Chautauqua-Allegany Region Facts

At the southern border of western New York lies a region that is as majestic as it is unique. Cattaraugus County sits between Chautauqua County to its left, and Allegany County to its right.

Combined, these counties make up the lower portion of Western New York. Some New Yorkers will say this land is Western New York, and some will call it the Southern Tier. Others still will refer to separately as the Chautauqa-Allegany Region. Locals also answer to the call of Twin Tiers Region, a geographic area that includes the bordering counties from Pennsylvania.

This region has Jamestown, where Lucille Ball was born. You’ll find the Enchanted Mountains in Cattaraugus County, giving skiers and hikers something to love. The Chautauqua Institute has been home to a unique educational community for almost 150 years. Cheese lovers from all over know that Cuba is a must. The region is filled with interesting culture, and surrounded by beautiful rural landscapes.

Exploring this region is a great way to escape the bustling city life.

Chautauqua-Allegany Region Defined

For the purposes of Exploring Upstate and this fact sheet, this region is defined by three counties. Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany county make up this section of New York.

– 11 year old Grace Bedell of Westfield wrote a letter to then-presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. She suggested he may have better chances at winning the election if he grew facial hair. Lincoln visited Westfield on February 16, 1861 donning a full beard to meet Grace. [source]

– Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball had a long lasting friendship that began in the 60’s. On Burnett’s 56th birthday, she awoke and discovered the news that her longtime friend and mentor had died. Later that day, the flowers that Lucille Ball sent to Burnett every year for her birthday arrived like always. They included a card with ‘Happy Birthday, Kid. Love, Lucy’. [source]

– The longest, continuously running book club in the United States is located in Chautauqua. [source]

– 19th century politician Samuel Mitchill of Hempstead, NY first proposed changing the name of the United States in 1803. He was hoping to change to something more representative of our freedoms. Mitchill proposed changing to a poetic spelling of “freedom” and suggested we become the country of “Freedon”. Obviously, it didn’t take, but many towns and cities liked it. Today, there are a lot of towns named ‘Fredonia’. [source]

– There is only one other Chautauqua County in the U.S., located in southeast Kansas. Established in 1875, it was named after the New York county when Western New York born politician Edward Jaquins relocated  and helped establish Kansas’ Chautauqua County. [source]

– While the name is used in different states, the spelling a-l-l-e-g-a-n-y is only used in New York. In Pennsylvania and Ohio you’ll find a-l-l-e-g-h-e-n-y and then a-l-l-e-g-h-a-n-y in Virginia and North Carolina.  [source]

The origin of the county name “Cattaraugus” is a Seneca tribe’s word meaning “badly smelling banks”. The tribe used it to describe the region because of the odor from natural decomposition seeping through cracks in the rock formations. [source]

– Because of the high population of old-order Amish combined with the few remaining traditional Senecas, Cattagaugus County has one of the highest rates of homes in the northeast United States without indoor plumbing. [source]

– Believed by some to be the oldest man to have ever lived, Governor Blacksnake was a Seneca leader. It is known that he died in 1859, but his birth year has been listed as both 1760 and also 1737. If the latter (which is on his gravestone) is correct, he would haveve been 121 years old at the time of his death.

– The lyrics for the theme song to the television show “Mr. Ed” was written by Ray Evans, who was born in Salamanca, New York, Cattaraugus County.

– Allegany County has a town named Friendship, and also a town named Amity, which means “friendship”.

– Patsy Dougherty, born in Andover, New York, Allegany County, went on to be an MLB star. In 1903 while playing for the Boston Americans (later, Red Sox) he became the first player to hit two home runs in a single World Series game, and the first player to hit a leadoff inside-the-park home run in a World Series game (a feat not matched until the 2015 World Series).

– The highest point of Interstate 86 (Southern Tier Expressway) is located in the Town of West Almond in Allegany County with an elevation of 2,110 feet. It is believed to be the highest point of any New York Interstate highway.

– Cattaraugus County is positioned in an interesting part of the northeast. It is considered part of the Appalchian Mountains, Upstate New York, Western New York, the Southern Tier and also the Twin Tiers. As a result, three different dialects are spoken here: “Appalachian English”, “Inland Northern American English”, and even the more loud and nasally “Buffalo English”.