Lancaster is situated east of Buffalo, in the north-central part of Erie county, and comprises fractional township
11, range 6, and a strip averaging a mile and a half in width off the north side of the Buffalo Creek Reservation.
This town was formed from Clarence on the 20th of March, 1833, and includes the Indian lands to the center of the
original reservation, the whole being six miles east and west and about eight and three-fourths miles north and
south. The town of Elma was set off December 4, 1857, thus reducing Lancaster to its present area of about thirty-seven
square miles, or 23,531 acres.
The surface is generally level. The soil is clayey loam in the southern part and gravelly, with considerable limestone,
in the north part; these sections are watered by Cayuga and Ellicott, or Eleven-mile, Creeks respectively. Into
the former flow Little Buffalo Creek and Plum Bottom. Outside of the villages the principal industry is general
farming, with the dairying interests paramount.
According to the books of the Holland Land Company the first purchase of land in Lancaster was made by Alanson
Eggleston in November, 1803, the price being $2 per acre. Asa Woodward and William Sheldon purchased lands in the
same month. The first actual settlers, as near as can be ascertained, were James and Asa Woodward, in 1803, at
Bowmansville. They were followed in 1804 by Matthew Wing, Joel Parmalee and Warren Hull. Soon afterward William
Blackman, Edward Kearney, David Hamlin, Zophar Beach, Peter Pratt, Elisha Cox, and others came in. Elias Bissell,
Benjamin Clark and Pardon Peckham located near Cayuga Creek in 1808. Their sons, James Clark, Elias and Elisha
Bissell, and Thomas Nye Peckham, became prominent citizens of the town. In 1808 a road was cut from Buffalo through
Lancaster village, eastward, and in the same year Daniel Robinson built the first saw mill in town at Bowmansville.
About 1810 Benjamin Bowman purchased this mill and built another, and ever since then the place has been designated
by his name.
In 1810 the first school house in town was built, of logs, on the farm subsequently owned by Leonard Blackman,
Miss Freelove Johnson (afterward Mrs. Amos Robinson) being the first teacher; it was replaced by the so-called
“Johnson school house,” which stood on the site of the brick school house in the Peckham neighborhood. In 1811
Bartholomew Johnson erected a saw mill on Ellicott Creek at what is known as Johnson’s Corners. Among the early
corners to the Cayuga Creek settlement were the Carpenter, Field, Johnson, Hibbard and Paine families. Ahaz Allen
built the first grist mill in town, at Lancaster, in 1811, and when work was stopped the first night 955 fish were
caught in the mill-race. Edward Kearney, Riley Munger and Joel Mix were also early settlers there. Joseph Carpenter
erected the first tavern, which with the mill were the nucleus of the village.
Among later settlers and residents of the town were:
Capt. Philip Peckham, Thomas Gross, Simon Adolph, George Boshert, Elias Bissell, Palmer S. Bowman, Lafayette Cooper,
John G. Dykstra, Joel George, John Haskell. Rev. John Hutchinson and son Thomas, Joseph Knauber, Charles Kurtz,
John G. and Henry Leininger, John Nuwer, Philip Mook, Joel Taylor, William Fisk, Dr. Brown, Frederick Kirchholter,
Israel Ely, Calvin Ely, Joseph and Harvey Clark, Platt Wakelee, Dr. W. Parker, Truman Luce, Aipheus Gage. Oliver
Brown, Milton McNeal, James Clark, Clement Wakelee, Elihu Bissell, Norman Kimball, Leonard and Eleazer Blackmon,
Henry Atwood, Henry L. Bingham, Ebenezer Briggs, George, Samuel, Solon and John Bruce, Ezra, Noyes and Selden Ely,
Israel P. Sears, Alexander, James, John and Apollos Hitchcock, Worp Van Peyma. John Richardson, Gardiner Kip, Norman
Dewey, Stephen V. Halsey, John L. Lewis, William H. Bostwick, George and Lewis Clapp, Hiram Clark, Englehart Oehm,
Alexander Romer, Anson Sanford, John Schrankel, Matthias Schwartz, Samuel H. Smiley and son Benjamin D., Jacob
Stephan, George Stutter, John Walter, Jesse Wheelock, Jacob Young. The German settlements began about 1830.
The following is a list of the supervisors of the town of Lancaster from its organization to the present time,
with their years of service:
John Brown, 1833—34; Milton McNeal, 1835; Albert E. Terry, 1836; John Boyer, 1837; Milton McNeal, 1838—40; Norman
B. Dewey, 1841; Milton McNeal, 1842; Elijah M. Safford, 1843; Milton McNeal, 1844—45; Jonathan W. Dodge, 1846;
Milton McNeal, 1847; Jonathan W. Dodge, 1848; Robert Neal, 1849; Henry Atwood, 1850; Henry L. Bingham, 1851—52;
J. Parker, 1853—54; Eli H. Bowman, 1855; Henry L. Bingham, 1856; Robert Looney, 1857—60; William W. Bruce, 1861—62;
John M. Sanford, 1863; John T. Wheelock, 1864; F. H. James, 1865—66; N. B. Gatchell, 1867—76; Charles W. Fuller,
1877—80; Charles F. Tabor, 1881—82; Englehart Oehm, 1883—84; N. B. Gatchell, 1885; Englehart Oehm, 1886—87; George
A. Davis, 1888—91; Watson M. Blackmon, 1892; George A. Davis, 1893—97.
Lancaster Village .— The village
of Lancaster, the most important one in the town, had its nucleus in the grist mill of Ahaz Allen and the tavern
of Joseph Carpenter. About 1823 a post-office was established with tlie name Cayuga Creek, the postmaster being
Thomas Gross; in 1833 the name of the office was changed to Lancaster. In 1843 an academy was started and a building
erected; the first teachers were Messrs. Hadley and Blennerhassett. After several years of successful existence
it dwindled and was abandoned. Later Judge Theodotus Burwell secured the foundation of an agricultural college
known as Oakwood Institute; its only teachers were successively Dr. De Young and William H. Brewer. The institution
soon went down, and the building erected for its use is now occupied for a barn. In 1849 several wealthy Hollanders
settled in the village. In the same year the Lancaster glass works were established by eight glass blowers from
Pittsburg, chief among them being Charles Reed. These works have been successively owned by Reed, Allen, Cox &
Co., Reed, Shinn & Co., James, Gatchell & Co., James ‘& Gatchell, Dr. F. H. James, and the Lancaster
Co-operative Glass Works, Ltd. They were burned in 1859 and rebuilt. Brush & Howard built a large tannery in
1849 which was burned September 3, 1887. About 1851 a Mr. Koopmans erected a second tannery, which was converted
into a soap factory in 1887 by Hoffeld & Co. John A. Laux opened a hotel in 1850, and about this time William
Curtis had another on the site of the American House, which has been kept by John Raynor, R. S. Miller, and others.
In 1851 Dean & Halsey started an iron foundry, and there were also two saw mills in operation. In January,
1865, a stock company was organized, the chief promoter being Samuel Bailey, and a well was sunk on Plum Bottom
for the purpose of obtaining petroleum; this attempt and one later near Lake Como proved failures. In 1866 a German
began the manufacture of church organs, and in 1868 William H. Grimes erected a brick factory for the purpose;
the business was abandoned after a few years and the building was converted into a malt house, which has long been
operated by Scheu Brothers of Buffalo. Street lamps were introduced in April, 1867, and were replaced by an electric
light system July 31, 1897, by Ernest Feyler.
The Lancaster Literary Society was incorporated December 13, 1866, by Charles F. Tabor, president; Rev. William
Waith, vice-president; Edgar H. Perry, secretary; George Clapp, treasurer; Nathan B. Gatcheli, Dr. Frederick H:
James, Frank Lee, Rudolph F. W. Hoffeld,
George W. Porter and George W. Harris. It has ever since maintained a useful existence.
The village was incorporated July 14, 1849, when the following officers were elected: John W. McLean, Charles Kurtz,
Ira Sleeper, John Barger and D. R. Osgood, trustees; Elijah M. Safford, assessor; John M. Safford, collector; William
H. Grimes, treasurer; Henry L. Bingham, clerk. For many years the only fire apparatus was a small hand engine owned
by the glass works. On March 3, 1876, a hook and ladder company was organized and in February, 1882, the Cayuga
Engine Company was formed The department now consists of two hose companies; a firemen’s hall was built in 1896.
In April, May and October, 1894, fires destroyed a number of buildings, nearly all of which were rebuilt. In this
year a town hall was erected, of brick, which, with the site, cost about $30,000. On October 21, 1896, a fire on
Central avenue burned the soap factory of Hoffeld & Co., the Cushing block, the stores of J. N. Maute, W. H.
Kurtz and Charles Schliebs, the hotel of Henry Balthaser and other buildings, causing a loss of about $45,000;
the burned district has been largely rebuilt.
The Lancaster Star was started on February 8, 1878, and changed to the Times in
1880; since October 20, 1885, it has been published by Marvin L. Reist. The Enterprise was established December
10, 1895, and became a semi-weekly on June 9, 1897; its editor is A. Leon Chandler. These newspapers are noticed
at length in another chapter. Among the merchants in the village in past years are:
Jesse Field, Matthias Schwartz, John Leininger, J. R. Schwarm, Philip Martzloff, Mrs. Scheffler, Christopher E.
Smith, Charles Seeter, Simon Adolph, Matthias M. Schwartz, A. S. Fisher, Dr. E. R. Post, A. B. Bishop, E. D. Keeney,
Dr. J. E. Brown, T. D. Leininger, Mr. Le Munyon, E. L. Griswold, E. J. Smith, Dr. Leonard, Dr. Bibbens. Mr. Robinson,
Frank S. Cushing, John N. Maute, William Deizer, Lewis Braun, Schaefer Brothers, Jonathan Heller, Charles Schliebs.
Among the physicians are Drs. Harry H. Bissell, A. T. Bigelow, Samuel Potter, Frederick H. James, Jacob Van Peyma,
Julius Wenz, George W. McPherson, John G. Miller, Henry Miller and E. W. Ewell. Of lawyers there have been Galusha
and Johnson Parsons; Edwin Thayer, Charles F. Tabor, William H. Grimes, John L. Romer and George E. Phelps.
The Union planing mills, owned by Joseph Knauber, were established in 1858; for several years he also had a bedstead
factory. John Schrankel built a grist mill in 1871 which finally burned; Philip Mook has conducted a grist mill
here since 1874. There were at one time two breweries; one burned, and the other has been discontinued. Harlow
Brothers and later Charles Clarke had a large carriage factory for several years. Charles E. Rood has a malleable
iron works, W. J. & Frank Cant a machine and knife factory, and Englehart Oehm and George & Henry Safford
each planing mills, while the Buffalo Star Brick Company have a large brick yard. The Bank of Lancaster was incorporated
November 4, 1894, with Charles W. Fuller, president; John 0. Garretsee, vice-president; Abner P. Adams, cashier.
The capital is $30,000. The Depew and Lancaster Water Works Company was organized in 1893 and established a water
supply for both villages. In 1897 the village of Lancaster purchased the system constructed within its corporate
limits, continuing to take the water, however, from the company. The Buffalo, Bellevue & Lancaster Electric
Railroad, connecting the three places, was opened in 1893; the loop through Depew was constructed soon afterward.
Lancaster village also is a station on the Erie, the D., L. & W., the Lehigh Valley, and the New York Central
The churches of Lancaster village are as follows: The Presbyterian, organized February 7, 1818, with thirteen members,
Rev. James Remington first settled pastor in 1827, church built in 1832, remodeled and a brick chapel erected in
1852, Rev. William Waith pastor for many years after 1851; First German Evangelical Lutheran, organized and a church
built in 1835, church afterward occupied by the Deutsch Evangelische Vereingte Kirche and a new church erected,
which was converted into business uses about 1875, the present brick edifice having been built, Rev. C. L. Knapp
pastor for nearly fifty years from 1847; Methodist Episcopal, built in 1837 by Arnold Green, new church erected
in 1851; St. Mary’s Roman Catholic, built in 1850—51, enlarged in 1889, Rev. F. M. Sester pastor for many years,
parochial school opened December 1, 1874; German Methodist, purchased the old M. E. church in 1874; Trinity Episcopal,
built in 1880—83; and the Baptist, organized June 25, 1896. The Lancaster Library was established November 8, 1882.
In 1873 a brick school house was erected, and in 1896 another, used as an annex, was built; the former is now the
Union High School, and stands on land donated by Ebenezer Briggs.
The village of Lancaster now contains 3 dry goods stores, 12 groceries, 2 drug stores, 7 meat markets, 7 furniture
and undertaking establishments, 3 clothing stores, 3 hardware stores, 2 jewelry stores, a tea and coffee store,
a merchant tailor, 2 news and stationery stores, a feed store, 2 hotels, a bank, 2 printing offices, 1 weekly and
1 semiweekly newspaper, a harness shop, 4 blacksmiths, 2 cigar factories, 4 coal dealers, a fiouring mill, a glass
factory, a malleable iron works, a machine and knife factory, a large brick yard, 1 brewery, 3 planing mills, a
machine shop, a malt house, 4 lumber dealers, a union high school, 7 religious societies and 6 churches, and a
population of about 3,000.
Depew lies partly in Lancaster and partly in the town of Cheektowaga, but its history is so thoroughly identified
with the territory under consideration that it may properly be treated wholly within this chapter. It was named
in honor of Chauncey M. Depew, president of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company, to which it
owes its existence. That great corporation decided upon this site as a permanent location for its shops and auxiliary
establishments, and on May 17, 1892, ground was broken. This was the signal for a general real estate boom in the
vicinity. The great shops, covering about six acres, were first opened on April 1, 1893, with forty employees.
Before the close of the year 1893 the following establishments had been completed or were well under way: The National
Car Wheel Works, the Gould Coupler Company (occupying over six acres), and the Union Car Company (occupying about
ten acres). The brass works were burned May 23, 1895, but immediately rebuilt. The first dwelling house was erected
in April, 1893, and on May 1 of the same year John T. Lyman and George M. Beeman began the publication of the Depew
Herald, which has had several proprietors, the present one being John T. Earl. In 1893 sixteen houses were erected,
more than nine miles of plank sidewalk and 6,000 feet of sewers were laid, a fire company was organized, the New
Palmer House by Alexander Stoddard and the Cleveland House by William Cleveland were built, and the water works
were constructed by the Depew and Lancaster Water Works Company, of which Henry Koons was the first president.
On July 23, 1894, the village was incorporated, and the first officers elected August 21, were Dr. William Fairbanks,
president; John Zurbrick, George Waltz and John Graney, trustees; Anthony Hartung, treasurer; Martin Kiefer, collector;
J. N. Oswald, clerk. The corporate limits are about two and one-fourth miles square, and the population is about
2,800. In this year (1894) a hose company was organized, the plants of the Buffalo Cleaning and Dyeing Company
and the Depew Brewing Company were established, the hardware store of Pratt & Matthews was opened, and the
brick block of E. J. Durbin was erected. LTnion free school district No. 7, of Cheektowaga, taking in a part of
the old district No. 4, Lancaster, was also organized, the first president being Franklin Zurbrick. At this time
four schools were kept in the village. A brick school house was built on the south side in 1894—95 and another
on the north side in 1895, each costing $10,000. The first principal was C. A. Walker. In 1894 the Depew Natural
Gas Company was organized and began furnishing gas for lighting and fuel; three wells have been sunk on the north
side. The Methodist Episcopal Society was organized July 6, 1894, with E. J. Durbin, B. C. Stoddard and A. W. Southall,
trustees: an edifice was erected in 1895.
By February, 1895, the village had a population of 1,814, and by May about 500 dwellings had been erected and five
large establishments were in operation employing 2,500 men. Transit street was macademized in this year, the German
Lutheran church was built, and in December the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Emmaus Society was organized. A Roman
Catholic church and an independent Polish Catholic church were erected in 1S96. In 1893 a post-office was established
with W. W. Turley as postmaster; he was followed by John Graney and he by Robert Hunter.
Depew has stations on the New York Central, the D., L. & W., the Erie and the Lehigh Valley Railroads; the
latter constructed a branch direct to Tonawanda in 1895—96. The Depew Terminal Railroad was built from Depew to
Blasdell in 1897. The Depew loop of the Buffalo, Bellevue & Lancaster Electric Railway was opened in 1894.
Much of the growth of the village is due to the Depew Improvement Company, which donated the school and church
sites, and which was largely succeeded in 1897 by the Depew Syndicate, capitalized at $100, 000.
Bowmansville is a station and
post-office on the West Shore Railroad in the northwest corner of the town, and is the site of the first settlement
in Lancaster in 1803. The saw and grist mills were owned by the Bowman family for about fifty years; the grist
mill passed to John Pentelow and is now abandoned. J. 0. Long was formerly merchant, and Charles W. and John Toynbee
have conducted a store there several years. The place has one store, a few shops, and an M. E. church.
Wilhelm is a small hamlet on the
Batavia road in the north part of the town. It contains a store, post office, and a Disciples church.
East Lancaster is a station on
the D., L. & W. Railroad, and contains a brick yard, a brewery, and minor mercantile interests.
Pavement is a post-office in the southeast part of the town, and is the pumping station of the Depew and Lancaster
Water Works Company.
Town Line is a station on the
Erie Railroad, east of Lancaster, having a hotel and a few houses. The village of the same name lies a little southeast,
on the line between Alden and Lancaster, and is noticed in full in the chapter on Alden.
Looneyville, a station on the
New York Central Railroad on the AldenLancaster town line, takes its name from Robert Looney, who conducted a large
saw mill, store, farm, etc. After his death the place lost its old-time business activity.