Allegany County is located in the Southern Tier of Western New York in an eroded plateau of the Allegany Mountains, approximately 40-70 miles due south of Rochester and has about 50,000 inhabitants. There are twenty-nine townships, ten villages and numerous hamlets. Our rural county is served by twenty-nine post offices. A geologic feature is that we are the only county in the State that is home to three primary watershed headwaters: The Allegany, Susquehanna and Genesee Rivers. Respectively they end in the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River, Chesapeake Bay and the St. Lawrence River.
Allegany County was created by an act of the State Legislature effective April 7, 1806. We were the first of our present western New York counties to split for Genesee County, which, then, was all of western New York. Our population then was just a few hundred people and grew to almost 30,000 by 1860. Although they never were in what would become Allegany County, soldiers serving under Generals Sullivan and Clinton during their 1779 campaign to eradicate the Indians from western New York, would soon be some of the first settlers in the Genesee Valley. These rich fertile farmlands drew land-hungry farmers by the time of the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 and the building of the Genesee Valley Canal shortly thereafter. This latter canal offered new opportunities for harvesting and marketing of vast tracts of virgin timber and agricultural products from the Genesee Valley.
Of the many elements of change that have affected Allegany County, the one that had the greatest effect was the arrival of the Erie Railroad in 1851. The immediate improvements in people’s lives included rapid transportation of people and mail, access to markets overnight for products shipped to and from the County, and, lastly, the relocation of the County Seat from Angelica to Belmont in 1859.
The American Civil War of 1861-1865 brought the greatest tragedy and loss of life in our County’s history. Over 3,700 men served in the military and approximately 600 were killed. Life on the home front was forever changed as well, with great sacrifices by the women and children who had to “fend” for themselves while operating the family farms, businesses and social institutions with so many men gone to war.
The growth of large, heavy industry in the mid-late 1800s was apparent in our County, with many facilities located in the Wellsville area. The first of these was the tanbark/tanning industry that brought about the building of narrow-gauge railroads. The oil-boom days of the late 1800’s and again in the 1920’s, brought great prosperity to the oil fields in the southern part of the County. The oil industry gave rise to many “spin-off” industries in the area such as early steam turbine manufacturing, pipeline supply businesses and additional narrow gauge railroads serving the oil fields.
Venerable Alfred University was founded in 1836 and is the nation’s second oldest four-year, co-ed liberal arts university. Also on the A.U. campus is the State University of New York College of Ceramics. This college is comprised of two primary schools: School of Ceramic Engineering and Ceramic Art and Design. Also in the Village of Alfred is the campus for the State University of New York College of Technology. In the nearby Village of Wellsville is the Alfred Vocational School campus, a branch of Alfred Tech. In the northern part of the County is Houghton College, a four-year, co-ed liberal arts college affiliated with the Wesleyan Methodist Church.
The County Seat is in the Village of Belmont with about 400 full-time employees working for the County.
Allegany County is fortunate to be located on Interstate 86 and is also being served by the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad. The major north-south road is State Route 19. The largest village in the County is Wellsville, home of the Wellsville Municipal Airport/Tarantine Field and is capable of handling corporate jet aircraft.