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 highest point in
the Jamestown road being near the western line of lot 13 has an
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, estimated from the known elevation of
the Jamestown road, is about 2300 ft. Within the memory of the writer a
mound on a round topped hill between these
two points was excavated and a quantity of Indian
implements found. Until recent 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 its first tributary, a stream which drains a large swamp
situated on lots 31 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 Boardman 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 distance, leaving it a little
to the north of the site of the present residence
of George Tarbox, from there they turned westward
crossing the corner of lot 20 and continued across lots 19 and 27 to the
line of the present Jamestown Road, thence across lot 35 to the line
between lots 42 and 43, following that line
westward to lot 50 and thence to the home of Sargent
Morrill on lot 50. There are grades and old cellars and even old
fashioned rose bushes still marking the old road way along parts of it
not now in use. Just when the Jamestown Road from
lots 13 to 42 was officially laid out, cannot be 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 the whole town was soon like one neighborhood. It was not an unusual
sight to see an ox team hauling a wagon or a sled loaded to its utmost
capacity with neighbors going on a visit,
or to a husking bee, a logging bee, or to help some
pioneer raise a building.
The first sawmill was erected by James 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, and 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 ashes from people who
burned "fallows" to get their land in readiness for
crops. From these ashes he made potash which he or his sons drew to
market in Buffalo. Groceries or other supplies were brought back on the
return trip. These were sold by Mr. Sibley
to his neighbors.
Silas Miller built a carpenter shop at his home on
lot 20 and Stephen Hatch built one at his home on lot 5. These two men
made all 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 years 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, but later two more were built.
Eben Sibley built a creamery at Coldsprings on lot
38 in 1870. It was 25 ft. by 75 ft. and three stories high. He received
milk from about 800 cows. In 1877, he received 1,832,590 lbs. of milk
from which he 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 in 1875. It was 32 ft. by 60 ft. and two stories high. This
creamery received milk from about 500 cows and made about 300 pounds of
butter and 16 cheese per day. Later Eben Sibley
purchased and operated this factory also.
William Peasley built a cheese factory in Peasley
Hollow 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 known as the "Narrows." This had sufficient
capacity to care for the milk from about 500 cows. The
Napoli Dairyman's Association recently built a cheese factory at Napoli
Corners. That one and the Peasley Factory are the only ones in operation
in 1920, and these only when the price
of milk runs too low at the large milk manufacturing
For the most part patrons living in the west part of the town sent their milk to the Borden Condensory
at Randolph and those living in the east part to the Merrell-Soule
Powdered Milk Plant in Little Valley. 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 of the town, the township itself having no railroad facilities.
Such conditions instead of increasing the business of the town, have
caused a decline since the railway shipping points
have increased in importance.
As a consequence in 1920 there is only one church at
Napoli where services are held, one store in operation and the Post
Office which does very little postal business located in that store.
There are no industries of any consequence except
the two cheese factories referred to which are 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. The census
of 1920 showed only 636 inhabitants. Some
of this decrease is perhaps 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 attractions of villages
and cities, as well as the shorter hours of
labor. The higher cost of living at centers of
population are usually almost entirely overlooked. The activities of the
Grange, the Farm Bureau, and the Dairyman's League, as well as the
construction of improved roads have done much to
bring about better conditions in farming communities and
increase the interest in dairying and other farm products.