Old Chautauqua Road in the Town of Mansfield

          The Holland Land Company purchased over 3 million acres of land west of the Genesee River during the 1790s.  Joseph Ellicott (1760-1826) was appointed as the Holland Land Company local agent out of Batavia, NY. Joseph was trained as a surveyor by his brother Andrew who had surveyed Washington, DC. Between 1798 and 1799 Joseph and a crew of 150 men surveyed the land living in camps as they traveled across the territory. Ideally each township was a 6 mile square (36 square miles).  Each township was to be 6 miles wide running east and west and the range was a 6 mile strip running north and south.  Obviously due to terrain, waterways, Indian Reservations and other impediments the townships are not all square and not all are 36 square miles each.    Townships were surveyed into lots in the early 1800s and land sales began in 1801. Olean was the first area where land was purchased followed by Joseph McClure’s purchase in the Franklinville area.  McClure, who had been a surveyor for the Holland Land Company, brought his family to the location of their new home in 1806. They cut and cleared a road as they traveled the thirty miles to their destination. That was the state of roads in the newly surveyed area in the early 1800s. The few roads that existed were “underbrushed” primitive routes meaning stumps were still in the roadway, with felled trees and limbs littering the road.  

          In 1810 the first road into Cattaraugus County was from Canandaigua to Olean. That year a road opened from Buffalo to Springville, Franklinville and to Olean Point. That was the forerunner of Route 16. The most common destination point for roads opening at this time was Olean.

          The Holland Land Company continued selling land and needed to provide access to its holdings across the east to west areas we now know as Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties. A road was necessary to connect to the far western border of their holdings in New York State. The Chautauqua Road was envisioned by the Holland Land Company in 1805 and there are claims that it was built in 1808 and 1810. It has been said to be the oldest road in Cattaraugus County, if that statement also includes “the oldest from the east to west” that may be very true. The exact date of opening is difficult to pinpoint. It is likely that it took more than a year to complete so varying dates may be accurate for various locations; just as the exact original route of the Chautauqua Road is impossible to identify. You will find maps showing the Chautauqua Road in several areas because over the 200 years since it was built there have been many changes in the route. Today in 2013 sections of the Chautauqua Road still exist that carry the name “Chautauqua Road”.


          Historian Bruce Fredrickson from Franklinville writes that, “orders to McCluer and Ellicott from the Holland Land Company specified that the road was to be a straight line not to deviate more than 3 degrees.” Once again the Holland Land Company was expecting the ideal.  In reality this did not occur. What looks workable on paper does not translate into reality when out working in the field.  The road from Centerville to Franklinville complied. Check Kingsbury Hill Road and Huyck road today, (they are part of the Old Chautauqua Road), the roads are straight but hilly. The route from Franklinville to Ellicottville was more rugged, creeks and valleys forced road builders to often move the route and Bryant Hill was a challenge. From the center of Ellicottville the road moves more westerly up Fish Hill (Route 242) to Windsor Roadd. in the Town of Mansfield and onto Dublin Road. Here Fredrickson has the Chautauqua Road make a 45 degree turn on the current Dublin Road continuing on to join Route 242 and on into Little Valley via Route 353 through the village and out to the New Albion Road to “Guys Corners” then connecting to the Pigeon Valley Road and on west to the Chautauqua Road to Axeville Corners. Seager Hill Road then takes the route out to Conewango and Conewango Valley to the border of Chautauqua County where the Chautauqua Road continues to Mayville and then to the state line.

     The earliest brochure produced by Cattaraugus County of the Old Chautauqua Road driving tour shows a dark purple line on the map for the Chautauqua Road at the top of Fish Hill then traveling down Whig Street to Elkdale to connect with Route 353 and on to Little Valley.  In the same brochure Mr. Fredrickson does address a closed section of the Chautauqua Road in the Mansfield area.  He states that Dublin Road meets Crandall Road which is an abandoned section and closed to the public. The map gave the impression that Whig Street was part of the Old Chautauqua Road which was not accurate.

This was upsetting when discovered by members of the Mansfield Historical Society. This portrayal given in the map on the early brochure, erased any part of the road traveling through the Town of Mansfield.   Marilyn Eddy Siperek and Sue Cross set about to show the road did traverse through the Township to Mansfield

   Here in Mansfield we have tried to verify that the Chautauqua Road did in fact travel up Crandall over the hill and continue through. There is speculation that it came down to meet the present Buelow Road then out to Guys Corners. Others have told us of a walking trail that traverses Crandall Road and comes down into Little Valley near First Street. Marilyn Eddy Siperek did find an 1836 map in the Holland Land Company files in Fredonia that has a road that follows Crandall Road over the hill to the Buelow Road area and continues westward. If this was the route in the 1836 era, the road totally bypasses Little Valley during that time period.  This would support a statement about the village of Little Valley found on the web that reads, “When the first roads were laid out in this area about 1812, a road known as the Old Chautauqua Road passed north of the present village. Soon another road known as the Jamestown Road ran through the village to Napoli and on to Jamestown.” (www.painted hills.org)   To add to the uncertainty early Chautauqua Road route is the statement in Everts 1879 that the road went through the township of Little Valley.


The Old Chautauqua Road is a very important piece of  history in the Town of  Mansfield.  It did travel through the Mansfield Township down the Fish Hill area with one of the significant taverns affording lodging and a place for traverlers/herdsman a place to corral the animals they were driving to market.


A very early segment of the road (Chautauqua Road) did in fact traverse over Crandall down the hill. This must have been very difficult terrain for both human and four-footed  travelers. This section was abandoned and never became part of the "improved" Old Chautauqua Road  It did afford thousands of livestock travelers a pathway. The rocky trip left many an animal with very sore and injured feet which prolonged the travel time when herders were forced to rest the animals for days while the bleeding and bruised feet healed.



Regardless of the exact route of the Chautauqua Road which may be varied and numerous, we ow the road in the Town of Mansfield held a very important inn (tavern) for the travelers at the top of Fish Hill. Holding areas were available here for animals traveling with the pioneers making it possible for the travelers to find nourishment and rest without worry of losing the herd.  The Chautauqua Road was a very important route for many settlers traveling to northern Ohio through the 1820s and continued to be a popular route for drovers for many years after that. The Old Chautauqua Road was a “road to the west” through the Town of Mansfield, NY.    

Contributed by Sue Cross Town of Mansfield Historian

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