The History of Buffalo: A Chronology
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo and US History
|New Amsterdam (Later Buffalo):
The early village is briefly known as "New Amsterdam." But early residents do not approve of the name. They intend to call their new home" Buffalo." Although no one seems to know exactly where the name came from, it sticks. The name may have been adopted from a local Indian word, "Buffaloe." Or perhaps it came from "beau fleuve," French for beautiful river. These are only two of the many popular legends.
Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) born in Locke Township (now Summerhill) NY
Buffalo Tax Roll of 1800: Buffalonians - William Johnson, Martin Middaugh, John Palmer, and Ezekial Lane
New Amsterdam and Black
Rock are neighboring villages and the county is known as Niagara.
In January, the Holland Land Company opens for business at Asa Ransom's house in Clarence, selling land at approximately $2 an acre.
In March, settler Abel Howe builds a cabin in Batavia. Joseph Ellicott moves his Holland Land Company office into Howe's cabin.
Henry Priebe, The Village of Buffalo - 1801 to 1832 Essay
|On Mar 16, West Point Military Academy is established by Congress.
Joseph Ellicott warns Holland Land Company General Agent Paolo Busti (who, in 1800, took the place of Theophile Cazenove, who had resigned as agent for the company) that if the land around New Amsterdam (Buffalo) is not opened to development quickly, the state will beat them to the punch by opening the Mile Strip and establishing a town there. He is given permission to survey the company's land and sell lots.
Connecticut agent General Paine opens a wagon road from Buffalo to Chautauqua Creek, to ease travel to Ohio's Connecticut Reserve lands. Essay
1804 Land Holdings map, indicating the
5 Native American reservations. Map courtesy of History Alive.
On July 11, Aaron Burr shoots Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton dies the next day.
On Dec. 5, Thomas Jefferson is reelected President. The Vice-President (George Clinton) is elected separately for the first time.
By 1804, when Timothy Dwight, the caustic, peripatetic President of Yale College, visits the village of New Amsterdam/Buffalo, he counts "about twenty indifferent houses."
When Erastus Granger arrives from New England in 1804, the village has approximately twenty buildings including three blacksmith shops, two taverns, a drugstore and a jail.
Granger sets out to complete the special mission with which he had been charged by President Thomas Jefferson - to establish Buffalo's first Post Office.
In 1806, he will settle permanently and build a house on Flint Hill where the Main Street entrance of Forest Lawn Cemetery is today. His farmland extends north to approximately West Oakwood and west to near Elmwood Avenue. Many Parkside residents will find Granger's name on their deeds.
Granger will build the first harbor lighthouse in 1817 [demolished].
Dr. Cyrenius Chapin arrives as the village doctor and undertaker.
|1805 Buffalo map
On March 3, Congress declares Buffalo an official port of entry.
Joseph Ellicott lays out the Big Tree Road, from Batavia to Leicester. On Nov. 7, Joseph Ellicott gives the settlement of Batavia its name, honoring his employers' country.
|Ebenezer Walden is Buffalo's first lawyer. He will be elected mayor in 1838. His name endures in Walden Avenue, which runs through the city's east side and into its eastern suburbs.|
On Aug. 9, Robert Fulton tests his new steamboat
in Manhattan's East River. It makes a successful one-mile run.
The first Buffalo schoolhouse, built at Pearl and Swan streets, is funded by local citizens following its approval at a meeting on March 29,1807. It serves as the Towne Hall and the Church for all denominations.
|The Village of New Amsterdam is officially named Buffalo. During this era
there are twenty states in the Union of the United States, and New York state has
a population of 589,051. Approximately 25 of these residents live in the Village
of Buffalo, which has sixteen residential buildings and two commercial establishments.
The New York State Legislature introduces a bill to fund a feasibility study for a New York State canal, retains Judge James Geddes to make surveys of routes across the state, to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. He completes his study and reports the project can work, even with a 500 foot elevation from west to east.
|1809||Weekly mail service is started.|
Cold Spring District:
The first brick structure -- the home of William Hodge -- at 1358 Main Street, is built in what becomes known as the Cold Spring District. The name originates from the sparkling natural spring which furnishes pure water for inhabitants from miles around the vicinity.
Early settler William Hodge (1800-1887) gives this description of the Cold Springs at the time: "It was then as large as a basin, surrounded by bluff banks excepting on the northeast side, where the pure, cool stream flowed forth . . . Originally the banks were somewhat sloping and steps were cut into the steepest part . . . by which to go down to a plank which extended several feet over the bubbling and boiling water. Lying stretched out on [this] plank, face downward, many a one has slaked his thirst in days gone by, and from that plank, many a pail and jug has been filled with the pure, cool beverage."
Buffalo's first newspaper, the "Buffalo Gazette,"
begins publication in 1811. The proprietors are brothers Smith H. and Hezekiah
Sawed timber becomes available, and more weather-tight, frame houses are constructed.
Cold Spring Schoolhouse:
Cold Spring area grows and a small frame schoolhouse is constructed on Main Street near West Utica. Today, this is the site of Buffalo's Police Precinct Number Six. Millard Fillmore, later thirteenth President of the United States, begins his public career as a teacher at the Cold Spring school. He also is a student with the law firm of Rice & Clary, and the Deputy Postmaster at the time.
In the early 1800's, schooling is inexpensive. Parents contribute fuel for heating fires, which the pupils have to keep burning. They also have to sweep and scrub the schoolroom in exchange for lessons.
The first Schoolmaster, Professor Sturgeon, is an old Scotsman who believes in the adage that "to spare the rod was to spoil the child." He also believes in not teaching children too much, and offers only one subject: reading. A committee of parents and pupils wait for the professor one morning to suggest that he broaden his curriculum to include spelling. After considerable discussion he agrees, but not without remarking that he hopes that the accomplishments of the children in the new subject will not cause them to become ashamed of their parents!
Early Settlers in Buffalo before 1812:
Buffalo's population is 500.
"... the well known missionary, Thaddeus Osgood, being here, organized, on that memorable day, the 2nd of February, 1812, the First Church of Christ in Buffalo."
War of 1812 (1812-1814):
During the War of 1812, land owned by Ebenezer
Walden is leased and the Buffalo Barracks are erected, the front portion
of what will later become the Wilcox Mansion
Archibald Clark, the first Post Master in Clarence in about 1811, elected the first State Senator from Erie County and served until 1816.
|Village of Black
The village is founded: Its boundaries are from School Street, which runs into Niagara near the Peace Bridge, to about as far as Austin Street, which is beyond the International Bridge to Canada. Old Black Rock's western border was the Niagara River and its eastern line was approximately the eastern boundary of the Mile Strip. New York State had bought this mile-wide swath from the Seneca Indians in 1802 and shortly afterward sold lots on this land.
North of where the Scajaquada Creek empties into the Niagara River near Tonawanda Street and Forest is called Lower Black Rock, and the area south of that creek mouth is termed Upper Black Rock.
The black rock itself from which the locality took its name lies in the river just north of the Peace Bridge. It is a large triangular shelf of darkish Onondaga limestone that juts about 200 feet from the shore and rises four or five feet above the water. It is river-current-sheltered and an ideal docking place for boats and for the oar-propelled ferry across to Canada. But the black rock will removed by blasting in the early 1820s to make way for the Erie Canal bed that parallels the shore and proceeds via the Buffalo River to Buffalo Harbor.
In April, Village of Buffalo is incorporated. Eight months later, the village will be burned and completely destroyed by 200 British soldiers.
War of 1812:
On Dec. 18, British Colonel John Murray captures Fort Niagara from the U.S.; British General Phineas Riall razes Lewiston.
On New Year's Eve, 200 British soldiers under Drummond burn Black Rock and Buffalo over the next two days in retaliation for the American burning of Newark (Niagara- on- the- Lake).
Many of the 400 Buffalo residents flee to the Granger and Chapin farms in Flint Hill and the Buffalo Plains area (which will become Parkside), Hamburg, and Williamsville.
Margaret St. John's cabin is the only dwelling to be spared by the British when they burn the tiny village of Buffalo during the War of 1812. St. John had already lost her husband and son in battle. She sends her youngest children to safety and appeals to the British commanding officer. The story goes that he posted a guard at her door. St. John single-handedly rescued the village of Buffalo, feeding and sheltering many homeless villagers until they could rebuild. The cabin was located on what is currently the site of the Main Place Mall.
Lovejoy, Sarah (1771-1813), is the only woman killed in the defense of Buffalo when it is burned by the British. She was trying to defend her home got into an altercation with Indians fighting alongside the British and is stabbed to death on the doorstep of her house. When the troops leave in the afternoon, Ebenezer Walden and women neighbors carry her, body into the house and place it on her bed. When the destruction of the village is, completed the next day, her house is burned with her body in it, so her gravestone in Forest lawn Cemetery is most likely a cenotaph. (Source: "A Field Guide to Forest Lawn Cemetery")
Due to disease, starvation, and a harsh winter, about 300 American soldiers die in winter camp and are buried in Flint Hill.
In May , Robert Fulton launches the Long Island Sound steamer Fulton.
|War of 1812:
On July 2, General Jacob Brown leads 3600 U. S. troops across the Niagara River into Canada and captures Fort Erie the next day.
On Oct. 17, the U. S. abandons its siege of Fort Erie. Part of the fleet retires to Sackets Harbor for the winter, the rest sail on to Buffalo to wait for the spring.
The Treaty of Ghent ends the War of 1812
|The Holland Land Office, 131 West Main Street, Batavia, NY 14020 is erected in 1815 to serve as the permanent fireproof office for the business transactions of the Holland Land Company. This building was the third structure used by the company into the 1830's. Here the settlers of the three-million-acre tract made their payments to the company. Today a Registered National Historic Landmark|
|Buffalo receives a village charter
General Peter B. Porter (1773-1844), perhaps Black Rock's most prominent citizen, builds his home at 1192 Niagara Street in 1816. When Grover Cleveland will arrive in Buffalo in the 1850s, he will live here with later owners, his aunt and uncle, the Allens
|Erie Canal: The New York State Legislature
approves the study of the feasibility of a waterway to connect Troy and Albany on
the Hudson River to Buffalo on Lake Erie. The Canal Commission includes Dewitt Clinton
who makes the project politically popular.
On April 17, 1817, the Legislature authorizes the work on the canal. On July 4, the first ground is broken for the Erie Canal, at Rome, The work on the eastern part of the canal starts on July 14,1817. Dewitt Clinton, a leader and supporter of the Erie Canal construction, is elected governor of New York State in the fall of 1817.
The work on the eastern portion of the Erie Canal ignites a race between Buffalo and Black Rock over the location of the canal's western terminus. Black Rock has a small harbor whereas Buffalo's harbor is sandy and shoals develop after storms.
On July 4, the first ground is broken for the Erie Canal, at Rome,
The George Coit homestead (photo), southeast corner Swan and Pearl Streets, is built c. 1818.
It will be moved from its original site in the 1870s to 414 Virginia Street, as downtown
becomes increasingly commercial following the Civil War. In the 1960s it will become
a a run-down boardinghouse slated for demolition when the Landmark Society will buy
it and sell it to a private owner who will restore it. By 2002, it will possibly
be the oldest house in Buffalo and one of its few surviving Federal ones.
Reverend Glezen Fillmore (cousin of Millard Fillmore) is called to take charge of a growing Methodist congregation in Buffalo. Under his energetic direction a church is rapidly built, being completed and dedicated only 48 hours after construction begins. Located on Pearl Street, it stands 25 by 35 feet in its ground measurements. Apparently it is the first structure built in Buffalo for specifically religious purposes.
A lighthouse is built at the mouth of Buffalo Creek to guide ships to Buffalo's harbor entrance.
Buffalo begins the project to deepen the harbor and build rock facing at the entrance
channel to control drifting sand.
Nine citizens of Buffalo form The Buffalo Harbor Company, the first local businessmen's association.
The original St. Paul's church, a frame building, is erected in 1819 at Main, Church, Pearl and Erie Streets
|Steamboats begin plying the waters of the Great Lakes in the 1820s. These
new types of large vessels are destined to play a significant role in the success
of Buffalo as grain port after the opening of the Erie Canal.
32 blacks live in the Buffalo area.
Buffalo's population: 2095; Erie County's: 15, 668.
14-year-old Palmyra farm boy Joseph Smith reports seeing God and Christ while praying in a maple grove.
In May , the section of the Erie Canal between Utica and the Seneca River is opened for public use.
On July 1, the first toll is collected on the Erie Canal.
On Sept. 7, during a Lake Erie storm, two lake vessels are forced to tie up at the new pier being built by Samuel Wilkeson at Buffalo Creek (later the Buffalo River). The pier holds.
On Nov. 1, the Lake Erie Steamboat Company's Great Lakes steamer Walk-in-the-Water runs aground in Lake Erie off Buffalo. There are no injuries. Judge Samuel Wilkeson makes a deal with a representative from the steamboat company. He will see the boat is freed by May 1 of the following year or forfeit $150 for each day the deadline is missed. The company will build a new boat in Buffalo if the deadline is met. On Apr. 13, 1821, the Walk-in-the-Water is refloated, beating the May 1 deadline.
Another mansion to grace Niagara Square is the home of Judge and Mayor Samuel Wilkeson (178l-l848), demolished in 1931 and then the site of City Hall. Buffalo owes its survival to Margaret St. John (See 1813 above) and its growth to Wilkeson, for he was responsible for building the Buffalo Harbor, thereby securing the terminus of the Erie Canal. The city has named more places for a French general (Lafayette) who visited once than for the local man who made Victorian Buffalo possible.
The State legislature creates Erie County, naming Buffalo as the County seat.
"Walk-in-the-Water" is the First steamboat to navigate the Lakes. Named by Red Jacket after an Indian chief. Launched at Black Rock on May 28. Ran successfully until wrecked, November 1821.
Buffalo and Black Rock vie to be named the western terminus for the Erie Canal.
|Erie Canal: Buffalo completes the new breakwall
in the harbor. As a result of this improvement, Buffalo, rather than Black Rock,
becomes the western terminus of the Erie Canal.
Black Rock receives a $12,000 grant from Albany and begins building the Bird Pier into the Niagara River.
is admitted to the Buffalo bar.
Two slave hunters from Kentucky are thwarted in Lockport.
Englishmen, Joseph Aspdin patents Portland cement, the modern building material.
Ball, Sheldon. Buffalo
in 1825. Reprint of a pamphlet published in that year.
Marquis de Lafayette visits Buffalo.
Two entrepreneurs buy the remains of Silver Creek's giant tree, take it on a tour via the Erie Canal.
Buffalo's population: 5141; Erie County's: 24,316; Batavia was at that time a larger city with 3,352
Thayer brothers executed
Hanging of the the three Thayer brothers took place in the presence of 30,000 citizens after the brothers were convicted of murdering John Love, a farmer of Boston, NY, over a trivial quarrel. Love had disappeared mysteriously late in 1824 and his body was discovered several months later in a frozen shallow grave on a slope near Israel Thayer's cabin. They were hanged on one gallows near what will be Samuel Wilkeson's house (built later in the year after the hanging), and in 1932 the entrance to City Hall.
In 1825, Buffalo was a middling village of 2400 people, barely rebuilt after having been burned by the British during the War of 1812. The town did not even produce its own flour; the nearest gristmill operated eleven miles away in Williamsville.
Importance of the the Erie Canal: The completion of the Erie Canal will do more to facilitate the development of the American West than any single act since Jefferson's purchase of the Louisiana Territory. It will just be a question of time before the territories and states in the American Midwest - Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin - suddenly enjoying enormous population gains, will begin to ship agricultural produce eastward. When that happens, Buffalo will become the great port of transshipment. Meanwhile, as hundreds of thousands of people abandon the East Coast for the Midwest, they invariably pass through Buffalo.
- Source: Mark Goldman, "High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." Pub. by State U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983, p. 57
1825: Black Rock's 6500-foot-long Bird Island Pier into
the Niagara River is completed. Winter storms severely damage the harbor.
Mordecai Manuel Noah acquires over 2,000 acres of land on Grand Island opposite Tonawanda on which he planned to found the state of Israel - which he names Ararat. He unilaterally announces that every Jew in the world should contribute to the state. Bad weather keeps him from holding dedication ceremonies on Grand Island. Having raised very little, if any, money, he leaves without ever having gotten there.
418 boats using the Erie Canal arrive in
Buffalo harbor this year
The village of Tonawanda has 12 buildings.
In Buffalo, Edward Root erects the first foundry for making plough-irons and other small castings.
In Black Rock Gibson, Johnson and Ehle build a foundry and machine shop.
Delaware Street is declared a public highway. It extends only as far as Guide Board Street (renamed North Street in 1854). In 1879 the name will be changed to Delaware Avenue.
July 4. New York State officially abolishes slavery. 10,000 slaves are
freed, including Isabella Van Wagener who will take the name Sojourner Truth in 1843.
Sept. 8. "The Michigan," with live animals aboard, is sent over Niagara Falls as a stunt.
Sept.. 22. Joseph Smith says he unearthed the Book of Mormon, at Hill Cumorah, near Palmyra.
Jefferson Davis enters West Point Military Academy.
976 ships visit the Buffalo harbor, compared to only 120 ships seven years earlier.
Lewis Fallie Allen arrives in Buffalo in 1827 from Massachusetts, as an agent for the Western Ensurance Company.
Major General Peter Porter, a veteran and hero of the Niagara Campaign of the War of 1812, donates the land for the Union Meeting House church. Porter builds his own stone Federal-style mansion across the street. The church stood on an embankment overlooking an imposing orchard-filled slope which extended all the way down to the Niagara River. It overlooked the Erie Canal, now Interstate 190. The church and the Porter home helped to make this vicinity overlooking the Erie Canal and the Niagara River the social and business center of the Black Rock community.
|1828 City Directory
Name, occupation, and address of the "Heads of Families and Householders"
Jacob Miller also creates the city's first livery, predating public transportation which will arrive in Buffalo in 1834. The livery is a horse-drawn car that seats twenty passengers; it travels from Pearl Street and the Terrace out Niagara Street to Ferry, and makes connections with a horse ferry that takes passengers across the Niagara River to the Canadian shore.
Ely Parker born in Indian Falls, NY (then the Tonawanda Reservation). As an aide to General Ulysses S Grant, Ely Parker will write the final draft of the surrender terms at Appomattox. He will become the first Indian named Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In 1897, his remains will be buried in Buffalo's Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Red Jacket plot.
Red Jacket successfully thwarts the Ogden Company's attempt to purchase the lands on the Buffalo Reservation from the Senecas who are living on the reservation just a few blocks from the Buffalo harbor and the Erie Canal terminus. Red Jacket appeals to President John Quincy Adams who negates a deal. In 1832 Red Jacket will die. In 1838, the Ogden Company will try again.
Millard Fillmore is elected to New York State Assembly 1828-31
Martin Van Buren elected governor of New York State.
Buffalo's first high school, the Western Literary and Scientific Academy, housed in what is now the Pearl Block in Pearl Place, opens.
Edmund Ralph (John D. Larkin's brother -in-law) opens a brick yard. To induce Ralph to remain in Buffalo, Deacon Goodell offers the Ralphs, including Edmund, his wife, Mary, and their three children, a log cabin on the southeast corner of Main and a country lane called Goodell, opposite the imposing mansion of Judge Ebenezer Walden.
on Delaware Avenue is the first company to successfully supply water to the Village
and later, the City.
Welch, S. M., Home History: Recollections of Buffalo during the decade from 1830 to 1840, or fifty years since. 1890.
Buffalo's population: 8668; Erie County's: 35,719.
The Colored Methodist Society, Buffalo's first African-American
congregation, is founded. Its church, St. Luke's AME, will be renamed Durham Memorial
AME Zion Church, after its second pastor the Reverend Henry Durham.
De Tocqueville's comments on Buffalo: