The History of Buffalo: A Chronology
Buffalo, New York







1966 1967


Ed Comentale, Buffalo in the 1840s Short essay

There are 140 lake vessels occupying the cramped lower harbor. A lack of harbor facilities and no means of unloading vessels save for manual labor was the reason for the overcrowding. A push for more substantial mooring space and unloading methods is on.

2 million bushels of grain are being unloaded on the waterfront - all of it by hand, mostly by Irish laborers who helped dig the Erie Canal.

In 1842 the first U. S. steam-powered
grain elevator is built at Buffalo by Joseph Dart, A steam-powered elevator had been invented and developed in England in the 1790s by Oliver Evans, but had never been used for the unloading and storage of grain. In 1841 Dart tries it. It is, he says, "a simple apparatus consisting mainly of a series of buckets attached to a leather canvas belt which revolved on pulleys."

Importance of Dart's invention: Along with the Erie Canal, Dart's steam-powered grain elevator was critical to the city's commercial development. For there was now no limit to the amount of western grain that could be handled in the city's port. - Source: Mark Goldman, "High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." Pub. by State U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983, p. 58

By the middle of the 1840s, an ever increasing amount of grain transshipped through Buffalo is going to Europe and England.

Passenger Lake service: the latest technological advance is a screw propeller driven steamer. Until this time only paddlewheels had been used. The launching of the "Vandalia" at Oswego ushers in an era of newer, bigger, faster and more elegant steamers.

By 1845, Steamship lines will carry over 93,000 passengers that year, most of them on the daily runs to Detroit, Lake Erie and Lake Michigan ports. Travel to Chicago will be frequent and usually will take three to four days. For the well to do who could afford a $10 ticket, it was a very pleasant experience in the best grand hotel tradition. Fine dining and ballroom dancing along with luxurious relaxation made a trip on one of these floating palaces a holiday in itself.

In 1847 one will be able to take a train from New York City to Buffalo and then board the elegant "Hendrik Hudson" for passage to Chicago. Only five days after leaving the Atlantic seaboard you could be in Chicago.

The great steamers of the era included the "Vandalia," the "Great Western," the "Western World," the "United States," the "Plymouth," the "Queen of the West," the "Empire" and the "Hendrik Hudson." These were but a handful of the great lake steamers.

Jan. 19 Buffalo's first double hanging. All citizens invited to view the hangings of John Johnson and Major McElroy in Niagara Square.

Johnson pleaded guilty to murdering his wife out of jealousy and told the court he was ready to hang for his crime.

Police linked foot-tracks to McElroy on the farm where Rainsford Otis was burned to death.

Until 1841, three known murderers were publicly executed. witnessed in public

Washington Adams Russell moved from Buffalo to the Buffalo Plains and bought 200 acres of the Dr. Daniel Chapin farm (Chapin's farm: most of the land from Granger's farm north to near the present South Campus of the State University of New York at Buffalo and south from Main Street to Elmwood Avenue).

Russell's house will still stand at 2540 Main Street in 2002 and will be the oldest structure in the Parkside area.

1842 W. G. Fargo, In Buffalo, forms a partnership with Henry Wells, in Cleveland. By 1850, they will have formed the American Express Company.

First steam-powered ship enters Buffalo harbor. The "Vandalia" was built at Oswego in 1841.

Encyclopedia of North American Indians: Efforts to remove Senecas from their lands culminated in the Treaty of Buffalo Creek in 1838, by the terms of which the four remaining reservations -- Buffalo Creek, Tonawanda, Cattaraugus, and Allegany -- were sold and provisions were made for the Senecas to remove to Kansas. The corrupt proceedings were protested, however, and a new treaty of Buffalo Creek was signed in 1842. The new agreement stipulated the sale of Buffalo Creek and Tonawanda, but retained Allegany and Cattaraugus. As a result of the Buffalo Creek treaties, some Senecas moved to Kansas Most did not, however, and of those who did, all but two returned. Senecas of Tonawanda, who had not been present at the treaty proceedings in 1842, objected. By a treaty signed in 1857, they bought back most of their reservation with money set aside for their removal from Kansas. The Tonawanda Senecas maintain their government by hereditary chiefs, practice the Longhouse religion, perform traditional calendric rituals, and have medicine societies (a tradition separate from the Longhouse religion) for preventative and curative practices.


Buffalo's reputation as a center of anti-slave activity grew, and in August 1843 the city hosted two national abolitionistconventions. One was the National Convention of Colored Men. The other was the National Convention of the Liberty Party.

One of the delegates who journeyed to Buffalo for both conventions (and a journey it was, for in the 1840s Buffalo had no railroad connections) was Frederick Douglass, who only five years earlier had escaped from slavery in Maryland. Although more likely than not he exaggerated his popular acceptance, Douglass reported that he had an extraordinarily successful week in Buffalo: "For nearly a week I spoke every day in this old post office to audiences constantly increasing in numbers and respectability till the Baptist church was thrown open to me. When this became too small I went on Sunday into the open park and addressed an assembly of 4,000 persons."

Buffalo financier Benjamin Rathbun, having served a sentence for forgery, is released from Auburn Prison.

St. Louis Church, built in 1843, will burn down in 1885, but will be rebuilt. The St. Louis Church that survives today is a Gothic structure and a landmark. It reflects the growth of the German population in the parish at the time.

Joseph G. Masten elected mayor. Judge. Masten Park, Masten Avenue named after him.


1844 - Online Buffalo City Directories - LINKS (
The Rochester & Tonawanda Railroad builds a spur to link its Rochester terminal with the Auburn & Rochester, several blocks away, finally linking Buffalo and Albany by rail.

Representative Millard Fillmore is defeated in his bid for the governorship.

General Peter Porter, a commander during the War of 1812, dies at his Niagara Falls home at the age of 74.

William Ketchum is elected mayor.

Seiche of 1844: One of the greatest disasters in the city's recorded history occurred at 11 p.m. October 18, when a wall of water quickly inundated the commercial and residential districts along the waterfront. The disaster occurred without warning, breaching the 14-foot seawall and flooding the waterfront. Newspaper accounts of the time indicate that at least 78 people drowned.

The tragedy was caused by a seiche -- pronounced SAY-sh. Prolonged strong winds produce a seiche by pushing the water toward one end of lake Erie. When the winds stop, or shift to the opposite direction, the water moves back in the direction from which it came.

It is estimated that Buffalo has two or three seiches a year, but the threat has been largely eliminated by building a breakwater in Lake Erie, a project that started in the 1860s.


Buffalo's population: 29,773; Erie County's: 78,635.

  • Porter Avenue, North Street and High Street on the north;
  • Jefferson Street and Buffalo Creek on the east and south;
  • the Niagara River on the west.

Eagle, Clinton, lower Pearl and lower Franklin, and Swan are residence streets.

Independent settlements adjoining Buffalo:

  • Black Rock, of which Ferry Street at Niagara was the center
  • Cold Spring at Ferry Street and Main
  • The Plains, an area east and west of Main Street reaching roughly from Jewett Avenue to the University Section. Corresponds to Parkside Community today.
  • The Hydraulics, where the Larkin plant will be built

Poinsett Barracks, as the U.S. Artillery garrison is called, is vacated in 1845, and the house becomes the private home of Joseph G. Masten who engages architect Thomas Tilden to add the Greek Revival portico, Palladian windows, and stone lintels facing Delaware Avenue.

Three companies of the U.S. Artillery had established a garrison at what now the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site. The house, with a simpler facade then, was one in a row of officers' quarters. It was a two-family structure that housed both the commanding officer and the post's surgeon. Also, the house faces away from Delaware Avenue and toward the garrison parade grounds.

In 1883 Dexter P. Rumsey will buy the J. Masten house and gave it to his daughter and new son-in-law, Ansley Wilcox; it will become known as the Wilcox Mansion.

Elk Street Market completed. located at the corner of Elk and Michigan

With the arrival of several thousand German immigrants into Buffalo the city becomes famous as a manufacturing and distributing center of beer. Philip Born established a brewery at the corner of Jefferson and Genesee Streets. Eighteen years later Gerhard Lang will purchase the brewery and move it to where War Memorial Stadium is located at Jefferson and Best.

Steamship lines carry over 93,000 passengers this year, most of them on the daily runs to Detroit, Lake Erie and Lake Michigan ports. Travel to Chicago is frequent and usually takes three to four days. For the well to do who can afford a $10 ticket, it is a very pleasant experience in the best grand hotel tradition. Fine dining and ballroom dancing along with luxurious relaxation make a trip on one of these floating palaces a holiday in itself.

The great steamers of the era included the "Vandalia", the "Great Western", the "Western World," the "United States", the "Plymouth", the "Queen of the West," the "Empire" and the "Hendrik Hudson." These are but a handful of the great lake steamers.


In the winter of 1846, the medical school is established, which later
becomes the University of Buffalo.
Classes are held at the corner of Washington and Seneca streets in a Baptist church.

Millard Fillmore is appointed chancellor and served in that capacity until his death in 1874. More honorary than anything, his most taxing duty is apparently to hand out diplomas. The University will soon move to a more permanent site at Main and Virginia streets in 1848.

Anna Katherine Green (1846-1935) essentially invents the detective novel (way before Arthur Conan Doyle) which becomes America's first best-seller.

The first telegraph message reaches Buffalo. The telegraph office is
located at 12 Exchange Street.

When New York's most prominent shipyard, Bidwell and Banta, launch the "Niagara" in 1846, the vessel is one of the largest, fastest, and most luxurious steamboats the world had ever seen.

Buildings erected:
  • Buffalo Savings Bank opens for business in a small room in a building at the corner of Main and Erie Streets. The bank has 164 depositors with an amount of $25,000. Charles Townsend serves as the bank's first president


Because of severe overcrowding in the Buffalo harbor, the city leadership votes to increase the size of Buffalo Harbor and build a new City Ship Canal.

Elbridge Gerry Spaulding elected mayor of Buffalo, but he will not finish his one-year term because he will elected an assemblyman in the state legislature. Spaulding's contribution to the city will be the plan of 1847 that provides important legislation for an improved sewer system, an increase in the size of Buffalo Harbor, and the building of a new City Ship Canal. Spaulding also invests in a new company, the Buffalo Gas Light Company, to provide electricity for the city. See 1862 below for Spaulding's contribution to winning the Civil war.
The Great Lakes steamer "Baltic" is built by Bidwell & Banta in Buffalo.

Between 1847 and 1849 the railroad embarks on an improvement project to replace the wooden rail covered by strap iron with solid iron rail. On many occasion passengers have been maimed or wounded when the strapping had become loose at one end of the rail to the point where it would leap over the wheel of the passenger coach, pierce the wooden floor of the coach and become a become a ribbon of death as it sliced its way unimpeded through the interior of the passenger coach. The advancement of ironworking in the United States put an end to this menace, much to the relief of both passengers and railroad employees alike. - Source:
The City of Buffalo - 1840 to 1850 Essay

Pope Pius IX creates the diocese of Western New York and appoints John Timon of Pennsylvania as the first bishop.

Within weeks of his arrival, in a dispute over control, Timon moves the bishop's see from (German- Catholic)
St. Louis Church to a ramshackle wooden-frame Irish church. The St. Louis trustees win in court.

Timon recruited teaching orders of nuns and priests from Europe and started Catholic schools, churches, foundling homes, homes for Catholic aged and a Catholic orphanage.

In 1854, Timon will build a cathedral in the most visible and centrally located piece of real estate in the city, on Church Street right between the two oldest Protestant churches in Buffalo.


1848 - Online Buffalo City Directories - LINKS (

There is now a network of seven railroads connecting Buffalo and Albany and from there Cornelius Vanderbilt's Hudson River Railroad carried passengers to and from New York City. The fastest packet boats of the day take 6 days to travel from Albany to Buffalo, the railroads make the trip in 25 hours. It is painfully obvious what the preferred method of travel will be for the foreseeable future.

Buffalo Board of Trade is formed by waterfront merchants to help spearhead future harbor improvements. This group will become The Merchant's Exchange and Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Walter Cary (1818-1881) marries Julia Love, the daughter of Judge Thomas Cutting Love. Their house, at 184 Delaware, was one of the brightest spots in the social and cultural life of the city. It was also the home of Cary's vibrant sister-in-law, Maria Love.

The Free-Soil party is organized in Buffalo. Its platform calls for an
end to the expansion of slavery and for no increase in the number of slave states.

Buildings erected:
  • St. John's Episcopal Church, Washington, Corner of Swan. Built 1846-8. It claims to be the widest church in the U.S. whose roof is unsupported by pillars. In the 1880s, this church will be called "Free St. John's," because the congregation eliminated traditional pew rents and relied on voluntary pledges as their source of income. In 1893 the the congregation will move to Colonial Circle, where they will erect St. John's Grace Episcopal Church. The church in the illustration will be taken down in 1906 and is presently the site of the baseball stadium for the Buffalo Bisons.
  • The Buffalo Gas and Light Company, the first gas company in New York State, is organized on February 29, 1848 to provide gas for nighttime street illumination. The first lamp district receives partial illumination on November 7, 1848.
  • Sisters Hospital, Buffalo's first permanent hospital, is opened by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.


Buildings erected:

Another outbreak of cholera. More than 3,000 cases recorded; nearly 900 people die. The first epidemic occurred in 1832 a third and worst will occur in 1854.

Howard Iron Works founded. In 1851 it will manufacture one of the first lawn mowers. By the end of the century it will occupy three acres of land on Chicago Street and manufacture elevators and machinery for grain elevators.

By the end of the 1840s, rails have begun to compete for right-of-way space along the waterfront in an effort to distract some of the less bulky produce like flour, lumber and livestock from the canal boats.

The Buffalo City Water Works is incorporated on March 15, 1849.
Water is first released into the supply pipes on January 2, 1852.

This Buffalo house becomes the residence of Millard Fillmore newly elected vice-president (1849-1850); Franklin near Mohawk. Now 180 Franklin Street, with different front.

Two years later President Taylor will die and Millard Fillmore will become president.


Appendix and Index to Volume VI of the Buffalo Historical Society Publications Reprinted by Cornell U.

Forest Lawn Cemetery incorporated. The original 80 acres of land near the edge of the city were purchased by Charles E. Clarke in 1849 with the intention of establishing a cemetery, based on the French and English example of rural cemeteries.

Besides interment on family land or in churchyards, various spaces in Buffalo before 1849 were also designated for burial. Some of them:

See Cemeteries - Links.

The concept of owning a place for future burial, especially in a rural setting outside the city limits, is a new and generally alien concept in the mid-1800s. In 1852, the Franklin Square cemetery Memorial is placed to mark the relocation of graves from the older burial ground, and this helps the public to accept the new cemetery.

By 1861, rural cemeteries across the country are a popular place for recreation, and this will lead to the urban park movement first made famous by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Source: "A History of Forest Lawn Cemetery," by Albert L. Michaels and Bette A. Rupp. Pub. in "Forest Lawn Cemetery: Buffalo History Preserved." available at Forest Lawn Administration Bldg. and in bookstores.

Millard Fillmore becomes thirteenth president in July when Pres. Tyler chokes on food and dies.

Fillmore signs Compromise of 1850 which includes the
Fugitive Slave Act on Sept. 20.
  • Admits California as a free state.
  • Settles the Texas boundary and compensate her.
  • Grants territorial status to New Mexico.
  • Places Federal officers at the disposal of slaveholders seeking fugitives.
  • Abolishes the slave trade in the District of Columbia.
  • Includes Fugitive Slave Act. which stipulates that it is illegal for any citizen to assist an escaped slave and demands that if an escaped slave is sighted, he or she should be apprehended and turned in to the authorities for deportation back to the "rightful" owner down south


The "Swedish nightingale" Jenny Lind performs before a sold-out crowd at the North Presbyterian Church at Main and Chippewa Streets.

Millard Fillmore
and his Cabinet are among the passengers to ride on the Erie Railroad's first westbound train into WNY. The Erie is hailed as the greatest venture of private enterprise of its time.
Buildings erected:


Formation of the Young Men's Christian Union in Buffalo (renamed YMC Association in 1868)

Establishment of what will be later known as the William Simon Brewery.

William Darry is accused of murdering his wife of three months. Six days before her death, her husband clubbed her with an ax handle. he will be hanged on December 1, 1854 crying out loud not to be killed for the murder of his wife.

Buffalo's William Fargo partners with Henry Wells and founds what would later be known as Wells, Fargo & Co.

The Metropolitan Theatre, later in 1868 changed to the Academy of Music, joins the roster of the city's theatrical stages in 1852 and will stand for 103 years.

The Buffalo and Attica Railroad, Attica to Rochester Railroad, and the New York and Erie Railroad combined to complete a rail system linking Buffalo to New York City.

Grand Island: Buckhorn and Beaver Islands were made into the town of Grand Island
Buildings erected:
  • Balcom / Chandler House

  • In 1851 a large mansion (Burt House) located at Franklin and Court Streets at Niagara Square was purchased from the Burt family and converted the following year into the first high school. Initially called Central School, it was shortly after renamed Central High School. The tower on the right was a later addition.

    It was Buffalo's only high school until 1897 when
    Masten Park High School was opened, followed in 1903 by Lafayette High School.

    It was demolished in 1926 to make way for E.B Green's
    Buffalo State Office Building at 65 Court Street. Its students were transferred to the new Hutchinson Central High School on Elmwood.


1853 - Online Buffalo City Directories - LINKS (

The City Charter is changed and the mayor would no longer serve as a member of the the city's Common Council. In addition, the mayor's term in office would run for two years instead of one. Eli Cook is the city's first mayor to be elected by the public under the new Charter.

The city limits are expanded from four and one-half square miles in 1832, to forty-two square miles. The expansion includes the annexation of Black Rock.

The number of wards is increased from 5 (in 1832) to 13.

Many new streets are created and named, in custom, for prominent residents of the area. For example, Laurel Street is surveyed and renamed Barker Street, for Judge Zenas Barker.

Nearby Bryant Street is also opened. It is named for Abuer Bryant, one of the City's original nursery men. Bryant's home and nursery were located on Main near Bryant Street, in the 1830s. He, along with friend and neighbor William Hodge, are credited for planting most of the Elm trees which stood along Delaware and most other residential streets in the area.

The only public transit in the 1850's is an omnibus line. This runs the length of Main Street from the Central Wharf to the Cold Spring District. Streetcars drawn by horses are first used, and passengers notified of their approach by a blowing horn -- similar to the custom of today.

Buildings erected:


1854 - Online Buffalo City Directories - LINKS (

The Erie County Savings Bank is established largely by the influence and efforts of William A. Bird (1797 -1878) and he was unanimously chosen its first President by the directors and continued to hold the position so long as he lived. There were those who opposed the organization of the bank, believing that there was no necessity for it, that the field was already amply occupied. The result has shown, that while other savings banks have been prosperous, the one managed by Mr. Bird has outstripped them all in the amount of business transacted as well as in its accumulations, having more deposits than all others combined.

Politically Mr. Bird is an Anti-masonic Whig. He is one of the bitterest foes of masonry to be found In Western New York.

Mr. Bird’s name will been given to a public street, and a prominent avenue in Buffalo as well as to an Island in the harbor.

The cholera epidemic in Buffalo is the worst to date. One physician writes in his journal: "260 people died here this week. The panic is indescribable."

Buildings erected:


1855 - Online Buffalo City Directories - LINKS (
The growth of of the city's population in the middle of the nineteenth century is truly spectacular, more than doubling between 1845 (29,773) and 1855 (74,214).

Over 60% are foreign born (mostly Catholic): 31,00 are German, 18,000 Irish, both of which live in their own separate enclaves the Germans on the East Side, the Irish in the First Ward (the south side of the city near the terminus of the Erie canal and the city's growing railroad network).

The Germans come to Buffalo already skilled and most of Buffalo's skilled workers are German - shoemakers, masons, tailors, musicians, blacksmiths, boilermakers , butchers, upholsterers, painters, tinsmiths, stonecutters, clock makers, bakers, cigar-makers - and many of them are quite well educated. The desire to perpetuate the German language is a critical element in the cultural cohesiveness of the German community.

The Irish are unskilled and come to Buffalo having built the Erie Canal. Most of the grain elevator workers are Irish.

By mid-century the seven hundred-odd black people living in Buffalo have two churches and a separate, segregated public school for their children. And while many black men worked as common laborers and most black women as domestics, there is a considerable large number of skilled workmen in the city's East Side black community. Indeed, the job descriptions of many of them that are noted in the censuses of the mid-nineteenth century read like a handbook of trades. There are barbers, carpenters, hack drivers, masons, chefs, hotel keepers, and musicians. Two of the barbers - one named D. Paul Brown, the other named James Whitfield - achieve considerable local success as authors. Brown's play about slavery is performed in the Eagle Street Theatre in 1845 (black audiences sat upstairs), and James Whitfield's antislavery poems, with such rhetorical titles as "How long O Gracious God, how long shall power lord it over Right?" are privately published.

Blacks were often used as strikebreakers, and virtually every one of the fairly regular work stoppages of Irish dock workers was broken by black strikebreakers.

While the rise of large, increasingly national railroad systems that now link Buffalo with new York, Philadelphia, Erie, and Cleveland do irreparable damage to the Erie Canal, they pose no threat to to the city's commercial position as port of transshipment - the largest inland port, in fact, in the US.


Pascal Pratt, Buffalo's leading iron maker, and tannery tycoon Bronson Rumsey found the Manufacturers & Traders Bank (photo) for the specific purpose of making credit available to Buffalo's manufacturing community.

Rumsey purchases part of the Dr. Ebenezer Johnson estate. By 1865, he will have built
Rumsey Park.

Frederick P. Stevens Home, Delaware Avenue, corner of Barker Street. Mr. Stevens, mayor of Buffalo, 1856-57. Resided here for many years. Later it was the home of Joseph P. Dudley. Now replaced by a later mansion.

"Ship Building at Buffalo," reprinted from the December 28, 1856 Detroit Free Press


Frederick Law Olmsted is appointed Superintendent of Central Park, New York City.

Encyclopedia of North American Indians: Efforts to remove Senecas from their lands culminated in the Treaty of Buffalo Creek in 1838, by the terms of which the four remaining reservations -- Buffalo Creek, Tonawanda, Cattaraugus, and Allegany -- were sold and provisions were made for the Senecas to remove to Kansas. The corrupt proceedings were protested, however, and a new treaty of Buffalo Creek was signed in 1842. The new agreement stipulated the sale of Buffalo Creek and Tonawanda, but retained Allegany and Cattaraugus. As a result of the Buffalo Creek treaties, some Senecas moved to Kansas Most did not, however, and of those who did, all but two returned. Senecas of Tonawanda, who had not been present at the treaty proceedings in 1842, objected. By a treaty signed in 1857, they bought back most of their reservation with money set aside for their removal from Kansas. The Tonawanda Senecas maintain their government by hereditary chiefs, practice the Longhouse religion, perform traditional calendric rituals, and have medicine societies (a tradition separate from the Longhouse religion) for preventative and curative practices.


Millard Fillmore marries Caroline Carmichael McIntosh (1831-1881). His first wife, Abigail Powers (1798-1853), had died five years earlier.

In this century, Niagara Square has served as the city's governmental center. But l00 years ago, it was the premier residential address for prominent Buffalonians. The wealthy vied to build their mansions in the heart of the city, not in today's remote suburbs.

One of the mansions on Niagara Square was built for
James Hollister, about 1850. In 1858(?), Millard Fillmore buys the house, deciding that his home at 180 Franklin is not grand enough for an ex-President. John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Commodore Perry are among the famous Fillmore guests. Fillmore will live here until his death in 1874.

1858-end of century Cicero Hamlin establishes one of the nation's premier trotting tracks in what is now known as Hamlin Park historic district. At one of them, billed and widely promoted by Hamlin as the "Kentucky Derby of the North," 40,000 people descend on the park.

Olmsted's final plan for the City's park system paid homage to Hamlin's Park. For it was here, at the northeastern end of the Driving Park, near Agassiz Circle, that Humboldt Parkway arched elegantly on its gentle flow southward and eastward from Forest Lawn to The Parade.

Buildings erected:


Myron P. Bush House, northwest corner Delaware Avenue and Summer Street, is erected 1859-60. Torn down, 1903, for construction of the F. H. Goodyear mansion.

Grover Cleveland admitted to the bar.

Buildings erected:

The first guests arrived at Falconwood on the steamer George O. Vail on Saturday afternoon, June 19, 1859. Falconwood later became a popular resort, open to the public. The steamers Cygnet and Arrow transported the vacation seekers the first year.

The Club House was designed by Joseph Lyman Silsbee; the club house burned down in 1882.


Less than 5% of the work force works in manufacturing (as compared to 10% in Rochester and Syracuse). Industries that do exist produce strictly for the local market

The Erie Canal is becoming obsolete because of railroad competition. Too slow, too expensive, and frozen-over during the winter months

Clarendon Hotel fire, Main and S. Division Streets, took place November 9, 1860. A serious disaster, with great financial loss and several lives sacrificed.

Buffalo's population: 42,261; Erie County's: 141,971.

See Dug's Dive for article about a probable underground railroad depot.


Civil War 1861-1865:

President-elect Abraham Lincoln visits Buffalo on Feb. 16 as part of his trip to Washington DC to accept the presidency of the United States. Lincoln stayed at the
American Hotel on Main Street between Eagle and Court.

Importance of the Civil War for Buffalo: The WASP elite benefited from the Civil War. Not only were they able to avoid service in the military (some of the W ASP elite did, however, choose to serve as officers in local militia companies), but they profited enormously as a result. Buffalo grew and prospered greatly during the war. The population continued its rapid increase - from 81,029 in 1860 to 94,210 five years later - and its lake-oriented economy boomed, as other commercial arteries and outlets like the Mississippi River and New Orleans were closed to raw materials from the Midwest. By the end of the war, Buffalo's position as the leading inland port in the United States was more firmly fixed than ever. - Source: Mark Goldman, "High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." Pub. by State U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983,


William G. Fargo is elected mayor (a three-year term). Fargo was the poor boy, working when he was 13 years old, who started from scratch and made it big. He had come to Buffalo in 1843 at age 25. In 1852 he and Henry Wells, organized Wells, Fargo & Co., an express line linking New York and San Francisco that had overland stagecoaches into the West before the railroads were built and ran the Pony Express before there was a communication system. Fargo was vice president. He also was a founder of the American Express Co.

Fargo lived in a beautiful mansion that covered the entire block bounded by Jersey Street, West Avenue, Pennsylvania Street, and Fargo Avenue (named after him) on Buffalo's west side.

Civil War

The first iron boat, the Monitor,  an innovative and  very important landmark in both naval history as well as the War Between the States, the savior of Hampton Roads in March 1862, was assembled from parts built across the north in order to save time.  In Buffalo, the Niagara Steam Forge Works manufactured the turret's port stoppers, the  flaps  on the turret which opened when the cannon was to be fired.

Elbridge Gerry Spaulding, as a member of the U. S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee (1858-1862), is the financial genius whose "greenback" currency is indispensable to winning the war. He drafted the legislation that led to the issuance of legal-tender treasury notes, which circulated as paper currency known as "greenbacks."

1847 above for Spaulding's contribution to Buffalo when he was mayor.

The Draft: A draft is imposed on a community only in the event that a predetermined quota was not filled by area volunteers. The county's annual quota is 3,808.

In a frenzied and last ditch effort to hire the needy to volunteer, bounty funds are created by the Common Cou
ncil (at the intense urging of Mayor Fargo), the Erie County Board of Supervisors, the Board of Trade and private funds, and the average bounty increases from $150 to $500.

While even this generous bounty fund does not prevent the imposition of a draft in Erie County, it does enable most of the wealthier and more influential citizens to escape it. (A
mong them is Grover Cleveland, a young and politically ambitious lawyer who, by paying $500 to a recently arrived Polish immigrant, is able to pass the war in the comfort and prosperity of his blossoming legal practice.)

155th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment: In October 1862, more than 400 Buffalo men, most of them Irish, heed President Abraham Lincoln's call for additional volunteers during the Civil War and crowded into Fort Porter near the present day Peace Bridge to become the basis of the 155th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment

100th New York Volunteer Infantry: Organized at Fort Porter, Buffalo, New York, January 7, 1862, Colonel James M. Brown in command, departs for active service March 7, 1862, numbering 960 men, rank and file, participates in the Peninsular Campaign with heavy losses, among them Colonel Brown killed at Fair Oaks, Virginia May 31, 1862, regiment adopted July 29, 1862 by Buffalo Board of Trade who recruited and sent to regiment 956 men, Colonel George B. Dandy U.S. Army takes command in August 1862 at the fall of Petersburg, April 2, 1865, Major James H. Dandy in command is killed while planting the colors on Fort Gregg, the regiment was mustered out of service at Richmond, Virginia, August 28, 1865. --Source: Chris Andrle, 100th New York Volunteer Infantry

The Buffalo Historical Society is founded. Millard Fillmore serves as its first president.

The Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts is founded.


1863 Buffalo Map: "Bird's Eye View of the City of Buffalo, NY" - 1863

There are eleven miles of double-track street railways, with sixty elegant horse-drawn cars serving Buffalo and the suburbs.

Civil War 1861-1865:

Edward Payson Chapin:
Buffalo attorney Edward Payson Chapin is killed in battle. On the day he dies, he is appointed brigadier general. Chapin Parkway will be named after him.

Race relations during the Civil War: The draft and the bounty system (See 1862 above) provoke intense reactions among the city's immigrants, particularly among the unskilled laborers, who are most vulnerable to the system.

In late July and early August 1863, in protest against low wages, almost one hundred dockworkers and stevedores, primarily Irish, go out on strike. When their employers respond by hiring black laborers as strikebreakers, violence erupts. Coming within months of the Emancipation Proclamation, the strikebreaking by black scabs take on an ominous and complex meaning for the Irish waterfront workers. Are the Irish people really expected to offer their lives to free people who offer thanks by breaking their strikes?

The angry dock workers stampede away from the waterfront, across the Main Street business section, and into the small, black residential section in the eastern part of the city. After several hours of uncertainty, the rioters are dispersed by the Sixty-Fifth and Seventy Fourth militia regiments, just returned from riot duty in New York City, together with local police and a citizen posse of several thousand.

Buildings erected:


Buffalo Starch Factory is representative of manufacturing firms that experiences growth and prosperity in mid-19th-century Buffalo. Established in 1864, it ranks third in the world production by 1877 and has a widespread reputation for quality. Pure water is a requisite for production of starch and the Buffalo Starch Factory is located on the banks of the Niagara River, and thereby accessible to the Erie Canal.

Source: Brown, Richard C. and Watson, Bob. "Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land," USA: Windsor Publications, 1981.

Civil War 1861-1865:

Black Rock born Brigadier General Daniel Davidson Bidwell is mortally wounded in action October 19, 1864, at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia. He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, where there is also a memorial shaft dedicated to him. Bidwell Parkway and the equestrian statue in Colonial Circle are also dedicated to his memory.


President Lincoln's funeral train stops in Buffalo on April 27 en route to Springfield, Illinois, for burial.

Buffalo's population: 94,210; Erie County's: 155,773.

See also:

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