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P.W. Bemis was a churchman, cavalryman and shoe dealer

Dibbles Dabbles

November 23, 2011
By Billie Dibble - Westfield Historian, 1975-2006 (

First published Nov. 17, 1983: As I browse through the old newspapers and history books, I note that the names of certain people appear time after time as they serve their country and community in many ways. Such a name is Philander W. Bemis. Lt. Bemis came to Westfield to live after the close of the Civil War in which he served as one of the cavalrymen under the famous Gen. Phil Sheridan. He was born in French Creek Feb. 5, 1842, grew up on a farm and attended public schools. When President Lincoln called for volunteers at the breaking out of the rebellion, he was among the first that offered his services to his government and enlisted in Company I, 8th Illinois Cavalry, having just moved to that state. Mr. Bemis was mustered out of service in the latter part of 1862, but re-enlisted in the 15th New York Cavalry and served until July 17, 1865, when he was discharged on account of a gun shot wound in his left arm and shoulder. This was received at the Battle of Five Forks on the first day of April 1865, in a cavalry charge led by the gallant General Custer. Lt. Bemis made an enviable war record of which he was justifiably proud, as he served under Sheridan in all of that great commander's famous campaigns in Virginia, and participated in nearly all of the great battles of the Army of the Potomac. After he came to Westfield, he served five years as Lieutenant in the 11th Separate Company, New York State troops. Since his boyhood he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was an official member of the Westfield Methodist Church for 45 years, holding the office of Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the entire time. You may have noticed that one of the beautiful stained-glass windows in the First United Methodist Church of Westfield was given in his memory. He and his wife, the former Jennie A. McCollum, whom he married Aug. 14, 1866, sang in the Methodist choir for a number of years. Mr. Bemis was class leader, steward, superintendent of Sunday School and exhorter for the church. In politics he was an earnest Republican and served several years as a member of the Chautauqua County Republican Committee, was active in the temperance cause, served several terms as town clerk of Westfield, and as a member of the Board of Education and was for many years a deputy sheriff. He was a past master of Summit Lodge 219, Free and Accepted Masons. He was connected with the Chautauqua Assembly ever since it was organized and had entire charge of the ticket department in which he handled from $30,000 to $50,000 every year. He was chief of police at Chautauqua for many years. Philander W. Bemis was an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and served on the staff of the commander-in-chief with rank of colonel and was also commander of the State of New York and was commander of the local William Sackett Post. Mr. Bemis was always proud of the fact that he was marshal in the great parade at the centennial celebration of the settlement of Chautauqua County held in Westfield June 25 and 26, 1902. Philander W. Bemis died June 10, 1912 leaving a widow, a son Ernest Bemis and a daughter Pearl (Mrs. Charles E. Persons). Several grandchildren also survived him, two of whom are Melvin Bemis and Helen McLean who still reside in Westfield. Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 - inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment. Beigh can be reached at or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).

Article Photos

Photo courtesy Mateer Collection
Philander W. Bemis in the doorway of his Boot and Shoe Store. The sign above the door says “Repairing Done Promptly.” Where was the store located and who was the photographer upstairs?



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