The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770

www.portvillehistory.org
Portville, New York
Credits

The lovely watercolor
in our toolbar above is
a depiction of the office
at 17 Maple Avenue.  
The artist is Portville's
very own talent,
Marilyn Reynolds.
1894 Flood hits the Village of Portville.  The photographer is standing a few doors down from the
building that is now the American Legion facing north (then A.D. Rice and Sons Drug Store).  The
buildings on the right were located where the post office and fire hall is today.  The floating planks are
the old sidewalks.  The flood water was above the stairs in front of each of the stores. (photo from Jim
and Joreen Cornell)

The photo below shows the same scene facing south with Trenkle's barn in the middle and Parish
Hardware on the right hand side (now Subway and NY Style Salon).  The store with the peaked roof was
William Holden's store and post office at the corner of Main and Temple Streets.  It was moved when
the Municipal Building was built in 1904.  The water was at least 3 feet deep or more.   (photo from
PHPS Collection)

Every time there was a big flood, people were reminded of the floods that came before.  There were
lots of floods between 1894 and 1942, but none that created quite as much damage as 1942.  A string
of flood years, 1940, 1942, 1943, and 1946, prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to construct the
dikes in Portville as part of their Federal Flood Protection Program.  Details of this massive project
are in the new book.  We also included the worst flood of all time, Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

Even though the subject of the book is bridges, you would be surprised at the number of stories that
had to be included to give a thorough accounting of the history.  It includes information on the
Genesee Valley Canal extension from Olean to Mill Grove, which was in use from 1861 to 1878.  It
provides photographs and dates of all the known bridges, of which there are quite a few:  Millgrove,
Toll Gate, Main Street Dodge, Temple Street Dodge, Haskell Creek (2 bridges there), Steam Valley,
etc.  Starting with wooden bridges, they were eventually replaced with iron, steel and concrete
girders.  Twice, old trolley bridges were modified and rebuilt for road bridges.  One was used for the
Haskell bridge (up past Windfall Rd) and the other was used at Mayville between Temple and
Brooklyn.  All of these bridges have been replaced and we now have the low-profile, sturdy bridges
of today.

There seems to be some confusion over the name of one of the creeks.  From the town records and
old maps, it was originally called "Dodge's Creek".  It was named after the four Dodge brothers that
built the first sawmill on the creek.  The property was later owned by Wheeler and Dusenbury and
called Mayville (near Sprague's).  The record keepers often left out the apostrophe and wrote
"Dodges Creek".  Town Records dating back to 1885 reflect this spelling.  Most people around here
just call it "Dodge Creek", leaving the "s" off completely.  And while we are discussing it, creek is
pronounced "crick" by many locals.  Whatever you prefer to call it, it has belonged to Portville for
two hundred years and has not misbehaved much since the flood of 1972.

We will have these books for sale for $10.00 at the library for anyone who would like to purchase
their own copy.  Most of the information in the book does not appear in our other publications.  
Proceeds will benefit the Covered Bridge Project.  You may also obtain a copy through this website.  
Just use our handy
Contact Us form to inquire and we will send you the payment information for the
shipping.

Click Here for an excerpt from the new book or see inset below.

Winter Projects

We have not had an update to our homepage in over 6 months and we do apologize for letting the
content get stale.  Sometimes the time just gets away from us when we are busy.  And wow - have
we been busy!

The frigid temperatures have kept everyone in Portville indoors, except of course our dedicated DPWs
who keep our streets plowed and safe.  The other day, the thermometers hit some pretty low
numbers, registering -20 at Bedford Corners.  Brrr.  There have been colder days on record though.  
Back on January 4, 1904, the mercury in Portville registered
45 below zero.  This shocking statistic
was printed in the old
Portville Review newspaper on January 22, 1925.  

Anyway, we are looking forward to spring and it can not come soon enough for most of us.  The
photograph above was taken on January 31st, just when the heavy snow was getting started.  Now
the snow piles are high and we are counting the days until it will all melt.

There is always plenty of research to keep PHPS going, despite the snow and cold outside.  We have
already published our first newsletter this year (which is actually a "catch-up" for last year).  The
January issue of the
Homespun Collage featured the family heritage of Col. Charles O. Eshelman.  It
took many long hours of research to put the story together so we delayed it until after the holidays.

We are very grateful to Jerome Carpenter, who grew up in the Carpenter homestead in Eldred, Pa.,  
and shared his many memories of the family and the area.  We discovered much of the history
together, since he did not have much information on the Eshelmans and Hopewells.  Jerome and
Charles shared a great-grandfather, Ozro Stephenson Carpenter.  They are a fascinating family with
roots in New England and the Revolutionary War.  They had ties to Pennsylvania, from Tidioute in the
1850's to Lafayette in McKean County during the Civil War.  The Eshelmans were enterprising
merchants and settled in Reading in Berks County.  If you are not a member and would like to read
this newsletter, you can
access it here and we have also posted it on the history page under
Eshelman/Carpenter/Hopewell.  

New PHPS Book

On February 18, 2015, Mr. Chuck Lucas sponsored a fund-raising dinner at Sprague's restaurant to
support his Covered Bridge Project.  It was a very nice event with 37 guests turning out.  There is so
much bridge history in Portville that we were able to put together a 41 page booklet called "Bridges of
Portville, Cattaraugus County, New York."     

The contour of our little town along the Allegheny River and its creeks has changed dramatically since
1950 when the federal government installed our dike system.  Before that, residents could count on
annual flooding that affected many homes and businesses in the low lying areas.  Some years, a "big
one" hit hard and caused devastation everywhere.

The bridges in Portville have always been crucial to our roadways.  In the old days, it was not much
of a problem to drive your team and wagon through the creek if there was no bridge.  But as the
infrastructure of Portville evolved, losing a bridge was not just an inconvenience, it was
life-threatening.  Wash-outs occurred during the flood of 1942 at Brooklyn Street, Bedford Corners,
Wolf Run, and Haskell Creek.  Yuba Dam suffered a wash-out years earlier in 1917.

Through the research of the book, many other interesting facts were rediscovered about Portville's
past.  For instance, 150 years ago this April, the Civil War was just ending.  That same month,
Portville suffered a huge flood that was remembered for years afterward.  The 1865 flood was often
compared to the Johnstown Flood of 1889.  

Johnstown was located down near Pittsburgh, but despite the distance from Portville, we were
flooded too, as were all towns along the Allegheny River.  This disastrous flood will be the subject of
a newsletter later this year.  Over 2,200 people perished near Johnstown when a man-made earthwork
dam gave way and a torrent of water decimated several towns and their inhabitants in the valley
below.  Similar to the dam at Cuba Lake, New York, the South Fork Dam held up a lake that was
converted from a reservoir of the old canal system in Pennsylvania.

After 1865 and 1889, another big flood came five years later in 1894.  A few years ago, Joreen and
Jim Cornell brought in the photograph below.  The buildings date it to 1894.
Welcome to PHPS
This page was last updated on 02-28-15

New Homepage and Update ~ FINALLY!

There are some great homepages that have not been repeated on the history page.  To see them in our
archive,
GO TO THE HOMEPAGE ARCHIVE.