st-helena

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

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

St. Helena is now a name only. The pioneers of the valley have moved to the shade of the maples in Castile. Not many miles from the scene of their struggles with the early wilderness and the sometimes raging Genesee, the pioneers sleep on. Will the Genesee which they loved, and sometimes feared, close at last over the tiny town site or will it be allowed to grow again to a resemblance of its former state of wilderness? Never more will the hum of mill wheels fill the valley, for St. Helena is now the “Ghost Town of the Genesee.”

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

Cemeteries of St. Helena, New York

Burials were made in several near-by cemeteries. One at the top of the eastern hill was opened about 1830 and was the first in that entire section. Fifty persons were buried there. In 1839 the Oak Hill Cemetery, near Brooks Grove, was established. Some years later, when the plot had to be enlarged, Milton Burnap, Sr., Fred Marsh, Sr., and James Piper, early settlers at St. Helena, helped with the task and chose their family burial spots. The two cemeteries at Castile were used, and also, of course, the well-known cemetery on the western hillside. Because there were no burial …

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

New Developments at St. Helena New York

The highway bridge was dismantled during the summer of 19 50. Livingston County owned one half of the structure, as the center of the river was the boundary line between the two counties. The entire bridge was given to Livingston County as compensation for its demolition by the county’s highway department. The population of St. Helena dwindled fast after the school was closed in the early 1920’s. The once busy valley had succumbed to the urge of progress and the young folks sought new fields. The river remained a good place for a cool swim on a hot summer day …

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

St. Helena Water Gauge

Mr. C. Scott De Golyer has been very helpful in giving us the following information about the recording gauge installed at St. Helena to check the water stage of the river. This station was established by George M. Brett and Charles E. Allen on August 14, 1908. It consisted of a standard Geological Survey chain gauge attached to the lower chord of the first left-hand panel of the middle span of the highway bridge. It was converted to a recording gauge station by W. G. Hoyt and C. S. De Golyer on August 24, 1911. The first recording gauge was …

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

St. Helena NY Nearing Desertion

Nearing the turn of the century there were only a few families owning property in St. Helena. They were John Piper, John Streeter, George E. Piper, Lucy Wallace, Thomas E. Marsh, A. Alcott, Herman Piper, John Orsburn, and Fred Marsh. L.aura Piper was there until 1902. The southern end of Water Street was no more. The school was still kept at this time. The river had moved closer and closer to the west side of the valley. The George Teeple family left St. Helena and moved to Nunda in the early 1920’s, when the river destroyed their farm. Soon afterward, …

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

Bits of News

Genesee Timber February 24, 1895: “John Chaffee, who lived one and a half miles below St. Helena, drew to the yard of the Elitsac Company, a mammoth cottonwood log, sixteen feet long and three feet through at the top and four feet through at the butt, scaling 1,024 feet. The log was cut on the east side of the river near the county line of Wyoming and Livingston, several weeks before. It was put on the bobs and drawn as far as the river, where it tipped over. Six horses were then hitched to the log and it was drawn …

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

River Travelers along the Genesee River

During the more quiet season of the Genesee River, it was a source of pleasure, not only to local people, but to the Rochester Canoe Club, as well. From the Castilian of May 31, 1897, we take this item: “The Rochester Canoe Club, on its annual cruise down the Genesee River, made up of the following members: H.M. Stewart, Cort Avery, Al T. Brown, Wm. Patterson, Lee Rishwood, Col. C. H. Moody, Frank L. Dodgson, L. P. Newton, H. Cliff Shaw, Dr. F. R. Smith, P. P. Dickenson, Frank P. Crouch, H. B. Squire, jas. K. Hand, Chas. B. Wolters, …

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

Flood Dangers at St. Helena New York

As the years went by, the valley folk had to depend more and more on farming, as the mills were silent, the timber mostly cleared away. Many moved away and the earlier settlers dropped out, one by one. Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel K. Barton moved to Castile, followed by the Johnson family, and then the John W. Piper family. The river had done great damage to the Johnson farm. The Castilian of May 25, 1894, published this item: “It is getting to be quite common to have a flood during the months of May and June, and this year we …

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

St. Helena Hospitality

St. Helena was host to many a traveler, and its people were kind to the unfortunate. One figure familiar in the town was “Aunt Eban Noddy,” somewhat demented but entirely harmless. She made annual pilgrimages over the country on foot, dressed in fanciful attire. She was the mother of “Sol Noddy” who made his home at St. Helena and Castile for more than forty years. He, like his mother, made trips over the countryside and was given shelter by many good people when he needed it. Sol died July 2, 1895, at the Wyoming County Home at Varysburg. His mother, …

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

Valley Obstacles

About 1885 another obstacle presented itself to the people of St. Helena. The state began talking about a storage dam in the Genesee River to furnish a reserve supply of water for the Erie Canal west of Rochester. To the valley farmers this seemed a major catastrophe and many were greatly opposed to it. However, a site for the dam was controversial. If built about a mile and a quarter above the mill dam at Mt. Morris, the natural river bank would form the walls of the reservoir, but the farm lands would be flooded and St. Helena would be …

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