The Town of Portville was formed from the Town of Olean in 1837, and derives its
name due to the fact that in early days it was a prominent point for shipment of
lumber, shingles (i.e. Weston Bros., Luther Gordon, William F . Wheeler & Co . ) and
other goods down the Allegheny River to markets of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and
In 1806 contracts for land were made with the Holland Land Company. converting
the howling wilderness into cultivated fields, the first settler of the Town
arrived in 1809.
The major water sourse of the Town was and still is the Allegheny River. The
Genesee Valley Canal, running from Olean east along the Allegheny River to the
hamlet of Mill Grove, was of usefulness to merchants and lumberman until its
abandonment in 1878. Rail transportation was provided by the Western New York
and Pennsylvania in 1873 and the Buffalo, New York and Pittsburgh.
Until the forests disappeared the chief occupation was lumbering and rafting,
followed by agriculture. Petroleum was found in the west and southwest portions
of the Town.
Points of interest include the building of the first dam across the Allegheny
River at Weston's Mills in 1818. The creek which flows through the Village of
Portville, Dodge Creek, derived its name from early settlers by the names of
Jonathan, Lynds, Alfred and Daniel Dodge. During 1834-35 little or no attention
was given to the Sabbath Day, and with very few exceptions, everybody drank
whiskey. Two men, Dusenburg and Wheeler (well established businessmen and oil
producers ), were determined to raise the moral standards of the town which resulted
in the sale of intoxicating liquors being prohibited, by law, for forty years.
The Village of Portville, founded in 1895, began in the center of the Town with
the arrival of its first settler in 1813 who opened a tavern in 1814. The period
1870 - 1890 saw the establishment of 2 churches, 3 hotels, 4 general stores, a rail
station, 2 drug stores, a hardware store, 2 grocery stores, a flour and feed
store, a furniture store, 2 millinery stores, a post office, and a school. Other
establishments in the Village included tanning and leather manufacturing (Wright,
Wheeler & Co . , Wright & Munson, Wright , Clark & Co . ), a shingle mill and a grist
The hamlet of Westonville, known as Rice's Mill (1822), and later Weston's Mills
(1851) witnessed its first settlers in 1819. In the 1890's, this hamlet contained,
besides an extensive lumber and shingle manufactory (Weston Bros.), a
kindling wood manufactory (Borst), a church, a general store, a rail station, a
school, a post office, a shoe shop and a blacksmith shop.
The hamlet of Mill Grove, situated on the Allegheny River at the intersection of
the Genesee Valley Canal and the Buffalo, New York and pittsburgh Railroad, in
the 1870's contained a store, a grist mill, 2 saw mills and a blacksmith shop.
The hamlet of Main Settlement, located in the southeastern part of the Town, was
named in honor of its early settler, James Main. In the 1890's his settlement
contained a church, a school, a rail station and a post office (1892).
Source: Cattaraugus County Book 1808-1995/96