Enjoy the history of Elma by visiting the Elma Museum Complex in the Elma Village Green Park, which includes: Hurd House Museum, Hurd & Briggs 1846 Sawmill, Barn Museum, and Springbrook Mill Gear & Axle Shelter, located at 3011 Bowen Road in Elma New York, in Erie County, which is less than 20 miles East-South-East of Downtown Buffalo.
It was in 1846 when Clark W. Hurd built his home in a settlement that would later known as Elma. Mr. Hurd would become an important figure in the founding of our great community.
In March of 1857 a spirited meeting was held in his home to form the Town of Elma. It was in this home where Elma's first town officials were decided. P.B. Lathrop was elected first Town Supervisor.
Clark W. Hurd lived to be 87 years and died on January 6, 1894. The home was used by the Hurd family until the death of Harriet Hurd Rowley in 1913. Mrs. Rowley bequeathed it to the Elma United Methodist Church for use as a Parsonage. For many years it housed 12 pastors and their families. A new parsonage was built on Rice Road in the town, and in 1983 the church could no longer maintain the home. It was thought that "Hurd House would need to be demolished."
Newly-elected Elma Historical Society President Ken Schaff received a call from Town Historian May Charlotte Yacobush informing him that the church had planned to demolish the historic home. "This was not just another house. It's the most historically significant house in Town of Elma, " said Mr. Schaff. Long hours and a vision of a Town Museum were the earmark of the project that took four years to complete. While the Town of Elma had an established historical society and a collection of artifacts & documents, it had no museum.
The Elma United Methodist Church offered to sell the home to the Elma Historical Society for the sum of $1.00 on the condition it be moved off of church property. The only location would be Jackman Park which was 700 yards to the North on Bowen Road. The problem with that idea was that the land was donated by Warren Jackman in the early 1900's to be used for park purposes only. It would take an act of the New York State Assembly and Senate to pass a bill and send it to Gov. Mario Cuomo for his signature to allow the Elma Historical Society to move the Hurd House to Jackman Park.
Working with local government officials was required, including Assemblyman Vincent Graber; Senator Dale Volker, and Gov. Mario Cuomo, to secure Jackman Park as the site for the Hurd House. In April 1984, Gov. Mario Cuomo approved and signed Senate Bill No. 7428-A allowing the Town of Elma to sell or lease to the Elma Historical Society Jackman Park for the purpose of establishing a Town Museum.
On May 6, 1985 Elma-based house movers Walter S. Harthoff & Sons moved Hurd House 700 yards to the North on Bowen Road to Jackman Park. Cold, rainy weather made the task a tricky one that took over 10 hours. On September 18, 1988, on a warm sunny day, the Clark W. Hurd House was formally dedicated to the residents of Elma, and it was ceremoniously turned over to the Town of Elma to serve as a Town Museum for generations to come.
Today, the Hurd House is a great place to enjoy and study artifacts that date back 4,000 years from our area. The Research Library is the place to study our founding fathers, and the residents who once lived here.
In 2020 the Barn Museum was enlarged to double its size. Elma was and still is a farming community, and the Barn Museum honors that agricultural history with its mix of artifacts.
Here's a small sample of what the Barn Museum offers: a rare Elma-made carriage from the Jerge Blacksmith Shop; poultry-raising equipment (such as a rare wooden incubator) made by Buffalo-base Cyphers Incubator Company (which had a 50-acre Research Farm on Bowen Road); old Post Office equipment; a Wiard one-horse plow made in Batavia; unique hand tools of every sort; an 1880-era Fire Bell from Springbrook Fire Department; a high-wheeled bicycle; haying machinery & tools; and so much more. See photos for examples.
Allow one of our docents to explain the significance of some of the unique items in the Barn Museum. You won't be disappointed.
Located next to the Sawmill is the shelter housing the restored Mill Gear and Axle from the Springbrook Mill 1844. This large mill gear and axle assembly is part of what is called a cider mill power.
When in use, the upright axle would have been turned by a water wheel or turbine, or by a horse or horses, on the lower level of the mill building. The axle's rotational power was sent up to the next level in the Mill to turn the large attached mill gear, which has straight-cut bevel gears set around the edge. Using other gears and belts & pulleys, this operated machinery in the mill.
Very few mills used this style of cider mill power, so it's a rare sight to see the major part of one still in existence. Don't miss out on seeing what may be the only surviving cider-mill-style mill gear and axle.
HISTORY LESSON ON POWERS: A power is also called a horse power (two words) or an animal power. Before steam engines became commonplace, powers were used to operate machinery, such as threshers, saws, feed cutters, and much more. Early horse powers could have horses walking in a circle, or walking on a treadmill (a.k.a. a railroad horse power). Powers continued to be used into the 1900s, even though steam and internal-combustion engines were essentially everywhere. Gin power was another name for this type of mechanism (although it may be a term more often used in England), as was upright power or vertical power.
Location of Elma Museum Complex in Elma Village Green Park
The Hurd House being moved 700 yards North on Bowen Road to its current location in May 1985 by Elma-based house-moving firm Walter S. Harthoff & Sons
Hurd House Museum as it exists today with a Society member's antique car parked in front.
Inside The Barn Museum: a wooden incubator heated with kerosene built by the Cyphers Incubator Company of Buffalo, NY.
Inside The Barn Museum: horse-drawn carriage built in the Jerge Blacksmith Shop on Bowen Road in Elma. This was the type of vehicle which took the family to church on Sunday.
Springbrook Mill Gear & Axle Shelter.
Please note that the mill gear and axle assembly is on its side for display, but in use the large gear would be at the top with the axle below it, as shown immediately below.
This is an example of a Cider Mill Power based on one in an 1893 online catalog.
Marker for Springbrook Mill Gear & Axle Shelter.
Photos of Old Elma: Covered Brodge (at left) over Cazenovia Creek on Northrup Road, and Springbrook Mills (at right).
Undated (possibly 1880s or 1890s).