History of Napoli, New York
Written by: Ella A. Sibley (Mrs. Charles E. Van Aken)
Circa 1920 Contributed by: John D. McIntyre
The township of Napoli lies west of the center of Cattaraugus
County in the eighth range of Holland Land Company's survey and contains
23,063 acres, is bounded on the north by New Albion, on the east by
Little Valley, on the south by Coldspring, and on the west by Conewango.
The township is six miles square and contains sixty-four lots, or eight
lots each, and range containing lots Nos. 1 to 8 extends along the
eastern boundary of the township. As originally erected in 1823 from
Little Valley, Napoli embraced all of townships 1, 2 and 3, and bore the
name of Coldspring, on account of wonderful springs on lot 38 (Pigeon
Valley) of the present township.
In April 1828 the town was divided, the southern
part embracing townships 1 and 2 keeping the name of Coldspring on
account of Coldspring Creek, and town 3 taking the name of Napoli.
Geography of Napoli
The surface of Napoli is elevated; the
point in the Jamestown road being near the western line of lot 13 has
elevation of 2,005 ft. On lot 4 near the northern line, latitude 40 d.
12 m. 3 s., longitude 18 d. 29 m. 39 s., is a marker for triangulation,
supposed to be the highest point in Cattaraugus Co. This elevation,
from the known elevation of the Jamestown road, is about 2300 ft.
the memory of the writer a mound on a round topped hill between these
points was excavated and a quantity of Indian implements found. Until
years arrowheads were often found by plowmen in that vicinity, marking
it as a battleground.
Fine springs of water are found on nearly all the hills of the
township as well as in the valleys. Creeks are numerous, nearly all of
them finding their way into the Coldspring Creek which rises at the
cold springs on lot 38. Two small streams, Bucktooth and Sawmill
creeks, flow directly into the Allegany River a short distance west of
Salamanca. Two others flow
into Elm Creek and one into Little Valley Creek. The valley of the
Coldspring Creek in the town of Napoli is approximately 700 ft. lower
than the highest elevation on lot 4.
Within a few rods of its source the Coldspring Creek receives
first tributary, a stream which drains a large swamp situated on lots
and 32. This swamp covers six or seven hundred acres. With it are two
ponds, the larger noted for its pond lilies and the smaller for its
great depth. The muck of the swamp is covered with sphagnum moss and
huckleberry bushes. Large quantities of the moss have been shipped to
greenhouses, three carloads going to New York City as well as several
carloads to Buffalo and other cities. This swamp is bordered with
laurel, tamarack, spruce, and hemlock. Quantities of Christmas trees
have been shipped to Buffalo and other cities.
On lot 3 and 4 a sandstone ledge, known as "millstone grit,"
crops out near the top of the high hills, the same, though in lesser
quantities and smaller size, as that found in "Rock City" near Little
Valley and in the "Rock City" near Olean. Wherever these rocks occur the
soil is sandy and of little value except for forestry purposes. Most of
the hills, however, are good farming land, adapted to grazing and to
raising of such crops as hay, corn, oats, and potatoes, buckwheat and
all kinds of fruit except peaches and grapes which suffer from the
severe cold of winter, the temperature sometimes dropping to 30 degrees
or more below zero. Some sections of the town are well adapted to truck
farming, but dairying is the principal industry. The Coldspring Valley
soil is a muck loam; in the northeastern part of the town the soil is a
shale loam while the hill soil is largely clay loam with a "hardpan"
subsoil. The valleys through which the smaller streams flow are a
gravelly loam. Very few virgin forest trees are left excepting maples
which have been kept for sugar making, which is quite an extensive
industry during the spring season. There is considerable second growth
timber consisting of beech, birch, maple, oak, chestnut, ash, cherry,
basswood and hemlock. The virgin forest contained considerable pine but
very little of it remains.
Up to 1819 there were no roads, every man
slashing a way wherever he wished to travel. Timothy Butler, Timothy
and Sargent Morrill, in 1819, cut a road from Little Valley through to
Sargent Morrill's home, following what is now the Jamestown Road to the
point on lot 13 known as the "Narrows" thence southwesterly across lot
13 to the present Bucktooth Road which line they followed for a short
leaving it a little to the north of the site of the present residence
George Tarbox, from there they turned westward crossing the corner of
20 and continued across lots 19 and 27 to the line of the present
Road, thence across lot 35 to the line between lots 42 and 43,
that line westward to lot 50 and thence to the home of Sargent Morrill
lot 50. There are grades and old cellars and even old fashioned rose
still marking the old road way along parts of it not now in use. Just
the Jamestown Road from lots 13 to 42 was officially laid out, cannot
stated as there is no record of that road in the county clerk's office.
The old Indian trail from the Allegany Reservation to Buffalo,
Niagara Falls and then to Canada passed through this town, entering on
lot 41 and following the general direction of the Coldspring Creek,
passing into the town of New Albion. Over this trail Governor
Blacksnake carried important messages during the War of 1812.
Other roads for the use of the pioneer were rapidly cut and
whole town was soon like one neighborhood. It was not an unusual sight
see an ox team hauling a wagon or a sled loaded to its utmost capacity
neighbors going on a visit, or to a husking bee, a logging bee, or to
some pioneer raise a building.
The first sawmill was erected by
Waite on Waite Creek about 1826. Another was erected by David Brown on
lot 42. Mr. Davis erected one on lot 5, Otis Pratt another on lot 16,
Lyman Giles one on lot 17 in 1840.
A tannery was established on lot 59 in 1821 by Nathan
Bennett. It was afterward move to Napoli Corners and later sold to
Thomas Carter. Charles
Sibley built the first ashery on lot 38, where he received
people who burned "fallows" to get their land in readiness for crops.
these ashes he made potash which he or his sons drew to market in
Groceries or other supplies were brought back on the return trip. These
sold by Mr. Sibley to his neighbors.
Silas Miller built a carpenter shop at his home on lot
and Stephen Hatch built one at his home on lot 5. These two men made
the furniture for the young married people of the town. They also made
all the coffins which were used for several years.
Elias Bushnell operated a blacksmith shop for many
at Napoli Corners. Daniel Whitmore a wagon shop and Mr. Earl a shoe
shop at the same place.
Two stores were operated at Napoli Corners, and a hotel was
run by Ashbel Bushnell. At this period there were also two churches,
later two more were built.
Eben Sibley built a creamery at Coldsprings on lot 38
1870. It was 25 ft. by 75 ft. and three stories high. He received milk
about 800 cows. In 1877, he received 1,832,590 lbs. of milk from which
made 147,959 lbs. cheese and 61,663 lbs. butter, the sales of cheese
amounting to $11,827 and the sales of butter to $45,234.
The South Napoli Creamery was built by Aaron Goodspeed
1875. It was 32 ft. by 60 ft. and two stories high. This creamery
milk from about 500 cows and made about 300 pounds of butter and 16
per day. Later Eben Sibley purchased and operated this factory also.
William Peasley built a cheese factory in Peasley
of about the same capacity as the factory just described. Later another
cheese factory was built on lot 13 at a point on the Jamestown Road
as the "Narrows." This had sufficient capacity to care for the milk
about 500 cows. The Napoli Dairyman's Association recently built a
factory at Napoli Corners. That one and the Peasley Factory are the
ones in operation in 1920, and these only when the price of milk runs
low at the large milk manufacturing plants.
For the most part patrons living in the west part of the town
their milk to the Borden Condensory at Randolph and those
in the east part to the Merrell-Soule Powdered Milk Plant in Little
There seems to be a natural division of the town, thereby; those living
in the northeasterly portion do their trading, marketing and banking in
Little Valley, while those residing in the southwesterly
portion go to Randolph to transact most of their business; in
fact the southwest corner of the town of Napoli lies within the village
of East Randolph.
These villages are also the nearest shipping points for most
the town, the township itself having no railroad facilities. Such
instead of increasing the business of the town, have caused a decline
the railway shipping points have increased in importance.
As a consequence in 1920 there is only one church at Napoli
services are held, one store in operation and the Post Office which
very little postal business located in that store. There are no
of any consequence except the two cheese factories referred to which
only operated under emergency circumstances.
POPULATION and LIFE
In 1865, the population of the township was
1,231; in 1875 it was 1,094; in 1900 it had fallen to 925, and in 1905
to 730. In 1919 there were 211 males and 185 female voters registered.
census of 1920 showed only 636 inhabitants. Some of this decrease is
due to the fact that families are decidedly smaller than in the pioneer
days, but is chiefly due to the higher wages, social and amusement
of villages and cities, as well as the shorter hours of labor. The
cost of living at centers of population are usually almost entirely
The activities of the Grange, the Farm Bureau, and the Dairyman's
as well as the construction of improved roads have done much to bring
better conditions in farming communities and increase the interest in
and other farm products.