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Who remembers Westfield’s Peacock Field?

October 12, 2016
By Marybelle Beigh - Westfield Town & Village Historian , Westfield Republican

While using Dibble's Dabbles that were written by the late Billie Dibble, former Westfield Historian to research a topic for BeeLines several years ago, I happened on the name "Peacock Field" in one of her articles. Having never heard of a Peacock Field in Westfield, the name ended up on my rather long list of topics to research further. Needless to say, not all items on that list were checked off before I resigned from the position of Westfield Historian when I moved to Silverton Colorado about 2014. And of course the to-do list disappeared into the well-known "black hole" of my computer historian files.

But "Lo & Behold!" history mysteries have a way of sneaking back into my path, and so it was with "Peacock Field" during the current flurry of research about the historic parks, camps, picnic areas and beaches along Lake Road and the shores of our beloved Lake Erie. The history of the Peacock family and their homes in Westfield were a series of BeeLines since my return to Westfield in 2015, and the research for those articles provided an eye-opening view of the large amount of property owned by members of that family.

In particular, Thomas A Peacock owned 244 acres from the shore of Lake Erie on both sides of Chautauqua Creek from its mouth, known as Peacock's Point and Peacock's Grove, southward to Hawley Street, and surrounding Barcelona on the west and south eastward to North Portage Street. Genealogy records indicate that Thomas A. Peacock was born in 1840 in the Town of Westfield to another Thomas A. Peacock, and the earliest map showing property owners is the 1854 Wall Map of Chautauqua County which shows the large area of land owned by Thomas A. Peacock. Census records show Thomas A. Peacock and other family members in Barcelona as early as 1850.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
Double-circled star shows likely location of Peacock Field. Map is edited from 1881 Beers Chautauqua County Atlas.

But back to the mystery of Peacock Field. A search of digitized Westfield Republicans from 1900 to 1927 (the most recent digitized paper at present), found a large number of references to Peacock Field, but most of those were Mayville's Peacock Field. The only two newspapers mentioning a Peacock Field in Westfield were from September 10, 1919, and September 24, 1919. Both stories were in reference to a special Welcome Home celebration for the Soldiers and Sailors from the ten towns comprising the Second Contingent on the second anniversary of the leaving of those men for Fort Dix to serve in the First World War.

The celebration started at 10 AM on September 5th, 1919, "and from that time until 12 o'clock [midnight] there was not a dull moment, as something was doing every minute." Westfield Fire Department was in charge of sports activities in the morning including foot races, nail-driving contest, obstacle race for automobiles, pie-eating contest, and Peter Pan the educated pony exhibitions in the park. The afternoon's highlight was a grand parade, followed by Bishop Brent's address in the park, a play at the Carlson Grand Theater, a game at the ball park, concluding in the evening with a grand military ball at Backman's Rink (now Eason Hall), an Old Folk's dance at Grange Hall, and another dance at Fenner Hall.

"From 10 o'clock a.m. until after 7 o'clock p.m. Lieutenant Emery with his Canadian army plane furnished entertainment to the thousands present by his daring flights over the village and surrounding country. The exhibitions were given on Peacock Field, on North Portage Street, which was an ideal spot for ascending and lighting. Lieut. Emory and Geo. Rappole flew from Bemus Point in the morning, and throughout the whole day the machine worked beautifully and every one was highly pleased with the exhibit"

Next was a list of persons who "enjoyed the unusual, but highly pleasing experience of a flight in the air" and many of the stunts were performed with some of the passengers, including Dr. C.E. Welch, President of the Village. "The flights were made most of the time at an elevation of 2400 feet Lieut. Emery is a wizard in the air and was up six hours and 56 minutes, which was the longest time that he has ever been in the air."

So, where was this Peacock Field on North Portage. The only North Portage frontage of the Thomas A. Peacock property, according to an 1881 map, would have been between from about where Nichols Avenue connects to North Portage, and the Main Street cutoff on the south edge of Barcelona. This is where the Thruway is now located, but was actually the top of a small hill or knoll prior to being excavated by the highway's construction.

 
 
 

 

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