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The Dansville Online
  • In Canaseraga, trough donated to historic jail

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  • CANASERAGA — In the farthest northeast corner of Allegany County stands the oldest standing village jail in the state, according to local historians, and a recent contribution has made that old brick building, located on Main Street in the Village of Canaseraga, even more special. They used to be scattered throughout every city, town, village and hamlet before the advent of the horseless carriage and back when horsepower meant flesh and blood which ran on grain, hay and water — watering troughs. “A few of the old timers still remember them being around, but I don’t think there is one left in Allegany County,” said Pat Maker historian for the Village of Canaseraga. Which according to Holley Spencer of the Marjorie Dieter Mastin Historical Society makes the donation from Bob Smith of a stone horse trough to the jail’s tableaux even more special. Smith, 94, had displayed the trough, filled with flowers, in his yard on Mill Street for nearly 30 years, but thought, “Since they tore up the lawn installing a new water line, I thought that the old jail would be a good spot for it. Besides I’d just have to mow around it,” he said. Smith originally rescued the old trough from a barn he was tearing down on the Charles Oliver property. He was a heavy equipment operator for more than 36 years and worked with the Potter-DeWitt Company on state Route 17 near Randolph. While he was told he could bury the relic with the rest of the barn rubble, he decided to take it home where he and his wife Ruth turned it into a planter. “For years I thought it was made out of concrete, but a man looked at it and said it was carved out of stone,” Smith said. Maker believes the trough was carved out of stone from the nearby Klipnocky quarry more than 150 years ago. “You can see the marks on it where it was hued out,” she said pointing to grooves in the side of the trough. “There is a hole in the bottom where you can see that it was spring fed. There used to be several throughout the village, but they disappeared over the years.” The stone trough is seven feet long and approximately 16 inches wide, with the opening for the water over a foot wide and a foot deep. The trough weighs well over a ton and had to be transported to the site by heavy equipment — by  Charles F. Oliver and Son of Canaseraga. Maker said she has no real idea where the trough may have been located prior to being placed in the barn, but suspects that it may have been located at the intersection of Mill and Spring Streets. Smith said, “I just figured it should be in the village and the jail seemed like a good spot for it.” Maker said, “I think it is an excellent addition.” Smith, a native of Lima, Ohio first came to Western New York after serving with the National Guard in the Pacific during World War II as a heavy equipment operator. He moved to his wife’s hometown (Canaseraga) after they were married in 1947— just 30 days after they’d met. They raised two daughters. His wife, Ruth, passed away in 2006. He keeps himself busy repairing lawn mowers. The jail was built in 1873 from bricks left over from the Union School construction. It was built to house railroad workers and transients who got too rowdy, Spencer said. She went on to explain that it was located across from a boarding house and was run by a series of constables. It contains two narrow cells and a tiny office with desk. Each cell held an iron toilet and a bunk. Only two prisoners escaped from the jail and then only after the constable on duty had forgotten they were incarcerated. They tunneled out according to an historical document displayed inside the building. In 1925 the town budgetted an annual allotment of $40 for jail upkeep. Use of the jail was discontinued in the mid-1940s. The jail is open to the public during the daylight hours on Saturdays from May - October and by calling the village historian. “You’d be surprised just how many visitors we get and people who stop just to take a photo,” Spencer said, “This watering trough is just perfect here. Next door there was a blacksmith shop.”

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