While legislation creating a
new town named after Parma, Italy was passed on April 8, 1808, its wording
called for its organization at the next board meeting. Since boards at that
time had so little business to conduct, government officials met only once
When the first meeting convened
in 1809, therefore, the only order of business was to elect officers and
vote to build a pound to hold stray animals. Thus animal control was the
first need identified in that era when the loss of a horse or cow was a
serious financial loss. The pound was duly built at Parma Corners next to
the wood block tavern house kept by Hope and Elisha Davis. A fire station
now occupies the corner where the tavern stood and a car dealership can
be found on the old-time site of the pound.
In the beginning, the Ridge
Road leading from Rochester, 13 miles away to the Niagara Falls area,
was the most heavily traveled roadway. At Parma Corners it intersected
what is now Route 259, then known as the Canawaugus Road. That old Indian
trail proceeded from Lake Ontario to sulfur springs near Caledonia,
now at the site of the New York State Fish Hatchery, but then the site
of the Native American village of Canawaugus. The word has been translated
as meaning: "Stinking Waters", an apt nomenclature because
of the odor of rotten eggs that is given off by sulfur water.
Road in Parma 1909
Taken from the book "Parma, NY - The Hub of the Universe"
by Shirley Cox Husted
Since settlement began along
the Ridge and proceeded slowly north, the lakeside lands were the last
to be settled. Today the same pattern can be seen economically, with
the majority of new businesses locating along the Ridge.
Route 104 is known as "the
Ridge" because it is the ridge of the high Niagara Escarpment which
runs across western New York, ending at the Niagara River where it becomes
Niagara Falls. Once, it was part of the shoreline of old Lake Iroquois which
extended from that ridge northwards in the time when almost all of Parma
was underwater. It was created by a strong Labradorean glacier from Canada.
As the climate grew warmer, the ice melted, and receded to become Lake Ontario,
an Indian name meaning: "beautiful waters."
Silt from the huge black lake
gradually settled beneath it, producing a highly fertile glacial till soil.
The protected climate near the lake, warmed several degrees warmer by the
heat given off from lake waters, proved highly supportive to fruit growing.
Wheat was the first universal
crop. Before the Civil War, Parma was considered part of the nation's breadbasket.
Then apples, peaches, cherries and small fruits were planted and flourished
until 1934 when a freeze destroyed more than half of the orchards. After
World War II, poultry and dairy farms began to disappear. Fruit and vegetable
processing no longer provides seasonal employment here and today's main
cash crop; corn, is primarily used in cereal and corn chips.
Parma Corners was the first community of importance, followed by Parma Center, but the coming of a railroad along the lake shore in 1876
resulted in the growth of North Parma, as the village was then called.
Today, Hilton's centralized school
has become the area's largest employer, where children's bodies and brains are cultivated instead of foodstuffs. Those living in the south portion of the town, however, are
part of the Spencerport Central system. Parts of Peck Road form the dividing
line between the two districts.
Perhaps the most unique architecture in Parma is the Octagon Cottage
on Bogus Point at Lighthouse Beach. Built by a local artist, B. Aylesworth
Haines, it is the only octagon cottage on the south shore of Lake Ontario.
(One other stands on the North shore.) A historic 97 foot high red brick
lighthouse occupied the point called "bogus", so called because
rumor held that counterfeit (bogus) money was smuggled back and forth
from Canada, hidden away in a secret cave in a nearby barn. An attempt
to recreate the light tower has radically changed its statuesque appearance
of 1895 when Inspector Charles Gridley approved it for use as the brightest
light on Lake Ontario.
Captain Gridley became a
famous American hero in 1898 when he obeyed Commodore George Dewey's
order to fire a canon shot from the USS Olympia, Dewey's lead ship,
that launched the battle of Manila Bay, the first battle of the Spanish
American War. Gridley later died as a result of his wounds. Does his
ghost still haunt the lighthouse? Perhaps. Perhaps the coastline is
haunted also by the happy memories of escaping slaves who passed through
Parma on their way to freedom across the lake in Canada from 1830-1860.
When they departed from the area that later became Hilton Beach, en
route to freedom in a humble fishing boat piloted by a black conductor,
Walter Vond, they must have felt thankful, apprehensive, and blessed
The strip of sandy beach along
Rose Marsh at Lighthouse Beach, so named because surveyors found wild roses growing there in the early
1800s, will become a bird sanctuary and public observation area when
developed by the County of Monroe, utilizing a recent federal grant.
It was once owned by Julius Fredericks, called "Daddy Sunshine"
because of his benevolence towards orphan children. He built the long
pier there and planned further development, but died before his dream
of a summer sunshine camp became a reality.
Parma's most valuable asset,
Lake Ontario's coastline here will undoubtedly continue to attract nature
lovers, children, sportsmen and sportswomen, fishers, cottagers, boaters
and full time residents. The lake's power is awesome and sometimes dangerous,
yet it is a constant blessing, for it is a water supply for every form of
life: animals, wildlife, bird life and all aquatic and land creatures. Its
sunsets are unforgettable, its beauty undeniable.