By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
One sunny, almost fall like day last week, I chanced to take a walk to stretch my legs and drink of the fresh air. My walk took me across the County Road 9 Bridge spanning the mighty Genesee River. I now live a stone’s throw from the Genesee River. Well, it may be 3 or 4 throws but, writing figuratively, I’m sure you get the idea. I grew up next to the “River Nile.” If you believed I could throw a stone the quarter mile to the Genesee River from my house you might also buy into the Van Campen Creek, being a river in Nile, NY. It is in fact a tributary that feeds the Genesee River.
We Nile guys used to consider Friendship to be a suburb of Nile. The emphasis of this piece will address the Nile I knew back in the 50’s and 60’s but it bears noting that a former “Nile Guy”, probably now one of the most famous to call that burg his former home, was recently honored by his selection into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. Dennie Miles got his start in Nile. I’m not sure if it helped his progression as an athlete or ball player but, we used to let him watch the big guys play ball in the school bus turn around lot, formerly the site of the old school house.
This piece “morphed” (slang for transmorgrified) from being just one Wrambling among many planned, into a feature all its own, while I researched a little history beyond the Nile 60’s, and specifically its renowned Times Square. One landmark, in particular to discuss, is the bridge featured in the accompanying photo. This old time “Truss” bridge spanned the Van Campen Creek on County Route 1. The creek itself starts from a spring up in Inavale, south of Nile, in the township of Wirt, and wends its way to the Genesee River in Belvidere, near the I86, across Route 20 from Quicklees.
Tuesday night in a 2 – 3 hour session in the Facebook group You Know You’re From Friendship, NY When… I discovered that nearly the entire cast of characters has changed from the days of my youth. There are some names, such as those of old timers like: Bonelier, Compton, Heary, Whitwood, Brown, Ames, Biddle, Whitford, Canfield, etc., that have disappeared. But, a few, like: Miles, Cummins, Kruger, Carney, Clark, and Warner still remain. Those early names are now replaced by those like: Sortore, Monheim, Golden, Greene, Whitcher, Shelley…and others.
The waters under the above mentioned and illustrated bridge, and many other spots along Van Campen Creek, served as our early favorite swimming holes. Another favorite old swimming hole was the old Mill Pond a little upstream from the bridge. The Mill Pond also served as our ice skating pond in winter months. I don’t recall exactly when, but the “ponding” was taken out, or washed out, years before my departure in the 60’s.
Getting back to, or crossing that bridge, it was the site of “wrecklessness” by the brave, foolish, or perhaps just, youthfully stupid. We used to jump into chest high deep water below, from the top of the truss above the bridge deck. I used to explain that the water came up to my arm pits, so it was safe to jump into it. Then again, I was maybe 10 or 11 years old so how deep was that?
That bridge was first replaced sometime in the mid to late 50’s and was again replaced maybe 20 years ago. I am trying to narrow down those dates and whether I succeed or not will be measured by being able to track it down through Allegany County DPW on short notice. If you are reading THIS paragraph then I guess I either couldn’t make contact with the right people, or did not give them sufficient time to research or respond.
My family moved into Nile in a house South of the hamlet on Rte.275 back around 1952, where my stepfather Paul Miles built our house. Short people shouldn’t be allowed to build houses by winging it. The ceilings, while seemingly high enough to him were just barely over my head when we moved out of there down into the center of town in Nile in 1958 or 1959. Our house “down town”, was formerly a church which was converted into a house. My memory isn’t clear as to if he, or who, put in the partitions that added rooms converting it into the house. Our Kitchen was up in the old pulpit area and the ceilings were certainly high enough in this place. In 1963, we, (Paul and Fran Miles et al) took over the store proprietorship from Howard and “Billie” Dieter and ran it first as the Nile General Store, and then as “Paul’s Garage” until the mid 1970’s. Sadly it was then demolished, much to the dismay of many in the area, yours truly included.
I researched the hamlet of Nile in 2015 upon the occasion of the Bicentennial of the town of Friendship, of which, begrudgingly, Nile is a part. What follows is a small snippet from that history, focused more on The Nile Store but also noting other former businesses.
Following is from “Minard, John S., Allegany County and its People. A Centennial History of Allegany County…1896” as excerpted from “The Allegany County, New York Genweb” site.
In the early history of the town (Friendship) the southern portion, particularly in the vicinity of the creek, was called South Branch, in allusion to the stream now so designated. A number of years later a post office was established here and was named “Nile” in deference to the wishes of the inhabitants, a large proportion of whom were Seventh-day Baptists. A tavern was opened in this part of the town early in the century, and one of its first landmarks was “Bill” Fairbanks. The earliest storekeepers were Green & Axtell and Luther B. Whitwood, who kept a general store from 1840 to 1886, and was postmaster most of the time. Ebenezer Steenrod also had a carding and fulling mill and a sawmill. However, among the hamlets of the county, Nile has attracted but little public attention. Indeed, the inhabitants here have never sought prominence, and are in all respects a quiet, industrious, thrifty people. Nearly all are devotedly attached to the Seventh-day Baptist faith and live in strict conformity with their belief. The present business interests of this locality comprise the gristmill, two stores and a few small shops. The merchants are Daniel J. Brown and J. B. Whitford, the latter being also postmaster. My Comment… I believe the “South Branch” creek mentioned herein is now known as Van Campen Creek as mentioned previously. Before signing off with a fairly customary poem, and one which was written and shared at a “Writers and Artists” presentation during the 2015 Bicentennial Week in Friendship, I would like, welcome and encourage, any comments, thoughts or suggestions whether supportive or constructive of my weekly “Wramblings“. You are invited to contact me through the WellsvilleSun@yahoo.com
The Town and The Store of Nile
Outside the town of Friendship by three mile
Is the little town, we all know as Nile
It isn’t as lively as it was in the past
But mem’ries born there will ever, last
There once was a school and two churches they say
Where the good folk of Nile would gather and pray
There was also a tavern and a theatre for plays
For moments to relax at the end of the day
The Grist Mill was built on the edge of a creek
With a mill pond where children would stealthily sneak
Farming was often the life’s toil they chose
And dairy herds flourished, a cheese fact’ry so close
At the center of town stood the “General Store”
Where villagers gathered to shop and much more
Get their mail, tell a tale, as they sat by the fire
But, of the tales oft told by friends, they would never tire
Many families once shared the store as their home
And made friends and memories always to own
But the years took their toll and as age wore it down
The Store passed away, but still lives the town