The image is a painting commissioned by the Historical Society of Dunkirk. It depicts a seminal event in the history of the city, namely the completion of the railroad line from Piermont, NY, to Dunkirk and arrival of the first train to the city. The painting by William Burt hangs in Dunkirk's City Hall.

In 1904 county historian Obed Edson wrote his history of the city of Dunkirk (click “early history of dunkirk” link below), and it has served well as the basis of much research by others who have followed him as historians. 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 the 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 practicing law with Judge E. F. Warren, but also worked as a civil engineer. At the early age of eighteen, he served as chairman of 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.

The   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 by clicking here:  Obed Edson biography


1805:  First settler of the future Dunkirk, Seth Cole and his wife Celia Cole arrived on shore of Canadaway Creek.

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

1809:  Solomon Chadwick became the first settler on 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, due to its resemblance to 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 brass band in the community.

1852:  The Buffalo and Erie line 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 county.

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 (Jamestown would follow in 1886).

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, the Brooks Memorial Hospital, was established in Dunkirk, in the former mansion of Horatio G. 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 established.

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.

1950: The Niagara Mohawk Steam Electric Plant was constructed.

1971: The Ralston Purina Company opened its plant.

1974: The Native American sculpture by Peter Toth, Hungarian-born sculptor,  was dedicated at Washington Park on July 4. It now stands in Memorial Park, Rt. 5.

Top, left: The section from an 1836 map that now hangs in the museum shows the village of Dunkirk’s proposed street layout; in that year only 15 streets actually existed. The map was salvaged from the fire of 1924 that destroyed the old city hall.
Bottom, left: The village’s first city hall was the armory, constructed in 1858 as a sign of the military importance of the area due to its position on the lake and its harbor. During the Civil War Companies D and E, and later Company H of the 72nd Regiment, were formed here.
Bottom, right:: Sampson Alton built the first brick house in the village in 1817 on Front Street (now Lake Shore Drive), the bricks made from clay from the harbor. George A.H. Eggers sketched the building some years later. The house was located near what is now Washington Avenue).