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

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

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: Fast Fredonia Frenzy

Bookmark and Share

Previous: Gaslighting The General 

The trot to Fredonia was anything but quick. The Buffalo and Erie Road turned out to be less “finished” than Joseph Ellicott had hoped. André-Nicolas Levasseur, one of Lafayette’s traveling party who would eventually publish an extensive journal of the General’s American Farewell Tour, went out of his way to point out the poor condition of the Main road between “Portland” (a.k.a. “Westfield”) and Fredonia.

“On leaving Portland,” wrote Levasseur, “yielding to the fatigue of the preceding days, we were sleeping in the carriage notwithstanding the violent jolting occasioned by the trunks of the trees forming the road over which we were rapidly passing.”1

Ellicott had rather strict guidelines for those he hired to clear roads, especially when it Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Fast Fredonia Frenzy”

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

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

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: Lafayette Prepares To Enter The Greater Western New York Region

Bookmark and Share

Previous: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part II)

The sun rose the morning of Friday, June 3, 1825, at 4:05am local time in Waterford, Pennsylvania.1 Lafayette had two weeks—14 days—to travel 550 miles and visit almost two dozen towns and villages before the June 17th dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. He was determined to meet every community he promised to visit. Speed was of the essence.

But he couldn’t show it. At least not in a too obvious way.

Roughly three hours after the break of dawn, at about 7 o’clock, Lafayette’s party left Waterford for the seat of the County, Erie, Pennsylvania.2 Though technically still in the Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Lafayette Prepares To Enter The Greater Western New York Region”

The Miracle of Limestone Hill

Bookmark and Share

To anyone born and raised in Lackawanna, the stern threat, “You better behave or I’ll send you to Father Baker’s” remains forever burned into one’s ears. It turns out, IMG_2524_OLV_Dome_300chances are that same phrase remains forever burned in the ears of a child raised by someone born in Lackawanna. Like mine.

I can definitely see my grandmother shouting this phrase at my uncles when they were kids. The effect was no doubt the same on them as it was on me when my mother tried using it. Actually, it probably wasn’t the same. By the time I was old enough to realize the truth behind “Father Baker’s,” it looked just like the school it was. The orphanage of my uncles’ youth had been torn down before I was born.

To me, though, Father Baker’s wasn’t the school, it was the church and the amazing story Continue Reading “The Miracle of Limestone Hill”

Seeds of a New Movement

Bookmark and Share

The Erie Canal made Buffalo. Joseph Dart made Buffalo memorable.

Through Joseph Ellicott and the establishment of Greater Western New York west of the Genesee River, we’ve seen the importance of the canal from before it was even drawn up. We’ve witnessed how its opening paved the way for the creation of America’s first tourist destination – Niagara Falls. We’ll discover in a few chapters how it allowed our region to become ground zero for Continue Reading “Seeds of a New Movement”

Low Bridge, Everybody Down

Bookmark and Share

By the time Thomas S. Allen wrote The Erie Canal Song (as the song is most commonly referred to) in 1905,1 the famous canal had already been in operation for 80 years. Allen chose the title Low Bridge, Everybody Down because the canal had just ditched the mules for steam power and he wanted to pay homage to the animal so critical to canal operations.2 That Allen celebrates the mule Sal tells us he’s commemorating a then not-too-distant past. Incidentally, the title wasn’t the only thing about the song that changed over the years, including, ironically, the word “years.” The original lyrics were “fifteen years on the Erie Canal” and  refers to the length of the partnership between Sal and his owner, while the new lyrics are “fifteen miles on the Erie Canal,” referring to how Continue Reading ““Low Bridge, Everybody Down””

Greater Western New York’s Split Personality Explained

Bookmark and Share

To the uninitiated, Batavia might seem like a mere crossroads on the map, but the hustle and bustle of Route 5 (a.k.a. Main Street) tells a much different story. Any visitor will immediately see a testament to a thriving community. Without the telltale skyscrapers of a modern city, the heart of Genesee County clearly doesn’t come across as a quaint nineteenth century town. No, there’s a hint of modernity in its traffic, its business and even in the complexity of its inner city layout.

Yet within this bastion of modest progress lies a jewel with a much deeper backstory than meets the eye of the casual passerby. But before we get there, perhaps it makes Continue Reading “Greater Western New York’s Split Personality Explained”

You cannot copy content of this page

Skip to content