Bicentennial Biographies No. 33 – 35

Heman Bush

Heman Bush came to Chautauqua County in June, 1812 from Litchfield, N.Y. and settled in Frank’s Settlement [today known as Busti]. There, he built the settlement’s first tavern, and also the first store and ashery and the first sawmill.  The sawmill was located a quarter of a mile south of Busti hamlet on the bank of Stillwater Creek.  Later he built a gristmill nearby on the same creek.  The mill still stands today as a the centerpiece of the Busti Historical Society.

The historic Busti Mill, built by Heman Bush

In 1816, a group of masons in the area petitioned the state grand lodge for a charter, which was obtained the following year. On Sept. 27, 1817, the first meeting of the Mount Moriah Lodge No. 145 took place in Bush’s tavern and Bush was named Master.

When the town of Busti was set off from Ellicott in 1824, the first town meeting was held in the long room of Bush’s hotel. Daniel Sherman was elected town Supervisor, while Bush was named overseer of the poor. Bush also previously served as assessor and commissioner of schools for the town of Ellicott.

Bush died in May 1839 at the age go 62. His widow, whose maiden name was Abigail Frost, died in 1872. In 1921 the lodge honored the memory of its first Master by erecting at his grave in the Busti Cemetery a large monument.

Ref: Young’s History of Chautauqua County; Roots Web – Descendants of Richard and Sarah Rogers Knight


Elial T. Foote

Judge Elial Todd Foote, the son of Deacon Samuel Foote and Sybil Doolittle Foote, was born in Greenfield, Mass in May 1796. In 1798, he moved with his parents to Sherburne, N. Y. and received his education in the common school and Oxford Academy, eventually becoming a licensed physician in Chenango County.

Judge Elial T. Foote, from Young's History of Chautauqua County

At the age of 19, Foote came to the Rapids [today known as Jamestown] seeking a place to practice his profession. He is considered the first physician in Jamestown. Soon after his arrival he turned his attention from medicine to public office. In 1817, he was appointed assistant justice of the court. A year later he was appointed associate judge. At the age of 25, he became first judge of Chautauqua County, a position he served for 20 years. In addition, Foote would also serve as a state assemblyman, sheriff and postmaster.

In 1822, Foote purchased a portion of “reserved land” in Jamestown from the Holland Land Company. This tract, with its valuable waterpower, was quickly developed and the growth of the village greatly promoted. A year later, he used a portion of the land to build a home on the present site of Jamestown High School. He was also involved with other developments throughout the county, including the Chautauqua County Courthouse and Barcelona Lighthouse. When the Chautauqua County Bank was established in 1831, he was named its first president.

Foote was also a philanthropist, and donated much land and money to various religious groups and services for the poor and needy. He was also heavily involved in the temperance movement and was a staunch abolitionist.

Soon after 1820, Judge Foote conceived the idea of collecting materials for the early history of Chautauqua County. An avid historian, he would eventually gather hundreds of volumes of early newspapers, land documents, and first-hand accounts related to the area’s early settlement. This became an invaluable asset to later books outlining the early history of the county.

Foote was married three times and had five children. He passed away in Nov. 17, 1877 in New Haven, Conn., but was returned to Jamestown to be buried in Lakeview Cemetery.

Ref: Young’s History of Chautauqua County;


Silas Shearman

A journeyman saddler, Silas Shearman came to Jamestown in 1822. He was employed by William Knight who kept a small harness shop on the east side of Main Street, between Second and Third streets. He held many military commissions, among which were Captain of Cavalry, Major and Lieutenant Colonel of the 162nd regiment of the 43rd Brigade, New York State Militia.

A historical marker in downtown Jamestown noting the work of Silas Shearman and the Underground Railroad

Shearman was what is termed a rabid abolitionist at a time when active opposition to slavery was most unpopular. In the 1850s he became a conductor of the “underground railroad” and his home was the principle station in Jamestown. It was not uncommon for him to come down in the morning and find his kitchen filled with escaping slaves who were brought to Jamestown during the night and directed to his home. He would feed them and hid them during the day in his barn on Stillers Alley and then arrange for their transportation to the next station, often in the village of Ellington.

He was also active in the cause to temperance. As a result of his decided views upon both temperance and the slavery question, he lost many friends.

The Shearman home stood at the southeast corner of Pine and Fourth Streets until 1910. Today at this site, visitors will find a plaque detailing the location of the Shearman Homestead.

Ref: City of Jamestown Historical Marker Program

Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.

View Complete List of Bicentennial Biographies and Audio

– J. Sample

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