Collins Town Hall is located at 14093 Mill Street, Collins NY 14034; phone: 716-532-4887.
Collins is the southernmost town of Erie county. It is comprised of two parts, that occupied by white men and that occupied by Indians. The latter is often spoken of as if it lay outside of any town, and yet it is legally a part of the town of Collins, although the Indians themselves are exempt from the jurisdiction of the town officers except in criminal cases. White men residing on the part of the reservation included in Collins are voters in that town, and are subject to its jurisdiction in all respects, and if the whole or any part of the tract in question were purchased and occupied by the whites it would become in every respect a part of Collins, without any further legislation. [Cattarugus Indian Reservation now forms the western boundary of the town.]
The situation of the two tracts, however, is such that they can best be described separately. The part occupied by the whites is bounded north by North Collins, east by Concord, west by the Indian tract and south by Cattaraugus County. It comprises all that part of township six (range eight, and of the three western tiers of lots in township six, range seven, (of the Holland Company's survey,) lying north of Cattaraugus creek; also the southern tier of lots in township seven, range eight, and three lots in the southwest corner of township seven, range seven. The length of the tract, east and west, is eight miles and a quarter; its greatest width is six miles and a half; its width on the eastern boundary is about five miles and a quarter, and on the western is about four miles and a quarter. Its total area is a little over fifty square miles. Cattaraugus creek sweeps in a broad and almost regular arc around its southern border, the south branch of Clear Creek waters the central portion, while the northern part is drained by the north branch of Clear creek; both branches running westward and uniting on the reservation. The surface is undulating and in the northeast is rather high, sloping gradually toward the west and descending abruptly, broken by numerous ravines, toward Cattaraugus creek. The soil is composed of clayey loam on the uplands, and of gravelly loam on the streams. These streams generally run in deep and narrow channels, bordered by numerous excellent mill-sites which have been thoroughly utilized.
The other part of Collins comprises all of the Cattaraugus [Indian] reservation in Erie county except about ten square miles, which is in the town of Brant. It is a very irregular tract, bounded on the north by Brant, on the east by North Collins and the previously described portion of Collins, and on the west, south and southwest by Cattaraugus county. Its southern boundary is about seven and a fourth miles long, and its eastern about five and three-fourths miles. The remaining boundary is formed by Cattaraugus creek, which curves to the northward in such a manner that the area of the whole tract under consideration is only about twelve square miles.
The first settlement made by the whites in the territory now known as Collins was made by a t little colony of " Friends" sent out by the " Friends Yearly Meeting," of Philadelphia, to teach the Indians the arts of peace. It consisted of several single men and women, who called themselves a "family"; the manager being Mr. Jacob Taylor. They located at the point since known as Taylor's Hollow, where either Taylor or the society which sent him, had purchased three hundred acres of land adjoining the reservation. Here they built cabins and set themselves at their appointed work, giving instruction in farming to such Indians as would receive it, in household work to the squaws, and in reading, writing, etc., to the youth. About 1809 they built a grist-mill and saw-mill under Taylor's direction, in which work was done for both Indians and whites. The " family " flourished many years, and although it would be difficult to measure the amount of good accomplished, it is highly probable that it accomplished some.
The first family of the ordinary kind which located in the territory of Collins was that of Turner Aldrich, which came up the north side of Cattaraugus creek from the lake beach in the early spring of 1810, and located on that stream, just above the reservation at the point now known as Gowanda. Aldrich built a house by setting four posts in the ground and making walls of poles and bark, surmounted by a bark roof. He afterwards procured boards for the sides and roof, but the building remained a mere hut in which, although a land and mill owner, Mr. Aldrich lived for eight or ten years.
By 1820 the population had increased so that the people considered themselves able to support a new town. It was customary in those days for the earliest resident in a proposed new town to be allowed to select its name. Jacob Taylor was the earliest settler of the town then proposed, but he seems to have been disliked by the people and was not accorded the privilege. The Aldriches came next; and as the elder Aldrich was then dead or gave up his claim, his son Turner Aldrich, Jr., was called on to make the choice. He had married Miss Nancy Collins, and he selected the name of his wife's family for the new town. A petition was duly forwarded to the Legislature, and on the 16th of March, 1810, that body formed the town of Collins from Concord. It embraced the present towns of Collins and North Collins, with the same partial jurisdiction over the Indian land possessed by Concord.
The first officers were elected June 9, 1821, at the house of George Southwick, Jr. At that election John Lawton was chosen supervisor; Stephen White, town clerk; Lemuel M. White, John Griffith and Luke Crandall, assessors: Levi Woodward, John Lawton and Arnold King, commissioners of highways; Jacob Taylor and Stephen Wilber, overseers of the poor; Luke Crandall, Jr., collector; Asa Jennings and Luke Crandall, Jr., constables j Stephen White, Levi Woodward and John Griffith, commissioners of common schools; John Stanclift, Jr., Nathaniel Knight and Jonathan O. Irish, inspectors of schools.
There was no post office in the new town when it was formed, but in 1822, one was established at Taylor's Hollow, a mail route being opened through Eden and Collins to that point. The office was called Angola, and Jacob Taylor was appointed postmaster, holding that position as late as 1840. The mail route stopped there until 1824, when it was extended to Aldrich's Mills, where a new office was established, called West Lodi, on the south side of the creek. The little village which had begun to take form on both sides of the creek had been named Lodi; but as there was another Lodi in this State, the post office received the appellation just mentioned.