Buffalo in 1799 Settlement Spreads

Edited by Stephen R. Powell

-From the East Transit Line to Buffalo there was not a house up to the summer of 1799. Then Asa Ransom moved from Buffalo and settled on 50 acres in township 12, range 6 (Clarence Hollow), and there established himself as an innkeeper. He was the first to accept the offer of the Holland Company, Mr. Ellicott being authorized "to arrange with six reputable persons to settle on the road about ten miles apart and open public houses, in consideration of which they were to receive from fifty to 150 acres of land each, upon liberal terms as to price and time of payment." Ransom's Buffalo house was soon after occupied by Joseph Ellicott, as "Headquarters." Other men who soon followed Ransom and became established as innkeepers along the road were: Frederick Walthers, whose 150 acres included the East Transit storehouse, and the site of the later village of Stafford; and Garritt Davis, who settled in township 13, range 2, on the south line of the township, his 150 acres being "east of and adjoining the Tonawanda Reservation." "These three persons built comfortable log houses and as best they could entertained travelers."


"...We set out towards the Falls. About another mile brought us to the head of the rapid, and a short way further we came to a mill Mr. Birch has lately built; it appears to me a very elegant piece of workmanship, and is to be both a grist and saw mill."


William Johnston erected his saw mill on Scajaquada creek in 1798 or 1799. In the latter year Timothy S. Hopkins "came in to take charge of Johnston's saw mill, which was then the only one in the county." It was not the first mill erected in the Niagara region, but was perhaps the first of the white-settlement period. Lieutenant Depeyster built a saw-mill in 1767 at Niagara Falls. It was later used by John and Philip Steadman, and upon that site Augustus Porter erected mills in 1805-6. It was referred to by several visitors to Niagara between 1785 and 1799. St. John de Crevecocur wrote of the mill in 1785, and marked it on his map of the 'Niagara as "F. Saw mill on a point, belonging to Mr. Steadman." Captain Enys, a visitor in 1787, wrote: "After passing through some fields and a small piece of wood, we came to the river side at an old saw-mill, about a quarter of a mile from the brink of the Falls"-which evidently was the mill Steadman had owned. Captain Enys described another mill he found on the other side, at "Chipaway Creek":

 


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It was about ten in the forenoon, and after having rowed up a mile or more under the East shore, we crossed a very large island that lies in the middle, which having gained we rowed up under its western bank for a considerable distance before we ventured to, cross to the western side of the river. At length we made our crossing and landed about four miles from the Falls, at a farm of Mr. Stedman's; * * * taking the right-hand road after a walk of two miles came to Chipaway Creek where we found our horses in the house of Mr. Birch. * * * As the squire was not at home * * * we set out towards the Falls. About another mile brought us to the head of the rapid, and a short way further we came to a mill Mr. Birch has lately built; it appears to me a very elegant piece of workmanship, and is to be both a grist and saw mill."

It was to this mill, apparently, that Asa Ransom and the other early settlers had to take their corn for grinding. A journey he made to the mill, with other settlers, in 1796, was made especially memorable to his young wife, because in his absence Indians entered the house and demanded whiskey, threatening to kill her baby if she did not promptly produce the liquor. Fortunately, she was able to send a message to Winney, the only white man who did not go to mill and he persuaded the Indians to leave the house. Charles Williamson, a pioneer of the Genesee Valley, wrote as follows regarding the road from Geneva to Niagara Falls in 1799:

"Should curiosity induce you to visit the Falls of Niagara, you will proceed from Geneva by the State Road, to the Genesee River, which you will cross at New Hartford, west of which you will find the country settled for about twelve miles; but after that, for about sixty-five miles, to Niagara River, the country still remains a wilderness. This road was used so much last year by people on business, or by those whom curiosity had led to visit the Falls of Niagara, that a station was fixed at the Big Plains to shelter travelers. At this place there are two roads that lead to -Niagara River; the south road goes by Buffalo Creek, the other by Tonawandoe Village to Queen's Town Landing.

"The road to Buffalo Creek is more used both because it is better and because it commands a view of Lake Erie; and the road from this to the falls is along the banks of Niagara River, a very interesting ride. The river is in no place less than a mile over, and the picture is enlivened by a variety of landscapes. * * * As you approach Chippaway, a military station two miles above the falls, the rapidity of the river increases * * * ."

It was along this road that the Buffalo settlers took their grain to be ground, a journey of forty miles, not altogether "an interesting ride," one would imagine, with the mode of travel as described in the following:

"Mr. Ransom raised some crops this year (1800), and T. S. Hopkins and Otis Ingalls cleared a piece of land two miles east of Clarence Hollow (in the edge of Newstead), and raised wheat upon it, said to be the first raised upon the Holland Purchase, and certainly the first raised in Erie County. When it was ready for grinding, Mr. Hopkins was obliged to take it to Street's mill at Chippewa, forty miles. He went with three yoke of cattle, by way of Black Rock, the whole population of which then consisted of an Irishman, named O'Niel, who kept the ferry. The ferriage each way was two dollars and a half, and the trip must have taken at least four days."

Such were the conditions in the Niagara region when the Nineteenth Century opened. Buffalo Creek then was approachable from the east by only one road, a journey of forty or fifty miles through the wilderness. Nevertheless, those who were of the little settlement seemed to have the impression that it was destined to become a place of importance. Certainly, Joseph Ellicott thought so.

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