5063 New York 39
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Near this spot, Robert Whaley built the first log cabin in the town of Castile in 1808.
To this cabin, in 1823, came Mary Jemison, famed “White Woman of the Genesee,” to tell her story. Captured by the Indians in 1758, when 15 years old, she lived with them 75 years. She came to Castile in 1779, acquiring 17,927 acres of land by Indian Treaty, 9835 of which were in Castile. She lived here 52 years.
What was there
The log cabin residence of Robert Whaley (from Caledonia), constructed in 1808. He operated a saw mill belonging to Daniel McKay (from Pennsylvania) on Wolf Creek to the southeast (which is now a part of Letchworth State Park). His cabin operated as a tavern for some time. The Whaleys were friends and business associates with the Mary Jemison family.
What is there now
On either side of NY-39 is farmland. The former location of Whaley’s saw mill is now a part of Letchworth State Park near the Tea Table picnic area.
An excerpt from “History of the town of Perry, New York” by Carl G. Clarke (1915) reads:
As Castile was a part of Perry until Feb. 27th, 1821, the following early history of that place is given : The first settlement was begun about 1808 or 1809, by Daniel McKay of Caledonia, who erected a saw mill on Wolf Creek, in the southeastern part of the town. About the same time, Robert Whaley removed from Caledonia and settled on the Allegany Road, a short distance from the center of the present Town of Castile. Mr. Whaley had charge of the saw mill, which was about one-half mile from the mouth of the creek, on the Cotringer tract. This mill was stocked with the fine logs purchased from Mary Jemison, and the lumber was transported to the river’s high bank, where there was a slide by which it was conveyed to the river, thence floated down to the older settlements. Mr. Whaley opened a tavern at his place of residence, and for many years the “Whaley Stand” Avas widely known and patronized by the settlers of this and other parts of the country farther west. In 1816 a severe calamity occurred at this pioneer tavern. Mr. Whaley had removed to his mill and rented the house to a Mr. Eldredge. Several men from LeRoy put up there for the night, when the house took fire and two of the men perished in the flames. The house was rebuilt, and in 1817 Mr. Whaley occupied it, passing away there soon afterward. His widow continued the business for a number of years.
An excerpt from “History of the pioneer settlement of Phelps & Gorham’s purchase, and Morris’ reserve.” by William Alling (1852) reads:
In 1808 and 9, Daniel M’Kay, a brother of Robert and John M’Kay, of Caledonia, built a saw mill on Wolf Creek, in what is now Castile. In 1808, Robert Whaley removed from Caledonia and settled on the Allegany Road, a short distance from what is now the centre of the town, there being then no other settler on the road between him and the village of Leciester, a distance of thirteen miles. Mr. Whaley had charge, if he did not become the purchaser of the saw mill. It was located about half a mile above where the creek unites with the Genesee River, on the Cotringer tract, which was
not then in market. He purchased pine timber of Mrs. Jemison, (the White Woman,) transported his lumber to the high river bank, where he had a slide, upon which it descended into the river, was rafted, and sent down to Geneseo, Avon, and other old settlements, where there was a demand for it.* Mr. Whaley opened a public house, where he had located on the Allegany road and the ” Whaley stand” in his hands, and those of his widow, who succeeded him, was widely known in early years ; the comfortable halting and resting place of emigrants to the southern portion of the Holland
Purchase, and to the western states, via. Olean.
At this Pioneer tavern, while it was yet a rude, primitive log house, in 1816, a severe calamity occurred. Mr. Whaley had moved to his mill, and rented the house to Samuel (or Lemuel) Eldridge. A company of five or six men came out from Le Roy to view the country, and put up at the house. During the night the house took fire, and two of the men sleeping in the chamber, were burned to death ; the one escaping, to survive but a few hours, and the other perishing in the flames.
The house was rebuilt, and Mr. Whaley returned to it in 1817, dying soon after. Mrs. Whaley continued the tavern, (building a large and commodious house,) until within a few years she removed to Caledonia. Mrs. W. is a sister of the Pioneer brothers, the M’Kays.
* It was near this slide, where John Jemison killed his brother Jesse, as related in the history of Mary Jemison. ” The White Woman,” says Ziba Hurd Esq., a Pioneer of Castile, ” lived about four miles from me. I frequently saw her at her house, she was sociable and intelligent ; spoke the English language fluently. She and her family all dressed in the Indian style. After her sons were murdered, her family consisted of three daughters, named Polly, Betsey, and Nancy. Their husbands names were, George Shongo, John and Bill Green.”
- Grandson, Robert J. Whaley, was born in the cabin in 1840. He moved to Flint, Michigan with his family in 1867 and became a prominent banker. In 1908, through his bank, he loaned $2,000 to William Durrant and J. Dallas Dort, who used those funds to start General Motors. Whaley’s former home is now a public museum and historic site. whaleyhouse.com
- Robert Whaley occasionally employed two of Mary Jemison’s sons, John and Jesse, and her son-in-law, George Chongo. In May of 1812, Chongo and Jesse got into an argument on the job, supposedly intoxicated with whiskey at the time. Jesse got the best of Chongo. John, displeased with Jesse’s ongoing troublesome behavior, got into an altercation shortly after, resulting in the fatal stabbing of Jesse. Jesse was stabbed 18 times.
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