A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, featuring Royal Keyes & William Breed (Jamestown), James McClurg (Westfield), Patrick Falconer (Falconer), William Broadhead (Jamestown), and Asahel Burnham (Arkwright). Originally airing on local radio stations Feb. 28 – March 4, 2011.
No. 36 – Royal Keyes and John Breed
At one point in its history, the city of Jamestown was known as the “Furniture Capitol of the World.” When someone purchased a piece of furniture, they could rest assured it was of top quality if it was “made in Jamestown.”
Jamestown’s robust furniture industry sprung from a two-story carpenter shop near the southwest corner of Main and Fourth Streets. The shop was established in 1816 by Royal Keyes, who came from New Haven, Conn. to assist in the construction of new homes in the area. In his spare time he made simple articles of furniture. He soon hired a journeyman cabinet-maker and increased his furniture making. But it would be a few years later that the manufacturing of furniture came into its own.
In the spring of 1820, carpenter and joiner William Breed came to Jamestown from Pittsburgh. By 1822 he formed a partnership with Keyes. Shortly afterward William’s brother, John Breed, bought out Keyes interest in the company and the firm of Breed & Keyes erected a good-sized factory at the “lower dam” on what is now Winsor St. It was the first water-powered furniture factory in the area.
By the 1850s, the W. & J. C. Breed & Co. was a major force in the furniture industry, selling all types of quality-made furniture throughout the country. The original business established by Royal Keyes in 1815 remained in operation under various ownerships but without interruption until the second half of the 20th century.
No. 37 – James McClurg
James McClurg was born in Ireland, and, when a youth, moved with his family to Philadelphia. His father took an active part in the famed Irish Rebellion, which culminated in 1798. The failure of rebellion is said to have been the cause of their removal to this country. Later in life he would say he had seen President George Washington while living in Philadelphia
The family eventually moved to Pittsburgh, where James and his father became extensively engaged in the iron foundry and furnace business. In 1810, James came to Westfield and opened a small store, which some claim to be the first business in Westfield. When the War of 1812 broke out, he returned to Pittsburgh and made cannons for the government. These cannon, it is believed, were the first ever made in the United States.
After the war, he returned to Westfield, where he spent the remainder of his life. He served as a local merchant in the area and also helped to construct the Westfield Mill. He also invested in real estate, purchasing the property owned by David Eason and converting it into lots, which greatly contributed to the growth and prosperity of the town. McClurg is also responsible for the construction of the McClurg Mansion. It was built in 1818 and was dubbed by locals as “McClurg’s Folly” because it stood in high contrast to the crude log cabins of the time. He died May 26, 1872, aged 87 years.
No. 38 – Patrick Falconer
Patrick Falconer was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Jan. 5, 1814. He was the son of Robert Falconer, a Scottish Immigrant who was engaged in the cotton trade in the New York city area.
In 1819, Robert moved to Sugar Grove, Pa. with his family. Ten years later he moved to Warren, Pa. and established the Lumberman’s Bank of Warren, and then back to Sugar Grove in 1840, where he lived until his death in 1853. Though never a resident of Chautauqua County, he made several land purchases in Dexterville, Worksburg, and Kennedy.
Patrick Falconer came to Jamestown at the age of 18, where he studied law with Judge Abner Hazeltine, Sr. In 1840, he bought his father’s interest in his property at Dexterville and Worksburg, selling his share of the Dexterville property four years later. He then became the sole owner of the Edward Work property at Worksburg, where he finally settled.
In 1867 Patrick Falconer became member of the board of directors for the Dunkirk, Allegany Valley and Pittsburgh Railroad Company and donated a generous amount of his land, ensuring the railroad would pass directly through the community. Because of his efforts in developing Worksburg, the community changed its name to Falconer in 1874.
Patrick Falconer married Martha T. Hallock and they had six children, including William T. Falconer, who was born in 1850 and also served as a key developer in the community. Patrick Falconer died in 1887.
No. 39 – William Broadhead
Considered the city of Jamestown’s foremost manufacturer, William Broadhead was born on Feb. 17, 1819 in Yorkshire, England and worked in his early adult life as a blacksmith. He came to Chautauqua County in January, 1843 – first to Busti where his uncle, Rev. John Broadhead, was living.
Broadhead eventually found work in Jamestown and later started a business with Adam Cobb, whose daughter, Lucy Cobb, he had married in 1845. Later, Broadhead purchased an ax factory in town and began to manufacture axes and forks. Soon, he became interested in quality textiles and formed a clothing store with his children called William Broadhead and Sons. Their business increased rapidly and soon they had the largest clothing store in the county.
In 1873, after visiting his homeland where the weaving industry flourished, he helped to form the Jamestown Alpaca Mill with local businessmen William Hall and Joseph Turner. It was located on Harrison St. and was the first worsted mill to be operated west of Philadelphia. The business quickly grew to large proportions and was conducted on an extensive scale. Its products were known from coast to coast.
In 1875, Broadhead withdrew and founded the Broadhead Worsted Mills on East First St. In this venture he was joined by his two sons, Almet Broadhead and Sheldon Broadhead. The Broadhead family later acquired the Jamestown Alpaca Mill and renamed it the Jamestown Worsted Mills. Together, the two mills employed thousands of people until the early 1930s.
William Broadhead had a total of four children and one adopted daughter. He passed away at his home at 130 South Main St. in May 1910, at the age of 91.
Ref: Jamestown Evening Journal: “Grand Old Man,” 21 May 1910; Jamestown Post-Journal: “Leading Citizens Built Homes On The Hills South Of The River,” 29 March 1986; City of Jamestown Historic Marker Program; Young’s History of Chautauqua County
No. 40 – Asahel Burnham
Arkwright was the first town in the New York State to extensively establish the cheese co-op, and it was largely due to the work of one individual – Asahel Burnham. Burnham was born in Arkwright, about 1826. He had poor opportunities for education and no business experience. What he did have, however, energy and natural business ability.
He spent much of his life as a farmer and in 1861, he built in Arkwright the first cheese factory in the county based on the cooperative plan. It was located in Burnham’s Hollow on Canadaway Creek, and was called the Canadaway Cheese Factory. He built a second of that kind in Sinclairville in 1865, which at that time is believed to be the largest in the state. That year, the factory used nearly 4,350,000 pounds of milk from 120 different farms to 432,000 pounds of cheese.
Burnham eventually built and owned factories in adjacent towns and was soon called the “Cheese King,” because he bought and handled a large portion of the cheese made in Western New York. His cooperative system grew into a great industry and by 1902, he had 35 cheese factories that produced over 3,300,000 pounds of cheese. Under the cooperative system and Burnham’s management, Chautauqua County became a state-wide leader in not only the quantity of butter and cheese produced, but also the quality of the product.
Burnham was also noted all over the United States as the owner of a famous stable of thoroughbreds, his most noted racer being “Brambaletta.” He had for an emblem a pineapple cheese, which he emblazoned on his jockey’s colors.
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.
– J. Sample