BIG FLATS, NEW YORK
1822 - 1972
Many roads in the town of Big Flats have been named for the early settlers that lived on them. Take Eacher Hollow that was named for Billy Eacher, or Breed Hollow named for the very early Breed family. The Breeds had a real show place for the area. They had a famous Jersey herd, peddled quantities of butter, operated their own creamery and a busy lumber mill, and had huge orchards on their property.
Winters Road was named for the John Winters family who owned the farm at the south end of it. Later this homestead belonged to Martin Hammond and in 1881 a new road was cut through to reach the railroads from Main St. to Maple St. Mr. Hammond did not want the road cut through there and so when it was completed he used it to drive hogs for shipment on the railroad. It became known as Hog Alley since it was most generally full of hogs. Later Hog Alley was tagged as Hammond St.
Markel Hollow was named for the large family of Markels who lived there, Kahler Road for George Kahler, father of John, Oscar and Anna Kahler Theuer, Reasor Hollow for Clark Reasor, grandfather of Perry Reasor. The old Reasor School House stood on the point of this road.
The Yawger Road was named fro Frank Yawger, father of Henry Yawger and Capitola Yawger. Capitola was a long-time teacher of the Big Flats Union School.
Miller Street in the Village was named for Robert Miller and Church Street for the Presbyterian Church. River Street was named so because it went toward the river and present day Route 352, old 17E, was always known as the River Road.
Canal Street was named so from Main St. to the junction off present day Olcott Rd., because the Feeder Canal crossed it. Much later part of it became known as Hillview after the development that began there.
Owen Hollow used to go from Main Street to the junction of present day Hillview and much later when the Olcotts bought so much property the name become Olcott Road.
What is Owen Hollow today, used to be Shay Hollow for the Shaw family whose house still stands. Later, although officially Shay Hollow, it was called Thomas Hollow by many residents because of the large family of Thomases who lived on it.
Goss Road was named for Banks Goss who lives on the large farm located there today. Carpenter Road was named for William Carpenter and Harriet Carpenter Taylor’s family, that built the lovely Carpenter homestead, and on whose property Suburban Acres was developed.
Lowe Road was named for the Cornelius Lowe family and the 163 year old homestead that stood until recently.
Chambers Road was named because the road goes to Chambers.
Halderman Hollow used to be known as Steege Hill Road because one of the Steege brothers lived there. It was later named for the Halderman family that owned property on the top of the hill and to the left. The road that bears to the right was known as Mills Road for the Mills family who owned the house and barn there.
Skunk Hill Ranch Road, now known as Harris Hill Road, used to be called such because a skunk ranch was located there. Later, it took the name of Harris Hill Road, named for Lt. Henry B. Harris an early soaring enthusiast and member of the M.I.T. soaring group who had been killed on the Hill in 1834.
Steege Hill Road, across the river, was named for the Steege family.
Hibbard Road, named for the Hibbards of Horseheads who owned a farm at the top of the hill, was the stage coach line to Watkins.
Curren Road was named for the Robert Curren family. Curren Road used to be what was also known as the River Road, but now is the name of the small road that cuts across Harris Hill Road to Ziff’s Meat Market and behind the Kountry Kitchen.
Garlick Road was named for Charles Garlick who owned a farm of 125 acres two miles west of Horseheads in the Town of Big Flats. This road is now called Colonial Drive.
Gardner Road named for the Gardner family has been dead ended at the Schweizer Plant and is known now as Schweizer Road.
The Flat Iron was the triangle formed by Olcott Road, Hillview and Route 17.
The Hendy Creek Road was named for Col. John Hendy, said to be the first settler of Newtown. (Present day Elmira.) The original Hendy Cabin was located just southeast of Golden Glow, a part of the Town of Big Flats.
Leach Hill Road and Combs Hill Road off of the Hendy Creek Road was both named for early families.
Pickaway was the very early name of the area where Harris Hill Development is presently located. This was a stage coach route and along Pickaway was a hotel built and owned by Joseph Rhodes, who was Art Devenport’s great, great grandfather. There was a brewery along Pickaway and canal boats were built near where the Drive-In Theatre now stands, but down by the river.
County Road 64, or what was known as the Horseheads-Big Flats Road or Old Corning Road or Old 17, was known for many years as the Lake Road as everyone used this road to go to the Lake.
Sing Sing Road got its name from Sing Sing Creek. This name of our road, creek and schools is explained here by A. G. Hilbert, Town of Elmira Historian in an article, for the Chemung Historical Journal.
WHY "SING SING’?
Recently, when one of the new schools in the Horseheads area was named Sing Sing School, there was an undercurrent of indignation and confusion, not only from newcomers to this area but even from older residents who resented the "prison" connotation of the word. Perhaps a bit of explanation in the form of local history would clarify the situation.
To the Indian of the pre-Sullivan period, the Chemung valley between Waverly and Elmira, or the Indian towns of Tioga and Kanawaholla, was generally known as "Chemung," a variation of a Delaware word meaning "Big Horn" or "Cononque," the French variation of the Seneca word for horn. It was in this area that finds of bones and tusks of pre-historic mammoths and mastodons had been reported. Confirming the legends of the Indians a total of 9 tusks have been found.
The level area in and around Elmira was aptly named "Skwedowa" or Great Plain. The Indians had no name for the group of hills that stand alone surrounded by a triangular valley between Elmira, Horseheads and Big Flats but early settlers called this area "The Bachelor" since it was completely isolated from its nearby brother and sister heights. But the area from the Chemung narrows above Fitch’s Bridge to the three river junction at Painted Post was known as "Achsining" or "Atsinasin."
Doty’s "History of Genessee Country" explains the name as follows:
"Achsining (Mount Achsining) south of the Chemung river and opposite the mouth of Sing Sing Creek is a Delaware name meaning "stone on stone." It is similar to Ossining on the Hudson but from a different dialect. The hill takes its name from a Munsey (Delaware) village on the east side of Sing Sing creek variously spelled Achsinnessink, Assinissink, Asinsan, and Atsinsink.
James Vinton Stowell, archeologist, has verified the location of this village on the present Reformatory farm at the foot of Bennett’s (formerly Ford’s) Hill in Big Flats. While the hill opposite the mouth of Sing Sing Creek with its palisaded type of steep slope does somewhat answer the description of "stone on stone," there was farther west a phenomenon which could be more aptly so named. More modern researchers believe the area was named for the mounds of stone mentioned by David Zeisberger, the Moravian missionary. In his diary for Oct. 3, 1767, he wrote, "about noon we arrived at Assinisink previously burned and laid waste by the Mohawks – curiosities in the shape of pyramids of stone are here to be seen. From them this place derives its name. The two largest are over 2 or 3 stories high. In most cases a flat stone rests on the top as if to keep off the rain – whether these pyramids are natural or made by human hands I will leave to others to decide – near here the Tioga divides into two branches, one goes north into the land of the Senecas, the other to the west."
This last sentence indicated these stone piles to be in the vicinity of Corning near Painted Post. Ellsworth Cowles, Corning historian and archaeologist, has located the above mentioned village on Post Creek near its junction with the Chemung River in the general area of the end of East Pulteney St. At this point in the early days of Corning a covered bridge crossed Post Creek to continue the stage road along the northeast bank southward to Gibson. Since this roadway often was impassable during periods of high water, an emergency dug road was built higher up on the bluff. Portions of this dug road are still visible today. Early records indicate that on this northeast bank there were 11 stone mounds or pyramids of various sizes.
The building of the D.L. & W. R.R. in 1881 along this northeast bank forced the relocation of the original stage road. According to Harold Van Dusen, Corning historian, railroad officials promised they would destroy only those mounds absolutely necessary to get their roadbed through, but when they finished, the eleven mounds were gone and there remained only one huge rock, which local people named "Bible Rock".
Milton Brackman of Corning, who remembers playing in this vicinity as a boy, describes "Bible Rock" as a slab of rock about t’ x 5’ x ½’ resting obliquely on a kind of pedestal of stone and dirt over 20 feet high. It resembled an open book on the top of a lectern. He reported a second formation nearby, this one on a pedestal of only 4 or 5 feet.
Again in recent years the Erie R.R. was moved out of the center of Corning and relocated along side the D.L. & W. In this move, Bible Rock, the last vestige of the original "stone on stone" disappeared.
Two hundred years after Zeisberger declined to try to explain their origin, they still remain a mystery.
Our modern corruption of the original Indian name of this area from Atsinasin to Sing Sing is therefore one that should be cherished with local pride rather than association with the stigma attached to the well-known structure on the Hudson River, Sing Sing Prison.
BIG FLATS FUN AND FROLIC
Compiled from interviews by Pam Farr. Did you ever wonder about the recreation in Big Flats in years past? Wonder no more. Read on – smile – laugh out loud – reminisce.
In years past, neighborhood dances were very popular and every Saturday night about a half dozen families would get together. An organ would often be loaded on a wagon and taken to the hosts (who had moved the furniture out of the living room and rolled up the rug). Round and square dancing was a feature and there was almost always a fiddler.
Life in Big Flats was not easy, nor glamorous, but the Brick Block boasted a third floor ballroom and the Buena Vista Hotel, built in 1835, offered dancing classes. Each dancing class graduation featured a special invitation issued for a grandiose ball in the Buena Vista Hotel ballroom.
The Masonic Hall, built in 1872, has been the scene of many, many dances over the years. Family dances sponsored by the Masons and Eastern Stars were held in the 1930’s. Parents and teen-agers came together for round and square dancing every two weeks.
In the early 1900’s, by the town band stand, a pole was covered with grease (Oleaginous Pole) and men tried to climb to the top of the pole to reach a dollar bill. The retrieving was not an easy task and took some ingenious doing. One dollar bill winner, Ross Marvin, put sand all over the grease to make it to the top.
Many years ago, a cinder path ran from Corning to Elmira. This was a very popular Sunday route for bicycle riders and many couples rode the path for their Sunday date. (The dirt roads were very rutty and made bicycling there impossible.) In the early 1900’s, you would pay $1.00 a year to the town Constable for a bicycle tag that allowed you to use this path.
Very early in the 1900’s, Big Flats had a town baseball team that played on the Miller Farm Ball Diamond (now a part of the Sod Farm.) This team played mostly industrial teams. In the late 20’s and 30’s, the town baseball team was in the Penn York League and played on Welles Field (nest to what is now the Agway Plant, on Hammond Street.) They played teams from many of the surrounding towns, away one week and home the next. This was an extremely popular Sunday activity in Big Flats and drew large crowds.
Medicine Shows were a big thing in years past. The Masonic Hall and later the lot where the Episcopal Church was torn down on Main St. (the Helen Middaugh home now) were the scene of shows such as: the "old Indian" from Corning and Indian remedies; Mr. Quackenbush, a ventriloquist, hypnotists and local talent shows which were always a top drawing card.
One year, the Big Flats Masons sponsored Donkey Baseball, which was a "rave of the time all across N.Y. State." The town folks rode the hired donkeys from base to base among a series of buckings, falls, bruises and broken bones. After a serious injury, the Donkey Baseball man disappeared with his animals leaving a trail of broken bones all across the state.
Groups and especially church groups used Box Socials for fun fund raisers. The women packed lunches in a box, which the men bid on and upon being high bidder, the gentleman would get the box and the "packer" as his lunch date.
Entertainment & Supper
Big Flats, N. Y.
Wednesday Evening, June 27, 1894
The members, (of the male persuasion) of the Big Flats Baptist Church will ekstend an harty greeting and substanshul wellkum to all the hungry on the lawn of W. B. Leonard, Wensday Evening, Joon 27, 1894, at wich time and plais the following Fairy William will be offerd for the egzminashun and mastikashun by awl konsurned, "their Sisturs and their Kuzins and their Ants." A charming Muzikel Program will be renderd phor the deldktashun of the audients.
FROOT. -- Strawburys – Grean, Ripe, Smawl and Bigg. Strawburies with Kreem and without Kreme.
I-Scream. -- Vanily, Bannannie and Chockolit I-Screamn, survd in eny dezird kondishun – melted, koald or phrozen. Yung Ladys wil be aloud awl the I-Scream tha or thair escorts kan pai phor.
Kaik. -- 2.000 Varyatis of Kake, inkludin Spnj Kake, Sweat Sponj Caike, Chawkolait Kaik, Tinn Caik and Pann Caike. Not tew egseed 25 varyates surved too won guessed.
Gaim. – Krokay, Checquers and uther gaimes ad libitum
Hott Dishus. – Tee-coughs, sassers, plaits and spoons
Bred. – Slised Bread, Whyte Bread and Well-bred, Kold Biskit, Nu Bisket and Spunjd Bissquette.
Butter. – Roal Buter, Furken Butter and Tubb Butter, Jun Bu7ttar, Gud Butar, Poor Buttir and Nun-but-her.
Lemonade. – Church Soshel Lemunaide, Pik-nik Lemenaid, Surcus Lemmonade, Hoght and Kolde Lemmunaide.
T. – Aul Veriatis of Tee wil b survd tu ordur, Hot or Ised. Modest T and Sobrie T wil b furnished bi the wayters withowt xtra charg, but ples doo not T’s the wayters, Tee-hee.
Water – Hot Water, Koaled Water, Fresch Watter and Solt Wattir, Disch Water and Well—water.
Kild Bights—Coald Poark, Coled Beens, Porke and Beens mikst, and Musketo Bites. (The last served Hot aulso.)
Prayer…………………………………………………………………………………by the Pastor
College Song…………………………………………………………………...…White Rose Trio
Cornet Solo…………………………………………………………………………..…..Will Park
Illusion Act………………………………………………………….…..Dan Steele, Oscar Kahler
The Magic Pictures…………………………………………………….……………..S. A. Minier
Song – "Bull Dog on the Bank"…………………………………………….....Red Rose Quartette
Bone Solo………………………………………………………………………………..Billy Kent
Violin Solo………………………………………………………….………………….Lorin Clark
"The Old Oaken Bucket"………………………………………………………Red Rose Quartette
Vocal Solo, Banjo Accompaniment………………………………………….………….Billy Kent
Song – "Good Night"……………………………………………………………..White Rose Trio
From a big Canoe Livery at Water and Main in Elmira, canoes were rented and taken on the streetcar to Gibson. On a Sunday, 25 to 30 canoes could be seen coming down the river.
The Rev. Lillian Chapman made plays a very popular Big Flats Activity after she convinced the Presbyterian Good Will Class to put on plays as a fund raiser for the beginning of the Presbyterian Church House fund.
In 1949 – 1950, the Masons and Eastern Star began a very active traveling Minstrel Show that raised money for the Masonic Hall and gained renown throughout the area.
Saturday nights young people would get different residents to hitch up a team to the sleigh and take them to Corning or Elmira. There the horses were put in a livery while they saw a movie and/or went to a "Confectionary Store."
Church Groups or Classes…
The Big Flats Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches had very active church groups. The Presbyterians had the Good Will Class; the Baptists, the Baraca Class for boys 16 to 21, the Philathea Class for girls, and the Christian Endeavor for young marrieds; the Methodists had the Epworth League.
These church groups had well remembered picnics each July, down on the river, or at Wolcott’s Woods. The Baraca Class had a very active basketball team.
Ice Skating Parties…
Favorite spots for ice skating were at "sixty-six" (where the Jennings Farm was until recently, off Olcott near the Lackawanna bridge,) Kahlers Canal, Lowe Pond, and the river by suspension bridge.
Henry Farr had a toboggan and bobsled run on his farm back about 25 years ago. For 25c (if you didn’t sneak in) the local youth could follow the lane behind the house, through the gate, cross the little wooden bridge spanning Sing Sing Creek, and Hank would pull the toboggans and sleds up the hill with his tractor. A tower with lights on it furnished the necessary light and the bobsleds were homemade.
A church group, favored activity, was a taffy pull. Often after the weekend’s ice-skating party, everyone went for a candy pull too. Zimdall’s house was the scene of many taffy pulls. (On the Lowe Farm).
Arbor Day Bicycle Races…
An Exciting school sponsored activity was a bicycle race each Arbor Day. From the knoll in front of Henry Farr’s, the bicycles raced to Minier’s Store to the finish.
Other fun things headlined the times – bag races, potatoe races, greased
pigs, horse shows, local talent shows and the "After a barn raising dances"
where families flocked for round and square dancing and mighty good food.