In 1904 county historian Obed Edson wrote this history of the city of Dunkirk (click link below), and it as served well as the basis of much research by others who have followed him. Edson’s life has been chronicled in the Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Chautauqua County, New York, published in 1891. Born in Sinclairville, N.Y., on February 18, 1832, Edson was educated in the common schools of Fredonia and Fredonia academy, then studied the law in the office of Hon. E.H. Sears beginning in 1851, followed by attending Albany Law university in 1853. He began to practice law with Judge E. F. Warren, but also worked as a civil engineer. At the early age of eighteen, he served as chairman on the New York & Erie Railroad (the year before that railroad was completed at its terminus in Dunkirk). He surveyed several railroads in New York and Pennsylvania, and ran the leading line of the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley & Pittsburgh railroad in 1867.  In 1874 he was elected to the New York Assembly  from Chautauqua County, and contributed a number of historical articles to local newspapers and magazines. He was one of the founders of the Chautauqua County Historical Society, and was the author of several local histories, including a portion of Young’s History of Chautauqua County.

earlyhistoryofdunkirk    is a chapter that appeared in History of Chautauqua County, published in 1904, with an earlier version of the volume having been published in 1894.

You may read more about this important historian at My Genealogy Hound, a a free service of Hearthstone Legacy Publications.  Obed Edson biography


1805:  First settler, Seth Cole and his wife Celia Cole, arrive on shore of Canadaway Creek.

1808   Timothy Goulding settled within present city limits, the first settler to do so.

1809:  Solomon Chadwick becomes the first settler ion the harbor itself.

1810:  Samuel Perry brought the first vessel into the Dunkirk harbor,

1817   Sampson Alton constructed the first brick home in Dunkirk and Chautauqua County.

1818:  The first post office was established.

1818:  The first steamboat on the Great Lakes, the “Walk in Water” entered the harbor.

1818:  Businessman Elisha Jenckens suggested the settlement be named Dunkirk, after the harbor in Dunkerque, France.

1819:  John Beggs, a Scotsman immigrant, opened the first store of which we have record.

1819:  Adam Fink and Elizabeth Bond became the first couple married in the county.

1820:  Ezra Williams became the first permanent physician in Dunkirk.

1826:  The first lighthouse was built in Dunkirk.

1827:  The first school was established.

1827:  Miss Mary Ann Drake was appointed the first teacher in Dunkirk.

1830:  The First Baptist Church became the first church in Dunkirk.

1832:  The first wheat was ground at Walter Smith’s grist mill.

1835:  The Chautauqua Whig was established as Dunkirk’s first newspaper.

1837:   The settlement was incorporated as village.

1844:  The first bank was established.

1850:  H.G. Brooks brought the first locomotive in the county to the harbor by boat. It was sailed to Dunkirk by ship.

1851:  The Erie Railroad arrived in Dunkirk, being the longest trunk line railroad in the world at that time. The line connected the Great Lakes to the sea.

1852: Charles Henry Chapman of Dunkirk formally organized the first ast band in the community.

1852: The Buffalo and Erie lines was completed through Dunkirk. It would later become the New York Central.

1853:  The Dunkirk fire department was organized.

1858:  The Dunkirk Union Free School was incorporated by an act of the New York State Assembly.

1859:  The Town of Dunkirk was established from the Town of Pomfret.

1866:  The first trolley, horse drawn, was established between Dunkirk and Fredonia, a first in the country.

1867:   Gas lights were introduced for street lighting in Dunkirk.

1867:   The Nelson Opera House was constructed on Center Street (Central Avenue).

1868:   The Erie Railroad closed the Erie repair shops in Dunkirk.

1869:   Horatio G. Brooks founded the Brooks Locomotive works at the former Erie repair shops.

1872:   The first water system was constructed in Dunkirk,.

1880:   The police department was organized.

1880:   Dunkirk was chartered as the first city in the county.

1881:   The Chautauqua County Fair was established in Dunkirk.

1882:   The Dunkirk Evening Observer published its first issue.

1882:   The Nickle Plate Railroad opened for business.

1888:   Electric lights were used in the city for the first time.

1898:   The first Hospital was established in Dunkirk, the former mansion of Horatio Brooks.

1898:   The Dunkirk and Fredonia Telephone Company was organized.

1899:   Brooks Memorial Hospital received its first patient.

1899:   The Dunkirk Free Library was opened to the public in a section of the Brooks Mansion/Brooks Memorial Hospital.

1906:  The Murray Hose Company was estblished.

1920:  Dunkirk was the first community to have dial telephone offered by Bell Telephone.

1928:  The first talking movie was shown in Dunkirk.

1946:  Dunkirk to Dunkerque Day was held on November 26, 1946. World attention was called to this act of charity and thanksgiving.

1948: The first radio station, WFCB, was established in Dunkirk.