Town Of West Sparta
 History 

History

West Sparta History Continued....

The almost 50 years from 1800 to 1846 saw enormous changes in West Sparta. The flat, fertile, swampy plain along the Canaseraga Creek when well drained proved to be ideal for farming. It was however unreliable as a place of residence due to regular floods that deposited new layers of rich sediment on the land. Early homesteads of any size were built along the Indian Road that ran  across West Sparta  roughly Northwest to Southeast at the Western edge of the swamp  and slightly above the flood plain on the lower levels of the steep slopes. Shortly, however, settlers followed other Indian trails that took the paths of least resistance up the slopes. They found an upland area sliced West to East by numerous treacherous gullies and bounding creeks into islands of relatively level land fit for farming. Entrepreneurs saw the exuberant gullies filled with waterfalls as providing opportunities to power commercial enterprises and various mills were built along the largest, most reliable waterways. One of the earliest settlements was called West Sparta and was a trading area that grew up midway along the Indian Road near the mill on Butter Brook. The first wool-carding and cloth-dressing mill was established by Benjamin Hungerford in 1814. Millard Fillmore, U.S. President 1850-1853 served four months as an apprentice at Hungerford's mill. Many early land owners bought plots of land on speculation and likely many did so sight unseen. Perhaps its was these or their younger sons who eventually pushed even further up the hills to difficult heights that nevertheless afforded fertile land and breathtaking views of the whole region. Here they too staked a claim and the whole of what would become West Sparta was now peopled. The 1852 Atlas of West Sparta shows homesteads and farms throughout.  

West Sparta is roughly rectangular  in shape with its Eastern border being Canaseraga Creek, and therefore an irregular line slanting in a southeast to northwest direction. In the early years, travel was difficult at all times and impossible some of the time. As settlers multiplied they developed four hamlets each serving a distinct area of West Sparta that meant the conveniences of community life were within walking or riding distance. Woodville and Kysorville were likely the earliest. Woodville grew up at the Southeast corner of West Sparta next to the Canaseraga Creek along the Indian Road. It derived its name from early settlers John, Rufus and Asa Wood. The Union Church of Woodville was built by the Evangelical Association of Woodville about 1850.

Kysorville also was built along the Indian Road but near the North central border. It was likely named for John Kysor who emigrated from Germany before the revolution and who fought in the revolutionary war. His son, Nicholas Kysor, was Benjamin Franklin Kysor's father, who built the Kysor Homestead in 1875. Local tradition has it that the first tavern in West Sparta was kept in Kysorville by Ebenezer McMaster in about 1820. In 1860, Kysorville consisted of a grocery store conducted by Frank Muchler, a cider mill (William Buell), a blacksmith shop (James Jones), a school house and a few dwellings, in total about 22 buildings about the time Genesee Valley Canal was opened  through West Sparta (about 1841). The first Joel Kemp settled on 150 acres of land on the hillside just south of Kysorville in 1813. Today some of this land remains in the Kemp family and six Joel Kemps have resided in West Sparta.

 

Union Corners was built in the broad, upland farming area on the Western border. In 1860 it was described as containing a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, two churches and a few dwelling houses; earlier there were 24 dwellings. The Union Corners Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1879 and a building erected in 1880 with a membership of 36. The Presbyterian Church of Union Corners was organized in 1825. The first store was opened by Jonathan Russell 1823. At this time the nearest Post Office was in Bath making it difficult to procure merchandise. The store was in later years run by Frank Palmer and also served as a Post Office.  

Byersville was only three miles West of Woodville,  near the high Southwest corner of West Sparta, serving another thriving farming population. It was first settled in 1823 and derived its name from Samuel Byers. It became quite a substantial community and at one time contained about sixty inhabitants and 24 dwellings. The only store and Grist Mill (by Samuel Stoner) was devoted to general merchandise and was kept by Russell C. Stoner who was in business there two years. The postmaster was Elijah Kinney, who was appointed in February 1880. The local physician was a Dr. A.V. Watkins, a graduate from the Eclectic College of Philadelphia in March 1871, and has been located in Byersville since that time. The Free Methodist Society of Byersville was organized in 1876.

This is from "A Brief History of the West Sparta United Methodist Parish":"By the 1840's, what had been known as "the frontier' was becoming more and more civilized. Mills and taverns and stores were being built to meet the needs of the people living on what was then called ‘Sparta West Hill'.  By 1846, the population of the area had increased to the point where the old township of Sparta was divided into three parts; Sparta, North Dansville, and West Sparta."

By an act of the legislature the reorganization of these Towns was undertaken in 1846. West Sparta was split off from the Town of Sparta on February 27, 1846. The first Town Meeting after the division of the Town was held on April 7th 1846 in the "Block" School house, across from the Muchler Farm on Rock Spring Hill Road. From that time on Town meetings were held in schools, churches or homes. The records of the Town were kept at the Town Clerks home and due to several fires, most of these records are lost. It wasn't until 1927 that West Sparta built a building expressly for the use as a Town Hall.     

At about the time West Sparta became a Town, many Methodists who lived in this area were served by itinerant circuit riders who traveled the hills of southern Livingston County, stopping by to preach at private homes or public buildings. In 1848 Leonidas and William Willson donated over an acre of land as a site for the future Methodist Episcopal Church of West Sparta. By 1855 a wooden, one story building was erected in the popular Greek Revival style. By 1860, French's Gazeteer of New York State reported four churches in West Sparta including Presbyterian, M.E., Baptist and Christian. Only the United Methodist Church of West Sparta on Redmond Road is still in existence as an active church. Along with the churches, cemeteries were started. There have been at least nine cemeteries identified, including some that were quite small and were probably family plots. There are five that are now able to be visited and are being maintained. There is one cemetery for each of the hamlets or settlements listed above: Woodville, Kysorville, Union Corners, and Byersville. The only cemetery still open for burials is the one connected to the United Methodist Church and is called Oaklawn Cemetery on Redmond Road.

In the 1830's West Sparta formalized its school districts and began building what would eventually total 12 school buildings.  Most of these schools continued into the 1950's when most of them were phased out and West Sparta students went to consolidated schools in Dansville, Mt. Morris and Nunda. Several buildings remain much as they were including the Block School at Kysorville Byersville Road and Rock Spring Hill Road and Kysorville School now Kysorville Church on Kysorville Byersville Road.

In 1841 the Genesee Valley Canal, Mt. Morris to Dansville Branch through West Sparta was opened,  followed closely by the completion of the first railroad about two dozen years later. This ushered in an era of great prosperity for farmers and entrepreneurs. Now the way was open to the world's markets. Nurseries flourished on the flats and shipped plants nationally and internationally. Wheat farmers flourished and for a time Livingston County wheat was so well known for its quality that the Queen of England ordered seven train car loads. When wheat crops failed throughout the area due to weather, soil conditions, pests and disease, then farmers learned new ways and moved to other methods and crops. Dairy farming became a way of life as transportation routes opened up the markets. Throughout the 19th Century the life of  West Sparta's families primarily centered around farming. The population then was about 1200 people, similar to what it is today.

National affairs intruded rudely into the life of hard working West Sparta residents as the war between the States loomed and then became a reality in 1861. In August of 1862, Colonel James Wood, Jr. received authority, to recruit the 136th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the three regiments from this area that eventually fought at the battle of Gettysburg.  The West Sparta Methodist Episcopal Church on Redmond Road was used as one of the recruitment centers. Some 105 West Sparta men (nearly 10%) left their homes, families and farms to fight in the 136th Regiment at this time. You can imagine that not a family was untouched. They mustered at Portageville in hastily erected barracks at what is now the parade grounds at Letchworth Park. Those who survived the war served three years, participated in 23 named battles and mustered out in June of 1865.

The "boys" came home, probably no longer the boys that left. But they likely resumed the farming life, married and started their own families and farms. The general agricultural prosperity continued. While new building materials and mechanization were changing farming, the way of life was similar. The most dramatic changes for West Sparta came about in the 20th Century. Industrialization, mechanization, World Wars, the electrification of the rural communities (1930's and 40's), the improvement and rebuilding of roads and bridges (Rte 36 rebuilt in 1930's) had a major impact. With introduction of the automobile the slow decline of the rural hamlets began and ended with their complete demise in West Sparta by the mid-to late 1900's. People still inhabited the dwellings, but the businesses, services, schools, churches (with one exception) and even active cemeteries had to be sought elsewhere, outside the Town limits. Even natural disasters have played a part, making major changes in the way West Sparta looks. Numerous fires have taken original homesteads, great barns, and school buildings. Finally the construction of I390 through West Sparta wreaked havoc on the historic road system built following the original Native American trails. While we are still a population of about 1200 we are no longer tied to our own land in the 19th century way. The coming of the White man to this land completely overturned the Seneca way of life. The 20th Century has to a great extent overturned the agricultural life that replaced it. But the land endures. Its general contours are little changed. The gullies and watercourses still rule where we can place our routes for coming and going from this place. The character of the community we will have going forward needs now to be discerned.