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State Historic Markers :: Historical Area Markers in New York State - Page Five

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Niagara Frontier (ORLEANS, GENESEE, WYOMING, ERIE, NIAGARA)

THE HOLLAND PURCHASE

The Holland Land Company was organized by six banking firms in the Netherlands to purchase the unsettled land of western New York State. Their agent, Theophile Cazenove, in 1792-93 bought more than three million acres, known as the Holland Purchase. It included the area west of the "Transit Line," located 13 miles east of here, from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. The purchase excluded a strip along the Niagara River and six reservations established for Indians.

Joseph Ellicott, the company's agent for more than 20 years, surveyed towns and planned roads and millsites. He laid out the city of Buffalo, promoted canal construction and dominated party politics in the area.

From its main office at Batavia, the company sold most of the purchase in 360-acre lots, exacting a small down payment. Many settlers faced difficulties in completing payments because of hardships in clearing the land and marketing farm products. Some disliked company policies and rioted against them in 1836. By 1837, the company had sold all its property.

From the Holland Purchase, have been formed four counties and parts of four others, comprising 129 rural and suburban towns and 11 cities, which in 1960 had a population of more than 1,600,000.

#1 - Thruway, eastbound, at Pembroke Service Area (milepost 397)

THE LAKE PLAIN

The Neutral Nation of Indians, an Iroquoian group affiliated with the Eries, were early inhabitants of this area. About 1650, they were conquered by the Senecas of the Five Nations Confederacy. French explorers and traders crossed this area and English expeditions along the lakeshore entered the small streams, but extensive swamps deterred settlement.

After the Revolution a few settlers came from Canada, but development awaited the formation of speculative land companies. The Pulteney Purchase and that of the Holland Land Company divided the area into tracts for settlement. Inhabitants fled the area for a time after the fall of Fort Niagara in the War of 1812. Then came the building of highways, some of which ran along old Indian trails. The Ridge Road, opened in 1809, became a principal east-west route. Completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 spurred the building of towns along its route and the growth of commerce. Here early settlers built unique cobblestone houses, many of which are still standing.

Geography and climate have favored fruit culture and made packing and canning a principal industry.

#2 - Route 104, south side, between Childs and Gaines

NIAGARA FRONTIER

The Niagara River between Lakes Ontario and Erie was the natural route to the interior of the continent. Following the arrival of French explorers in 1678, missionaries, traders, troops and settlers traveled by its waters. At the outlet of the Niagara River into Lake Ontario, the French in 1726 built Fort Niagara. A strategic post during the inter-colonial wars, it was captured by the British in 1759. During the American Revolution it was used as a base for British raids and was finally surrendered to the United States in 1796.

Buffalo, at the Lake Erie end of the Niagara River, was opened to settlement by the Holland Land Company in 1803-04. During the War of 1812, Buffalo, like, other Niagara Frontier communities, was burned. A period of remarkable growth began when it became the western terminus of the Erie Canal in 1825.

Buffalo and its environs developed into a great transportation hub and a center for industry, especially flour milling and steel manufacture. Water power from Niagara Falls generates electricity distributed over a wide area. Educational and cultural institutions, combine with the natural setting and economic advantages to make Buffalo the State's second largest city.

#3 - Thruway, westbound, at Clarence Service Area (milepost 412)
#4 - Thruway, eastbound (milepost 443)

THE NIAGARA FRONTIER

French explorers in 1678 were first to note the importance of this region. Where the waters of Lake Erie channel through the Niagara River was the natural route for Indians, traders, missionaries, soldiers and settlers. At the outlet of the river into Lake Ontario, the French in 1726 built Fort Niagara. A strategic outpost in all the inter-colonial wars, it was captured by the British in 1759. It was used as a base for British raids on New York in the Revolution and was surrendered to the United States finally in 1796.

Surveyed for the Holland Land Company in 1799, Buffalo was laid out and opened for settlement in 1803-04. The frontier village was burned during the War of 1812, but began a remarkable growth after becoming the terminus of the Erie Canal in 1825.

Railroads, highways and lake transportation combined to make Buffalo the center of industrial development in western New York. Water power from the Niagara River generates electricity for a wide area. Industries include flour milling and steel manufacture. Educational and cultural institutions combine with its natural setting and economic advantages in making it the State's second city.

#5 - Route 5, south of Buffalo

OLD FORT NIAGARA

The promontory at the outlet of the Niagara River into Lake Ontario was a strategic point for controlling the route to the interior Great Lakes region. The French early recognized its importance, and LaSalle, in 1678, and Denonville, in 1687, erected temporary fortifications.

In 1726 DeLery built, for the fur trade, Fort Niagara, an imposing structure with massive stone walls. Resembling a French chateau, it was called "The Castle." The fortification irritated the British as rivalry with France for control of North America intensified. Captain Pouchot, a French engineer, strengthened the fort in anticipation of a British attack. British troops with colonials and Indians assaulted it, and, after an 18-day seige, Sir William Johnson forced the French to surrender, July 25, 1759.

The British improved Fort Niagara, used it for fur trading, and, during the American Revolution, made it their base for raiding the New York frontier. They did not relinquish it until 1796. Following an American invasion of Canada in the War of 1812, British forces again captured Fort Niagara on December 19, 1813. The peace treaty of 1814 returned the fort to the United States.

Old Fort Niagara stands today as a memorial to soldiers who served here under three flags.

#6 - 0ld Fort Niagara, Youngstown, New York

THE PAN-AMERICAN EXPOSITION

Extending one mile north from Delaware Park Lake, between Elmwood and Delaware Avenues, the Pan-American Exposition was a spectacular sight to over eight million visitors from May 1 to November 2, 1901. Ornate buildings, embellished with decorated arches and topped with domes and towers, were colored in vivid hues. Electric lights outlined these structures and the central features, the nearly 400-foot-high Electric Tower, to give a dazzling impression at night. The exposition grounds were laid out with courts, pools, fountains, colonnades, statuary and a "Grand Canal." Planned to demonstrate the importance of commerce among the nations of the Western Hemisphere, the exposition included industrial, agricultural and cultural displays from the United States and foreign countries.

The only permanent structure, the white marble New York State building, designed by George Cary, resembles a classic Greek temple. Later enlarged by the City of Buffalo, it houses the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, organized in 1862.

On September 6th, while receiving visitors at the Temple of Music, President William McKinley was shot; he died eight days later. Theodore Roosevelt then took the oath of office as President of the United States in Buffalo in the Wilcox House, 641 Delaware Avenue.

#7 - Parking Lot of Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society

SENECA INDIAN COUNTRY

The Seneca Indians, "Keepers of theWestern Door," occupied this area since the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy about 1550. Most numerous and most warlike of the Six Nations, they for a time dominated the tribes northward into Canada and south ward into Pennsylvania. Although the Confederacy was allied with the English, the Senecas turned against them in Pontiac's uprising of 1763. During the Revolution they sided with the British and joined in Tory raids on the New York frontier. For this they were punished and driven back by the Sullivan-Clinton Expedition of 1779. Many settled in Canada after the Revolution, but Chief Cornplanter (1732-1836), born near here, signed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, 1784, making peace with the United States and accepting a reservation of land. The half-brother of Cornplanter, Handsome Lake (1735-1815), became the "prophet" of a regenerated Indian "religion" which still has many followers.

The Holland Land Company in 1793 purchased all of western New York from a line eight miles west of here. The region was often stirred by religious and social ferments, like the anti-Masonic furor following the disappearance of William Morgan in 1826. Small industries and diversified agriculture are basic to the economy of the area.

#8 - Thruway, westbound, at Ontario Service Area (milepost 376)

WESTERN NEW YORK

Following La Salle's arrival at the Niagara River in 1678 that waterway between Lakes Erie and Ontario became a natural route to and from the interior of the continent. Indians, traders, and squatters resided along the river during the 18th century. Permanent settlement of western New York began in 1800 following the three-million-acre purchase by the Holland Land Company. The company's agent, Joseph Ellicott, surveyed the puchase and laid out Buffalo.

Western New York developed rapidly following completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, and Buffalo became an important transportation crossroads. The Erie Railroad, completed in 1851, connected Lake Erie with the Hudson River and was the first railroad to cross the State.

As a leading milling and manufacturing center, Buffalo attracted many immigrants from Germany, Poland, Italy and Hungary. The area possesses several educational and cultural institutions, and Buffalo is the State's second largest city.

Grape cultivation began in 1834 in the Chautauqua region, which has become famous for its production of juice and jellies. At Fredonia was founded in 1873 the Women's Christian Temperance Union. In 1874, the Chautauqua Institution began an educational program which brought music, drama and lec-tures to communities throughout the Nation.

#9 - Thruway, westbound, at Angola Service Area (milepost 447)


Chautauqua-Allegany Area (ALLEGANY, CATTARAUGUS, CHAUTAUQUA)

CHAUTAUQUA LAKE REGION

Chautauqua Lake, eighteen miles long and one to three miles wide, has as its outlet a branch of Connewango Creek, a tributary of the Alleaheny River. This gives Chautauqua an indirect connection with the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. French expeditions used Chautauqua Lake and these rivers as a route to Midwest posts in the 18th century. In the next century, lumber rafts, cut from the rich timberlands nearby, were floated down this river system.

Indian occupation of the area began approximately 10,000 years ago. Much later, Erie Indians lived here until conquered by the Iroquois in 1656. The Holland Land Company, from its branch office in Mayville, opened the area to settlement after 1800. James Prendergast in 1808 settled Jamestown, which developed into a center for making furniture. After 1860, the cultivation of vineyards became widespread throughout the lake region. A long growing season is favorable for agriculture, and fruit orchards and dairy farms have become extensive.

The Chautauqua Institution in 1874 began a program of adult education. Informative lectures, musical presentations, and various forms of entertainment later spread the fame of Chautauqua throughout the United States.

#1 - At intersection of Routes 17 and 430 in Mayville, across from the Court House

UPPER CATTARAUGUS VALLEY

Erie Indians were the first inhabitants of this region. In 1654, they were driven out by the Senecas, who occupied several sites along the banks of Cattaraugus Creek. The Cattaraugus, the principal stream of many that divide the Cattaraugus Hills, flows westward in a circuitous course, plunging through deep gorges and rippling by wide flats, before entering Lake Erie.

The Holland Land Company purchased the area in 1797. It was surveyed by Joseph Ellicott and, Paul Busti, who became the company's agents and opened the land to settlement. A few persons built log houses beginning in 1807. Following the War of 1812, settlement increased steadily with the arrival of families from New England.

Pioneer life had many hardships because of the topography, the relatively short growing season and inadequate transportation. Lumber, cheese and maple sugar were the staple products. Leather tanning developed, and local grist mills, textile factories and machine works used the ample supply of water power. The Buffalo and Washington Railway, later part of the Pennsylvania line, arrived in Arcade in 1871 to furnish service to Buffalo and later to Pittsburgh. The region remains largely rural with dairy production an important part of the agrarian economy.

#2 - Route 16, south of Yorkshire

GENESEE VALLEY - ALLEGANY REGION

Genesee meant "beautiful valley" to the Seneca Indians, the zealous "keepers of the western door" of the Iroquois Nation. At Caneadea, "where the heavens lean upon the earth," was a Council House, or headquarters. The Senecas relinquished their rights to the area by the Big Tree Treaty 1797 when land speculators acquired a large part of the productive valley.

The Genesee Country, sparsely settled until after the War of 1812, was a promised land for farmers migrating from Pennsylvania and southern New England. They made it a great grain producing section of the State. Lumbering was also an important occupation. The area later became famous for producing cheese. Valley towns boomed during construction of the Genesee Valley Canal. Begun in 1837, the canal was completed in 1857. It connected the Allegheny River, near Olean, with the Erie Canal at Rochester. It was abandoned in 1878 and, later, a railroad followed much of the canal's route.

Nearby at Cuba Reservation is the Seneca Oil Spring. Discovered by a French missionary in 1627, it was the first to be recorded on this continent. Oil and natural gas are still produced, but dairy production and livestock raising are now major economic activities.

#3 - New York 19, north of Belfast
(relocated to I-86/NYS Route 17/Southern Tier Expressway at the rest area between Friendship and Belvidere, eastbound)

THIS IS OIL COUNTRY

The presence of oil in this area of the Allegheny foothills has been known by white men since 1627, when a French missionary reported that the Indians used "a good kind of oil" for medicinal purposes from the nearby Seneca Oil Spring. Production began in 1879 and reached a peak of more than five million barrels a year by 1885. Then decline began until only 750 thousand barrels were marketed in 1913. After the introduction of the "flooding" technique - forcing the oil up out of the well by water pressure - production rose steadily.

The oil produced here is only a small share of the total national petroleum product, but it is so superior in lubricant quality that it always brings top prices. Oil and natural gas are still produced, but dairying and livestock raising have taken over as the major activities.

#4 - Route 17, eastbound, east of Jamestown, near Randolph
(relocated to Bolivar Oil Museum on West Main Street, Village of Bolivar).


For more information...

If you have questions, or wish to obtain more detailed information about this subject, please contact:

George Hamell
Email:ghamell2@mail.nysed.gov

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