A LOOK BACK AT LIMESTONE: Town’s history rich with oil, lumber and old bones
This 1893 photo shows Limestone as it once was. Photo submitted by the Bradford Landmark Society.

LIMESTONE - When one thinks of historic landmarks in Limestone, Casey's Restaurant, St. Patrick's Church and the former Little Ireland come to mind for most people.

Residents say that while the historic structures provide an identity for the town, the tightknit residents are the community's lifeblood.

Historical documents provided by Limestone resident Lou Lucco and Bradford (Pa.) Landmark Society state the community first bore the name of Fullersburg when its earliest settlers moved to the valley in 1828 for lumbering. Woodsmen were noted to be in the town of Carrollton as early as 1814. Carrolton, originally spelled in this style, was formed in 1842 from Great Valley and named in honor of G. Carrolton, an original proprietor. A tannery that was built in 1858 in the community by Dodge and Smith Co. further established the community.

Documents state that the village of Limestone received its current name when a reported Indian burial mound was dug up revealing skeletons of pre-Columbian Indians. According to one document provided by Bradford Landmark, the skeletons were exceptionally large from individuals who were 7 to 8 feet tall. The bones, however, could not be preserved and crumbled soon after exposure to air and sunlight into a substance similar to limestone. Hence, the name was given to the community, which was officially incorporated by the state as a village in 1877.

Oil also was a factor in the community, with the first commercial oil well in New York state struck by Job Moses in 1865. At one time, the town had 250 paying wells. In addition to Mr. Moses, oil producers included Dr. James Nichols, Henry Renner, Daniel Smith and the Hall Farm Petroleum Co. In later years, the community had amenities that included a train depot, and a trolley line that extended from Bradford, Pa., to Seneca Junction.

Documents state that sometime after 1850, a small group of immigrants from County Clare, Ireland, had settled at the head of Irish Brook Run in what is now known as Allegany State Park and the town of Carrollton. The farming community was called Little Ireland and existed until shortly after the turn of the century when families had to give up their homes to move closer to their employment.

Documents also state that in 1867, the Franciscan Fathers of Allegany organized Catholic inhabitants of Limestone into a congregation and built a small frame church. By 1878, St. Patrick's parish was established and by 1894 the current church was built. Another historical church in the community, United Methodist Church, was organized in 1872 with the church erected in 1878.

A longtime landmark in the community is Casey's Restaurant, formerly known as the Limestone House. The structure was built as a 14-room hotel in 1865 by Mr. Renner, a German immigrant who not only was an oil producer but was also a successful businessman in the tannery industry. After Mr. Renner's death, area resident Jim Casey acquired the business and operated it for a number of years. In 1959, the restaurant received national recognition when a piano player at the business was featured in Life magazine.

The business went through a dramatic change when Route 219 was re-routed in 1960. The front section of the building was moved across the street to its present location in an old tannery building. The new location was remodeled to its former turn-of-the-century style and the restaurant thrived for a number of years under propietors that included the Burke family and the Marra family. In recent years, however, the building has stood empty and in disrepair.

FOR MR. LUCCO, growing up in the community was an experience he will always value. He said his father had a large dairy farm located north of the village, with milk from it delivered in Bradford. As a boy he attended the old Limestone school, a wood-frame structure.

"The old school was pretty good sized, we had 12 classes," he said, noting the building was located behind the current municipal building on Main Street. The current school building, then known as Limestone Union Free School, was constructed when he was a freshman in high school.

After serving as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II, Mr. Lucco returned to his home community and worked in the oil fields. That was followed by a 39-year career with the Pennsylvania Electric Co. For the past 50 years, he has served as the town assessor for the town of Carrollton.

As a child growing up in the pre-World War II years, he remembers a thriving community with three or four grocery stores and a number of businesses. While the community's economic base isn't as strong as it had been in the past, Mr. Lucco said he has faith in his hometown.

"I think it will come back," Mr. Lucco said.

Another native of the community is Jim Cochran. Mr. Cochran said he moved away from Limestone for a period of time but returned to his home community in recent years.

"I have many fond memories of growing up in Limestone in the late '40s and the '50s," Mr. Cochran said. "My own children, who grew up in Rochester, used to tell how me how sorry they felt for me growing up in this little town with nothing to do whenever we would come down to visit relatives in the area.

"I always reminded them not to feel too sorry, because the kids around here knew how to make their own 'fun.'"

He said he and other children from the community entertained themselves with their bicycles, sleds, hunting, baseball, football games and school activities.

"Being such a small tightknit community, families knew everyone in town and there was no need to lock your house or car," Mr. Cochran said. "Every two years we have an alumni class reunion for anyone that has attended Limestone High. It is always great to see so many former Limestone 'Tigers' regardless of what year they attended.

"It is always amazing to see how so many of them have moved all over the different states away from our little town, but they always enjoy returning to the good old comfort zone."

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com)