Joseph Ellicott - LINKS

The Holland Land Company and Joseph Ellicott
Excerpts from "The Town of Newstead Septquicentennial 1823-1998"

At the end of the Revolutionary War, Western New York was covered with dense forests or Indian villages with trails leading from one to another. The new government formed at the end of the war had decreed that all lands in the western New York belonged to the Indians.

In 1797 Robert Morris (photo), a Philadelphia banker who had financed the Revolutionary War and recognized the value of the land in western New York, purchased the entire area west of the Genesee River and from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania border. The transaction took place at Geneseo and was called the Treaty of the Big Tree. The Big Tree Reservation was at that site, and Big Tree was also the Indian chief's name.

The lands purchased by Robert Morris in western New York were, in turn, purchased for a group of wealthy Dutch merchants and financiers of Amsterdam, Holland, by their friends in America. The Hollanders could not own the land In their own names since they were aliens; however, this was changed in 1798 and they could hold the land.. The deeds of many Akron residents have the name of Wilheim Willink, a Dutch land owner, on them. These Dutch men who purchased the lands were known as the Holland Land Company.

The Indians reserved several tracts of land in the Holland purchase for themselves. These tracts were known as Reservations, and in western New York, were called Tonawanda, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Tuscarora Reservations as well as Buffalo Creek Reservation.

Theophile Cazenove of Philadelphia was hired as agent for the Holland Land Company in this country. Cazenove hired Joseph Ellicott, brother of Andrew Ellicott who was surveyor general of the United States, to survey the lands.

Buffalo Creek (Buffalo)

Ellicott went first to a small settlement where Buffalo Creek empties into Lake Erie. Here a trading post had been established by Cornelius Winney in about 1789. He is believed to be the first white man to live in the present Erie County. Winney traded with the Indians, exchanging cloth and other articles desired by them, for furs.

Asa Ransom, a goldsmith, and his wife also lived at the Buffalo Creek settlement. Their daughter was probably the first white child born in the present city of Buffalo.

These people lived in that part of Buffalo which is now lower Main Street and the Terrace. Ellicott noted the importance of the location and the fine harbor and called the settlement, which was the future City of Buffalo, New Amsterdam.

Paul Busti, an Italian, later took the place of Cazenove, who had resigned as agent for the company. Many of these names are familiar now in the City of Buffalo. Busti Avenue, formerly Front Avenue, Cazenovia Creek and Ellicott Street were all named after these former agents. Main Street in Buffalo was once called Willink Avenue after the prominent Holland land owners. Huron, Mohawk and Seneca Streets were named after the Indian tribes.

Ellicott was advised by the Land Company to proceed with selling tracts of land in their purchase rather than laying out New Amsterdam. He was appointed agent for the Company in 1800. Ellicott and his assistants therefore divided the newly acquired property into townships and lots. Roads were laid out, most of them along the Indian trails.

The main trail from Buffalo to Batavia was divided into plots and sold for $2 75 an acre It is said by some that plots were given away at various locations if the settler would agree to build a tavern. Taverns were necessary to encourage the settlers to establish homes in the Purchase, as it was sometimes called. Taverns provided food and shelter for the travelers on their long, weary route.


Asa Ransom accepted a lot at the foot of the east hill in what is now Clarence and built a tavern there. The little settlement grew rapidly and was called Pine Grove, then Ransomville and later Clarence Hollow. Ellicott established a land office there for a short time. He moved it to Batavia in 1801 and it became the main office of the Holland Land Company. The building is still located there and is visited by historical groups and others interested in history.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa

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