Ebenezer Johnson - LINKS                             West Village - LINKS

Ebenezer Johnson
- 1832, 1834
Political Affiliation - Demo-Republican

Ebenezer Johnson was born in Connecticut on November 7, 1786, secure a good education, and in his early life, went to Cherry Valley, New York, where he studied for the medical profession under the celebrated Doctor White.

When he was twenty-three years old, Johnson came to Buffalo with a letter of introduction from Hesekiah Granger. In this letter he spoke of Johnson as "a young man of unblemished morale, well read in his profession, and justly entitled to the patronage of the public" After making an unsuccessful attempt to open a drug store and set up a practice in this village, he accepted an appointment as an assistant surgeon to the New York State Volunteers during the War of 1812.

When he returned from the war, he established a drug store in rejuvenated Buffalo. He was also associated with Samuel Wilkeson in such business enterprises as trading, real estate, and construction. Thereafter, he engaged in the banking business, and developed a large capacity for business affairs in general. By 1832, Johnson, who, in his earlier life, had once been refused a purchase because he didn't have the money to pay for it, was considered one of the wealthiest men in Buffalo.


arly records show that Johnson began his political career in 1815, when he was appointed Surrogate of Niagara County, a position which he held until 1821. Later, after the division of counties, he became Surrogate of Erie County from 1828 to 1832. Other important positions which he held during these years were : 1821-charter member of the Erie county Medical Society; 1822 and 1825- village trustee; 1824- member of the first fire department; school commissioner, a member of an executive committee on Canadian affairs, and president of the Literary and Scientific Academy.

Upon the incorporation of the city in June, 1832, Doctor Johnson became its first mayor, an office which he filled a second time in 1834. Johnson's knowledge of medicine proved him to be a valuable asset to the city that first year for the dreaded Asiatic cholera was running rampant throughout the city. First he organized a Board of Health, investing it with almost absolute power, and next, he proceeded to establish the Moliose House, Buffalo's first hospital, for the care of the cholera patients.

For many years Johnson was one of the leading citizens of Buffalo. According to an address given by F.M. Inglehart to the Buffalo Historical Society:

His name was connected with every enterprise of importance, and his wise counsels and good judgment in all emergencies contributed in a great degree to the success of those projects which developed the resources and business of our city. In his person were united in a rare degree those characteristics of mental and physical energy. He was a man of imposing personal appearance, grave and dignified in demeanor, but alert and resolute in action, and possessing that indomitable will, which allied to mental power, achieves success in the walks of life.


Johnson was twice married; his first wife was Sally M. Johnson of Cherry Valley, New York, whom he married in 1811. Of this union, three children were born. Johnson's joy came to an abrupt end, however with the sudden death of his wife. Later, he married Lucy E. Lord at Hillersville, New York, who also bore him three children. See Cecelia Johnson Utley

Doctor Johnson, because of his outstanding qualities of industry, energy, and perseverance, will long be remembered in Western New York as foremost among the "Builders of Buffalo." He died of dropsy at Tellico Plains, Tennessee, on September 23, 1849 in his sixty-second year.

Source: "Mayors of Buffalo," by Sister Mary Jane S.S.M.N. and Sister Mercedes O.S.F., May 1961, found in the Local History Department of the Buffalo & Erie County Central Library,

Johnson Cottage

Dr. Ebenezer Johnson, physician turned politician, purchased almost 100 acres north of the settled area of the city, on Delaware Avenue, and erected a magnificent home. When it was completed in 1834, Mayor (Buffalo's first mayor) Ebenezer Johnson's cottage was the most extravagant residence in Western New York. It was the centerpiece of a 30 acre country estate on the rural outskirts of the small city. Johnson had an artificial lake with a flock of swans, a deer park, and an orchard.

In 1834, the southeast corner of the estate had become the site of the Philander Hodge House.

Around 1850, a few years after Johnson had sold his estate and left Buffalo, the grounds were divided into Johnson Park and Johnson Place, the lake became part of
Rumsey Park, and the cottage served as the first home of the Buffalo Seminary. The Rumsey family sold Rumsey Park around 1914. By 1915, Rumsey Lake was filled in and subdivided, making it possible to extend Elmwood Avenue from Virginia Street into downtown.

Johnson Park and Elmwood Avenue: In 1900 Johnson Park is an elegant residential mall within walking distance of the heart of downtown Buffalo. Originally the suburban home of Ebenezer Johnson, Buffalo's first mayor, and developed during the 1850s as an elite, in-town residential section, Johnson Park retains many of the qualities that had for so long made it the most venerable and exclusive residential quarter in the city. Its tree-lined mall is the home of many of the families listed in the social register. Here too is the Buffalo Female Academy, the most selective school in the city. Thus, close enough to downtown to be convenient, and yet far enough away to preserve its uniqueness, Johnson Park is a well-defined and cohesive urban place.

Yet the expansion of downtown is such that peripheral residential areas soon become expendable and the characteristics that had made Johnson Park a cherished corner of the city barely survive the nineteenth century. Because it lay on an east-west axis, Johnson Park blocks movement to and from the new central business district. It is in the in the way. And despite the intense opposition of the wealthy and presumably influential residents of the park, the broad mall is cut in half in 1907 and Elmwood Avenue is extended through it to the downtown area.

The West Village Historic District is a twenty-two-acre enclave of streets located northeast of Niagara Street and south of West Tupper. It borders South Elmwood Avenue and includes Johnson Park, West Chippewa, Cary, Tracy, Carolina, and Georgia streets as well as Rabin Terrace and Prospect Avenue. Located within walking distance of downtown Buffalo and the Lake Erie waterfront, the West Village retains many of the original architectural details that characterize its history and add to its old world charm, including tree-lined streets, slate sidewalks and stone carriage steps.

Johnson Park is the center of the West Village, and offers ample, manicured green space for residents and business owners from the surrounding neighborhood to gather. Named for former Buffalo Mayor Ebenezer Johnson, this subdivision was built by Johnson in 1832, and by 1845 it had evolved into a trend-setting and fashionable residential area. A series of disastrous fires in the City of Buffalo at this time forced City officials to pass an 1850 law requiring all residential buildings in certain areas of density to be constructed of brick. As a result, 83% of the buildings on Johnson Park have maintained their original brick structure.

After Mayor Johnson passed away, the site of his “Cottage,” a twenty-four room Palladian Villa on the Park, became the site for the Female Academy of Buffalo, the first institute of higher learning for women in the country. In addition, Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1876 map of parkland in the city of Buffalo indicates that he redesigned the Johnson Park Green, and this design was eventually incorporated into his overall plan for the City. Today, Johnson Park is the oldest residential neighborhood in Buffalo, and one of the few communities in the nation to have achieved triple designation as an historic district under the City of Buffalo and New York State’s Landmark and Preservation Ordinance and the federal National Register of Historic Places.

Over the past few decades, the socio-economic challenges that plague urban neighborhoods across the northeast, as well as throughout the country, have affected the West Village Historic District as well. However, concerned and committed residents work to face these challenges including The Johnson Park Association and The Cary Street Association, both of which are leading, member-driven forces in the neighborhood’s sustainability Established in the mid-seventies...
-Melissa Sandor, The Johnson Park Restoration Fund    (online July 2017)

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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