Allegany County’s history is a colorful one, to say the least. From our Native American heritage; to Seneca Oil Spring, the site of the first oil discovery on the North American continent; to the rich agricultural legacies, including the grange, the dairymen’s league and cheese factories; to the claim that we are the actual birthplace of the Republican Party. If you are in search of history, you’ll find there’s a great deal of it to be discovered here in Allegany County.


Town Websites

For a brief description of Allegany Town origins, please click on the names in the list below. If you have any questions, please feel free to email Craig Braack, County Historian at tourism@alleganyco.com.


Historical Tidbits

  • Cuba Oil Spring will reward the reflective visitor who can take a moment to appreciate the humble beginnings of an industry that has made fortunes and influenced the course of nations for the past century.
  • Friendship was first settled in 1805.
  • In the mid-1800s Friendship’s Baxter University was the first school of music in the country.
  • Alfred was named after King Alfred of England.
  • Angelica is named after the sister-in-law of Alexander Hamilton; Angelica Schuyler.
  • Built in 1856, Cuba Lake was at that time known as the world’s largest man-made body of water.
  • Wellsville was originally called “Gis-To-Quat.”Later it was called Genesee and finally Wellsville in 1872. In the 1930s, Wellsville had more millionaires for its population than any other town in the U.S. Much of the county dodged the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s, because of the steady work provided by the local oil-fields.
  • Independence was once called Green Corners. The New York and Pennsylvania Railroad’s only depot in the county was in Whitesville, in the town of Independence.
  • Wellsville’s most important industry of the mid-1800s was tanbark used to dye leather.
  • The Genesee River is one of only five rivers North America that flow North. Genesee is an Indian translation of Je-Nis-Hi-Yah meaning beautiful valley or pleasant banks,”
  • The towns of Genesee and Bolivar once had a trolley line that ran to Olean.
  • Frank Gannett, who built one of the largest newspaper empires in the world began his career in Bolivar, and it was the local Bolivar bank that gave him the “handshake” loan he used to buy his first paper.
  • The first permanent white settler in the county was Nathaniel Dyke in Elm Valley (near Andover). The year was 1795. Andover was first called Bakerstown. The Native American inhabitants often followed the Ohio River south to winter quarters, rarely staying for the winter months.
  • The place called Tip-Top in Alfred is the highest point on the Erie Railroad. There is a local story about a railroad workman whose ghost haunts Tip Top.
  • Friendship was the home of the world famous Gorton Minstrels in the mid-late 1800s. There is a display of Gorton memorabilia in the Friendship Public Library.
  • Friendship is said to have been called Bloody Corners because the inhabitants fought a lot (The new name is more optimistic)
  • The Bath-Olean turnpike connected by land the Susquehanna River Watershed with the Allegany River headwaters near Olean. Thousands of settlers travelled this route in the early and mid-1800’s, including the Ingalls family of “Little House on the Prairie” fame, who lived in Cuba before moving west.
  • Seneca Oil Spring is the site of the first-oil discovered in North America. It was known by the Seneca’s as Gah-Nooks. It is now a park, and open to visitors.
  • The Belfast Bridge actually in Caneadea was built in 1906 and spanned 3,121 feet. It was tom down in 1981, though some concrete abutments are still visible from state route 19. Belfast was first named Orrinsburg, then Buttsville, Huddle, Podunk, Poland and Portland. Finally, Judge John McKean suggested the name of his hometown of Belfast in Ireland.
  • The Genesee Valley Canal operated from the 1840s until 1878. It connected Rochester on the Erie Canal with Olean on the Allegheny River. Cuba Lake was built as a water supplier and was the highest point on the canal. The old canal bed is now being developed as a greenway.
  • New Hudson was originally named Haight, after General Samuel Haight who promised to donate 100 acres in exchange for the honor. The occupants reneged on the deal, and changed the name in 1837. Much of the town is a state wildlife refuge.
  • Almond’s first settlers were Scottish and named their town after the River Almond in Scotland. Another version of the naming of the town is that Almond received its name when a young boy passed out a plate of almonds during an early town meeting.
  • John L. Sullivan trained in Belfast for the “last great-bare knuckle’ fight” in 1889. The town remembers with an annual celebration in July.
  • The town of Allen was named after the hero of the Battle for Fort Ticonderoga, Ethan Allen.
  • Birdsall was named after Judge John Birdsall. It has 232 inhabitants, according to the 1990 census.
  • Allegany County is the only county in the state to be acquired from 3 major land tracks: The Holland Land Company, Morris Reserve and The Phelps and Gorham Purchase.
  • Allegany is an Algonquan word possibly named after an ancient tribe of Indians known as the Allegwei, meaning Long River.
  • Narcissa Prentice, the first white woman to cross the Rockies, was married in Angelica in 1836. There is a monument to her in Prattsburg, in Steuben County.