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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Decades in the Life of a Village as seen through its Historical Documents: Cherry Creek NY 1893 to 2017

By Sharon Howe Sweeting©Copyright 2017. 
All rights reserved by the author.

Preface and context:

The New York State government has endeavored to assist lower levels of government in reducing layers of political entities. Several villages in Western New York have voted to dissolve including the Village of Cherry Creek in view of high taxes and diminishing population. The vote occurred in February 2017 and the dissolution is to be complete by December 31, 2017. The Town Historian was asked to prepare a history of the Village as it dissolves.

The Village, within the Town of Cherry Creek which dates from the early 1800s, was incorporated on May 20, 1893, held its first election on June 17, 1893 and selected C.A. Mount president; I.S. Benton, W.R. Shepardson, and H. Clinton Mount as Trustees. Other officials included G. LeRoy Martin, clerk; G.W. Brown, treasurer and H.E. Safford as collector. “For many years lumbering was the principal business until the greater part of the neighboring forest had been cut down. But there has never been a lack of useful and profitable industries. Cherry Creek has never gone to sleep, or lost the active impetus given by the first enterprising settlers.”

“Among the progressive men of Cherry Creek, there stands no more prominent figure than that of Cyrus A. Mount. He is a descendent of an eminent family who were early settlers here. He was born here April 4, 1849, and laid the foundation of his early education in his native town and later graduated from the Forestville Free Academy. In early life he developed those qualities of mind and character which have since given him success in politics, in business and in social life.” He served as Postmaster (1874-1886); Justice of the Peace from 1872 for many years; president of the Business Man’s Association; president of the Board of Education and was Deputy Sheriff for several years. From: Historical and Biographical Sketch of Cherry Creek, Chautauqua County, New York by Chas. J. Shults, 1900.

The decade of the 1900s is represented by Poll Lists, official documents identifying dates, subjects of election and enumeration of the voters and endorsement by local officials. On March 15, 1904 23 votes were cast for Charles L. Wheeler, village president; Ernst Dye and C. LeRoy Edwards as trustees; Charles L. Frost, treasurer and Lewis E. Master collector. Verification signed by: A.H. Curtiss, president; Erwin and Champlain as trustees. On March 19, 1907 20 votes were cast for President Edson Skiff and Trustee William Bartlett. Chas L. Frost was elected treasurer and Clifford T. Skiff as collector. Election endorsed by President C.A. Mount, Trustees Rood and Gillett and Clerk Holcomb. On March 17, 1908 61 votes were cast for President Hiram Haskin, Trustee Geo. O Wilcox, Treasurer C.L. Frost and Collector C.T. Skiff. All Questions were declined related to Village Hall, Fire Chem. Engine, reimbursement of Hess and pay master (no further details mentioned). On August 23, 1910 a Special election was held for the purpose of raising $5000.00 extra for completing water works system in accordance to lowest bid. Passed 41 to 32.

The decade of the 1910s is represented by the Statement of Enumeration. Each town and village in New York was responsible for counting their inhabitants. On January 24, 1914, the village counted 654 inhabitants; 451 over 21 years of age and 203 under 21 years of age. No further census type information, such as address and occupation was listed. A prior Enumeration dated January 16, 1906 listed 691 inhabitants, 466 over 21 and 225 under 21. The 1914 statement was signed by President H.A. Damon and Trustees Annis and Butter.

Village Board Minutes were reviewed to track events in the 1920s which witnessed the nomenclature change of the leader of the village from President to Mayor. In 1920 H.A. Damon was the Mayor and Fowler served as Trustee. Guy E. Cooper served as Clerk followed by G.W. Lapham. In 1923, Georgia Drummer sued for alleged damages caused by defective sidewalks. On July 30, 1923 a Motor vehicle Ordinance was adopted related to speed (not to exceed 15 mph) and suitable mufflers. Motor cycle policeman Quaint was appointed. In 1924 the Office of Street Commissioner was placed on the ballot; E.H. Pease served. That same year the Cherry Creek Hose Company elected the following officers: Harry Hodges, Chief; Mark Dye, Asst. Fire Chief; Seneca LeBarron, lst Asst. foreman; Clayton Peters, 2nd and W.F. Henderson served as 3rd.. Fire Wardens were G.W. Lapham and Henry Reed. On September 1, 1925 Fred W. Young was engaged to installed 51 Street lights. A Special Election was called on May 5, 1926 to propose a meter water system: 36 yes to 9 nos. That same year a temporary loan of $27,500.00 was secured from the 1st National Bank of Jamestown to widen Main Street for a distance of 1515 feet. The Annual Report of 1927-28 showed receipts in General Fund as $9344.56 with distributions the same; while water fund receipts were $4562.91 with the same amount in disbursements. In 1929, the leadership passed from President H.A. Damon to Mayor G.S. Frost.

Mayoral Letter dated January 29, 1931 from Mayor G.S. Frost of Frost’s building supply, writes a succinct and powerful letter to the Executive Engineer, Division of Water Power and Control in Albany “Regarding Auxiliary Source of Water Supply, Village of Cherry Creek” after receiving literature from Mr. Suter on the Rules and Regulations governing water supply applications. Mayor Frost writes “in a very frank and brief manner, the actual conditions now existing in our Village…” “First; our Village water supply and system as installed in 1911 at a total cost of $30,000. We have and are paying on this bonded indebtedness $1,000.00 per year, together with the Interest; thus leaving us at the present time with a $10,000. debt remaining on our Village water system. I might also state that the present source of our water, which is the same as at the time of installation is from springs. Now during the past several years, these springs have suffered from drought, and have caused our Village Trustees to forbid the use of water for sprinkling purposes, etc… “

‘Thus, we of the Village have been hard put to figure out ways and means of not only securing additional water supply, but of the best quality. During the past twenty years that our water system has been in vogue, we have accumulated $1700.00 over and above our bonded indebtedness and running expenses. This amount is on interest account in the Cherry Creek National Bank.”

“Now before proceeding further in what we hope to do, I want to give you some other facts pertaining to our Village. The Village of Cherry Creek is what is termed a Village of 4th class, having a population of but 536. This being the exact number as per the last census of 1930. In the year 1925 our population was 619. In the year 1920 it was 527. In the year 1915 is was 720. I merely mention this that you might note the growth of our back-sliding over the term of fifteen years, and from this information you have a partial guess toward our future progress. Our Village also has at the present time a bonded indebtedness of $47,000 for a new school building erected in 1928. It also has a bonded indebtedness of $18,000 for the widening of our State Road through our Main Street. This was done in year 1926. Thus you may see that our small Village is carrying at the present time and will carry for years to come a large burden. Our only source of revenue other than yearly taxation is the sale of our water, and it’s that which we both want and must increase. We must increase it to retain our standard of living and increase it with pure quality.”

“Our Village has no manufacturers whatever. The only sales and users of our water, other than residential purposes is a Milk Plant and the Erie Rail Road Co. No doubt you are asking yourself, what has the Village, and why have they taken on so much with so small a population and little to do with”? My only answer could be, that we are in a rural district, surrounded by a splendid Dairy section. Our Village population consists and has long consisted of nearly all retired farmers. After selling or handing down to their kin their farms, they move into our Village, spend the remainder of their lives and earnings in what to them may be termed “solid comfort”. Thus our water, our schools, our good roads, our beautiful Village lying beneath the hills of our Chautauqua County afford them what they want. It’s home to them, and they are the ones, who over the term of years have brought it all about.”

He goes on to say that with the $1700.00 on deposit we plan to drill a well that will pump at least 50 gallons per minute which will not be in use at all times but only when the springs do not produce enough in quantity. He also mentions that the Village will not deposit $1000.00 with Mr. Suter’s office for a Surety Bond as required by the Rules and Regulations.

“Assuring you that any assistance and advise (sic) relative to our increasing or maintaining our Water System in a healthful and plentiful manner will be appreciated.” Signed: Mayor, Village of Cherry Creek (Letter is archived in the files of the Cherry Creek Town Museum)

1943/44 Field Book for Town Assessors: Another document related to the history of the village provides an alpha list of Property owners, location (street or road), names or surrounding properties (NESW), character of the Property (Res/Shop/Agri/Bank/Tool shed/ Res/cemetery), Quantity of Land or Linear dimensions, Full value of Real Property exclusive of Buildings and including buildings. Example: Hodges, Ellsworth, Main St. West side; surrounded by Wheeler(N), Street (E ) Delameter (S) and Merrill (W). Garage/Restaurant; land: 1/8; Values: exclusive of buildings $100.00 and with $5000.00. A 1946 Proposition by Mayor Irwin Milspaw: No 1: Shall Village Board appropriate a sum not to exceed $400.00 for Band Concerts, provided an equal amount be raised by subscription for the same purpose? Passed. No. 2: Shall Water Department raise about $4000.00 to extend a 4”water main on the Leon road 1200’ to Ruttenbur and Young properties? Failed.

1946 and 1950s are represented by several official Ordinances. “Lodgings deemed unfit for human habitation are to be vacated” : Signed by Mayor Irwin Milspaw and Trustees Floyd Buell and William Silleman (29 March 1946); Contract to Purchase Fire Truck Model 1 ½ ton Red Chevrolet Truck from Cherry Creek Motor Sales for $2673.00 (6 Jan 1950); Board Resolution authorizing an addition to the reconstruction of existing Water System at an estimated cost of $15,000.00; bonds to be issued (6 March 1950); Resolution that rent of Village hall to Town Board continue to be $100.00 per year (2 Jan 1951). Contract for lighting streets and public places by NYS Electric and Gas Corp. is authorized and empowered (5 Feb 1951).

The decades of the 1960s and 1970s seem to represent a period of lawlessness if the Oaths of Office are any indication. Deputies, Deputy Constables, Assistant Constables and Halloween Constables were all engaged; those who served in various capacities were: J. Colburn, Sr., Lawrence Miller, Emory J. Rose, Allan Steward, Clinton Brumagin, Jr. Robert LeBarron and William Lachut. In the 1970s the Fire Police were composed of: Emory Rose, Allan Steward, Paul Crooks, Lawrence E. Miller, G.W. VanWormer, Richard Madison, Charles Colvin, Patsy Monico, John Schweiger, Raymond Sheldon, Sr., James LaMotto, Clinton Brumagin, Jr., Robert Cooper, Paul Green, Donald M. Aaberg, Philip Gross, Chauncey W. Park, Jr., James W. Kriel, Dean Mount, Leo Belote, Robert Wm Cooper, Sr., Lawrence Duckwall, George L. Hodges, Jr., Richard A. North, Thomas R. Waag, James E. Rose, Allen Lachut, Richarde A. North, Edmund Sarno, Donald Casey, Dale Snyder and Elton Merchant. During the same period Oaths of Office were administered to: Mayor Monico; Trustee’s Wayland Dye, Allan Steward, David R. McCord, Richard H. Madison, Paul L. Peters, Robert F. Smith, Leonie L. Newcomb; Clerk/Treasurer Lottie Ingersoll and Election Inspectors: Arthusa Waite, Clara Hall, Gertrude Richardson, Mildred W. Fairbanks, Genevieve Champlin, Etole Ericsson, and Norma Brunswick.

1980s Village Board Minutes: These minutes are very precise and detailed listing all in attendance, their roles and the time they arrived for each meeting. On February 7, 1980, Mayor Edmund Sarno signed a Bond Anticipation Note for $5,000.00 @ 8 1.2.% interest to the 1st National Bank in Jamestown to pay “part of the cost of the purchase of a fire truck." Resolution offered by Robert Smith and Betty Milspaw and signed by Faye Colvin, Village Clerk. Charles E. Hunt elected mayor in 1981. On October 7, 1982, Ed Sarno was reappointed mayor after Robert Smith resigned due to moving away from the Village. In December 1985 Betty Milspaw was serving as Mayor. In 1986 the Village Board was asked by residents on how they expected to pay the debt for the sewer system. Appointments for the 1988-89 were Deputy Mayor Karl Miller and Clerk/Treasurer Brenda Gross. On May 5, 1988, the Board issued a letter to Residents to clean-up their properties.

1990s Village Board Minutes: Mayor B. Milspaw; Trustees Howe-Conklin, Pattyson and Karl Miller as Deputy and Fire Chief Ray Sheldon. Rob Frost attended as Supervisor ; Frost discussed Town Business, fire contract, youth program and the Transfer Station. 1990 also saw a Public Hearing on Recycling Law. March 12, 1991 a public hearing was held on Cable TV. In 1993 Mayor Karl Miller reported that the annual inspection from Chautauqua Department of Health that the water supply was being operated satisfactorily. Funding was requested for the 100th (1893-1993) Centennial celebrations. The first of several celebrations was held from June 12-13, 1993. Linda Toomey reported in the Post Journal on June 14th that the “Cherry Creek Centennial Ends with a Big Bang:” fireworks rekindle the dormant Cherry Creek spirit. Mayor Miller resigned on April 6, 1993 and Dean Mount was appointed. Trustee B. Hendricks and Mendle Johnson joined in the re-organization meeting. The re-finance of the wastewater treatment facility for $475,000 was complete in May 1994. In November of the same year Rick Young joined the Village as DPW. On Jan 10, 1995 an estimate to make the Village Hall ADA accessible was quoted at $90,000.00. In September 1995, Attorney Jerry Hyde led the discussion on the sewer loan payment schedule for 1996 to 2000 as: $33,000. for principal, interest of $4756.00 for a grand total of $37, 756. Board Members included Mayor Mount, Trustees: Betty Milspaw, Helen Howe, Bruce Hendricks and Mendle Johnson; Jody Farnham served as clerk-treasurer. September 7,1997 saw a brief discussion of dissolving the Village; all were opposed. And in January 1998 there was more discussion on the dissolution and a meeting was held at the school on March 31, 1998.

The decade of 2000 was dominated by squabbles between Mayor Dean Mount and Code Enforcement Officer Frank Watson over the demolition of the old school building. Post Journal news reporter Robert Rizzuto wrote on Feb. 14, 2008 that the project had been halted by the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation over whether proper permits had been issued. The questions mostly related to asbestos abatement. Demolition was begun before the Code Enforcement Officer had signed off. He was subsequently fired in a “closed door” session apparently in violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law. A 2010 invoice from the Village Archives shows a Lakewood company receiving payment for 50% of the demolition and asbestos abatement for $49,500.00. A misunderstanding with the County forced the Village to repay the remainder after only two years of County assistance. The tension was temporarily abated with the 2004 Sesqui-Centennial celebration headed by Historian Joyce Chase and Patty Frost. Events included a Memorial Day parade ending around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the old Highland Cemetery, a fashion show, parade, publication called “Century Old Buildings in Cherry Creek” and a church service.

Oral History: The 2010s highlighted tourism, history and cooperation between the town and the village in spite of the village dissolution vote in February 2017. Three trails focus on Cherry Creek: the Amish, the snowmobile and the Equestrian; each promotes local businesses. The 2015 Bicentennial celebration, managed by the Cherry Creek Community Association (CCCA), honored our first settler Joseph Kent’s arrival in 1815. Telephone pole flags were funded by a County-wide grant program. An elaborate historical parade was unfortunately rained out but the spirit was not diminished when several floats paraded before an old fashioned Town Picnic, the second since 1902, was held at the Cherry Creek Inn or George Nelson Frost’s farm. The Community Association, including villagers, townies and businesses worked together to rebuild the old ballpark bandstand, the playground, the mini park at the corner of Main and Center Streets, the summer concert series and memorial trees at Christmas. The horrific fire at the Trillium Lodge Restaurant on May 1, 2017 only increased the cooperation among locales with pleas to County officials to help with the rebuilding. The pending sale of Cockaigne Ski Resort and the wind power project producing green energy are two more boosts to the area.

We are looking forward to many more decades of life in a small rural area which I call the last frontier at the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains.

About the author: Sharon Howe Sweeting is the Cherry Creek Town Historian.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent article and a superb way of illustrating how legal documents and public records may be used to reveal much about modern history.

    Michael Mauro DeBonis.