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flag  History of Elmira, New York, USA

Journey back in time to Elmira, New York, USA

Visit Elmira, New York, USA. Discover its history. Learn about the people who lived there through stories, old newspaper articles, pictures, postcards and ancestry.

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Elmira, New York, USA - American - La France Fire Engine Co.

The New York legislature established the Township of Chemung, now Chemung County, in 1788. The settlement of Newtown was soon established at the intersection of Newtown Creek and the Chemung River. In 1792, the settlement at Newtown joined with the Wisnerburg and DeWittsburg settlements to form the village of Newtown. In 1808, the village officially changed its name to the Town of Elmira, at a town meeting held at Teal's Tavern. It is said the town was named after tavern owner Nathan Teal's young daughter, but that story has never been confirmed. In any case, the City of Elmira, also called "The Queen City", was incorporated in 1864 from part of the town of Elmira and the village of Elmira. The remaining part of the town of Elmira exists still, surrounding the city on the west, north and east.


There is MUCH more to discover about Elmira, New York, USA. Read on!

Elmira Nostalgia: Vintage Photos, Ads, and Postcards

American - La France Fire Engine Co.
Elmira, New York, USA

American - La France Fire Engine Co.
East Water St. Looking From R.R. Crossing
Elmira, New York, USA

East Water St. Looking From R.R. Crossing
East Church Street
Elmira, New York, USA

East Church Street

Discover Elmira: History, News, Travel, and Stories

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1854 - Elmira
Elmira. n post-village, capital of Chemung county. New York, is situated in Elmira township, near the junction of Newton creek with the Chemung river, where the latter is crossed by the New York and Erie railroad, 283 miles from New York city. The village is handsomely laid out. and contains, besides the county buildings, about 50 stores, a large number of warehouses, 6 or 7 churches, 2 banks. 1 or 2 excellent hotels, several manufactories and printing offices, and a number of educational institutions. Three newspapers are issued weekly. The Chemung canal connects Elmira with the interior of Pennsylvania and with Seneca lake, 20 miles distant. A wooden bridge unites the village with the opposite side of the Chemung river. Elmira has surpassed all of its competitors along the line of the New York and Erie rail road in the rapidity of its growth. Population of the township in 1840, 4701 : in 1850, 8100; of the village, about 6000. Settled in 1788, by Captain John Hendry.
A New and Complete Gazetteer of the United States: Giving a Full and Comprehensive Review of the Present Condition, Industry, and Resources of the American Confederacy ... Thomas Baldwin (of Philadelphia.) Joseph Thomas January 1, 1854 Philadelphia : Lippincott, Grambo & Company 1854.
Elmira was incorporated in 1865

1884 - Mr. P. Sexton, of Elmira, N.Y., will soon have a new eyelid.
Mr. Sexton, as will be remembered, was the engineer of the train that rain through a sea of burning oil near Bradford, Pa., last January. He was severely burned. Parts of his nose and ears are gone, while both lower eye-lids are burned away, leaving no protection to the eyes. A prominent physician of Elmira volunteered to repair the engineer's mutilated face, and recently preformed a plastic operation for the restoration of one of the lids, literally making a new eyelid. When it heals, the same operation will be made on the opposite side. - Buffalo Express.
St Joseph Herald
Saint Joseph, Michigan
October 25, 1884
1885 - Mrs. Loper, aged ninety-seven years, is still living at Elmira, N. Y.
When she first settled in that vicinity the county contained only six families, and animals indigenous to that part of the United States were found there in countless numbers. Mrs. Loper is a remarkable woman for her age, being free from bodily ailment and retaining her senses to a wonderful degree. - Buffalo Express
St Joseph Herald
Saint Joseph, Michigan
July 25, 1885
1886 - FOUR MEN KILLED - Victims of the Explosion of a Locomotive Boiler
A few minutes after 3 o'clock the other afternoon an engine of the Beech Creek Railroad blew up with tremendous force near Elmira, N. Y. Five men were on the engine at the time, and all were instantly killed but one.

The killed are: PHILIP KNIGHT, engineer; ALLEN RAMSEY, fireman; JAMES WARREN, engineer; and JOSEPH FIELDS, machinist. JOHN STAPLETON, machinist who was on the engine at the time, was blown about twenty feet down a bank and escaped unhurt. All the bodies were terribly mangled. At the time of the explosion the steam gauge only showed a pressure of 146 pounds, which leads to the belief that it was not working right, as it is supposed that there were 300 pounds pressure. The dome and wagon top were blown 1,500 feet, and FIELDS went with them. These pieces weighed about two tons and a half. The track for the length of three rails was torn up. Pieces of flesh and iron were found scattered all over the lot. The noise of the explosion was heard twelve miles away. All of the... Read MORE...

1888 - Fire
Another One.
Elmira, N. Y., March 10. – The explosion of a lamp in the press room of the Elmira Gazette at 8 o’clock yesterday evening, followed by the ignition and explosion of a can of benzine, which stood near, caused flames to spread quickly throughout the room, which was in the basement of the building. The pressman and his assistants escaped to the street and gave the alarm. When the firemen arrived the lower part of the building was all afire, and the flames were rushing up the elevator shaft. The progress of the fire was not checked until the basement and the first floor were entirely ruined, and the second and third floors badly damaged.

The building and contents were also greatly damaged by water. The jobbing department was in the rear of the second floor, and D. C. ROBINSON, POSTMASTER BABCOCK and HARRY M. CLARKE had law offices in the front. They lost their effects. The composing, editorial and telegraph rooms were on the third floor, and their contents were ruined.... Read MORE...

ELMIRA, N. Y., June 30. - Lewis Neilson, an employe in the hardware store of Barker, Rose & Gray, at the corner of Water and Lake Streets, was sent into the cellar to draw some japan drier this morning, and in moving a barrel of the oil a head was knocked off, the oil poured our upon the floor, was quickly ignited, and an explosion ensued.

Neilson was badly burned about the face and arms, but not fatally. The flames spread with great rapidity, and ascended the elevator shaft and staircases, bursting forth through the windows into the street.

Within five minutes after the explosion a general alarm was sounded, and soon all the engines in the city were pouring streams into the burning building. The fire, however, continued to spread, and aid was asked from the surrounding towns. Two engines were sent from Horseheads and one from the reformatory and rendered good assistance to the city department. By 2 o'clock the flames were under control and were confined to the building in which ... Read MORE...



It was a horrible revelation that Baggageman Edward Hooker and Otis Breese unfolded to the engineer and other trainmen and passengers on Erie train No. 5 just after it had pulled into the depot in this city at 11 o'clock last night. On the pilot of the engine were the mangled remains of three human beings. The horrible accident, what had cost them their lives, occurred at the Erie's Pennsylvania Avenue crossing but no one on the flying train knew of the terrible catastrophe, until the train reached the station and the greatest excitement followed the awful discovery.

The accident vividly recalled another horrible catastrophe which occurred on the Erie a year ago last summer, when, as... Read MORE...

1895 - Elmira
Elmira, a city and the capital of Chemung co., N.Y., and the largest town on the Erie Railroad between Paterson and Buffalo, is situated on both sides of the Chemung River, in a wide and fertile valley, at the mouth of New town Creek. By railroad it is 274 miles W.N.W. of New York, 149 miles E.S.E. of Buffalo, 46 miles S.S.W. of Ithaca, and 78 miles N. by E. of Williamsport. It is on the Erie Railroad where it crosses the Northern Central Railroad, and is a terminus of the Utica, Ithaca & Elmira Railroad. It contains a court-house, 26 churches, a high school, the Elmira Free Academy, 4 banks (2 of which are national), a State Reformatory, a Catholic academy, and the Elmira Female College, which has an endowment of $100,000 and a library of 3000 volumes. Three daily and 5 weekly newspapers are published here. Elmira has extensive manufactures of railroad-iron, iron castings, rail road-cars, farming-implements, iron bridges, boilers and engines, ploughs, woollen goods, boots and shoes,... Read MORE...

Elmira, a city and the capital of Chemung co., N.Y., is situated on both sides of the Chemung River, in a wide and fertile valley, at the mouth of Newtown Creek, and on the Erie, the Lackawanna, the Lehigh Valley and the Northern Central Rs., 274 miles WNW. of New York. It contains a government building, a state reformatory, state armory, the Steele Memorial Free Library, the Elmira College, the Academy of Our Lady, etc., and has extensive manufactures of railroad iron, iron castings, steel plate, iron bridges, farming-implements, steam fire-engines, boilers, boots and shoes, carriages, edge-tools, bicycles, incubators, glass, tobacco, etc. Here are extensive railroad- car shops. Elmira was incorporated in 1865. Pop. in 1 880, 20,541 ; in 1890, 30,893 ; in 1900, 35,672.
Lippincotts New Gazetteer: A Complete Pronouncing Gazetteer Or Geographical Dictionary of the World, Containing the Most Recent and Authentic Information Respecting the Countries, Cities, Towns, Resorts, Islands, Rivers, Mountains, Seas, Lakes, Etc., in Every Portion of the Globe, Part 1 Angelo Heilprin Louis Heilprin - January 1, 1916 J.B. Lippincott - Publisher
1946 - STATE OF EMERGENCY - Flood Waters Cover Elmira Business Area
ELMIRA (AP). - Flood waters six inches deep swept through Elmira's main business district today and Mayor Emory Strachen declared a state of emergency.

The rain-swollen Chemung River rose 18 feet, more than a foot above flood stage, overnight.

Fire Chief Louis Mosher broadcast an appeal for everyone "who can lift a shovel to get out and work."

NO CASUALTIES were reported. Woodrow W. Ott, manager of radio station said, "the city faces imminent disaster and the water is rising so rapidly it's almost unbelievable."

A few minutes earlier, Police Chief Elvin D. Weaver said water had inundated the main thoroughfare of downtown Elmira, Water st., which parallels the river.

Ott said Main and Water sts., the main intersection in the city of 50,000, was under about six inches of water.

He said there was no estimate as to when the flood crest would be reached.

WEAVER CALLED police reserves and said he had doubled the day shift.

He said Wisner Park, in the business...

1956 - September 10 - WSYE TV chan 18 in Elmira-Corning, NY (NBC) 1st broadcast

1972 - Hurricane Agnes
"In June 1972, Hurricane Agnes hit the East Coast with a monstrous and devastating force, bringing a deluge across multiple states and slamming four counties in the Southern Tier: Steuben, Chemung, Tioga, and Broome. Dozens died and property damage ran into the millions as Corning, Elmira, Owego, Binghamton, and other communities suddenly found themselves under water. The flood destroyed the Erie Lackawanna Railroad, staggered the Penn Central, shut down Corning Glass Works for weeks, and devastated the Corning Museum of Glass―a major cultural resource. Lives and landscapes were forever changed when homes and businesses washed away in a matter of minutes. Henceforth, the region’s history became permanently divided into the times before and the times after the 1972 flood. Through stunning images, The 1972 Flood in New York’s Southern Tier chronicles the extraordinary destruction of twisted rail lines, devastated streets, exhausted recovery workers, rivers bursting their banks, cars on... Read MORE...

2023 - Whether you're a local looking for something new to do or a visitor exploring the area, here's a list of places to go and things to do in Elmira:
Mark Twain Study:

Elmira is famously known as the summer home of Mark Twain. Visit the study where he wrote some of his most famous works. It's a fascinating glimpse into literary history.

Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum:

If you love the outdoors, Tanglewood offers hiking trails, a nature center, and educational programs. It's a great place to connect with nature.

Arnot Art Museum:

Appreciate the arts at the Arnot Art Museum. It features a diverse collection of European, American, and Asian art. Check out their rotating exhibits and events.

Eldridge Park:

This historic park has a beautiful lake, a vintage carousel, and picnic areas. It's a great spot for a relaxing day with family or friends.

Harris Hill Soaring Center:

For the adventurous, Harris Hill Soaring Center provides an opportunity to experience glider rides. Soar through the skies and enjoy breathtaking views of the region.

Chemung Valley History Museum:

Dive into the local history of...

Discover MY Roots: Elmira Ancestry

Ancestors Who Were Born or Died in Elmira, New York, USA

We currently have information about 16 ancestors who were born or died in Elmira.

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Genealogy Resources for Elmira

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Updated: 10/13/2023 11:02:41 AM