First Buffalo Landowner

Edited by Steve Powell

-Among the permanent settlers in Buffalo, Johnston may be considered to have been the first to own land within what became the village limits. It was a gift to him by the Indians. The circumstances, the subsequent negotiations with the Holland Company, and the compromise effected by Joseph Ellicott, will be narrated in the next chapter. Suffice it here to state that, because of his position as a landowner, William Johnston "wielded a powerful influence over the destiny of Buffalo." "He was respected by both white families and Indians." His house "was situated on * * * what became outer lot 94 of the original survey, near a spring." His son John died only a year or two after the decease of the father. John was well educated, pursuing his studies even to Yale College. "He was a young man of fine acquirements and address, and after his return from school was employed by Captain Pratt, in his store, and at the time of his marriage with Miss Barker was considered one of the most accomplished young men in the place." He died shortly afterwards, his widow marrying Elisha Foster.

Martin Middaugh, a Dutch cooper, is supposed to have settled in Buffalo at about the same time as William Johnston, i.e., in about 1794; but if one is to credit the assertions of Ezekiel Lane, who is stated to have accompanied Middaugh, one would set their coming farther back. Indeed, there is believable evidence that they came in 1784. The "Journals of Henry A. S. Dearborn," covering the General's council with the Indians at Buffalo Creek in 1838, contain some references to Ezekiel Lane. One of them reads:

"The interpreter's name is Lane, who reported in Seneca what the Wyandots said & Strong our interpreter gave it to us in English. Lane informed me he was the first white man born west of Utica. He had his birth in Buffalo in 1786, when there was only one other house besides his father's, and that belonged to a Negro, who kept a little shop to trade with the Seneca Indians."

Dr. Frank H. Severance, who edited the Dearborn journals for the "Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society," comments editorially:

"This statement is probably true, although it has been claimed that the first white child born in Buffalo was Aldrich Wells, born here in 1797. In the possession of the Buffalo Historical Society is a daguerreotype of an aged man; preserved with it is the following record: 'Daguerreotype of Ezekiel Lane ' who died in Buffalo in 1848, aged 102 years.


This text is Copyright 2001 all rights reserved by Stephen Powell and buffalonian.com. This electronic text may not be dupicated or used in any manner without written consent of Stephen R. Powell or buffalonian.com

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In 1796 there were but four buildings on the present site of Buffalo. Of these, the first was built by Mr. Lane, and his father-in-law, Martin Middaugh. It was a double log house on, or near, Exchange Street, a little east of Washington Street. This house "was occupied by judge Barker in 1807 or 1808. Middaugh died in the winter of 1822 at an extreme old age. The picture of Lane, taken after his death, was deposited with the Buffalo Historical Society, by the Young Men's Association, in April, 1865. Newspaper notices printed at the time state that he died on April 6, 1848, that he was the first white resident of Buffalo, and erected the first house here in 1784.


"...in 1786, when there was only one other house besides his father's, and that belonged to a Negro, who kept a little shop to trade with the Seneca Indians."


He was a soldier of the Revolution, and fought at the battle of Minnisink, in 1779. For the last twenty years of his life he was a member of the Methodist Church, and his funeral was held on Sunday, April 9th, from the Swan Street Methodist Church. The Buffalo Citv Directory for 1844 had this entry: 'Lane, Ezekiel, 1st settler 99 years old 6 s side buff creek.' The earlier directories did not mention him, probably because they listed only people who were in business. If, as appears, Ezekiel Lane was born in 1745 or 1746, he was 93 years old at the time of the councils on Buffalo Creek attended by Gen. Dearborn. The Lane who then acted as interpreter said he was born at Buffalo in 1786; which would have made him 52 years old at the time of the council, and fixes his birth at about two years after Ezekiel Lane settled here. Inferentially, he was the son of the first settler, though the present editor finds nothing to prove it."

Excerpted from the book: Hill, Henry Wayland, Ed. Municipality of Buffalo, New York, A History. 1720-1923. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc. New York. Chicago.

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This text is Copyright 2001 all rights reserved by Stephen Powell and buffalonian.com. This electronic text may not be dupicated or used in any manner without written consent of Stephen R. Powell or buffalonian.com