A History of Clifton, New York

by Helen R. (Mrs. Homer) Emens
January 10, 1963



In writing a paper of this sort, there are many, many people involved. I am so very grateful to all of the wonderful people in Clifton, Churchville, North Chili and Irondequoit who opened their homes to my husband and me. They very graciously offered their tipe, their knowledge, and their hospitality, and were even polite enough to appear to enjoy doing it. I appreciate the many hours my husband spent visiting with me, editing my notes and offering helpful comments. A big thank you must also go to my children who were so very patient and long suffering while Mommie collected material and then wrote what has come in our house to be called "THE PAPER."


A History of Clifton, New York

Near the southwest corner of the Town of Chili, lies spring fed Blue Pond. From this pond, toward the north runs Mill Creek. Several miles north of Blue Pond, on Mill Creek lies a quiet little settlement of some two hundred souls. Many people who have lived in Monroe County all of their lives have never heard of this small village. The houses that nestle along the edge of Mill Creek are formed into the hamlet of Clifton, Clifton was first called Harmonsburg or Harmon's Mills for the mills and other businesses of Anon Harmon. It has several nicknames, such as "Hardscrabble" and "Graball." It was on the old stage coach route and when the postoffice was to be discontinued at North Chill and established at Harmon's Mills in 1850, the name of Clifton was adopted to avoid having another place named Chili.[1] At the present time, it is impossible to buy a loaf of bread or a package of cigarettes in Clifton. It is necessary to travel several miles to make these purchases. You can mail a letter for there is a postoffice and you can buy gasoline or have your car repaired, as there is a garage and filling station. These are the only industries left in this once thriving community. With the exception of the post mistress and the Burdett Brothers who run the garage, all of the working people must travel to Rochester, LeRoy, Batavia, or Caledonia to earn a living. There is still some farming done in this area. At one time, Clifton supported three sawmills, several gristmills, blacksmith shops, a cobbler, a nursery, an apple drying house, a cooperage, a distillery, a foundry, and various other industries. We will examine some of these businesses and try to discover the reasons they are no longer in existence.

Since Clifton came into being because of the Creek and the use made of it for water power, let us look first at the sawmills and gristmills. The first mill was built in 1807 by Joseph Carey north of Clifton.[2] It was located on what is now known as saw mill bend. With the building of a new portion of Morgan Road, the old saw mill bend has been by-passed. This has made the road much safer as the bend was very sharp and many accidents occurred, especially in the winter on this "S" curve. A grist mill was erected the same year, or very soon after, near the same place by Comfort Smith. His sons Hiram and Horace were extensive millers in the same part of the country owning several mills in the Town of Wheatland. In 1811 Jacob Cole built the third mill one and a half miles below Carey's also on Mill Creek.[3]

Anon Harmon was one of twelve children. He came from New Marlborough, Massachusetts with his father Rawson and his brothers and sisters. They settled in the Town of Wheatland in 1811. Rawson purchased three hundred acres of land. When Anon was twenty-eight years old, he and his wife, the former Abigail W. Cheever of Chill, mowed to Clifton. The following year, 1831 he engaged in flour milling and farming. He bought two hundred acres of land and built a home still standing on the Wheatland Center Road.[1] Harry Newman and his wife purchased the house from the Harmon heirs and are living there now. At the First International Exhibition held in the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, Rawson Harmon II, of Wheatland, exhibited thirty-five varieties of wheat grown on his farm at Blue Pond, He received first prize for flour from wheat grown on his farm and ground by Anon Harmon in his Clifton Mill.[1]

This mill has a very interesting history. When Anon Harmon built the mill, it cost $10,000. It was four stories high, the walls were three feet thick. They were built of stone and the inside walls all finished plaster. The first year it was in operation, Anon made enough money to pay for its construction. In order to operate the mill, it was necessary to dig out the mill race and make the tail race after a wooden dam was constructed upstream. When the race was formed there was a twenty-two foot fall of water. The first water wheel was an overshot wooden one. The first years of the mill were busy ones. Some days there were as many as twenty-two teams drawing grain to and from the mill.

The Burr stones with which the grist and flour were ground were imported from France. They were put together with plaster of paris and held in place with iron bands. The plaster of paris was made from lime stone drawn from Garbutt, a village in the Town of Wheatland. This stone was drawn on carts and some of it was ground by one of the mills into stones about pea size, bagged and drawn to the canal for transportation. Some of it was burned in the lime kiln that was located near the woods where George and Mabel Coyle live now. This lime was spread on the farm land for fertilizer. Some of the lime was made into plaster of paris for the Burr stones. Grist could be ground with only one run of stones, but it was necessary to grind flour, using three run of stones. This meant that each succeeding pair of stones must grind the wheat finer.

Joe Sands bought the mill from the Harmon Estate and it is remembered that the backs of his hands were peppered with bits of the Burr stones which had embedded themselves under his skin, when he was chipping them to sharpen them.[4] Owen Thacker, his son-in-law, acquired the mill from Joe. Thacker modernized it. He took out the Burr stones and made an attrition mill. The "stones" were made of steel and stood upright. He took out the old wooden overshot water wheel and replaced it with an eighteen inch turbine wheel which was capable of developing sixty-two horsepower.

By this time most of the wheat was taken to Rochester to be milled and the Clifton mill was used mostly to grind grist, hay and alfalfa meal. Gardner Marsh bought the mill and ran it for a while. In 1922 Lloyd Goosen bought the mill and in 1929 installed hammer mills that ground feed, and an hydraulic press. He pressed apples and grapes that were brought in by the farmers in the surrounding area. He could make three thousand gallons of cider a day. There was one man who bought fifty casks of grape juice and fifty barrels of cider a year. This would make one wonder if he drank this all himself, or if he might possibly have been engaged in an illegal operation. Most of the farmers would put several barrels of cider in their cellars during the fall. This would provide liquid refreshment during the long winter months, and by spring their wives had vinegar to do their pickling.

During the depression they ground alfalfa through two hammer mills. The alfalfa was fed into the first mill in the basement, and then blown by pipe to the second mill on the ground floor. This made a meal almost as fine as wheat flour. The meal was bagged and trucked to Buffalo. It was mixed with the other meal and fed to livestock.[5]

The mill burned in 1934 and was rebuilt by Goosen. He operated it until he sold it to D. D. Davis who has made it into very attractive apartments. Using the water supplied from the mill stream, the water wheel is still able to power an emergency generator in case of power failure. The mill race is still used by the young people of the village. In the summer they use it for swimming and in the winter it makes an ideal place to ice skate.[4]

One of the original mills was later run by Pete Widener. Ted McCreedy and Louis Brown build and ran a saw and grist mill at saw mill bend. A dam had been constructed and a large pond made. Here an undershot wheel was used as there was only a twelve foot fall in the water. Later a twenty-four inch turbine engine was installed in the saw mill which drove a circular saw. In the wood working shop which was run in connection with the saw mill and bending works, ladders, hay racks, and wagon beds were made using a planer and wooden lathe. In 1910 a gasoline engine was installed. This mill used the first cross cut saw. The dam went out, and this mill was closed. Today all that remains of this is a few boards of the wooden structure and some of the gears that were used in the mill. Louie Brown who ran this mill for a while was trained by his father who was an artisan with wood. After the Civil War, Louie's father was called to New York City to build a spiral staircase, because he was the only man in this part of the country who could construct such a thing.[4]

Henry Burdett came to Clifton from England in 1847. He and his wife, Hannah had five sons: William, Henry, Tom, Philip, and James, About 1880 Philip Burdett operated a saw mill. It was run by steam. This was not on the Creek but was located on Clifton Road. The building is still standing today. In 1898 he installed a gasoline engine. Back of the saw mill he operated a dry and steam kiln, where he cut and dried blocks of button, maple and apple wood. These he sold to the Rochester Briar Pipe Company for making smoking pipes. Henry Sands also ran a small saw mill in which he did "custom sawing," cutting lumber to the customers specifications.[6]

In 1885 Philip Burdett, who was always fondly known as "Fip" and Mr. Coons ran a wagon and blacksmith shop on Clifton Road near the present postoffice. "Fip" was quite an inventor. He invented a pruning saw which he patented. It was a pair of snippers at the end of a long handle and operated scissors fashion. He also invented a ladder lock which he did not patent. This invention of his is now used on most fire ladders.[6] Arthur Thompson ran a blacksmith shop where the fire house is now located. Peter Sickles operated a woodworking shop near the same location, Peter Sickles' shop burned in 1908, A blacksmith shop was also operated on saw mill bend near the McCreedy-Brown Mill.[6]

As the woods were cut out, and lumber became more readily available the need for the sawmills declined. As fewer horses were used, the blacksmith no longer was a necessary part of everyday farm life. The invention of the steel plow and the tractor made it unnecessary for many people to continue their businesses, As the old timers died, they were not replaced and as the need for the services of the young men declined they sought employment elsewhere.

In 1889 Fred Burdett built and operated an apple drying house. This was located on the lot to the west of the present postoffice on Clifton Road. This drying house was a large wooden structure, built so the wagons could drive in and unload the apples which were bought from the surrounding farms. Local people, mostly women, were hired to peel, core and slice the apples. Sulphur was used to bleach the apples and insure their staying white before they were sliced. The sliced apples were placed in wooden racks and inserted in the three cone shaped drying kilns. These kilns were heated with coal fires and it took a day and a night to properly dry the apples. After the apples were dried they were put into one hundred pound bags and shipped. In 1907 a gas engine was installed to operate the corers, peelers, and slicers. The apple drying house was used for this purpose until 1921. [6] With the development of apples that kept through the winter, and with the coming of the canning factories, the apple drying houses were no longer needed. This frame building stood until about ten years ago when it was torn down.

The leading industry in Clifton was the Green's Nursery. This company was founded in 1875 by Charles A, Green. It was located on what is known as the Green's Nursery Road. This Road is actually the Chili Riga Townline Road, but has never been referred to as such. This "Garden of Eden" comprised some two-hundred acres and on it were grown all varieties of fruit trees, shade trees, shrubs and berries. Mr. Green was a very good employer. He lived in a large double house and constructed several other double houses for his year round employees. These houses rented for $40.00 a year. They were all located within walking distance of the house and office where the Green family lived.[7]

E. H. Burson was born in 1862 in England and came to Monroe County as a young man in 1880 to live with a cousin, Joe Betteridge. Joe Betteridge lived on Betteridge Road in the cobblestone house that today is occupied by Dick and Alma Stowe and their children, Mr, Burson worked for Joe Betteridge on his farm for a year and then was so enthralled with the nursery business that he went to work for Mr. Green. Mr. Green took a liking to this young man and practically raised him as one of his sons. He moved in with the Greens and lived there until the Greens moved to Rochester, when he was given the right to live in the house. E. H. Burson and Kezia Jane Tilley were married February 12, 1896. To this union were born seven children: Art, Ivor, Horace, Roland, Dick, Helen, and Lucille. Mr. Burson worked as general manager of the Green's nursery for forty-nine years. He saved his money and was able to buy a third interest in the company. The nursery, his church, and his family were his whole life.[7]

During the busy season, as many as one hundred and thirty-five men would come to work at the nursery. They came in the spring and fall from the village of Clifton, Skunk Hollow, the Checkers, and as far as Rochester to work for the Greens. Young people were hired from Clifton to pick berries, help ship and pack the shrubs and do the necessary work to keep such a large organization operating. These people came to work in horse and buggy or walked. For those who drove horses, a stable was provided, so that their horse might be under cover during the day.[7]

A large rooming house was provided for the unmarried workman. Across the road from the rooming house, and south of the packing house, the boarding house, run by Mrs. Musk, afforded three meals a day for these workmen. There were between twenty and twenty-five men who stayed here during the busy season and ate the meals provided by Mrs. Musk.[7]

The Greens lived in the east side of the homestead and John Bacon and his wife lived on the west side. Mrs. Bacon raised poultry and sold chickens and eggs to the employees. Mr. Green always kept a cow and each day, the full time employees would walk to the homestead and get a pail of milk. William Hensby and his wife lived in one side of the double house and Dell West, a bachelor lived in the other side. Mr. West was employed. as a cellar man. In another of the houses provided by Mr. Green, Sam Parr and his wife, Arathusa lived in the north side and Fred Clack, the bookkeeper, lived in the south side. John and Iola Millard lived in still another, and Mr. Cornish and his family the other half of the house. Mr. Millard was in charge of the maintenance, and George Abrey was a helper or handyman. All of these people lived and worked on the nursery grounds year round. The busy times were spring and fall when the planting and packing took place. Chester Widener and Murney Burrows father were key workmen, and in 1918 Ivor Burson was made shipping clerk.[7]

Some of the early root stock was brought from France and planted in the fertile ground of the nursery. There was, as a matter of fact, an order to the Green's nursery on the Lusitania which was sunk in 1915 by a German submarine. The nursery dealt in vines, plants, flowers, shrubbery, grape vines, shade and fruit trees and berry bushes. In the summer the young stock was planted. In July the buds were tied. Budding was done in this manner: around the nursery were rows of trees. These were used for true fruit. Buds or sions were cut from the real root stock, a slash was made in the wild stock and sion inserted and tied with raffia. When the bud took root, the old stock was snipped off, and in this manner you had true stock grafted onto strong wild tree trunks, Allie and Forest Sickles were the main budders. They were able to recognize the good fruit and select choice buds.[7]

In the fall, the main digging took place. There was some packing and shipping but for the most part only digging. They would dig whole blocks of two and three year off trees, bundle and tag them. After they were labeled, they were stored in frost-proof cellars, packed in large bins with excelsior or straw and left until spring. The digger was a big scoop shaped like a U. It was about one foot wide with a plow beam on each side. All of the farmers in the surrounding country would bring their teams and ten teams would be hooked to the digger. The best team being placed at the back near the digger. As the teams pulled and strained, the digger would be pulled under the roots of the trees and they would be loosened from the earth. As they got to the end of a row of trees, the first team would be unhitched, then the second, and so on until only the best team, at the back of the line would be left to pull the digger. The digger would then be turned, and the process begun again, by hitching all ten teams to the digger. This would go on ten hours a day, six days a week, until all the necessary stock had been dug.[7]

In the winter there were ten or fifteen men kept busy working, filling orders from all over the United States. In the spring, there was some individual digging, packing and shipping by express to fill the orders that had come in. A man would take an order, go to the various bins in the packing house, take the number of items needed, bundle and pack for shipping. Some times it was necessary to make substitutions if one item was not in stock. One of the packers, so the story goes, went to the bin for some trumpet vine, sometimes called Dutchman's Pipe, When he found they were all gone he humorously substituted a clay pipe and sent it out in the order. The recipient apparently did not have a very good sense of humor, and sent a complaint to the office. This is one of the few complaints ever received in all the years of the operation of the nursery. The people who worked for the nursery were like a large happy family. The Burson house was like a community center where socials and get togethers of all kinds were held. Mr. Green had founded the business on the needs of the little man. The business had thrived. He advertised extensively, mailing out catalogues to all parts of the country. There were no salesman, just direct selling. After Mr. Green's death some of the heirs decided to become big business men and went into landscaping, using salesmen and high pressure salesmanship tactics. The business started down hill and soon failed. With the demise of the nursery, Clifton lost much of it's livelyhood, and another era passed into oblivion.[7]

At one time on the small creek which is a tributary of the Mill Creek, a cooperage was operated. Here barrels were made for shipping flour from the mill. Near this site there was also a distillery which made use of the excess grain and a foundry to repair the gears and other working parts of the mill. The pipes which ran from the mill race and supplied water to these industries are still in the ground near the house Helen and Dick Jaworski live in. There is no information available on who operated these businesses or the exact years they were active.[6]

The first tavern and stage stop was built about 1811 on the Chili-Spencerport Road, now Union Street, two or three miles south of Buckbee's Corners. It was built by Mr. Streeter. Shortly there after Mr. Orton opened a second tavern across the road.[1] Charley Pfenninger and his family are living in the old Streeter tavern today. This is approximately a mile and a half northeast of Clifton. These taverns served a direct route from both Spencerport and the Checkers, a community some three miles to the east of the village of Clifton.

Clifton was on the direct stage route from Nunda and Olean to Rochester. This would be approximately a one day trip, in good weather. The stage stop and tavern in the village is located on the corner of Clifton Road and Wheatland Center Road. This house has a very interesting history. It was built about 1812 and used as a stage and tavern stop on the Nunda stage line. Not much is known of the house until 1869 when it was owned by Elmer and Abigail Harmon. In I876 it was sold by Amy and Franklin Taft, in 1880 by Edmund Ocumpaugh, in 1885 by Elizabeth Green, in 1890 by Mathias Kramer, in 1904 by Charles and Edward Place and 1908 by Frank Taft. Frank and his wife Emma had a daughter Cora and a son Elmer. The heirs of Cora sold it to the present owners, Bill and Gladys Miller. The Millers have renovated it, tearing out an old double roof, and made a most attractive home of it. When they remodeled it, there was a large room on the south which had been used as a ballroom during stage days and later as a store by the Tafts. When they replaced the door sills, they found some very old coins. One penny, and inch and an eighth in diameter, about the size of our present day quarters, dated 1854. They found several Indian Head pennies, some dimes and small change thought to have been dropped when the room had been used as a store.[8]

In 1880 a railroad was started which was to run between Nunda and Rochester. The grade was to go through Clifton between the cemetery and Mill Creek. The man who was the head of the operation died and in 1909 it was taken over by a syndicate that almost finished it, It was all graded and some of the ties were in place but the rails were laid. The syndicate went broke and it was never completed. As a young man, "Fip" Burdett worked on the grade driving a team of horses. During the work, two teams of horses were lost in the quicksand on the north west corner of Blue Pond. Some of the grade may still be seen today.[6] Some of it has been plowed out by the farmers, some has been razed in building highways. It is interesting to conjure what might have happened to Clifton, had the railroad been completed.

In 1869 Pliny Burrows had a boot and shoemaking shop; in 1900 it was run by Bill Tenny. In 1869 Michael Kelly and William Pfarrer were both blacksmiths and Robert Lame was an allopathic physician.[9]

H. K. Stimmson was born October 11, 1804 at Saratoga Springs, New York. In the winter of 1811-1812, he moved to Genesee County. At that time nearly all west Canandaigua was one vast wilderness. On January 11, 1827 he married Almedia Gifford in Bergen. In January 1845 he went to Wheatland as a Baptist Minister. His Parish included all of Wheatland, Scottsvllle, Mumford, Churchville, and Clifton. The Wheatland church was the first built west of the Genesee River. It was organized in 1811. It's first pastor was Solomon Brown who died in 1813. Jirah Blackmar was the church clerk, and Charles Tenny was the collector. Mr. Stimson says, "Rawson Harmon had become aged and retired from active responsibility. He was a man of great natural force of character. His bugle-voice was yet heard in prayer and exhortation."[10] In June the church burned and in November 1846 a new church was built. In the spring of 1848 Stimson held a meeting of days in an outstation called "Harmons Burgh," now Clifton. It was located in the community that is now known as Belcoda some two and one-half miles south of Clifton. Mr. Stimson relates that he returned to Wheatland to visit and found that a new house had been erected in Clifton. He was asked to preach a dedication sermon at Clifton. In December he became pastor there. There were fifty-two members at the start and by Association Meeting time there were eighty-three. He spent four years at Clifton.[11]

From a 1939 Historical Report of Clifton Baptist Church and Society written by E. H. Burson, we learn: From a printed notice which appeared in the Rochester Herald, issue of February 22, 1926: The first deacons of the church, elected in 1852 were: Charles Tenny, A. Harmon, and A, Hosmer. The first church clerk was William Mudge, one of the pioneers of the town. Services were held in the school house for several years before organization of the church and were conducted by ministers from the neighboring town of Wheatland where a Baptist Church had been organized several years previously.

The Court of Records in Rochester ahows that on the 19th day of February, 1853, Anan Harmon and Abigail, his wife, deeded to the Trustees of the Clifton Baptist Church and Society a certain plot on which the church now stands. The consideration for above is given as $100.00, signed by Edward J. Reed, J.P. Another record of deed dated the 4th day of May 1869 shows that Anan Harmon and Abigail, his wife, deeded to the Trustees of the Clifton Church additional land for the consideration of $400.00.

The church structure was erected in 1853, or 1854 and cost with its grounds about $4000.00. The first pastor, A. K. Stimson received the munificent salary of $500.00 per year. During his second year as pastor one of the greatest revivals in the history of the town took place. The church grew rapidly and in 1868 extended a call to Rev. J. T. Seeley, at a salary of $1200.00. Forty-three new members were baptized that year. During his six years as pastor, he raised $4000,00 to pay for the erection of a parsonage near the church. From 1874 to 1883 the church was supplied mainly by students from the Rochester Theological Seminary. In 1883 the Rev. Mr. Starkweather was pastor and in 1886 Rev. E. F. Smith became the regular pastor and met with marked success. In September 1892, Rev. W. T, Taylor was called, and served the church for three years. He was succeeded early in 1895 by Rev. John Bispham who remained two years. In March 1898, Rev. Spencer Fisher was called, and was with the church two years. Early in 1900 the church called as its pastor the Rev. W. K. Towner. On March 4th, 1903, resolutions were adopted by the church to remodel the building, the committee in charge of the work consisted of Irving Heffer, Henry Widener, William Humphrey, John Bacon, and Jacob Widener, and the work successfully carried forward. In the fall of 1903 very impressive services were held at the laying of the corner stone of the present building, this corner stone being at the northwest corner of the edifice.[12]

March 4, 1904, the rededication services of the church were held. These services lasted three days. In the autumn of 1904 a meeting of the Monroe County Baptist Association was held at the church, During Rev. Mr. Towner's pastorate thirty-nine persons united with the church. In May 1905, R. J. Callowy assumed the pastor's duties. In 1906 a student, Rev, H. C. Scott served the church. There have been a total of twenty-three settled or resident pastors.

When the church was remodeled in 1900 a new heating system was installed, gas lights were put in, new seats and new stained glass windows were installed, When all the minor debts incidental to the remodeling had been settled up there was still a mortgage of $2000.00 and this was paid by the Ladles Aid Society and the mortgage burned during a special service.

The Ladies Aid Society was organized in 1901. Mrs. W. K. Towner was the first chairman. They have always been very active and have helped pay up debts and keep the church in repair.[12]

From 1952 history of the church we further learn: In the year of our Lord 1941, one of the greatest, if not the greatest personality pillars of the church left us for greater service in the kingdom of Heaven. As officially stated in the church minutes: "In the death of our brother, Mr. E. H. Burson, we feel both church and community have sustained a great loss. He was one who was ever ready to help. For many years he served as a most efficient member of the choir, in both church and Sunday School. He was one everyone enjoyed listening to, and is greatly missed by our church.[13] Mr. Burson in his life's service in the church has set a goal for all members of the church and community.

Rev. Lawrence Janssen was pastor from 1943 to 1945. During this time the present shrubbery was planted around the church. In 1948 Glen Rockcastle, a layman, living in Rochester served as pastor. During this time the insurance company demanded that the church sheds be repaired or torn down. These sheds were ninety-six feet long and were built to accommodate horse and buggy. Because they were no longer needed it was decided to tear them down. In 1950, Rev. Robert T. Bobb served the church for two years. It is believed that he established a record for recent years in serving fourteen area families in time of sorrow.[13]

A review of the church records for the past one hundred years shows that the discipline of the early church was much more strict than that of later years. Some of the minutes recorded different members were taken to task for profanity, card playing, dancing, and varied pastimes that in those days were confined to sinful. Several members were dismissed from the church for attending dances. Not until the year 1903, was anyone allowed to commune at the Lord's Table in the church except those who had been baptized by immersion.

For many years a covenant meeting was held Saturday afternoon, at which time the church covenant was always read, and the Christian experiences of the different members were related. Later, this was combined with the Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday evening prayer meetings.

Until the new heating plant was installed, it was necessary during the winter months to hold church services in the Sunday School room. After the heating plant was installed and storm windows placed over the stained glass windows, they could again hold services in the Sanctuary.[13]

In recent years, the church has declined in direct proportion to the village. The Ladies Aid is still active and there is still a minister employed from the Divinity School, The present minister is Rev. James A. Marvin. He and his family live in the parsonage and hold services each Sunday, The average attendance is about fifty. Each fall they hold a roast beef dinner that is delicious and very well attended. They usually serve about five hundred dinners. This dinner is a means of raising money to help defray the expenses of the church.[14]

The origin of a Fire Department in the village of Clifton, which in 1935 became known as the Clifton Fire Department, Inc. began on March 1st, 1932. At that time a meeting of the village and community had been called in the hall over the postoffice for the purpose pf organizing a fire company, to be known as Company Number 4 of the Chili Fire Department.

Walter Wickens called the meeting to order and after introductory remarks, turned the meeting over to J. K. Steeves, Chief of the Chili Fire Department, who explained the ways of forming the Company. After a general discussion it was unanimously voted to form a company.

The following men signed applications for Active Membership; Wallace Coyle, Samuel Frazier, Harry Newman, Charles Emens, Lloyd Burdett, Fred Wickins, Sherman Fisher, John Wickins, George Porter, William J. Heffer, James Hensby, George Coyle, William J. Horton, and Emery Burdett, with Lloyd Goosen and Charles Burrows who were already members of the Chill Fire Department, to be transferred to the active list of Company Number 4. Alfred Tilley, Aubrey Soverign, O. Hendrickson, William Betteridge, Walter Wickins, and Fred Sherman applied for Social Membership. Merle Allen, Charles Heffer, and William W. Heffer also signed applications but did not complete their obligations by paying the initiation fees and dues of $5.00. Officers elected to act for Company Number 4 were: Battalion Chief, Lloyd Burdett; Captain, Lloyd Goosen, and Lieutenant, Sherman Fisher.

About the first of June 1932 the property of Charles Purdy, which included the land on which the Fire House stands together with the house and lot adjoining it on the north was purchased for $1200,00. Permission was given by Mr. Purdy to start alterations and repairs before the property was transferred. Enough had been done and electricity installed so that the last part of June a strawberry and ice cream festival was held on the lawn and a net profit of $41.95 was realized. This was the first revenue to the company with the exception of dues. The repairs progressed rapidly and August 1, 1932 Duane Fellows moved in as a tenant at $15.00 a month rent. All work having been donated, even the wiring by James Vorheis and the patering by N. F. Corucher. The transfer of the property was made August 24,1932.

On the third Saturday of August 1932 the first carnival was held, netting a total of $180.95.

On October 20, 1932, a barn which is now the main part of the Clifton Fire House was purchased from W. I. Tenny for $300,00 and on October 24th and 25th was moved to its present location by Mr. Heins of Leroy for $75,00 and nearly all of the members of the company donated their help. Money for the purchase of the barn was obtained by a note with the State Bank of Churchville with eight members of the company signing the note, The barn vas repaired and remodeled enough so that the first dance was held March 14, 1933 and was such a success that they were held every two weeks for some time after.

On April 11, 1933, the first fire truck of the company, in fact the first of any of the Chill Departments, was purchased through J. K. Howard of the Sanford Fire Apparatus Company for $40.00. The money was raised by subscription in the community of usually one dollar each. Charlie Emens went door to door one Sunday afternoon and raised the bulk of the money. A few weeks later Mr. Howard purchased for the Company for $30,00, two forty gallon chemical tanks, a hose reel and one hundred and fifty feet of chemical hose, which made the apparatus usable as a chemical truck.

On January 31st 1934 the property was divided and the house and lot was sold to Duane Fellows for $1125.00 leaving approximately half of the original lot for the fire house.

May 7, 1934 a Reo Fire Truck with a three hundred gallons Hale pump was purchased from J. K. Howard for $325.00, The chemical tanks were removed and a booster tank built and installed together with hose and ladders to make it a very efficient piece of apparatus though old and out of date. From 1932 to 1935 there were ten alarms of fire answered, all minor fires except two. About 7 P.M, on the evening of February 27, 1934 with the thermometer about ten below zero, fire was discovered in Lloyd Goosen's mill. It had gained such headway when discovered, and having no pumper at that time it was totally destroyed, saving only a few bags of feed, During the dance on April 13, 1934, which was the largest ever held in the fire house with over three hundred paid admissions, fire was discovered in George Porter's barn in the rear of the fire house. That too had such a start it was totally destroyed.

At the October 1934 meeting it was decided to present a petition to the Chill Fire Department, Inc. to withdraw the membership from the Chili Department and incorporate under the name of the Clifton Fire Department, Inc. The petition was presented and permission granted providing Company Number 4 pay to the Chili Department $50.00 which had been paid to Company 4 from the Corporation treasury plus $17,40 for the badges which they had ordered for Company Number 4, This matter was agreeably settled and Seth Widener as Attorney proceeded with Corporation proceedings and at the proper time had property deeded to the Clifton Fire Department, Inc.

The Clifton Fire Department was incorporated and chartered on February 15, 1935 and the first meeting and by-laws were adopted March 4, 1935.[15]

About 1946 a Ladies Auxiliary was formed. Uniforms were purchased and the women marched in parades for several years. The Auxiliary is still in existence, though the ladies no longer march in parades.

The Clifton Fire Department is a very active one. The men are well trained and know their jobs. When they are called to a fire they go about their business in a very orderly manner and soon the blaze is under control. They are to be commended on the splendid job they do. They have a Roast Beef Dinner in the spring of the year. It is prepared by virtually the same people who do the church dinner, and is equally well attended.

Very little is known about the early schools. There was a stone school house on Morgan Road on the farm property now owned by Charles Bartle. This school was probably in operation as early as 1870, It is known that Mr. Frank Tweedy attended this school and he was born in 1864.[16] At one time there was an octagonal shaped wooden school on Hosmer Road on the farm now owned by John Oachs. [6] In later years, about 1900 a school was built in the village on Clifton Road. This school served eight grades. Some of the early teachers were Miss O'Brien, Miss Hoag, and Mr, Gatenbee. The story goes that one day Mr. Gatenbee ripped his pants, one of the boys laughed at him and was switched for being fresh.[17] This school operated until recent times at eighth grade level. Mrs. Grace Burdett, Emery's wife, was the teacher for some years. The graduates attended either Scottsville or Caledonia High School. The youngsters of Clifton now attend Caledonia schools from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. All of the written records of the school have been destroyed, so very little information is available.

The first store was erected on 1807 by James Chapman in the west part of Chili, about one and one-half miles east and north of Clifton Village.[2] This would place it someplace between saw mill bend and the Streeter Tavern.[2] The stores were usually operated in connection with the postoffice. The first post master of Clifton was Edward A. Cone, He was appointed in June 1849. In August of that same year William R. Mudge became post master. He served until 1855 when George Arrowsmith was appointed. In March 1857 James H. Hoare became postmaster, and in 1860 Eleanor E. Howard. Mr. Howard ran the postoffice in connection with a general store. He was in the postoffice until 1883 Elmer Harmon took the job. In 1886 Jacob Widener was made postmaster and also ran a store. This was located where Gordon and Helen Montgomery live on the Wheatland Center Road. At this time, Earl Pitts was operating a store and Amy Taft was operating a notions store where the old stage stop was located. She sold only ribbons, candy and small goods. Some one has said she was open on Sunday morning and some of the money intended for the collection plate was spent for candy on the way to Sunday School,

In 1889 Edwin Sickles became postmaster, in 1893 Elmer Oliver and in 1884, Benjamin Smith.[18] In August 1898 George Homer Emens and his wife Mattie were appointed to serve the Clifton postoffice. George's daughter, Wilma Bach can remember when she and her five brothers and sisters would stamp the Green's Nursery catalogues which were mailed in the spring.[17]

During this time, it was very common for the children to take a hen's egg to the store and exchange it for some candy. When Jake Widener ran the general store, he had a man who drove a horse and wagon around the country-side selling needles and thread, molasses, kerosene and general items that would be used every day. This made it unnecessary for a dally trip to the store. About this time, Peddler Clark would drive his red spring wagon from Moran Street in Rochester and go from house to house. He carried a greater variety of goods than Jake sent out. Peddler Clark carried yard goods, lace, lamps, lanterns, milk pails, hook and eyes, and various other items. His arrival was looked for with great expectation, particularly by the children.[17]

In 1915 Oliver Boyce became postmaster and in 1925 William and Abbie Heffer. They ran a store in connection with the postoffice which was still operating in the late 1940's. This building is still standing, though boarded up and not in use. It is located north of the old stage stop. Lyle Miller was made postmaster in 1940, Bordon Montgomery in 1946, his wife Helen in 1947, and Ethel Smith, Wayne Smith and August Bott between 194? and 1949.[18] In 1950 Lois Emens, granddaughter of G. Homer was made postmistress. In 1953 she married John Chapman and is still acting postmistress. The postoffice is located in the home of G. Homer and Mattie lived in and later Charles and his wife Mary and their children.

Around 1900 Charly Burrows ran a meat market named "The Red Onion," Nick Oachs, Tom Newman, Charley Burrows and Lloyd Burdett all ran the store that Jake Widener had run.[8] It is said that one of the storekeepers was a bit close with a penny and would break a cracker in two in order to make an even pound. Most of these stores were operated during the era of the open cracker barrels the pickles in the kegs of brine and the ice house in connection with the store.

The ice was usually cut on Blue Pond and drawn to the ice house by sled. The ice was packed in saw-dust in the insulated houses and usually kept until late fall.

Sid Hosmer drew milk from Hosmer Road to the City Hospital each day during the early 1900's. He lived where Jim and Mary Sackett live now. Rain or shine, each morning he would set out with his wagon or sled, depending on the weather with his load of milk. He had a very large ice house, for the milk must be kept cool during the long trip. This was a daily trip, usually taking most of the day to complete the round trip.[17]

During the early 1900's there were no Doctors nearer than Mumford, Churehvllle, or Scottsvllle, Mattie Emens was usually called until the Doctor could be summoned. She was a midwife and was also able to lay out the dead for burial.[17] She probably delivered as many children as the Doctors did.

The young people of Clifton had as much fun as any youngsters of that day. They turned ice cream cranks and had ice cream socials. In the fall they had pumpkin pie socials and husking bees. One husking bee was held in the church. The boy who could husk the most corn was given all the husks. They threw the husks in the baptistry and it took the winner several days to carry all of the husks home. There were dancing lessons at Chill Station. Every Friday night they went to parties. These were held in the different homes. In the winter they rode sleighs. They played party games, such as the Virginia Reel, and also postoffice. Almost everyone attended Church on Sunday morning and Christian Endeavor on Sunday night, A real big Sunday afternoon was spent walking to the cemetery, sitting on the wrought iron benches and looking for four-leaf clovers.[17] Quilting bees were held and it was very exciting when the traveling seamstress came to stay for a week or two and make new clothes for the family.

In the early 1930's there was surplus of buggies and a shortage of money for entertainment. The more daring young men would find a spare buggy, remove the top and the fill of the buggy, attach a rope to the axle and guide the buggy from Harry Newman's at the top of the hill, down Wheatland Center Road, around the curve, past the fire house toward saw mill bend...stopping when they hit something solid. Sometimes the wheels broke and the boys went tumbling out...sometimes they failed to make the curve at all and ran into the porch of the store Abbie and Will Heffer ran.[5]

The hamlet of Clifton has never been incorporated. It is not even a village. There are no Town officers. At one time "Fip" Burdett was endearingly referred to as the mayor, hut this was an honorary title, not an elective one. Clifton is held together by the fierce loyalty of the inhabitants. Most of the present day residents are descendants of the early settlers. The names, Hosmer, Heffer, Coyle, Emens, Sickles, Widener, Betteridge, and Burdett still appear on the area mail boxes. Clifton is peopled by wonderful salt-of-the-earth people who would do anything in the world for you. The young people marry and many of them stay in the village. Some live in the apartments, made into the homes of their parents, some build new homes, but they never stray very far from their home town.

The community spirit is of the highest caliber. If a job needs to be done, everybody pitches in and works very hard. This is the secret to Clifton's continuing existence, Clifton will never become a ghost town as so many small towns do. The closeness and cooperation are too deeply ingrained for these people to ever allow Clifton to disappear from the face of the earth.



  1. Ruth McFee, A Visit to Points of Interest in the Town of Chili from the Time of Early Settlement to Recent Years, p. 7.
  2. Ensign and Everts, History of Monroe County, New York, 1877, p. 197.
  3. ibid., p. 198.
  4. Lloyd Goosen, Personal Interview, November 26, 1962.
  5. Homer Emens, Personal Interview, November 26, 1962.
  6. Emery and Lloyd Burdett, Personal Interview, November 18, 1962.
  7. Ivor Burson, Personal Interview, December 15, 1962.
  8. Gladys Miller, Personal Interview, December 28, 1962.
  9. Hamilton Child (ed.), Gazeteer and Business Directory of Monroe County, New York, 1869 - 1870.
  10. H. K. Stimson, From the Stage Coach to the Pulpit, p. 191.
  11. ibid., p. 220.
  12. E. H. Burson, 1939 Historical Report of Clifton Baptist Church and Society.
  13. Alameda Anderson, 1952 History of Clifton Baptist Church.
  14. Glenna Eggleston, Personal Interview, December 16, 1962.
  15. Lloyd Burdett, Historical Notes of the Clifton Fire Department on file with the Secretary of the Fire Company.
  16. Alene Potter, History of Chili, Hew York.
  17. Wilma Emens Bach, Personal Interview, November 30, 1962.
  18. Letter from General Services Administration National Archives and Records Service, Washington, 15 D. C., Signed Jane Smith.


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