The Parma Institute was organized September 14, 1858, in the Baptist church at Parma Corners. Fourteen trustees were chosen, of whom J. Tripp was made president, James Gorsline secretary, and J. M. Webster treasurer. The school was at first conducted in the old tavern stand on the northwest corner, which was purchased, October 15, for fourteen hundred dollars, and soon after moved across the street, and repaired at a cost of five hundred dollars. A new edifice was immediately erected for the Institute, to which was attached the old structure, as a boarding-hall. Its erection cost five thousand dollars, half being raised by subscription, and a mortgage on the property given for the remainder.
The school continued, with indifferent success, under the charge first of Prof. Robinson, followed by Prof. Blennerhasett, F. B. Palmer, and others, until 1863, when the property was sold at sheriff's sale, and bought in by seven of the trustees. They in turn leased it to Prof. Williams for one year, after which, as failure seemed inevitable, it was decided to sell it to the Catholic church. At this juncture Prof. S. W. Clark arrived, and it was agreed that he should take the property by paying the twenty-five hundred dollars' indebtedness, and under a new charter conduct the Institute for five years at least, and longer if self-supporting.
A new charter was obtained, Miss Cora C. Clark installed as principal, and the Institute entered upon its most prosperous career. The officers were Rev. E. Sawyer, president; O. A. Royce, vice-president; J. Gorsline, secretary; and J. M. Webster, treasurer. The assistant teachers at different times were Miss Button, Miss Thompson, Miss Platt, and Miss Staunton, and the number of pupils ranged from sixty-five to one hundred.
The classical and scientific branches were taught, embracing ancient and modern languages, higher mathematics, natural sciences, etc., with regular lectures from Prof. S. W. Clark. At the close of the five years, in 1870, it was deemed expedient to terminate its existence. Adverse circumstances, the want of proper support and local interest, together with the proximity of the Brockport Institute, combined to make a longer effort unadvisable, although situated in one of the most desirable and healthy localities in the State. The building was subsequently sold to the third school district of Parma.
During the war of 1812 the early settlers were not wanting in patriotism, as exemplified by the readiness with which they rushed to the defense of their settlement at the first appearance of invasion. As soon as it was known that the British contemplated an attack at the mouth of the river, all not in the service elsewhere hastened to its defense, the result of which has become historical.
That the same spirit animated the women is shown by the following incident. For mutual protection all had gathered at the house of Stephen Atchinson. Among the many startling rumors was the report that fifteen hundred hostile Indians were approaching and were then at Sandy Creek. They arranged for defense, and two of the more resolute, Jerusha Wilkinson and Lucy Hicks, secured strong clubs, and, as night approached, stationed themselves on guard. Observing a tall, dark form approaching, which, in the gloom of night and their fearful excitement, assumed the perfect outline of an Indian, they nerved themselves for attack, and not an instant too soon the stranger spoke, by whose voice they recognized Captain John Leonard, whose illness had kept him at home.
The great disadvantage to the early settlement was the almost absolute want of market facilities, there being no means of transportation, except by small vessels penetrating the inlets along the lake and connected with the interior by new and nearly impassable roads. Thayer's landing, on Salem creek, was for many years the main shipping point. The war opened a channel at extreme prices, which soon after fell back to the lowest point, and so remained until the Erie canal gave permanent relief. From that period dates the rapid growth and development of all this section, which in a few years transformed a wilderness into a garden, with all the accompaniments of wealth and luxury.
So anxious had the original proprietors been to develop the new country, that they never hesitated to article farms to any one with sufficient means to pay for the execution of the contract, and to grant almost unlimited credit. As a result, it was settled quite extensively by a shiftless class, who threw up tolerable log houses, cleared and tilled just enough land to raise their own bread, and devoted themselves alternately to indolence and hunting. Consequently, they made no payments on their farms, which were destined to relapse back to the former owners.
In 1825, when land had attained the value of about ten dollars per acre, a pressure was brought to bear upon this class for a first payment, some of whom had held their farms ten, fifteen, and even twenty years, but being unable to meet it, they sold their improvements for what they could get, the more readily as Michigan had just opened to settlement, and a feverish restlessness prompted them to emigrate. This gave place to a better class, generally from New England, who brought with them the sterling traits of that thrifty people. Again, a few years later, when land had doubled in value, a similar movement was a second time inaugurated, and the west received another quota, to the advantage of western New York. In a few years a marked change was perceptible, and in a social and religious aspect the new element made a decided impress.
The present population are almost wholly the descendants of the early settlers of New England and possess a high order of refinement and intellectual and religious culture. The advantages of their geographical position preserved them in a great measure from the evil elements so prevalent in many communities and favored the dissemination of those high principles that culminated in the excellent schools, flourishing churches, a broad and liberal public spirit, and the hospitable homes for which they are so widely and justly esteemed.
The town is especially adapted to agriculture, which has always been the pursuit of its people. Blessed with a soil of unsurpassed fertility and a favorable and healthy climate, every variety of production has yielded the largest returns, and, with the proverbial industry of its people, developed a rich and prosperous community. For many years the cereals were the chief production, but latterly they have been much less cultivated. It is now more noted for the immense quantity of fruit yearly shipped to market.
Already many hundred acres are covered with orchards of the choicest apples, with large yearly additions, which must, if continued, in a few years embrace the greater part of the surface. Since the outbreak of the late rebellion, beans have been very extensively cultivated, and are still one of the staple productions.
History of Monroe County, New York; With Illustrations
Descriptive Of Its Scenery, Palatial Residences,
Public Buildings, Fine Blocks, and Important Manufactories
published by J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1877
Pages 175 -176