Follow Route 62 to a trip back in time, without looking very hard. Traveling from just below Gowanda to Conewango, the route displays rural landscapes, small town charm, and our community of Old Order Amish. Once bustling communities and factories lead people to settle in these parts. Now, you will find agricultural businesses and houses dispersed along either side of the road. Before hitting any historical sites, you will venture from Gowanda through a series of sharp curves, lush green treescapes, and alongside Thatcher Brook. This is a tributary of Cattaraugus Creek, famous for its fishing opportunities.
Site 1 will occur just past Jolls Rd. on the right. There is a large pond, behind a modular home, which used to belong to Dairylea Milk Coop. The pond was used to cut ice out of. The building south is the former milk plant. You are now in the town of Dayton. Just beyond the next curve on the right is Site 2. This is the former Dayton Grange, and was previously used as the ice house. Blocks of ice from Site 1 were stored here. You will enter into the Village of Dayton and come upon Railroad Ave. Sites 3 and 4 are located down this street. Site 4 is what is known now as the Master’s Plan Cafe, but was once the former Eggleston Hotel and Volk’s Hotel. Across the road, in the empty space, used to be the Dayton Depot, Site 3. Soldiers from Gowanda marched up the hill to get the train to go off to the Civil War and stayed at the Hotel. Trains went to Salamanca, and another set went from New Jersey to Dunkirk. This area had many stores once, but a fired destroyed most of them.
You will reach a stop sign next, turn right, then after the tracks is the Dayton Historical Society and Museum, Site 5. Learn more about the History of Dayton here. Site 6 is the cemetery you will see on your left after passing Allen St. This is the St. Paul of the Cross Cemetery and once the location of the St. Paul of the Cross Church. As one train went by, the conductor saw a fire and blew his whistle to alert the townsfolk. Unfortunately the church was not able to be saved and constructed the building now used for the Dayton Historical Society.
You will enter a curve, where Peck Hill Road intersects, which is the location where Site 7 once was. The Dayton school started here as well as the hamlet of Dayton, known as Dayton Summit until the railroad came to Town. Traveling further South, on the right is Markham Cemetery, Site 8, just before the railroad tracks. After having a child pass away, Mr. Markham, one of the earliest settlers, donated part of his farm for a cemetery. After you pass the curve, you will come upon Markham Rd. and Site 9. Turn right and just past the tracks, there now sits a private residence, but was once the Markham Inn. Also of note, between Dole St. and the tracks was the previous location of the Markham Depot.
Site 10 comes after the next big curve on Rt. 62. Beyond the curve, on the left hand side just past the Dayton Town Hall, was the sight of one of the first Cheese Factories. This area sprouted many such factories, being spacious enough for factories and with convenient location to the railroad. You are coming to School St., which will be seen on your left. Named rightly so, as the first residence you see was once the Markham School, Site 11. Beyond the back end of the house, was the Markham-German Cemetery. This area was known as the German Swamp, where German families settled together, Site 12. Site 13 will be seen on the right side in the straight away you will drive. It is the Former Methodist Episcopal Church of Fair Plain. Organized in 1885, this church was erected in 1889 with 12 original members. Site 14 is almost across Site 13. Country Side Sand and Gravel formed here in 1964, and mined the remnants of the glaciers that went through the area. This company is now a part of Gernatt’s.
You will now travel through Amish Country between South Dayton and Leon. Stop at some of their shops, but do not photograph the people, and visit www.AmishTrail.com for information on the Old Order Amish including their history, culture and maps. Site 15, can be found in the Leon Union Cemetery, seen once you enter the town of Leon. There is a 100 year old Soldiers Monument to commemorate the Veterans of Civil War laid to rest here. Almost directly across the street from the end of the cemetery is Site 16. It is the home of the Leon Historical Society, Town Museum, and previously Grange #795. Organized in 1895, meetings were held here to organize social events, community service projects and other town matters. The Grange moved to the Caneen Barn in 1903. Now, you can see artifacts from Leon’s history dating back to the early 1800’s, which include Civil War items, photos, farm equipment, clothing and more. Site 17 is across the street from Site 16 and is the big barn which used to be a Blacksmith’s shop. Painted red, and erected around 1850, it had two forges, anvils, work benches, and upsetters used to tighten the tires and spokes of wheels. Site 18 is the house next to the Museum, previously a store owned by several different owners. Known as the Harris Store later it became the Greeley Store. Many stores started up, changed hands, or were destroyed by fire. This was a testament to how quickly this town grew during the early 1800’s. In fact by 1830 the population was 1,139.
The beautiful, historical church located on the corner, and next to Site 18 is called The Leon United Methodist Church and is Site 19. Organized in 1874, by six members who purchased the old schoolhouse in the center in 1876. The Dunlop Store, Site 20, was located in the center of Leon, in the four corners across Rt. 62 from the church. Often these stores would attract visitors not only for the goods but for the social aspects as groups gathered for local gossip and to discuss state topics. Presently it is the location of the post office. Site 21 was located on another corner of the main intersection, known as the Noyes Tavern and Hotel which opened in 1827. Along with it was a general store, with signs to advertise. This hotel was a beautiful two story building, but perished in a fire in 1953. It received repairs and is now CJK’s Grill. Site 22 is the location of a former milk plant. Being next to Mud Creek, there was plentiful water for mills. This creamery was built in 1866 by Jenks and Ross and received milk from more than 1,000 cows. These men acquired more land and had 7 different plants. Others came to this area then to open milk plants, cheese factories, grist mills, and later saw mills.
Leon was growing fast and attracting more settlers and business ventures, so the Fenton Public House for Stagecoaches (Site 23) was built in 1868 by Capt. William Fenton. Horses were changed here on voyages from Buffalo to Jamestown. With the new influx of people into the town, folks were also looking for entertainment. They found it at the Pennyroyal Race Track, Site 24. Originally for horse racing, it later changed over to car racing. Men would race around a dirt track, eventually learning to make adjustments and enhancements to their vehicles to make them go faster. By the 1940’s this was the place to be on Sundays and two men would later go on to Nascar. You can see memorabilia from the track at the Leon Historical Museum.
The final stop is located outside of town and is the only remaining dairy factory. Site 25 is the Valley View Cheese Factory. This is the center hub of the local Amish community and milk is transported by English drivers from Amish farms each morning for production. Traveling along the rest of Rt. 62 to the border of Cattaraugus County in Conewango Valley will give you picturesque views of Amish country and farmland. For a detailed map of the Amish businesses visit AmishTrail.com or call Enchanted Mountains (County Tourism) at 1-800-331-0543.
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