The History of Elma, New York


  What would be later known as  Elma Village was called “Big" Flats”, the home of the Seneca Indians, and later by the name of “Hurd or Briggs' mills after the first settlers in that area. In 1842 the reservation was sold to the Ogden Company, who advertised it would sell the land to settlers.  In 1844  the Senecas' moved out of Big Flats.  People came from the already developed towns of Lancaster, Aurora, Alden, and Wales.  Reports spread everywhere of the heavy growth of timber and  the fertility of the soil.

 The 1800s brought Clark W. Hurd and Joseph B. Briggs to this settlement. They acquired land next to Buffalo Creek to build a dam, dig a mill race, and construct a saw mill.

  Any mail for settlers in the area was directed to the Lancaster Post Office. Obliging teamsters, on their way home from hauling wood or lumber, would stop in and take any mail to their neighbors. The question was asked “Why not have a post office and have our mail brought regularly?” Several names were brought out for the new post office but none seemed to be satisfactory until someone said, “There is a big elm tree at the crossing of Clinton St. and Bowen Rd.  Why not add the letter “a” to the elm tree and call the post office Elma?" It was accepted and after all procedures were carried out the new Elma Post office was established and received mail three times a week. This was in 1852. Soon houses were built and a store keeper moved into one of the houses and opened up a with small stock of groceries. 

  The need to give children the elements of a good education made it necessary to build a small schoolhouse. The  property was donated by J. B. Briggs whose land was on the west side of Bowen Rd. which later became Elma #7 school. It is now a private residence.

  The time had come when this settlement, with a post office called Elma,  was to become a Town within the County of Erie in the State of New York. On September 4,1856 the Supervisors of Erie County voted to form a new town from parts of Lancaster and  Aurora called Elma. The first Town meeting was held at the home of Clark W. Hurd ( now the Elma Town Museum) and a spirited  one it was since there had been strong opposition to the forming of a new town. The first general election was held on November 3, 1857 and it passed.

   In 2007 the Town of Elma celebrated its Sesquicentennial.  The celebration of 150 years of progress began with a fireworks display, which was followed with various events honoring Elma's history.  The events included parades, Civil War and Revolutionary War re-enactors, old fashion games, a Victorian Tea, an Ecumenical Service, and a tour of homes. The summer of 2007 gave the community a chance to reflect on its history, back to a time when people traveled by train or horse and buggy and when our fire companies relied on bucket brigades.  The year ended with residents making a contribution to the Sesquicentennial time capsule,  At its January 2, 2008 meeting the Town Board held a ceremony to seal the time capsule. Town Historian Robert Newton read from a prepared proclamation and together with Fred Streif sealed the capsule until the town's bicentennial in 2057. History has demonstrated that keys are always lost after a period of time. The keys to our time capsule were placed inside the capsule with a note to the person (s) who would open it in 2057.




Photo at right is East Elma c. 1858 looking west at Jamison  and Creek Roads. If you look very close to the left you can see the Jamison Road covered bridge. A sign over the entrance reads, “One dollar fine for riding or driving on or across this bridge faster than a walk”.