, populous, wealthy community.  During the years of 1819 and 1820, emigrants from various portions of the East came in, and the settlement rapidly increased in importance and numbers.  Mills were erected at the foot of Lime Lake.  Log houses sprang up in a day in each little opening, and the resounding strokes of the pioneer’s axe were heard on every side.

     The wants and necessities of the pioneer settlers were few compared with those of the present day; but they were attained only by the greatest exertion and self-denial.  Fortunate indeed was the family who had a quantity of black salts to exchange for calico, groceries, and other minor articles, so indispensable to health and a bare subsistence.

     Among those who became settlers here during the years last mentioned were JOSHUA DANIELS, from Essex County, who located on the east part of lot 32; HOWARD PECK, on lots 15 and 23; WILLARD JEFFERSON, on the County House farm ALVA JEFFERSON, and his brother, at the foot of Lime Lake; DANIEL POTTER, on lot 1, sixth township; JAMES COLBY on lot 25, sixth township; and ANDREW McBUZZELL, near the outlet of lime Lake; BARNABAS CUSHMAN, just east of 'SQUIRE ASHCRAFT'; ELISHA, JUDAH, OBADIAH, J. M. L., and BRIGHAM BROWN, on the present site of Machias Village.

     MR. PECK was the first supervisor of Machias, and an active business man.  He established a distillery, also and ashery, at an early day, and at the same time, about 1822, in conjunction with ALVA JEFFERSON, opened the first store in town, at the outlet of Lime Lake.

     The first saw-mill was built by ANDREW McBUZZELL, in 1820, and was located at the same place; also the first grist-mill, erected by DANIEL POTTER in 1823.

NATHAN FOLLETT came from Pittstown, Rensselaer, Co., and in 1823 entered the store of MESSRS. PECK & JEFFERSON as salesman.  The year previous (1822), while in the employ of HENRY L. BAKER, he sold the first goods in Yorkshire, at Yorkshire Corners, using as a salesroom a portion of the bar-room of WILLIAM’S tavern.  As a pioneer merchant and town official, MR. FOLLETT has been prominently identified with the business and interests of his town.  He stills resides here at the age of seventy-six years.

     In 1825 we find that ELIPHAS LAFFERTY was northeast of the lake, on lot 1, sixth township; SHELDON HOLBROOK on the southeast part of lot 9, sixth township; DAVID JOHNSON, near JOHN GROVE’S; ALANSON JOSLYN, on the southwest part of lot 14; BRAINARD and SYLVESTER CLEVELAND, on lot 7; RICHARD LOOMIS and sons, on lot 13; SAMUEL BUSH, on lot 11, STEPHEN AUSTIN, on lot 14; OLIVER C. HUBBARD, on lot 23, where he built the second saw-mill in town; HIRAM McINTYRE, on lot 25; SEYMOUR CARPENTER, on lot 9; SYLVESTER CARVER on lot 12; the brothers MOSES, ALLEN, ISAAC, AND MICAH GAGE, in the northwest part; the brothers HOLLISTER, CALVIN, and NORMAN BRACE, on lots 20 and 11, in the central part; and GEORGE ARNOLD and his sons in the southwest part.

     Machias was formed from Yorkshire in 1827.  In 1830 it had a population of 735 inhabitants, and less than 1500 acres of improved lands.  Farms were small and families large in those days.

The above information was obtained from the History of Cattaraugus County, New York by L. H. EVERTS, 1879.

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Last Update February 2, 2020