Bicentennial Snapshot # 15 – Erie Canal

We explore the impact that the canal had on the Town of Greece, in the state of New York. In 1817 the idea was formed to create an easy way to get products from Lake Erie, and the other Great Lakes to New York City and back.

According to Wikipedia, The canal was first proposed in the 1780s, then re-proposed in 1807, and the survey was authorized, funded, and executed in 1808. Its construction began in 1817 after proponents of the project gradually wore down its opponents; and it opened on October 26, 1825. The canal has 34 locks with an overall elevation difference of about 565 feet (172 m),[1] starting upstream with Black Rock Lock and ending downstream with the Troy Federal Lock. Both locks are owned by the United States Federal Government[2].

Sea level elevation of the Canal route
Sea level elevation of the Canal route

The Canal Started at Lockport and ended at the Hudson River.

The Erie canal had received some nicknames for the Erie Canal project because of New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, his project received some interesting names, and his political opponents wanted to call the project, here are a few of the names they called the Erie Canal, the first name it was derided as was “Clinton’s Folly”, another one was “Clinton’s Big Ditch”, and “Clinton’s Ditch”. Over time the folks realized that the Erie canal helped bolster the port at New York City with a strong advantage over other port cities on the eastern seaboard and helped make it easier to travel by water than it was to portage the goods to stagecoaches or other modes of early transportation in the interior of the United States.

The Erie Canal was one of the great civil engineering projects of its time, and the cost to build it was $7,143,789. The total length of the Canal is 363 Feet(584 km) and 50 Locks made up the canal to traverse the change in elevations of sea levels to get it from the Hudson River elevation to the elevation of Lake Erie.

Asa Rowe Ad in the Genesee Farmer Monroe Horticultural Garden
Asa Rowe Ad in the Genesee Farmer Monroe Horticultural Garden

If you remember when we told you about Asa Rowe and his Monroe Horticulture Garden and Nursery he took full advantage of the Erie canal for shipping all his plants and seeds to other states, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconson, featured in Bicentennial Snapshot # 13.

Terry Burns

As the canal was dug by hand it required an army of laborers. Some of those laborers, such as Terry Burns, one of the pioneers of Greece, decided to stay after working on the canal, settling in Greece in 1823.

South Greece did have one Lock and it was only used when they did the expansion in 1919 till about 1923 then after it was used as a dry dock for the rest of the 1920s on the canal but later it was decommissioned and blocked off the dock is now just being overgrown with trees and other wild plants.

Erie Canal Completion Medal, 1826 this one is in The Henry Ford Museum
Erie Canal Completion Medal, 1826 this one is in The Henry Ford Museum

During my Visit to the Henry Ford Museum in August, I saw this sitting in the Driving America Exhibit in front of an 1891 Abbot Downing Concord Coach.

The Buffalo Maritime Center is in the process of building a replica of a packet boat at the Longshed at Canalside in Buffalo at the end of the Commerical Slip and they believe it will take at least 2 years to complete the boat project and set sail in 2025 for the 200th anniversary of merging of the waters. In 2025 they will be traveling the Erie Canal and stopping in each community along the Erie canal so people explore the replica, as well as displays about building the boat and how they built it, and the materials they used in the process you can learn more about the project at https://buffalomaritimecenter.org/

1. Finch, Roy G. (1925). The Story of the New York State Canals (PDF). New York State Engineer and Surveyor. Retrieved June 28, 2022.

2. “Locks on the Erie Canal”The Erie Canal. Retrieved June 28, 2022.

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 07: Town of Greece War of 1812 Part 3

This week we conclude our three-part presentation on the attacks along the Greece shores of Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. Today we look at the battle fought on May 15, 1814. What occurred then never made it into any national history books, but is legendary in local history. Initially, 33 men from the volunteer militia responded to the sighting of the British fleet at the mouth of the Genesee River and fooled Commodore Sir James Yeo into thinking that they were “a substantial force” until more regiments could join them to turn away the enemy.

The Valiant 33

We know 17 these names of and members of the Valiant 33:

Isaac Stone, Francis Brown, Elisha Ely, Abelard Reynolds, Hamlet Scranton, Jehiel Barnard, Hervey Ely, Jesse Hawley, Silas O. Smith, Oliver Colby, Sam Latta‡§, George Latta  Thomas King, Bradford King, Zaccheus Colby, Eastman Colby, Frederick Rowe

Note the symbols next to some of the names

  • *- Greece Town Supervisor
  • † – They are the Sons of Giddon King more on King’s Landing is in King’s Landing
  • ‡ – They are Town of Northhampton Supervisors, not Gates or Greece – The town of Gates was formed in 1813 when the town changed its name to Gates, and for more information on the forming of the town of Greece check out the first snapshot of How Greece was formed
  • §- The Latta Family, Sam and George are brothers, born in Walkill, Ulster co., New York. More on the Latta Family in Snapshot #10 and in the publications Eight Miles Along the Shore and the latest book Pioneer Families of Greece Volume 1.
Samuel Latta's War of 1812 Card
Samuel Latta’s War of 1812 Card
Sketch of what appears to be the Frederick Bushnell and James K. Guernsey mercantile business at the mouth of the Genesee River or the

One of the Wearhouse that was hit was near Frederick Bushnell’s and James K. Guernsey’s mercantile business located in the Port.

The war of 1812 did last till February 18th, 1815 but there were so many small battles and wars in this battle, was the British attempting to retake the colony back and make America regret its choice to become its own country on July 4th, 1776.

General Peter Porter arrived that afternoon in time to receive a second flag. The British demanded that they surrender the provisions or they would land an army and 400 Indians. There were now 600 to 800 men on the east and west sides of the river ready to fight. Not knowing how many men were defending Charlotte, Yeo sailed away from the mouth of the Genesee on the morning of May 16, 1814.

General Peter Porter sent a message back to the Governor of New York that day stating:

“We saved the town and our credit by fairly outbullying John Bull.”

General Peter Porter
General Peter Porter
General Peter Porter
Years of service 1812–1815
Rank: Major General
Sir Commodore James Lucas Yeo

“At the Genesee, the enemy had a substantial force.”

Sir James Yeo wrote in his report to his superior officers:

More on the war of 1812 is in the book we published Eight Miles Along the Shore.

Learn more about the Latta Families Samuel Latta and George Latta in Pioneer Families of the Town of Greece Volume 1

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 04: King’s Landing

The Greece Historical Society presents these weekly Bicentennial Snapshots to mark the 200th Anniversary of the founding of the Town of Greece. Each week we feature a particular aspect of Greece, New York history. Each Bicentennial story will be unique in nature and over the course of the 52 episodes, you will learn about the people and events that comprise the vibrant history of Greece from its earliest days to the present.

King’s Landing
By Helen Edson Slocum

This week we consider King’s Landing, the First European Settlement, and Lake Port west of the Genesee River. Natives of Sheffield, Connecticut, in 1797. the King and Granger families established a settlement on the banks of the Genesee River. They cut roads, built a bridge over the ravine, cleared the land, built a wharf and a schooner, sailed to Fort Niagara with their first load of produce and wheat, killed rattlesnakes, and went about their daily lives until the settlement was decimated by malaria or Genesee Fever as it was called then. In 1807, the seven Hanford brothers renewed the King’s Landing settlement and built a mill, hotel, and shipping center. More on Handford’s Tavern involvement in the War of 1812 Part 1.

The King’s Landing Bicentennial Snapshot was compiled by Lee Strauss, and Joseph Vitello, using notes by Helen Edson Slocum, Narrated by Maureen Whalen.

Eight Miles Along the Shore
Eight Miles Along the Shore By Virginia Tomkiewicz and Shirley Cox Husted

More on King’s Landing check out: Eight Miles Along The Shore by Virginia Tomkiewicz and Shirley Cox Husted is the first book you should pick up.

And there is a copy of King’s Landing, A History of the First Settlement west of the Genesee River in the State of New York 1797 by Helen Edson Slocum is available in our reference library for research only.

Don’t forget to, check out the Digital Kiosk inside the Newcomb Museum Wing has a fully interactive exhibit on King’s Landing.

The mission of the Greece Historical Society is to discover, research, and preserve the history of the Town of Greece and to share that history with its residents and the local community through public programs, publications, museum exhibits, and accessibility to its archives and artifacts.

If you like to learn more about the Town of Greece’s history, consider Subscribing to Our YouTube Channel Greece History and when you are there don’t forget to click that bell icon 🔔, you will be notified when new content comes out for the Bicentennial Snapshots or other programs that the Society puts on about the Town of Greece and its past so future generations can understand how the town has taken us on multiple journeys.

As the line in West Ridge Elementary School theme goes, “We all come from different parts of the Greece Community.”

West Ridge Elementary Theme

The Bicentennial Snapshots video is assembled and produced by Pat Worboys, who manages video and Information Technology services for the Greece Historical Society and Museum.

All graphics that are used in the video are either from Public Domain Sources, Museum Collections, and contributions by members of the Greece Historical Society, and credit is given to each source either in the lower third or at the end of the video.

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