Grand Island - LINKS


The text below is excerpted from
Rob Roy Macleod, Cinderella Island, pub. by the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, 1969

Until 1822, this area was all Niagara County. On April 2 of that yeart he Legislature created Erie County out of that portion of Niagara which lies south of Tonawanda Creek.

The act of 1824 which provided for the survey of Grand Island also stated, "That the said Grand Island is hereby annexed to the County of Erie, and shall hereafter constitute a part of the Town of Buffalo, in said county." Thus the Island was officially made part of theUnited States.

East Boston Company

Substantial interests now turned their eyes toward the Island's famous white oak timber. The East Boston Company, a Massachusetts corporation, purchased 16,000 acres on the Island in 1833 for a little over $5.00 an acre. This company had been organized to purchase and improve Noddles Island in Boston harbor. There a shipyard was built and the company immediately turned its attention to the other island, far inland, as a source of timber supply.

Stephen White, owner of Tonawanda Island, was one of the incorporators of the East Boston Company and Daniel Webster was associated with it. Webster was many times a guest in the White mansion on Tonawanda Island, and a street in North Tonawanda is named in his honor.

In 1834 the sawmill town of Whitehaven, named for Mr. White, was established on the East River shore of Grand Island with what was said to be the largest sawmill of that time; 150 feet square and operating 15 gangs of saws. The Island's oak forest was quickly stripped, and by 1836 frames for ships up to 700 tons in size were being prefabricated here and shipped down the Erie Canal to Albany, where they were loaded on sloops and taken down the Hudson and up the coast to Boston harbor. At one time the company operated 50 canal boats and a number of sloops.

So the Island's timber went into the Yankee Clippers as it had once gone into British molasses barrels.

Whitehaven continued as an active town until about 1840, when the saw-mill operations were suspended. Little remains of the original town and the hundreds of feet of docks, but the quaint old Whitehaven cemetery still may be seen on the East River road.

The cut-over land was offered for sale to farmers in 1849 and one year later the sawmill was dismantled.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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