By Jolene Hawkins
Looking back — way back — to the 1890s and you will see where in this little village of Springville we were beginning to have incandescent lights.
There were so many pros and cons regarding the electric lights, which continued when the proposals to have electric light plant built nearby. In 1896, Manley King and Edwin Scott constructed an earth filled dam on the creek, but saw their power plant washed away by the spring floods.
The next proposed dam would furnish ample power for all times to come and be able to manufacture additional power which could be sold off, creating income for the town. The year was 1897, and it came to be known as Scoby Dam Power Plant.
By Dec. 8, 1898, it was the dawning of a new era, as the power plant was now working. In 1921, the dam was in very poor condition and the decision was made to build a new dam that would accommodate current needs as well as projected future needs.
This second dam, made from timber was located just south of the current dam and was destroyed by a flash flood only days after it was initially open. The wooden cribbing from the dam can still be seen upstream.
Located on the eastern bank of the Cattaraugus Creek, it sits on 27 acres of land at the end of Scoby Hill Road. Built where the stream flows, it used turbines and generators and provided Springville with electric power until 1996.
The current dam was constructed in 1925, replacing two earlier facilities built in 1899 and 1924. The dam is 30 feet in height and 182 feet in width. The 1924 plant had a output of 500 kilowatts.
The powerhouse was erected in 1925 to house two water turbines — constructed by the Leffel Company of Springfield, Ohio, which were located in the basement — and two General Electric 25 kilowatt alternating current generators and regulator distribution equipment, which were located on the ground floor.
The two white pillars that can be seen on the creek bank are the remains of the powerhouse for the original hydroelectric dam. The powerhouse was destroyed the very day it was to be put in operation. It was redesigned, rebuilt and put into service in 1899. The original power house had three turbine water wheels.
The Cattaraugus Creek freezes over in the winter, but there is still enough water underneath the ice to keep the turbo generators humming. In the spring, the operators would watch beavers at work on the river bank, and the trout would be leaping in the stream. During the dry spells, the water drops so low that the generators were often turned off after midnight.
In 2001, the area located along the Cattaraugus Creek bank became a Erie County park and is popular for fishing, hiking or to just sit at one of the picnic tables that are located to the north of the dam and enjoy the scenery.
In 2007, there was talk about creating a fish ladder for the steelhead trout and other species of fish to travel upstream to tributaries of the Cattaraugus Creek to spawn.
As spring and summer come to our area, and you want a place to go and sit for a picnic, to fish on a warm day or to hike, Scoby Dam Park is the perfect place. Trails are easy to walk and well marked, and picnic tables are placed where you can sit and enjoy a view of the waterway.
Bring your camera. You never know what you will find to take a photo of. I have walked these trails and taken some great photos there as well.
We would love to hear your stories of growing up in this area. Come down to the Lucy Bensley Center and visit with us, read some of our old newspapers that we have dated back to 1867, look at old photographs or thumb through our High School Annuals.
We have copies of family genealogies that others have done in our cabinets as well for you to look at. You know where we are located, at 23 North Buffalo St. in Springville, and we are open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., email us at email@example.com or call 592-0094.
Want to hear some good music? As of April 2, you can now hear The Mercantile Musicians on Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., at the Mercantile located at 17 Franklin St.