Prior to 1868, the Village of Ellicottville was the county seat, but the presence of a railroad line in Little Valley prompted a move. The Village of Little Valley was incorporated in 1876. The railroad line shut down around 1990.
The Little Valley post office, Case Brothers Cutlery, the Civil War Memorial Building, and Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds have all been added to the National Register of Historic Places and honored with historic signage by the Pomeroy Foundation.Several other buildings in town will soon also be honored with this distinction, including Hughes Hotel (originally "The Burrell House" and later Ceil's Hotel) and American Legion Post 531 (originally the home of Andrew Jackson Case known as "Robins Roost"). If you love history, Little Valley is for you!
"Throughout the whole valley called ‘Little Valley’ the eye and attention are deeply interested, and the exclamation ‘Look! Look!’ was constant.” L.H. Everts, 1879 - History of Cattaraugus Co., New York
Ira Joe Fisher, a daytime television personality and weather reporter, spent most of his childhood in Little Valley.
Long known as “Little Forest” among the Seneca, north-south passage with fresh water year-round, fertile land with gentle hills and ample game, Little Valley’s potential was realized after America’s independence. John Green and Benjamin Chamberlain and “two others” were our first white settlers, briefly camping along a small creek in the valley. The unbroken wilds of western New York were named “Perry” in honor of Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, hero of the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. Prior, the township of Perry was known as “Slabtown.” Little Valley’s moniker is more obvious and, with the British burning both Washington D.C. and Buffalo during the War of 1812, western New York was forcibly abandoned. Afterward, Luther Stewart and David Powers arrived in Little Valley and remained, the latter building a saw-mill. Others followed. In April 1818, Little Valley was officially detached from Perry and included the present towns of Leon, Conewango, Randolph, Coldspring, Napoli, New Albion, Mansfield, Salamanca and Red House. A vast region encompassing most of Cattaraugus County – “Cattaraugus” meaning “bad smelling banks” in Seneca due to the natural gas leaking from local creeks and rock formations – Little Valley is ever-reminded of its abundance. Ten millennia ago, this region was covered by ice a hundred feet thick, what or whom came before erased by glaciers and grating stone. Mastodon were home here, their big bones later unearthed and bringing cries of “Giants!” Goliath and proof of Biblical floods in North America! More curious are the works of our earlier inhabitants. Along route 242 to Randolph, at Narrows Road, stood a massive three-tiered Hopewell Mound, circa 800AD; behind Dobbins Park, due north of Little Valley, an ancient fort laid claim the high point off Kahler Hill Road, deep trenches daring attack. Both the mound and fort were lost, by a farmer’s need for more land and a recent logging contract with no respect for our elders. Mercifully, our first resident still remains, purposely placed facing southwest (location purposely omitted to deter disturbance), interred by an unknown fellow explorer, a grieving friend perhaps, some 5,000 years ago. The Seneca, “Keepers of the Western Door” for the Iroquois Confederacy, swept the region a thousand years ago, a Democratic empire extending from Quebec to Illinois. The Seneca never surrendered, and wrested treaties with George Washington in 1794, only to have them amended over and over until their sacred Allegany homelands were soon limited to a small portion of Little Valley and the Cattaraugus Territory near Gowanda. And Little Valley bloomed, cheese and dairy and logging serving a population of 484 by 1820. Simeon Smead, who built the first frame house in Little Valley, became its first town supervisor in 1824. The Freewill Baptist Church held its first mass in 1826, quickly followed by the First Congregational Church then the Methodists. The first Cattaraugus County fair was held in 1842, and Horace Howe opened the first store in 1850. Then Howe added a water-powered mill on Little Valley Creek on Mill Street and bought the saloon of Benjamin Fuller, where Howe allowed Lutherans to congregate until they raised a church. Howe also hosted the Little Valley Odd Fellows Lodge until 1852, when he quit and ejected all Odd Fellows from his saloon, “destroying its property and proceeding to other extreme acts, which created intense excitement and much bitter feeling.” Undeterred, the Odd Fellows regrouped, built their own lodge, as Horace Howe promptly joined and hosted the competing Masonic Lodge in his saloon until they secured a hall in Salamanca in 1875. After much lobbying, the Erie Railroad chose Little Valley for passage, the official station stop, with tracks laid and service starting in 1851. At the time, Ellicottville was the County Seat, and calls rose for it to cede to Little Valley, made official in 1868. As the Civil War exploded, enlistment officers didn’t consider Cattaraugus County capable of raising its own regiment, so boys rode or walked to Elmira to join the fight. “My name is Joseph W. Lockwood. I was born on September 9, 1840. I was peacefully engaged in farming, when the war broke out between the states.” wrote just one of western New York’s many young volunteers. Little Valley boys would leap into the fray, with Henry Van Aernam Fuller and Joseph Charlesworth both joining New York’s 64th in Elmira and seeing furious action in the Seven Days of the Peninsula campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg then Gettysburg. There, Charlesworth was struck in the head by cannon shell and somehow survived, while Fuller’s body was later recovered at Little Round Top. “The Hardtack Regiment” only cemented the fervor and bravery of the county, as the 154th New York was mustered in Jamestown on September 24, 1962, took heavy losses at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, then marched with Sherman through Atlanta onto Savannah. Of the 1,065 men who mustered into the 154th, only one-third saw the end of America’s bloody fratricide. Little Valley Rural Cemetery filled rapidly after being founded in 1862. War over, business could fully commence. Little Valley Cheese-Factory, Larabee Creamery and Cheese-Factory, and Little Valley Creamery soon opened, demanding nearly 20,000 total pounds (over 2,300 gallons) of milk per day! The train required lodging and food for visitors, salesmen and new arrivals, and Little Valley soon had three hotels: The opulent New Palace Hotel (which still stands on the corner of Court and Main), the “adequate” Burrell House (Hughes Hotel now) and, in a pinch, Drew’s Hotel. Howe’s saloon also offered rooms on the quick; after it burned in 1866, J. Gano built a splendid establishment named “The Rock City Hotel.” Did Lincoln sleep there? If the Rock City Hotel wasn’t built until after 1866, why do so many believe Abraham Lincoln slept there? He didn’t - Sorry! The owner of the Rock City Hotel during the 1950s was John Lincoln (no relation) who jokingly (and wisely) placed a sign reading “Lincoln Slept Here.” It was the truth, but not Abraham. If he ever did visit Little Valley then this story gets strange. The odd story of the arrival of a tall man during a snowstorm in the late 1850s persists. As told by locals who swore to their accounts (though most were second-hand): Congressman Abraham Lincoln was traveling from New York City to his home in Springfield, Illinois, when a blizzard stalled his train. Seeking shelter, Lincoln found a warm fire in either the Gano House or, more probably, Howe House (the saloon). Levi Godding, who lived across from the “hotel” at the time, was “spellbound by this man” who was “the center as the entertainer with his ready wit and delightful stories.” Only after the snow cleared and train departed the next day did Godding wonder who the strange visitor had been -- For years, until seeing images of the Republican presidential candidate and declaring, “That is the man I heard talk in the hotel that night.” The story became lore, however confused by location, time, other Lincolns… So, when finding where Abraham Lincoln slept, it may be where the Rock City Hotel stood from 1866-1993, though its earlier incarnation as a saloon. Or, nearby, in the building that housed John Weed Insurance Agency, later Ross Agency, a structure known to exist in the 1850s, and also owned by Horace Howe. Either way, you’re within feet of a great story and only Abe knows its truth! John Manley, S.S. Marsh, David Chase, Benjamin Winship and Edward Bryant led Little Valley’s growth. From dry goods to millinery, fine furnishings, “Little Forest” was by then felled and the logging industry waning, replaced by new employers. Kellogg Washing Machine Company operated beside the railroad tracks and William Wilson added butcher knives to his horseshoe and carriage repair business on 4th Street. The Cattaraugus Republican newspaper moved to Little Valley, with a remarkable total circulation of 30,000, and the Little Valley Hub started printing in 1881. A county courthouse and jail were built. The Union Free School system was established, operating six single-room schoolhouses throughout the region, employing five teachers with a total payroll of $1,721, featuring 175 volumes of books and 120-180 pupils, depending whether winter, planting or harvest season. Seizing the moment, women came to the fore, forming the Little Valley Political Equity Club, led by Mrs. Lee, Emma Brown, Ida Bedient, Almira Hall and A.W. Reed. One of the earliest Suffragist movements, they would demand fair wages, education, limit child labor, and supervise elections, though it would be decades until they could cast a vote. 1875 would witness the first but certainly not last death of a husband by a wife. “Murder Hill” was borne: Charles Wimple poisoned by his young wife Emma with the aid of farmworker Nelson Cool atop Fish Hill, between Little Valley and Ellicottville. Decades later, another farmer’s wife would poison her family, enter town center and declare to her lover that she was now free to openly date. Don’t mess with Little Valley’s ladies! Little Valley was on the verge of a new era, with J.B.F. Champlin raising the largest building in town in 1882 to serve “all faiths” as well as his imported cutlery jobbing company. A salesman since the Civil War, J.B.F Champlin & Son had offices in the Opera House, modest production and shipping below, as well as a large concert space above. Renaming his business Cattaraugus Cutlery and incorporating in 1889, and set to commence the manufacture of knives in Little Valley, J.B.F. Champlin fatefully included his brothers-in-law W.R., Jean, John D. and Andrew Jackson Case in the company. The industry and region would never be the same. High above Mill Street, a massive trench was dug in 1890, intended as a reservoir for the new water-powered Cattaraugus Cutlery factory below. But the reservoir leaked, adequate power scant; even worse Champlin reported that “business is very unsatisfactory.” High tariffs on imported cutlery had threated Champlin’s jobbing business, forcing him to manufacture domestically, but now the toll of tariffs was being felt: An economic depression hit America hard in 1893. Undeterred, Champlin adapted, expanded. A new factory was planned beside the railroad tracks and Champlin traveled extensively, recruiting masters from Germany and England, poaching talent from failing cutlery companies in Connecticut and the Hudson Valley. Returning from one trip to Europe, Champlin met George Korn, who manufactured straight razors in Chicago. Using the long oceanic passage to twist Korn’s ear, Champlin convinced Korn to move his operations to Little Valley. Geo. W. Korn Razor Manufacturing was soon open alongside the railroad tracks, beside Cattaraugus Cutlery’s 2nd factory. New York Governor Teddy Roosevelt visited Little Valley and spoke at the Cattaraugus County fair in 1899, regaling 15,000 with his speech titled “This Nation.” Little Valley was the kind of town that Roosevelt would like: Enterprising but rugged, refined yet offering fine hunting and a frontier spirit. Little Valley’s overall makeup was indelibly altered: 10% of the population soon worked in the manufacture of cutlery, with immigrants named Memmott and Whitmore, Schmidt and Gierhart garnering praise for Little Valley’s high-quality offerings. Entire families of masters moved to western New York: Platts and Crandall, Reed, Brown and Burrells joined the industry, and soon, intermarriages made for the most peculiar American dynasty. Case Brothers officially started producing knives at 410 Fair Oak Street in 1900. Charles Platts and his sons had helped launch Cattaraugus Cutlery, then left to found their own concern in nearby Gowanda. Jean Reed’s Bison Manufacturing offered hones and strops, the Brown brothers sold straight razors on Erie Street, eventually forming Union Cutlery Co. in Olean (better known as KA-BAR today), while others made product boxes… As the cutlery industry reinvented Little Valley, this one town soon dominated American knife-making. Blood is thicker than water. And then there’s cold, hard, cash. The dozens of brothers, sisters, cousins and in-laws soon started feuding over the knife business. By 1901, Elliott and Dean Case would leave Case Brothers to start Standard Knife only yards away on Fair Oak Street, which soon failed after Elliott contracted typhus on a sales trip and died. In 1902, Russ Case also left Case Brothers to form W.R. Case & Son Cutlery, operating above Sweetland’s Grocery on the corner of Fair Oak and Mill Street. H.N. Platts left his brothers in Gowanda to join his brother-in-law Russ Case to Bradford, Pennsylvania, creating W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery –– Later leaving Russ to form Western States Cutlery in Boulder, Colorado. Through duplicity, opportunity, or diversification, Little Valley fostered over two dozen cutlery concerns. Moonlighting masters were the norm, including Max Krug and John Stoll, refurbishing factory seconds into priceless keepsakes. Case Brothers thrived through the tumult yet ended in a fiery blaze in 1912, on the coldest night in recorded history, its factory only ashes. Attempting to rebuild, but in Springville, Case Brothers would officially close in 1914. J.B.F. Champlin’s in-laws brought cut-throat competition to the cutlery business, pushing quality ever higher while adding to Little Valley’s population and renown. By then, a trolley service connected Little Valley to Salamanca and beyond, the dairy industry steady, GRAMCO receiving and shipping afar, and Cattaraugus County Bank underwriting the region after being founded in 1902 on Main Street. On Monday, September 7, 1914, the new Cattaraugus County Memorial Building was dedicated. Originally intended to house artifacts from Salamanca’s centennial celebration in 1908, the project had expanded to “preserve in tablet form the names of every soldier and sailor from Cattaraugus county who participated in the Civil and Revolutionary wars.” An afterthought (most communities raised a statue instead of a building in memorial) the scope of the Memorial Building would remain in flux. For its dedication, 217 members of the Grand Army of the Republic, 27 sons of veterans and 100 wives and daughters attended. The building, with a vaulted glass dome, had gone over budget, and veterans earnestly promised to support its upkeep. This would later become a debate: Who owns any memorial? The structure would later serve as the Cattaraugus County Museum, doubling as a Civil War research library. When the glass dome proved faulty and leaked, a flat roof was added in 1954 by the sole bidder, hardly helping its longevity during the harsh winters of western New York. Given historic status and signage in 2018, Little Valley’s “Civil War Memorial” has been spared, yet its flat roof still demands replacement to ensure the structure’s future. Tint Champlin would continue his father’s devotion to the town, leading the charge for improved utilities and a centralized school, including advanced degrees in nursing and administration for women. Under Tint, Cattaraugus Cutlery sponsored national whittling competitions, Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole, while offering some of the most beautiful marketing ephemera available. The related cutlery companies would earn praise for their efforts during World War I. And, in the 1920s, competing cousins would reunite. Tint, Russ and Dean Case joined to form Kinfolks on Fair Oak to manufacture fixed-blade knives for Cattaraugus Cutlery and W.R. Case & Sons. The effort wasn’t without its challenges, as the first structure blew-down during a windstorm, and the final Kinfolks factory suffered a major fire that forced its closure for weeks. World War II would witness Little Valley fully engaged in arming our soldiers and Allies. A bus service covered the county, transporting workers to factories running 24/7. Deservedly, multiple “E” flags for excellence were presented to Little Valley’s companies by the War Department. Among the local boys who served was Lester Bishop, bombing the Axis until shot-down over France and lucky to survive. A prisoner-of-war camp in Poland would be Lester’s home until the end of hostilities, with air-drops by Allies at times his sole sustenance. A half a potato and requisite anti-constipation pills (which he and other prisoners fed to German Shepherds guarding them) were the basics, so just imagine Lester’s astonishment and restoration of hope upon noticing that the dried milk (“KLIM”) being dropped from high above was manufactured in Little Valley’s Bordens plant! The war’s end brought deep decisions among local cutlery companies. Hardly profitable, war supply contracts couldn’t be reinvested into new machinery, leaving most factories worn-out and requiring major upgrades. Domestically, many companies ceased operations instead of investing. And then disaster struck: Early Sunday morning, May 13, 1951, fire broke-out downtown, destroying five buildings, including Merow Brothers Hardware, Ebersole Restaurant, Fremming’s Hotel, McLouths Drug Store and Lowe’s Dry Goods. Buildings dating back to Little Valley’s earliest days were razed, multiple businesses never recovering, and the town forced to rebuild. Labor strife only added to local dismay, and Kinfolks chose to close instead of unionize in 1958. Cattaraugus Cutlery would close in 1963, ending the Champlin family’s 99 years in the business. Other industries would rise. Bush Industries literally encased the former Kinfolks factory, offering America ingenious furnishings easily assembled at home. King Windows would occupy the former Bordens plant for years, and the related cutlery companies that originated in Little Valley would grow and prosper nearby - CUTCO and KA-BAR in Olean, Burrell Cutlery in Ellicottville, W.R. Case & Sons in Bradford – with local masters forced to commute from what was known as “The Village of Knives.” Dependence on government only increased, secure and stable jobs, yet this too would soon come into question. Olean, not Little Valley, is now the area’s focal point, and services have slowly migrated to new facilities. The Cattaraugus County Museum was moved to Machias, the former poorhouse there given a major upgrade and new mission, while the old museum, a memorial to veterans of the Civil and Revolutionary wars, was shuttered and ignored. As Little Valley stole the County Seat from Ellicottville in 1868, so too may Olean. In response, Little Valley is diversifying and reinventing itself. Little Valley Creamery, opened in 1878, is now home to Ellicottville Brewing Company. The Cattaraugus County Fair attracts tens of thousands each year, and remains one of the oldest fairs in America. Historic status has been given to more locations in Little Valley than anywhere else in the county: our Civil War Memorial on Court Street, Case Brothers Cutlery on Fair Oak Street, and Hughes Hotel (founded as The Burrell House in 1885) on Main Street. Little Valley. “Look! Look!” “Lincoln Slept Here.” Teddy Roosevelt spoke of “This Nation” here, and millions of American soldiers have carried by our creations. Few towns can claim that it helped to invent America. This is that place, and knives and razors proudly stamped “Little Valley” are the most collected in the world. Little Valley, where our boys have fought for the future while our ladies kept them in line… Step into history by seeing Little Valley for yourself, and don’t forget to raise a toast to our future!
VILLAGE HALL, 103 ROCK CITY STREET, LITTLE VALLEY NY 14755 PHONE: 716-938-9151 FAX: 716-938-9154 ~ OFFICE HOURS 8AM - 4PM MONDAY-FRIDAY