Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Augustus Porter Could Have Danced All Night

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Previous: Breakfast At Black Rock Then On To Tonawanda

Judge Augustus Porter, Source: Orsamus, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York, Jewett, Thomas & Co., 1849, p.358a

Anna Spencer Foster loved the Genesee Country. Born in East Haddam, Connecticut in 1777,1 by the time she was nineteen in 1796 she was living in Palmyra (then in Ontario County) with her first husband Moody Stone.2 The young couple traveled freely through the challenging frontier of Greater Western New York. That year, the young couple forded the Genesee River above the falls to visit her sister and brother-in-law. On the way, they passed through Irondequoit and Rochester (where “there was but one house”).3

Late in the fall of 1796, Nathan Harris hosted a “husking frolic” at his home in that growing settlement.4 In general, these social events allowed neighbors to gather to work on a particular task, then party upon the completion of that task. The tasks could range anywhere and included “husking bees, raisings, quiltings, and pumpkin pearings.”5

Harris, known as “Uncle Nathan,” as the jolly newcomer soon became known as, had Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Augustus Porter Could Have Danced All Night”

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: 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”

Juneteenth Reveals Another Hidden Gem of Greater Western New York

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Gordon GrangerThe Civil War offers many heroes from Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant to William Tecumseh Sherman. (In fairness, the War Between the States provide quite a few villains, too – on both sides – but no need to belabor the half-empty glass.)

We know quite a few of these heroes, like Rochester’s Colonel Patrick H. O’Rorke, who was killed at Gettysburg while leading his men into action on Little Round Top, gave their ultimate in the fight to free the slaves.

Some heroes, whose significance fades with the passage of time, are occasionally rediscovered as changing perspective once again shines light on their distinguished acts of bravery, perseverance, and devotion that sets them apart from their fellow soldiers.

Today’s news has elevated the stature of Gordon Granger, a man who might have single handedly changed the outcome of the Civil War.

If you travel just south of the Village of Sodus in Wayne County, you’ll find County Road Continue Reading “Juneteenth Reveals Another Hidden Gem of Greater Western New York”

A Model of Christian Spirit

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Ever since John Winthrop’s famous “city upon a hill” sermon aboard the Arbella in 1630, it’s been tough to separate religion from the spirit of America’s founding. Indeed, IMG_2733_Spiritual_Out-of_Focus_300some say the evangelical movement of the mid-eighteenth century known as The First Great Awakening played a key role in America’s strive for independence.1 And don’t think the whole “separation of Church and State” thing in the Constitution came about because the Founding Fathers felt the First Great Awakening was a tad too much. I’ll remind you the whole purpose of the First Great Awakening was to rebel against the Church of England and to recognize broader religious freedom. This is the very philosophy embodied by our constitution.

Our focus in this chapter, though, isn’t the First Great Awakening, but the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening began in 1790 and lasted for about 50 years. It featured traveling preachers leading revival camps where “hundreds and sometimes thousands of people would gather for miles around in wilderness encampment for four days to a week.”2 One such preacher was Charles Finney, who, from September 1830, through June 1831, led various revival campaigns3 in Rochester, Buffalo and “the intermediate towns between there.”4 And what facilitated this travel? Why, none other Continue Reading “A Model of Christian Spirit”

The Magician Reveals His Real Trick

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One by one the hockey heroes skate up towards the camera from the far blue line, stop with a spray of ice just missing the lens, then announce their name and team. Finally, the last professional pumps his legs forward with the smooth motion of the others and stops in the same controlled fashion. But when he announces his name, I’m shocked to discover he’s no hockey player.

“Bill Shatner. Loblaws,” states the confident former Captain Kirk.

For those not familiar, Loblaws is a Canadian grocery chain. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s they had stores in Buffalo (primarily) and Rochester (maybe just one, but I lived next to it). It was an era before Wegmans went on supermarket steroids and totally dominated the market. Loblaws was Canada’s pride but eventually sold out to Bells Markets.

In 1975 Loblaws was a player – at least in my neighborhood – and no more so because Continue Reading “The Magician Reveals His Real Trick”

A Whole Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

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Now that we’ve marked the boundaries of Greater Western New York, the fun really begins. First, we can delineate the counties included. Greater Western New York contains 17 counties. These represent all the counties west of or touching the correct Pre-Emption Line. Those counties are:

● Allegany             ● Chautauqua
● Cattaraugus      ● Chemung
● Erie                    ● Genesee
● Livingston          ● Monroe
● Niagara              ● Ontario
● Orleans              ● Seneca
● Schuyler            ● Steuben            ● Wayne               ● Wyoming            ● Yates

We should note that Pre-Emption Line marks the western border of both Seneca County (maybe, depending on who owns Seneca Lake) and Chemung County. The Line slices through the counties of Wayne, Yates and Schuyler. As it stands, the eastern borders of Wayne, Seneca, Schuyler and Chemung form a fairly straight line from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania line. OK, maybe it’s not quite straight enough to convince an officer you’re not unduly influenced, but it’s close enough.

What exactly does this constellation of the 17 western-most counties of New York State tell us? I discovered this particular hidden gem while preparing for a January 2004 Continue Reading “A Whole Greater than the Sum of Its Parts”

We Preempt Westward American Expansion for…

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A funny thing happened on the way to researching my book 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York. For years I had been trying to explain to people just what exactly I meant by “Greater Western New York.” From a regional mutual fund’s perspective, it was easy. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires all regional funds to specify the municipalities covered by the fund. In the case where a fund’s region encompasses only a portion of a state, the fund’s prospectus must list all the counties included in its unique definition of the region covered. Like I said, from the SEC’s standpoint, defining Greater Western New York was easy.

Beyond that, though, I had to justify why we chose those particular counties. This was especially important because we market the fund only to New York residents, specifically, Western New York residents. And the folks we consider “Western” New York residents don’t necessarily consider themselves “western.” Or, in the case of those in the Buffalo-Niagara metropolitan area, they don’t consider Continue Reading “We Preempt Westward American Expansion for…”

The Lost Tribe of Western New York

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By the summer of 1679, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle had approached his wit’s end. His faithful lieutenant, the Neapolitan  Henri de Tonti, had already repulsed one attempt by the Seneca to burn La Salle’s soon-to-be sailing ship Le Griffon. A year earlier, in hopes to attain a promise of peace, La Salle had travelled seventy-five miles east to the Seneca village of Ganondagan, located on present-day Boughton Hill, just outside of the Village of Victor, about 20 miles south of Rochester.1 Peace was promised, but as the attempted arson proved, wasn’t necessarily guaranteed. So, ahead of schedule, on August 7, 1679, La Salle gave the order to weigh anchor and commanded twelve burly sailors to grab tow-lines and walk Le Griffon from the shallow ten-foot waters of Squaw Island, through the rushing rapids of the Niagara River and, with the help of a much hoped for northeast breeze, into the calm waters of what his native tongue called Lac du Chat (Lake Erie).2 Embarking on La Salle’s mission in search of the Northwest Passage, Le Griffon thus became the first large ship to grace the waters of the Great Lakes above the Niagara Falls.

But it also left several intriguing questions: How did the Lake he sailed into get its name? More interestingly, why did he need to travel to the east side of the Genesee River nearly to the other end of Western New York to speak to the Indians? Indeed, what had happened to the native (at least relative to the Europeans) Western New Yorkers?Continue Reading “The Lost Tribe of Western New York”

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