This county was formed from Genesee, May 14, 1841. Eagle,
Pike, and a part of Portage were annexed from Allegany co. in
1846. It is an interior county, in the s. w. part of the State, sepa¬
rated from Lake Erie by Erie co., and from the Penn, line by Cat¬
taraugus and Allegany. It is centrally distant 228 miles from
Albany, and contains 590 sq. mi. Its surface is a broad, rolling
upland, divided into ridges and broken by ravines worn by the
streams. It has a slight inclination toward the n. The summits
of the highest ridges are 1,200 to 1,500 ft. above Lake Erie and 1,700
to 2,000 ft. above tide. Several of the ravines in the n. are 1,000 ft.
below the summits of the adjacent ridges. In the interior the
ridges are broken, and the country begins to assume the hilly
character which is more fully developed further s. Genesee River, which forms a portion of the
e. boundary, is bordered by steep bluffs 200 to 400 ft. high. Near Portageville the river descends
from the plateau, in a series of three falls, to a depth of more than 300 ft. within a distance of 2J
mi. The water has worn a deep and irregular ravine in the shelving rocks, and the nearly per¬
pendicular banks at the foot of the lower falls are 380 ft. high. The deep gorge, with the rapids
and falls, form one of the wildest and most picturesque scenes in Western New York.1
The other principal streams are Cayuga, Tonawanda, Little Tonawanda, Oatka, East Coy, Wis¬
coy, Cattaraugus, and Buffalo Creeks. The valley of Oatka Creek, from near the s. border of
Warsaw to the n. line of the co., is bordered by.steep hills 400 to 1,000 ft. high. Silver Lake, in
Castile, (the principal body of water,) is 3 mi. long and about J mi. wide. The rocks of this co.
consist principally of the shales and sandstones of the Portage group. The summits of the
southern hills are covered with the rocks belonging to the Chemung group. Thin layers of com¬
pact Portage sandstone are found in many parts of the co. and are extensively quarried for
flagging. Upon the ridges little rounded eminences are frequently seen, appearing like drift
hills; but upon examination they are found to be shale rock covered with a thin soil. Marl
and muck are found in considerable quantities in the swamps. The waters of Silver Lake
and of several of the streams are constantly depositing lime in the form of marl. The drift
deposits in the co. are very extensive, and the soil in some parts is derived from disintegration.
Upon the hills it is mostly a clay loam underlaid by hardpan, and in the valleys it is a fertile,
gravelly loam and alluvium. The people are principally engaged in stock and wool growing
and in dairying, for which the soil upon the hills is admirably adapted. Wheat, barley, corn,
and fruits are largely cultivated in the valleys. Yery little attention is paid to manufactures
except such as are strictly necessary to an agricultural community.
The county seat is located at Warsaw.2 The courthouse is a commodious brick edifice, situated
in the N. part of the village. The co. clerk’s office is a fireproof building, adjacent to the court¬
house. The jail is a wood building, arranged so as to enable the keeper to classify the prisoners
rocks. An isolated mass of rocks, 15 ft. in diameter and 100 ft.
high, known as “ Sugar Loaf,” rises from the river bed at the
bend of the stream and receives nearly the whole force of the
rushing water. It is bordered on one side by the present bed of
the stream, and on the other by a deep chasm which separates
it from the e. bank of the river. Within the memory of people
now living, the river flowed over the precipice on the level of the
rock which now forms its w. bank, and Sugar Loaf was an island.
These falls are accessible only from the w. The perpendicular
bank on the w. side of the river at one point is 380 ft. high.
2 The commissioners named in the act to select the location
were Peter R. Reed, of Onondaga, Davis Hurd, of Niagara, and
John Thompson, of Steuben. The building commissioners were
John A. McElwaine, Paul Richards, and Jonathan Perry. Trum.
bull Cary, Esq., of Batavia, gave to the co. an ample public square
upon which to erect the public buildings. The first courts were
held at a public house at East Orangeville, in June, 1841, and the
first meeting of the Board of Supervisors was at the same place.
The first co. officers were Paul Richards, First Judge,; James
Sprague, Peter Patterson, Jos. Johnson, Associate Judges; W.
Riley Smith, District Attorney; N. Wolcott, Co. Clerk; W. E.
Groger, Sheriff; and Harvey Putnam, Surrogate.
The Upper or Horse-Shoe Falls are about three-fourths of a mi.
below Portageville. The name is derived from the curve in the
face of the cliff over which the water flows. For a short distance
above the edge of the precipice the water is broken by a succes¬
sion of steps in the rock, forming a series of rapids. The height
of the fall, including the rapids, is about 70 ft. The Middle Falls
are about one-half mi. further down the river. For 2 or 3 rods
above the edge of the cliff the water is broken into rapids, and
then in an unbroken sheet it pours down 110 ft. into a chasm
below, bounded by perpendicular ledges. A cave, called the
“ Devil’s Oven,” has been worn in the rocks under the w. bank,
near the bottom of the falls. In low water 100 persons can be
seated within it; but when the river is high it is filled with
water, and is only accessible by boats. The Lower Falls consist
of a series of rapids one-half mi. in extent, with an aggregate
fall of 150 ft. For about 2 mi. below the Middle Falls the river
pursues a winding and rapid course between high, perpendicular
walls; then descends in a succession of steps almost as regular
as a staircase, dives under a shelving rock, shoots out in a narrow
pass not more than 15 ft. wide, rushes down a nearly perpendicu¬
lar descent of 20 ft., strikes against the base of high rocks stand¬
ing almost directly in its course, whirls back, and, turning at
nearly right angles, falls into a deep pool overhung with shelving