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The Toll Road Less Traveled

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By Rick Miller

Years ago when Bob Patterson’s aunt, Roberta Stone, was Great Valley historian, she told him about a stone along the Kill Buck Road that was part of a toll gate on the old Plank Road that ran from Kill Buck to Ellicottville.

It was built in the early 1850s after the Erie Railroad was built through the town.

Patterson, after recently moving back to the area, went looking for that stone. He soon found it — surrounded by tall grass.

“You can see the bolt going through it (rock) that held the hinge,” Patterson said.

He brought up the issue of the toll gate at last week’s Great Valley town board meeting. Patterson said since it’s the town’s bicentennial, now would be a good time to show off this piece of history.

Patterson spoke with town Historian Marilyn Siperek and she agreed it would be worth requesting an historic marker from the Pomeroy Foundation, similar to the one placed outside the Evergreen Tea Room and Guest House in Great Valley. It probably will not be received until next year.

“Maybe the town could mow around it or put a fence around it,” Patterson said. “I’d like to bring attention to it. It’s a relic from the past. The hardware (from the gate) is still there. I’m surprised it’s there — that someone didn’t hit it or yank it out of the ground.”

Patterson’s father was the “unofficial mayor of Kill Buck,” Otis Patterson, who died Jan. 29, 2015.

“I grew up here.” he said. “I moved to Florida, retired and just moved back here after 38 years. I’m saddened about how much this area has changed. You had the corner store, restaurant, truck stop and the school got torn down.”

“I guess I’m trying to carry on my Dad’s legacy” in speaking out about the toll gate stone, he said. “You couldn’t see it if the grass was too high. Maybe there should be a fence.”

Patterson’s family roots run deep in the Kill Buck and Salamanca area.

“My great-grandfather and his brother had a big sawmill in Salamanca and the railroad that went up the Scenic Parkway” in what is now Allegany State Park, he said. The Patterson Cross Country Ski Trail in the state park is named after the family and follows an old railroad grade.

Patterson is also a descendant of one of the founding fathers of Great Valley, Capt. Nathan Howe, who settled there in the early 1800s.

Siperek, who has her hands full with this year’s Great Valley Bicentennial Celebration, said the stone for the toll road gate stood next to a road covered with wooden planks and sand. It was a step up from the corduroy road made of logs — and dangerous for horses.

Siperek said a 100-year-old Salamanca woman, Shirley Lindell, was born just as Route 219 was being paved for the first time. “Her grandfather worked on the Plank Road.”

She said in her research on the Plank Road and toll gate she found an interesting condition: Great Valley and Ellicottville insisted they would not be responsible for maintaining the wooden road or bridges.

Al Robison and Rose McClune, who live on Kill Buck Road near the toll gate stone, have done a little research of their own, Siperek said.

They found an 1860 state law that prohibited toll gates closer than three miles apart. They also determined the toll on Plank Road was 1.5 cents a mile, with an extra 1 cent a mile for every 20 sheep, swine or cattle driven down the roadway.

An 1847 law exempted people from paying a toll going to or from church if it was within eight miles of their home. Traveling to and from funerals, as well as the movements of troops, were also exempt.

Siperek found an interesting story about the Plank Road. A farmer complained that the sand kept getting pushed and blown off the road. “He complained he always had to shovel it back onto the road.”

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