The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Page I, pages 17 - 21

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of to-day. They settled in the linden-tree forests at the Do-syo-wa (Buffalo Creek), from which 140 years before they had driven the Kahquas.

The Voyage of the "Griffon"

Robert de la Salle, a gallant and adventurous French nobleman, who in 1669 with only two companions had explored a part of the wilderness of Western New York, landed at the beginning of 1678 with a number of his countrymen at the point where Niagara river pours its waters into Lake Ontario. His first work was the construction of entrenchments at his landing place, which later developed into Fort Niagara of the present time. He then moved up the river, until he reached Cayuga creek. In his company were Father Hennepin, the historian of the expedition, and two other priests. At the junction of the creek and the Niagara river La Salle erected a camp, fortified with palisades, built a wharf and laid the keel for a brigantine.

The Indians all around the camp watched the progress of the construction of this ship with the greatest curiosity. Never before had they seen such a big craft. They called it "the Great Canoe". It was successfully launched in the spring of 1679, dedicated for its purpose according to the rites of the Catholic church and christened "Le Griffon", in honor of the Count de Frontenac, Governor-General of Canada, whose coat of arms bore the heraldic figures of Griffons. Seven cannon [sic] for the ship, its provisions and entire rigging, had to be transported by La Salle's men from the shore of Lake Ontario, through the pathless wilderness passing the great Falls, finally to reach the wharf. With a favorable wind the "Griffon" sailed slowly up the river. When she had reached the location of Black Rock of to-day, she was unable to fight the rapid current and compelled to cast anchor. And here then for several weeks lay the first boat, that was ever destined to plough the waves of the Great Lakes, quietly resting within the territory of the great city of the future! This craft had a capacity of 60 tons, and her crew numbered thirty-four men.

On the 7th of August, 1679, a strong north-east wind sprung up, the anchored was weighed, the sails were set. Propelled by the breeze the "Griffon" overpowered the current, and amid the booming of her

Caption under picture at center reads Niagara Falls from Hennepin's "New Discovery" 1697

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cannon and the solemn strains of the "Te Deum" she proudly sailed into Lake Erie.

The amazed redskins [1.] lined the shores, shouting "Gannoron! Gannoron!" (Wonderful! Wonderful!). At the place where the "Griffon" was built, we find the pretty village of La Salle.

In the summer of 1687 Baron La Hontan, following the orders of the Marquis de Nouville, Governor General of New France, with a number of armed men explored the banks and lands on the east side of Niagara River. With the eye of the experienced soldier he observed that the elevation now known as "the Front" was the natural location for the construction of a fort, and he marked this spot on a map drawn by him as "Fort Suppose." Not until the beginning of the present century, however, did La Hontan's foresight find its realization.

Martin Mittag's Blockhouse

Whoever on a fine day views from the top of one of our present "skyscapers" the sea of houses forming the beautiful "Queen City of the Lakes", can conceive no idea how it looked a hundred years ago around this point of observation.

Four miles above the mouth of the river, which under the name of Buffalo Creek was mentioned for the first time in the treaty of Fort Stanwix, lay the village of the Senecas, and around this in all directions was virgin forest. From the east, following the line of Main Street to the creek, an Indian path led through the wilderness. Another such path branching off from the one mentioned extended to the banks of Niagara River over North Street and Porter Avenue of to-day. The "Terrace" was an elevation about 20 feet high, rising abruptly from a marshy lowland, which was covered with thicket and underbrush.

Colonel Thomas Proctor, a commissioner of the Federal Government, who in 1791 came to Buffalo Creek, to open negotiations with the Senecas, says in one of his official reports, that "Cornelius Winne uses a loghouse as a store and barters with the Indians". Winne or Winney, whose ancestors were Hollanders, having settled near the Hudson River, had built his loghouse on the spot which now is occupied by the depot of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. He was the first white settler in Erie County.

Judge Porter, who in 1795 visited Buffalo Creek, writes in the memoirs of his journey, now in the custody of the Buffalo Free Library: "We traveled from Canawangos (now Avon) to Buffalo, using two days for this trip. At Buffalo Creek we met a man named Johnson [2.], an interpreter, also a "Dutchman" named Middaugh, with his family, and a bartender, with the name of Winney."

Joseph Landon, a surveyor, traveling with sixty companions through this region on his way to Ohio, where by order of the Government he was

[1.] Page 17, last paragraph, left column - Translator's note: The German text used the term "children of the wilderness." Return to text

[2.] Page 18, paragraph 6, left column - The German text reports the name Johnston. Return to text

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Caption under picture reads Talk with the Indians at Buffalo Creek in 1793.

1. Col. Timothy Pickering
2. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln
3. Beverly Randolph
4. General Chapin
5. Interpreter
6. Indian Orator
7,8,9. British Officers
10 Quakers

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to survey the "Western Reservation", reports that on a cleared spot of the forest he observed four loghouses occupied by white people. One of those cabins (at the corner of Washington and Quai Streets) was occupied by Martin Middaugh and his son-in-law, Ezekiel Lane; a second one stood at the corner of Commercial and Main Streets, and the two others a little south of the Mansion House.

Middaugh, of German-Pennsylvanian descent - his proper name was Mittag - had at first settled near Fort Erie in Canada, but had soon moved over to Buffalo Creek. The native dialect of the Iroquois was more familiar to him than the English language. He had cleared a small piece of land at the southern bank of the river, on the so-called "Island", opposite the foot of Main Street; here he planted corn and potatoes and later settled down permanently. He was a cooper and as such very useful to the Indians, who esteemed him highly. He died, advanced in years, in the winter of 1822.

New Amsterdam

In the years 1792 and 1793 vast tracts of land in the western part of the State of New York came into the possession of several citizens of Holland (Netherlands), who during the war of the Revolution, at the request of the King of France, had advanced considerable amounts of money to the Continental Government. Those new land owners were called the "Holland Land Company", although they had not formally organized into an association. They became the proprietors of the ground on which Buffalo now stands. The land office of the company was established at Batavia, the second oldest settlement in Western New York - the oldest being Canandaigua.

Joseph Ellicott was in 1797 appointed by the Holland Land Company as agent and surveyor of their lands. He was the younger brother of Andrew A. Ellicott, the Surveyor-General of the United States, whom he had assisted in laying out the City of Washington. Joseph Ellicott followed the plan of the Capital City of the Country when he laid out the new town, which he christened "New Amsterdam".

In a letter directed to Theophilus Cazenova, the first general agent of the company, residing at Philadelphia, Ellicott describes the site which he had selected for the future city, as follows:

The building spot is situated about sixty perches from the lake, on a beautiful elevated bank, about twenty-five feet perpendicular height above the surface of the water in the lake, from the foot of which, with but little labor, may be made the most beautiful meadows, extending to the lake and up Buffalo Creek to the Indian line. From the top of the bank there are few more beautiful prospects. Here the eye wanders over the inland sea to the southwest, until the sight is lost in the horizon. On

. the northwest are seen the progressive settlements in Upper Canada, and southwesterly with the pruning of some trees out of the way may be seen the company's land for the distance of forty miles.

Chippewa Street was the northerly, Oneida (Ellicott) Street the easterly boundry line of New Amsterdam. Buffalo Creek formed the southerly and the "New York State Reservation Line", running from the foot of Busti Avenue (Genesee Street) through Morgan Street of to-day, the westerly boundry line.

It was Ellicott's intention to erect his own residence between Eagle and Swan Streets in the centre of a semi-circular projection (Bay Window) of Main Street. On this plane a palatial mansion was to rise, from the piazza of which an unobstructed view might be enjoyed over Niagara Street, Erie Street and Main Street.

When some time later the street commissioners of the new commonwealth opposed this intention of Ellicott and insisted on having Main Street form a straight line, the disappointed man abandoned his plan of building entirely and took up his domicile in Batavia.

In honor of the Dutch owners of the land, the principal streets of the rising town were named after the chief members of the Holland Land Company.

Caption under picture at left center reads Joseph Ellicott

Caption under picture at right center reads Fort Erie in 1800.


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Revised September 13, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks