OSSIAN — This small town at the backbone of Livingston County has been through some hard times over the years.
The Town of Ossian clings to its historical landmarks to keep what is left of its legacy alive.
Long ago when the land was filled with timber and trails, it was settled by Judge Richard Porter and his brother James in 1804.
These early settlers faced many hardships in the rough terrain and severe conditions. These early settlers included James Haynes, James Crogham, Jacob Clendenin, Isaac Burrell, and William Gould, Frederick Covert, William Boyle, and William Lemen.
There were originally two small hamlets connected to this area, the first being Ossian Center and the latter being Bisbee Town. Luther Bisbee made his mark on the town in 1819.
Ossian originated as part of Allegheny County in March 1808 and was changed to Livingston County in March 1857.
Judge Richard Porter was the first town supervisor on June 26, 1808 when the first town meeting was held.
Ossian Town Historian Rhea Walker walked Genesee Country Express through the rich history of a neighboring community.
“We don’t really have our own place for the historical society, so we share space with the town,” she said. “We have some on display, but a lot of it is still in storage. We are still fundraising for a place.”
Walker mentioned that some of the old historic barns have been restored in the town, such as Gambrel Roofed Barn built in 1902 by Jacob Neis. It had been restored by the historical society in 2011. This was the Neis Homestead until it was purchased by Bret and Robin Walker.
Isaac Hampton was a legend in the community as a farmer and sawmill owner. He was also personally appointed by President Abe Lincoln to be the town postmaster. Hampton remained a pillar in the community until he passed in 1896.
Elias Geiger House still stands to this day, and on it was one of the fully operational saw mills. He had huge barns and the famous giant tree that still stands by the driveway today.
There were 10 school houses in the small town, and not many still remain today. Most have been turned into private homes or burned down. The School No. 7 is the only one that still looks like a schoolhouse on Linzy Road.
The First Presbyterian Church just celebrated its 200th Anniversary last year, and stands as guardian over one of the three old cemeteries. It was founded by Rev. Hubbard of Angelica in 1818. The church itself was built in 1834 on Ossian Hill Road.
Some other famous homes and families that contributed to the lifeblood of the town are the Knapp House, built in 1880 by Harvey Knapp and remains in the family; W.R. Shay Homestead, built in 1880 by William Riley Shay on William White’s land and remains in the family; and The Great House, built in 1848 by Luther Bisbee.
The Ossian Center Cemetery, West View Cemetery and Wood Cemetery are cared for greatly as the final resting place of many legends in the community.
They are also known for their fun family-friend summer places such as Ossian State Forest, Skybrook Campground, Sugar Creek Glen Campground, Overland Morgan, Canaseraga State Forest, and Rattlesnake Hill Wildlife.
“We are lucky enough to have people willing to donate things to the historical society,” Walker said. “I have been the historian of this town for about 17 years. I started collecting things right away. I am always looking for more photos to be put up on display.”
A lot of tragedy has occurred within the boundaries of the community, such as fires and deaths. Several things have been lost forever like The Grange, Bisbeetown Store, Milliman’s Store, and Ossian Central Store.
Walker said that the town is lucky to have what remains of the history after all that has happened. There are several historical markers that show landmarks of days gone by.
“It is important for people to keep their family history alive,” she said. “We have several landmarks still standing in the town.”
The Heath Homestead is in the Ossian Community Center and provides a place for weddings, birthdays, reunions, and other events.
Walker added that in the start of the town’s history it was known as Sugar Creek, and the origin of the name Ossian is unknown. It is rumored that the name comes from a Scottish Myth called Osian.
Ossian Historical Society President Cathy Saunders said that the society is always working on fundraisers to have their own history museum.
“We have hosted many dinners, picked apples for apple cider sales, made Christmas cookies, basket raffles, and provided a community calendar,” she said. “We are trying to put together enough funds to have our own building.”
Among the things this small town historical society is known for is holding programs, making pillowcase dresses for girls and women in need, making Christmas quilts for children in need, helping the Noyes Health Auxiliary with Christmas sales, running the Ossian Summer Rec., fixing the broken headstones in the cemeteries, and making Valentine’s Day cookies for the shut-ins.
As of now the history of Ossian rests in the Ossian Town Hall located at 4706 Ossian Hill Road. They can be reached at 585-335-7600. Visit them online at www.townofossianny.us and become a new member.