Town History

 

Town Historian

The Town Historian would be glad to help you explore the rich history of our town and its people. The historian’s office at the Wheatland Municipal Building is a repository of books, manuscripts, documents and public records that are preserved to document the past. Over the years, Wheatland historians have also collected extensive files of family histories, historic maps, photographs, and newspaper clippings that are available for perusal by anyone who is researching a family tree or a topic pertaining to town history.

 

The historian is charged with interpreting the past through research and writing as well as doing public presentations. Published histories of the town, written by local historians, are available at the office. Displays and talks or tours for groups can be arranged. The historian also encourages the identification and preservation of historic structures. Inquiries about historically significance places in Wheatland are welcomed.

 

See Town History FAQs for answers to common inquiries. Please contact the Town Historian with all other questions and inquiries.

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Town of Wheatland

Town Historian

Barb Chapman

Address

Town of Wheatland

P.O. Box 15

22 Main Street

Scottsville, New York

14546

 

Phone

(585) 889-1553 Ext. 112

 

Email

Town Historian

 

Office Hours

Tuesday 2PM to 4PM

 

Historical Overview

 

The Town of Wheatland lies along the west bank of the Genesee River in the southwest corner of Monroe County. Wheatland is made up of several smaller communities including: the Village of Scottsville, and the Hamlets of Mumford, Garbutt, Belcoda, Beulah and Wheatland Center. Wheatland was originally part of Ontario County and the Town of Northhampton (1789), then Genesee County (1802), and in 1821 it became part of Monroe County when it and Livingston County were formed from Genesee County.  The name given to the town in 1821 recognized the successful wheat crops already yielded by its fertile soil. Oatka Creek, which winds its way across the town to the Genesee River, once powered flour and plaster mills that made the villages and hamlets of Wheatland thriving communities. Today Wheatland remains a rural area known for its picturesque countryside and its recreational opportunities. 

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Earliest Times

 

The Beginning

For hundreds of years, the area that now includes the Town of Wheatland made up the vast hunting grounds of the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois Nation. At the time of the American Revolution, while large cities flourished all along the east coast, western New York was still an untamed wilderness.

 

First Settlers

When members of the Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War came through this rich and fertile country, they decided to return after their discharge. In 1786, the adventurous frontiersman Ebenezer "Indian" Allan settled near what is now Scottsville on the flats along the Genesee River. He had obtained land through the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. Peter Sheffer and his family arrived in the fall of 1789 and spent the winter in the log cabin with the Allans. In the spring, they purchased the lands of Ebenezer Allan while he moved on to the site of the City of Rochester to build the first mills there. Peter Sheffer and his sons, Peter Jr. and Jacob, became the first permanent settlers in the Town of Wheatland. The younger Peter married Elizabeth Schoonover, a neighbor from down the river, and built the first frame dwelling in the town, which still stands as part of the house at 88 Scottsville-West Henrietta Road.

 

Town of Wheatland

The settlement of the Sheffers represented the beginning of not only the Town of Wheatland but the development of all the territory west of the Genesee River. While there was only a trickle of settlers during the 1790s, that flow became a steady stream after 1800, and the communities of the town began to grow. The Town of Southampton was divided off from Northampton and later named Caledonia. By 1821 the population of the entire area had grown. Monroe County was formed and the Town of Wheatland was separated from Caledonia. The first Town of Wheatland meeting was held April 3, 1821 at the tavern of Powell Carpenter, and John Garbutt was elected the first Supervisor.

Oatka Creek

 

Oatka Creek winds its way eastward across the entire town from the boundary of the Town of LeRoy to the Genesee River. It was along the creek that settlement began. Its waterpower was harnessed by early entrepreneurs who built gristmills, woolen mills and sawmills. The first gristmill on the banks of the Oatka was built by Francis Albright in 1804 at what is now Wheatland Center, and settlers came from miles around to have their grain ground there. Spring Creek in Mumford was also a source of power for mills. Later the creeks were diverted to form millraces, and gypsum mills were added, providing Wheatland with another commercial product. Today it is difficult to imagine the hustle-bustle and constant clatter of machinery in the busy communities that grew up along the creeks. At the present time, the Oatka flows quietly and is known mostly for its good fishing spots and for the popular swimming holes that have evolved.

Village of Scottsville History

 

Isaac Scott

The Village of Scottsville is named for its first settler, Isaac Scott. The Scott family came to Wheatland from New England in 1790 and purchased about 150 acres of land that included almost all of what is now the village of Scottsville. Isaac Scott built his log house near Oatka Creek at the present southwest corner of Main and Rochester Streets.  The opening years of the nineteenth century saw many new settlers in the Scottsville community. Powell Carpenter came in 1804 and was a leader in many village business projects. He built the Eagle Hotel on the north corner of Main Street and Rochester Street, which stood until 1930 as a Scottsville landmark. The Lacys, Goodhues and McVeans all settled along North Road. Brothers Isaac and Joseph Cox were Quakers from Saratoga County who built homes on River Road, including the beautiful cobblestone at number 5015.

 

Main Street Comes to Life

In 1813, Abraham Hanford came to Scottsville and opened the first store on Main Street. His brother William Haynes Hanford was also an important Scottsville businessman. In 1814, Dr. Freeman Edson, nephew of Isaac Scott, arrived. He began his medical practice here and was a beloved local physician for nearly 70 years. Dr. Edson became the owner of much of the village property and built the house at 7 Rochester Street, still standing since 1816. Elijah Miller and his family came to Scottsville in 1825. His Main Street businesses included a store and the hotel later known as The Oatka. Miller’s sons, and his grandson R. T. Miller Jr., were later prominent residents of the town and benefactors in many local causes.

 

Farming and Milling Industries

Scottsville enjoyed great prosperity during the 1830 to 1850 time period. Farms all around the area were producing award-winning wheat, and the mills were busy day and night grinding out flour and powdered gypsum, used in those days as “land plaster.” The Genesee Valley Canal was completed in 1840 from the Erie Canal in Rochester south to Mt. Morris. Scottsville was a port on the canal where tolls were collected. Products from the local mills could be shipped south on the canal, north to the Erie Canal or across Lake Ontario to Canada. D.D.S. Brown moved to Scottsville in 1846. He was the next owner of large tracts of land in the village, a lawyer and businessman. He was the donor of the lots for the Presbyterian Church in 1856 and the Episcopal Church in 1885, as well as the Union School building, now the Masonic Lodge, on the street that bears his name, Brown’s Avenue.Thomas Brown II came from Mumford and purchased the former Peter Sheffer property. He was a prosperous farmer for whom the Brown’s Grove area is named.

 

Changes and Progress

The late 1850s and 1860s brought a reversal of fortune to the area due to a disease of the wheat crop, the departure of many people for the west, and the Civil War. Still the village maintained a thriving Main Street. George Slocum opened his tinsmith and hardware store that continued through three more generations. Cooper shops, wagon shops and blacksmiths were successful until the early 1900s. John Talcott Wells, a Scottsville resident, was the inventor of the “Wells Truss” which was used to span large barns and auditoriums. Many of the “Wells Barns” built by Wells and his sons during the late 1800s and early 1900s are still standing in the western New York area. Scottsville’s iconic landmark, Windom Hall, was built in 1891 as a theatre and community center.  Plays, concerts, graduations and other celebrations were held in the hall for many years. In 1935 the building became the Scottsville Free Library.

History of Mumford

 

McKenzie's Corners

In 1799 a group of Scotchmen came to the “Big Springs” area in search of a better life than they had known. They settled in what is now Caledonia and Mumford and westward along the Oatka Trail on land that was sold to them by land agent Charles Williamson. Names of some of those families were McNaughton, McPherson, Campbell and McVean – names that have been known in Wheatland down through the years. In 1803, John McKay came to the Scotch settlement and purchased 200 acres of land which included the site of the hamlet of Mumford. He built a gristmill and a sawmill on Spring Creek. Soon Donald McKenzie arrived from Scotland. He built a sawmill and a woolen mill and became the first clothier west of the Genesee River. The hamlet of Mumford was first named for him as "McKenzie’s Corners".

 

The Hamlet of Mumford

Thomas Mumford came to the area in 1813. He ran a gristmill on the north side of George Street. His son, Elihu H. S. Mumford, took over the mill and ran it until 1833. In 1832 the hamlet was named "Mumfordville,” which eventually was shortened to “Mumford.” In 1821, Oliver Allen and William Remington took over McKenzie’s clothier works and then built their own factory on Armstrong Road in 1829. The successful Allen Woolen Mill prospered during three generations of the Allen family until it closed about 1903. In 1835, Libbens White built a 2-story brick hotel on the corner of Main Street and George Street. It was known for many years as the Exchange Hotel and continued in business until the 1930s when it was purchased by the village for its offices, a community center and firehouse. Today it is the Mumford Fire Department Building, an important landmark in Mumford. Across George Street is the Donnelly House, which opened as a hotel in 1876. It was purchased by the Town of Wheatland in 1974 for offices and meeting rooms and today houses the Mumford Library.

 

19th Century Industries

During most of the nineteenth century, Mumford, like Scottsville, was a busy industrial town. There were gristmills, sawmills, and gypsum mills as well as woolen mills, blacksmith shops, carriage shops and a malt house. James Blair operated a farm implement shop on George Street where he developed a new type of threshing machine. Through the years there were a variety of shops on Main Street, Milton Hyde, John Frey, John Neid, and others, operated general stores. John E. Harvey’s hardware store continued into the 1950s under his son Harry’s proprietorship. The last of the large industries in Mumford was the Gardner Paper Company, which employed 20 - 30 people from the early 1900s until it moved south in 1939.

 

United Presbyterian Church

The United Presbyterian Church of Mumford is an important Wheatland landmark because of its unique construction. It was designed by Rochester architect A. J. Warner and built in 1870 of “bog limestone,” a type of marl, that was quarried on the farm of Oliver Allen on Armstrong Road. Another notable landmark is the stone wall at the Mumford Rural Cemetery which was built in 1929.

Other Communities in Wheatland

 

Garbutt

John Garbutt first came to the Wheatland area in 1804. The following year, he was joined by his father Zachariah, and his brothers, William and Phillip, and two sisters, Elizabeth and Phebe, all natives of England. The Garbutts built their log cabin on the north side of Oatka Creek near the present Union Street. The three Garbutt brothers were educated men, successful farmers and strong leaders who became active in local affairs. Youngest brother, Phillip, married Nancy Sheffer, daughter of Peter Sheffer Jr., the first white child born west of the Genesee River. Phillip established a gristmill, a store, and a gypsum business in the hamlet that was first called Garbuttsville. He conducted a shipping business, first on the Genesee River and later on the Genesee Valley Canal. His businesses were later taken over by his son, John W. Garbutt. The gypsum business boomed. Gypsum was first sold to farmers as an additive to the soil, and later as an additive to concrete and for making building materials. Gypsum mines and mills grew up along Oatka Creek, and the little hamlet of Garbutt boasted a large population with blacksmith and cooper shops, general stores, a school and a church and cemetery. The Garbutt’s businesses were eventually sold to large corporations, which continued in the area until the time of the Great Depression. Only a few remnants of the mines and mills remain along the creek. The houses and the store built by the Garbutt brothers are all still standing at 866, 1008 and 1300 Scottsville-Mumford Road.

 

Wheatland Center

The area now called Wheatland Center was settled in 1799 by Francis Albright, who built the first gristmill in the town, and John McNaughton, one of the original Scotch land seekers. McNaughton went on to become a prosperous grain dealer.  In 1820, Clark Hall came from Riga and opened a store. He later built the brick house on the corner of the Scottsville-Mumford Road and Wheatland Center Road, which is still standing. It was a tavern, stagecoach stop and popular meeting place. Until the 1840s the area was known as “Hall’s Corners.” Albright’s mill was purchased by Clark Hall and then in 1844 was sold to Hiram Smith. Smith’s “Genesee Flour” was widely known and in demand all over the east. He expanded his business until he was running six mills in various locations. A painting of Smith’s Mill at Hall’s Corners hangs in the Scottsville Library. The location of the Albright-Smith Mill on Oatka Creek has been an industrial center all through the years. The Strobel Woolen Mill was located there in 1882. In the 1890’s the Wheatland Land Plaster Company located on the south side of the creek. The site was later occupied by the Ebsary Gypsum Company, and today is the home of the Sabin Metal Company.

 

Belcoda

The hamlet of Belcoda is a farming community in the northwest part of the town away from Oatka Creek. There is no record – only speculation – about how it got its unusual name. The first settlers in the Belcoda area were Elisha and David Farwell who came about 1800. Other early arrivals were the Sages and the Cadys. Joseph Blackmer came with his family from Connecticut in 1808. Then Rawson Harmon, with his wife, six sons and five daughters from Massachusetts, settled in the area in 1811. The church was the center of this community. It was begun in the log schoolhouse in 1811, and in 1813 Rev. Solomon Brown who had been a soldier in the Revolution, became the pastor of the first Baptist church west of the Genesee River. A church was built in 1821, which attracted a very large congregation. Rawson Harmon II experimented with new varieties of wheat and became known as an accomplished agriculturalist. In 1846 his farm at 2100 North Road was the location of the “Western New York Agricultural School.” The cobblestone houses of Ariel Harmon and Sylvester Harmon are still standing at 1911 and 3314 North Road. The homestead of Rawson Harmon I also stands at 2416 North Road. The Belcoda Baptist Church divided about 1852 and established daughter churches in Mumford, Clifton and Riga. The mother church did not survive, but closed about 1860 and was torn down about 1880. There is no surviving photo of the church, but a boulder marks its site and the beautiful Wheatland Baptist Cemetery is a reminder of the once thriving community.

 

Beulah

The hamlet of Beulah is located in the northwest corner of the Town of Wheatland. Like Belcoda, it is a farming community that has no real center. It came to be known as Beulah when the local church was dedicated in 1852 and the speaker read a scripture from Isaiah referring to the land of Beulah. The first settlers in the Beulah area were some of the early Scotch immigrants, John Anderson, John Malloch and John McDermid. Thomas Faulkner, from Scotland, fought with the British in the War of 1812. He was taken prisoner and after the war stayed in the states. He came to Wheatland in 1825 and built a house on Oatka Trail. The Scotch settlers in this vicinity had worshipped at the Stone Church in Caledonia for a number of years, but when they saw the success of the Belcoda church, they decided to build a church of their own, the United Presbyterian Church of Beulah. The congregation gradually declined and the church was closed in the 1920s. A boulder marks its site today. David Tennent, a blacksmith, and his wife, Mary, came in the 1850s and were members of the Beulah Church. Their daughter, Margaret Tennent, was a poet who had some of her works published in national magazines. She also wrote delightful stories about her Scotch neighbors in Beulah, which have survived in our local collections. Her brother, David C. Tennent, made a fortune in the oil fields of Pennsylvania and returned home to become a benefactor of the community.

Local Historical Preservation Organizations

 

Wheatland Historical Association

In 1972 a group of citizens in formed the Wheatland Historical Association to help in the preservation of our Town's history. The Association is an independent organization, not affiliated with the local Town Government.  The Association’s mission is to promote and encourage research and knowledge of the history of the Town of Wheatland and its environs. The Wheatland Historical Association owns and maintains the Sage-Marlowe House, a fully restored and furnished 1830s workingman’s house at 69 Main Street in Scottsville. The Association also owns and maintains the Skivington Collection which can be accessed by the public by appointment, call (585) 538-4219 for further details.

 

Genesee Country Village & Museum

The Genesee Country Village & Museum is one of the largest living history museums in the country. See Points of Interest for more information.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Website Revision 4.67 November 18, 2019