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Village of Ellicottville Celebrates 175th Birthday

By Mary Fox

Ellicottville has reached another milestone in its long and interesting history – 175 years ago, on April 1, 1837, the Village of Ellicottville was incorporated.

In 1808, Cattaraugus County was formed. A site in the geographic center of the county was chosen for the county seat. This site, which would become Ellicottville, was not settled until 1813.

The site displayed favorable attributes for settlement. A fertile valley along the then brimming banks of the Great Valley Creek and its tributaries, flat fertile lands for farming and rich virgin forests rising 100 to 150 feet made it an ideal place for a town to grow and prosper.

In 1813, Joseph Ellicott, general agent of the Holland Land Company, opened up this area in the untamed wilderness of the Southern Tier for settlement.

The first land contract issued by the Holland Land Company within the limits of Ellicottville was in 1813 to Grove Hurlburt, who came with his wife and seven children to clear the land and build a log cabin.

The government of Cattaraugus County was organized in 1817. Until the county building was erected in 1820, court was held in the home of Baker Leonard (now the Ellis House). Ellicottville remained the county seat until it was moved to Little Valley in 1868.

The Town of Ellicottville was organized in 1821. It was named in honor of Joseph Ellicott, who never lived here but laid out the town.

The lack of transportation through the county necessitated the building of the Chautauqua Road to run through Ellicottville.

The Dec. 12, 1835, issue of The Republican stated, “The tide of emigration has set in good earnest. Hundreds of emigrants are seen winding their way to the ‘Far West.’ The route through this section of the country is thronged and large wagons laden with household and farming utensils, etc. are continually passing through this village on their way to Illinois and the great western world!”

The holding of courts in Ellicottville necessitated provisions be made to house the lawyers, judges, litigants, jurors and witnesses. Hotels were rapidly built to accommodate this influx of travelers. Many lawyers resided in Ellicottville.

By 1837, the rapid growth of Ellicottville justified the incorporation of the village.

“Agreeable to an act to incorporate the Village of Ellicottville, passed April1837.

The inhabitants residing within the Village of Ellicottville, entitled to vote for members of Assembly herein, are notified to meet at the court house in said village on the 2nd day of May next, at one-o’clock in the afternoon of that day, there to elect by the ballot five trustees, three assessors, one treasurer, one collector, one clerk, one constable who shall each and every one of them be inhabitants of said village, qualified to vote for members of Assembly.”

Israel Day, Justice of the Peace in the Village of Ellicottville

Dated April 24, 1837

Joseph Ellicott, general agent of the Holland Land Company, in whose honor Ellicottville was named. Ellicott laid out the lots for the Village of Ellicottville but never lived here.

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