I have found an article ordered through PERSI that I found quite interesting with quite a few families mentioned from Varysburg, NY.
The source of this article is the periodical "Historical Wyoming" October 1979, Vol. XXVI, No. 2, Warsaw, New York and the name of the article is "A Village in the Valley" authored by Anita Ripstein. The second part was printed in the January 1980 issue.
Copyright permission given:Anita's new email is: email@example.com
From: Anita Hayes <
Also permission granted on behalf of Periodical "Historical Wyoming" by Wyoming Co. Historian Ray Barber (716) 786-8818.
I will copy it as exactly printed in it's entirety, but please remember that this article was published in 1979.
Seldom has a village history been as well documented, and written with as much understanding, as this story of Varysburg, - a typical western New York and western Wyoming County village. Mrs. Ripstein is widely known as one of the outstanding genealogists in this area. She has been active in the formation of the Bennington Historical Society, and now is active in the new Sheldon Historical Society's Schoolhouse Museum at Strykersville. She is also Sheldon Town Historian. In other words, Anita knows more about most of the families of the northwest section of Wyoming County than they do about themselves.
Because of the length of this article, it will be presented in two installments, the last of which will be featured in the Jan. 1980 issue.
Nestled in the picturesque valley of the Tonawanda Creek lies the tiny village of Varysburg located upon lot 7 in the third range of the Town of Sheldon. It was to this site in 1805 near the banks of the creek with the Seneca name meaning, "where the waters are rapid," that William L. Vary and his family settled in the wilderness of the Holland Purchase. William L. Vary was born to Samuel and Hannah Vary on Dec. 27, 1773 at Stephentown, Rensselaer County, N.Y., and it was here also that he was married by Justice Hull on March 7, 1793 to Miss Mehitable Thomas who was born Oct. 13, 1775, she was the daughter of Peleg Thomas Sr. They became the parents of eight children: William Thomas, Lethe, Abrial, Russell, Thomas, Samuel, Churchill and a daughter whose name has been lost in time. They did not come alone on their journey from Stephentown but were accompanied by her brothers and their families, Lodowick Thomas and Peleg Thomas, Jr., the later being married to Mr. Vary's sister.
Approximately a year after his arrival upon the site which was to bear his name, William Vary, who was a surveyor and millwright erected a saw mill for his own use on the Tonawanda Creek just above where Stony Brook empties into the larger stream. Shortly after, he contracted with John Wilder and Asa Johnson, both pioneer millwrights, to construct for him a gristmill just below his sawmill. These mills were the first mills in all the region south of Attica. It was written by Orsamus Turner, son of another Sheldon Pioneer, in his Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York,
""Well does this author remember the mill, the miller, the miller's wife and the miller's boys. The old gentleman was enterprising, persevering, droll and eccentric, as any that ever penetrated that rough, wild region. Who of the early mill boys of all that region, does not remember the old man, his 'by Gosh' and 'by Golden', the rusty horse shoes nailed upon his mill wheel to keep off the witches? He was magistrate; many are the anecdotes told of the marriages he performed.""
During 1807 when hay was very scarce, it was necessary to fall small trees so that cattle might browse upon the buds and leaves. While Mr. Vary was cutting such for his stock, two trees had lodged against one another. He was in the act of cutting a third in order to get them to the ground and as he struck the first blow in this tree, the weight of the first two caused it to split upward, the end of the piece released striking him just above his eyebrow. He laid senseless for sometime on the ground while a friend traveled to Batavia to summons a physician to attend to him. Nineteen small pieces of bone were taken from a wound by Doctor White, possibly Dr. Daniel White, along with a small portion of brain matter. The wound healed but left a depression in Mr. Vary's forehead large enough to admit the half of a hen's egg. He enjoyed good health after the accident; although it was thought by some that his intellect was impaired by the accident, while the majority thought differently.
With the coming of the War of 1812, William Vary was appointed a Colonel of a regiment of the militia and he was ordered to rendezvous at Batavia. It was from this appointment and his succeeding service as Colonel, that he was always known throughout the rest of history as Colonel Vary. His eldest son, William T., when a lad of 15 years, carried dispatches for his father on horseback between Batavia and Black Rock to our forces while the village of Buffalo was burning. After the war he was presented with a cane made from a piece of the mast taken from the flagship of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie. The handsomely silver mounted cane which was suitably inscribed was for his outstanding service to his country.
Upon his return to the Village of Varysburg Colonel Vary erected his new home about the year 1815 and this is where this history of Varysburg begins.
(As in my previous historical accounts of settlements, I try to make it fairly easy for my readers to follow my writings by writing by sections of a settlement. The present Main Street of the village of Varysburg runs from the southeast to the northwest; the Tonawanda Creek flows approximately the same direction northward; Attica Street runs from Main street north to a s small brook known as Spring Brook. This history will begin from the area around Colonel Vary's house northwest to an area known as Slusher just across the west end bridge and then back to the southeast end of the village; then the east side of Attica Street then the west side, both too the little brook.)
Before I proceed I would like to give you just a few facts from history. In 1870 Varysburg had 2 churches - Methodist and Free Will Baptist; 2 dry goods stores, 1 hotel, district school, a select school, 1 tin shop, 2 blacksmith shops, 1 grist mill, 1 saw mill, a cheese box factory, 1 carding machine, cabinet shop, 2 shoe shops, a tailor shop, a cheese factory and 200 inhabitants. Now lets discover the history behind these buildings and those people.
THE HOME OF COLONEL VARY
The Colonel's home remains little changed since he built it after the War of 1812, except for modern conveniences. It is located on the north west corner of Rt. 20A and the old Creek Road partly hidden by huge trees. The Greek revival house known throughout the years as the house of the "Rising Sun" because of its unique sun burst design in its peak, has been the home of many of the prominent pioneer families of Varysburg. It is not known how long the Vary family occupied the house, but it is known that the Colonel died in Sparta, Yarmouth, Ontario, Canada in Oct. 1848 while residing with his son William T. Vary who settled and pioneered there. The Colonel's saw mill was located to the west of this house.
The next known occupants were the family members of Salem Davis whose descendents and himself were prominent businessmen of the village. Salem Davis and his wife came here to live in 1841 but moved out in 1856 to rooms connected to his Main Street store only to return in 1866. Mr. Davis died in this house during March of 1885 and his wife also died here on May 28, 1883. During the ten years that the Davis family were absent, the house was occupied by Edward Madden, his mother, his sister and brother until their house was built on the opposite corner. Following the death of the Davises, the house was sold to Jeffrey Thomas, the next representative of the pioneer family to reside within. Upon his death it passed to his daughter Mrs. Mina Hall and since then it has been occupied by various families. Today it stands vacant and in need of paint, but still a symbol of the men who made Varysburg.
On a site located on the old state road known today as Old Creek Road, which was opened in 1832, leading to the settlement of Johnsonburg, near the Tonawanda Creek, once stood one of the most prosperous business establishments in this end of the county. It was to this site situated in the hollow west of the Vary's house that the Davis family first started their long record of business in the village of Varysburg.
In the year 1833, Moses Davis and his wife, nee Jemina McIntire, lived in Charlton, Mass. with their three daughters Mary, Lura, and Roba, and their three sons I. Jephthan, Salem and Moses Jr. Jephthan born Oct. 16, 1796 and Salem b. April 27, 1809 were already expert wool carders and cloth dressers in this eastern textile manufacturing town. As in any town following the War of 1812, depression had set in and lingered, and their sights were set for the betterment of living conditions. Jephthan, as a mature man of 37 years that year of 1833, joined the westward movement to the widely advertised Genesee Country to see and evaluate this new land.
In October of that year he found himself in the tiny village of Varysburg with less then 20 houses. Here he made the acquaintance of the merchant Chauncey B. Dunbar and the miller David Stevens, along with the other pioneers of the village. After conversing with them, he decided this was the spot to begin anew and he penned a letter home to his brother Salem. Salem, who had but a few months previous, on April 3, 1833 married Julina, the daughter of Gibbs and Polly Wakefield Dodge, received the message and prepared at once for their departure to the West. They took the stage to Albany where they could catch the "cars" to Schenectady, so that they could write home and say they had ridden in this new means of transportation, and then they journeyed by Erie Canal to Albion. Again by stage they traveled south to Alexander where they were met by Jephthan with his horse and wagon. For the time they lived in part of Jephthan's home which in later years became the Russell Matteson place just below the present C. & G. Sunoco Station, and in years past occupied by Alfred Norton, H. Richards and Daniel W. Bump. Mrs. Eva Madden Hoy related years later that Julina's stepmother cried and said that Salem and Julina were going so far West that she would never see them again. Mrs. Hoy also told that Julina said that the people of the village were so friendly and cordial and that several tea parties and suppers were given in her honor.
The Davis brothers set to work and installed the first carding machine which was acclaimed by all in the community and surrounding area. Wool carding by machine was an innovation in the Genesee Country. Heretofore the work had been done crudely at home by a tedious and not overly pleasant process. But for some unknown reason Salem left a few years later renting his share of the carding and cloth dressing business, and with his wife and family removed to a farm of 150 acres south of North Java. Salem and Julina were the parents of 7 children: George C. b. 1835, Chester W. b. Sept. 6, 1837, Lorenzo who d. at 7 months, 8 days on Oct. 12, 1836, Mary J. b. Aug. 26, 1839, Dexter S. b. June 15, 1841, Louis C. b. June 1847 d. May 7, 1848, Helen L. b. June 14, 1849.
After the birth of Dexter S. the family returned to Varysburg where Salem purchased his brother's interest when Jephthan removed to the state of Ohio.
The business of wool carding, dyeing and fulling of cloth under the lone management of Salem, prospered so well that he employed a tailor by the name of Philip Wolf and was one of the first in the state to manufacture men's clothing. The material after being cut was taken to the homes of the village women for stitching. Among those employed were: Mrs. Luman Lawrence, Mrs. Thomas Bryson, Mrs. Sylvester Fields, Mrs. William Wilcox and others. Salem also made frequent trips to Boston to bring back bolts of the new manufactured material called calico which was eagerly purchased at 6 shillings a yard by the village housewives as it was peddled from door to door. Mr. Davis knew just what to purchase as the colors were somber in color. He knew the women folk over 30 years would not dare the criticism of their neighbors by wearing bright colors.
SHOE PEG BUSINESS
In 1856 Salem Davis saw another door open to bettering his business career and probably to make a profit from his mill business venture. In this year at Rochester, N.Y. was living the Madden family, consisting of the widow Eviza, her daughter Mary Ann born 1820, and two sons Edward II born Mar. 14, 1822 and Henry J. born 1827; the children not yet married. The family had originated in Ireland coming to the United States via Prescott, Ontario, Canada. The Madden brothers were shoe peg manufacturers but their supply of timber around Rochester was becoming scarce and rent high and they were looking for a new location. Edward Madden and his partner Homer Dudley had been told that Varysburg was noted as having the best facilities for manufacturing in Western New York with its abundant water power, stone and timber. On a spring day during April 1856 Salem Davis sold out his business to the two strangers from Rochester and in turn purchased of Andrew Pettengill a small general store on Main Street, with his son Chester W. as his partner.
Madden and Dudley, known as the "Peg Men" by the villagers, moved into their new location immediately, bringing their help with them. As rented houses were hard to procure in the village, the Madden family secured rooms with the Daniel Spink family on the west hill for a short time until they moved into the Vary house, vacated by the Davis family. Madden and Dudley at once set to work to better the mill, converting it into a shoe peg factory. A requirement for more abundant water power lead them to excavate the clogged up logway race and in doing so uncovered the grave of an Indian of great size with all his relics including iron kettles, pipe and a cannon ball.
This account of the grave site was written about 1930 and it read that Clark Wilcox, son of William and Harriet Wilcox, who was 12 years old that year of 1856, was among the group of small boys who were there watching. He related the sight years later about Fayette Richards, a large man himself, lifting the large skull over his head and slipping it over his head resting it upon his shoulders. In a later source which was published in this journal, Hiram Powers, then a resident of Johnsonburg at the time of the excavating, related that the laborers excavated a mound, described as 10 feet by 2 rods by 1 rod. They removed three human skeletons believed to be Indians and one was surmised because of its unusual height. Also two guns, greatly corroded, 18 lead balls, a brass kettle and 2 balls excavating the logway a stone's throw from the Tonawanda.
Edward Madden continued to buy land in the years that followed. He added to the shop and land he purchased from Salem Davis, the land on the southwest corner of Creek Road leading to Johnsonburg upon which the brothers erected their new home; the land between this house and their later cheese box factory; and the Vary Saw Mill, until Madden Mills totaled about 50 acres of land.
With the coming of the Maddens, the dyeing, fulling of cloth and the keeping of a tailor was discontinued, but the wool carding machine was retained under the supervision of Henry J. Madden with a boy helper. About 1858 the original Davis Mill burned but no account of carding factory for custom carding. The work was done on the third floor of the new building operated by waterpower. A boy was stationed on the ground floor who turned on and off the water when signaled by the ringing of a bell. Seward Spink was often this trusted boy. Ulysees G. Calkins who died in 1943, related before his death, that he, along with his schoolmates John Markley, William Orr and others would mount the three long steep flights of stairs to the door of the carding room only to be met by Henry J. Madden with white wool clinging to his beard and eyelashes, who sternly turned them back. With the invention of the shoe sewing machine, the demand for pegged shoes waned and the Madden Mills which had a capacity to produce 20 bushels of pegs a day felt the effects of the new invention. Fate came into the picture by placing a man at Johnsonburg by the name of George Hoy who came to the town of Orangeville in 1855, commenced in the dairy industry and started producing cheese. Mr. Hoy had a large herd for that time in history and from his 40 cows he produced cheese. He soon saw that by buying from his neighbors the cheese that they produced, he could draw it to Rochester for a profit. In 1858 he began buying extensively. Edward Madden was a friend of Mr. Hoy and a fellow Irishman, and Mr. Hoy soon convinced Edward to build on a cooper shop to supply the needed cheese boxes in which to ship the cheese. By 1861 the Madden Mills included a cheese box factory and following the erection of the first cheese factory west of Herkimer County by Mr. Hoy, business soon prospered.
The Madden cheese box factory thrived and prospered and the villagers once again had employment. Many teams loaded with boxes were drawn to Attica or Warsaw and shipped via rail to their various destinations. The list of employees on the payroll fluctuated but at least 12 families in the village depended upon the Madden Mills for their support: George West, Robert Wilcox, Batzold Brothers, Peter Spink, William Spink, Wyman Spink, Frank Godfrey, John Kittle, John Markley, George Bauer, John Richards, Henry Persons, William and Walter Johnson, George Raab, Charles and Joseph Herrman, Fred Phinney, Al Norton, and Seeley Foote, who sometimes relieved Henry Madden on the carding machine. During the lull of winter months the villagers found work at the sawmill. In the height of production the Madden Mills were producing 20,000 cheese boxes a year often working day and night to meet to demand. By 1885 the Madden Mills included the carding factory, shoe peg factory, cheese box factory, saw mill and planning mill.
In the spring of 1864 Edward Madden, now the owner of Vary Saw Mill, had formed a partnership with George C. Davis, eldest son of Salem and Julina Davis. The milldam had been causing much trouble, having been considerably damaged by the spring run off. All day long that May day Mr. Davis had been working with his men in the icy waters, making repairs to the mill. Taken with a sudden chill along in the afternoon, Henry Madden noticed his condition and helped him to his home. Before the next morning Mr. Davis became worse and was fighting a losing battle with death. He died May 19, 1864 at 29 years leaving his wife Juliette Barber and his young children George M. Frederick, Carlia J., and Theron B. Davis. George C. Davis was buried on the front lawn of his home (now occupied by Walter Conrad) owing to the crowded condition of the village cemetery. He died of typhoid fever, which had been sweeping the area since the previous August.
When Edward Madden first arrived in town, Salem Davis' youngest daughter and child was 7 years of age. She would often sit upon Edward's knee as he told tales of the Irish Isles and it has been said she remarked one day that when she grew up that she would marry Mr. Madden. On March 1, 1869, Helen L. Davis, born June 14, 1849, the little girl who grew to a beautiful young woman, became the bride of Edward Madden. They began housekeeping in part of the house the Madden brothers had built, across from her parent's home. Their May-to-December marriage produced five children: Eva J. b. Dec 9, 1869 who was married to Wilson R. Hoy, the son of George Hoy the friend of Edward who saved the Madden Mills; Alice b. July 1, 1872; Gussie May b Aug. 30, 1879; Edward III b. Oct. 22, 1875 and Helen b Aug. 1, 1882.
On a bleak third of November 1899 Edward Madden died and soon after, the long history of the Mill operation began to die also. After his death the homestead was sold to his daughter Eva J. Hoy. Wife and daughter Helen removed to Medina, N.Y. where Mrs. Madden died May 25, 1934. Helen married George Montgomery and continued to reside at Medina. In 1932 the Madden house was sold to Robert Embt Sr.'s family, who had been renting the property after the Hoy's moved to Batavia. After his brother's death, Henry J., who remained unmarried, operated the mill for awhile and he and his sister Mary Ann, also not married, moved to the Rev. Jackson House on Attica Street. Henry died here in this house Dec. 7, 1901 and Mary Ann died Aug. 11, 1909 in a Buffalo hospital. Mrs. Eviza Madden had died May 19m 1862 at 70 years.
The Batzold Brothers operated the cheese box factory for a few years and John West operated the sawmill for the Madden's until the mill burned in 1895. But soon the mills became inactive.
About the year 1910 when evaporators came into the economy in full swing, the Hartung Bros., Charles and John, fruit growers from Medina, N.Y. purchased the mills. They utilized the old buildings and erected a modern equipped apple evaporator and once again the site hummed with activity, but this was to be short lived. After only a few seasons they sold out to Kemniel and Harris who only operated one year and once again the mills were closed. In 1925 some of the buildings were rented and used for bunkhouses for laborers employed on the new Rt. 20A but soon too the bunkhouses were deserted and despondency fell over the once prosperous site. The wilds of nature began to take over their rightful domain.
FIRE OF 1928
About midnight May 7, 1928, fire was discovered in the old mill. The fire company responded promptly but the fire which had such headway had destroyed it. A barn next to it owned by Mrs. Hoy was also destroyed, but the evaporator was saved. The mill at this time was owned by George C. Mason a banker in Webster, N.Y. Just one day over a month later on June 8, 1928, also about midnight, another fire was discovered which destroyed the apple drier, a two story building 30 x 75 feet, built in 1910. This also was owned by Mr. Mason. Both deeds were thought to be arson. Today nothing remains of the once prosperous Madden Mills.
THE THOMAS FAMILY
Colonel Vary's brother in-law, Lodowick Thomas, settled in 1805 on lot 22, a short distance to the west from his sister's family, on 360 acres of land he had purchased overlooking the valley. It was his grandson, who would someday occupy the Vary house. Lodowick was married to Miss Esther Gates, the daughter of Joshua and Anna Lamb Gates. The Gates family also pioneered the wilderness of Sheldon. Lodowick and Esther were the parents of the following known children: Seth, Rowland who remained unmarried as did his sisters Mercy and Esther, Cynthia: (married to Amzi Conger) and Eliza who married Benjamin Thayer of Stephentown. Lodowick had seen service during the Revolution and his name appears on the pension list for service in the New York State Militia as a private. From available records it is found that he received $80 per year from Mar. 4, 1831 until his death June 6, 1848 at the age of 86 years. In a letter, his grandson Herman J. Conger states that his grandfather was wounded in action. A War Department letter concerning Lodowick's military service also states that his name appeared as a private on a return of prisoners sent from the Province of Quebec by seas to Boston on Nov. 8, 1782. Mr. Conger also noted that Lodowick was buried in a family cemetery on his farm, beside the grave of his father Peleg Thomas Sr. who saw service with the English Army before the Revolution. Also in this Thomas Cemetery lies the grandsons of Lodowick who were killed in the Civil War.
Seth Thomas, the father of Jeffrey Thomas, was also a soldier serving as a private during the War of 1812 with Capt. Isaac Wilson's company of Lt. Colonel Worthy Churchill's New York State Militia in Genesee County, N.Y. Seth who was also buried on the Thomas farm according to one source, (and another saying in the Village Cemetery) died April 2, 1872 at the age of 78 years. His wife nee Samantha Fellows proceeded him in death on Sept. 21, 1859 at 51 years of age. They were the parents of: Eliza Ann who was married to James M. Jones a Civil War Veteran; Jeffrey Francis; Avery G. who became a village undertaker on Attica Street; Mary who was married to William Brewer and Eveline who married John Slader, who owned and operated a meat packing business in Chicago. Seth resided upon his father's farm and operated it until his death.
Jeffrey Francis Thomas, who moved into the Vary House from his father's farm in 1885, where he was born Aug. 4, 1829, was a very prominent man about Varysburg. It is from his diaries dating from 1860-1866 which are in the New York Library in Albany, that we have learned a great deal of Civil War times in Varysburg. Jeffrey Thomas was a self educated man and was not only a prosperous farmer but a country lawyer. He was married May 12, 1852 to Miss Harriet D. Richards, daughter of James and Anna Richards of Orangeville, whose family were pioneers in that township. The Thomas's, parents of two children, Francis S. born Jan. 30, 1858, died April 3, 1910, from septicemia caused from a prick of a price tag on a pair of new overalls. Francis after his father's retirement operated the family farm but with no children of his own, the name died with him. Ermina A. Thomas was married to Edwin Hall. Jeffrey Thomas, the father, died in the Vary House Feb. 25, 1900 after being stricken with numerous strokes. The original Thomas homestead erected by Lodowick Thomas burned.
Mrs. Ermina Hall resided in the Vary House following her father's death. She died in 1923, followed by her husband, in 1943.
To the northwest of the Vary House and next in line traveling on our historical journey, we come to a tiny shop that once stood near the southeast bank of the creek known in earlier times as Catawba, and today as Stony Creek. Before this little shop was moved upon this site, it was a doctor's office, possibly that of Doctors Potter and Watson, and was on Mill Street. It was at one time a meat market, and was moved at other times for various purposes until it was located upon this site.
It was here that Edwin Hall, known to the villagers "Tinner's Hall', operated his tin shop. Older residents of the village today can recall going inside this small shop and also the walk-in cooler that remained from its earlier purpose. Following the death of Tinner Hall the small building was willed to the Masonic Lodge, and they in turn sold the building to Roy Glor. He moved it to its final side, adjoining his home on Attica Street, and converted it into a cottage for Miss Helen Barton.
Today, this little cottage is rented to others by his widow, Mrs. Bertha Glor.
THE FIRST GARAGE OF VARYSBURG
As we cross the Stony Creek and upon its opposite bank once stood the first public garage built in the village. With the coming of the auto age, Leon P. West built a building in which he and Elbert K. Cooper started a Ford Agency in 1909. They sold their first car on Mar 5, 1910 to Mr. Ed George of North Java. Leon operated the garage until 1917 when he removed to Buffalo turning over his business to his father John P. West and brother in-law Louis E. Cornish. On April 1, 1925 the business was purchased by A.G. Wolf and Raymond Dorshide who operated it until about 1930 when Arthur Gerhardt Sr. purchased the business. It was then known as the Brookside Garage, selling gas for 13 cents for regular gas, and special going for 16 cents. About 1934 the firm of Ayers and Gerhardt, (Gilbert Ayers and Clarence Gerhardt) moved the building to its present location and today it is operated by Burt G. West, the brother of Leon P. West, and his son in-law Darwin Almeter.
Little is known concerning the next dwelling except in 1866 according to the village map was known throughout the years as the George West house and today it is occupied by James and Florence Bartz Almeter.
THE GREAT FIRE OF 1908
All communities, however small, have their conflagrations entailing loss of property, if not life itself, and the village of Varysburg has not been an exception. At 4 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 23, 1908 fire of unknown origin broke out in the tiny village destroying the entire west side of Main street from the present home of James Almeter to the present apartment house of Mr. And Mrs. Terry Ripstein.
The fire originated in the cooper shop of Orla Lawrence, which set behind the upper hotel. He and Victor Wilcox by day had been busy making barrels for the fall rush of apple picking and by night it was the sleeping place of Frank Danley, a well know countryside character who was awakened by the sound of crackling flames and stifling smoke in time to escape with his life. The shop had been built in 1886 by James S. Barnes as a blacksmith shop.
A strong brisk southeast wind was blowing that morning and the dry autumn which had turned the valley into a blaze of color also had made the valley dry and the wells low. The fire gained headway and soon the flames were carried to the roof of the hotel barn which had been erected only a few years before by A.G. Musty, where the sparks were driven through the cracks into the hay.
Across the street in the small framed telephone office, the operator William Salisbury and his wife, nee Carrie Conant, were awakened. Salisbury immediately went to the switchboard sending out the alarm for help for the little village, then, without fire protections. Soon the church bells on the Methodist-Episcopal and Free Will Baptist Churches were ringing the tragic news from hill to hill and down the valley calling for help. Already the flames blown by the implacable wind had reached over and were enveloping the hotel.
Quickly the hillsides became animated with the hurrying hill folk, who from high elevation saw the fire in the valley below and had heard the roar of its invincible onslaught. They came running through the woods and fields, down the winding dirt roads in every kind of vehicle, knowing as they came that without help the village was doomed to destruction. The alarm had been received in the Arcade phone office about 5 a.m. and a special train was quickly made ready on the B.A & A. railroad with 16 active firemen, who with their chemical engine, buckets and ladders were hurrying to the scene. In Attica, the hand pumper was hooked to a team for the trip up the valley. Meanwhile the villagers formed a large bucket brigade, reported to be upwards of 1000 men, in a desperate attempt to save their town. Blankets were soaked with water and hung on the building. Fires were starting all over the village catching from the falling embers, some being blown 4 miles distance on the present day Creek Road. Nearby homes were being evacuated and everywhere were women, children and older folks burdened with their choicest possessions. In the erratic light of early dawn were seen the weird blackened faces of every able bodied man around the area using every amount of energy to save the little village of Varysburg.
THE PATH OF DESTRUCTION
The Upper Hotel was completely destroyed. The early history of the site is unknown but in the 1860's it was the site of Barnhardt Marzolf's Tin Shop, which he sold to J.M. Bryson on Jan. 1, 1878. Mr. Bryson added a hardware line to the shop but soon outgrew this building and removed to a new store he erected across the street next to the Corner Store in 1880. Sometime after 1885 George Green built the hotel that burned that morning. Albert Klein had purchased the hotel from A.G. Musty about 1906, known as the Valley Hotel. It was Mr. Klein and his wife nee Sara Collins who watched their business burn to the ground. Following the fire, Charles Streicher, a bachelor, moved a small house from Attica Street, the present site of Mrs. Mable Embt's garage, to the rear of the burned lot, almost on the creek bank. Burt G. West, the oldest male resident of Varysburg today, lived in this house as a child. A long driveway led back to Mr. Streicher's business, which was known as the Yellow Dog Saloon.
During April of 1916, William Logel purchased the property and on the 6th of that month, Andrew Bauer a local contractor began excavating the foundation for the present hotel. Throughout the years since Mr. Logel it has been operated under various names and owners: Charles Eugene Murphy; Stephen Smith - The Smith Hotel; George F. Dolphin; Anthony Dimick, who added the bowling lanes on in 1947; Philip Cusmano - Cusy's Lanes; Gerald Snyder; Lee Fisher; William Tanner; and the new owners, who operate under the name of Valley Lanes.
OTHER HOUSES DESTROYED
During the fire, Orla Lawrence, a resourceful man in time of danger, suggested that if they dynamited the Louis Ward house, it might stop the fire from spreading. Dynamite sticks were obtained, but it was too late - the house was in flames. This house had been erected by John B. Folsom, after his marriage in 1831 to Clarinda C. Harnden. They resided in this red framed house until 1834, when they removed to Michigan. Mr. Folsom returned later to the county, and with his brother, organized the hamlet of Folsomdale. At the time of the fire it was occupied by Lewis Ward, an aged Civil War veteran who resided alone. The house was never rebuilt. About 1938, Elbert K. Cooper moved a small dwelling from a site located behind the present home of Clarence Riber, and converted it into a Sunoco Gas Station. This building was later moved to the rear of the lot, and now is behind the home of James Almeter. Today this lot is vacant.
Also destroyed, was the Ernest Schaublin house. At the time of the fire, Mrs. Schaublin occupied the house, and in the front room John W. Whitney conducted a "high class" tonsorial parlor. In earlier times the house was owned by Richard Blydenburgh, and Hiram and Charity B. Nott. In March 1863, Philip Wolf opened his tailor shop in the front rooms, selling out later to George Bauer, and his wife, Sally, who operated the tailor business.
The Schaublins had purchased the property from Jacob and Magdalena Schaub in 1882. Burt G. West remembers Frank Lincoln having his barbershop in the front of this house when he was a lad. Mr. West recalls that when Mr. Lincoln moved in, he helped clean out the shoe shop which had previously occupied the front room. It was to this site that Ayers & Gerhardt moved the first garage of Varysburg.
THE WOLF BROTHERS STORE
George W. and John Wolf, not quite sure of the wording of their insurance policies regarding the fire, relocked the doors of their business - a liquor and grocery shop - which had been the combined result of their lifetime of work. They quietly stood and watched it being consumed before their eyes.
The original owners of this building are not known, only that the name "Norton's Store" appears on the 1853 map of the village. The Wolf family began their association with this building in July 1863, when Philip M. Wolf opened a tailor shop, which he conducted here until Aug 1, 1868. Philip M. Wolf with his wife, Elizabeth Shoemaker, with their two children, George M., born Mar. 12, 1832 in Alsace-Lorraine, and Sally, who later married George Bauer, sailed from France in 1849 taking 99 days in crossing. They landed in New York City where Philip M. worked for one year as a tailor. The following spring the family started westward but when they arrived in Albany they found that the Erie Canal was closed and they shipped their goods by rail to Attica. When they arrived they rented a house from Elizabeth's brother Michael Shoemaker who had settled in Orangeville. Mr. Wolf worked for Salem Davis until he opened his own shop on Main Street in 1863 in the Schaublin House and then moved a few months later to this site. In 1868 he sold the building to John and Mary Smith who conducted a wholesale and retail liquor shop and a saloon in the building until 1870 when they sold to the Fields family.
In 1854 George M. Wolf was married to Miss Catherine Laninger, the daughter of George and Sarah Laninger and they began housekeeping in the house that once stood where the present Agway store stands. At this site of the former Bryson Hardware; George M. began a meat market business until he enlisted in the 136th NY Inf. Co. H. during the Civil War. Following the war he moved his family to a farm in Orangeville until Jan 11, 1871 when he purchased the former store of his father upon the site now occupied by the Texaco Station of Burt G. West. It was here that he began his meat market business again. His slaughterhouse was located on the old Thomas Road just below the hill known as Knab Hill.
On Oct. 1, 1885 George M. Wolf sold his business and his building to his sons, George W. and John Wolf. The brothers built onto the original building and enlarged the stock. Above their store the Varysburg Grange held their meetings in a large hall. The year following the fire of 1908 they rebuilt their liquor and grocery store and this building remains today. The brothers built a special entrance for the Grangers to the rear side of the building and a long carriage house for their use. The Wolf Brothers retired in 1930 selling out their entire stock to H.B. Weir and Co., of Springville, N.Y. John Wolf died April 21, 1932 and in Sept. 1934 the building was sold to Gilbert F. Ayers and Clarence Gerhardt. They converted the building into a gasoline station, made living rooms to the rear, and partitioned the front of the building to include a beauty parlor. This was divided by marble columns and latticework which came from a bank in Corfu. They also added the front canopy over the pumps. Mr. and Mrs. Burt G. West became tenants, and finally owners of the building. Mrs. West operated a beauty parlor here for many years. Their daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Darwin Almeter, and family, occupy the living rooms today. The Grange meanwhile during the late 1920's had moved into the old Methodist-Episcopal Church.
THE LOWER HOTEL AND BARN
The lower hotel barn was the next to be destroyed. The original barn was a long structure and had numerous sheds and an icehouse just northwest of the Wolf Store. In early times, this was the approximate site of a harness and saddler shop operated by James F. Pettengill. Following the fire, Thomas Murphy, the hotel proprietor, had the barn rebuilt to half the size of the original. During the hotel ownership of Anthony Starkey, the barn was torn down and the property sold to the Fire Department. In November of 1952 the present fire hall was completed upon this site, moving the hall's location from across the street.
The lower Hotel was the last structure to burn in the fire of 1908. It is believed to be the site of the first tavern hotel in the village. The building approximately 60 to 70 feet in length was constructed during the early history of Varysburg. During the 1850's it was operated, we believe, by Andrew Pettengill according to a Feb. 24, 1853 dance card which states, "Social Party at A. Pettengill's Hotel in Varysburg on Thursday, Feb. 24, 1853 at 5 p.m. - L.E.Barnum and Brother, Music." Jeffrey Thomas in his diaries mentions Loren Waldo & Frank C. Zwetsch. C.F. Prentice also was associated with this hotel in the late 1860's from an ad that he ran in the 1870 Directory of Wyoming County: "No efforts spared to make this a comfortable Home for Travelers. Good Stabling Attached."
The next owners were the enterprising McCray Brothers - Horace N. and John, sons of William and Ann Button McCray who came to the village in 1836 from Ellington, Conn. Lott Shaw was the next owner operating under the name of Shaw's Hotel. It is said he was a thrifty old Yankee who did not believe in wasting anything or taking unnecessary chances in business. One day he had to go away on business and left Jim Bryson in charge and cautioned him not to charge anything. On his return he found the stock depleted, the till empty and everyone there. He called Jim aside and asked what this all meant. Jim replied. "You told me not to charge anything and I didn't." Jim was always looking for a chance to pull a joke on someone and the McCrays and Shaw seemed to be his favorite victims. About 1886 Albert Briggs and his wife nee Cora Hatfield whom he married in 1872, came to Varysburg from their Erie House in Warsaw, N.Y. The hotel became known as the Varysburg Hotel. They had first operated the Wethersfield Hotel at Wethersfield Springs. I have had the fortune to read their old register from their Varysburg Hotel and in it is this short poem written by a traveler:
"When you and I in Love Depart
May it leave a string in Both our Hearts
I to some foreign land must go
Sleep there in least as others do
All this and more I have to say
Night calls me on - I must away
With good intent I write these lines
You will in time a question find."
The medicine shows would advertise in these registers taking one whole page or two listing their specialty for their coming performance. Following the Brigg's, Charles E. Kempston and his wife Elsie ran the old hotel and on Mar 4, 1895 they sold to Barney Ripstein for $3535.00. Shortly after he sold to Andrew Bauer and then in 1902 Thomas Murphy who also had previously operated the Wethersfield Hotel took over.
It was during the ownership of Thomas Murphy and his wife nee Mary Campbell that the hotel burned. Mr. Murphy, who was the son of Mathew and Margaret Rolph and was born in Java Nov. 7, 1860, rebuilt the Varysburg Hotel in 1909 under the supervision of the Broadbrooks Lumber Company of Attica. This hotel remains today. Mr. Murphy operated the hotel until his death in 1912. Since that time the owners have been William Kernan, Elmer Frisbee, Anthony Starkey and present owner Robert Hirsch.
Meanwhile help for the fire fighters had arrived from Arcade aboard the train whose whistle wide open made the valley ring. The pumper from Attica had broken an axle and it too had to come by train. However the wind shifted and the fire was controlled before it reached the next building on Main Street. With the coming of daylight and only 2 hours since the first notice of flames, the li