A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring George Hubbard (Panama), Brad Anderson (Portland and Brocton), James Townsend (Jamestown, Chautauqua, Lakewood and Bemus Point), Douglas Houghton (Fredona) and Abner Allen (Jamestown). Originally broadcast on local radio stations May 23 – May 27, 2011.
George Hubbardwas born in December 1850. While in his 30s, he purchased a piece of property in Panama with a farmhouse. Also located on the property was a piece of land known by locals as the “Rock Farm.”
Hubbard opened up his property to visitors and called it a park. Using oxen to haul a building from across the road, he added to the farmhouse, making it into a summer hotel. He also operated a stagecoach in order to transport sightseers from the railroad station in Ashville, located seven miles to the east.
By the turn-of-the-century, Panama Rocks had developed a reputation as a lover’s retreat. This was due to the many concealed niches in the rocks where lovers could avoid the prying eyes of the public. It became a popular destination for honeymooners.
For more nearly 25 years, Hubbard continued to operate his park on a seasonal basis. But around 1910, he sold the property to D. L. Davis, who picked up where Hubbard left off and started the Panama Rocks Co. At this time he develop the scenic area by constructing a small access road and he added stairways down into some deep, cavernous dens. He built a large dining hall. People drove from as far away as Buffalo to enjoy the Sunday chicken dinners and to see the rocks.
Hubbard lived in the area the remainder of his life. Today, the tradition he started in 1885 continues with Panama Rocks still open to visitors on a seasonal basis, under the operation of Craig and Sandra Weston.
Brad Andersonwas born May 14, 1924, in Jamestown. Anderson grew up in Portland and graduated from Brocton Central School in 1943. It was in high school that the young aviation buff began submitting cartoons for publication in specialty magazines like Flying and Flying Aces. He then served with the United States Navy until 1946.
Initially aspiring to be an industrial designer, Anderson attended Syracuse University on the G.I. Bill. Throughout his undergraduate years, he frequently published cartoons in the student magazine The Syracusan, as well as in popular commercial publications like Collier’s Weekly and the Saturday Evening Post.
In 1951 he graduated with a B.F.A. in Fine Arts with a major in advertising. He went to work for Ball & Grier, an advertising agency in Utica, New York; however, in 1953, Anderson decided to focus on freelance magazine cartooning. From 1954 to 1966, Anderson drew the comic strip Grandpa’s Boy.
Anderson is best known for creating the comic strip Marmaduke. He said he was drawing various types of dogs in his other cartoons and was also trying to develop a dog character specifically for newspaper syndication. In 1954 Marmaduke appeared in his first newspaper, where he can be found ever since. At its peak, the strip appeared in more than 600 newspapers in 20 countries worldwide.
In 1978 Anderson received a National Cartoonists Society Award for Marmaduke in 1978. He’s also made and appearance on two television shows featured on Animal Planet.
One of his favorite inclusions in his comics was the old Cave’s Meat Market in Brocton. Anderson is married and has one daughter, Christine, and three sons, Craig, Paul and Mark.
Dr. James Townsend
James G. Townsend was born in Pittsburgh, May 26, 1839. At the age of seven his family moved o Buffalo where his father became involved in politics. He became very popular and expected to be elected Mayor of the city. But in 1852, Buffalo experienced an epidemic of cholera and in three days Townsend’s father, brother, sister and uncle were dead and his mother became an invalid.
Townsend attended school at Oberlin College and then became a schoolteacher in Western Pennsylvania. In the summer of 1862 he left the teaching profession to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War.
Following his service in the war, he turned to the Methodist Church became principal of Carrier Seminary, later Clarion University in Pennsylvania. Eventually he became a minister, traveling to various churches throughout northwest Pennsylvania and western New York, until returning to Buffalo. It was during his time with the Methodist Church that Townsend became familiar with a summer retreat on the shores of Chautauqua Lake. In 1873 he was invited to speak at this camp meeting and soon he was making regular appearances as the camp grew into the Chautauqua Assembly.
In 1885, the Universalist Society in Jamestown recruited Townsend to serve as its minister and he released himself from affiliation with Methodism. He came to Jamestown to preach what he called “The New Theology.” After his first address to the local public, over 200 people signed up as attendees. With his first sermon, he laid the foundation for the current Unitarian Universalist Church. He called the new group the Independent Congregational Church of Jamestown.
Townsend also created an alternate Chautauqua that would embrace his “new theology.” He chose Lakewood as the location and the Lakewood School of Theology was unveiled in July 1886. The school was moved to Bemus Point for the 1887 season and new facilities were built to accommodate more than 4,000 students who enrolled.
In 1887 Townsend’s health forced him to retreat from the ministry in Jamestown and the School on Chautauqua Lake. While recovering he went to Pittsburgh an revived the city’s Unitarian Church. Within three years he returned as pastor in Jamestown before going to the New York City area to establish new churches there.
Townsend retired from the ministry in 1900 and returned to Jamestown. He died in 1917, but even today, Townsend’s “new theology” is still a prominent message with the Jamestown Unitarian Church.
Douglass Houghtonwas bortn September 21, 1809 in Troy, N.Y., the son of Jacob Houghton, a lawyer and later a County Judge of Chautauqua County. He was raised in Fredonia. Douglass was described as a small person with a nervous, active temperament inclined toward the practical and scientific. Early in his life he exhibited an interest in the natural world, and in spite of a slight speech impediment and facial scarring from a youthful experiment with gunpowder he was at ease with all levels of society.
In 1829 Houghton entered the Rensselaer School at Troy where scientific training was emphasized, particularly in geology. That same year he received both the bachelor’s degree and a teaching appointment in chemistry and natural history. He also studied medicine and was licensed to practice in 1831.
In 1830 Houghton became associated with the Michigan Territory, when the city fathers of Detroit began a search for a public lecturer on science, and one of Houghton’s instructors gave him a strong recommendation. He was enthusiastically received in Detroit and rapidly became one of its best-known citizens, with the young men of his acquaintance soon styling themselves “the Houghton boys.”
During the next two years, Houghton became a physician-naturalist on expeditions through Lake Superior and the upper Mississippi valley. On these trips Houghton did extensive botanical collecting, investigated the Lake Superior copper deposits of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and provided medical services to the Indian tribes they encountered.
In 1833 he married his childhood friend Harriet Stevens, with whom he had two daughters. By 1836 he set aside the medical profession to concentrate on real estate speculation. His scientific interests remained strong, however, and as Michigan achieved statehood in 1837, Houghton was named the first state geologist and he occupied that position for the remainder of his life.
In 1839 Houghton was also named the first professor of geology, mineralogy, and chemistry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His fourth annual report appeared February 1841 and helped to trigger the first great mining boom of American history and was then dubbed “father of copper mining in the United States.” He was so liked by the people of Detroit that in 1842 – against his wishes – they elected him mayor.
On October 13, 1845 Houghton was conducting a geological survey of the Lake Superior region when the boat he was in capsized in a storm. Houghton and two companions drowned. His remains were discovered the next spring and returned to Detroit, where they were buried in Elmwood Cemetery. Today there are several municipalities and location throughout Michigan named after Houghton, including the city of Houghton, Mich., Houghton Lake and Douglas Houghton Falls. There is also a plant named after him: Houghton’s Goldenrod, a variety he discovered in 1839 along the southern shore of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Abner E. Allenwas born in 1847 in Jamesown. At the age of 28, Allen opened the first theatre in the city, known as the Allen Opera House. It was located at 14 Spring St. and later on East Third St. near the present location of the Reg Lenna Civic Center.
With the use of his Opera House, Allen presented vaudeville companies known for “general high character of attractions.” One of the most noted appearances at the Opera House was by William “Buffalo Bill” Cody – who brought his wild west show to the opera house on March 14, 1878. The performance was advertised on billboard that was hidden under a building façade until 2002, when it was disovered and restored by the Reg Lenna Civic Center.
Following a fire in 1881, a new structure was build on Second St. in Jamestown, where the current Lucille Ball Little Theatre is located. However, a second fire took place in 1894 and Allen never recovered financially. In 1898 he sold the theater to Charles Samuels, who continued the established tradition of excellence on live theatre in Jamestown.
A historical marker commemorating the original location of the Allen’s Opera House can be found in front of the Reg Lenna Civic Center on Third St. in Jamestown.
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