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Wilson-Folts Site History

Occupation Period 1: 1849 – c.1860

The first occupation period is associated with the construction and use of MDS 1004 as a domestic residence by Abram B. Wilson and his family between 1849 and circa 1870.    A Vermont native and former resident of Mansfield, near Syracuse, Abram B. Wilson appears to have moved to Ashford soon after graduating from Geneva Medical College in 1848.  He eventually became a respected physician with his practice extending over a large part of northern Cattaraugus County.

In 1849 Wilson and his wife Polly Ann purchased land from John Coyle for the sum of $155.  This amount indicates the tract was relatively small, probably the nine acres noted in later census records.  The figure suggests there were few improvements to the land and that it likely did not contain a house, though it is likely that Wilson had one built (MDS 1004) soon after his arrival in Ashford.  The 1855 New York state census shows it to be of plank construction and valued at $500.  The homes of Wilson’s immediate neighbors were valued at $100-400 and most employed a plank construction method as well, except for two houses described as frame.

In addition to his medical practice, Abram Wilson also operated a small farm.  It was small, consisting of nine acres of improved land.  In 1855, its cash value is listed as $1000.  The scale of the Wilson farm compared to their neighbors is also reflected in the value of his stock and equipment.  The greater valuations given for nearby farms indicate that farming was not a fulltime endeavor, but more likely a means of providing food and other basic necessities for the family table.  The modest farm contained pasture for a single cow producing milk and butter and they raised small amounts of buckwheat, corn, potatoes and apples, while also producing maple sugar.

By 1860, the census shows the Wilson family residing in the adjacent Town of East Otto, not far from Ashford Hollow where his medical practice was centered.  Later census records indicate they returned to reside in the Town of Ashford, but not at the Wilson-Folts site.  It would appear the occupation of the Oliver Folts household began at this time.

Occupation Period 2: c.1860 – 1900

The second occupation period is associated with MDS 1004’s use as a domestic residence by Oliver Folts and his family between c.1860 and 1900.  Census records indicate that Oliver Folts and his wife and child were residing at the site by 1860. No specific deed records could be located showing the sale between Wilson and Folts, though a separate deed from 1873 indicates that Folts did own the property by this time.

In 1860, Oliver is recorded as having real estate worth $150 and a personal estate of $50 indicating he was likely a farmer of modest financial means.  By 1865, the Folts family’s situation appears to have changed considerably.  The value of the farm, its stock and equipment was now $3000, a significant increase over five years earlier.  While Folts may have made improvements to the farm, but this increase in value would also appear to be partly attributable to the inflation caused by the Civil War.  By 1870, His estate is valued at a slightly lower amount, most likely reflecting the post-war decline in agricultural prices, rather than a change in the character of his farm.

By 1880, Folts’s occupation is listed as a cheese maker.  It is unknown whether Folts produced his own cheese or was employed by a nearby commercial factory.  It is even possible that he was employed in the nearby Neff & Gampp Cheese factory, located a short distance to the northwest along the present-day US Route 219.  On the 1892 state census, Folts is listed as landlord, a likely indication of his relative wealth and social status at age 59.  By 1900, census records make no note of Oliver Folts or his wife, although their son is living in an adjacent town.  Interestingly, Ernest Folt’s profession is listed as cheese maker continuing the family’s participation in this agricultural industry.

Post-Occupation Period 3: 1900 – Present 

The third (post-occupation) period is associated with MDS 1004’s abandonment, demolition and use as a refuse dumping pit during the 20th century.   It could not be determined if the dwelling was re-occupied after the Oliver Folts occupation, though it had likely been razed by 1916, as it is not depicted on the Rand McNally property owner atlas of that same year.   Afterwards, the former structure’s foundation pit was re-used for the disposal of domestic trash during the mid to late 20th century by the property’s owner(s), and possibly by the other Ashford residents who lived along Neff Road.