3755 Tonawanda Creek Road | Amherst, NY 14228 | Directions

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Friday, July 26th, 2013

Henry Smith and his family emigrated from Germany to Amherst in the 1830s.  Thanks to the Erie Canal, they were able to avoid trekking through forests and insect ridden swamps to get there.  In 1838, he purchased 25 acres of land on his property.  Today, the Smith Log Cabin is one of the buildings in our historic village.
Though Smith could not have known it at the time, he was one of the first of many who eventually reaped the benefits of Tonawanda’s western section of the Erie Canal.
The canal provided not only a great travel service for immigrants, but also created a magnificent port for traders.  The canal’s lock allowed ships easy, safe access to both the Niagara River and Tonawanda Harbor.  In the early 1830s, Stephen White of the East Boston Timber Company took note of these advantages and insisted his ships dock in Tonawanda, instead of Buffalo.  Though his company eventually folded, White’s action set a precedent for others to follow.
In 1856, the construction group Burrowes, Lane, and Company began building docks and wharves for vessels that traveled along Lake Erie and through the Erie Canal.  They also touted Tonawanda Harbor as one of the best inland ports in the country and claimed it held unparalleled safety, depth, and capacity for all ships.  The result? Over the following three decades, over sixty businesses chose to trade their merchandise at Tonawanda Harbor, and the town became known as The Lumber Capital of the World.  Additionally, more families traveled on boats along the Erie Canal, as the Smith family had, and used the great surplus of lumber to construct their new homes in Western New York.


Smith Log House

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