Charles A. (Charles Arthur) Conant.

The progress of the Empire State a work devoted to the historical, financial, industrial, and literary development of New York (Volume 2) online

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President oi ates; born Caldwell. New

Jersey, March T3, 1837: received academic education. Re-
moved to Buffalo, TS55 : admitted to bar, 1859; assistant
district attorney Erie County, 1863-60; sheriff Erie County,
1 8 7 -73 ! elected mayor of Buffalo, 1881 ; elected governor
of New York, 1882; elected President of the United States,
1884 and 1892. Was one of the trustees of the Equitable
Life Assurance Society after control was surrendered by
James H. Hyde. Resided in later life at Princeton, New
Jersey; died at Princeton, June 24. 1908.



\ WORK D ST U< '.: . A Wv




. • ... - . - ..







\ I ■■: YORK



The charm of the cities of the old world to the artist
and scholar is the body of historical and romantic associa-
tions which cluster about their history and monuments. A
certain amount of age is usually required to throw over
such memories the halo of romance. In this respect
America has been until recent times more or less deficient.
It is beginning to be recognized, however, that there is
much in the history of American communities as heroic,
as picturesque and as romantic as in the history of the cities
of the older world and that already in many cases these
memories are being sanctified by the halo of time. In this
field many of the best American scholars have been dili-
gently pursuing their researches among old archives, docu-
ments and monuments.

Mr. Larned, who has written the history of Buffalo in
the series of volumes on "The Progress of the Empire
State," has been able to cast more or less of this flavor of
romance into the background of his account of the modern
efficiency of organization which has advanced Buffalo,
Rochester and other cities of the Empire State to leading
places in the industrial and social development of America.
His work combines the story of the evolution of Buffalo
from a little hamlet, on the frontier of a century ago, down
to the magnificent city of to-day, with its great factories,
railroad terminals, many-sided institutions of culture, and
beautiful homes. In this field of practical development

42X1 2 7 3

American literature is perhaps even more deficient than in
the history of the beginnings of the rule of white men on
this continent. So much a thing of only yesterday and
to-day has been this evolution that it has hardly been over-
taken by the average scholar, plodding among written docu-
ments instead of seeking the photograph of what is in its
throbbing and living actuality. This photograph of the
Buffalo living, militant and creative it is the merit of the
author of this work to have thrown upon the canvas for
the benefit of those who are active sharers in it.

On a smaller scale a like work has been done for
Rochester by the eminent scholar, the Hon. Charles E.
Fitch, and for Utica by that many-sided man of achieve-
ment, letters, and public service, — the former historian of
the State of New York, Member of Congress and Treasurer
of the United States, Ellis H. Roberts.

For the portraits which illustrate the life of the three
cities and for the sketches printed in connection with them
for identification, the publishers of this work are respon-
sible, the authors of the articles having been consulted only
in certain cases.

The Editor.

34 Nassau Street,

New York, August IS, 1911.



I. Beginnings ....

II. In the Era of the Waterways : 1825-1850

III. In the Era of the Railways : 1851-1908

The Evolution of the City

constructive evolution
I. The Making of a Harbor
II. Outer Communications .

III. Inner Communications

IV. Electric Power from Niagara Falls
V. Water Supply, Fire-fighting, Lighting

VI. Sewerage and Sanitation
VII. Parks and Public Grounds .

I. Municipal Constitution and Police Adminis

tration ....
II. Courts. — Bench and Bar

I. Commercial Organization. — The Grain

Trade, etc.
II. The Lumber Trade

III. The Coal Trade

IV. Cattle Trade and Meat Packing

Banking ....

I. Tanning and the Leather Trade
II. The Manufacture of Flour
III. Production of Iron and Steel





• 137


. 156



. 185










IF some sagacious European of the 16th century could
have had the North American continent mapped for
him, after it became known as a continent, and had
been asked to mark the points where cities of importance
were most likely to grow up, when city-building peoples
were spread over this New World, his pencil would no
doubt have been prophetic in a few of its markings, but mis-
taken in many more. He might easily have missed the
promise of Boston, Washington, Pittsburg, Cincinnati;
might have seated Philadelphia and Baltimore differently
on the great inlets from the Atlantic, or found reason for
expecting but one of the two; might have hesitated in loca-
ting New Orleans, and predicted for Alton or Cairo what
St. Louis has realized; but his pencil could not have passed
over the site of New York, and three markings, at least,
on the Great Lakes would have been made with a sure
hand. In the face of its map, nobody could ever have
doubted that cities must rise at the foot of Lake Erie, at
the head of Lake Michigan and the head of Lake Superior,
if cities in America were to be. More than probably the
prophetic eye of the 16th century would have misplaced
Chicago by a few miles, and discovered no foretoken of a
Milwaukee, a Cleveland or a Detroit; but Buffalo and Du-
luth were geographically inevitable from the day that a
civilized settlement of America began.

To civilized and peacefully commercial mankind, such
seats of collective habitation, where some great waterway
opens naturally easy intercourse with near and far neigh-


bors, are attractive; but mankind in the savage state of
chronic warfare among neighbors has to shun them, for
the same reason, of their openness to visitation. Naturally,
therefore, there is nothing to show that the immediate shore
of Lake Erie, at this point where the Niagara flows out of
it, was ever chosen for an Indian town. Two successive
aboriginal nations are known to have been in possession of
the surrounding region, and with villages in the vicinity,
but not close to river or lake.

Prior to the 17th century nothing is known of our pred-
ecessors on or near these shores. As early in that century
as 1615, when Champlain visited the Hurons, he learned
of a large tribe, dwelling between them and the Five Na-
tions of the Iroquois, who took no part in the implacable
wars which those two branches of one linguistic family per-
sisted in till the former were vanquished and dispersed.
This intervening tribe, kindred in language to both of the
belligerents and avoiding alliance with either, was known
as the Attiouandaronk or Neutral Nation. It was visited by
some of the early French missionaries, and its occupation
of a wide domain on both sides of the Niagara River,
reaching eastward to the Genesee and westward, along the
northern border of Lake Erie, nearly to Lake Huron, is a
practically settled fact. The ground we now inhabit in
Buffalo must have been in that domain. So far, the aborigi-
nal history of this bit of American territory is tolerably

But now slight confusions appear in the record, and they
arise from confusions of name. According to Iroquois tra-
dition and French missionary reports, the all-conquering
Iroquois turned their arms against the Neutrals, soon after
the Flurons had been overcome, and brought their tribal ex-
istence to an end ; but early references to this are mixed with
allusions to further wars and conquests of the Iroquois in


this vicinity, following closely thereupon. The annihila-
tion of a people called the Kah-Kwahs comes into the story,
and the scene of it appears to be laid on this ground. Then,
in dim confusions with that, there are Iroquois memories
of a victorious end to long struggles with the powerful na-
tion of the Eries, who held the southern border of the lake
which took their name, and whose hunting grounds seem
to have stretched eastward to the Genesee, even as those of
the Neutrals had done. Who were the Kah-Kwahs? is the
question. Mr. Schoolcraft decided them to be a remnant
of the Eries; but Father Charlevoix, who wrote his "His-
tory of New France" from information gathered in Amer-
ica between 1720 and 1722, says that the Iroquois finished
their destruction of the Eries, about 1655, " so completely
that, but for the great lake which still bears the name of
that nation, we should not have known that it existed." This
argues against the Schoolcraft opinion, which has little
weight. Mr. Parkman thought Kah-Kwahs and Neutrals
to be only two names for the same people. Our own best
student of local Indian history, Mr. O. H. Marshall, held
the same view. Mr. Ketchum, who devoted the greater
part of his "History of Buffalo" to Iroquois history, thought
it not improbable that the Kah-Kwahs were a remnant of
the Neutrals. By one conclusion or the other it seems safe
to identify the Kah-Kwahs with the Neutrals, and to re-
gard them as the only Indian occupants of this soil before
the Senecas, of the Iroquois confederacy, became its lords.
This enables us to believe, with the late David Gray, that
the tragic end of these people is recounted in a famous war
legend of the Iroquois, which Mr. Gray once recited to
our Buffalo Historical Society in exquisite verse. So much
of that notable poem, "The Last of the Kah-Kwahs," as
sings the requiem of the vanished tribe, has a claim to quota-
tion here:


It came, at last — the nation's evil day,

Whose rayless night should never pass away.

A calm foreran the tempest, and, a space,

Fate wore the mask of joy upon his face.

It was a day of revel, feast, and game,

When, from the far-off Iroquois, there came

A hundred plumed and painted warriors, sent

To meet the Kah-Kwah youth in tournament.

And legend tells how sped the mimic fight;

And how the festal fire blazed high at night,

And laugh and shout through all the greenwood rang;

Till, at the last, a deadly quarrel sprang.

Whose shadow, as the frowning guests withdrew,

Deepened, and to a boding war-cloud grew.

And not for long the sudden storm was stayed;

It burst in battle, and in many a glade

Were leaves of green with fearful crimson crossed,

As if by finger of untimely frost.

Fighting, they held the stubborn pathway back,

The foe relentless on their homeward track,

Till the thinned remnant of the Kah-Kwah braves

Chose, where their homes had been, to make their graves;

And rallied for the last and hopeless fight.

With the blue ripples of the lake in sight.

Could wand of magic bring that scene, again,
Back, with its terrors, to the battle-plain,
Into these silent streets the wind would bear
Its mingled cry of triumph and despair;
And all the nameless horror of the strife,
That only ended with a nation's life,
Would pass before our startled eyes, and seem
The feverish fancy of an evil dream.


For, in the tumult of that fearful rout,
The watch-light of the Kah-Kwah camp went out;
And, thenceforth, in the pleasant linden shade,
Seneca children, only, laughed and played.
And still the river rolled, in changeless state,
Eternal, solemn, deep and strong as fate.

The Iroquois had no disposition to occupy the territory
they had depopulated by the destruction of the Kah-Kwahs,
or to put their mastery of the great lake of the Eries to any
use. For more than a century their westernmost nation, the
Senecas, stayed at the east of the Genesee, and the whole re-
gion from that river to the lake was an uninhabited wild.
The Senecas made no homes in this region till they were
driven to do so, during the War of American Independence,
by the Sullivan expedition, which devastated their beautiful
valley, and compelled them to fly for shelter and subsistence
to their British allies, on the Niagara, in 1779. One band
of them, with a few fugitive Cayugas and Onondagas, made
a settlement on Buffalo Creek, about four miles above its
mouth, the next spring. These Senecas brought with them
several white captives, of the Gilbert family, taken from
their homes on the Pennsylvania border not long before, and
they were probably the first of white people to be resident
on this soil. French missionaries, traders and soldiers, and
British soldiers after the conquest of Canada, may have
sometimes trodden it, but only in a passing way. It was
not till about ten years later that a Dutch trader, Cornelius
Winne, opened a log-built store, for traffic with the neigh-
boring red-men, at the foot of a low hill which gave its
name to the strip of public ground that we call "The
Terrace," though it was levelled long ago. He was the
pioneer Buffalonian, so far as is known.

At this time the famous Indian orator known as Red


Jacket had risen to a leading rank among the Senecas,
though not distinguished as a warrior and not originally a
chief. He owed his influence to a natural gift of eloquence,
which he is said to have cultivated artistically, by study
as careful as that of Demosthenes. He had opposed sub-
mission to the treaty of Fort Stanwix (to be explained pres-
ently) , without avail, and he continued through life to be an
inflexible champion of radical claims for his people as pri-
mary possessors of the land; but his disposition was pacific,
and he was generally in friendly relations with the whites.
Those who knew him best seem to have respected and ad-
mired him much. He rejected Christian teaching, but ac-
cepted the accursed gift of intoxicating drink which the
white man tempted and betrayed his red-skinned brother
with, and it brought him sometimes to shame in his later
years. His own people, in fine compliment to his oratory,
called him Sagoyewatha, meaning that "he keeps them
awake," but his white neighbors, with less sentiment and less
respect, named him from the scarlet jacket which a British
officer had given him and which it pleased him to wear.

The principal war chief of the Senecas was Honayewus,
called Farmer's Brother, because President Washington,
whom he had visited, described himself, in the course of an
interview, as a farmer, and spoke of the chief as his brother.
Farmer's Brother is said to have realized, in person, in bear-
ing and in character, the ideal war hero of the Iroquois. In
the wars of the past he had been a savage; in peace he was
faithfully peaceful, and exercised an influence among his
people that was strong and wise and good.

Both Farmer's Brother and Red Jacket lived on the Buf-
falo Creek Reservation. Cornplanter, another prominent
Seneca chief of the time — a half-breed, sometimes called
John O'Bail or Abeel — had his home on the Alleganv.

The British were still holding Fort Niagara (and other


garrisoned places on American soil, which they did not
surrender till 1796), with posts at Lewiston and Schlosser,
as well as at Fort Erie, on the Canadian side of the river,
and the Indians of this region were entirely under their con-
trol. By the treaty of Fort Stanwix, in 1784, between the
United States and the Six Nations of the Iroquois, the west-
ern line of lands to be held by those tribes in New York and
Pennsylvania was defined as running parallel with the Nia-
gara River, at four miles distance, eastward, throughout the
length of the river, from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, and
thence south from the mouth of Buffalo Creek. This put a
large part of what is now Buffalo outside of the Indian
lands. But, subject to Indian rights, the title to lands in
Western New York (excepting a strip of one mile width
along the eastern shore of Niagara River, which New York
reserved, and which was long known as the State Mile
Strip), had become vested in the State of Massachusetts, by
an agreement between that State and New York in 1786.
Under the royal charters which created them as English
colonies, both States could claim unlimited westward exten-
sions of boundary, the Massachusetts belt cutting through
that of New York. In compromising their claims, Massa-
chusetts obtained such proprietary rights over Western New-
York scil as were deducible from her colonial charter, while
New York kept sovereignty over that and the rest. What
Massachusetts obtained, in fact, was the sole right to buy the
Indian rights of property in that soil, the native owners be-
ing forbidden to deal with any other buyer.

In 1788 this Massachusetts right of purchase was sold to
Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham, who succeeded the
same year, at a notable council with the Indians on Buffalo
Creek, in buying so much of the tract as lay on the east side
of the Genesee, together with an important strip on the west
side of the river, taking in its Rochester falls. This ended


the dealings of Phelps and Gorham with the Indians. Be-
ing unable to complete the payments due to Massachusetts
they were released from their contract, and the State made
a new engagement with Robert Morris, the Philadelphia
financier. Morris took the Massachusetts rights in all the
remaining territory, and, stipulating to extinguish the In-
dian title, he sold most of the tract to a group of capitalists
in Holland (it was never a company, though called "the
Holland Company") , in 1792-3. It was not until 1797, how-
ever, that he could make his conveyance good. Then, at a
council at Geneseo, the Senecas sold to him the residue of
their lands in Western New York, excepting eleven reserva-
tions for their own settlements, the largest of which was that
assigned to the Senecas of Buffalo Creek. This reservation
was to extend eastward from Lake Erie, along both sides of
the creek, having a width of about seven miles, and to con-
tain 130 square miles. It took in the future harbor and origi-
nal nucleus of Buffalo, and there could have been no city
on this precise ground if the Indians had held fast to their
rights. Fortunately they did not, as will be told. The town,
however, was hampered by a large neighborhood of unde-
veloped country for many years.

By this time Winne, the trader, had acquired two or three
neighbors, one of whom, Asa Ransom, brought a wife and
daughter from Geneva, in 1796, and introduced in the little
settlement its first example of civilized family life. Mr.
Ransom was a jeweller, who found employment in making
silver trinkets for the Indians. A second daughter, added
to the family the next year, was the first white child born
in this part of the State.

By this time, too, the small cluster of log houses had had
a distinguished visitor, whose pen was preparing to intro-
duce it into literature and history, as a very little village
with a very big name. In the summer of 1791;, the first vear


of his "Travels through the United States of North Amer-
ica," the Duke de la Rochefoucault Liancourt, on his way
to Canada, came to see the Senecas in their "Buffalo Town,"
which he found to contain about forty houses, with as many
more scattered along the banks of the creek for several
miles. From the Seneca "Buffalo" he came down to the
lake, and what he saw and experienced here is described and
related as follows in his book:

"At length we reached Lake Erie; that is to say, a small
settlement of four or five houses, standing about a quarter
of a mile from the lake. A small creek separated them from
our road. The creek is so muddy that nobody ventures to
ford it on horseback. The saddles are therefore taken off;
the horsemen pass the creek, which is about twenty feet
wide, in boats, and make the horses swim across. * *
We had intended * * * [to cross to the other side of
the Niagara River], but it was too late. We were, there-
fore, necessitated to content ourselves with a very poor sup-
per and to lie down on the floor, wrapped up in our cloaks.
Not the least furniture was to be seen in the houses ; nor was
there any milk, rum or candles. With considerable trouble
we got some milk from the neighbors, but they were not
equally obliging in regard to rum and candles. At length
we obtained these articles from the other side of the river;
our appetite was keen; we spent a pleasant evening, and
slept as well as in the woods.

"At Lake Erie (this is the name of this cluster of houses)
everything is much dearer than in any other place through
which we have hitherto passed in our journey, from want of
any direct communication with other countries, to facilitate
the intercourse of trade and commerce. There is scarcely
one house in this little hamlet without a person indisposed
with the ague. We found ourselves here surrounded by
Indians; some of them had caught, with harpoons, several


large sturgeons on the border of the lake, which they of-
fered us for two shillings apiece. The banks are crowded,
nay rendered noisome, with places where the Indians dry
the fish."

One of the residents in this village of "Lake Erie" was a
Captain William Johnston, supposed to have belonged for-
merly to the notorious Butler's Rangers, who had taken a
wife from the Senecas, and was so much in their favor that
they had given him about two square miles of land in the
heart of our present city. Between this grant to Captain
Johnston (which antedated the Seneca sale of lands to
Robert Morris), the Buffalo Creek Reservation, and the
"Mile Strip" along the eastern shore of the Niagara, re-
served by the State of New York in its arrangement with
Massachusetts, the Holland Purchase (as the tract sold by
Morris has always been known), was likely to come to no
contact with lake, river or creek, at this point, and include-
no ground on which a commercial city in this region could
grow up.

But Joseph Ellicott, appointed by the American agent of
the Dutch proprietors to survey their tract, and afterwards
made local agent and manager of this part of the property,
had no sooner looked it over, and acquired an understand-
ing of the situation, than he saw the necessity for establish-
ing his main settlement here, at the head of the river and
the outlet of the lake. He was able to acquire the needed
site by a bargain with Captain Johnston, which exchanged
other lands for his grant from the Senecas, and engaged him
to persuade the Senecas to leave a considerable stretch of the
lower part of Buffalo Creek out of their reservation, which
he did. Thus Joseph Ellicott won a place among the
founders of cities, by a sagacious stroke of business, con-
ceived and executed with distinct foresight of its results.

It was in Ellicott's plan that his future city should be


called New Amsterdam; but the name Buffalo (derived
from the creek), slipped away from the Seneca village, be-
came attached to the "Lake Erie" settlement as soon as that
began to grow, and could not be shaken off. When and why
Buffalo Creek received its bovine name has been the subject
of much research and much dispute. The substantial out-
come is a general conclusion that the name, in English
speech, was taken from its Indian equivalent (tick-e-ack-
gou) ; that it was given at some quite early time, and given
probably because there were herds of the American bison
roaming at that time as far eastward and northward as this;
that they found salt-licks which drew them to the borders
of this creek and made it an important hunting ground.
Mr. Marshall found Buffalo Creek so named on a manu-
script map in the British Museum, dated in 1764, and that is
the oldest known use of the name. It was used in the nar-
rative of the captivity of the Gilbert family, published in
1784, and officially in the Fort Stanwix treaty of the same

The survey of the Holland Purchase, laying out town-
ships and sub-dividing them into lots, and the opening of a
passable road from the East, through Batavia to this western
extremity of the Purchase, occupied Ellicott's attention for
several years, and it was not until late in 1803 or early in

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Online LibraryCharles A. (Charles Arthur) ConantThe progress of the Empire State a work devoted to the historical, financial, industrial, and literary development of New York (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 23)