I spent three nights at Riverhurst
before departing to go further upriver to the headwaters in Potter County, Pennsylvania. My travails there including losing
the cell phone I had struggled to add to my budget. That’s covered elsewhere, but as I was leaving Potter County several
days later to return to the New York area, the campground owner gave me the go-ahead to call back to Cincinnati to my anchor,
Bob Nordloh. We decided Bob would notify Cincinnati Bell of the lost phone and secure a replacement.
Actually, my idea was to attempt
to replace the phone in Buffalo when I got to Niagara, and hope that they could engineer a deal with the Cincinnati base of
my account. I’m sure I’m not the first person to ever lose a cell phone while away from home. Bob’s idea
was simpler. He would secure the phone in Cincinnati, check on unauthorized use of the lost phone and ship the replacement
to Riverhurst in care of Jake Kush… At the time I didn’t even know Jake’s last name, Bob took care of it
all, and the next day, after finding and talking to Jake, he confirmed that the arrangements had been made.
I took my time getting back to
Portville where I was supposed to wrap up with the theater group’s dress rehearsal and photograph the motorcycle riders
at the City Limits. I drove through town to the west side of Olean where I purchased a third camera battery - $40 at Radio
Shack – and went to a movie. It started to rain while I was at the movie and rained all night; I parked in front of
Jake’s office at Riverhurst and waited for daylight. For excitement I took a photograph of my speedometer.
There is an emptied and overgrown
holding pond where logs used to be floated into from upriver and from the Genesee Valley Canal extension. The logs were retained
in the holding pond until they were processed into lumber, then floated back into the river where many went down river to
the Ohio, to the Mississippi, and even to the Gulf of Mexico. Some of them made their way back up the east coast where they
were used for housing and other construction. Other products of the new frontier, such as furs and buffalo hides, took the
Jake doesn’t think the canal
was the Genesse Valley Canal at all. I had to do some research to confirm this. The Genesse Valley Canal was completed in
1837 and the right of way was sold to a railroad in 1878, when operation as a canal ceased. The length of the canal was 107
miles from Rochester to Olean with most of easily identifiable segments north of Olean through Hinsdale and on. What, then,
was this canal to the east to Portville?
“In 1850 William Wallace
WESTON came to the Allegany valley the junior member of the firm of WESTON Brothers (Abijah, Orren, and W. W.), who, in company
with John G. MERSEREAU, purchased a small mill at the mouth of the Oswayo, remodeled it, and brought eastern methods and the
gang-saw to the complete revolution of lumbering methods in this section. This was the commencement of their operations
here and the next year they began to build a mill at Weston's Mills, where a small village has been evolved by their operations.
Mr. MERSEREAU was a progressive business man, and believed that the best machinery and the best facilities for manufacturing
would make the best goods and insure the best returns, and was prompt in adopting them. He, with WESTON Brothers, built the
mills in which they placed the first gang-saws operated on the waters of the Allegany. He was supervisor of Portville in 1863.
To him more than to any other man is due the extension of the Genesee Valley Canal from Olean to Portville.” -- Historical
Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial of Cattaraugus Co. NY, edited by William Adams, published 1893
Jake took me for a ride around
the property on his golf cart. He drove me down the towpath that was the bank of the Genesee Valley Canal and later was the
bed of a railroad. We stopped near Butch’s A-frame while he told me the whole story of lumbering. He told me about the
big buckeye tree on his property, bigger than any buckeye tree in the state of Ohio. He took me to a clearing where there
was a small outdoor chapel, more like a bench, where he conducted some weddings. “Jake”, Phillip E. Kush, had
been elected as Town Justice of Portville several times. He took me to the tiny Portville courthouse where he served as judge
until retirement, and he told me he was waiting for a test result on his cancer of the liver. He bought me coffee and a bagel
at a Dunkin’ Donuts. He sent me to a tiny hideaway on the campground, a bit of a dump, where he told me to get some
sleep while we waited for the UPS truck to deliver the cell phone. I asked him where the buckeye tree was, took a few photos,
set up the battery charger, and took his advice on the sleep. It started to rain again.
he told me he had to chase the UPS truck down the road because he got to the door too late. As I headed out to Niagara Falls,
it was tough parting with Jake.