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Sinclairville — Est. 1809

February 5, 2010
Observer Today
The village of Sinclairville, was originally named Sinclearvile in honor of Major Samuel Sinclear, one of the town of Charlotte’s earliest settlers. In 1809, Sinclear purchased a lot in an area that is now part of the intersection of Water and Park streets.

Sinclear came from a military family. Born in 1762, at Nottingham, New Hampshire, his childhood was cut short, when at the age of 14, he entered the army. Before an honorable discharge on his 18th birthday, he had been involved in several battles and had fought Indians in Pennsylvania and New York.

In 1810, Sinclear was joined by his wife, Fanny and her children Obed and John Edson and Fanny Edson. Some years later, the Edson brothers would establish the first stage runs from Fredonia to Jamestown, routes that eventually would be extended by Obed to Warren, Pa. The community was renamed Sinclairville in 1869, however the village was not incorporated until 1887.

Sinclairville has operated its own water system since 1899, when a gravity system, developed by George Cowen was sold to the village for the sum of $7,000. In 1908, a franchise was let to Alfred Huntington who developed an electrical lighting system powered by Mill Creek. in the mid-1920s, the operation was sold to the Niagara, Lockport & Ontario Power Co.

From 1850 to 1860, slaves following an escape route from Sugar Grove to Jamestown, used the village as a station of the Underground Railroad. From Jamestown, the escapees would go to Lake Erie, where they were transported by boats to Canada.

In 1865, Ashel Burnham opened a large cheese factory in the village, a factory recognized as the largest in the state. During the first year of operation, it was reported that Burnham produced 7,250 cheeses, each weighing 60 pounds.

The Sinclairville Fair, featuring a $4,000 race track, bicycle track, grandstand, and animal exhibits, attracted record crowds from 1875 to 1885. By 1870, Sinclairville was a prosperous community claiming four churches, 15 stores, about 100 homes and places of business, an hotel, two grist mills, two tanneries, three sawmills, two steam planing mills, and factories producing cheese, rakes, carriages and brooms.

The community was one of the first in Chautauqua County to establish its own library. Organized in 1835, the Sinclairville Circulating Library offered 125 books, at a time when such collections were rare for a small muncipality. In 1870, the Sinclairville Library Association was founded by the Rev. E. P. McElroy, who donated his private library of 185 volumes and contributed $25.

On Dec. 12, 1894, the library was chartered a free library under the State Board of Regents. Known since as the Sinclairville Free Library, it was the second free library in the county, preceded only by Jamestown’s James Prendergast Library.

For more than a century, the library was moved from one location to another. Finally, in 2000 five years after the library’s 125th anniversary a new $400,000 library center was completed, a construction project made possible by grants, numerous contributions from individuals and many local fund-raisers.



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