Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Riding The Ridge (Road)

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Previous: The Natural Wonder Of Niagara Falls, Goat Island, And Lewiston

Western Portion of 1825 Erie Canal map showing Niagara Escarpment (upper shaded line) and Onondaga Escarpment (lower shaded line). If you look closely you’ll see Ridge Road just north of the Niagara Escarpment. Source: Laws of the State of New York, in relation to the Erie and Champlain canals / Published by authority, under the direction of the Secretary of State (E. and E. Hosford, printers, Albany, 1825)

Over the eons, what would become the North American continent heaved and hoed. Rock strata, once flat with the earth when created, now undulated in waves. Each layer born in a different geological epoch bore their own unique properties. Some too loose and soft to sustain the onslaught of wind, water, and ice; others stubbornly sturdy, able to withstand those same powerful forces.

As the most recent period of glaciation receded into Canada and further north, the melting ice revealed the natural formations known as cuestas. These landforms represent a gentle upward slope on one side and dramatic fall – often evidenced by a face of rock on the frontslope.

This precipitous cliff is called an escarpment. Western New York contains three such Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Riding The Ridge (Road)”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Natural Wonder Of Niagara Falls, Goat Island, And Lewiston

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Previous: Augustus Porter Could Have Danced All Night

Judge Porter’s Second Bridge To Goat Island source: Robinson, Charles M., “Life of Judge Augustus Porter,” Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society Vol VII, Buffalo, 1904, p.276

Another day, another carriage. Another carriage, another bumpy ride. And the road from Tonnewanta to Manchester took a slow, lazy curve following the east fork of the Niagara River as it arcs around Grand Island. Today, driving from Tonawanda to Niagara Falls—the names that have since replaced those 1825 names—would take about twenty-five minutes. But during the time of Lafayette’s tour, it took much longer. And the ride was definitely not as smooth.

The fleet of canal boats arrived in Tonnewanta (today, Tonawanda) at noon on Friday, June 5, 1825. As he had now become accustomed to, the French guest was greeted by far more Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Natural Wonder Of Niagara Falls, Goat Island, And Lewiston”

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”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: America In 1824

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Previous: A Message From An Old Friend

The year is 2024. Do you remember 2018? If you’re a political junkie, you may recall it was the year Brett Kavanaugh won confirmation to the Supreme Court. If you enjoy reading People Magazine, then you’ll note it was the year Meghan Markle married into the British royal family. If you prefer business, it was the year both Sears and Toys ‘R’ Us declared bankruptcy.

If you’re an adult, each of those stories endure vividly in your memory. They don’t seem that far distant. And if any of those subject areas carry emotional weight with you, those scars remain to this day.

Now imagine the year 1824. What major event happened in the year 1818 that sticks in Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: America In 1824”

Ground Control To Commander Tom

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You hear stories from older generations about having to “walk a mile back and forth to school each day… in a snowstorm… and it was uphill both ways!”

Well, truth be told, for my brother and me, it was just under a half mile each way. Four-tenths of a mile from our house at the end of the street (187 Abbott Parkway) all the way up to the school bus stop at the corner of South Park Ave, then a narrow two lanes.

Living in Blasdell meant we were in the crosshairs of the lake effect snow machine south of Buffalo, so you could bet your bottom dollar we often walked during snowstorms. And rainstorms. And thunderstorms. And thundersnow. And even hot (almost) summer days towards the end of the school year. Yeah, mom made sure we always dressed for the Continue Reading “Ground Control To Commander Tom”

Just Get Past The Peak

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There’s a bridge between here and Toronto. It’s in St. Catherine’s. It’s not high, but it’s high enough.

As you cross the Lewiston Bridge, the 190 turns into Route 405 in Ontario. The 405 quickly merges into the QEW and from there its straight on through to Toronto.

By way of this “high enough” bridge.

It’s called the “Garden City Skyway” and it soars 130 feet above the Welland Canal at its greatest height. Not too high. But high enough.

Nearly a mile long, when approaching from the east (which is what you do when you’re travelling to Toronto) before it crosses the canal, it ascends to a gentle curve. But not gentle enough.

To compound matters, the Canadians built the Garden City Skyway as an open road. There is no high structural steel to cocoon you comfortably within its path.

This, combined with it being as tall as a 13-story building and a curve that hides your ultimate destination leaves you with a feeling of flying unbound, high above the endless horizon of Lake Ontario.

And that’s just enough to give one smitten with a not-so-mild case of acrophobia sweaty palms.

I happen to be that one.

We all have a fear of falling. It’s natural and it’s meant to protect us. Acrophobia – the fear Continue Reading “Just Get Past The Peak”

Old-Time Hockey Meets New Era Field

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In a stadium half filled with distinct Canadian accents, I overheard the following comment: “It doesn’t snow like this during football games.” Obviously, that visitor wasn’t present just a few weeks earlier for the Blizzard Game against the Colts (see “Live from the 2017 Buffalo Bills Snow Bowl,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, December 14, 2017).

This night, however, wasn’t a football game, it was a hockey game. And not just any regular hockey game, it was an outdoor Continue Reading “Old-Time Hockey Meets New Era Field”

I’ll Have One for the Road and Two for the Sea

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And let me the canakin clink, clink,
And let me the canakin clink.
A soldier’s a man;
A life’s but a span;
Why, then, let a soldier drink.
– Othello

The reason James Fenimore Cooper strode into Hustler’s Tavern has disappeared into the hazy mists of history. By 1821, his life had been less than pristine. Kicked out of
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Yale after three years as a trouble-maker (he blew up a classmate’s door), the son of a (probably embarrassed) Congressman who founded the City of Cooperstown did what any other lost teenager trying to find himself did in the early eighteenth century – he joined the Merchant Marine.1

Perhaps he remembered his earlier, albeit brief, stay in the Niagara Frontier just before the War of 1812.2 Serving mostly overseas, he saw some of his best crewmates taken from their ships and forced to serve aboard British warships against Napoleonic France. Like the rest of America, he detested Continue Reading “I’ll Have One for the Road and Two for the Sea”

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