A HISTORY of
the TOWN of AMHERST, NEW YORK
SUE MILLER YOUNG
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The Amherst Area Prior to 1772
HISTORY ON THE ROCKS
earliest known history of life in Amherst NY was written, over 300,000,000 years
ago, during the Age of Invertebrates in the Silurian periods.
found in sedimentary rocks of Western New York give evidence that Crinoids,
commonly called “Sea Lilies” (still
living in the Indian Ocean) and “Eurypterus” (which are closely related to
scorpions and sometimes grew to six feet in length) lived in the warm shallow
seas covering the area at the time.
in the Amherst area was exposed in the 19th century as quarries were
developed to supply limestone for the construction of mills, homes, bridges and
for ballast for railroads and canals.
1893, two perfectly matching imprints of the “Eurypterus” about a foot long.
And numerous imprints of the Crinoids were found in the limestone of the Miller
Quarry between Spring Street and Glen Avenue.
more than a hundred years, pure limestone was quarried in abundance from a ledge
that extends from east to west throughout the southern part of the town on a
line just north of the present Main Street.
(It is interesting to note that practically every street, running north
from Main Street throughout Amherst today, runs downhill from this ledge.)
Beneath this ledge, a larger layer of hydraulic limestone was also
discovered, extensively quarried and burned for “water lime,” as cement was
of this cement was to find its way to the breakwater in Buffalo Harbor and to
the first locks in the Erie Canal at Lockport.
LAND OF INDIAN TRAILS
discovered, what is now the areas of Erie and Niagara Counties was the home of
peaceful Algonquin Indians including tribes of the Hurons, Oneidas and Onandagas.
In the early 17th century they fled northward before the
ferocious Iroquois, including the Cayugas, Senecas, Neuters and Eries.
Neuters and Eries refused to join the great Iroquois Confederacy and both were
annihilated in 1654-50. For more
than 200 years the fierce Iroquois occupied the area and their hunting grounds
extended to the Hudson River on the east and from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania
on the south.
The main east-west trail, starting at Cold Springs at
Buffalo Creek passed through what is now Amherst, Clarence and Akron to the
Genesee River at Avon. Cayuga Road
was one of the main trails leading to the villages of the south, while other
trails through the Amherst area led north to Fort Niagara.
Street was known as the Great Iroquois Trail.
In Indian Language, Ellicott Creek was
“Level Heavens,” Williamsville was “Many Falls”; Buffalo-”The Place of
the Basswoods”; Cayuga Road, “Through the Oak Opening” and Tonawanda Creek
evolved from “Tonewanta.”
Archeological survey, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute in 1940 uncovered a
line of earthworks along a limestone ledge just east of Amherst and a “bone
pit” containing nearly four hundred skeletons, fragments of pottery, flint
clippings and arrows northeast of Williamsville.
Indian skeletons were found on the Lloyd Bissell property at 80 Cayuga Rd when
excavation was made for an addition tot eh home. Discovered with bent knees, in the traditional Indian burial
custom, the skeletons have been preserved by the Buffalo Historical Museum.
arrowheads made from the lasting flint have been found in excavations and
gardens of the town. The Joseph A.
Smith collection, found on the ledge and in the quarries on Youngs Road near the
Country Club of Buffalo, includes stone implements used for chipping and
there is no evidence of Indian villages in Amherst, folklore tells of Indians
passing the homes of white men on Beach Road and seeking shelter for the night
at a house opposite the Catholic church in Williamsville, and of Indians selling
blankets in the northern part of Amherst. This
of course, was many years after the Iroquois expressed their resentment by
tomahawk, stake and torture of the white man’s encroachment upon lands which
had been Iroquois for many generations- even after the despicable white leaders
Brant, Butler and Johnson, with their marauding bands of Senecas were guilty of
unspeakable cruelties to any white man who fell into their bloody hands.
a Seneca Indian Chief, because of his knowledge of trails in the area, was to
play an important role in the peaceful development of commerce in Amherst before
the year of 1800.
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