EARLY HISTORY OF ELMA, NY — or — How Elma Became A Town in 1856


What would later be known as Elma Village was called Big Flats, the home of the Seneca Native Americans. Later the hamlet was referred to as Hurd or Briggs' Mills, after the first settlers in that area. In 1842 the reservation was sold to the Ogden Company, who advertised it so as to sell the land to settlers. In 1844 the Senecas moved out of Big Flats. People moved to the area from the already-developed towns of Lancaster, Aurora, Alden and Wales. Reports spread everywhere of the heavy growth of timber and of 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 then construct a sawmill.  Any mail for settlers in the area was directed to the Lancaster Post Office. Obliging teamsters, on their way home from hauling 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 suggested, but none were satisfactory, until someone said "There is a big elm tree at the crossing of Bowen Road and Clinton Street; why not add the letter "a" to the word elm and call the post office Elma?"


It was accepted, and after all procedures were carried out the new Elma Post Office was established, and it received mail three times a week. This was in 1852. Soon houses were built and a store keeper moved into one of the houses so as to offer a small stock of groceries (see image at upper-right).

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 Road, which was later to become School No. 7. It's now a private residence.  


The time had come when this settlement, with a Post Office called Elma, was to become a town within Erie County 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, which was to be called Elma.


The first Elma town meeting was held at the home of Clark W. Hurd (now the Hurd House Museum) and a spirited one it was, because there had been strong opposition to the forming of a new town. The first general election was held on November 3, 1857.

Photos Of Old Elma: General Store on Bowen Road in Elma Village

Maps Of Old Elma: 1880 Inset Map of Elma Village

Bowen Road runs North-South in the middle



1857-1859 Paul B. Lathrop
1860-1861 Zina A. Hemstreet
1862-1863 C. Peek
1864-1865 Lewis M. Bullis
1866 Paul B. Lathrop
1867-1868 Alfred Marvel
1869-1870 Hiram Harris
1871-1873 Alfred Marvel
1874-1876 William Winspear
1877-1880 Eli Northrup
1881-1882 Alfred Marvel
1883-1884 J. Tillou
1885-1886 Cyrus Hurd
1886-1887 Myron H. Clark
1888-1889 Timothy Clifford
1889-1890 Eli B. Northrup
1891-1892 Charles H. Sweet
1893-1894 Richard Barnett
1895-1896 J. Luders
1897-1903 J.A. Woodard

1905-1906 J. Luders
1907-1908 A.H. Tillou
1909-1910 A. Klehm
1911-1914 E.M. Hill
1915-1918 B.J. Eldridge
1919-1920 C.W. Clark
1921-1922 B.J. Eldridge
1923-1928 H.W. Heim
1924-1934 B.J. Eldridge
1935-1952 Earl Lexo
1952-1962 M.E. Reuther
1963-1987 Bill Lexo
1988-1995 John DiJoseph
1996-2001 Audrey Murdoch
2002-2003 John Dudek
2004-2011 Michael Nolan
2011-2019 Dennis M. Powers
2020-on Wayne Clark

             (see below)

Dateline: Elma Town Hall Jan. 1, 2020; the swearing in of the new Town Supervisor. Seen here are Elma Town Historian, Frank Maciejewski (left), who presents two books to our new Town Supervisor, Wayne Clark (center), along with Marlene Baumgartner, Historical Society President (right), and Margaret Maciejewski, Historical Society Sunshine Trustee (not seen). 

The red book is the new 2019 Elma history book. The black book is a rebound copy of the 1901 Elma history book, which originally belonged to Town Supervisor Myron H. Clark (1886-to-1887). 

"Brief History Of Elma" from 1971.