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Ellicottville Times Past – Ellicottville’s Own Industrial Revolution

By Mary Fox

The Ellicottville Historical Society continued its History of Ellicottville series this past Tuesday evening with presentations by four gentlemen closely involved with industry in Ellicottville.

Agriculture was the first ìindustryî in this area. The hills, as well as the valleys, were clear-cut by early settlers to create farmland. Today there are very few small farms left. No longer are the hillsides being used for farming but have returned to growing timber. Don Telaak talked about changes he has seen in farming since the 1950s.

Ron Mercer spoke about the wood industry and the numerous industries related to it, which have been important to Ellicottville since the time of its founding. Mercer showed examples of shoe lasts (the form around which shoes used to be made).  Ellicottville was once the shoe last capital of the world. Shoe lasts were made of elm, which was readily available in this area. Once shoe lasts started to be made of plastic, the wooden shoe last business in Ellicottville ended.

John Burrell cited Ellicottville as being a ìcradle for industry,î in reference to the industries that Ellicottville has seen since its industrial revolution in the late 1800s. These included the manufacturing of wood products from toys to furniture,  as well as wartime products such as KLIM (milk spelled backwards) dried milk made by the Bordenís Condensery, metal furniture, wooden ammunition boxes, feed mills, canning factories, baseball bats, baskets, scissors, cutlery and much more.

Dennis Eshbaugh gave a video presentation on Ellicottvilleís largest industry, Holiday Valley, and discussed the changes that have taken place there over the years.

More information and displays about the industries of Ellicottville can be found at the Ellicottville Historical Museum. The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

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