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Way Back When: How the Litchfields Came to Ellicottville


by Mary Fox

Residence of Beals Litchfield, Ellicottville

Residence of Beals Litchfield, Ellicottville

The Ellicottville Historical Society Speaker on May 8 was Pam Litchfield who, along with her sister, Carolyn, is the historian of the Litchfield family.

Beals Litchfield was seven years old when in 1830 his parents came to Ellicottville from Massachusetts. He was the youngest of 11 children.

Nearing Ellicottville after a difficult two-week journey, the family stopped with their covered wagon at a log tavern kept by Freeman Bryant on Bryant Hill. The hotelkeeper claimed there was no room and the next inn was only two miles from there. As they were soon to find out, there was no inn closer than five or six miles. Three miles of that were through the  ”three mile” pine woods.

Beals later wrote in his autobiography, “It was three miles through this unbroken piece of timber, and the road was so fearfully bad that all a man could expect to do was to get a team and wagon through by daylight.  I think I never since have suffered so much with fear as I did that night. One of my sisters remained in the wagon with me, and we had all we could do to keep ourselves right side up. The others were trying to get along as best they could on foot. After a long and tedious time of climbing over roots and stumps and ‘sousing’ through fearful mud holes, we came to a log cabin by the road side the inmates of which kindly took us in, kept us the remainder of the night, and in the morning gave us some breakfast and bade us ‘God speed’ on our way. The next days we arrived at our destination in the wild woods of Ellicottville, and in the course of a few weeks my father bought and moved on to 78  acres of land where we now reside and which has been our home during all those 60 years.”

Beals received only a common-school education. He dreamed of advancing his education. All through his life he considered reading a “sacred privilege.”

All his life, Beals would be a farmer helping his father after his brother died. Then, when he was 16, he promised his father on his death bed that he would stay on the farm and take care of the family. His holdings eventually increased to 300 acres. Beals became known around the county as a fine example of a successful farmer.

Beals struggled with religion during his youth, reading the entire Bible and attending revivals but was unable to relate to Christian doctrine.

His struggles to find meaning brought him into a belief in spiritualism, which was at that time spreading across New York, the United States and England. As his belief in Spiritualism grew, he became a lecturer and medium traveling throughout Western New York and Pennsylvania. Until his death in 1893, Beals’ life was devoted to farming and the practice of Spiritualism.

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