Why Route 16 you say? Seems to you like it's a long stretch of country, followed by a small town, then another stretch of country? Take a closer look as you lazily pass though the serene landscape. Route 16 is one of the earliest established roads in Cattaraugus County. Like other maiden pathways early on, this route connected only a few communities, because that was all the settlement there was in these wilds.
The Rt. 16 Corridor is full of rich history from Cattaraugus County. Evidence of this can be seen in the hills, valleys and waterways, with the proper window guide to point where to look and what to see. This 40 plus mile driving tour of the scenic Route 16 offers such a glimpse to the past, from the corners of Yorkshire south to the New York - Pennsylvania border. You will pass areas that the early settlers ventured to after the American Revolution, through different parts of the Underground Railroad, and by early entrepreneurial endeavors. Cattaraugus County shows the rich heritage of the countries forefathers, displaying some of the struggles and successes they had while developing this new world. Take this relaxing, peaceful drive through rustic woods, hills, farms, and small towns, seemingly untouched by the last seventy-five years. Enjoy a gently winding, two-lane road up until Olean where you will first encounter the 16 turning into a four lane highway.
The early 1800's brought settlers venturing out and seeking their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness after the ending of the American Revolution and signing of the Declaration of Independence. Starting in the North Eastern part of Cattaraugus County, the 3 major settlements in this beginning area of our tour were Yorkshire Corners, Yorkshire Center and West Yorkshire. We will begin at Yorkshire Corners, the intersection of Rt. 16 South and Route 39. But Before starting down the journey of Rt. 16, we will take a very short side trip. Go West or right onto Route 39. Only two tenths of a mile will take you to a large cemetery, Yorkshire Cemetery, and the first of our historic sites on this adventure. This cemetery dates back to 1856 and many stones are from the 1800's.
Returning back to Rt. 16 and heading South, you will see a visible Historic Marker with a pull off for cars. Read and learn a little about the area. One of the earliest settlers was Joseph Pierce, originally from Vermont, who established a small distillery in 1819. Often times Joseph would barter with others instead of accepting cash.
Continuing on the second settlement of the 3 major ones, formerly known as Yorkshire Center. This is in the heart of Delevan, at the intersection of Grove St., where there is a monument to the World War I Veterans honoring the soldiers who fought in that war from the area. On 77 Main St. in modern day Delevan, you will see a huge building with the inscription " Read Building 1890" "Established 1865". When pioneers were exploring the land, they encountered huge forested areas with sturdy trees. This building holds testament to the lumber from that era.
Next as you travel down Rt. 16 you will enter the Township of Machias. An enduring popular attraction on the left side of the road is Lime Lake. This was the third settlement of the 3 major ones, and was formerly known as West Yorkshire and "The Forks". This area earned that nickname as it was the area where Cattaraugus Creek joined with Elton Creek and the outlet of Lime Lake. According to some legends, Native Americans referred to this body of water as Odosagih which means "Clear Living Waters" in the Seneca Language. Once along the shores of the lake there was a building used for training of prize fighters and the lake harvested 145,000 tons of ice annually by the late 1880's. Nowadays privately owned cottages line the lake and is now used for recreational purposes.
Across from the Southern end of the Lime Lake is the marker for the "Poor House Cemetery". A brick marker topped with a copper plate containing the names of 100+ individuals who are buried in the field can be found. There are no grave markers visible and all buried there were residents of the "Poor House". This was a facility the County acquired to care for the indigent, aged, orphaned, infirm and insane. The land was acquired in 1833 and by 1885 housed 60 persons, men, women and sometimes children. Look for the wooden marker there as well.
Stop number eight is the Cattaraugus County Historical Museum and Research Library open Tuesday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm, and the third Saturday of each month, May through October, from 10:00am-2:00pm. Here you can see a rich display of wartime memorabilia including guns or stop by the research area to answer to discover the answers to genealogical questions, find death certificates or Surrogate Court Records.
After the Museum, continue on and you will come to a stop light next to the American Legion. Here you can see a Soldier Monument on your left. This honors the soldiers from the area that fought in WWII. Fill up on gas if necessary or stop by for a bite to eat at Lil's Deli.
Returning to your car, continue down Rt. 16 to the corner of Rt. 98 and Rt. 16. Located here is the Ten Broeck Cemetery in the Township of Farmersville. This cemetery was actually a small plot of land set aside by Peter Ten Broeck for his family, friends and neighbors. The two twin monuments were markers for himself and his brother John Ten Broeck. Moving onward Rt. 98 South runs along Rt. 16 until after Franklinville which is the next Town and Village you will come upon.
When entering the Village of Franklinville be cautious to follow the speed limits as enforcement is strict in the area around the Ten Broeck Academy and Franklinville Central School. While slowing down, take the time to enjoy the views of beautiful buildings in this village. Being founded in 1806, Franklinville has more than 200 wooden buildings which are more than 100 years old each.
The first attraction we will mention is the Riggs Estate located on 28 North Main St. Dr. Lewis Riggs, an early Franklinville physician, built this frame house in 1840. He helped organize the Cattaraugus County Medical Society. The family had 12 children in total, and were completely self-sufficient, raising their own food, making their own clothing and producing household supplies. The estate was 1500 acres in total and housed a barn that was used as the town livery stable. Today it is known as "The Heart of Franklinville" store.
Notice the brick streets and Park Square in the middle of the village. Park Square was first mentioned as the Village Square in a letter dated 1822. In the late 1840's it was the drilling ground for the militia and once had a bandstand where many concerts were performed. Today it is a place to rest or visit the Wednesday Farmer's Market. Morgan Hall is now the Town Hall and one of the few brick buildings that can be found. The Globe Hotel from the early 1800's occupied the space next to the bank.
The Ontario Knife Company's outlet store is located at 32 Park Square, with the manufacturing of premium quality, American-made fixed blades and other tools. They are the supplier of knives and tools to the US military since World War I and have been operating in upstate New York since 1889. Originally starting outside the county, it quickly grew and more space and power was needed. An old sawmill at Cadiz was purchased and run by water–power from the Ischua Creek. Later in 1902, even more space and power were needed so they moved to Franklinville, the company's current location.
The next destination on our roadtrip, is the Miner's Cabin, located just around the corner of the square on Pine St. Simeon Robbins built this "cabin" in 1895, then finding his fortune in the Alaskan Klondike Gold Rush, and henceforth naming this home as such. The first floor has heavy, beautifully carved woodwork, fireplaces, and parquet floors. All rooms except the entry to the kitchen are newly papered in the design of the 1895 era. The second floor has three rooms in use; two are research libraries and the other contains a fabulous display of knives made at a local factory. The third floor "ballroom", once the scene of parties and dances, is now being used for storage, and the cellar is unused except for the furnace.
Forging onward South, Rt. 98 will split off outside of the village. In Cadiz, New York, a mile from Franklinville, there is a "Salt-Box House" which was built between 1816 - 1819. Mr. E.S. Wright, the owner, put it up for sale and Mrs. Prescott, whose property adjoined the land, bought it in order to prevent undesirable occupants from moving there. She said that when she went to inspect the house, the upstairs bedrooms were papered with 1829 newspapers and the kitchen with flour sacks. The House is now owned by the Ischua Valley Historical Society and it is called the Howe-Prescott "Salt Box" House. The house is currently as it was when purchased. It is a two story building, the upstairs reached by a steep and narrow stairway leading into two furnished bedrooms. This area is heated by an ancient stove with a very unusual twisted stovepipe. The first floor has five rooms, furnished, and the kitchen features a wellhouse. By opening a type of Dutch door, water could be drawn from the well without going outside - the first modern indoor plumbing! There is also an unused dirt floor cellar. The small barn contains a quantity of antique tools which may be viewed if desired.
Traveling further on, Rt. 98 will split of in the small township of Cadiz. If you were to follow Rt. 98 you would come upon a small tavern, The Stage Coach Inn. This building is believed to be one of the stops along the Underground Railroad, with slaves going along the Ischua Creek and then stopping there for refuge in the basement. If you turn left on Cadiz Rd. at the Stage Coach Inn you would travel less than half a mile to the Cadiz cemetery, arriving on your left hand side. Despite being such a small cemetery, the historical significance of the graves can tell a large part of life in the early settlements of America. The first burial in this cemetery was in 1837, wife of Solomon Curtis and one of the first settlers in 1806, Abigail Curtis. Other burials include 3 American Revolution soldiers, 19 Veterans of the War of 1812 and many soldiers from the Civil War. The Searle and Burlingame Families are buried here, who had many ties to the Underground Railroad. Also, there is a monument for Theophilus Howard whose father was part of the Boston Tea Party, being dressed up as an Indian and dumped tea in the Boston Harbor.
Rt. 16 will turn into Main St. in the Town of Ischua. On the corner of Rt. 16 and Mill St. on the right side there is a very old building, built around 1900 by Wales Chamberlain. Once a store, the top level has a hall that previously served as the Ischua Town Hall for many years and held community events. From here you can see the Ischua Union Church, originally built in 1861 but having to be rebuilt in 1899 after a fired burned it down. Just outside of "town" a road named "Dutch Hill Road" will come up on your right. Historically, the "Dutch Hill War" of 1844 occurred here. This was the only agrarian war to be fought in the history of Cattaraugus County. The Learns brothers who lived down that road apparently defaulted on land payments, after much attempt to get them to pay, causing sheriff White and six deputies to go and try to remove their belongings. A mob of rebels (later known as the Dutch Hill rebels) and commanded the sheriff to leave. One report says that they left being unarmed and another states that Sheriff White was beaten nearly to death. A short time later, warrants were issued but action was delayed with rumors that a mob of 300 to 1,000 men planned to attack Ellicottville. They responded with a force of about 800 men to guard the then county seat, along with three cannons and supplies. The militia went after the Rebels, who after the first shot being fired accidentally, fled. Later the Learns brothers agreed to make new contracts and cooperate therefore ending the "war".
Returning to Rt. 16, and on our original path, for the next portions of the trip, you will follow alongside the Ischua Creek with beautiful views of this body of water. Early settlers used this for travel and potentially part of the Underground Railroad back in the day. Many roads were either non-existent or were often not fit to travel on so waterways were used. Enjoy this stretch of highway that is peaceful and relaxing that is now a premier fishing spot for brown trout. Displayed will be large fields, forested areas, and large farmhouses.
The next point you will reach is the old one-room schoolhouse that remains standing on the corner of Farwell Rd and Rt. 16. Ischua Schoolhouse Number 3, built in the 1870s or '80s, was in operation until 1938, when all of the one-room schoolhouses were merged into Hinsdale Central School District. Call ahead for an appointment to have this now museum opened up for you to look inside.
Just before you go under the 86 Highway you will see the Hinsdale cemetery, quite large, that has many gravesites for a multitude of burials from the 1800's through the current years. Amasa Jones (1790-1885) was buried there twice, actually having to be relocated to the rear of the cemetery when Rt. 86 (then 17) was being constructed. If you were in the mood for adventure, you could turn left onto Cuba Maplehurst (Rt. 446) and go through the back roads to a house rumored to be haunted. With a very mysterious history filled with stories of Indian burials, a hanging, an exorcism, and ghost stories in which two books have been written about. Explorations, overnighters and various events have been held there in recent years at what is referred to as the Hinsdale House.
Going further you can see the remains of the Genesee Valley Canal Locks, next to the American Legion and almost across from the Hinsdale school. These locks aided boats in reaching Hinsdale around 1856. Lock 102 construction began in 1854, with Locks 100 and 102 following and the opening of the entire length of the Genessee Valley Canal to Olean was not until 1858. These locks were made out of stone, uncommon for the era as most locks were made with a combination of wood, composite and stone. The Genesee Valley Canal was constructed to connect Rochester with Olean, the start of the Allegheny River and therefore make a huge passageway leading all the way down to Pittsburgh and to the Erie Canal. By lowering and raising the water level, this would enable the boats to have smooth passage down the canal. Often times, during construction, small towns would appear around the locks. Completion of the 117 mile waterway occurred in 1862, but unfortunately with the era of the railway, in 1877, the Genesee Valley Canal was abandoned and discontinued in use.
Once under the Highway, the Village of Hinsdale will be over one street to the East with Rt. 16 also being named the Olean Hinsdale Road. Continuing on, you will come upon two cemeteries when crossing into the Township of Olean. The death of William B. Sheppard was reported to be the first death in Olean on September 21, 1809. He is buried in the first cemetery you will come upon, the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. The second cemetery which is adjacent to Pleasant Valley is the B'Nai Cemetery. Prior to the acquisition of this land in 1929, burials for the Olean Jewish Community were made in Bradford, PA.
You will now begin to enter Olean, Cattaraugus County's largest city. You will see the ever-expanding Olean General Hospital on your left. The area across from the hospital had many oil refineries in the past that brought many settlers to the area. Rt. 16 runs through the town and turns into N. Union St. During early settlement time this was touted as the "Wildest Main Street East of the Mississippi". Right before you come to the "middle" of town, when N. Union becomes S. Union, you will see the Olean House on your left. This was formerly known as Martin's Hotel and perhaps a "station" on the Underground Railroad.
Rt. 16 will take you through the rest of Olean and then passing over the Allegheny River. This river was very important to navigation and transport of goods prior to railroads. This river runs from Olean all the way down to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania traveling almost 325 miles. Being a major highway of the time the main goods transported were lumber and coal. Encampments were set up in early spring in Olean, before setting out, ferried on the high water. Nearing the end of this journey the last cemetery of mention is the Mount View cemetery. The entrance displays a plaque with a date of 1889. A small pond is near the main entrance and it was recorded in a 1893 history book that this cemetery was originally a 45 acre plot just outside of the main portion of town.
Leaving Olean the route will become more rural. You will see a sign for the Ho-Sta-Geh on your left, at the corner of Rt. 16 and Old Rock City Rd around 5 miles outside of town. The Ho-Sta-Geh Restaurant has been a place for unique food and drink since the end of Prohibition in 1933 all while overlooking beautiful scenery being on top of Rock City Hill. This is a good place to stop and grab a bite to eat to gear up for the last and final stop on this tour.
The final stop and perhaps the best is Rock City Park. The turn off will be on your right. This geological wonderland has fun for all! Hiking, climbing on rocks and unique events can be found here. First opened in 1890 visitors would take a trolley up the hill to the park. Hope you left some time to explore this natural playground. If not, plan a day and come back, learning more about our historically rich area.
An event to add to your yearly calendar is when Rt. 16 residents clean house and offer a Fireman's BBQ and Garage Sale in the fall. Not one large yard sale, but rather miles and miles of sales, over 40 miles. Surely you will find your treasure from someone else's trash, but if not you can at least satisfy your hunger as the Fire Departments along the way serve chicken BBQs.
View more historic tours around Cattaraugus County