History of Buffalo, New York

Buffalo, the second largest city in New York after New York City, is one of the world's great ports. Its importance rests on its canal connections to Albany and New York City, and through the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the north Atlantic. Its location at the southern end of the Niagara River also gives it access to the upper Great Lakes.

French trappers and Jesuit missionaries were probably the first white people to visit the future site of Buffalo. In 1679, La Salle built his ship, the Griffon, near the mouth of Cayuga Creek and constructed Fort Conti at the mouth of the Niagara. In 1784, the first white settlers arrived. At that time, Buffalo was still contained within the Phelps-Gorham purchase. Dutch investors, acting through the Holland Land Company, obtained the land in 1797 as part of the Holland purchase. They selected the name New Amsterdam, but the settlers insisted on Buffalo, which was the name adopted when Buffalo was incorporated as a town in 1810.

During the War of 1812, Buffalo was the scene of considerable military activity. In November 1812, American troops attacked Fort Erie on the Canadian side. A British force crossed into New York on July 11, 1813, and fought a skirmish within the present limits of Buffalo. Around New Year's Day, 1814, British, Canadian, and Indian forces attacked Buffalo and burned most of the town in retaliation for similar forays by Americans into Canada.

Following the war, development in Buffalo was rapid. The first Great Lakes steamship, Walk-on-the-Water, was built in Buffalo in 1819. Growth was even more rapid after completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. Buffalo was incorporated as a city in 1825.

Buffalo Mayor Grover Cleveland was elected governor of New York in 1882 and subsequently president of the United States. At the Pan-American exposition of 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz. Teddy Roosevelt was sworn in as the next president at the mansion of his friend, Ansley Wilcox, which is now the Theodore Roosevelt National Historic Site. The revolver used to shoot McKinley is on display at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Museum.

The University of Buffalo is the oldest institution of higher education in Buffalo, having been founded in 1846. Sisters of Charity Hospital, established by six Sisters of Charity in 1848, is the oldest hospital in Buffalo.

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Gangsters and Organized Crime in Buffalo by Michael F. Rizzo.
Stories abound about legendary New York City gangsters like ¬ďLucky¬" Luciano, but Buffalo has housed its fair share of thugs and mobsters too. While ma...
Legends, Lore and Secrets of Western New York by Lorna MacDonald Czarnota.
Like the region¬ís first inhabitants, the ¬ďCat People,¬" who made clothing from the mountain lions and panthers that they hunted, Western New Yorkers st...
Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America by Eric Rauchway.
When President William McKinley was murdered at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on September 6, 1901, Americans were bereaved and fr...
The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century by Scott Miller.
In 1901, as America tallied its gains from a period of unprecedented imperial expansion, an assassin’s bullet shattered the nation’s confidence. The s...
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.
Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination V...
Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation by Peter L. Bernstein.
Begun in 1817 and completed in 1825, the Erie Canal stretches 363 miles across upstate New York from Buffalo on Lake Erie to Albany on the Hudson Rive...
The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915-1930 by Kenneth T. Jackson.
For decades the most frightening example of bigotry and hatred in America, the Ku Klux Klan has usually been seen as a rural and small-town product an...