What do Vogtli, Bucktooth and a Marquis have in Common?

By Jeff Martin

Iíve never understood people who have little to no interest in their local history.

And while some people may criticize my lack of planting roots, Iíve never failed to at least study and admire the trees that surround me.

From my boyhood in Ohio, where I learned of its connection to the modern game of football and the industrial base that painted its very identity, to my current residency in Western New York, Iíve always been keenly interested about the very soil I walk upon.

When I found myself in the Little Valley Public Library (the 19th library of which I would become a member!), I was pleased to see that numerous local history books were available for checkout ó a rarity among several libraries in the area. Scooping up a stack, one book, ìCattaraugus County: A Bicentennial History,î caught my attention most of all.

I asked Pat, the librarian behind the counter, about the book.

ìThatís a nice book,î she said, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose. ìI have a copy at home. A lot of people check it out.î

Since Iíve lived in the area for a year now, I thought it was time to learn a bit about the place I live and work and play. Below are just some snippets of local history that I hope you find interesting ó at least interesting enough to encourage your own investigations.

The first settlers of Ellicottville arrived in 1815, primarily from Massachusetts and Connecticut. They first settled Bryant Hill, which is several miles east of the village. Two years later, the county was organized and Ellicottville was designated the county seat.

Named in honor of Joseph Ellicott, who presided over the surveying of Western New York for the Holland Land Company (which owned most of the land), the villageís Indian name is De-as-hen-do-qua, or ìplace for holding courts.î

Logging was Ellicottvilleís primary industry from 1890 to 1960. The village was the capital for the manufacturing of wooden shoe blocks over which shoes were formed. Most fascinating was the fact that bowling pins and ash bills for Louisville Slugger bats were manufactured in the village.

Jillian Vogtli and Travis Mayer, who competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics, trained at local ski resorts, specifically Holiday Valley, which is often cited as one of the top 10 ski resorts in the country.

Over in Salamanca, I was amused to discover that the west side of the town was originally called Bucktooth, the name of a Seneca chieftain who lived in the area. The town itself was named after Marquis Jose De Salamanca, a stockholder in the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad. Again, its main business and exports were mills and lumber.

What struck me as most impressive about Ellicottville and surrounding villages and towns, and indicative of all fates that eventually swallowed small towns throughout the country, was how vibrant they were when it came to manufacturing.

A great example is the town of Otto. Traveling through it today, you would have a hard time believing that, in the early 19th century, the town had as many as two large hotels and 12 main businesses. Now it feels like a ghost town, with residents traveling as far as 30 miles one way to jobs in the big cities.

I spoke to Bill Krebs, Springville mayor, in this issue and he said both Erie and Cattaraugus counties are dependent on service jobs.

ìBut the two counties together offer a lot that many counties in the state donít,î he said. ìWeíre very unique.î

Indeed they both are, and I hope you discover that for yourself in both books and in person.