LITTLE VALLEY — Following its bicentennial in 2018, Little Valley has fully embraced its proud history by being granted three historic status sites and signs from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.
The Civil War Memorial building (circa 1914), Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds (circa 1854) and Case Brothers Cutlery Company (circa 1898) have all been awarded the significant distinction of historic signage, with more planned for Little Valley.
“The knife industry, especially Case Brothers, has been an integral part in shaping our community,” says Jim Bowen, mayor of Little Valley. “The Pomeroy Foundation signs are a great way to keep our history alive, and encourage younger generations to explore their own heritage.”
The red brick home that still stands at 410 Fair Oak St. in Little Valley served as both Case Brothers Cutlery Company’s offices and warehouse, sparing some of the precious inventory from a devastating factory fire in 1912.
The famous “Tested XX” trademarked knives and straight-razors were made in Little Valley from 1898-1912, but the company suffered financially after the fire, attempting to rebuild in Springville, until eventually ceding to history in 1915.
The Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds are among the oldest in America, dating back to 1854, and witnessed a speech by then-New York Gov. Theodore Roosevelt in 1899, as well as memorable performances by Johnny Cash, among others.
Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation (C.A.M.P.) led the charge for historic status in Little Valley, earning the distinctive sign for the Civil War Memorial building from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation in late 2018.
The ongoing effort for historic status and signage in Little Valley has been led by Brad Lockwood, a Case descendant and author of the bestselling book “Tested XX: The Case Cutlery Dynasty.” Officially documenting his family’s history for the strict historic status process required by the Pomeroy Foundation was no small matter, as Lockwood explained.
“Anyone familiar with the enigmatic history of the Case family is aware of their deep, sometimes baffling, entanglements in the industry. Though they first started officially manufacturing knives and straight-razors in their factory in Little Valley around 1898, the four Case brothers — W.R., Jean, John D. and Andrew — had served as a ‘jobber’ and salesmen for decades. Sometimes the sole proof of the Cases being in business with whomever are the actual knives that sometimes turn-up. Recently, a ‘Case Brothers & Co.’ pocket knife was uncovered, and stamped ‘Gowanda, N.Y.’ meaning it was surely made by the Platts family, and much earlier than the Case Brothers Little Valley factory.”
Astonishingly, over 32 different cutlery companies would be started by Case kin. Champlin, Brown, Burrell, Crandall, Platts and Case are all legendary surnames in the industry, and all related by blood.
From these interrelated families, vaunted brands like Ka-Bar, W.R. Case & Sons, Cutco, Kinfolks, Case Brothers, Platts and Western would make their mark on American knife-making. W.R. Case & Sons was founded when Russ Case, a nephew of the infamous Case brothers, left Case Brothers Cutlery to form his own jobber then used his father’s name and birthdate (“since 1847”), later moving to manufacture in Bradford, Pa., in 1904. Yet Little Valley was the focus, claiming over 20 different manufacturers, jobbers and industry suppliers for over 100 years.
John Burrell is the last Case relative making knives, operating Burrell Cutlery until 2006, and the historic acknowledgement of Case Brothers is both joyous and overdue.
“This is a wonderful tribute to a vital part of the American cutlery industry,” he says. “The Case name was used here for the very first time. My great-grandfather, Jean Case, along with his brothers Andrew and John started a 123-year legacy that continues today through W.R. Case and Sons, Ka-Bar and Cutco. This was and remains a truly remarkable American dynasty that I am proud to have played my small role. Now people will forever know that it all started here.”