HISTORY of TONAWANDA, NY
FROM OUR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE
A DESCRIPTIVE WORK ON ERIE COUNTY
NEW YORK
EDITED BY: TRUMAN C. WHITE
THE BOSTON HISTORY COMPANY, PUBLISHERS 1898


TOWN OF TONAWANDA.

Tonawanda is the northwest corner town of Erie county, and is bounded on the north by the river and county of Niagara, on the east by Amherst, on the south by Buffalo, and on the west by Niagara River. It comprises township 12, range 8, of the Holland Company’s survey, and a mile strip along the river lying in the State Reservation, and. contains about 12,555 acres. It was formed from Buffalo on the 16th of April, 1836, and originally included Grand Island, which was set off in October, 1852. The principal stream is Ellicott Creek, flowing through the north part of the town and emptying into Tonawanda Creek, which forms the northern boundary. The surface is generally level. The soil is a clayey loam along the Niagara and a sandy loam in the interior. The western, central and northeastern parts are mainly devoted to agriculture, while much of the remainder is platted and occupied by suburban residences. Large quantities of garden truck are grown for the Buffalo market.

The first town meeting was not held until the spring of 1837, when the following officers were elected:

William Williams, supervisor; T. W. Williams, town clerk; John T. Bush, Daniel Smith and a Mr. Fosdyck, justices of the peace; James Carney and Jeremiah Phalin, assessors; William Best and John Simson, commissioners of highways.

Owing to the destruction of the early town records it is impossible to give a complete list of the supervisors; the following are all that can be ascertained:

William Williams, 1837—38; Jedediah H. Lathrop, 1839; Theron W. Woolson, 1840; Jacob Wire, 1842; William Zimmerman, 1843—44; James Carney, 1846-47; J. H. Phillips; 1848—50; Theron W. Woolson, 1851—54; Warren Moulton, 1855—56; Paul Roberts, 1857—58; Christopher Schwinger, 1859; Emanuel Hen sler, 1860-61 David Koehler, 1862—63; Benjamin H. Long, 1864—65; Frederick Knothe, 1866—67: S. G. Johnson, 1868—69; Benjamin H. Long, 1870; Christopher Schwinger, 1871; Frederick Knothe, 1872—73; William Kibler, 1874; James H. De Graff, 1875; Philip Wendell, 1876; A. B. Williams, 1877—78; Oscar H. Gorton, 1879—80; James H. De Graff, 1881— 82; Joseph R. Holway, 1883—86; Godi. C. Christ, 1887; James B. Zimmerman,’ 1888— 94; John K. Patton, 1895—97.

Settlement was commenced in the southeast corner of Tonawanda in 1805 by John Hershey, John King and Alexander Logan and on the Niagara River in 1806 by Oliver Standard. Other settlers of 1806 were Ebenezer Coon, John Cunningham, Joseph Guthrie, Thomas Hannan and Joseph Hershey. In 1808 Henry Anguish became the first settler in Tonawanda village, where, in 1811, he opened the first tavern in the town. Frederick Buck, James Burba and Robert Van Slyke were also very early settlers; the latter became an early tavern-keeper.

Among other early settlers were:
Robert Simpson. on Ellicott Creek, in 1811; John P. Martin and a Mr. Stevens, on Wright’s Creek, about 1812; David Carr (or Kerr), on Tonawanda Creek; Charles Carr, Alvin Dodge and a Mr. Miller, on the old “Guideboard” road; John Foster, the first Methodist exhorter; James and John Berlin, James Robinson, Richard Rogers and Henry Simondon, on the Military road, and William Best, the first surveyor and father of R. Hamilton Best, sheriff in 1862—64.

About 1811 a blockhouse was built in Tonawanda at the mouth of Tonawanda Creek, and in August, 1812, was occupied by sixteen soldiers; it was burned. by the British in December, 1813, as were also all the buildings in the vicinity except the house of Mrs. Francis, a daugh ter of Robert Simson. James Burba, who had settled in the southwest part of the town, where he kept a wayside inn, was murdered by three soldiers of the regalar army in 1814, one of whoth escaped; the others, Charles Thompson and James Peters, were tried, convicted and executed at Buffalo in June, 1815. This was the first civil law trial and execution in Erie county. John Foster subsequently purchased the Burba property and also kept a hotel.

In 1816 Edward Carney, father of James, settled on Tonawanda Island. About that time a school was opened in the village, the teacher being Ephraim Kelsey. Soon afterward Peter rraylor opened a tavern there. A contract let by the canal commissioners in 1823 to Judge Samuel Wilkeson and Dr. Ebenezer Johnson, of Buffalo, for the construction of a dam across the mouth of Tonawanda Creek and three-fourths of a mile of the Erie Canal, gave a substantial impetus to Tonawanda village, which was laid out that year; these contractors also built a toll bridge over the creek. The canal was opened in September, 1825.

The Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad, the first steam railway in Western New York, was opened through Tonawanda in 1836 and the Canandaigua and Niagara Falls Railroad in 1854; both of these roads are a part of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad system. The Niagara Falls branch of the Erie Railroad was built in 1870. Besides these there is the Buffalo and Tonawanda Electric Railway, built in 1890—91, and the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Electric Railway, built in 1895.

The following became prominent and active residents of the town:
Gottlieb Ackerman, Christopher Ackerman, Simon Bellinger, Benjamin F. Betts, G. C. Christ, Capt. John W. Cramer, James H. De Graff, David R. Faling, Jeremiah Faling, George Fries, Jacob A. Fries, Joseph R. Holway, Paschal S. Humphrey, Charles F. Kibler, Christian H. Kibler, Charles Kohler, Frederick Landel, Peter Misner, Nicholas Munch, Frederick Munch, John Nice. Garret W. Payne, Frederick Phanner, John H. Phillips, Philip Pirson, Alsace Rinebolt, Martin Riesterer, E. H. Rogers, Jacob Seib, Adam Schuler, Conrad Schumacher, Emil Schnitzer, 3. 3. Stegmeier, Theodore Schneider, John Simson, William B. Simson, Andrew R. Trew, Philip Wendel, Levi Zimmerman, James B. Zimmerman, Martin Zimmerman, Martin J. Zimmerman, Edward Heffron, Elijah Van Rensselaer Day.

Tonawanda Village, situated in the northeast corner of the town, was laid out by Albert H. Tracy, Charles Townsend and other Buffalonians in 1823, at which time there was a log tavern kept by Peter Taylor, and another on the north side kept by Garrett Van Slyke, who also maintained a rope ferry across the creek. The construction of the Erie Canal in 1823—25 gave existence to quite a collection of buildings, but soon afterward the excitement subsided, and for many years there was little improvement. Roswell Driggs was an early tavern-keeper, and in 1827 Urial Driggs, his son, opened the first store, which he conducted for nearly sixty years. Joseph Bush soon established himself in the grocery business and continued about forty years; he was also the first postmaster, the office having been established about 1828. Later postmasters were Rufus Fanning, Jacob Kibler, Selden G. Johnson, Christian M. Eggert, Roswell W. Driggs, Stephen O. Hayward, Henry B. Stanley, Mrs. Henry B. Stanley, H. L. Joyce, Robert L. Koch, George C. Schwinger, Gottlieb C. Christ and Fayette A. Ballard.

The first lumber dealer was Henry P. Smith. About 1840 a saw mill and planing mill were established by John Simson, who, with others, was instrumental in causing the Cleveland Commercial Company to make an earnest effort to develop and improve the harbor. This was about 1849. The company purchased 500 feet of river frontage, built an elevator with a storage capacity of 250,000 bushels, laid out several new streets, gave a large public square to the village, and sold numerous lots on long credit. But many of these enterprises soon failed; the elevator was burned about 1857 and the company moved to Buffalo.

About 1865 Tonawanda began to be an important lumber center, though it did not assume remarkable activity in this respect until after 1870. Col. L. S. Payne erected the first steam saw mill in 1847, and in 1850 Merritt Crandall started another. Soon afterward Simson, Woolson & Whaley built mills, Butts & Co. and others engaged in the stave trade, John A. McDougall & Co. engaged in the timber and lumber business, and Brunson & Co. became dealers in square timber and in 1857 bought a cargo of lumber from Canada, and B. F. Betts interested himself in the lumber trade. In 1865 A. B. Williams and A. G. Kent purchased the mill of Merritt Crandall and later those of Frederick Smith and Robert Koch; Mr. Williams continued in the business many years. William Everson had another early planing mill, which passed to Homer & Daniels, and from them to George E. Hill. By 1875 the lumber business had become the most important industry in the place, and during the past twenty years has grown to enormous proportions. The quantity of lumber handled increased steadily until in its magnitude the “Lumber City “—as Tonawanda and North Tonawanda are sometimes called—now discounts all American points, except Chicago, as a lumber market. Michigan and Canada have long supplied the timber for this important business. Most of it is shipped in by lake, yet since about 1890 large quantities have been received each year by rail.

The lumber trade originated in the village of Tonawanda, but within recent years has been largely transferred to the present city of North Tonawanda. The two places really comprise a great lumber district, and so closely are their interests in this industry connected that they may be considered as one. The following table shows the amount of lumber, lath and shingles received by lake at the Tonawandas, and the lumber shipped by canal, since 1873:

..................................

Received by Lake Transportation................

Shipped by Canal

YEAR.

Lumber, feet.

Lath, pieces.

Shingles, pieces.

Lumber feet.

1873

104,909,000

1,258.000

1,112,000

80,273,285

1874

144,754,000

1,506,000

10,822,000

115,752.111

1875

155,384,805

5,559,200

13,088,500

120,650,792

1876

207,728,327

6,137,700

18,907.500

165,545,742

1877

221,897,007

5,126,000

23,249,400

188,400,335

1878

206,655,122

3,629,300

21,435,500

173,085,467

1879

250,699,013

5,606,400

30,122,000

206,442,542

1880

323,370,814

1,249,600

22,920,000

291,000,000

1881

415,070,913

282,000

24,271,000

328,886,395

1882

433,241,000

419,000

38,812,000

326,800,681

1883

398,871,853

6,061,850

55,217,000

324,528,266

1884

493,268.223

16,367.000

66,185,000

384,455,535

1885

498,631,000

7,952,000

52,004,000

355,230,391

1886

505,425,400

11,883,000

52,825,000

347,932,845

1887

501,237,000

4,096,000

53,435,000

341,925,473

1888

569,522,850

16,617,000

64,903,000

320,149,453

1889

676,017,200

11,506,000

68,712,000

350,220,300

1890

718,650,000

13,039,600

52,232,300

373,569,621

1891

505,512,000

8,209,800

52,561,000

293,211,900

1892

498,000,000

6,243,245

42,809,300

286,329,307

1893

430,248,922

13,232.600

25,257,400

216,116,532

1894

406,907,136

8,495,450

31,468,700

202,110,990

1895

421,372.458

8,547,050

41,310,650

195,886,000

1896

469,246,500

7,195,350

35,823,200

185,580,352


Among the prominent lumber dealers of Tonawanda were:
P. W. Scribner, who located here in the year 1814; Goodinger & Bellinger, who commenced trade in 1878 and in 1882 were succeeded by Fassett & Bellinger; the Eastern Lumber Company, incorporated May, 1886, with a capital of $300,000; Scanlon, Bush & Co. rafters; and J. S. Thompson, Lockman & Woods, Peter Misner, J. A. Bliss, R. J. Wilder, Romer & Vielhauer, R. E. Fowler, M. E. Hewitt and James Woods. Some of these also operated shingle and planing mills.

In 1888 a project for the improvement of Tonawanda harbor was adopted, and since then about $300,000 have been expended in dredging, etc. Although the work is not completed, yet the harbor will now float almost any vessel on the lakes.

On January 7, 1854, the village was incorporated with the name Tonawanda and with four wards, one of which was on the north side of the creek. The first officers were:

John R. Wheeler, president; Theron W. Woolson, Henry Hill, Jesse F. Locke and Henry P. Smith, trustees; Elijah Cooley, Gideon Hulbert and Thomas J. Keith, assessors; Franklin T. McCuller, clerk; Hiram Newell, treasurer; William Hay, collector; Levi Waite, poundmaster.

In 1857 North Tonawanda withdrew from the corporation, and since then Tonawanda has remained a separate village. The population in 1S70 was 2,125; in 1880, 3,864; and in 1890, 7,145. A brick school house was erected on Adam street in 1844; in 1870 a Union free school building was built on Clinton street; this was burned December 26, 1S96; and in 1897 a new structure, to cost about $65,000, was commenced. The Delaware street school was built in 1893, as was also that on Murray street. Besides the village has schools on Douglas, Grove and Young streets. In 1892 the system was placed in charge of a school superintendent.

The Wyckoff water pipe works were started in 1857 by I. S. Hobbie, who was succeeded by Hobbie, Ayrault & Co., Ayrault, Carlton & Co., and, in 1866, Ayrault Brothers & Co. A brick yard was established by Edward Hall in 1870 and another by William Simson in 1880; both have been abandoned. Martin Riesterer & Son started one in August, 1891. In 1867 George Zent started a brewery, which was sold in February, 1883, to the Niagara River Brewing Company. Sommer, Schaefer & Co., in 1873, started a cider, vinegar and yeast works, which they enlarged in 1887; the plant was burned in September of that year and rebuilt, covering an entire block, and is one of the largest of the kind in the country. In 1883 William M. Gillie built a machine shop and foundry, and later J. Boardman fitted up another. Among the boat
builders were A. B. Williams, I. M. Rose, Henry Whitefield, J. M. Annis and Thomas Muihall. Charles G. Martin started a blacksmith and wagon shop in 1864; other mechanics in this line were Elijah Day, Hubert Schmitz, George P. Gillie, C. 0. Perrine, J. S. Kearn and Peter Dahl. John Mahar has an engine and boiler manufatory and Thornton & Chester a flouring mill. Foundries were formerly operated by T. E. Webb and S. A. Van Brocklin.

The Tonawanda Board of Trade was organized by the citizens of both villages on February 23, 1884, and for several years exerted much usefulness in advancing the commercial interests. The Tonawanda Lumbermen’s Association has long carried out a worthy work in connection with the lumber trade.

Besides the stores of Urial Driggs and Joseph Bush there was one opened by Selden G. Johnson in 1848; other merchants in Tonawanda were the following:

William Kibler, James A. Pinner, Joseph Powell, Christopher Schwinger, Louis F. Green, Simon J. Locke, Sherman & Campbell, 0. H. Gorton, Lyman G. Stanley, Chales H. Scoville, Christian Diedrich, Nice & Hickey, A. H. Crown, Joseph Wolf & Son, Christian Miller, William H. Hepworth, A. L. Karner, L. Silverstone, J. H. Kohier, James B. Huff, William Dick, Fred Hamp, William Hardleben & Co., H. B. Koenig & Co., John Maul, Zuckmaier Brothers, J. Lang, Gustav Freitag, Pfanner Brothers, Adolph Luther, Mrs. R. M. Coshway, John G. Hubman, E. H. Hewitt, Dr. W. D. Murray, M. C. Betts, George D. Lawson, William W. Parker, J. H. Risins, Andrew Ultsch, Henry Diedrich.

John T. Bush became a lawyer in Tonawanda in 1836 and his brother, William T. Bush, in 1837. Later lawyers were:

W. W. Thayer, D. H. Long, George Wing, Willis J. Benedict, Elias Root, F. L. Clark, William B. Simson, Charles W. Sickman, John K. Patton, Dow Vroman, Glen G. Dudley, Charles S. Orton, William 3. Rogers.

The first resident physician was Dr. Jesse F. Locke, who came about 1838; following him were:
Drs. Frederick F. Hoyer, Ware, Gail, Leonard, Dieffenbach, W. D. Murray, H. B. Murray, Simson Cook, C. Rollin Cobb, R. C. Taber, Duncan Sinclair, John T. Harris, J. R. Simson and H. M. Edmonds.

The first newspaper was the Tonawanda Commercial, which was started May 2, 1850, by S. Hoyt; it lived about one year, and was followed in September, 1853, by the Niagara River Pilot with S. S. Packard as editor; he was succeeded in 1855 by Stephen 0. Hayward, who in November, 1860, started the Niagara Frontier. This was finally discontinued, and in 1871 Mr. Hayward commenced the Tonawanda Enterprise. The Index was started in 1875 by J. A. L. Fisher, and in
April, 1880, passed to George S. Hobbie, who changed it to the Daily News; this and the Herald, started in July, 1875, is now published in North Tonawanda. In 1888 A. E. Bishop established the Tonawandan, which was sold to C. H. Drew, who changed the name to the Tonawanda Press; in 1890 it passed to Frank L. Lane and in 1891 was absorbed by the News. The North Tonawanda papers now cover this village.

Little was done in the banking line until June 1, 1872, when Edward Evans established a private bank, which passed to Evans, Schwinger & Co. on May 1, 1877. This was succeeded by the State Bank of Tonawanda, which was organized May 1, 1883, with a capital of $100,000, and with James H. De Graff, president; Edward Evans, vice-president; Benjamin L. Rand, cashier. The German American Bank commenced business August 6, 1888, with a capital of $35,000, which was increased in June, 1889, to $100,000, and in January, 1891, to $200,000. The founder of this bank was Martin Riesterer. The First National Bank was organized March 27, 1893, with a capital of $100,000, and with George F. Rand, president; Alexander C. Campbell, vice-president, and Henry P. Smith, cashier.

The Tonawanda Gas Light Company, incorporated September 29, 1884, with a capital of $60,000, supplies both places. An electric light system was inaugurated by the Tonawanda and Wheatfield Electric Light Company in 1890. An excellent sewerage system was constructed in 1890—91, and since then several streets have been paved. The Tonawanda City Water Works Company, which was incorporated with a capital of $50,000 in 1885, established a plant in both villages, and in 1894 sold out to the present city of North Tonawanda. A new armory was erected in Ton awanda for the 25th Separate Company, N. G. N. Y., and formally opened February 22, 1897.

Methodism in Tonawanda dates from 1816, when John Foster preached the first sermon at the house of Robert Simson. In 1830 A. H. Tracy donated a lot on South Canal street on which a union church was built. In 1842 a society was organized in North Tonawanda. St. Francis Roman Catholic church was founded in 1850 by Rev. Francis Uhirich, who, in 1862, caused the erection of a stone edifice. A parochial school house was built in 1883. The First Presbyterian church was organized May 29, 1852, and erected a brick edifice adjoining the park. The Church of Christ (Disciples) was organized March 27, 1853; their edifice was built in 1855 and remodeled in 1882. The First Free Methodist church was formed in 1860, with fifteen members, and a building erected in 1887. Salem German United Evangelical Protestant church, organized about 1855, built its first edifice in 1857; its present church was completed in 1889; a school house was erected in 1884. This is the largest religious body in town, having upwards of 250 families. The German Immanuel Lutheran church was built in 1869; this was converted into a school house and a new church was erected in 1878. The Evangelical Association congregation, organized in 1869, built an edifice in 1873. The German Baptist church was formed in December, 1872, and erected a building in 1875—76.

Kenmore is a residence suburb of Buffalo lying just north of the city line in Tonawanda. It contains a park, several fine streets and a number of handsome dwellings, and is connected with Buffalo and Tonawanda with electric cars. St. Paul’s Roman Catholic church was cornmencedin 1897.

In the town there are also Laing’s Park, Oakland Homestead, Fairmount, etc., all of which are platted and designed as residence suburbs.

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