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Village History



On March 20, 1894, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., in the rooms of the Brocton Library on Fay Street, 187 persons voted on the question of whether or not to incorporate Brocton.


The result was 127 yes, 60 no. The Village of Brocton was born.


The new village required officials to oversee its growth. In an election on April 17, 1894, the following individuals became Brocton's leaders: G.E. Ryckman, president; Stewart Dean and William Oglivie, trustees for two years; Jonas Martin, trustee for one year; E.C. Edmunds, treasurer; and Hiram Haight, collector. A budget of $500 for expenditures was set with annual village elections to be held on the third Tuesday of March.


Incorporation of Brocton came almost 83 years after Elijah Fay, formerly of Southborough, Mass., purchased all of lot 20 which formed the west portion of the Village of Brocton and built a log cabin. His brother, Hollis, in 1813, cleared three or four acres and built a log cabin on the northwest part of lot 13 which was the east section of Brocton.


At that time, there was no road where the Fays settled, only a trail and, what is now the center of Brocton, was described by early settlers as a dismal swamp of black ash.


A colorful description of what life was like in Brocton in the early 1800's is included in Dr. H. C. Taylor's book "Historical Sketches of the Town of Portland" published in 1873.


"No road had yet been laid out through that part of town and Mr. Fay reached his purchase by a path across the farms of Chester Skinner and Linus Burton. The first log house was occupied on the first of January, 1812. It stood west of the house now on the farm, was without a door or window for a time, a blanket answering the place of the former against which a barrel was set at night. The pantry was but a single shelf against the logs. There was no chimney but a hole in the roof for the smoke. Chairs were not introduced for about three years, but in their place stools were used made of slabs split from a tree, hewed out with an ax and into which three legs were fitted by means of an auger. Kettles were suspended over the fire by a chain fastened to a pole overhead. Within a year a better house was built, the old one converted into a barn and the space between the two closed up for a threshing floor. The land was thickly covered with trees over the whole town except the patches of clearing here and there. Roads were few and bridges among things yet to be. No churches were formed or houses of worship erected. For many years when the settlers assembled for worship it was at some private dwelling. They would come for miles around, some on foot, some on horseback, mothers riding with their little one behind them, some with ox sleds and some on mud boats.


Settlement of the area was to be north of Erie Road (Ellicott Road) and South Road (Webster Road) with Mr. Fay and Barzilla Barker being instrumental in opening North Road (Main Road) which ran from east of Brocton, through Brocton to the area of the present West Portland Baptist Church. The first team of oxen with a loaded wagon that traveled from its eastern end to Corners (as Brocton was called then) was in 1816. The village then contained "two or three log huts". Mr. Fay and Mr. Barber contributed hard labor and a total of $35 to open the road.


In February of 1835, a post office was established in Salem X Roads. The name Salem X Roads came about when a group of eight or ten citizens gathered in 1834 to decide a name for this village and post office which at that time was simply called Corners.


Each resident wrote a favorite name on pieces of paper which were tossed in a hat from which was drawn the name Salem. Since there already was a Salem in New York State, the name Salem X Roads was adopted.


A D. Howell was the first postmaster of a settlement containing approximately 11 houses, a store, blacksmith shop and a physicians office. The post office was located near the corner of what now is Main Street and Lake Avenue. A daily mail run was made from Buffalo to Erie, PA. and back, through Salem X Roads, by horses drawing a stagecoach which also carried passengers. The pounding of hooves and sound of grinding wooden wheels along the roadway stopped in 1852 when delivery of mail and passengers was contracted by the Buffalo & State Line Railroad.


Salem X Roads remained the name of the village and post office until Sept. 7, 1857 when, because of the continued confusion with the downstate Salem, the decision was made to change the name. According to the popular account, a meeting was held where, after much discussion took place, two names were combined of two prominent family names in the community which were Brockway and Minton to form Brocton.


Many types of fruit, grain and vegetables were grown by residents in the Brocton area but Brocton became famous for its grapes, thanks again to Elijah Fay who began, in 1818, to establish grapes on his farm. After trying varieties of Fox, Miller's Borgunda, Sweetwater and Hamburg grapes, in 1824, he tried planting Isabella and Catawba which did very well. Mr. Fay had the only grapes in the area for many years.


Mr. Fay also made the first wine known in Western and Central New York from cultivated grapes. In 1830, he produced five to eight gallons and continued each year to increase production. Dr. Taylor noted in his writings that Mr. Fay was still producing at least 300 gallons of wine until his death in 1860.


In 1859, Joseph Fay, Garrett Ryckman and Rufus Haywood purchased land from Elijah Fay and started a wine house which produced 2,000 gallons that fall. Wine business was successful which further encouraged the planting of grapes. Within only 15 years, the company had upper its wine production to 16,000 gallons.


After the Civil War, farmers in the Brocton area went into grape growing on a large scale and by 1870 nearly 200 tons of grapes were harvested from about 600 acres. Other wineries also flourished during this time period despite, Dr. Taylor commented in his writings, the "low price of the fruit".


Other industries peculiar to those times also flourished in Brocton., The first sawmill in Brocton was built by Moses Sage on Slippery Rock Creek in 1816. Several sawmills were in evidence during the mid and late-1800s with the ones in the later part of the century being steam operated. A grist mill built in 1836 by John Haight and Harvey Williams also contained a tannery. A steam mill for grinding feed was present in the 1870s.


Elijah Fay's name appears again in Brocton history as, in 1830, he built a cider mill. Records also show an ashery ran for 10 years on what is now Highland Avenue.


Dr. Daniel Ingalls and Joseph Lockwood opened the first store in Brocton in 1830 which was located on the southeast corner of Main Street. The store saw several different owners over the years it was in operation. Five other stores followed in 1835, 1836, 1844, 1847 plus 14 others opened between the years of 1858 and 1873.


Brocton also had a railroad which began in the village and ran over the hill through Portland connecting to Corry, PA. The Buffalo, Corry & Pittsburgh Railroad was completed in 1866 with the assistance of bonding and sale of stock with local monies. The B.C. & P R.R. carried close to 90,000 passengers and over 96 tons of freight during one of its early years of operation. It later went into bankruptcy and was purchased by the Allegheny Valley Railroad during the 1870s.


After the village of Brocton had been incorporated, Mr. Ryckman donated land for a public park bounded by Green Street, Salem Place, Park Street and Fay Street. Conditions of the deed stated that the property be kept in good conditions for a village park. A list circulated at that November, 1894 meeting saw $ 43 in pledges, 47 days of team work and one tree given over to make the park a reality.


A re-naming of the village streets occurred at a meeting held on June 1, 1895 some of which were: Railroad Avenue to Central Avenue, Buffalo and Erie Road (Main Street) to East and West Main Street, North Division Street to Lake Avenue, South Division Street to Highland Avenue, and Washburne Street to Kinney Street. Mill, Pullman, Smith and Fay Streets remained unchanged. Other streets were given names at this meeting which included: Greenbush, West, Railroad, Mechanic, Park, Lawson, Whitman, and Salem Place. Note was made that naming of streets that ran south of Main Street would be taken up at a future meeting.


A petition was filed in 1895 and an election was held in April, 1896 concerning bonding and construction of water plant. The bonding of $30,000 was approved by voters 98 to 19. Burr Reservoir came into being and by 1915 village water demand increased to the point where a second reservoir, named Risley, was required to meet the demand. Other water system expansions were undertaken with the construction of the filtration plant in 1937.


Homes and businesses in Brocton acquired telephone service when the village entered into a franchise with the Portland Telephone Company in August of 1899.


The village became modern when, after a petition was received by the Board of Trustees in 1903 requesting it, a municipal electric lighting plant was constructed bringing electricity to Brocton. Municipal bonds were issued in the amount of $10,000 for 20 years at a semi-annual interest rate not to exceed four percent per annum. Mr. C.P. Lawson deeded some of his property on Highland Avenue for the plant. The following rates were adopted by the board in August, 1903: incandescent lights, 16 candle power, 45 cents per month; meter rates, 10 cents per watt; minimum rate for a meter of $2 per month; places using five lights or less will be furnished at a flat rate of 45 cents per month per 16 candle power light; and places using 6 lights or more will be furnished with current on meter basis. The salaries of the first and second electricians were increased $5 per month on November, 1905 which produced salaries of $65 and $45 per month "with promise of another raise next year".