Finding Ancestors wherever their trails led

Chautauqua County
New York
Genealogy and History


Who was the First Settler
in Chautauqua County?

From the Fredonia Censor
Editor of Censor: A residence of nearly fifty-two years in the town of Hanover; a reader of articles published in the Censor June 4th and 11th of this year, from Dr. Taylor's book, of the early times and history of the town of Portland together with the note of Hon. E. T. Foote, accompanying such articles, in reference to the first settler and settlement of Chautauqua county -- also in attendance at the "Old Settlers' Reunion," held at Fredonia, June 11th, witnessing to me as it did, by an interest almost amounting to enthusiasm, among the venerable men and women of the early days of Chautauqua, who were there and participated in the exercises of the occasion, of the value of a faithful record of the times, sacrifices and pleasures which brought them together to celebrate and commemorate -- I am induced by the urgent solicitatin of friends to present to you for insertion in the Censor, an article pertaining to the early history and first settlement of the town of Hanover, and it is with reluctance that I do so, knowing as I do that the facts so presented will find an opposition most formidable, but at the same time believing that the good people of Chautauqua will receive as authentic the statements of truthful men, corroborated as they are by the testimony of others, I submit them; sincerely believing every detail so related is entitled to confidence, and at this particular period, in view of the forthcoming History of Chautauqua County, now being compiled, as perhaps essential to its correctness.

The individuals from whom I derived the following, have long since passed away, but there are yet left evidences sufficient to establish most conclusively every point or detail mentioned, all of which was carefully noted down from the lips of most of those mentioned, nearly forty years ago:

"It was during the early summer of the year 1797 that Amos Sottle, then about twenty-three years of age, turned his face westward from Chenango county, in this State, and most of the way through an unbroken wilderness, found himself, in the month of August on the rich bottom lands near the mount of Cattaraugus Creek in the present county of Chautauqua, and at that time far beyond the border line between savage and civilized man. Reared in case, if not in luxury, this long and lonesome journey made on foot in midsummer, and accompanied from post to post, or trading points, in most instances by semi-civilized Indians, often awakened in the young pioneer, reflections that were ost [?most] only in the unconsciousness of sleep, after long and wearisome days of devious travel and exposure. Painted Post on the Chemung, and Big Tree on the Genessee River were points upon his route of travel." Arriving at Buffalo Creek, as Buffalo was then called he made the acquaintance of Ezekiel Lane, who had been there several years, (Lane resided at Fort Niagara previous to coming to Buffalo,) and he afterwards, in 1805, moved to Cattaraugus Flats, and for thirty-six years lived a near neighbor of Sottle's and died at an advanced age, in 1841, and to him the writer of this is indebted for many early incidents, as well as a corroboration of facts as stated by Mr. Sottle.

The same fall, 1797, Sottle selected and settled on that lot of land subsequently laid off and numbered as Lot 61 of the Cattaraugus village, and about one and one-half miles from the mouth of Cattaraugus creek. The following years, 1798 and 1799, he assisted in the surveys then being made by the Holland company, as axman and chainman, and had the lot upon which his improvements had been made booked to him on the spot by Mr. Ellicott's writing his name upon the map or field notes. In after years Mr. Ellicott became the general agent for the Holland Land Company, and received payment of Sottle for the piece of land so selected and noted, a nominal sum only being demanded, for reason as stated by Mr. Ellicott, "that Sottle was the first settler, and one of his boys in the surveys." In the fall of 1799, as the cold weather approached, and the surveys were being closed for the season, Mr. Sottle went west to Sandusky, Ohio, where he inteneded to spend the winter only. Sickness, however, detained him, and in his home and improvements at Cattaraugus, accompanied by Wm. Sidney and Capt. Rosencrantz, the latter an officer of Gen. Anthony Wayne's army, (See Irving's history of Gen. Anthony Wayne,) then approaching in the northwest against the hostile Indians. Rosencrantz was the bearer of despatches from Gen. Wayne to the head chief of the Seneca nation of Indians, then residing at Genesee, Buffalo Creek, Cattaraugus and Allegany Reservations. Mr. Sottle assisted in the execution of Capt. Rosencrantz' mission, and at once repaired to his rude home, and continued to reside upon the same spot, quietly and uninterruptedly until the year 1848 or 1849, when he died. He raised a family of several sons and daughters, and was well and favorably known by the people of this section of Chautauqua, as a man remarkable for his eccentricities, acquirements, and singular dignity. His spare form, with his imaginative mind, and remarkable politeness is still kindly remembered by many and while living he was regarded as the Pioneer Settler.

During the year 1800, while Sottle was absent at Sandusky, one Skinner, from the Susquehannah country, Pennsylvania, came in with his family and built a small house on the bank of Cattaraugus creek, near the spot in after years well known as the "Mack stand," and such strangers as needed entertainment in this wilderness country, were received and cared for at this house. There we have a clue to the first hotel in Chautauqua county. Skinner's name is mentioned several years after in connection with the title of a lot of land in the neighborhood, but an early settler will easily and readily understand how little the securing of title to land had in those early times to do with actual residence. And it was not until several years after the first settlement that title could be secured, for the reason that the land office had not fully completed its arrangements in opening this section of country to entry by single lots and parcels. Thus the reader will see how feeble is the foundation of the inference that Sottle could not have returned from the north west until 1806, because his name did not go on the books at the land office in regular order or form until that time. After his name had been written upon the field notes, as before stated, he, as well as all who were acquainted with the manner of the Holland Company's way of doing business, knew that the land was as secure to him as though he had his deed in his drawer. He never married or lived "with a squaw," nor did he make his home with "his dusky friends."

On page 511 of Turner's history of the Holland Purchase, he says that James McMahan was the Pioneer Settler of Chautaqua. On page 512 of the same work he says Amos Sottle was the first white resident of Chautauqua. There is to be sure a difference between a settler and a resident, but the difference in this case is altogether too fine spun to take faforably (?favorably) with an unprejudiced public. The latter left his home in the fall of 1799 to arrange a matter of business at Sandusky, was taken sick with a fever and remainded until the Spring of 1801, when he returned and lived on the same premises for more than forty-five years. Thus the reader will perceived he came and actually began his home in the wilderness five years before any other white man except Skinner and Sidney, and returned from the west one year previous to when any other claim or pretension to settlement was made. Another fact connected with the first settlement of the town of Westfield, which looks as though "high sounding military titles," or influential friends had something to do with shaping the opinion of the present generation. It is said by those who put forth Col. James McMahon as the first settler, that in the spring of 1802 he purchased a tract of land in Westfield but did not move his family to his new purchase until the fall of the same year. While John McHenry stood before the people at the "Old Settlers' Reunion," June 11th, 1873, as the first white child born in Chautauqua in the spring of 1802, it was never questioned that Edward McHenry, the father of John McHenry, resided at Westfield or near there at the time John was born, and that he continued to reside there until he was drowned in 1803, while attempting to make a trip to Erie in a small boat after provisions, and that his famly have continued to live there to this day.

The first marriage in the town of Hanover was Hon. Richard Smith, to Sally Mack, daughter of Capt. Mack, of hotel notoriety, at the old Cattauraugus Ferry in 1807.

The first child born was Caroline Sidney, the daughter of Wm. Sidney, in 1804. The first death was that of William Sidney, in January, 1807. It will be remembered that Sidney was one of the men who came back from Sandusky with Sottle in 1801.

H. H. Hawkins
Silver Creek, Aug. 1, '73.

[Source: Jamestown Journal, August 22, 1873 Submitted by a Friend of Free Genealogy]



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