Township of Willing New York

Village of Willing, New York, Circa 1880s. This photo links to the original black and white. Photo colorized using AI. ORIGNAL SOURCE: http://gallery.alleganyhistory.org/album/Towns%20and%20Villages/Willing/Miscellaneous
The Town of Willing was established on November 19, 1851.  Names for Charles Willing, one of the original owners of the Willing and Francis Tract, was formed from Scio and Independence.  It borders the Pennsylvania state line in the southern part of Allegany County.  On November 23, 1854, the town was reduced when Scio was erected from it, and again on November 22, 1855, when the territory was taken for Wellsville.  It consists of 36.3 square miles; 22,150 acres of rural land.

Willing is situated near the headwater of the Genesee River; around two-thirds are on the east side of the river, and the remainder is on the west.  On the east, the Hemlock, Sway, and Rabbit Creeks are the principal tributaries forming the Chenunda near Hallsport and Cryder Creek.  Spring-fed streams on the west are Fords and Marsh Creeks.

Its first known settler is John Ford.  He was originally from Connecticut, a Revolutionary War hero, traveling first the Friendship in 1818 and then to Willing in 1819.  Names of early settlers include Elijah Robinson, who came around 1825 from Brookfield, Madison County.  Davis Parks settled in Willing in 1827 from Potter County, Pennsylvania.  In 1828 John Graves from Delaware, and in 1829 Asa Parks traveled from Ohio and made Willing his home.  Other names from early records include Jabez Card, Thomas M. Perkins, Jeremiah and Seth Graves, Ozias Yale, Nathan Woodcock, Enos Gifford, Jacob Truax, Uriah Skinner, Lewis Ackerman, Augustus Beach, and Calvin Hall.

The first town meeting was held on March 2, 1852.  John A. Foland was elected supervisor; Ozias Yale, town clerk; Daniel P. Witter, Fielden Chapman, and A. Hurlbut, justices; David Wilcox, superintendent of schools; Charles Rogers and Samuel B. Stebins, assessors; George M. Arnold, Oliver Ackerman and Asa Parks, commissioners of highways; Amasa Eilis, collector; George W. Cate, Charles Weed, David Dunham, and LA Jenison, constables; Jabez Card, WM Wilcox and Ambrose Straight, inspectors of election, and Jared Stillman, overseer of the poor.

The first religious service was held in the house of Daniel Baker by Rev. Seneca Fisch in 1834.  Betsy Lovell taught at the first school near Beanville (Shongo) in 1836.  The first death was a child in the Austin Butler family in 18376.  The first tavern was in Beanville, owned by Allen W. Gifford, in 1838.  The first mill built was also in the town of Beanville in 1842, erected by Allen w. and John Gifford.  In 1843 the first grist mill was built in Beanville by Harvey W. Leach.
 
​By 1855 the population of Willing had grown to 1,127 settled in and around the hamlets of Stannard, Hallsport, Mapes, Stone Dam, and Shongo.

Stannard (Stannard’s Corners) is partly in the town of Wellsville.  It is named after John Stannard and lies on the north border of Willing.  Along with a hotel owned by John Stannard, there was a store, post office, blacksmith, ME Church, parsonage, and school.  It consisted of about 100 people.  Stannard is the birthplace of Gabby Hayes, a well-known western actor who performed in many movies in the 1930s and 40s.

Hallsport is located in the northeast part of the town.  it is named after early settler Calvin Hall.  The hamlet had a hotel, general store, post office, blacksmith shop, two wagon shops, sawmill, cheese factory, a shingle mill with planer and matcher, feed mill, and school.  Its population was 150.  Job Smythe, dentist, physician, and botanist, ran a distillery there and is known to have invented the artificial limb.

Mapes is located in the center of the town on the river.  There were only a few farmhouses, but there was a general store, post office, blacksmith, and wagon shop.  Duke & Company also located a large lumber company there.

Stone Dam is located on the western border of the town. It had two hotels, a post office, a few dwellings, and a school.

Shongo is in the southernmost part of the town and borders Pennsylvania.  It was initially named Beanville but changed to Shongo after Seneca Indian Chief Shongo.  It had a wagon shop, two blacksmith shops, a sawmill, flouring mill, a general store, a drug store, a hotel, a post office, a school, and a railroad station.  There was also a cheese factory and two physicians, with a population of about 175.  On September 24, 1884, a devastating cyclone less than 40 rods wide ripped through Shongo, killing three people and wounding twenty-two.  It totally destroyed twenty-six buildings.  The storm was such fierce debris was scattered for 18 miles into Stueben County.  Some of the injured were not found until the next day.  Those killed were adults: Willis Gardiner, Mrs. Edgar Pratt, and Ann Lancaster.  Shongo is the birthplace of Mark Graves, who served as the New York State Tax Commissioner from 1923 – 1931 and 1933 – 1942.  He also ran for Governor.

The WC & PC (later owned by the B&S, B&O, and WAG) railroad ran south through Willing and had switches at Maples and Graves Crossing.  There was a railroad station in Shongo.

Most of the people of Willing were farmers.  Beach Hill was known for its potato crop.  Dairy farmers in Shongo and Hallsport manufactured cheese.  In 1891 1,780,000 pounds of milk produced 189,000 lbs. of cheese.  Apples and maple syrup were also an important part of agriculture.  There are only a few operating farms today, yet an influx of Amish families is revitalizing some farmland.  Farming has shifted to include alpacas and sheep farms, nursery businesses, and produce.  Many acres of land are rented to a Pennsylvania commercial farmer to grow beans and corn.  Some residents are still producing maple syrup.

The days of Willing’s hotels, post offices, little schools, and blacksmith shops are long past.  But businesses still flourish in the township.  As of 2016, twenty-four businesses in operation have developed for modern-day demands.

References used for information on this page:
Allegany and Its People – A Centennial Memorial History 1795 – 1895 by John S. Minard
History of Allegany County, New York 1806 – 1879 FW Beers & Co.
The Willing Story by Helen Shear

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