Williamsville - Table of Contents

Illustrated Williamsville Chronology
Williamsville, NY

Reconnaissance Level Survey of Historic Resources Village of Williamsville (online September 2017)

A Brief History of the Town of Amherst Pub. by  Amherst Museum in 199

Village of Williamsville Local Landmarks  Pub. by the Williamsville Historic Commission (online Sept. 2017

Joseph A. Grande, Images of America: Amherst. Arcadia, Press, 2004

Holland Land Company acquires most of the land in Western New York. The company hired Joseph Ellicott to oversee a survey.

Joseph Ellicott was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on November 1, 1760, and gained experience as a surveyor working with his older brother, Andrew, one of the planners of Washington, D. C.

Under Joseph's surveying campaign, rudimentary roads were built and boundary lines were drawn. He straightened the narrow 50 mile "Great Iroquois Trail" (which crossed New York State from Albany to Lake Erie) between Batavia and Buffalo. This improved road was first called the Buffalo Road, now called Main Street. In 1801 he hired White Seneca, a Seneca Indian, to clear brush and widen the trail so that it could accommodate ox-carts on a straight trail on high ground, through the forests, from south of Orchard Park to lake Ontario.


Benjamin Ellicott.
In 1798, he was in charge of the company's surveys in western New York.

Holland land Co. surveyors Benjamin Ellicott, brother of Joseph, and John Thompson were the first to acquire land here with their purchase of 300 acres for $600, including mill rights along Eleven Mile Creek (present Ellicott creek).

From 1817-1819, Benjamin Ellicott represented Western New York in the US House of Representatives and lived in Batavia.  From 1825, until his death two years later, he lived in Williamsville.  Initially, he was buried in Williamsville but in 1849, was reinterred in Batavia.

The Evans House was later clapboarded and a large frame structure, a wing, added to it.  This became known as the Evans House.  It served as a tavern and inn as well as the local Holland Land Company office.   Demolished in 1955.

Mural by Bertram Glover

John Thompson built a saw mill on the east side of Ellicott Creek.  Thompson abandoned the mill in 1803.
Jonas Williams and David Evans (nephew of Benjamin Ellicott), also surveyors of the Holland Land Company, purchased the 300 acre tract including Thompson's former mill property.  Evans soon after returned to Philadelphia, but Williams stayed on to play an active role in the development of the settlement.  His efforts resulted in the naming of the community as Williams Mills.
With the reorganization of the Holland Purchase, the territory was made part of the town of Clarence.  Jonas Williams was elected supervisor and Timothy Hopkins assessor at the first town meeting in April 1808 held at the Asa Ransom tavern.
1811 "Jonas Williams built a crude [grist] mill on the high east bank of the Ellicott Creek, just above the falls north of Main Street. (Main Street runs east-west, and the creek runs north-south.)  Since the dam above Main Street and the race to the mill were not built until 1834, the original mill must have operated on water taken directly above the falls.   On the Main Street front of the same location he built a tannery and operated it until 1819 when it was purchased by John Hutchinson." -  Sue Miller Young, A History of the Town of Amherst, 1818-1965

The mill was a temporary structure - Williams sold it within the year.  It later became known as the Dodge Mill.

"Walking through Glen Park look to the other bank near the falls. Dodge Mill Foundations can be seen. The stone foundations of Jonas Williams' east mill, more popularly known as the Dodge Mill, can barely be discerned. The mill was first powered directly by the falls and later by a dam and raceway, now the main channel of Ellicott Creek. After several changes in ownership, the east grist mill was purchased in 1864 by Henry Dodge, who converted from a stone-ground process to a roller process. A fire in 1894 destroyed this famous landmark and killed Mr. Dodge, who fought in vain to save his business."  - Williamsville Business Association, Historic Walking Tour, #15 (online October 2017)

1907 photo   ...   Dodge grist Mill at far left   ...   Building above the falls was a tannery.
Source: Ed Young's True Value, Dodge Mill (online October 2017)

2017 photo

The front side of the Dodge Mill taken from what is now Mill St.

"There were once many mills along creeks in towns and villages in Western New York during the 19th century. Across the Glen Falls from the Williamsville Mill was the large Dodge Mill, which produced flour through most of the 19th Century. Downstream the 1821 Reist Mill operations included grist and flourmills, a sawmill and a hemp mill. Three other mills were located further downstream. Little or no evidence of any of them remains. The Williamsville Water Mill is the sole surviving structure of an extensive early industrial district that once existed in Williamsville. The Mill has been in continuous water powered operation since 1811 and is one of few remaining water powered mills in New York." - Jeffrey F. Voelkl, "Williamsville Water Mill, Valuable History Worth Saving." Pub. in  Amherst Bee  (online October 2017)

Jonas Williams built a permanent grist mill on the west bank in 1811.   This structure stands as the Williamsville Water Mill, located at 56 Spring Street.  This mill is listed as a local and national landmark.  

The water mill has functioned as a grist mill, as a cement, and as water lime, mill

The mill's overshot wheel was powered by water from Ellicott Creek via a raceway.

To mill: to grind or crush (something) in a mill.

Raceway: a narrow channel for water

Undershot: driven by water passing from below, as a water wheel.

Overshot: operated by water that flows over the top from above: an overshot water wheel

Millstone: Each of two circular stones for grinding grain

Hopper: A container for a bulk material such as grain, rock, or trash, typically one that tapers downward and is able to discharge its contents at the bottom.  Cf.. Perot Malting Elevator hopper

Water lime:  Underlying the Onondaga limestone escarpment was hydraulic limestone, burned to produce a type of cement known as "water lime": a soft, white, crystalline, very slightly water-soluble powder, Ca(OH) 2, obtained by the action of water on lime: used chiefly in mortars, plasters, and cements.

Greeting card courtesy of Dennis Dempsey

"The most substantial change was the installation of a 100 horsepower water turbine in the sub-basement to replace the water wheel. Some building improvements were made including replacement of flooring and clapboards. The section of the flume [raceway] which had extended along the back of the sawmill was abandoned some time after 1910 and replaced by a vertical concrete pressure chamber and concrete and steel penstock." - Bero Architecture P.C., Historic Structure Report - Williamsville Water Mill

October 2017 view from Glen Park

Jonas Williams built a sawmill on the west bank near his grist mill. 

He was also responsible for building a tannery, distillery, and dams and raceways to power his mills.  The pioneer settlement of Williams Mills developed around these mills.
War of 1812:
During the winter of 1812, General Alexander Smyth, after unsuccessfully attempting to invade Canada, retired with his army to winter quarters which were built along Ellicott Creek. Present Garrison Road is named for this encampment. The troops stayed here until the spring of 1913 when military operations started up again.

Garrison: the troops stationed in a fortress or town to defend it.

Signage at Main and Evans Sts.

War of 1812:

In the fall of 1813 the barracks were enlarged and used as a hospital for more than 250 sick and wounded from Lewiston.

Many people fled to Williams Mills upon the burning of Buffalo by the British on December 30, 1813
War of 1812:

General Winfield Scott during the War of 1812

Signage at 5665 Main Street

Postcard courtesy of Dennis Dempsey

After the Battle of Lundy's Lane in Canada, a wounded Col. Winfield Scott, along with wounded prisoner-of-war  British commander Phineas Riall, were brought to Williamsville, where they stayed  in the Evans House for a time.

Scott used the Evans House as his headquarters in the spring when his entire army of 5,000-6,000 men were stationed in Williamsville. For a brief time the settlement was considered the headquarters of the war when Generals Brown and Scott were here.  American soldiers were said to to have been housed in log barracks erected along Ellicott Creek north of and parallel to Main Street.  Military drills were held on the grounds in the present vicinity of Saints Peter and Paul Church on Main Street.

The Evans House stood until 1955.

Over 200 American and British soldiers who died in the US Military Hospital at Williamsville are buried in the cemetery on Aero Drive in Cheektowaga.
1814 Island Park formed:

"Island Park was formed in 1814 when Jonas Williams built a raceway from a bend in the creek (at the south end of the park) through the low-lying "creek pasture" to his mills downstream. The raceway diverted water to power mills on the east bank of the creek until the last of them fell silent around the turn of the [twentieth] century.  During the early 1900s the swampy land, owned by the Gerald Long Brewing Company, was the site of a Village-maintained baseball diamond.  In the 1930s as part of a WPA flood control project, the raceway was dredged and the land used to fill the swampy island creating the park as we know it today." -  Carolyn Shrauger, et. al., "Williamsville, New York: Where The Past is Present," brochure published by the Village of Williamsville Historical Society, 3rd edition, pp. 44-45

"Jonas Williams sold the mills on both sides of the creek, his water rights and his remaining property on the north side of Main Street to Juba Storrs & Co., a Buffalo merchant. Storrs owned the property until 1827. As part of the purchase arrangement, Storrs was required to make modifications to the dam to lower the level of the raceway and to create a second raceway for the east side mill; these improvements had the effect of reducing flooding on the lands still owned by Williams on the south side of Main Street." - Bero Architecture P.C., 
Historic Structure Report - Williamsville Water Mill
Post War of 1812
The hamlet name "Williams Mills" changed to Williamsville.
The Town of Amherst was officially created by an Act of the Senate of the State of New York. The town was organized from a portion of the town of Clarence and included territory later removed to form the towns of Cheektowaga and West Seneca.

Sir Jeffrey Amherst
This new town was named for Sir Jeffrey Amherst.

Sir Jeffrey Amherst: Commanding general of British forces in North America during the final battles of the so-called French & Indian war (1754-1763). He won victories against the French to acquire Canada for England and helped make England the world's chief colonizer at the conclusion of the Seven Years War among the colonial powers (1756-1763). The royal government gave him  a 20,000-acre land grant in New York for his service, but he never took up residence  there, returning instead to England.  When the War of American Independence broke out, he refused to command English forces to put down the rebels.

The town of Amherst, Massachusetts, was named for him.  Despite his fame, Jeffrey Amherst's name became tarnished by (disputed) stories of smallpox-infected blankets used as germ warfare against American Indians.

Timothy S. Hopkins was chosen the first supervisor.  His son Timothy A. Hopkins was town supervisor from 1840-1843.  Hopkins Road was named after the Hopkins family.

Erie Canal opens with Buffalo as the western terminus, responsible for opening up new markers for area farmers and industrialists and an influx of new settlers.
Oziel Smith acquired the abandoned gristmill on the west bank of Ellicott Creek.

Oziel Smith and later Benjamin Miller owned quarries that provided quicklime, a type of cement made from charred limestone that was used to build the Erie Canal.  Limestone was used for road construction, foundations, window sills and doors, ballast on boats, and in bulkheads.  Local quarries also produced fertilizer from limestone that was inexpensive for local farmers.
To help pay for the improvements to the Buffalo Road (Main Street), a toll booth is built on Main Street near Getzville Road. Abolished in 1899.

Stagecoaches  began operating on a regular schedule, carrying passengers between Batavia and Buffalo, and occasionally as far east as Albany.

Oziel Smith, bought up much of the business property and all water rights to Ellicott Creek, developing them into thriving concerns, and completed the Eagle House, an inn and coach stop. 

Mural by Bertram Glover

Mennonite Meeting House built; still standing on Main Street at North Forest Road.  Today it is the Village Meeting House & Museum.
The Mansion House, the most fashionable hotel in Williamsville, stood for 120 years. Located on the south side of Main Street just east of Cayuga Road.  Owned by John Hutchinson.

Mural by Bertram Glover

The Fogelsonger Quarry opened in 1836, and was Western New York's major supplier of limestone in the 19th century.  The Fogelsonger Quarry disappeared in the 1960s with the construction of the New York Thruway and the Youngman Highway.

Fogelsonger Quarry workers, c. 1890

Catholic missionary John Neumann (canonized 1977, the first American saint) comes to Williamsville to found a church, SS. Peter & Paul, at 5480 Main St.

Mural by Bertram Glover

Demeter Wehrle and his family (daughter in photo) came to Williamsville. 

Wehrle Drive was named after the John M. Wehrle who took over his uncle Demeter' Wehrle's furniture and undertaking business in 1900 and was the Town Supervisor of Amherst from 1920 to 1925.


Village of Williamsville incorporated on July 25th, and remains the only incorporated village in the Town of Amherst.

Four details below:

Detail #1

Detail #2

Detail #3


Benjamin Miller served as the first president.
1853-1869 Williamsville Classical Institute, 39 Academy Street, was a private secondary school, the first school in Amherst above the elementary level. It was sponsored by the Disciplines of Christ Church of Williamsville. The structure now houses Christian Central Academy.
The “Hopkins Block” or “Brick Building,” the tallest commercial building in Amherst containing three stories,  built at 5550 Main Street.
At 5658 Main Street, a church was built by the Society for the Disciples of Christ which traced its history to Williamsville in 1835. Baptism was a very important ceremony, and many a sinner was led to the waters of Ellicott Creek and immersed as a welcoming into the fold. Originally located at the Northwest corners of Eagle and North Ellicott Streets, by 1870 their congregation had grown to almost 200 members. The small church was then sold for $1000 to the Lutherans, and new property on Main Street was acquired from Christian Rutt in 1871. The building was completed in the same year, and along the way, many improvements were made, including the unique baptistery still located in the elevated “stage”.

By 1976, the congregation lost membership to the point that it was disbanded, and the church sold to the village fort $1. The Village of Williamsville Historical Society (2017 official website) came to its rescue,  and major renovations were completed, allowing the building to function as a museum, and gathering place for concerts, weddings, and meetings.

 Telephone lines linking Williamsville with Buffalo installed.

Double arch stone Main Street Bridge  replaced various wooden bridges that were destroyed by spring floods. Built with locally quarried stone.  Reinforced with steel in the 1960s.

The original Wehrle cabinet shop was replaced by Beach-Tuyn Funeral home.



In 2017 the name of extant restaurant is Milos Restaurant (2017 official website)


Buffalo and Williamsville Electric Railway Corporation began service and supplanted the stage coach service.  The 4-mile street car was known as the "Toonerville." In its heyday, over 400 residents used the trolley daily, and on Sundays over 2,000 would use it.  Operated until  1930.

The Lehigh Valley Railroad, running from Depew to Tonawanda, begins service.  The Lehigh Valley RR Depot still sands on South long Street.  Passenger service discontinued in the years following WWII.  The abandoned railroad route is now used as a recreational path.
Electric lights installed on Main Street.
Williamsville Hose Company reorganized as the Hutchinson Hose Company.  
In 1856, volunteer leather bucket brigade formed: “The Rough & Ready Fire Co. #1.” 
In 1895, name changed to Williamsville Hose Co.
Village Hall built in 1909 and dedicated in 1910.  Included both town and village offices, fire hall, and village library. Razed in 1965.

Island Park established
Harry Altman opened the Glen Park Casino, transforming a small amusement park with a diner serving dime sandwiches and pitchers of beer for a quarter, to an entertainment venue attracting big bands and numerous star performers.

The Inferno, a popular nightspot in the park, burned on Sept. 23, 1968.

Another nightclub, the Glen Casino, was destroyed on Sept.8, 1973.

C. 1943
Cambria Castle – Dream Island, 175 Oakgrove Drive, built by Ignatz Oechsner who wanted to recreate a castle like the one in the town of his birth in Germany. The castle took 25 years to build and featured a main building, gatehouse, tower, and coach house plus walls and bridges embellishing spring-fed ponds and waterways. Oechsner never got to live in the castle, for he passed away in 1942 before the work was completed.
Daniel and Grace Miller Niederlander buy and restore Williamsville Water Mills.  The Mills were operated by Mrs. Niederlander's family from 1864-1908.
Hutchinson Hose Company moves into new facility at 5566 Main St.
Main Street widened to accommodate traffic and the mature trees which once lined the street were removed.  Homes turned into professional and commercial use.
Amherst Municipal Building and Williamsville Village Hall replace the razed  1910 Village Hall.

The Village of Williamsville and Town of Amherst acquired the 9.7 acre parcel Glen park Amusement Park and Casino for parkland.  Park opens 1977.

2017 Photo

Page created by Chuck LaChiusa in 2017
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