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Williamsville Village

Erie County, New York

Williamsville Village Hall is located at 5565 Main Street, Williamsville NY 14221;phone: 716‑632‑4120.


Beginnings [1]

The village was incorporated November 4, 1850. The first officers were Benjamin Miller, president; John S. King, Henry B. Evans, Philip Zent and John Hershey, trustees ; Dr. William Van Pelt, clerk. The present officers are J. D. Long, president; C. L. Haupt, clerk ; A. L. Reinwalt, C. H. Gotwalt, J. W. VanPeyma, and J. B. Batt, trustees.

There were only a few houses in Williamsville until after the war of 1812. Of Williams' saw-mill and grist-mill, and of the two or three little stores which accommodated the people, we have spoken sufficiently in the previous sketch of the town. After the war Juba Storrs & Co., whose store was where Dr. Van Pelt's office now stands and who had also bought the mill property, carried on a flourishing mercantile and milling business, and in fact for a time did the principal part of the business of the village. They failed, however, by or before 1820, and their property passed into the hands of James Roosevelt and others, of New York. The grist-mill remained idle several years, and the village, which had been growing rapidly, became nearly stationary. The only remaining business of much importance was that carried on at the tannery built by Jonas Williams about 1812. At his death, which occurred not far from 1820, the tannery passed into the hands of John Hutchinson, who had been in his employment since 1816. He carried it on about fifty years. As early as 1825, too, there were works built for manufacturing hydraulic or water lime, the first in Western New York. These furnished the cement for building the first locks at Lockport.

At length, about 1827, Oziel Smith, an enterprising business man, purchased the mill and set it to work. About the same time, or a little earlier, he came into possession of the water lime works.* The tannery was also in active operation, and for many years after 1827, Williamsville was a very brisk and business-like place. It was on the great stage route from Albany to Buffalo, and in the busy season numerous travelers passed through the place every day. To accommodate this travel Mr. Smith built the Eagle House in 1832. It was burned before being completed, but was re-built immediately afterwards. After the completion of the various railroads between Albany and Buffalo, afterwards consolidated as the New York Central Railroad, most of the travel was drawn away from Williamsville, and its manufactories suffered from the lack of railroad facilities. The tannery, however, still remained in the hands of John Hutchinson, who carried on the business extensively, employing twenty or thirty men all the time and becoming very wealthy. The tannery burned in 1872, and during the same year Mr. Hutchinson died.

The grist-mill, after having several owners, became the property of Mr. J. Wayne Dodge in 1864. It was re-fitted by him, and is now producing about three thousand barrels of flour per year. John Reist also built a grist-mill as early as 1840, which has been carried on ever since by him or by his sons, D. and E. Reist. The hydraulic lime works passed to the firm of King & Co., who carried them on successfully until 1844, when they were sold to T. A. Hopkins. They are now owned by the heirs of Benjamin Miller, who manufactures from four thousand to five thousand barrels of water lime per year. A large stone building on Main street near the bridge was erected some years ago, for a paper mill, but the business did not prove remunerative and the machinery was removed to Niagara Falls. The structure was afterwards used as a broom factory, but that enterprise also failed, and the valuable building has for a considerable time been unoccupied. A brewery was established at Williamsville before 1850, by Urban & Blocher. They carried on a successful business until 1856, and then sold out to John Daul. The business was continued by him until 1874, when the brewery was transferred to J. Batt & Co. It finally became the property of Mrs. John Nehrboss, who owned it until 1882, when it was closed.

Demeter Wehrle began the manufacture of furniture in 1850. For twenty-four years he sold his products by wholesale to Buffalo dealers, but since 1874 has confined himself to the retail trade. The last manufacturing establishment we will notice is that which was erected in 1872 as a hub and spoke factory by Klein Brothers.** It was carried on by them until 1881, when it passed into the hands of John Grove, by whom it has been changed into a planing mill.

Of merchants, besides the early ones already mentioned, we may briefly notice Henry Lehn, who kept a general store from 1825 to 1856 ; his son John Lehn, who opened a store in 1847, and still carries on the grocery business; A. M. Dunn, E. & H. Herr, and Benjamin Miller, who were all in business before the late war, and Alexander Gotwalt, who opened a general store in 1853, and has carried one on ever since, except between 1863 and 1866. John Hoffman opened an agricultural implement store in 1861, and is now in the hardware and grocery business. William Nolle opened a hardware store in 1879, and John W. Van Peyma, a general store in 1880, both of which are now in operation.

We have mentioned Dr. David S. Conkey as the first physician in the village and town. Dr. Peter Hershey was also an early physician here. He was succeeded by Dr. Spaulding. Dr. William Van Pelt and Dr. H. P. Snell, are the present practitioners of medicine.

Aaron W. Eggert located as a lawyer at Williamsville about 1868. He was supervisor of Amherst in 1878, '79, and '80. Since then he has removed to Michigan. The first school house in Williamsville was built by Caleb Rogers in 1812, in which a Mr. Johnson was the first teacher. The old stone school-house in Williamsville, still in use, was erected in 1840. The academy was built in 1853; the first trustees being David Graybiel, John Frick, Isaac Hershey, George Gross, Christian Rutt, John Hershey, Timothy A. Hopkins, Samuel L. Bestow, Benjamin Miller, John Witmer, John D. Campbell and James W. Stevens. It was not, however, a flourishing institution, and the building was finally sold to the village and is now occupied by one of the district schools. The daily average attendance of pupils in the schools of Williamsville for the year 1882-1883 was two hundred and fifty-nine.

The first postmaster at Williamsville was Jonas Williams. The subsequent ones having been Joseph Hutchinson, P. J. Zent, John Ordner, L. Pond, S. L. Bestow, L. Pond, (who served in all about eighteen years) and E. D. Smith the present incumbent.

On the 15th day of January, 1835, the citizens of the village held a meeting and resolved to purchase a fire-engine. The following persons agreed to pay their proportion of the cost in the ratio of their taxes for the previous year — Christian Eggert, Luther Spaulding, Emanuel Herr, Emanuel Frick, David Sprayth, Jacob Hershey, Benjamin Baer, Benjamin Hershey, Henry Lehn, Jacob Bestow, Warner Roberts, Daniel Root, D. Wirtz, R. Zent, Jacob Koch, Frederick Miller, William Horner, A. M. Moulton, Samuel Kinsey, Elias Widel, Daniel Hutchinson, Anthony Long, Jacob Nigh, John A. Dole, J. S. Tefft, Martin Smith, John Hutchinson, Samuel Cole, John Grove, Henry B. Evans, M. H. Evans, John Stever and James Chapin. The amount thus raised was $228, with which an engine was duly purchased. After the village was incorporated the management of this department passed into the hands of the trustees. H. M. Long is the chief engineer at the present time, with C. H. Got wait as assistant.

The Amherst Bee, a seven column weekly newspaper, was established March 27, 1879, by A. L. Reinwalt. It has a good circulation throughout Amherst and in some of the adjoining towns.

The stone bridge spanning Ellicott creek at Williamsville, was erected during the year 1882, at a cost of $14,000. It is sixty-five feet wide and has two arches of thirty-eight feet each.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was the first religious society in Williamsville, having been established soon after the war of 1812. The Holland Company gave them a "gospel lot," forty acres of which were afterwards sold for $600. This society held worship at the houses of the members and not infrequently met in Gen. Hopkins' barn. Glezen Fillmore, John Le Suer and Salmon Bell were among the early ministers who preached to them. Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Rogers, Eleanor Roberts, James Pease and Mrs. Grant Ladd were among the early members. The congregation had no house of worship until 1844, when the present church edifice was built. Rev. Henry C. Millman is the present pastor. Phineas Gray is the class-leader, and the stewards are P. Gray, George Leopard, Paul Muller, John Oswalt, Mrs. Albert Ayers and Miss S. A. Ketchum.

The Christian Church of Williamsville was in existence as early as 1834 and in that year William Hayden and Jasper Moss were its ciders. In the same year the congregation erected a church edifice. This was sold to the Lutherans in 1871, when the present brick structure was erected. Edward Pardee was the last local preacher. The deacons are C. C. Grove, John Baker and Abraham Karmer. The elders are Dr. William Van Pelt, S. C. Smith and Abraham Giple.

In the year 1834 Oziel Smith sold to the Catholics of Williamsville a lot sixty-five by ninety feet, on the site of John Batt's grocery store, for $30. In 1836 they erected a house of worship, and on the 4th of July in that year their first priest, the Rev. John Neuman, took charge of the congregation. He was succeeded in 1840 by Rev. Alexander Pax, who remained until 1868. During his pastorate, in 1862, the handsome church edifice of stone, now in use, was erected. He was succeeded by his relative, Rev. George Pax, the present incumbent. Father Pax is also pastor of St. John's chapel at North Bush, which was established in 1833.

The Reformed Mennonite Church was founded by John Herr, cousin of John Herr, Sr., and the society of Williamsville was organized in 1834. It is not an incorporated body. The original membership numbered twenty-one, with John Reist as minister in charge. He was ordained as pastor about the year 1836 and as bishop eight vicars afterwards. He remained in charge of the congregation until 1878, when he died. The first house of worship was of stone and was erected in 1834. The present one was built in 1880 and will seat two hundred and fifty persons. The church has now one hundred and thirty members. The Rev. Eli Herr is the present pastor. His father, John Herr, settled near Williamsville in 1816. He was ordained as minister in 1863 and as bishop in 1879. Emanuel Long is the assistant pastor. Jacob Shisler is deacon.

The Baptist church of Williamsville was organized as early as 1840. It then consisted of Deacon Coe and wife, O. H. F. Barnard and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Seamans, Martin Ely, and one or two from the town of Lancaster. The church edifice was dedicated in 1843, by Rev. Elisha Tucker, from Rochester. The Rev. Douglass Simpson is the present pastor. The deacons are Austin Ayers, George Smith and Elijah Adams.

The Lutheran Church had no house of worship until 1871, the members living at and near Williamsville usually attending divine service at Eggertsville. In that year they purchased the church edifice of the " Christian" society at the former place, and have since maintained a separate organization. It is under the charge of the Rev. A. Boettzer,of the Eggertsville church. Peter Fries, George Hershey, Frederick Wolf, Philip Kline, Charles Ernst, John Gludy, John Estheimer and Henry Rose are the present trustees.

* It seems to be uncertain who built these works. If Mr. Smith did so, as some suppose, he must have done so as early as 1825, for the cement for the Lockport locks was certainly obtained here ; but he is not generally believed to have owned the works before 1827.

** Burnett & Graybiel built a forge just before the outbreak of the rebellion, in which they did a good business for several years, but which was finally closed.

  1. Smith, H. Perry, editor, History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County, D. Mason & Co., Publishers, Syracuse, 1884.