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Posts Tagged ‘War of 1812’

jewettJewett Parkway, Jewett Avenue, Elam Place and Willowlawn Street are streets in the Parkside Neighborhood of Buffalo (Jewett Avenue is located on the East Side of Main Street, just outside the Parkside Neighborhood).  The streets are all named after Elam Jewett.   Mr. Jewett started his career with a $35 loan from his father, turning that $35 into a great amount of wealth and prominence.

Elam Richardson Jewett was born in New Haven, Vermont in 1810.  His father was a farmer and was in the wool and cloth-dressing business.  At age seven, Elam began to work on the farm, attending school only during the coldest months of the year when no farm work was necessary.  At age 13, Elam quit school and decided to learn a trade.  He began as an apprentice to a publisher in Middlebury, Vermont, to learn printing.

At age 20, Mr. Jewett was a “first class printer”.  He decided to enter Montpelier Academy after completing his apprenticeship, because he knew the value of education in his field.  He only stayed at the Academy two months.  He then got a job with the publisher of the Vermont State Journal and the Middlebury Free Press.  In 1838, Mr. Jewett decided to take his chances out west.  With $35 borrowed from his father, he toured New York State and Ohio.  He decided to open a stationery and book store in Ohio City, across the river from Cleveland.  He quickly learned that Ohio City was suffering from the panic of 1837, and was not a good place for a business.  While planning to leave Ohio, he stopped in the office of a Cleveland newspaper, where he noticed an advertisement for the sale of the Buffalo Daily Journal, owned by the late Samuel Wilkeson.  Mr. Jewett came to Buffalo and arranged to buy and publish the newspaper.  At the time, its circulation was 600, which was large for its time.

00014.tif100The Daily Journal later merged with the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser.  Mr. Jewett remained in charge of the paper.  Mr. Jewett was known for publishing articles that did not side-step around sensitive opinions.  In 1847, Mr. Jewett wrote an article that upset a Polish midshipman of the U.S. Navy.  The man met Mr. Jewett in his office, drew a pistol and fired two shots at him.  The shots were low, and the bullets lodged in Mr. Jewett’s leather wallet, saving him from death.

In 1850, Mr. Jewett became manager of the New York State Register of Albany.  He managed his time between Buffalo and Albany while also establishing the printing and engraving firm that later became Matthews-Northrup Company. The company’s printing and engraving was deemed best in the country and the U.S. Patent Office in Washington DC contracted with the firm for all engraved reproductions of inventions.

During the 1850s, Mr. Jewett traveled through Europe with Millard Fillmore.  While in Europe, they were entertained by English nobility and Pope Pius IX.

In 1857, Mr. Jewett established a large envelope factory in Buffalo.  In 1862, he sold his newspaper, and two years later he retired from all business activities.  His nephew William Phelps Northrup took over at Matthews Northrup Company.  Mr. Jewett retired in 1864 and bought 400 acres of the Chapin farm.  He called his estate Willow Lawn.  The property was located on the west side of Main Street from around Amherst Street to Leroy Avenue, stretching back to Delaware Avenue. Approximately 200 acres of the farm are now part of the meadow in Delaware Park.  The land had been first settled by Daniel Chapin, who built a log cabin and developed a farm there in 1807.  During the War of 1812, a company of American Soldiers were stationed there.  When the British burned Buffalo, many of those men lost their lives defending that position.  Willow Lawn took its name from the large willow trees growing on the property.  Two of these willows marked the location of the buried soldiers in the meadow.

00013.tif100Mr. Jewett married Caroline Wheeler of his hometown in 1838.  None of their children lived long enough to enjoy Willow Lawn.   The mansion was located at 2364 Main Street and was considered to be one of the most beautiful of its day.  The property was described as a “model farm demonstrating to what perfection a country residence and farm can be”.  The first tomatoes raised in Buffalo were grown in Mr. Jewett’s gardens.  They were called “love apples” and were only used for decoration at the time, because tomatoes were believed to be poisonous.

Jewett Grave in Forest Lawn

Jewett Grave in Forest Lawn

In 1870, Mr. Jewett received two deer which he kept in a paddock in the meadow.  Some consider this the start of what eventually became the Buffalo Zoo in Delaware Park.  In 1885, Mr. Jewett started the Parkside Land Improvement Company along with Washington Russell III and Dr. J. White.  These three men owned most of the land in the Parkside neighborhood, which had been laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted.  The three men parceled off the land and sold the lots for development purposes.  Mr. Jewett donated a parcel from his estate, along with $10,000, to build the Church of the Good Shepherd, on Jewett Parkway.

Another Jewett, Sherman Skinner Jewett, was influential in the development of the Olmsted Parks, helping to bring Olmsted to Buffalo to tour possible sites. However, Sherman Jewett is not related to Elam Jewett.  Elam R. Jewett died in 1887 and is buried in Forest Lawn along with his wife.  Willow Lawn runs through what used to be the gardens of the Jewett farm.  The Commercial Advertiser ceased operations in 1890.  The willow tree that Mr. Jewett loved dearly only survived him by 14 years before falling during a gale storm in 1901.

willowlawn

Read about other streets in the Street Index.

 

Sources:

  1. “Four Streets Remind Buffalo of Elam Jewett, Publisher”.  Courier Express June 22 1941, sec 6 p 3.
  2. Smith, Henry Perry.  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County.  D. Mason & Co Publishers:  Syracuse, NY:  1884.
  3. Pictorial Year-Book and Calendar for 1888.  Buffalo Express.
  4. Larned, Josephus Nelson.  A History of Buffalo:  Delineating the Evolution of the City.  The Progress of the Empire State Company.  New York:  1911.
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northNorth Street runs through the Allentown neighborhood of Buffalo, between Symphony Circle and Jefferson Avenue.  A small portion of East North Street exists east of Jefferson, divided by the Kensington Expressway.

North Street was originally known as Guide Board Road.  In front of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension at the corner of Linwood and North is a sign that states “Guide Board Road directing pioneers from the east to the Black Rock Ferry”.  The Guide Board Road was established shortly after Buffalo was settled. Pioneers cut through the woods so that early residents could get from Main Street to the Black Rock Ferry.  The road was used by many covered wagons of pioneers and ox carts of the early farmers.

Guide Board Road sign, on North Street near Franklin Street

Guide Board Road sign, on North Street near Franklin Street

During the War of 1812, when Buffalo was burned Dec 29, 1913, Guide Board Road was bathed in blood.  While retreating, American soldiers from Buffalo and Black Rock used Guide Board Road to get to Main Street to escape to Williamsville or Batavia.  Many of them were overtaken by the Native American allies of the British troops, scalped, tomahawked and robbed of their clothes.  Their bodies were left by the roadside.

northstreet cemeteryThe street was the northern boundary of the City of Buffalo when it was incorporated in 1832, hence the name North Street.  The City founders felt that the North Street boundary would give the City plenty of room to expand.  The road was also known as Lover’s Lane and Cemetery Road.  As cemeteries were being moved to outside the boundary of the City, North Street was bordered by six cemeteries at one time!

The Erie County Almshouse (and associated cemetery) was located near the location of D’Youville College today.   The area around North Street was first settled by residents of Buffalo looking to build houses in the Country.   Additionally, immigrants settling in the Buffalo area bought the land along the road west of Delaware for orchards and truck farms.  This section became known as Shingletown.  Buffalo continued growing and quickly grew to be larger than the Village of Black Rock.  Just 21 years after the City was incorporated, the New York State legislature gave permission to extend its boundaries and absorb Black Rock.

City Planning Committee Map of the Extension of City Limits

City Planning Committee Map of the Extension of City Limits Over Time

Plans had been discussed many times over the City’s history to extend North Street.  This was discussed as early as 1884 when a resolution was passed to extend North Street from Jefferson to Genesee Streets, but the idea was protested.  Plans were resubmitted in 1887.  Portions of East North Street east of Jefferson were built.

In the 1920s,  a plan was put forth to widen North Street and extended it to connect to the east with Humboldt Parkway.  The Buffalo City Planning Association proposed this link, which would connect the waterfront to the eastern part of the city to create a crosstown connecting parkway within a short distance of the downtown business district.  The new parkway would connect D’Youville College, Holy Angels Academy(which later moved to North Buffalo), the State Normal School (later Grover Cleveland High School), Masten Park High School(now City Honors), the 106th Regiment Armory, the proposed municipal stadium at the corner of Jefferson and Best Street (which became War Memorial Stadium aka the Rockpile, now John Wiley Sports Complex), and the proposed Natural Science Building to be located in Humboldt Park (today the Science Museum).  The proposed parkway would be a double roadway and was intended to provide relief from congestion currently occurring on streets such as High Street.  The planned width of the street would be 105 feet wide with two 27-foot roadways separated by a wooded park strip.  One unique thing about the proposal was that the road was planned to take North Street over Main and Ellicott Streets, as well as to tunnel Franklin, Linwood, Delaware and Elmwood Avenues under North Street.  The road was designed to separate the crosstown traffic from the north and south traffic. This road was never built.

If you could redesign any street in Buffalo, which would you change?

Learn about other streets by checking out the Street Index.

 

 

Sources:

“Urges Action on Widening of North Street”. Buffalo News, July 13, 1923.

“Cross-Town Street Plan is Explained”.  Buffalo Evening News, February 17, 1928.

“War Wealth Park of North Street History”. Courier Express, Feb 9, 1956.

Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo.  Buffalo Historical Society Publications:  1912.

 

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streetSt. John’s place is a short, one block long street located in Allentown.  The street is named after the St. John family.  The St. John family had a significant role during the Burning of Buffalo 200 years ago, on December 30, 1813.

The St. John House  was the only house to survive the burning of Buffalo.  Only three buildings remained after the burning:  The St. John House, the jail on Washington Street near Eagle Street and David Reece’s blacksmith shop on Seneca Street.

Margaret St. John

Margaret St. John

Gamaliel St. John was born in Norwalk Connecticut on September 22, 1766.  Margaret Marsh was born in Kent, Connecticut.  Margaret’s father was among the first class of graduates at Yale College.   Gamaliel and Margaret were married in Kent on October 16, 1788.  They moved to Danbury, Connecticut where they lived for several years, before moving to Oneida County, New York.    While there, Gamaliel worked on constructing a portion of the turnpike from Albany to Cayuga Lake.   They had many children:  Elijah, Northrop, Maria, Aurelia, Cyrus, Sarah, Margaret, Parnell, Martha, John and LeGrand, and Orson.

In 1807, they moved to a farm in Williamsville.  Their farm was located near where the historic mill is now located in Williamsville.  They lived on the farm for three years before moving into Buffalo in the spring of 1810.  The family settled on Main Street.  Mr. St. John kept a tavern on the corner of Main and Court Streets.

Cyrus St. John died in December 1812 of camp distemper (also known as diphtheria).  Gamaleil and his eldest son, Elijah died on June 6, 1813, drowning in the Niagara River when their boat capsized after coming into contact with the war vessel John Adams, which was anchored in the River.  Gamaleil and Elijah were bearing dispatches from army headquarters in Buffalo to a division in Canada.

st. john houseJust before the burning of Buffalo, there were approximately 2,000-4,000 drafted and volunteer militia encamped in front of the old courthouse.   Recollections of the St. John children indicated that the citizens of Buffalo felt safe due to the presence of the militia, who could be seen marching through the Village.   When the alarm rang for people to evacuate Buffalo on December 30, 1813, the St. John family planned to leave in two trips.   Mr. Asaph Bemis, the husband of Aurelia St. John, accompanied the family.  Conditions along the roads prevented Mr. Bemis from returning. Margaret St. John was left in the house with her daughters Maria and Sarah.

20131230_075848

Plaque at site of St. John House

The St. John house was located at 437 Main Street, near Mohawk.  The house was demolished in 1871.  Today, the location is marked by a plaque.

As Buffalo settlers returned to town on New Year’s Day, Mrs. St. John and her daughters took in the refugees, while warding off constant threats to their home.  Many of the settlers returned to town and constructed makeshift roofs over their former basements, living in them for the rest of winter until a new house could be constructed.

Following the fire, a relief committee provided money, supplies and clothing.  The committee raised $13,000 quickly to help the citizens of Buffalo.  The State Legislature also contributed nearly $60,000.  Reconstruction of Buffalo happened quickly.  By April, Joseph Pomeroy had rebuilt his hotel.  After only five months, many stores and taverns were erected.

While the St. John family had its share of hardships, the family prevailed. The women sold their needlework and managed to survive on that income, keeping their place in society of the time.

grave of gamiel and margaretMargaret St. John died April 29, 1847.  She and her husband are buried in Forest Lawn.

Sarah St. John was only 16 at the time of the fire, spending her days putting out fires set by the Native Americans and foraging for food under the cover of night.   At one point, the Native Americans entered the St. John home.  Sarah fled in terror, chased by a man.  It is said that he raised his tomahawk to kill her, but she laughed at him.  He was so taken aback that he could not kill her.  He instead painted her face and let her return to her home.  Sarah went on to become the second wife of Samuel Wilkeson.  She was among the first to dig the earth for what became the Erie Canal on August 9, 1823.  She was beloved by the people of Buffalo; they reopened the Franklin Street Cemetery to bury her when she died in 1836, despite the cemetery being closed due to cholera fears.  (The Franklin Street Cemetery was located where the present County Hall is now).

Sarah’s grandson by marriage, Tellico Johnson, was one of the earliest developers of the Historic Plymouth neighbrohood.  He developed Orton and St. Johns Places and lived at 22 Orton Street.  The streets were created in 1884, from what was the Buffalo Circus Ground.  Several big name circuses performed there, including WW Cole Hippodrome, PT Barnum Circus, John B. Doris Inter-Ocena Show and the Adam Forepaugh Show.  In 1882, PT Barnum brought the elephant legend, Jumbo, to the grounds from London.

So remember the St. John family, all of the settlers of Buffalo, and all who fought in the War of 1812 today.  Remember that we’ve since had 200 years of peace between the United States and Canada.  The Peace Bridge plaza today stands where Fort Porter was located, a fitting tribute to the years of peace replacing a military establishment.  Remember the spirit of the earliest settlers of Buffalo, who were not afraid to brave a winter in makeshift home in order to build what became our city.  I believe that pioneer spirit still lives in Buffalo today….and that we can rebuild after 50 years of decline.

Be sure to check out the street index to learn about other streets. 

Sources:

  1. Mrs. Jonathan Sidway.  “Recollections of the Burning of Buffalo and Events in the History of the Family of Gamaliel and Margaret St. John”.  Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society, Volume 9.  Buffalo NY. 1906.
  2.  Brown, Christopher.  “Historic Plymouth Avenue in the Kleinhans Neighborhood”.  Kleinhans Community Association.  May 2008.
  3. Severance, Frank, editor.  The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo.  Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Vol. 16, 1912.

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porterThe Porter family was very influential in Buffalo/Niagara during its formation and early years of settlement.  There is Porter Ave in Buffalo, Porter Road in Niagara Falls, a Town of Porter in Niagara County and the Porter Quadrangle complex at University of Buffalo.   Porter Avenue is located in the Front Park neighborhood on the West Side of Buffalo and is an Olmsted Parkway.   The street was originally known as Guide Board Road and predates Joseph Ellicott’s time in Buffalo.  It was an Indian Trail used during the Revolutionary War to a ferry which led to Canada.

Guide Board Road sign, on North Street near Franklin Street

Guide Board Road sign, on North Street near Franklin Street

The original street alignment went straight west towards the Niagara River.  When Frederick Law Olmsted designed the City’s parkway system, he decided to turn a portion of York Street into Porter Avenue, in order to connect to Front Park and Fort Porter.  This allowed the connections between parks that completes our parks system.

Castle at Fort Porter Postcard

Castle at Fort Porter Postcard

The former Fort Porter was located on the Lake Erie shoreline just north of Front Park.  Olmsted included the Fort’s grounds into his original plans for Front Park.  The Fort was torn down to build the Peace Bridge.  The Porter Family included Augustus and Peter Porter.  Augustus was prominent in Niagara Falls, living on and owning Goat Island  His brother Peter Porter was prominent in Black Rock/Buffalo.  

Peter Porter

Peter Porter

Peter Buell Porter was  born on August 14, 1773 and was raised in Connecticut.  He attended Yale and Litchfield Law School.  He moved west to Canandaigua for his law practice in 1793.  He served as Clerk of Ontario County from 1797 to 1804 and was elected to the New York State Assembly, representing Ontario and Steuben Counties in 1802.    

While in the Assembly, Peter Porter was influential in working with Joseph Ellicott to promote road construction in Buffalo.  However, shortly thereafter, Peter Porter began to develop a community two miles north of Buffalo called Black Rock.  At Black Rock, there was what was called a “safe and commodious” natural harbor, and the land was owned by New York State, unlike the majority of Western New York which was owned by the Holland Land Company.   Peter purchased land with his brother Augustus and Benjamin Baron to form Porter, Barton and Company.  New York State gave their trading firm a monopoly of the transportation business on the portage around Niagara Falls and it handled much of the trade on the Upper Great Lakes.

Around 1797, Joseph Ellicott tried to convince Porter and his friends to purchase property from the Holland Land Company.  Instead, they bought state lands along the Niagara River.  The laid out a town site, built warehouses and other trading facilities, establishing Black Rock.  This angered Paul Busti and other Holland Land Company agents, who then tried to purchased land from the State for the Holland Land Company in order to sabotage Porter’s plans.   As the town of Black Rock developed, the Holland Land Company tried hard to push Buffalo’s interests by using political influence in Albany.  However, Porter was equally determined to make Black Rock successful and had his own power in Albany.

Peter Porter moved to Black Rock in 1809 and was elected to the US House of Representatives, furthering his influence from Albany down to Washington, D.C.   He was so influential as a congressman that he convinced President Madison to move the customs house from Buffalo to the smaller Black Rock during summer (the more active) months. 

Map of Black Rock prior to the War of 1812

Map of Black Rock prior to the War of 1812

During the War of 1812, General Porter served in the New York State Militia.  In congress, Porter was labelled a War Hawk as he fought for security of the Niagara Frontier as the conflict leading up to the war became heated.  He found strong allies in Henry Clay and John Calhoun and was named  chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  Porter was presented a gold medal from Congress on November 3, 1814 for “gallantry and good conduct” during the Battle of Chippewa, Battle of Niagara and Battle of Erie.

Following the War of 1812, Porter was able to assist in getting the War Department to use federal troops to repair and improve roads between Fort Niagara and Black Rock which were damaged during the war.  Porter also brought federal funds to the area to build roads and canals.  Porter and his supporters also wanted the federal government to build roads from the “Buffalo Frontier” to Washington to foster trade between the federal capital, the Atlantic Coast and the Great Lakes.  This led to conflicts between Black Rock (which was Peter Porter, because of his vast real estate holdings and commercial enterprises) and Buffalo’s leaders – including Samuel Wilkeson, Albert Tracy, David Day and Oliver Forward.  Buffalo’s leaders were on the side of Dewitt Clinton, Mayor of New York City at the time.  Porter and his friends were on the anti-Clinton political faction.

General Peter served as Secretary of State of New York from 1815 to 1816.   During a special election after the resignation of Governor Tompkins, Tammany Hall printed ballots with Porter’s name on them.  Porter received 1300 votes, despite not running for office.  Governor Dewitt Clinton won that election, despite Tammany Hall’s efforts.

General Porter was appointed to the Canal Commission created to examine possible canal routes.  Governor Clinton opted for a Hudson River to Lake Erie straight across the state.  General Porter preferred two canals, one joining the Hudson River with Lake Ontario and one around Niagara Falls, joining Lake Erie and Ontario.  Buffalo Leaders and Joseph Ellicott preferred Clinton’s ideas, but in 1814, it seemed that the Canal Commission might adopt Porter’s suggestions.   By 1816, Porter had not been reappointed to the Canal Commission as he had accepted the office of boundary commissioner to clarify the disputed sections of the US-Canada Border.  Joseph Ellicott replaced Porter on the Commission, Dewitt Clinton had been elected Governor, and the Erie Canal took the alignment we are familiar with today.

The rivalry then shifted to whether Buffalo or Black Rock would be the western terminus for the Erie Canal.  Black Rock had a large, natural harbor which would be easy to expand and for years it had been the center of east-west trade and was used even by the merchants in Buffalo.  Black Rock also provided an escape from the turbulent winds and swells coming across Lake Erie.  It also would shorten the canal a few miles, lowering construction costs.  Buffalo had advantages too:  it was out of the range of British canons on the Canadian Shore (which was important given the recent War with Great Britain).  Higher water levels meant the canal would feed better in Buffalo.  Samuel Wilkeson led the charge, along with a group of enterprising men, determined to make Buffalo the canal terminus.  A report by engineers stated that the terminus should be located in Buffalo as the Black Rock harbor was too vulnerable to British attack, too exposed to ice damage and too expensive to develop.  While several later reports supported Black Rock, the Canal Commission designated Buffalo as the canal terminus in 1822, on the advice of four out of five of its engineers.  Efforts by Porter and his friends to alter the decision were fruitless, and bills were passed in the legislature for a canal link from Tonawanda to Buffalo, completely bypassing Black Rock.

Porter House facing Niagara Street circa 1880s when Lewis Allen owned the house

General Porter built a house at 1192 Niagara Street (between Breckenridge and Ferry) in 1816.  He Porter married Letitia Breckenridge of the prominent Breckenridge family.   Breckenridge Street, which was originally called Commerce Street, is named after her.     When Grover Cleveland moved here to Buffalo, he lived in the Porter house, with his Aunt and Uncle, the Allens.   Peter and Letitia’s son Peter A. Porter went on to become a Civil War Colonel, killed in the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864.  

General Porter donated the land for the Union Meeting House Church across the street from his house.  The church is located at 44 Breckenridge and is also known as the Breckenridge Street Church.  

Peter Porter was also President of Jubilee Water Works, the first company to bring water into people’s homes.  The water came from the jubilee spring (located in present day Forest Lawn…Crystal Lake is formed from waters from the spring) and was pumped through wooden pipes.  Some of Buffalo’s wooden water pipes still exist.

porter grave

Peter Porter’s Grave

In 1837, Black Rock was dealt another blow when General Porter sold his interests there and moved to Niagara Falls where he built a new home.  Peter Porter died in 1844, and Fort Porter was named in honor of the businessman-politician-soldier.  Peter and Augustus Porter are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls.  Nine years after his death, Porter’s beloved Black Rock was annexed to a thriving, expanding Buffalo.   Black Rock became a neighborhood in the City of Buffalo.

The next time you’re driving down the 190 along the Niagara River or driving through Black Rock, think about Peter Porter and what our region might look like if we lived in the City of Black Rock and the Erie Canal went from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario!

Learn about other streets by checking out the street index.

 

Sources:

  1. Courier Express, July 24 1938, sec 6, p.4.
  2. Grande, Joseph.  Peter B. Porter and the Buffalo Black-Rock Rivalry.  Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Publications.

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Hopkins Street in South Buffalo

Hopkins Street in South Buffalo

Hopkins Street is a north-south thoroughfare in South Buffalo.  The road leads from South Park north towards the Buffalo River.  Historically this area was a mix of commercial and industrial uses, connecting the steel mills to the adjacent South Buffalo neighborhoods.

Hopkins Street is named for Brigadier General Timothy S. Hopkins, a War of 1812 general.    Hopkins Road in Amherst is also named General Hopkins.

The Hopkins family descended from Stephen Hopkins, who came over on the Mayflower.  Oceanus Hopkins was born aboard the Mayflower.  Most history books list Oceanus as a son; however, Hopkins family lore indicates that the family was bad at latin, she was a girl and should have been thus named Oceana.  A second Stephen Hopkins signed the Declaration of Independence and Ichabod Hopkins signed the Constitution in Philadelphia on behalf of Massachusetts    Ichabod Hopkins had a son, Timothy Soveral Hopkins.

Timothy S. Hopkins

Timothy S. Hopkins

Timothy S. Hopkins was born in Massachusetts in 1776.  He arrived in Clarence at the age of 22, arriving by foot.  He then purchased land in 1804 from the Holland Land Company.  Mr. Hopkins is said to have grown the first wheat on the Holland Purchase, on a farm in Clarence Hollow.   When it was ready to be ground, he had to travel to Street’s mill at Chippewa, a village that became a part of the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario.  This was a distance of 40 miles!  The trip took four days and included a ferry ride from Black Rock, where only one family resided – the family of the ferry owner!  Timothy married his wife Nancy Kerr in Williamsville; their marriage was the first recorded marriage in Erie County.  They settled on Main Street on a farm in Snyder, near where Amherst Central High School is currently located.

Burning of Black Rock, December 1813

Burning of Black Rock, December 1813

During the War of 1812, Mr. Hopkins rose through the rank to Brigadier General.   He was an important part of the Battle Of Buffalo (also known as Battle of Black Rock), where he was stationed in Black Rock.  Following the war, he resigned from his post.

In 1819, he became the first Supervisor of the Town of Amherst and later served as Justice of the Peace.  His reputation spread through the area, and he was elected Sheriff of Erie County.  He was later elected to the New York State Assembly.

The Cayuga Street Stone School

The Cayuga Street Stone School

The Cayuga Street stone school-house in Williamsville was built by Timothy S. Hopkins in 1840 and still stands in Williamsville at 72 Cayuga.  He died January 23, 1853.

Nelson Hopkins grave

Nelson Hopkins grave

Nelson Kerr Hopkins, Timothy’s son, owned much of the land which included Hopkins Street.  Nelson subdivided the land into building lots and named the street after his father.  Nelson served as President of the Common Council of Buffalo and was New York State Comptroller from 1872 to 1875.  Nelson also organized the City’s first paid fire department and served as fire commissioner for ten years.  Nelson died in 1904 and is buried in Forest Lawn.

Timothy A. Hopkins

Timothy A. Hopkins

Nelson’s brother, Timothy Augustus Hopkins owned the Eagle Hotel in Williamsville, which is now known as the Eagle House.   He also operated a mill near the Eagle House, served as Justice of the Peace and Erie County Sheriff.  Timothy A. Hopkins is responsible for building a bridge over the Erie Canal in the Tonawanda Creek area, and constructing drainage ditches in the northern part of Amherst to reclaim thousands of acres of land that were often covered by spring floods after a dam was placed near the mouth of Tonawanda Creek for canal purpose.  Timothy A. Hopkins passed away in 1894 and is buried in Williamsville Cemetery.

The Hopkins Street area is currently a part of the City of Buffalo South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA).  This study being done by New York State is working to revitalize the neighborhood by cleaning up vacant industrial sites and marketing properties for redevelopment.  More information about the South Buffalo BOA can be found through Buffalo Urban Development Corporation.

Be sure to check out the Street Index to learn about other streets!

Sources:

  1. “Hopkins Street named for 1812 General” Courier Express.  Oct 30 1939, sec 6 p 4.
  2. Larned, Josephus Nelson.  The Progress of the Empire State:  the History of Buffalo.  Published by The Progress of the Empire State Company, New York:  1913.
  3. Smith, Henry Perry.  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County, Volume 1:  1620-1884.   D. Mason & Co Publishers, Syracuse NY: 1884.

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Dodge Street

Dodge Street

Dodge Street is a street in the Cold Springs neighborhood on  the East Side of Buffalo.  The street runs for about a mile, from Main Street to Humboldt Parkway and is named for Alvan Leonard Dodge.

Alvan’s father, Alvan Senior was considered courageous when he built a log cabin on Main Street, north of Summer Street in 1811.   At the time, this was well outside the Village limits and well into the primeval forests.  The area was at high risk for attacks from the Native Americans.  However, the Dodge family lucked out when the village was burned in 1813, as their house was well outside the village, and therefore, left standing.  They were one of the few families to be able to return to their home following the fire.  Alvan Senior served as Magistrate of the County of Niagara (at the time, Niagara County included what is now Erie County) and held other official positions in the towns of Black Rock and Buffalo.  Alvan Senior died in 1846 and is buried at Forest Lawn.

Alvan Leonard Dodge witnessed Buffalo’s development from a tiny frontier village into one of the most important cities in the country.  By the end of his life, the Dodge family farm was close to being in the middle of the City that had grown up during Alvan’s lifetime.  Alvan, Junior was born on March 21, 1808 in Lowville, NY and came with his family to settle in Buffalo in 1811.

Ferry Street Schoolhouse source

Ferry Street Schoolhouse
source

He was educated in the school in a schoolhouse on Ferry Street that was known as Buffalo District School #2 at the time.  One term, his teacher was Millard Fillmore, who taught while he was also reading law and serving as postmaster.  At the time, the actual Cold Springs still flowed through the neighborhood.    The waters from this spring became the Jubilee Water Works, one of Buffalo’s first water systems.  The springs feed into the lake in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

As a young man, Alvan, Junior acquired a farm of several hundred acres, bounded by Main, East Ferry, Best and Jefferson.  Mr. Dodge built a house at the corner of Main and Dodge Streets, using lumber cleared from his property to build the house.

He sold part of his land to the City of Buffalo in 1880.   After selling the land to the City, he subdivided the remainder of his property for development and laid out streets on his land.  The area became the place for many prominent German families to live.   Legend has it that there was one field that grew the best corn around, so Mr. Dodge refused to convert it to a building lot.

The City used the property they had purchased to build a reservoir.  At the time, the City relied on reservoirs for water service.  This reservoir was known as Prospect Reservoir, since it replaced the reservoir of the same name which was located on Prospect Hill.  When the Colonel Ward Pumping Station opened in 1915, it rendered most of the reservoirs obsolete.

1988 WAR MEMORIAL STADIUM BUFFALO COLOR edited The reservoir sat unused until the 1930s.  Between 1936 and 1938, Buffalo Civic Stadium was built as a WPA project.  It was originally going to be named Roesch Memorial and then Grover Cleveland Stadium before Buffalo Civic Stadium became its official name.  The stadium was nicknamed “The Rockpile” since it seemed to rise out of the quarried land that had been the reservoir.  The stadium became home of the Buffalo Bills football team in 1946.  The stadium was renamed War Memorial Stadium in 1960.  The Buffalo Bisons baseball team used the stadium after Offerman Stadium at Michigan and East Ferry was demolished.  The Bills left the stadium in 1972 when Rich Stadium was built.  The Bisons left the stadium when Pilot Field opened in 1988.

Once the stadium was empty, many of the nearby residents wanted the stadium demolished.  The stadium hadn’t been maintained well during its final years and was in poor condition..   The Dodge-Jefferson and the Best-Jefferson entrances are all that remain today of War Memorial Stadium, which has been converted into the Johnnie B. Wiley Sports Pavilion.   Johnnie B. Willey was a city resident who worked to help young people of the East Side.

Dodge Mill in Williamsville source:  http://www.edyoungs.com/images/dodgemillfront.jpg

Dodge Mill in Williamsville
source

Alvan’s brother, J. Wayne Dodge moved to Williamsville and purchased the flour and grist-mill in 1864 and changed its name to Dodge Roller Mills. The Dodge Mill was across Glenn Falls from the Historic Williamsville Mill that is still standing today.   Dodge Road in Amherst is named after J.Wayne Dodge.  The Dodge Mill burned in 1894, Johnathan Dodge lost is life battling the fire.  The foundations of the mill are still visible near the wall of the creek behind Mill Street.

dodge tombstone

Alvan Dodge married Ruth Bosworth of Clarence.  They had four sons and three daughters.  He died in 1881 at the age of 73 and is buried in Forest Lawn.  The Buffalo Courier said that “his life was quiet and relatively uneventful, yet his life was the history of Buffalo”.

To read about other streets, be sure to check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. “Dodge Street Memorial to Pioneer” Courier Express May 21, 1939, sec. 7, p. 5
  2. Steele, O.G. “The Buffalo Common Schools”.  Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society, Volume 1.  Pg. 405.
  3. Smith, H. Perry.  “History of the Town of Amherst, Chapter XXXIX” .  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County.  D. Mason & Co Publishers:  Syracuse, NY 1884.

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prattPratt Street is located between Genesee Street and William Street on the near East Side.  Pratt Street was the location of the Iroquois Brewery.   Iroquois was the longest operating brewery in Buffalo, starting as the Jacob Roos Brewery and operating from 1830 until 1970.  According to Courier Express – “there have been so many prominent members of the Pratt family, even their descendants aren’t sure which one Pratt Street is named after”.   I am going to go into the lives of six of the Pratts today…but there were many members of the Pratt family that contributed to early Buffalo and beyond!

Buffalo History Museum Pioneer Gallery

Buffalo History Museum Pioneer Gallery

The first Pratt to settle in Buffalo was Captain Samuel Pratt.  Samuel Pratt was born in East Hartford, Connecticut.  His family moved to Vermont while he was a child.  During the Revolutionary War, he joined the 3rd Company, 8th Regiment, Huntington’s brigade.    In 1801, Captain Pratt went to Montreal and led an expedition through the forests from Montreal to Buffalo.  He was convinced that Buffalo had an opportunity for future greatness, went home to New England to bring his family to settle in Buffalo.  Samuel, his wife and eight of their children arrived  via a carriage followed by two wagons.  It was the first carriage ever seen in what would become Erie County.  They arrived in Buffalo in 1804, when there were only a dozen houses here.   To get an idea of what Buffalo looked like when they arrived, you can visit the Pioneer Gallery at the Buffalo History Museum.  The first lodging for the Pratt family was at Crow’s Tavern, a replica of which is set up in the museum’s exhibit.  Samuel Pratt established a store and took a leading role in matters of public improvements   He did a large share of trading between the whites and Native Americans, trading furs for flour, salt and other food.    He first built a log cabin for his family on the Terrace.  His store prospered and he built the first frame dwelling in Buffalo.  He hired a cabinet-maker from Vermont to build furniture for his home out of the black walnut that grew in the forests of Western New York at the time.  The Pratt family had the first carpet in Buffalo, shipped in from Boston.  The house was located at the corner of Main and Exchange Streets.   In addition to his store, Samuel was one of the first to introduce public worship to Buffalo and was a pioneer in the education of Buffalonians.  Captain Pratt died on August 31, 1812 and was survived by nine of his ten children.

Hiram Pratt

Hiram Pratt

Hiram Pratt, the fifth of Captain Pratt’s eight children, was Mayor of Buffalo between 1835-1836 and 1839-1840.   Hiram was born in Vermont in 1800 and came to Buffalo with his family as a child.   Hiram was close with Dr. Cyrenius Chapin, an early citizen of Buffalo due to Dr. Chapin having lost a son at an early age.  During the burning of Buffalo by the British, Hiram aided his neighbors to help flee the fire.  He helped Dr. Chapin’s  daughters to safety at a farm in Hamburg.   He was involved in Dr. Chapin’s general store and a partner in a warehouse business with Asa Meech.    He later founded Bank of Buffalo, which built some of the earliest Great Lakes steamers and contributed to much of the development of Black Rock.

Statue of Columbus in Prospect Park

Statue of Columbus in Prospect Park

Hiram was elected Mayor of Buffalo in 1835, on the Whig party, which was the party of many of the 15,000 Buffalonians in the 1830s.    Hiram owned a large area of land on Porter Avenue, bounded by Seventh and Connecticut Streets and Prospect Avenues.    He gifted the land that to the City of Buffalo.  He built a mansion on the property, but never lived in it.  The land is now Prospect Park.   Hiram and his family lived in the house on the corner of Swan and Center Streets.   Hiram died in 1840 and is buried in Forest Lawn.

Captain Samuel Pratt’s oldest son was Samuel Pratt, Junior.  Samuel Junior was born in Hartford Connecticut and did not accompany his parents to Buffalo at first.  He arrived in Buffalo in August 1807 to help his father’s business.  He quickly found other interests in Buffalo and became Sheriff of Niagara County in 1810.    At the time, Niagara County included the land that would become Erie County.  During the War of 1812, Samuel Junior joined the army.  He bravely defended the Village when Buffalo was attacked in December 1813 by the British.   Samuel Junior died in 1822.  Samuel Junior had four children.

Samuel Fletcher

Samuel Fletcher

Samuel Junior’s oldest sun was Samuel Fletcher Pratt.  Samuel Fletcher was born in Vermont in 1807.  Soon after his birth, he came to Buffalo with his parents.  In 1822, he entered into the hardware business with George and Thaddeus Weed, forming George Weed & Company.  Mr. George Weed died in 1828 and the business became Weed & Pratt.  Samuel Fletcher continued the business for many years, eventually bringing in his brother Pascal, establishing the store as Pratt & Company.  In 1845, Samuel Fletcher and Pascal founded the firm of Pratt & Letchworth with William Letchworth, making saddles and hardware for horses.  In 1848, Samuel Fletcher helped to organize the Buffalo Gas Light Company and served as President until his death.   He was often asked to run for Mayor, but Samuel Fletcher always declined.  In 1851, he was one of the founders of the Buffalo Female Academy.  He was a member of First Presbyterian Church.  Samuel Fletcher died on April 27, 1872.

fitchdrawingSamuel Junior’s second son was Lucius Pratt.  Lucius was born in Buffalo in 1809.  Lucius was a Great Lakes shipping merchant and owned a warehouse on the River at the Pratt Slip.  He was married to Cynthia Weed, who died in 1843.  He then married Susan Beals in 1844.  Lucius and Susan had six children between 1845 and 1854.  Lucius and his family lived at 159 Swan Street.  The house was built around 1835 of land that was originally deeded to Captain Samuel Pratt, Lucius’ grandfather.  At the time, Swan Street was one of the social centers of Buffalo.  The house was purchased by Benjamin Fitch in the 1870s after Lucius’ death.   Fitch then donated the house, following urging from Maria Love, to the Charity Organization Society of Buffalo.  The Fitch Creche was located in the house, opening on New Year’s Day 1880.  The Fitch Creche was dedicated to providing nursery care and education for children of working mothers.  It was the first  kindergarten in the Country!  The program developed at the Fitch Creche was emulated in other cities across the country.  Unfortunately, the building was demolished in 1998.

Pascal Pratt

Pascal Pratt

Samuel Pratt’s youngest son was Pascal Pratt.   Pascal was born in Buffalo in 1819.   He was educated in local schools and went to Hamilton Academy (now Colgate University) and Amherst College.  He learned the business trade at his brother Samuel Fletcher’s store.  He was made a partner in Pratt and Co and eventually in the firm of Pratt and Letchworth.   Pascal founded the Buffalo Iron and Nail Company, the Fletcher Furnace Company and the Tonawanda Furnace Company all in 1857.   Pascal was considered to be progressive and publicly boasted about Buffalo being a good place for manufacture and brought many residents to Buffalo in order to work at his companies.  He encouraged his friends to invest in the young city and was a strong force for the industrial development of the city.

In 1856, Pascal founded Manufacturers and Traders Bank (M&T).  He also was a director of three other banks – Bank of Attica, Bank of Buffalo and Third National Bank.  Pascal was the largest contributor to Buffalo’s original YMCA building and the first president of the Y’s Board of Trustees.  He was vice-president of the Civil Service Commission and of the Buffalo Street Railroad Company   He was involved in other cultural and philanthropic organizations including Buffalo Seminary, State Normal School (Now Buffalo State College), North Presbyterian Church and Buffalo Orphan Asylum.   Pascal  has been called father of the Buffalo Parks System.   He was chosen as a member of the Park Commission of Buffalo in 1869 and served the commission for a decade.   He was one of three commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court  to assess the value of the Niagara Falls property that is now the State Reservation (state park).  He was a charter member of the Buffalo Club and active in the Ellicott Club and Country Club.

prattfamilyplotMany members of the Pratt family are buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  Stop by and visit them sometime to say thanks to this pioneer family that shape Buffalo’s early history.

[Learn about other streets by checking out the Street Index]

Sources:

  1. “Named for Three Pratts”  Courier Express June 11, 1939, sec 6 p2
  2. “Memorial and Family History of Erie County, New York”, Volume 1.  The Genealogical Publishing Company, Buffalo, 1906.
  3. Rizzo, Michael Through the Mayor’s Eyes.  Old House History:  Buffalo NY, 2005.
  4. Conlin, John.  “A last look…159 Swan”.  WNY Heritage Magazine.  Fall 1998.

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