Friday, May 27, 2011

The Buffalo-Grand Island War of 1819

  All but forgotten today is Buffalo's own "Civil War." It was a time 202 years ago that squatters living on Grand Island set themselves up as a sovereign nation, elected their own governor, issued their own currency and stoutly resisted all efforts to bring them into the Union.  
 Grand Island Around 1825
  The State of New York, by a treaty held with the Seneca Indians at Buffalo, September 12, 1815, purchased Grand and several other small islands in the Niagara River. Immediately after it's purchase by the State, numerous squatters flocked onto Grand Island, and built cabins along it's shores on both sides--on the west or Canadian side mostly--for the purpose of cutting, and working into staves, the valuable white-oak timber which abounded there, for the Montreal and the Quebec markets. From those cities the staves were shipped, mainly, to the British West Indies. The staves were taken from Grand Island in scow-boats to Chippewa, then wagoned around the Falls to Lewiston, and there put on board sail vessels for Montreal and Quebec.
Niagara River, Grand Island - 1820
  At the time the State of New York purchased Grand Island, the territorial titles of the lake and river islands between the united States and Canada were undetermined, and so they remained until the year 1822, when all the islands in the Niagara River, excepting Navy Island, were declared by the boundary commissioners, appointed by the governments of the United States and Great Britain, to belong to the United States, and consequently came under the jurisdiction of the State of New York. Up to the year 1819,  the squatters held undisputed possession of the land, amenable to neither New York or Canadian law; setting up a government of there own, wherein they settled their own disputes, if they had any, but defying the authority of either jurisdiction on the opposite shores.
  On one occasion a sheriff constable, armed with a civil process, crossed to the island to arrest one of the squatters, but the rebels put the officer back in his boat, took away his oars and set him adrift in the Niagara River. He might have been carried over the falls, and floated for some distance, until someone, touched by his distress, put out in another boat and took him over to the American shore.
  In April of 1819, New York State decided it was time to clear out this nest of rebels. That month the legislature passed an act requiring them to leave the island. In case they resisted, the governor was empowered to remove them by force. In the fall, Sheriff James Cronk, of this county(then Niagara County), ordered them to leave. Some obeyed, but over many of the cabins smoke curled as saucily as before. 
  That was the last straw for the exasperated officials. A detachment of militia was called out under Lt. Benjamin Hodge of Buffalo. On December 9, 1819, Lt. Hodge, Lt. Stephen Osborne of Clarence and 30 soldiers, took boats from the "Seeley Tavern," about three miles below Black Rock, on the river shore and crossed, arriving at dusk. Early the next morning the detachment marched to the west side of the Island where most of the squatters lived. Lt. Hodge broke his contingent into three bodies; the vanguard to read a New York State proclamation and help clear the houses where the families were ready to leave, the main force to remove bodily all persons and property remaining, and the rear guard to burn the buildings.
  Boats were ready to carry the squatters either to Canada or the United States. All went to Canada with the exception of "Governor" Pendleton Clark. On December 12, the militia party with Sheriff Cronk, found an old Irishman named Denison, who, with the aid of two sons and some helpers, was busy building houses. He claimed the right to remain and told the Sheriff he had discovered the secret of perpetual motion in which he would give the Sheriff a half interest if he were permitted to remain. The sheriff told him to put his "perpetual motion" to use and leave the island at once.  
  Two more days were devoted to the removal of families. In all, some 150 men woman and children were transported to Canada. The last house visited, and the only one on the Eastern shore, was that of "Governor" Clark. He had already placed his effects in a scow preparing for removal. He went to the American side and not long after bought a tract of land at a point where the Erie Canal was expected to enter Tonawanda Creek. Here in time, a village was built, to which he gave his own first name--Pendleton--and where he was long a respected citizen.
  A portion of these squatters, however, immediately returned; but as they ceased cutting timber, and held themselves amenable to the law, they were not again molested by State authority. They rebuilt their cabins, cultivated their little patches of clearing, and remained peaceable citizens, taking a little timber "on the sly," only; keeping a few cattle and pigs, and eking out a poor, but to them, quite satisfactory subsistence. Among them was "perpetual motion" Denison who for fifteen years clung to his secret and insisted on the value of his "motion" with amusing pertinacity.

Other Grand Island Related Stories:
The Buffalo History Gazette: 'Fix'ing the Volstead Act on Grand Island
The Buffalo History Gazette: Noah's Grand Island, A Refuge For His ...
The Buffalo History Gazette: The Busti Avenue Lighthouse

Monday, May 23, 2011

Noah's Grand Island, A Refuge For His People

"The desired spot in the State of New York to which I hereby invite my beloved people throughout the world, in common with those of every religious denomination, is called Grand Island, and on which I shall lay the foundation of a City of Refuge, to be called ARARAT" -  Mordecai Manuel Noah
"Hear, O' Israel, The Lord is our God-The Lord is One.  ARARAT, a City of Refuge for the Jews, founded by
Mordecai Manuel Noah, in the Month of Tizri, September 1825, and in the 50th year of American Independence
  If Major Mordecai M. Noah hadn't suffered rebuffs and financial reverses back in 1825, Grand Island today might be the diplomatic headquarters of the new Jewish State of Israel-and it's City of Ararat a prospering metropolis instead of a myth. Major Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785-1851) was a noted American journalist(National Advocate), playwright, diplomat, New York politician, and Jewish advocate. He decided in 1825 to found on Grand Island a city of refuge for all the opposed members of his race scattered about the world. The story actually began five years earlier when on Monday, January 24, 1820, Noah applied to the State of New York to purchase Grand Island. The Bill was reported out of the house favorably for sale to Noah but nothing came of it. His hopes for the Jewish people, his people, though defeated, never remained down.
 Major Mordecai Manuel Noah
  In 1825 Samuel Leggett of New York City, acting in Major Noah's behalf but using his own money, purchased 2,555 acres of island property-one plot at the north end directly opposite mouth of the Erie Canal, which opened that year-and the other in the center. He had gotton and prepared a stone which was to be "the chief of the corner," with proper inscription and of ample dimensions for the occasion. The stone was obtained from the Cleveland sandstone quarries. The inscription, written by Major Noah, in Hebrew and English, inscribed by Seth Chapin of Buffalo is as follows:
"Hear, O' Israel, The Lord is our God-The Lord is One.  ARARAT , a City of Refuge for the Jews, founded by Mordecai Manuel Noah, in the Month of Tizri, September 1825, and in the 50th year of American Independence."
  "It was intended, pursuant to the public notice, to celebrate the event on the island; and a flagstaff was erected for the Grand Standard of Israel, and other arrangements made; but it was discovered that a sufficient number of boats could not be procured in time to convey all those to the island who were desirous of witnessing the ceremony..." So through the friendly offer of the Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Rev. Addison Searle, the ceremonies were transferred to that building, in Buffalo.
  Festivities opened on September 2nd; "at dawn of day a salute was fired in front of the court house, and from the Terrace facing the lake. At eleven o'clock a parade moved down Main Street from the Court House to St. Paul's with city officials, bands and members of the Masonic order in line." Center of all eyes was Noah himself, a gentleman of forty, proudly erect of carriage, florid of face, keen of eye, sandy-haired who strode just ahead of the rear guard of Royal Arch Masons and Knights Templar. Over his black costume, majestically austere, were thrown rich judicial robes of crimson silk, trimmed with the purity of ermine. From his neck depended a medal of gold glistening from high embossments." The major conducted the ceremony with all the solemnity benefitting the occasion.
   "On arriving at the church door, the troops opened to the right and left and the procession entered the aisles, the band playing the Grand March from Judas Maccabeus... On the communion-table lay the cornerstone. "On the cornerstone lay the silver cups with wine, corn and oil. "The cornerstone, was consecrated during the ceremony in both Hebrew and Episcopal rights.
   Mr. Noah rose and pronounced a discourse, or rather delivered a speech, announcing the re-organization of the Jewish government, and going through a detailed Proclamation of many points of intense interest... "Therefore I, Mordacai Manuel Noah, Citizen of the United States for the City and Kingdom of Tunis, High Sheriff of New York, Counselor at Law, and, by the Grace of God, Governor and Judge of Israel, have issued this proclamation, announcing to the Jews throughout the world, that an asylum is prepared and hereby offered to them, where they can enjoy that peace, comfort, and happiness, which have been denied them through the intolerance and misgovernment of the ages."
  He declared the Jewish nation reestablished under the protection of the laws of the United States, he abolished polygamy among the Jews and he levied a capitalization tax of three Shekels(one dollar) in silver a year upon every Jew throughout the world, to be collected by the treasurers of different congregations, for the purpose of defraying the various expenses of re-organizing the government, of aiding emigrants in the purchase of agricultural implements, providing for their immediate wants and comforts, and assisting families in making their first settlements. The Proclamation continued at length outlining various ukases for the establishment of the Jewish refuge, The City of Ararat.
Eagle Tavern Built in 1825
  Meanwhile hundreds of people lined Niagara's river bank, from Tonawanda down to Buffalo, hoping to catch a glimpse of the colorful ceremonial, which they thought was to be held on Grand Island. Many of them came up in carriages in time to hear the Inaugural speech. After the ceremony, the procession returned to the Lodge, and the Masonic brethren and the Military repaired to the Eagle Tavern and partook of refreshments. The church was filled with ladies, and the whole ceremony was impressive and unique. A grand salute of 24 guns was fired by the Artillery, and the band played a number of patriotic airs.
  The day succeeding the ceremonies,---"the corn and wine and oil." and "Proclamation,"---the newly constituted Judge of Israel issued another address, setting forth the design of the new city, and invoking the aide and countenance of his brethren abroad, in contributing of their substance and influence to it's uprising and population. Thus, with due benediction, ended the ceremonial---the first of it's kind known in this country---of the cornerstone of an anticipated Hebrew, or any other city, being laid on the communion table of a Christian Church!
  The ceremonial, with it's procession, "Masonic and Military," its pomp and magnificence, passed away. Major Noah, a day or two afterwards, departed for his home in New York; The "corner-stone" was taken from the audience chamber of the church, and deposited against it's rear wall, outside; and the great prospective City of Ararat, with it's splendid predictions and promises, vanished, "and, like an insubstantial pageant faded,---left not a rack behind."

Map showing the proposed location of Ararat on the right side of island near river.

   This was in fact the whole affair. The foreign Rabbis denounced Noah and his entire scheme.  He had levied taxes of sundry "shekels" on all Jewish tribes of the world; assumed supreme jurisdiction over their emigration to America, and sought to control their destinies afterwards. But, having no confidence in his plans or financial management, the American Jews, even, repudiated his proceedings; and, after a storm of ridicule heaped upon his presumptuous head, the whole thing died away, and passed among the other thousand-and-one absurdities of other character which had preceded it. Noah, however, with his ever ready wit, and newspaper at hand, replied to all the jeers and flings in good humor, and lost none of the prestige of his character and position, either politically or morally. He was known to be eccentric in many things, and this was put down as the climax of his eccentricities.
  Poor in money, always, he had no influence in financial circles, yet he was a "power" in the State. Some years after his Ararat affair he held the office of judge in one of the criminal city courts of New York, with decided acceptance of the public,---married a wealthy Jewess of high respectability,---reared a family, and died some ten or dozen years ago in New York. (1851)

Post Script: First proposed in 1808, the Erie Canal would connect the Hudson River at Albany, NY., across the land mass, to Buffalo and Lake Erie. From Lake Erie, the Mississippi, the Missouri and other interior rivers offered accessible access to the vastness of the continent. The Canal was highly political, and proved to be highly controversial because of the massive debt and scandals involved in its construction. Officially opening, October 26, 1825, the Canal became an economic boon to New York City. Buffalo, the Canal's Western terminus, prospered mightily.
Mouth of Erie Canal Buffalo NY
   As a newspaper editor of a major American paper, Noah was very aware of the economic possibilities that the Canal could bring. He realized there was a possible link, a possible benefit for his developing idea for a temporary solution to the Jewish problem with Buffalo and the Erie Canal. Opposite Buffalo, in the Niagara River, was a large unpopulated land mass, an island, 17,381 acres about eight miles long six miles wide. Known locally as Grand Island, its ownership had only recently been conceded to New York by the Canadians and the extinguishment of Iroquois land claims.
  Noah recognized the economic possibility of Grand Island and its strategic location in the Niagara River highway of commerce. He also recognized the possibility of populating the Island as a refuge city for the oppressed Jews. On the one hand it was a bold and innovative idea to solve the Jewish problem. On the other hand, if Noah could have managed to gain control of the area, it would have been very good for the country, for the Jews and for himself financially.

Sources used: Buffalo Courier Express 8/26/1952 
Founding of the city Ararat on Grand Island-by Mordecai M. Noah. Read before the society, March 5, 1866. By Hon Lewis F. Allen. (1800-1890)
Print Source - Buffalo, N.Y: Buffalo Historical Society, 1866

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dart Street in Buffalo; So Who Was Dart?

Joseph Dart
  No Buffalonian could be more deserving of having a street named in his honor than the late Joseph Dart, inventor of the grain elevator. For Mr. Dart refused to patent his invention, preferring that it should be his gift to humanity. His spirit of service and humanitarianism would have been remarkable at anytime, but was especially so back in 1842, when his invention brought on the response, "Dart, I am sorry for you; I've been through the mill, it won't do, remember what I say: Irishmen's backs are the cheapest elevators ever built." 
  Dart Street runs from Forest Avenue to Letchworth Street. (See map at bottom) It's godfather, Joseph Dart, was born at Middle Haddam Conn. in 1799. In 1821 he came to Buffalo, then a village with a population of 1,800. He became a partner of Joseph Stocking, in the hat, cap and fur business, and took his work so seriously that he learned to speak the Indian language in order to trade with the braves of the Six Nations. His store on the Southeast corner of Main and Swan Streets, was the first place an Indian visited when he came into town. Chief Red Jacket dropped in frequently. He trusted Dart, enough to leave valuables with him while he did business elsewhere in town. 
Marker on Buffalo River near Erie Basin Marina
   In 1830 he married Dotha Dennison of Norfolk Conn. They were the parents of seven children. They lived on Swan, South Division and Erie Streets successively, when each was in it's heyday. In 1858 Dart bought an ample house on the NE corner of Niagara and Georgia Sts.  For several years, Mr. Dart was a pioneer lumber dealer here. Keenly interested in the progress, culture, and religious life of this city, he was an originator of the Buffalo water works, a founder of the Buffalo Female Academy (Buffalo Seminary), and  a member and loyal supporter of the Buffalo Historical Society. His greatest legacy which eventually was adopted in ports throughout the world and  revolutionized commerce everywhere, was the Grain Elevator.  
The moveable marine leg, a conveyor belt with evenly 
spaced buckets, extends into the hold of a ship to unload 
grain. The main basis of Joseph Darts Invention, a 
moveable leg run by steam with attached storage bins.
Elevator at far right is the Bennett which replaced
the Dart when it Burned in 1863.
  His story In Joseph Dart's own narrative: "It was not until the 1830's that grain in any considerable quantities, began to pass through this place to the markets of the East; and in 1835 the entire annual receipts were only one hundred and twelve thousand bushels. From that time, however, there began to be a very rapid increase, rising from a half a million bushels in 1836, to nearly two million bushels in 1841; an increase of 400% in five years. It seemed to me as I reflected on the amazing extent of the grain producing regions of the Prairie West, and the favorable position of Buffalo for receiving their products, that the eastward movement of grain through this port, would soon exceed anything the boldest imagination had conceived. "It seemed very clear to me that such an increasing trade demanded largely increased facilities for it's accommodation at this point.
  "Already, with near two million bushels received in 1841, unavoidable delays in the transshipment at this port were frequent, and were the occasion of much vexation and expense.  Up to this time, the universal method of transfer was to raise the grain from the hold of the vessel, in barrels, by tackle and block, to weigh with  hopper and scales swung over the hatchway of the canal boat, or carry it into the warehouse in bags or baskets, on men's shoulders. This method, even at this present day(1865), is largely in use in the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston, which illustrates the force of habit; as a small army of men may be seen with baskets on their shoulders, unloading vessels, at immense cost of money and time, to say nothing of pecuniary loss.
  Only ten or fifteen bushels were commonly weighed in a draft; and the most that could be accomplished in a day, with a full set of hands, was to transfer some 1,800 to 2,000 bushels and this only when the weather was fair. On the average one fourth of the time was lost by rain or high winds. In these circumstances, I determined in 1841, to try steam power for the transfer of grain for commercial purposes." 
Buffalo Harbor about 1850 - Dart Elevator Tall
Tower Along Waters Edge, View from Lighthouse
  "Predictions of failure were somewhat freely expressed. I believed however that I could build a warehouse of large capacity, for storage, with an adjustable elevator and conveyors, to be worked by steam; and so arranged as to transfer grain from vessels to boats or bins with cheapness and dispatch. Amid many difficulties, discouragements and delays, I began the work of erecting the building on Buffalo Creek, at the junction of the Evans Ship Canal, in the autumn of 1842.  ...I believe it was the first steam transfer and storage elevator in the world. It was the first successful application of the valuable invention of Oliver Evans to the commercial purpose for which it is now extensively employed. "My experiment from the very first working was a decided and acknowledged success." 
A Modern Marine Leg in Action
  "The storage of the first elevator was 55,000 bushels, it's capacity was trebled three years later. During the twenty two years that have elapsed, the rapidly increasing receipts of grain have made demand for increased facilities for transfer and storage. There are now (1865) twenty seven elevators, besides two floating elevators, with a capacity altogether fully six million bushels, and capable of moving in a single day more than the entire annual receipts in this port at the time my elevator was built." The Dart Elevator burned in 1863 and was rebuilt immediately as the Bennett Elevator.
   Buffalo soon after became the greatest grain transfer port in the world, holding the title for over a hundred years. By 1899 Buffalo had about 52 grain elevators including four floaters and transfer towers and developed into the third largest port in the world in terms of tonnage. It was Darts innovation that spearheaded this revolution of progress in Buffalo from a small village in 1825 to the third largest port in the world in 1899. It's basic principles still in use in Buffalo until 2003 when the remaining elevators were converted to accommodate self-unloading vessels.  
   Joseph Dart died in 1879 at the age of 80. Five of his sons and daughters survived him. His only direct descendants living in Buffalo(1938) are his granddaughter, Mrs. Frederick C. Gratwick (Dotha Dart), and her three sons and two daughters. 

Dart Street - Right Center of Map (click to enlarge)


Monday, May 2, 2011

Fort Sumter Falls - Buffalo Responds 1861

Buffalo Morning Express, Friday April 19, 1861 

Written Expressly for the Express 
I thought of Sumter all the night; 
Of those beleaguered few 
Who stood up nobly in the fight 
For loyalty and freedom's right,  
Against the recreant crew. 

I saw the chain of rebel bands 
Surround that sacred fort; 
I saw five thousand traitor's hands, 
Red with hot hate, their foul demands 
With blustering armies support. 

I saw five thousand on the shore 
Less than one hundred fight! 
I heard a cowards cannon roar, 
And shot and shell relentless pour 
Destruction through the night. 

I saw might vanquish right, and then 
I heard the miscreants brag 
Of "Victory," when those starving men, 
Shut up within a fortressed pen, 
Were forced to drop their flag. 

O, State, which patriots once did claim,  
How is it with thee now? 
False to thy country and thy name; 
Henceforward let the curse of shame 
Be branded on thy brow.                  

           Buffalo Morning Express Saturday April 13, 1861

Fort Sumter Early 1861
    By reference to the telegraphic news, it will be seen that the traitors have at length carried their threats into execution, and have commenced hostilities against the government. Our reports are of course from rebellious sources and may not be reliable. This much, however, is evident. The first blow has been struck by the Secessionists. Their treason has been carried into practical effect. Fort Sumter has been assaulted, and perchance captured, and the gallant band hemmed in there have been cut to pieces by the traitors. We trust, however, that the next intelligence will bring tidings of a more favorable character. We hope to hear that Anderson and his handful of men have been able to hold out and sustain themselves against their assailants until succor could reach them. It now becomes the government to bestir itself, and prepare for the coming storm.  Let it at once make ready to resent this insult to it's dignity and chastise the aggressors with a severity that will vindicate it's power and it's supremacy. There is no middle ground now. War is declared, and it remains for the people to decide whether treason shall prevail or the Government shall triumph. 
The Prayer at Fort Sumter, Dec. 27 1860
   We may next expect to hear that an assault has been made upon Washington, and perhaps that the Government has been driven from the Capitol of the United States...Of this the President is fully advised, and has availed himself of such means of defense as are at his hand. Nothing but a vast superiority of numbers, however can possibly overcome the government troops and surrender the archives of the nation into the hands of traitors.
  But it is no time now for speculation. We have been brought to the sober realities of civil war, and it behooves every citizen to consider well his duty to his Government. Either the federal power or the traitors must triumph in this conflict.  Which shall it be? Shall the flag of treason be covered with victory? Let the people of the Empire State answer for themselves. Let New England speak. Let the Keystone of the Federal Arch put forth her voice. Let the teeming West and Northwest decide whether our Government will be reduced by a band of traitors, and the Union dashed in pieces by these offensive miscreants who have not only defied,  but insulted and assaulted the Federal Government.  There is work for patriotism to perform. There are sacrifices to be made by those who love their country and respect the Union, the Constitution and the laws.    
   The Government must be sustained at all hazards. The Southern braggarts must be made to bite the dust, no matter at what cost.  They have opened the war--let it be pushed upon them until they sue for peace, under the promise of future submission to the Government.  It were far better that the entire population of the rebellious states should be annihilated than that treason should enjoy a single triumph over the federal power. Let the people of the North arouse and go forth in mass in defense and protection of the government.

Buffalo Morning Express Friday May 3, 1861    Help the Volunteers -- Today at 4 p.m. four companies of volunteers leave Buffalo for Elmira. They are no holiday troops, but go for the war under a two years enlistment. Mostly poor men, they leave in great need of the common necessaries of life. Their officers have exhausted their means in providing for temporary wants, and our citizens should turn in today, each with little supply of necessary clothing and comforts, and see that these men go off in a condition credible to the city whose name they are to bear for good or ill.
Sgt. Helmes of the NY 107th
  Supplies of all kinds, shoes, stockings, clothing, blankets etc., may be sent to either of the following gentlemen at the Court Street Armory:  Co. A-- Capt. Drew; Co. B-- Capt. Layton; Co. B-- Capt. Hayward; Co. D-- Capt. Thomas.  Any help for these should be put forward today, prior to 2 or 3 o'clock p.m. They are hard fisted and courageous men, inured to hardships and are sure to make a fighting regiment that will do our city credit in the field...
 Any full volunteer company, inspected by Gen. Scroggs, will be ordered off immediately to Elmira. There is not a doubt about this. Those that seek service can find it in that direction. If the 74th is to stay, let the companies now so well organized and offersered in it be transferred to the Volunteers. 
    Once more we appeal to our citizens to help the volunteers. They need it. Six additional companies of 77 men each, must be organized before Buffalo has a regiment of it's own.  Turn in men and make a hard, tough, fighting regiment, such as Buffalo should furnish!

Buffalo Morning Express May 1861
Upon the hill he turned
To take a last fond look,
Of  the valley and the village church,
And the cottage by the brook;
He listened to the sounds,
So familiar to his ear,
And the soldier leant upon his sword
And brushed away a tear.

Beside the cottage porch
A girl was on her knees,
She held aloft a snowy scarf,
Which fluttered in the breeze;
She breathed a prayer for him-
A prayer he could not hear-
But he paused to bless her, as she knelt,
And wiped away a tear.

He turned and left the spot-
Oh, do not deem him weak,
For dauntless was the soldier's heart,
Though tears were on his cheek,
So watch the foremost rank
In dangers dark career-
Be sure the hand most daring there
Has wiped away a tear.
T.H. Bayly