Monday, February 18, 2013

1825 - A Memorable Year for Buffalo

  The year 1825 was one of the most memorable of Buffalo's early years. In it occurred notable events, and many evidences that the future of Buffalo was bright. "Since the close of the war, no such eventful twelve-month period had ever passed over the county of Erie." A State census was taken in June, 1825, and showed the population of Erie county then to be 24,316. The village of Buffalo represented 2,412 of that total. How important one of the great events of that year was to Buffalo, is seen in the fact that during the next five years the village quadrupled itself in population. 
  First, was the trial of the three Thayers, accused of the murder of John Love on December 15, 1824, near the hamlet of North Boston, Erie county. John Love, a Scotchman, bachelor, and of some means but of roving disposition, was wont to spend part of the winter in the home of the three Thayer brothers-Nelson, Israel, Jr., and Isaac, young men ranging from twenty-three to nineteen years. They were in debt to Love, who had returned from a summer of work on the lake with considerable cash. They murdered him. 

View of Buffalo From the Light House

   In the latter part of February, two of the brothers were arrested, the third son and also the father then passed under arrest, and all were subsequently tried in Buffalo. The sons eventually confessed; and in due time, on June 7, 1825, were hanged on Niagara Square, Buffalo, "in the presence of the largest throng of people ever, assembled in the city at that time." The father was released on the morning of the execution. It was one of the noted cases of that decade, discussed far and wide throughout the United States, and the execution drew to Buffalo from 20,000 to 30,000 spectators, a greater throng than there were residents in Erie county!
   The opening of the Erie canal and the visit of Governor Clinton to Buffalo occurred on October 25, 1825. It was a great occasion for Buffalo.  Early on the morning of the 26th, the Village of Buffalo was thronged with people from a great range of the surrounding country, who had assembled to witness the departure of the first boat. To guard against the disappointment that might have arisen from accident retarding the work beyond the specified time, arrangements were made for the firing of a grand salute, to be commenced at Buffalo at a given hour and continued to New-York by guns stationed at suitable points along the whole distance. The cannon used were those with which Commodore Perry won the victory of Lake Erie, and by way of a compliment to Lafayette, the chief gunner was a lieutenant who had belonged to the army of Napoleon.
   At about 9 o'clock a procession was formed in front of the Courthouse, in which the various societies of mechanics appeared, the whole preceded by the Buffalo Band and Capt. Rathburn's company of riflemen. The procession moved through the street to the head of the canal, where the boat Seneca Chief, elegantly fitted out, was in waiting. Here the Governor and Lieut. Governor of the State, the New York delegation, and the various committees from different villages, including that of Buffalo, were received on board. Several addresses were made in the open air, and then, everything being in readiness, the signal was given, and the discharge of a thirty-two pounder from the brow of the Terrace announced that the boats were under way. 
Eagle Tavern Tavern and Other Buildings, Main Street - 1825
   There were four boats in all. The Seneca Chief of Buffalo led off in fine style, drawn by four grey horses, fancifully caparisoned, and was followed by the Superior, next to which came the Commodore Perry, a freight boat, and the rear was brought up by the Buffalo of Erie. The whole moved from the dock under a discharge of small arms from the rifle company, with music by the band and loud and reiterated cheers from the throng on shore. The salute of artillery was continued along from gun to gun across the state, in rapid succession, and in eighty minutes came back an answer from Sandy Hook - the quickest telegraphing that had been known up to that time. 
   A public dinner succeeded, and the festivities of the day were closed by a splendid ball at the Eagle Tavern, "where beauty, vieing conspicuously with elegance and wit, contributed to the enlivening enjoyment of the scene." 
The Marquis de La Fayette
   General Lafayette visited Buffalo on June 4, 1825, coming on the steamboat "Superior." He was met by a guard of honor consisting of Captain Vosburgh's cavalry, and Captain Rathbun's Frontier Guard. At Buffalo as well as elsewhere in the nation, he received "an outburst of affection praise and veneration. The village band, two detachments of militia and a committee on arrangements met him at dockside to escort him to the Eagle Tavern. The spacious three story brick structure, located on the west side of Main Street near Court, was renowned as the finest hotel in the western part of the state. An elegant platform had been constructed in front of the hotel and it was here that village officials formally welcomed the newly-arrived traveler. 
Seneca Chief  Red Jacket was there
to greet Lafayette.

Present among the dignitaries were Village President Oliver Forward and his arch-rival from Black Rock, General Peter B. Porter. Political animosities had been set aside for the occasion. A former congressman and a hero of the War of 1812, Porter participated in Buffalo's ceremonies because he was a leading figure in business and society on the Niagara Frontier and had considerable influence at Albany and Washington.

 Forward opened the formalities by recalling Lafayette's voluntary sacrifices in support of liberty and asking him to accept "the humble tribute of our respect, in conjunction with what has been and will continue to be proffered, not only by every citizen of the American nation, but by every friend of liberty and of mankind." 

The venerable Frenchman acknowledged the welcome by requesting village officials to convey "the tribute of my grateful respect to the citizens of Buffalo." At the behest of the Buffalo arrangements committee, General Porter then presented him to the people and a public reception followed. Among those who shook Lafayette's hand was the great Seneca Indian chief Red Jacket whom he had last met forty years before. A civic dinner was held the same evening as was a gala ball where the beautiful and charming Letitia Grayson Porter, member of the influential Breckenridge clan of Kentucky, joined her husband at the head of the reception line to introduce the Marquis to the guests. The next morning at six o'clock, Lafayette's party departed for Black Rock.

 It was in I825, it is stated, that the original Dutch names of streets in "New Amsterdam," or Buffalo, were changed. Main street as far as Church was originally called Willink Avenue, while above Church it was Van Staphorst Avenue; Niagara Street was Schimmelpenninck Avenue; Erie Street was Vollenhoven Avenue; Court street was Cazenove Avenue; Church street was Stadnitski Avenue; and Genesee street was Busti Avenue. The Terrace above Erie Street was called Busti Terrace, and below it Cazenove Terrace. Then many of the Indian street-names were changed, Oneida Street becoming Ellicott; Onondaga becoming Washington; Cayuga becoming Pearl; Tuscarora becoming Franklin; Mississuaga becoming Morgan. Delaware; Huron, Mohawk, Eagle, Swan, and Seneca Streets were so named originally, but Exchange was once called Crow street. It seems, however, that the buildings in streets were not designated by number for some years after street names were changed
Major Mordecai M. Noah
  On September 2nd 1825, Major Mordecai M. Noah was in Buffalo to dedicate the cornerstone that was to mark a place on Grand Island as a Refuge for the Jews of the world, to be called "Ararat'. Being that not enough boats could be secured to transport the great throngs of spectators to Grand Island for the dedication, the ceremony was held in St. Paul's Episcopol Church, with the Rev. Addison Searle, presiding. Festivities opened Sept. 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. 
Cornerstone for the City of ARARAT
   "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... He declared the Jewish nation reestablished under the protection of the laws of the United States. 
  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. A day or two later, everyone, including Noah, had left Buffalo and nothing further happened regarding the establishment of  the Jewish City of Ararat. (See "Noah's Grand Island")

   Buffalo in 1825 was a place of between 400 and 500 buildings and among the inhabitants were:  Four clergymen, seventeen attorneys, nine physicians, also three printers, two bookbinders, four goldsmiths, three tin and coppersmiths, seven blacksmiths, two cabinet makers, three wheelwrights and coach builders, two chair makers, one cooper, three hatters, two tanners, five boot and shoe makers, two painters, four tailors, one tobacco manufacturer. These were all master-tradesmen, some of them employers of many men. For instance, the five boot and shoe makers employed thirty-five men, and the seven blacksmiths seventeen others.
   In addition, there were fifty one carpenters and joiners, nineteen masons and stone cutters, three butchers and one brush maker. Industrially, Buffalo was even then, it would seem, giving evidence of its destiny. There were a far greater number of retail establishments than one would imagine would be, or could be, maintained in a village of 2,400. For example, there were twenty-six dry-goods stores and thirty-six groceries, numbers which seem out of all proportion to the size of the place. There was evidently much outside trade; and possibly some of the shopkeepers were looking forward with great optimism to the future, the waterway from the East being now open. 
  The village could boast of the possession of four newspapers, three printing houses, eleven places of public entertainment, a brewery, a reading room, a public library, a Masonic hall, a theatre, three church edifices, "a young ladies' school, a young gentleman's academy, and four common schools, and several other public buildings, including a brick court house, a very handsome designed building," which however "remains unfinished." The writer adds: "The buildings in the village are principally of wood, and not very compact, with the exception of Willink avenue; this street is filled up and is the most business part of the town.
  So 1825 was a busy year for Buffalo, recovering remarkably from it's ashes just 12 years earlier, already becoming a significant town in young, western America, with the best yet to come.

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