Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Pomp, Circumstance, Before Lunch In Geneva

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Previous: The Great Central Trail Becomes The State Road

Geneva a generation after Lafayette’s visit. Source: Barber, John W., and Howe, Henry, Historical collections of the state of New York, S. Tuttle, New York 1842, p. 52

General Lafayette rose the morning of Wednesday, June 8, 1825, shortly after sunrise. At 7 o’clock that morning, the French entourage bid John Greig adieu. They climbed aboard their waiting carriage and a military escort led them onto the old Genesee Road (and then the Seneca Turnpike). About ten miles down the road, at Ball’s tavern, they’d meet the committee from Geneva and transfer their precious cargo to them.1

For the good citizens of Geneva, the largest settlement in the Greater Western New York region, Lafayette was a long time coming. A couple of weeks before, the village appointed a committee of eleven upstanding men to invite the Nation’s Guest to visit their fair village. They drafted a letter dated May 28, 1825, for that purpose. Appealing to his sense of Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Pomp, Circumstance, Before Lunch In Geneva”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Great Central Trail Becomes The State Road

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Previous: Canandaigua Anxiously Waits Before Jubilation And An Elegant Supper

The Cayuga Bridge helped improve travel times on the Great Genesee Road, which eventually became Routes 5 & 20. Source: Barber, John W., and Howe, Henry, Historical collections of the state of New York, S. Tuttle, New York 1842, p. 79

As General Dwight D. Eisenhower led the Allied effort into the heart of the Nazi regime, he couldn’t help but notice the transportation infrastructure that strengthened the defense of his opponent. Hitler began construction of his Reichautobahn in the 1930s. Although designed primarily for civilian use, war reports during the Eisenhower’s push into Germany in 1944 and 1945 repeatedly referenced the autobahn, “Hitler’s Superhighway.”1

Impressed by these autobahns, Eisenhower proposed an interstate highway system once Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Great Central Trail Becomes The State Road”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Breakfast At Black Rock Then On To Tonawanda

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Previous: Peter B. Porter’s Home Sweet Home

Black Rock in 1925, drawn by Mildred C. Green from the original sketch made by George Catlin. Source: The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo, Frank Severeace, ed., Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Volume Six, p.252

The gates of the grand lock at the foot of the harbor opened for the first time on Thursday evening, June 2, 1825. Water from Lake Erie came gushing in. Slowly, but steadily, water flowed into the newly opened portion of the Erie Canal from Black Rock to “Tonnewanta” (present day Tonawanda). By nine o’clock Friday morning, the water filled the nine-mile length to a depth of three and a half feet. The celebratory committee launched the inaugural fleet of five elaborately decorated packet boats.1

Upon their return to Black Rock at three o’clock, a procession of 150 people led by Marshall of the day J.L. Marshall, Esq. marched to the Steam Boat Hotel. As the news reported of Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Breakfast At Black Rock Then On To Tonawanda”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Peter B. Porter’s Home Sweet Home

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Previous: Regal Reception In Buffalo’s Blossoming Queen City

Residence of General Peter B. Porter, overlooking the Niagara River, near Ferry Street (Black Rock). Built 1816. Many years residence of Hon. Lewis F. Allen, and for a short time of his nephew, Grover Cleveland. Torn down in 1911. Source: Hill, Henry Wayland, Municipality of Buffalo New York A History 1720-1923, Volume I, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York, 1923, p. 100a

Peter Buell Porter woke up early that morning. Yesterday, despite all its pomp and circumstance, was just a prelude to today. For it was on this day, Sunday, June 5th, 1825, the General would host the General. General Porter would soon entertain General Lafayette for breakfast at his Black Rock house.

For nearly a quarter of a century, Peter Porter had lived in the Greater Western New York Region. During the last fifteen years, he had fought—both literally and figuratively—for his beloved home of Black Rock.

Born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1773, Peter B. Porter graduated from Yale College before studying law in his hometown with Judge Reeves (who, incidentally, was the brother-in-law of Aaron Burr)2. He couldn’t, however, resist the lure of “the far famed ‘Genesee Country’ — of its fertile soil, its genial climate, of its beautiful lakes and rivers.” In 1793, he and a Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Peter B. Porter’s Home Sweet Home”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Regal Reception In Buffalo’s Blossoming Queen City

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Previous: Rebuilt Buffalo

Our County and Its People, Volume I, edited by Truman C. White, The Boston History Company, 1898, p. 282

Thousands crowded the shore near Buffalo’s new harbor. Oliver Forward couldn’t help but gloat. It had been a slugfest. Whether Joseph Ellicott or Peter B. Porter, it seemed like those who could help his struggling village didn’t. But he and his friends succeeded. And now, just as the clock struck noon, the Nation’s Guest – General Lafayette – appeared on Lake Erie’s horizon.

The big show was about to begin.

But the impetus for it almost didn’t. There almost wasn’t a harbor. And without a harbor, there would be no canal. And without a canal, well, Peter Porter would have been the one Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Regal Reception In Buffalo’s Blossoming Queen City”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Rebuilt Buffalo

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Previous: To The Dunkirk Dinghy By The Dawn’s Early Light

Taylor, C.B., A Centennial History of the United States, 1876, p305

Cyrenius Chapin stood where no sane man dare stand. He knew exactly what he was doing. He also knew it was all McClure’s fault.

Nonetheless, there he was. He measured his pace as he approached the British line. Despite the noise and excitement about him, he could hear his feet crunch through the snow. Or maybe he imagined his cold ears picking up the sound.

Certainly, he could feel his feet crush the white blanket as he made his way up Schimmelpenninck Avenue (it didn’t get the name Niagara Street until July 12, 18261). The excitement of the night and now early morning kept his blood flowing to his extremities. His medical training taught him that would help prevent the onset of frostbite.

Cyrenius fully understood the consequences of his actions. With the cannon behind him Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Rebuilt Buffalo”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: To The Dunkirk Dinghy By The Dawn’s Early Light

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Previous: Dunkirk, The Last Frontier

Walter Smith, from The Centennial History of Chautauqua County Vol I, p.355

Walter Smith was there, no doubt in front of the crowd of people riding along with Lafayette. Unlike the fawning civilians eager to not let go of the Nation’s Guest, Smith wore the uniform of a Colonel, confidently in command of the militia regiment that received Lafayette. He even had an elegant sword draped from his belt.1

Major General Elijah Risley, Jr., father of nine-year-old Hiram (and future grandfather of Olive) strode with his military staff alongside Smith. With little notice, Smith was tabbed as marshal of the day.2 Both were businessmen, not full-time soldiers. Today, or rather this night turning into early morning, they faithfully presented all the martial pomp and circumstance proper in honoring the last surviving general of the American Revolution.

But there may have been more on the mind of Walter Smith. He wasn’t just a Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: To The Dunkirk Dinghy By The Dawn’s Early Light”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Special Delivery To Westfield, A Fitting First

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Previous: The Making Of The Buffalo And Erie Road

Was Lafayette supposed to depart Erie by land or by sea? As late as May 31, 1825, organizers in Erie, Pennsylvania tried to arrange steamboat accommodations for the General. The ship was to convey the Nation’s Guest from Erie directly to Buffalo.1

Confusion reigned over Lafayette’s exact itinerary. You see, he had promised to attend the dedication ceremonies for the Bunker Hill Monument on the anniversary date of that battle. That meant he had to be in Boston by June 17th. Initial reports said he would not visit Western New York until after laying the cornerstone on the Bunker Hill Monument.2 The newspaper corrected this misinformation the following week, just a day before Lafayette would cross the state line into Chautauqua County.3

What firmed Lafayette’s travel plans? Olive Risley Seward’s grandfather commanded the militia for the Lafayette reception in Fredonia. In addition, her then eleven-year-old father and nine-year-old mother also attended—and remembered—Lafayette’s 1825 visit to Fredonia. Based on the stories from her family, she wrote the following in 1904: “An Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Special Delivery To Westfield, A Fitting First”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Making Of The Buffalo And Erie Road

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Previous: Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The State Of Greater Western New York In 1825

At the turn of the 19th century, a dense forest covered the southwest corner of New York State—what is now Chautauqua County. A rough trail that followed the Lake Erie shore represented the only visible evidence of human occupation. Except for what appeared to be remnants of a chimney right on the lake.1 The trail was brutal. Settlers journeying to Connecticut’s lands in the future state of Ohio preferred to take the water route over Lake Erie from Black Rock, just off Buffalo Creek.2

That chimney might well have been the ruins of what Sir William Johnson described as a Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Making Of The Buffalo And Erie Road”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The State Of Greater Western New York In 1825

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Previous: Lafayette Prepares To Enter The Greater Western New York Region

WNY portion of 1825 map published by H.S. Tanner, 177 Chestnut St. Philadelphia.

Remember how excited you were when you began a new school year, started a new job, or moved to a new place? Life fills you with promise and anticipation. You can’t wait to wake up and start the next day. Everything is sunshine and roses.

Then reality inevitably interrupts. Things get overwhelming. Despair and sometimes desperation set in. It seems as if you’re trapped. You can’t see a way out.

But, somehow, you find a way. You get over that hump. (Because, when you get over things, what once seemed like an overbearing mountain now appears as nothing more than a mere bothersome bump.)

Again, you look forward to tomorrow with an enthusiasm you thought you’d never again have.

Such was the state of Greater Western New York. It began as an enthusiastic rush into the Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The State Of Greater Western New York In 1825”

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