Elko, New York

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Coordinates: 42°03′25″N 78°52′52″W / 42.057°N 78.881°W / 42.057; -78.881

Elko was a town in Cattaraugus County, New York, that existed from 1890 to 1965. It was forcibly evacuated in 1965 due to the construction of the Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River in Warren County, Pennsylvania, one of the largest dams in the United States east of the Mississippi. The dam was authorized by the United States Congress as a flood control measure in the Flood Control Acts of 1936 and 1938, and was built by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers beginning in 1960. Other benefits from the dam include drought control, hydroelectric power production, and recreation.[1][2]

As of the 1940 United States Census, the most recent for which census data for the town is available online, 125 people were resident in Elko.


Elko was one of the first areas in Cattaraugus County to be settled by Europeans. The Quakers, with the blessing of Seneca diplomat Cornplanter, established a mission on the Allegany Indian Reservation beginning in 1798.

The Town of Elko was founded in 1890 from territory previously belonging to South Valley. Its creation (Elko was the 33rd and final township to be created in Cattaraugus County) was allegedly a political maneuver to move the balance of power in the county southward and get the county seat moved to Salamanca, an effort that was approved 18–15 by the county board of supervisors but rejected in a public referendum; the seat remains located in Little Valley.[3] Oil magnate Amasa Stone built a large portion of his estate in the town, and it was an agent of his that suggested the town's name. The town's formation came at a time when the lumber industry in southwestern Cattaraugus County was briefly booming; over 2,000 people were resident in the towns of Elko, South Valley and Red House in 1890, ten times as many residents as there are in the area as of 2010. Most of its usable land was located on the Allegany Indian Reservation, which complicated the town's development. The establishment of Allegany State Park further restricted growth.

Elko was forcibly evacuated in spring 1965 as part of the Kinzua Dam construction. That August, the remaining residents voted 13–1 to dissolve the town and give its remaining equipment and land to the neighboring town of Coldspring, which concurrently voted 45–0 to annex the town.[3] The landmark Quaker Bridge was demolished and replaced with one several miles upstream, near Steamburg, when the Southern Tier Expressway was built, and the highways serving Elko were all reconfigured to eliminate most of the town's infrastructure (after the construction of the dam, the town was left with only one road to maintain, Hotchkiss Hollow Road).[4]

William Smallback, a Democrat, was the town's last supervisor, serving from 1960 to 1965 and breaking a string in which the town had almost universally voted for Republicans. His wife served as town clerk. Smallback's son has speculated that the state's frequent personal disputes with Smallback had played a role in the government's handling of the Elko evictions; Smallback defied the eviction order and returned with his family to Elko to participate in the dissolution vote.


Elko was situated in the southern portion of the county. Coldspring bordered it to the north, South Valley to the west, Corydon, Pennsylvania to the south, and Red House to the east.

Elko straddled the Allegheny River and the Allegany Indian Reservation, with the majority of the town's land situated southeast of the river and the population mostly centered in the northwest. In all, 14,393 acres of territory were within Elko's bounds. Quaker Run met the Allegheny south of the site of Quaker Bridge.

New York State Route 280, in its original configuration, was the primary road through the town's population centers. Prior to this, the Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad served Elko.

Communities and locations in Elko[edit]

  • Quaker Bridge, also known as Tunesassa or Friends Settlement (named after the Society of Friends, or Quakers), was the center of government and most heavily populated place in Elko; most people knew of the territory by "Quaker Bridge" and not "Elko." It was the site of a large bridge across the Allegheny River and a Quaker school dating to the days of Cornplanter. Of Elko's territory, Quaker Bridge was most directly affected by the Kinzua Dam construction and was made uninhabitable by the flooding. The Friends Boat Launch is located in the general vicinity of where the hamlet used to be, and privately owned campsites occupy the location across the reservoir from the boat launch. A gap in the ZIP code numbering system implies Quaker Bridge was to be assigned the ZIP code 14771, although by the time the ZIP code system was introduced for rural areas in 1963, the Kinzua Dam was already being constructed, and it was likely never used. The post office, whose postmaster also ran the local trading post, closed September 30, 1964.[5]
  • Elko, also known as Wolf Run or Fishbasket/Old Town,[6] was a relatively minor hamlet in the central/southern portion of the town. Built mainly as a lumber road along Wolf Run, its only major developments were a rail station and a small hotel. There were several families and farms in the Wolf Run area at the start of the 20th century, but by 1955, only one family remained and the rest had relocated, in part because of an infestation of venomous diamondback rattlesnakes. That family was gone by the time the Kinzua Dam was constructed, and the dam also had the side effect of driving out the rattlesnakes; the Wolf Run area is currently wilderness within the area of Allegany State Park.
  • Frecks straddled the border between Red House and Elko. In homage to the Quakers' settling of the territory, the former hamlet of Frecks is now the center of the Quaker area of Allegany State Park.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir
  2. ^ Indiana University of Pennsylvania - Libraries - Congressman John P. Saylor
  3. ^ a b "Coldspring annexation of Elko set for Sept. 1". Unknown newspaper, possibly Salamanca Press. August 25, 1965.
  4. ^ "Coldspring gets $20,268 from Elko". Unknown newspaper, possibly Salamanca Press. October 8, 1965.
  5. ^ "Post Offices to Close". The Bradford Era. April 22, 1964.
  6. ^ Congdon, Charles (1968). Allegany Oxbow: A history of Allegany State Park and the Allegany Reserve of the Seneca Nation. Salamanca Area Museum Association.