Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why is it called - "MILITARY ROAD"?

    Because it was Built 209 years ago by soldiers.  One of the first roads
 in the country planned for military purposes by the Federal Government

Military Road, The long Arching Line From 
Lewiston to Black Rock

       In planning the national defense after the revolutionary war, the new federal government realized the need of a military highway extending straight through from the top of the Lewiston escarpment to the bluff at Black Rock, on which a large fortification was planned to guard the entrance to the Niagara River. The Military Highway would replace the old Portage Road which followed too closely the winding course of the Niagara River.  
    Thus was Military Road conceived by the federal government, and in 1801, General Moses Porter, commander at Fort Niagara, was ordered to use his troops to build it.  The troops did not like the order, but they went to work with a will, and in 1802, the right of way for the road had been cleared. It was a tremendous undertaking for the soldiers because the road was cut straight through the forests and cleared over treacherous swamp lands.  Bridges were built at Tonawanda, but work ceased on the road surface when the state and federal authorities disagreed.  The argument lasted seven years, and it was not until 1809 that New York State gave $1500 for the project and the road was completed.
    The large fort proposed at Buffalo was never built, although a small one was built in  Black Rock in 1807 and enlarged into Fort Tompkins in August of 1812. It was at the top of the bluff at the bend in Niagara St.  About the only use the "military" road got during the War of 1812, was when the American General McClure fled over it to Buffalo in the winter of 1813, leaving Fort Niagara to take care of itself against the British invasion he had caused by burning Newark (Niagara on The Lake).
      By 1820 Military Road was overgrown with weeds and bushes, and only sections of it were used by local farmers.  It was not until 1832 that the surface of the road was cleared and repaired, and it became a generally used state highway.  Few modern motorists speeding over its smooth surface, know that it was originally hewed out of the forests by soldiers axes, and for specific military purposes.

On center Median, Sheridan Drive at
Military Road.

1010 Niagara Street


J Vacanti said...


terri beck said...

from my upstairs bedroom window I enjoy the breeze that blows in from the west...- I live almost at the corner of Military and Mayville AVe in Tonawanda and, being a historically minded person,(BA in History and Museum Studies)I often think about how much Military Rd actually was used during the War of 1812. I stare out my window a

Justina said...

Do you know if there's any way to find out if there were any deaths (of any of the soldiers in the fatigue parties) associated with the building of this road? My husband's 4th great-grandfather was supposed to have been killed by a falling tree branch in 1802 while clearing a road. I later found out that he was stationed at Old Fort Niagara, but I haven't had any luck in finding any further information (or confirmation). Any ideas, etc., would be more than welcome! Thanks! "-)

Jerry M Malloy said...

I could better answer your question more completely if you contact me by email through my profile page. If you haven't already though, check with Old Fort Niagara if they have military rosters for the fort from that era. Also the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society Research Library is a great place to check with, preferably in person if you can. They might have the info or can tell you directly where to find it. has access to millions of military records dating from the 1780's. Try these to start, & contact me directly.