Livingston County

St Helena, ghost town of the Genesee, 1797-1954

Social Activity in St. Helena, New York

The little village’s ministers were paid a small salary and by donations. The February 14, 1879, Castilian states that a very successful “donation” was held at the St. Helena schoolhouse. The goodly sum of seventy-five dollars was raised for Rev. Campbell. Well done for so small a community! The donation was an annual event, held in the schoolhouse on an autumn evening when the harvest was in. The gifts were all kinds of fruits, vegetables, meat, baked goods, and money. The affair was such a social success that the guests generally ate many of the donations! The older people visited …

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St Helena, ghost town of the Genesee, 1797-1954

St. Helena’s Church Life

Weekdays, the St. Helena schoolhouse was used for teaching three R’s—Readin’, ’Ritin’ and ’Rithmetic. On the Sabbath day, it became a church house, where a fourth R, Religion, was taught. St. Helena was a charge of the Methodist Protestant Church at Brooks Grove, a hamlet four miles up the eastern hill. The Grove was named for General Micah Brooks, of Gardeau Reservation fame, who settled there in 1832. The Methodist Protestant Church movement started in 1830 and a society by that name was organized at Brooks Grove in 1840. The church was built there in 1844-45 and Rev. Short was …

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The St. Helena School in 1893, when Miss Ida Bennett was teacher.

St. Helena’s School Life

When homes began to be established in St. Helena, the need for a school arose, naturally. The exact date of the building of the first schoolhouse cannot be learned. However, it is known that the structure was located in the valley on the west side of the northern highway leading toward Castile. The building was used later for a barn. The school district was Number Four, at first, but later was changed to Number Ten in Castile Township. Since the village’s plans were made about 1820, it would appear that the schoolhouse was included. The first school building was used …

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St Helena, ghost town of the Genesee, 1797-1954

St. Helena’s Patriotic Life

St. Helena’s young men responded quickly when their country called for volunteers during the Civil War, 1861-65. Among them were: Charles Buckley, Eugene Buckley, Milton Burnap, Emerson Crowley, George Crowley, Franklin Eddy, George Green, James Green, Fitch Merithew, Hiram Merithew, Philander Merithew, Chauncey Orsburn, Albert Piper, George Piper, Henry Piper, John Piper, Myron Powell, Hugh Skillin, Sherman Streeter, George Westbrook and Emmett Wood. Many of those boys drilled on fields near Portage High Bridge. There were such large numbers of volunteers that the hastily built barracks could not house all of them. It is said that old buildings, used for …

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St Helena, ghost town of the Genesee, 1797-1954

Bridge Difficulties at St. Helena

February 22, 1884, the river bridge succumbed to the ice and high water. Up until that time the structure had been of wood but now the public wanted a bridge of more substantial structure and proposed iron for the work. By July, 1884, it was agreed that a bridge should be built and the cost shared equally by Wyoming and Livingston counties, since the river was the boundary line between the two. The Castilian of September 14, 1884, states that “The supervisors and highway commissioners of Mt. Morris and Castile met at Perry to discuss building a new bridge at …

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St Helena, ghost town of the Genesee, 1797-1954

The Orsburn Family of St. Helena, New York

In 1882, John A. Orsburn and Mary Lottie Alger of Greigsville were married and began housekeeping on the farm in St. Helena which was their home until Mrs. Orsburn’s death January 3, 1916. John died there July 9, 1923. Their farm was the fertile flat land on the east side of the river farthest to the north. To them were born eight children, all boys. Two of the children died in 1894 of mumps and whooping cough and were buried in the St. Helena cemetery. As far as can be learned, these burials were the last made in that spot. …

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St Helena, ghost town of the Genesee, 1797-1954

Castilian Notes about St. Helena, New York

Articles taken from the Castilian which referenced St. Helena March 28, 1879: “Mr. Gaines, the publisher, apologizes for the lateness of this week’s paper, as he had attended a law suit at Portage, which lasted all the previous day and into the early morning hours. The case concerned a charge against George Green, of St. Helena, for failing to pay the required tax on his dog. After those present had listened to the two lawyers expound their knowdedge all that time, the jury brought in a verdict of ‘no cause for action.’” Sf. Helena was “on the map” that day. …

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St Helena, ghost town of the Genesee, 1797-1954

An Episode of 1881 in St. Helena

The following episode was recalled by John E. Eddy, of Castile, who was born on the farm of his father, Franklin Eddy, on Wolf Creek Road near St, Helena. Mr. John Chase, a highly respected farmer, who lived across the river opposite St. Helena, had cut and sold two thousand railroad ties, which were to be used in building a part of the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad, near Mt. Morris, at which place the ties were to be delivered. Mr. Chase believed the quickest and cheapest way to transport the order was by water. He built a mammoth …

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St Helena, ghost town of the Genesee, 1797-1954

Homes and Places of Business in St. Helena

West of the store building was the home of Henry Dixon, head miller for Mr. Parshall for many years. Next, west of Mr. Dixon’s one-half acre lot, was a cross street running south from Main Street past the farm home of Mr. Parshall. This was the street called “Maiden Lane.” On this street at one time were six or seven houses, At the west corner of Maiden Lane and Main Street, J. D. Tallman owned and conducted a hotel business for accommodation of both man and beast. This property was later owned by Mr. Foote. South of the hotel, N. …

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St Helena, ghost town of the Genesee, 1797-1954

St. Helena NY Bridges and Mills

The first bridge across the river was a covered structure with wooden latticework sides, built in 183 5, and was said to be very picturesque. There were 226 feet of latticework spanning the river with fifty feet of different construction at the approaches. This linked Wyoming and Livingston counties and made it possible for the families on the east side of the river to reach the mills and stores without traveling by boat or fording the river. This bridge was in use until 1868, when it became unsafe and was replaced with a four-span bridge of truss style. This bridge, …

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