Monday, December 24, 2012


Continued from November 25, 2012

From Rochester in 1829 we move geographically on to the west. We pass though Batavia, where twenty-year old Elbridge G. Spaulding is beginning to study law in the office of Fitch & Dibble. Spaulding will have a successful legal career and become a mayor of Buffalo.

Back north to the canal again - it had bypassed Batavia - the next stop is the settlement of Lockport. Actually, make that village of Lockport; incorporation had taken place on March 26th. A local legend regarding the name of the town is fun, even if a grain or two of salt is advisable. One faction liked the name Lockborough; the other Lockport. A tavernkeeper named Esek Brown had just returned from Lewiston with a license for his establishment. The group thirst had been growing all day. They were let down when some busybody from the Holland Land Company pointed out the place needed a tavern sign to be in compliance with state law. That did it ! ! Historian Charles A. Kaiser tells us, "Ebenezer Mix arose to the occasion. He took a door-sill Esek had ready for his bar-room door, wrote on it with a coal 'Lockport Hotel, by E. Brown,' stuck it between the projecting ends of the logs of the bar-room, and Lockport Hotel and Lockport village were soon christened by something like immersion."

With the canal climbing sixty feet up the side of the Niagara Escarpment, the southern boundary of the prehistoric Lake Iroquois - larger than Lake Ontario - the double set of locks divided Lockport into two halves. To prevent confusion, a definition of Upper Town and Lower Town is in order. As the canal came in from the southwest the wall of the Niagara Escarpment could be seen ahead. The canal pushed into a long, narrow,, trench-like cul-de-sac, with tough sedimentary dolomite walls towering above on both sides. But this height difference had little to do with the town's neighborhood names; Upper Town is more of a cartographic term, meaning the half northwest of the canal. And, conversely - Lower Town is the half to the canal's southeast. The local population had dropped when many of the laborers moved on, with the upper town losing 400 workers - leaving around 2100 people - and the lower town with about 900.

As rivalry between the two sections increased there were those that were putting their money on the lower town. A group of investors from the Albany area informally known as the Albany Company were pushing the this section. Surveyors began laying out streets, with Market Street paralleling the canal's southeast side, acting as the nucleus of this section. At the far eastern end of the street a brick building was erected that would house the first bank in Niagara County. Located at the corner of Market and Church streets it can still be seen in the present day (2005). A block closer to the flights of locks the aforementioned frame Lockport House hotel was also built in 1829, and until it burned in 1841 was one of the finest stopping places in the western end of the state. The county's first newspaper, the Niagara Democrat had begun in Lewiston in 1821 and then moved here to Lockport the next year. After several transformations it had just now, in 1829, become the Lockport Balance. Apparently it maintained enough balance to remain under the same name for another five years, before the next round of transformations would begin. The first brick mansions in the neighborhood were also going up now; many would follow.

© 2005 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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