The Town of Southport has been a big part of my life, having been brought up on Yale Street, attending Pennsylvania Avenue School, which has since been torn down and Southside High School, referring to the old building now the Human Resource Center. And having served 27 years in the Town Clerks Office at Southport Town Hall, retiring in February of 2003.
Southport has seen some changes over the years with businesses coming and going, such as the Remington Rand, and then the American LaFrance; the Southport Shopping Plaza’s decline and now being rejuvenated with a variety of stores and offices; the Southport Correctional facility being built on Institution Road; the completion of Clemens Center Parkway linking the city of Elmira to Routes 14 & 328; the Bulkhead Hardware being built where once Dog N’ Burger was; and the Town Hall and its second story addition, where once the old Voting Booth, feed mill, and gas station sat, to name a few of the changes.
There are still many reminders of the early days in Southport like
Pennsylvania Avenue, which used to be the Plank Road and one of the Toll Houses at 1122 Pennsylvania Avenue; The Homestead Inn, 1003 Caton Avenue was the first brick building built in Southport around 1850. As mentioned before, the Town’s Voting Booth, now located on Laurel Street and used by the Southport Historical Society; Fitzsimmons Cemetery dating back to 1790; the Country Tavern in Webb Mills used to be the old train depot and post office; Blacks Feed Mill in Webb Mills was once active and now houses the Chemung Soft Water Company; the Dairymen’s League Condensery or Creamery in Seeley Creek referred to as Shappee’s Meat Plant to name a few places that are still in existence. And not to forget the State Line Hotel where many marriages took place, now the 1844 House.
Working in the Town Clerks Office, I also have seen many changes such as Supervisors Howard Bergh, George Carpenter and Robert Masia; Town Clerks Jacqueline Baker and Barbara Sechrist; Assessors Harold Jessup and Catherine Brochart; Police Officers part time Charles Hartsock,
Michael Smith, Daniel O’Herron, Paul Floyd to full time Officers Norbert Cummings, David Bachman and Michael Hatch.
The Town of Southport opened their first cemetery in 1991 on Maple Avenue as an extension to the Fitzsimmons Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the area. There are approximately 11 old cemeteries in Southport that the Town maintains, as far as mowing several times a summer. Unfortunately there are no written records of these cemeteries but information has been preserved by volunteers copying the information directly from the tombstones or compiling information from obituaries. We are pleased that just recently the Southport Historical Society took on the project of putting signs in these cemeteries so people can identify where they are.
I am currently working on a project of collecting pictures and personal history on our past 44 Supervisors since 1822 and am having a plaque made listing all their names and dates of service, as a start to putting some history into the Town Hall. The plaque will be in memory of our dear friend and past Town Historian Nelda Holton. It is interesting to note that in all that time only one lady has been Supervisor. Mrs. Addie Chilson Knapp took over when her husband Leman Knapp passed away in 1929 and then she ran for two terms on her own. I was privileged to have know her as she also lived on Yale Street and through her granddaughter, I have obtained a picture of her and her husband to be hung on the wall in the Town Hall. I would also like to add that if anyone has a picture of any of our past Supervisors that they would like to share with the Town, I would be glad to meet with them.
Although I have lived in Southport most of my life, there is a lot of its history I never really knew until I became Town Historian. Most every day something new is brought to my attention or to my Deputy Town Historian Mary Jerram , and we are sharing our new found history through the Southport Historical Society Newsletter.
By Virginia R. McElroy, Southport Town Historian
Fitzsimmons Cemetery, Maple Ave. dating back to 1790
Homestead Inn, 1003 Caton Ave. Built in 1850 , first brick house in Southport
Plank Road, Toll house on 1122 Penna. Ave.
Voting Booth, Laurel St.
Country Tavern, Pine City used to be the Pine City Depot
Blacks Feed Mill in Webb Mills now housed by Chemung Soft Water
The Condensery or Creamery in Seeley Creek or Shappee’s Meat Plant
State Line Hotel now the 1844 House