A Brief History of the Town of Mina, New York
There are four cemeteries in the Town of Mina, the biggest one being a few miles east of Mina Corners. There is a small cemetery , no longer used, at Findley Lake, on the hill leaving town towards Colt Station and Erie, PA. Another cemetery , West Mina, is located on the road near Peak\’n Peak. The fourth cemetery, Marks Corners, so small and is located just down the road from Marks Corners United Methodist Church towards Sherman, NY .
There is a lot of terracing in some of these cemeteries which was done by John W. Barden, my great grandfather, which was designed both for beautification of the cemetery and for the convenience of the undertaker when moving the coffin from the wagon to the grave site, Mina also has some \’trees\’ and \’benches\’ which were made by John W. Barden. These are found in the Skellie lot on the west side of the Mina Cemetery .(Examples of his work are also found in several other cemeteries in Chautauqua County where he worked as part-time sexton).
In the early record books of these cemeteries, little information was recorded about who was actually buried in each plot. Usually, as in the case of my grandfather, Lovenus Bock, only the number of graves (8), the price of the plot, and the date bought is recorded. Lovenus bought the plot in 1904, when his 21-month old daughter, Mary Margaret, died. Although this child, my grandfather and my father, Harold Bock, were buried there (Dad in 1951), they are not listed. Not until my brother Jack was buried in 1955, my grandmother, Ida Bock, in 1950, and my Mom, Anna Maude Bock, in 1974, was anyone listed as being buried in Lovenus\’s plot.
My second great grandfather, Daniel Fritts, bought a large plot when his wife, Susan Traxler Fritts, died. Later, he buried two young sons, Benjamin and Henry who died in the Civil War, and a daughter, Ida Daniels, who died in childbirth. He put up large stones with lengthy epitaphs for each member of his family. There is a depression in the ground near his daughter\’s grave, but no marker. The local newspaper has an account of his burial at Mina, but neither his second wife nor his surviving children put up a marker, and no burial records appear for any of these persons.
This is the same for other families. As a child growing up at Mina Corners, I was used to my Dad\’s piling us all in the car, complete with rakes, mower, and other tools, and my Mom\’s good picnic lunch, and spending most of a day at the cemetery repairing stones and caring for the family graves. (My husband, Tom, now makes the same repairs.) We always ate our lunch at the old Bock stones under the hydrangea tree some relative had planted, and listened to my Dad tell how this relative wore a ruff of whiskers around his chin, how that lady was buried in a blue dress, and that grandmother made the best apple pies. I still remember pledging to my Dad how, when I grew up, I was going to write down the name of every person buried at Mina Corners.
Then, as an adult, I was asked to be Town of Mina historian, and my husband, Tom, and I made that childish pledge a reality .The following information is the result of our work.
To appreciate the Town of Mina and the wonderful people who lived, worked, and died there, a brief recital of the town\’s history is needed.
The Town of Mina, located in Chautauqua County, western New York State, was taken from Clymer on 23 March 1824. Eight years later, in 1852, Sherman was taken from the original Town of Mina.
Although Alexander Findley, a native of Ireland, purchased land at what became known as Findley\’s Pond, later, Findley\’s Lake, in September, 1811, he settled there in 1816. Aaron Whitney settled there in 1821, along with Zina Richard and Roger Haskell, although they had bought their lots several years earlier.
Later settlers bought their land from the Holland Land Company, which is said to have bought their land for 32 cents per acre and sold it for $2.00-2.50 an acre. Settlers could pay a certain amount down and so much a year. After a certain amount of time, missed payments would be almost doubled, sometimes tripled, and the settler then had an even more difficult job trying to payoff his land.
Since Alexander Findley first settled at Findley\’s Pond, he set up the first saw mill. Later businesses included a dry goods store owned by Wm. Baker, W .S. Baker, and J.M. Coveney. William Baker\’s nephew, Thomas Baker, owned a jewelry store and carried the mail. Thomas Baker also owned several boats that took people on excursions on the Lake, including the famous Silver Queen, with Philip Schwartz as pilot. Millinery stores were the province of women, a job that was then acceptable employment for the women of that time.
R.A. Corbett took over the Findley\’s Lake Hotel and ran it for many years. O.O.Gallup and L.V. Babcock ran a hardware store at Findley\’s Lake. Alanson Harper made carriages. George W. Hubbard was a harness maker.
Besides the church and school in the 1850\’s, Findley\’ Lake had a hotel, five stores, two harness shops, two blacksmith shops, one carriage shop, one steam saw mill, one water-driven saw mill, one grist mill, a shingle mill, and a photograph gallery .
Jeremiah Knowles, a civil engineer, laid out the first public road in the west part of Findley\’s Lake. The first store was kept by Charles Brockway. Early attorneys were Edward L. Bailey and Lafayette Knowles.
Ebeneezer Skellie was a shingle and tub manufacturer in Findley\’s Lake and also ran a planing mill. Daniel Osborn was a tanner and farmer.
H.W. Parsons in the 1870\’s had many occupations. In the Gazetteer and Business Directory of Chautauqua County, NY, 1873-4, he is listed as \”justice of sessions, justice of the peace, dealer in cabinet ware, furniture and undertaker. \”
D.A. Parsons and James H. Shaver were carriage makers and blacksmiths at the Lake.
The place to go for dancing to a live orchestra and to eat dinner was Davenport\’s Hall at the Lake. For a couple, dance tickets cost 15 cents and supper tickets cost 75 cents. Later, the Findley Lake Breeze took over the Hall, and the first newspaper was started the first of April, 1883. \”
The Lakeside Assembly, on the west of town, was the cultural event of the summer. For several weeks orators, preachers, musicians of all kinds, lecturers and others came to entertain, instruct, and edify the people. It was likened to a \’travelling Chautauqua\’.
Cutting ice on the Lake and storing it in sawdust for summer lemonades and meat-keeping, was a winter business. Men took their teams and heavy sleds out onto the ice and sawed the thick ice into chunks and after taking home and storing enough for their own use, they sold the rest to the local ice house.
The Findley Lake Silver Cornet Band was in demand for concerts, and a picture of the band shows some women playing with the men. Dennie Barden, as a young boy, was the mascot of the Band.
In September, 1881, one of many fires swept through the wooden structures in Findley Lake and a massive rebuilding of stores and apartments was begun. The Opera House burned twice and subscriptions were raised for its rebuilding.
In nearby Mina Corners, life was centered in the Methodist Church and the big store across the street. There was a race track where fast horses were raced and, some said, betting took place. The Honorable Dana P. Horton, an Assemblyman from the Mina area, raised and raced fast horses from his farm at the Corners. In October, 1880, the race course was overhauled and refitted and the local newspaper in Sherman Chautauqua News marks the event with a small article.
Mina had a creamery , ashery , gristmill, steam saw and shingle mill, and other industries. Nathaniel Throop was the first Town Supervisor in 1827, with Roger Haskell as Town Clerk. Throop was also the first postmaster and carried the mail on his back from Mayville to the area once a week.
The militia trained at the home of Zina Richards under Captain John R. Adams. Cullen Barnes started the fIrst inn, or tavern, at Mina Corners. M.C. Barnes was a carriage maker, as well as a farmer, at Mina Comers. Elias Fox was a wagon maker.
In the Gazeteer and Business Directory, A.D. Holdridge is reported as \”justice of peace, notary public, post master, acting agent of the Cayuga Chief Manufacturing Company, manufacturer of shingles, lath, and lumber, farmer.\”
Although the area newspaper, the Chautauqua News was published in Sherman, it contained columns for all the nearby towns, written by scribes who were paid so much an inch. The Mina column was written for many years by my great grandfather, John w. Barden, then by his daughter, Ida Barden Bock, my grandmother. This paper was begun under Sheldon\’s editorship- ownership about 1877. The Minerva Library in Sherman, NY has the bound copies of all the copies from December, 1879 to the present day, minus the years 1898, 1919-1922, and 1940.
The early settlers of the Town of Mina were mostly farmers, even as they are today. Produce was taken to Sherman on Wednesday , which was called Butter Day because the price of butter sold to the butter cooperative determined the price the farmers received for their product in the stores as they exchanged it for groceries they couldn\’t raise themselves, or clothing they needed.
The price of a pound of butter in 23 June 1880 was 16-18 cents. In September, 1880, peaches sold for 90 cents a bushel, pears for 50 cents a bushel, and grapes for 2 1/2 cents per pound.
The Census Enumerator was paid 10 cents per 100 names he gathered. The pay for the Mina postmaster for the year 1882 was $33.59.
The first regular church meetings in the Town of Mina were held by members of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1826. They met in Benjamin F. Hazen\’s barn at Mina Corners, with Rev. Bradley as their preacher .
On 19 December 1856, 44 members met as the American Reformed Church. A number of German, or Deutsch, settlers, like the Bocks, Hemeleins, Phifers, Hammers, Barringers, and Merkets felt the need for their own church. They spoke High German, and this was spoken in the Dutch Reformed Church. Lorenzo Bock, my second great grandfather, gave a portion of his farm on the Mina-French Creek road for the building of the church, and with others, donated time, effort, and money to its building and upkeep. The \’German Church\’ as it was often called, could seat 200 persons and was built at a cost of $1200. Their first preacher was Rev. J.W. Dunnewold.
The Methodist Church was established in Mina Comers on 18 May 1858. Original members were Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Fritts, my second great grandparents, Thomas R. Coveney, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Holdridge, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel De Clow, William Baker, Charity Chase, Lucy and Melissa Holdridge, Jane Tryon, Lucinda Relf, Betsey Baker, and Nehum H. Grimes.
A Methodist Church was also organized in West Mina in 1857. They had 35 members. In 1859, they built a church at the cost of $650 that could seat 300 persons. Their first preacher was Rev. R.C. Chapman. Its first members were John and Alexander Skellie, Uriah and Azan Fenton, Henry F. and James F. Moore and their wives.
In Findley\’s Lake, a United Brethern in Christ Church was established in 1855 under Rev. John W. Clark. They built a church in 1862, at a cost of $600, that would seat 200 persons.
The Chautauqua News of 22 January, 1896 set forth the new laws about school attendance: \”The laws as summarized by the State Superintendent provide: 1. All children between 8 and 12 years of age must attend school during the entire period public schools are in session between the first of October and the first of June following. 2. All children between 12 and 14 years of age must attend at least 80 consecutive days during the same period and the whole period unless lawfully employed. 3. All children between 14 and 16 years of age must attend when not lawfully employed.\”
Several one-room schools were maintained in the town, with young women qualifying to teach through the Teachers Academy at Sherman. My grandmother, Ida Bock, taught briefly, and said it was a pleasure to board with a family which had a horse for her to ride to school. She shared beds with students and was expected to help with the housework in the home, which rotated monthly, clean the school house, and keep a good fire. She was also expected to teach the children to read, write, and cipher.
In an 02 December 1885 item in the Mina column of the Chautauqua News, is this announcement of the coming of the telephone: \”We are again reminded of the fact of that often repeated phrase (Mina against the world) which has been in use, more or less, as long as we can remember, by the report that we are about to have a telephone line through this city.\”
It is interesting to note that during the 1800\’s and early 1900\’s. reference was made to the bear not the groundhog, looking for his shadow on 02 February!
Over the years, businesses have failed in the Town of Mina for one reason or another. Asheries were abandoned when the hardwoods dwindled, and the price of clean ashes went from an average of $6.00 per 112-pound barrel to less that $4.00. People left to homestead on government lands in Nebraska, Iowa, and the Dakotas, leaving the Sherman Railway Station with all their animals and possessions packed into railroad freight cars. In 1883 passengers were charged $25.90 per person, from Sherman to the Land of the Dakotas, and $125.00 per car of freight. Newer, better jobs opened up to the young people of the Town. Older people died, or moved away to spend their last years with their grown up children.
But the Town of Mina, with its lovely Findley Lake, nestled among the trees, the Town cut through by the twisty French Creek, the rolling, wooded hills, and the productive farm lands now being tilled with modem equipment, is still home to many people who continue to love its serenity and beauty .