The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 212 - 216



Before the year 1823 there was neither a town nor an hamlet Tonawanda. An old German, Hans Roth, who knew the locality well at that time, says that there were no other buildings, but a tavern on the south and one on the north side of the river, the first one kept by Peter Taylor, the second one by Garrett Van Slyke. Through the before mentioned building of a dam near the mouth of the Tonawanda River, came the first settlement. From that time the new village made good progress and very soon the necessity of a post office was felt. The postmaster for a good many years was Mr. Joseph Busch. The pioneer among the lumber men was Henry P. Smith and as early as 1840 John Simpson owned a planing mill at Tonawanda. After the civil war the lumber business became quite lively but like many other

Caption under picture at right center reads Young Men's Christian Association Building


branches of business suffered heavily in 1873. Tonawanda was incorporated on January 7th, 1874, and at that time took in the village across the river, situated in Niagara County and now known as the City of North Tonawanda. It had 4 Wards, one of which was across the river, and the first officials were: John R. Wheeler, President, Theron W. Woolson, Jesse F. Locke and Henry F. Hill, Trustees, Franklin T. McCollor, Clerk, Hiram Newell, Treasurer, William Hay, Collector, Elijah Cooley, Gideon Hulbert and Thomas J. Keith, Assessors. In 1857 quite a number of the citizens, who lived in that part, which is located in Niagara County became dissatisfied and forced a division of the town. Tonawanda has several German churches, the oldest of them being a Catholic Church, founded in 1850 by Father Francis Uhlrich.[1] Started by but a few members, it progressed, so that in 1862 the beautiful St. Joseph's Church could be built. In 1872 a German Baptist church, whose first minister was Rev. Bauer, was organized. Since then other German churches have been organized and they are all prospering.

Town Grand Island

Grand Island lies in the Niagara River. The length of the island is a little over eight and its greatest width a little over six miles though on an average it is about four and one-half miles wide. According to a report, dated 1824, the State of New York, had bought Grand Island and a few other islands for the price of $12,500 from

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[1] The German text spells the name "Ulrich". Return to text


the Senecas. After this sale had been consummated, new settlers, or better squatters, soon came from all parts. They had undisputed possession of the country until 1819 and a sort of government of their own, arbitrating all claims and difficulties between themselves. In a description of Lot 18, located on the east or American side of the river, Surveyor Silas D. Kelly says: On this property there are the ruins of a block house, in which the well known Clark lived. During that time, when it had not yet been decided to which government the island belonged, this man came, took the reins of government, assumed jurisdiction over the inhabitants and dealt out justice. This Clark, called governor, was about forty years old at that time. In time the doings of these squatters became so annoying to the inhabitants of the neighboring shores, especially as there had been a good many thefts of valuable lumber, that the authorities of the state took a hand. In 1819 Sheriff Cronk, by command of the state, brought a company of militia to the island. They set fire to the houses of the squatters and forced them to go to either the American or Canadian shore. A part of them soon returned, not further molested by the authorities and rebuilt their houses. They soon opened their land, kept some cattle and once in a while stole some lumber. Grand Island, to-day a most beautiful spot, was at that time, with its grand woods and encircling sweep of old Niagara, a wonderful place. It was a paradise for the hunter, there being deer, bear, wolves and other animals in abundance. In 1824 the state had the island surveyed into farm lots. Shortly after

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that, Major Mordecai Manual Noah, a well known Israelite from New York and at the time the publisher of the"National Advocate" thought of making the island an asylum for Israelites of all nations and started out to put his plan into execution. The land found many buyers, but the object of Major Noah was not realized; opposition to him developed in all parts but he was always able to defend himself.[1] The island really came into prominence first in 1849, when farming and cattle raising as well as fruit raising were in their bloom. To-day the town has quite a population, several churches, good schools and roads.

Town Alden

Town Alden is situated in the eastern part of Erie County bordering east on Genesee County, north on the town of Newstead, west on Lancaster and south on Marilla and on the town of Bennington, Genesee Co. The first settler was an Irishman, Moses Penno, who was followed in 1810 by Joseph Freeman, William Snow, John Estabrook and Arunah Hibbard. After a while there came more settlers until the war of 1812 stopped all immigration and new settlements. After the war the immigration started up again, but we find among these settlers hardly any German names until 1830 - 1840. In 1843

Caption under picture at center reads New building for the American Express Co., Main and Erie Sts.

[1] The German text, on page 215, states "he [Major Noah] was besieged on all sides, but he always knew how to defend himself with ability and humor."
The placque for "Ararat: the Refuge City for the Jews" is shown on Page 96 of this text.
An article in the Buffalo newspaper Democracy looks back on M.M. Noah's original request to the New York State Legislature. See the bottom of the page of Buffalo, 36 Years Ago
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the Buffalo & Attica Railroad, now a part of the Erie system was built, touching Alden, and in 1853 the Buffalo & Rochester Co., now consolidated with the N.Y. Central R.R. built a line through the northern part of the town and finally in 1883 the N.Y. Lackawanna & Western built a third line between the other two through a part of the town, so that this part of Erie County had quite a boom. Town Alden was at first a part of Town Batavia in Genesee County and was consolidated in 1804 with the Town Willinck in the same county. At the big re-organization the territory became a part of Town Clarence in Niagara County. On March 29th, 1823, the Town of Alden was formed by an act of the legislature. The first meeting of the new town was held on May 27th, 1823 in Washburn Parker's house; the names of the first town officials were: Edmond Badger, Supervisor, Homer Hendee, Town Clerk, William H. Dayton and Jonathan Larkin, Assessors, Thomas Durkee, Collector, Thomas Farnsworth and John Wey, inspectors of the poor, Nathan Willis, James C. Thompson and Jesse Gressman, Highway Commissioners, Samuel Slade, Silas Snow and Thomas Gregg, School Commissioners, Homer Hendee, Paul White and Joseph Perry, School Inspectors, Thomas Durkee and Simon Hill, constables. The first Justice of the Peace was Moses Case.

The Village of Alden

From 1823 dates the existence of the Village of Alden as in that year a post office was opened there, the first postmaster of which was Joseph Freeman; nevertheless there were only two block houses in the village at that time and a so-called frame house, belonging to Thomas Farnsworth, who also founded a tannery. The growth of the village

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Go on to Pages 217 - 221

Revised April 24, 2005
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks