BIG FLATS, NEW YORK
1822 - 1972
Beginning at the depression in the land behind the present-day Horseheads Grange, we find it was once a place where the canal boats were tied up. The Feeder Canal continued on through where the Horseheads swimming pool now stands, south of the cemetery. It followed the foot of the hill where the Par 3 Golf Course now is and crossed over just this side of Phil Kuster’s Junk Yard, on the north side between the house and the junk yard. The Feeder Canal continued over next to the railroad track (The railroad was built in 1850, after the canal). It followed what is now the Erie Railroad tracks to Sing Sing Creek by the Howard Voorhese farm. The canal went south of their buildings and swung through Lowe’s Pond. The Feeder Canal continued on south of the present-day Marion Rhodes farm buildings and crossed what is not Rt. #17, between the present Dairy Freeze and Farr’s Car Wash, on through that field to the other side of Ledford’s. It then crossed Hillview Drive to Olcott Road just below Henry Minier’s home and along the left side of Davenport Road. The Canal then followed next to the hill on the level and crossed Goff Road at Hickling Heights and through the back of the Ray Rhinehart property to Gibson.
There were no locks between Gibson and Horseheads until the cemetery at Horseheads. At that point, there were three to let the water into Horseheads.
Local Canal Stories
There is a most interesting story that has been told by the late Charlie Davenport that involves Nicholas Mundy. Being a very wealthy man, Mr. Mundy often loaned sums of money to residents and it seems that Charlie’s uncle, Nathaniel Havens, owner and sometimes Captain of canal boats, borrowed money on a chattel mortgage for a canal boat. When the canal was abandoned in 1879, Capt. Havens had no use for the canal boat any longer and neither could he pay off the chattel mortgage, so during the darkness of night, with a team of mules, he pulled the boat from the canal on to the Mundy property and placed a note on it, giving him the unpaid-for canal boat.
This was the very last canal boat in the area and children, including young Charlie Davenport, loved to play in it and climb around. When one of the children was hurt here, Nicholas decided to burn the boat. The night before the burning, Charlie and his uncle Nathaniel snuck back to the boat and took the clock out of the dash board. The next morning, with bales of hay all around it, the last canal boat sank into ashes.
This same Mr. Mundy used to run hacks from the canal boat docks in Big Flats to the local hotels and to the Mountain House. Charlie’s father, Myron Davenport, used to drive these hacks for Nicholas Mundy and remembered nearly everyone who disembarked, except the women, as carrying small pistols.
Ellsworth Cowles of the Town of Erwin museum has in his possession an account book kept by B. S. Edgar at one of the docks at Gibson, which repaired canal boats. We know that Nicholas S. Mundy of Big Flats owned canal boats and Mr. Edger’s 1869 ledger has a bill for Nichles S. Monday. The sound is the same although Mr. Edger may not have gone down in history for his spelling ability. The bill was Dockage $1.00, 16 hrs. of labor $4.95, 12# Oakum $2.40, Pitch $1.00.
This same account book has an account for a canal boat owned by N. Havens with Capt. Tip Heath that docked for repairs July 14, 1868. The paid bill for a total of 9.80 was Dockage $2.00, 21 hrs. labor $5.25, 6# Oakum $1.20, 1# Cut Spikes 10cents, Pitch $1.25.
Some of Charlie Davenport’s memories as told to Ellsworth Cowles about the Canal are the most we know of the details of the feeder through our town. Charlie was born in 1879 the year the Chemung Canal was closed but many of the things he told were from his father and uncle.
There were several plank bridges across the feeder canal, two or three near Corning and a high curved wooden bridge over the canal on what is now Olcott Road. Beside this Olcott Road plank bridge was a drainage ditch to let water into when there was too much water in the canal. These plank bridges that crossed the canal had to curve high enough that canal boats could pass beneath them. Farmers used these to get their cattle across as well as switching the horses or mules to the other towpath.
There was one canal boat that passed through regularly that employed a negro and an Indian to work on the boat. This caused a dispute among other canal boat people and to demonstrate their disapproval of "cheap labor" Nathaniel Havens, with other men, stretched heavy ropes across under the Olcott Road bridge so that this particular boat could not pass. The Captain drew a civil war sword to hack his way through and after a heated exchange, the ropes were removed.
THE ELMIRA, CORNING & WAVERLY RAILWAY
(Compiled from a story by Sheldon S. King)
The electric interurban trolley – the E.C. & W. (Elmira, Corning & Waverly R.R.) passed through the village of Big Flats via Main St. & River St. It was built during 1910 and 1911, one of the last interurbans built in New York State, and one of the best constructed, as evidenced by the remaining concrete bridges that may still be seen along Route 352. Laborers on both ends of the line were Italians, newly arrived from Italy. They had not assumed American ways – nor we Italian – and their kettles of continually broiling spaghetti and macaroni caused some shock to local residents. Their barracks on the Corning end of the line were near the Enydy farm in the Town of Big Flats.
Franchises granted the E.C. & W. Ry. By the Corning Town Board stipulated that the company build an underpass below the Erie R.R. at Brown’s Crossing, South Corning. The line was reported half completed by Feb. 11, 1911. In April, construction of the Big Flats substation was commenced.
The Elmira, Corning & Waverly purchased power from the Elmira Water, Light & Railroad, so a power plant was not constructed; however, substations were constructed at Chemung, Seeley Creek and Big Flats. These buildings all stand (1966). The Chemung substation is used by the local fire department. New York State uses the Seeley Creek building, and the American Lelgion is housed in the Big Flats substation.
On Thursday, July 13, 1911, a car, carrying officials, made the first trip from Elmira to Brown’s Crossing and returned, and on Monday, July 17, 1911 the Corning line brought its first passengers into Elmira this morning. The first car which stopped for passengers came into the city with 15 aboard even though the opening of traffic had not been announced or advertised and none was sought.
At this time, the line ran only to South Corning (Brown’s Crossing), where the carbarn was built. The underpass under the Erie R.R. had not been completed. Passengers had to walk across the Erie tracks to board a Corning and Painted Post car for the trip to Market and Pine Sts. in Corning. However, the underpass was soon completed, and the interurbans began running into downtown Corning on Sept. 18, 1911.
In the leisurely days prior to World War I canoe trips down the Chemung River were a favorite Sunday afternoon pastime. Canoes were rented from Bill Cotton’s Canoe Livery in Elmira, and taken to East Corning, near the present Hickling Power Station, on flat cars hauled by a box motor car. Those renting the canoes followed in a passenger car. Canoes and canoeists unloaded and paddled down the river to Elmira.
The railway maintained an express, freight and milk service and owned two cars for this, one of which doubled as a work car.
During 1928, as an economy measure, Chauncey Hammond conceived the idea of using a farm hay mowing machine to cut weeds and grass from the right of way. The mowing machine was mounted on railroad type wheels, and was attached to the front of the work-express car. The trolley car moved backwards, and the mowing machine operated as it moved along. One man rode on the machine; one walked alongside to watch for obstacles, and one operated the trolley car. Prior to the use of this machine, grass was cut by hand, and it took one month to cover the entire line but with the mowing machine, it took only 34 hours.
From its completion in 1911 until its demise in 1930, the company ran its cars faithfully, and while there were accidents, not one passenger lost his life – and 14 million were carried during its brief existence. In the early years, 3000 to 5000 a day rode the cars; but, when the end came in 1930, only 900 per day were being carried. During the first tow years of service over the entire line, cars ran every half hour; after that service was hourly.
The cars of the E. C. & W. gave a good, dependable ride. They could make 60 miles per hour and made the trip from Elmira to either Corning or Waverly in 30 minutes. It is believed that a motorist following the route today using the closest paralleling highways could not make that time, and could just about do so using the longer present Route 17, providing posted speed limits were maintained.
LOCAL STREET CAR STORIES
Many a resident remembers the landslides at the Narrows that plagued the E. C. & W. in the springtime.
There were eight zones with a switch at each where the cars could pass. Near the end of the "street car days", it cost 7c a zone to ride the street car. There were 5 zones to go to Elmira so the fare was 35c. There were 3 zones to Corning so the fare was 21c.
One day, Anna Manning, Fred Voight, Charlie Allard and Ray Esterbrook were returning from Elmira on the street car. The motorman who drove the street car had locked the door to the front part of the street car and was standing on the south steps as they passed through the Clark’s Glen Switch. As the street car drew near the narrows someone wanted to get off and the conductor rang the bell for the motorman to stop the street car. He rang and rang and the car didn’t stop. It just gained speed and kept moving forward. The conductor hurried to the front and tried to break down the door. When he couldn’t he broke the glass in the window, opened the locked door and looked for the motorman. He was not there. By this time, the street car was almost past the Mountain House. The conductor stopped the street car, put it in reverse and backed down the hill to Clark’s Glen. There was the motorman who had fallen off the car as it crossed the switch, all out of breath from running after it.
For 15c one could take the E. C. & W. to Rorick’s Glen for its flourishing summer theater, amusement rides, picnic grounds, restaurant or dance hall.
Banks Goss of Goss Road was interviewed by Pam Farr for the Big Flats Historical Society and during their visit Mr. Goss told of using the street car to deliver his milk to Elmira. He built a milk block on the corner where the street car curved on to River St. and every morning for eleven years his milk had to be on the block for the seven A. M. street car pickup. Only twice in the eleven years did he miss the street car. The first time he hitched up the team and rode up Goss Road and when he got to Main St. (Old Route 17) it was all torn up and a crew of men were working on it. He turned the team around and hurried back down Goss Road to Carpenter Road to catch the street car as it passed Jerry Rhodes home, but the motorman wasn’t looking and he missed it. The other time Banks missed the street car his daughter Donna had been ill during the night and they had had to take her to the hospital. As he loaded the milk on the wagon the next morning, a neighbor came by to see what had happened and how his daughter was. When he got to the milk block, the street car had passed.
Thirty cows milked every morning for eleven years and in all those days, Mr. Goss had only missed the E. C. & W. twice.
The Corning-Elmira Airport (Chemung County Airport) located in Big Flats began in 1938 with American Airlines. It consisted of parts of the Juda Rowley, George Shriver, and Judson Gardner farms.
E. R. Wolcott, Sr., rented all the farm plows he could find and plowed the land for three days. A Williamsport outfit with gasoline driven #60 Caterpiller tractors pulled iron wheel scrapers hooked in tandem. A man rode the scrapers to load and dump and would change two or three times to each one hooked in tandem. The Saltzman Blacksmith shop of Elmira built a leveling device of a long timber with an iron shoe on the front. Behind this was a tilting device to dig or not to dig, a hand wheel moved it up or down, and the Airport was begun.
WHEN TOBACCO WAS KING
Tobacco is a highlight in the history of the Town of Big Flats.
In 1850 the first tobacco was raised on what was later known as the John D. Parks farm. The peak tobacco growing years were 1908 to 1918 at which time 2,000 acres in Big Flats were under tobacco cultivation. The last significant tobacco crop was raised in the mid-fifties.
Back when our village was thriving and the two hotels were busy, five cigar rolling factories operated here. People came on the train to work in the cigar factories and tobacco warehouses were booming.
Charlie Lowe and Matt Wells operated the American Tobacco Warehouse (Where G.L.F. – "Agway" is now located) and another warehouse where Hungerford Corp. now stands on Main St.
The American Cigar Co. would hire as many as 80 people in the winter time. In the summer time they might employ 6 0r 7 and the people who had worked in the warehouse in the winter would hire out to grow or raise the tobacco.
The railroad tracks, on the site of the recent cinder block plant, was another bustling warehouse.
The warehouse is where tobacco was sorted, sized, sweat-cured, and cased (aged to be smoked. Here is where the tobacco leaves were stemmed for the small hand-roll cigar factories.
The first 4 top leaves of the tobacco plant were the cigar wrapper and binder. Some of this was used for filler, but the sand leaves were used for shewing tobacco.
In a building near the present Community Park, on River St., G. S. Voorhees began manufacturing cigars. He employed about 10 people and made about 60,000 cigars a month. Later he moved to a building on Main St. This was later run by John Welsh.
THE 3 PLAYMATES
John P. Welsh owned and managed one of the most successful Big Flats enterprises, a cigar and tobacco manufactory. About 1889 he bought an interest in the business, the Vorhees and Welsh Tobacco Co. "The Biographic Record of Chemung County New York States," Mr. Welsh applied himself to learning the trade of the tobacconist, and it is doubtful if any in the county have a more thorough knowledge of the weed. After learning all that there was to know in order to cater to smokers of all degrees, Mr. Welsh bought out the whole business and increased his capacity from 10 to 16 hands, and to 450,000 cigars and 5000 pounds of tobacco yearly.
Mr. Welsh married Helen A. Storms in 1884. He was a member of the Big Flats Lodge No 378 A.F. & A.M., and a member of the Red Men, Wenona Tribe, No 397.
NO TOBACCO AUCTIONEER CHANTS AT BIG FLATS, GROWERS SELL CROP FOR WHAT BUYER WILL GIVE
The chant of the tobacco auctioneer does not ring out at Big Flats, but the farmers do sell their tobacco.
William E. Reasor can remember when it was one of the best crops of the valley and it wasn’t so long ago, either. Mr. Reasor, who was 75 years old Saturday, and has spent 50 of those years in Big Flats and surrounding country, has grown a lot of tobacco.
About 10 years ago, there was nearly 1,000 acres of tobacco grown in Big Flats, but at present it has dwindled down to around 300. This is due claims Mr. Reasor, to the lack of competition brought about by the consolidation of the large tobacco companies.
Under the present system, the government pays the farmer one cent a pound on what he grows. The price is over and above what he may get from the sale of this crop. It averages about $16 per acre. Under the AAA Mr. Reasor was paid not to grow tobacco but feels that he would just as soon raise it and get more money for it.
"It’s a durn lotta work, growin’ this stuff," says Mr. Reasor. "The weather plays tricks, and the worst trouble of all is the large green worms that eat away the leaves".
Mr. Reasor feels this year there are more worms than he has ever seen before.
Skunks too, play havoc with the stalks. They evidently like those large green worms and when they find one, they will climb up the stalk breaking leaves and nearly ruining the plants in order to get their food. They would be a help in keeping the worms at a minimum if they didn’t do so much damage themselves.
When the tobacco plant reaches its full height, which id does around this time of year, it is cut as low as possible on the stalk. After lying in the field for a while it is taken into sheds which have air openings in the sides.
Here it is hung across bars and left to dry or cure for about six to eight weeks. Then it is put up in large bales and stored until the buyer arrives.
These days, there is just one buyer and according to Mr. Reasor, "You have to sell to him, or else you don’t eat."
He opens four or five bales, examines the crop, makes a mental figure of what he will pay, then asks the farmer how much he wants. The farmer will quote what he thinks is a fair price, then the buyer tells what he will give, "and there isn’t any budging him."
That, thinks Mr. Reasor, is the trouble with the tobacco business today. If there were more buyers the farmer would be able to dicker and perhaps bet more money, but under the present system, you take what you can get and like it.
The buyer doesn’t come around until the first of January, and one year it was the first of April before he arri8ved. That time, about four years ago, the offer was three cents a pound – and the usual average price they pay is 10 cents a pound. So the farmer got the short end of the deal again and took three cents. That was hardly worth the work of growing it.
Tobacco needs damp soil in which to thrive. The dry spell around Elmira two weeks ago nearly ruined the crop, but the raging storm of that week, and the rainfall of the following nights was a life saver. Just before the plant is to be picked, it should have rain. This helps it to dry out better in the barn.
The openings in the sheds are kept open at first, to let the heat and wind in. When the leaves turn a light brown, the openings are shut and the leaves get darker until they are ready to be baled, after about eight weeks.
The tobacco grown around Big Flats is used mostly for chewing tobacco, though some of it is used for cigar wrappers. It is called Wisconsin tobacco for the seeds are sent from there. Most of the crops here are sent to Lancaster, Pa., since the American Cigar Co. closed its plant in Big Flats.
There is some competition from Connecticut tobacco, but since that is of a little finer quality, it is used for a different purpose, not so much for chewing.
TOBACCO GROWING MEMORIES
By Rowland W. Farr
To sprout the seed, it was put in a woolen sock and soaked – then pun near a warm stove until it would begin to crack. (One ounce of seed would plant an acre or two.)
This seed was then put in a prepared bed (40 sash long and 6 feet wide). A steam engine was used to force steam under a pan held beneath the tobacco beds, while the seed was sprinkled by a sprinkler sieve every day. Window sashes were laid atop the beds to keep the steam in. (The reason tobacco beds were steamed was to kill the seeds. This was a neighborhood-type operation similar to the old thrashing-bee.)
About the first of June a team was hooked to the tobacco setter. The driver rode atop the water barrel and two men rode behind the barrel setting the tobacco plants. The 50 gal. barrel let water into the furrow. One acre a day could be set.
The rows were hand-hoed and the weeds around each plant were scraped away after 2 or 3 weeks. Then the crop was cultivated to "hill up" the dirt around each plant (with a prout hoe). The reason for this was to keep the plant straight.
In 4 or 5 weeks, when the plant was about 3 feet, it was "topped". (The blossom was pulled out).
About the second week of August the harvest began. It was "suckered" (the three top suckers). If tobacco worms got in the crop, one would walk around, pick them off and smash the worms on the ground.
Tobacco meant hand work. It was hoed by hand, suckered by hand, cut with tobacco shears by hand, loaded on wagons, pitched from the wagon to the twiner and hung on 2 x 4 tobacco poles.
When dried and cured and the weather was damp and above 40 degrees, it was taken down and ranked. (Tobacco had to be damp so the leaves would not break into pieces.) Then it was covered, bagged, stripped (another neighbor-hood operation) – put in bundling boxes – pressed and wrapped.
BIG FLATS TIMES
Big Flats had its own newspaper for a short time. The first issue was published May 10, 1917. The editor was C. L. Webber. Little is known about the venture except that Bill Quackenbush had a printing press in a small building behind Clarence Zimmer’s house on Canal St. There the Big Flats Times went to press. Mr. Webber used to send away and get the sheets partially made up and then filled in the rest of the news.
Up to this time, the Historical Society has been unable to find out how long the Big Flats Times was published and has obtained only one copy of the paper, that being the first issue of 1917.
The Big Flats Times was an independent newspaper published on Thursdays by the Magic Printing Works. The subscription price was 15c a month by mail; 30c for three months; $1.00 per year, in advance. It was delivered by carrier to residents at above prices and a single copy cost 3 cents.
1850 – SAW MILLS FLOURISH
by Marion E. Rhodes, Town Historian
When the early settlers came to Chemung County, one of their first occupations was lumbering and their houses and other buildings were built of logs. As soon as they were able they created saw mills. Since the first mills were located on streams and were run by water power, a number of mills were built along the Chemung River.
The lumber industry reached its peak in this locality in the 1850’s. In Big Flats in 1852 there were at least 9 saw mills and three of these were on the Chemung River. One was on the island just south of the village of Big Flats and known as Gang Mill Island because several saws were operated at this mill. A second mill was on Dolson’s Island near where the Drive-in Theatre is now. A third was near Fitch’s Bridge.
The mill on Gang Mill Island is marked on a map at the County Clerk’s office, dated 1852, as Leland’s Mill. In April of 1827, David Reynolds was given a permit from the state to build a dam at the upper end of the island to carry the water to the mill which was located about one-half mile down the river at the lower end of the island, and it (the mill) was built across the end of the island. It is thought the logs were floated down the back side of the island then run through the mill and the lumber built into rafts on the river side, and then shipped down river when the water was high.
In the last year or two the river has changed its course some and has washed away part of the lower end of the island, uncovering parts of the mill. Instead of being run by the usual type of water wheel, which was either an overshot or undershot, this mill was run by two turbine-type wheels placed horizontally side by side, each being enclosed so that the water poured on top of them. These were fastened on eight-sided wooden shafts, one wheel running clockwise, and the other running counter-clockwise. How the power was transmitted to the mill is not yet exactly known.
The wheels were recently uncovered by high water and have been removed from the river, together with a large metal shaft about 14 feet long and 9 inches in diameter and are at the home of the Big Flats Town Historian. The wheels are 6 feet in diameter and weigh at least a half ton each. The mill was built on piles which are still visible at the lower end of the island. Underneath the wheels there were planks held in place by wooden pegs.
The flood of 1865 did considerable damage to the flat land above the island, cutting large gullies across the fields. It is thought the mill was buried under dirt and debris at that time, the mill was never uncovered and re-established. By then the Chemung Canal and Erie Railroad were better means of transporting what lumber was cut.
145-YEAR-OLD BIG FLATS CEMETERY TO BE RESTORED
by Lucile Rounds
"No man can nail so high his name time will not tear it down." Nor can his friends erect a tombstone the elements and vandals won’t obliterate. And the tombstones in the Big Flats Village Cemetery are no exception, especially those in the oldest section which extends from the main highway back to the driveway a few feet behind the Presbyterian Church.
Nearly a century and a half ago pioneer "Rob’t" Miller donated this plot of ground "for burial, educational and religious purposes." This included the land where the Presbyterian church (erected 1829-30) now stands. Old St. Paul’s Episcopal church (reorganized in 1861 as St. John’s) adjoined on the west side.
In this "old Rob’t Miller Burring Ground" many a long-departed pioneer is sleeping, some on the very spot where the first log school house was built in 1814. Some of their stones are gone completely, others are broken and scattered; many are crumbling and illegible; and all of them are fast following their owners to oblivion.
There must be about 300 persons buried here, counting the two hundred and forty-odd inscriptions that are readable or nearly so, and adding the number of depressions in the earth, half-hidden stubs of markers, etc., which indicate other graves. At least 50 of the total are those of children less than two years old, and by comparing dates we find that about 15 young mothers probably died from childbirth.
The legends on the earliest markers are either very well preserved or entirely gone. Most of them were cut from shale, a stratified or "layered" stone, which retains inscriptions with almost pristine freshness – it the outside layer doesn’t peel off (usually in one big sheet) and leave a perfectly bland surface. Weeping willows are the favorite decorative motifs, but here are also quaint suns, birds, vines, urns, etc.
The First Burial
Each grave holds a story, forgotten for the most part. It’s surprising how many people are buried here that no one seems to know anything about.
But here are a few odd bits of history that still cling to some of these old names.
Amos Rowley was the first person buried here. He died July 5, 1809, aged 39. Tradition says his father was buried near him under a huge locust tree. There is no trace of either tree or tombstones.
Isabella, the lovely young wife of "Rob’t" Miller, (donor of the land) came next. She died July 14, 1809.
Close by the church lie the honored remains of William Mapes who came through here with General Sullivan and returned 50 years later to spend the last of his 103 years. He is the "oldest inhabitant," while on the opposite side is the little grave of "J------, son of J. F. & Mary Kingsbury, aged one day," which should make him the youngest.
Joel Rowley was plump and pleasant; an early merchant, who owned most of the land upon which Big Flats is built.
Capt. George Gardiner settled here in 1788. He built the first framed tavern in 1807, and became the wealthiest, most prominent citizen of his day.
"Mr. Aaron Cook," as it is written on his tombstone, was a very early settler. In 1809 he built the first distillery. It burned in 1812. Aaron was 57 when he died on July 29, 1825, from a rattlesnake bite.
Eleasar Owen’s father was killed in the Indian massacre at Minisink, N.Y. in 1779.
There is a stone that reads "In memory of Rebecca McNulty, wife of William McNulty, and Dau. of John & Alley Tenbrook who died Sept. 30, 1821, Ag’d 25 yr & 3 da." She was a descendent of Sarah Rappelye, the first white child born in what is now New York City. There was a famine there at the time. On the day following Sarah’s birth the governor searched the house for hoarded food and found "one Indian dumpling," half of which he confiscated. However, the next day a shipload of provisions arrived. He immediately dispatched a full "measure of flour" to the Rappeleye home.
John L. Sexton isn’t buried here but his two wives, Hannah and Eliza, are. John L. built the first steam saw mill in this part of the state, only to have it stolen and taken to Canada. The thieves were never caught but justice caught up with them in the form of bankruptcy. They stole the mill again – from their creditors, but were forced to dump it in Lake Ontario to avoid capture.
Simeon L. Mundy, son of Reuben, died from an accidental gunshot wound.
"Tho. M. Christian" was a native of the Isle of Mann, so his tombstone says. The Farrs came from Ireland. The Davis’ from Wales. The Wormleys were from German descent but came to Big Flats from Pennsylvania. They were so proud of their Pennsylvania birth that is was included in one inscription.
These names represent just a few of the grand old families whose love and labor produced the beautiful little town of Big Flats.
BIG FLATS BANDS
By Fred Voight
The first Big Flats band was organized by a colored man named Charles Ross. Charles Ross at one time had a barber shop, which he operated for several years across from the Masonic Hall. He was an accomplished musician, who could play a violin or a cornet (like today what is called the trumpet but a little more compact). This band was organized in the early 1900’s.
Ross headed this band for some time until he became a mental patient at Binghamton. Later on, he improved and spent his last years at the Chemung County Farm at Breesport.
The band was succeeded by Fred Weale, who operated a music store in Corning. Fred was an all around band man, playing various instruments including the violin and also giving violin lessons. Of which I myself took. Some of those which I recall that played in this early band were LeRoy Randall, Lyman Randall, Lewis Pease, Charles Wolcott, Harry Randall, Lewis Randall, William Randall and Homer Bryant.
After this band was in operation, it was concluded to have a bandstand, where the River Road and the Main street intersected. Later this bandstand was moved over in back of Theodore Hooker’s Meat Market, where Dr. Lederer’s office is presently located. This building and the one on the corner bounded by the River Road, Elliott’s Store, Mrs. Upham’s Millinery Store west of the Meat Market, Esterbrook’s Hotel (Hicks) and the Grist Mill, operated by Alvin Neidhart, all burned in the morning fire in the spring of 1909. I believe the reason that the bandstand was moved was to make room for the Elmira-Corning & Waverly trolley line, which was started in 1908-1909. It ran up through the town and was connected with the main trolley railroad, built in 1911.
Later on, a second Big Flats band was started by Mr. Ruthford Ghanns, who was later succeeded by Lewis Randall, who later moved away and Castle Cunnings went on with the band.
Some of the band members in 1927-28 were: Clifford Peterson, baritone horn; George Welles, trumpet; Burt Hogancamp, Sr., bass; Woody Bottcher, drums; Mike Clark, trumpet; Rowland Farr and George Wolcott, trumpet; Floyd White, trombone; Richard Benedict, clarinet; Jim Bottcher, alto; Art Devenport, Sr., Norman Markel and Charles Evens, saxophone.
The band practiced in a building behind the blacksmith shop where Hungerford Corp. is now located. The building was Wiley’s soap factory and the band practiced upstairs over the factory.
This town also followed later on with a Mandolin Club, with Mrs. Anna Davenport and Mrs. Mabel (D. L. Churcher) among the players. This was followed by an orchestra, which Mrs. Anna Davenport and myself started in the year of 1931. This band was presided over by Mr. Ghanns, of the Doyle-Marks music store in Elmira, who later was followed by Mr. Clyde Nivison. Among those who took part in this orchestra were: Alice Moss (later Langfeld), John Moss, Clifford Peterson, Hazel Knapp (later Millin), Earl Canfield, Mrs. Anna Davenport, Arthur Brace of Corning, Richard Benedict, Howard Orme, Fred Voight, Lucia Peterson, Bert Hogancamp, later followed by Mrs. Alice Lowe, Dolores Peterson and Clyde Nivison as director. This orchestra lasted till 1938.