DUNKIRK Between 1800 and 1825:

1800 The western end of New York State was surveyed and made into townships six miles square, each containing 64 lots. Because of the irregular shore line of Lake Erie there were six fractions of variable size, in addition to 27 entire townships in what later became known as Chautauqua County. W

1801 General Edward Paine opened a road from Cattaraugus Creek to Chautauqua Creek for the pioneers who were heading for northern Ohio. This road followed an Indian trail which was probably approximately the present location of Route 20. OC

1802 On March 30, Octario [sic] County was divided and Genesee County was established, thus affecting the succession of names by which this area was known. Having been a part of the Town of Northumberland, it was now a part of the Town of Batavia..BP

1804 By an act of the state legislature on April 11, the Town of Batavia was divided into four parts, of which Erie was one and Chautauqua another. The new Chautauqua Town was still a part of the County of Genesee. BP

1804 The area to be known later as the Town of Dunkirk now had its first settlers. Zattu Cushing made the first purchase of the land from the Holland Land Company, buying Lot 29, which comprised the west portion of Point Gratiot, and Lots 28 and 33, lying on both sides of the Canadaway Creek, within the borders of the township. One authority states that he also bought Lot 16, which took in the northern part of Fredonia and the southern part of Dunkirk along what was later Central Avenue. The name of John Williams as a settler in 1804 in the Town of Dunkirk is given in one account.C,D, et al

1805 Seth Cole, who came from Oneida County in February, bought land of Zattu Cushing in June. The price was $3.33 an acre. This land was situated near the mouth of the Canadaway Creek, and he built a log cabin on the east side of the creek. (Later, between 1805 and 1810, he built a second house on the west side of the creek. He took his first crop of grain to Buffalo over the frozen waters of Lake Erie. Mr. Cushing settled on land in the township later known as Pomfret. Other settlers in what was later the Town of Dunkirk, as mentioned by one authority, were Benjamin Barrett, Richard Douglas, and Rufus Langdon.) C,D, et al


1) Timothy Goulding purchased land which included a portion of Point Gratiot, and settled one mile west of the harbor. E, Y, C, et al

2) John Brigham purchased Lot 23, and settled on Brigham Road, which he laid out. This was the second road from Fredonia to the lake, the first one being along the Canadaway Creek. (The third road to be laid out was the one which later became Central Avenue. For several years this was but a narrow crooked path, but was gradually straightened and improved.) E C D et al

3)Walter Brigham was the first white child to be born in what was later the Town of Dunkirk. D, DS

4) The New York State Legislature enacted a law on March 11, establishing Chautauqua/County, originally spelled Chautauque. This was a provisional arrangement, however, and it was not considered a political unit until it should have 500 residents qualified to vote for a member of the Assembly. W, OC. OM

5) A state law which affected the citizens of the county and also of the local settlement was that pertaining to military service, in which all men ages 18 to 45 were enrolled and formed into companies. In this first year of the county’s existence, it raised its first company of militia and training days were established. OM


1) Solomon Chadwick was the first settler at the harbor. He arrived after an overland trip with oxen and sled. Purchasing land for about $200 (about $2.25 per acre), he built a log house near what is now the foot of Dove Street. With a wooded area back of his home and the open harbor at the front, his was a truly pioneer home. (He lived there for about seven years, then sold his land to Daniel Garney who represented a land company, for $2000, and moved away.) C, Y, OM

Luther Goulding came in June, and settled on the shore near where it turns toward Point Gratiot, west of Mr. Chadwick and east of Timothy Goulding. He built a log house, and then put up a frame barn, the first frame building in Dunkirk. (This was standing until 1846.) E,

This marked the settlement of what became the city of Dunkirk, and is the official date for the start of its history.


1) The contract for purchase of land by Mr. Chadwick was dated February 21, 1810, and included 73 acres, all within what was later the second ward of the city. The cost was $164.25. (This clarifies information in 1909, item 1.) C, D, E

2) The first vessel to come into the harbor was brought in by Samuel Perry. It is said that this ship unloaded a barrel of whiskey, which was transported to its destination on a “go-devil” drawn by oxen. A go-devil was made of a section of a tree with forked branches. In the trunk portion a hole was bored. A chain was put through the hole to be a means of pulling the device. The load to be carried was placed on the forked section and fastened there. The go-devil could be drawn over uneven ground or over the roots of trees in the woods. It served as a means of hauling goods, a slow method by the only feasible one for the terrain of that day. ? C, OM

3) Amon Gaylord located on Lake Street east of what was later Central Avenue. OM

4)Seth Cole was engaged to clear land for a road between Dunkirk and Silver Creek at the rate of $10 a mile. Mr. Cole died later in the year. OM


1) Daniel Garnsey first visited the settlement, and was favorably impressed by the possibilities of the harbor for shipping. The harbor was described as a natural indentation consisting of about sixty acres. OC, OM

2) Chautauque County had by this time achieved complete independent status by reason of the increase in population, and was so declared on February 9. The first county legislaturemet in Mayville on October 20. It consisted of two supervisors, one from Chautauque Township and one from Pomfret Township. The county had been known as the Town of Chautauque, County of Genesee, part of the Holland Land Company’s holdings. The first Town of Chautauque meeting had been held in Westfield in 1805.


Residents of the area were involved in the War of 1812 when enemy ships patrolled the lake. A boat with a cargo of salt was anchored overnight in the Canadaway Creek. A British schooner sent men in rowboats to attack it but they were repulsed by a division of the 162nd New York State Militia which had been stationed at Barcelona, a detachment of which was sent to the Canandaway Creek at this time. OM


Daniel Pier took up land and located between Second Street and lake Street. He was a hatter, and brought a box of hats with him. Selling them for $70, he bought land for that amount. (Two years later he sold the land for over $2000.) OM


1) In 1815 or 1816 the Schooner Kingbird began making regular trips between Buffalo and this settlement to bring merchandise. OM

2) At this time six or seven families resided between the points of the harbor, the houses being sparsely scattered. The settlement was not large enough to be called a village, but was known as Chadwick’s Bay. There was a heavy forest back from the harbor, and this region was not suited to clearing and settlement or agriculture because of the boggy condition caused by roots and fallen trees. Deer and wolves were abundant in the area. What later became Central Avenue was a narrow path through the woods. The east-west road from Portland through Dunkirk to Silver Creek, which had been laboriously laid out, was impassable for teams much of the time. C

3) The first shipment of goods to come into the harbor was a stock of goods consigned to some Fredonia merchants, Ralph and Joseph Plumb. It was brought in from the ship on a temporary wharf made of wooden horses and planks. E, C

4) The summer of 1816 was known as the “cold season,” and frost formed during every month of the year. Grain could not be raised because of the cold.


For a short time, the settlement was called Garnsey’s Bay. Mr. Garnsey, of Fredonia, bought Lot 24, which comprised much of what was later known as the second ward. (Mr. Garnsey became the first district attorney for the area, and was later elected the first congressman from Chautauqua County (1824). Later he moved to Michigan.) E, C, OC

Elisha Jenkins, secretary of state for New York State, who was formerly a shipping merchant in Albany, during which time he did business at Dunkerque, France, gave the name Dunkirk to this settlement because of the similarity of its harbor to that of the French port. E, C. et al

A company was formed, known as the Dunkirk Association, consisting of Elisha Jenkins, trustee, Isaiah and John Townsend, DeWitt Clinton, and William Thorn, to buy land. A total of 1008 acres was purchased, including the farms of Solomon Chadwick, Timothy and Luther Goulding, Daniel Pier, and others, as well as land owned by the Holland Land Company. Daniel Garnsey served as agent for this new company and actively promoted its interests. Y, C, et al

As soon as the settlement had acquired its name, the land company surveyed 40 or 50 acres into lots. C, HD

At this time there was considerable speculation as to the future prominence of Dunkirk, since its harbor was the best in a radius of 45 miles. DeWitt Clinton, newly elected governor of the state, was interested, and invested in real estate. Legislation pertaining to the Erie Canal was passed on April 15, and it was thought that the terminus might be Dunkirk. C, D

The first brick house in the county was erected by Sampson Alton on the south side of Front Street near Buffalo Street. It was a two-story structure, the brick being made by Mr. Alton himself. (This house remained standing until 1891.) D, E

The first white child born in the settlement was George Dorance Alton, on September 15. C, E, OM


1) The land company, known as the Dunkirk Association, built a wharf and warehouse at the foot of Center Street, a hotel at the corner of Center and Front Streets, and other buildings, at a cost of $20,000. It placed buoys in the channel leading into the harbor at the west entrance. It also laid out a corduroy road extending south to Fredonia. Y, E, C

2) The Walk-in-the-Water, the first steamboat to navigate the lake, began making regular stops at Dunkirk. It had been launched at Black Rock near Buffalo in that year. The name was a translation of the Indian name for turtle, which navigated with its web-like feet. The ship, of 240 tons, was 135’ long. The first stop in Dunkirk was August 23 following a five-hour trip from Buffalo. The fare was $3 regular, or $1.50 steerage. (Later the ship had a contract to carry U.S. mail. It was wrecked in a storm, October 31, 1821.) C, E, OM

3) At this time a visiting captain reported that Dunkirk consisted of about twenty houses. C, E

4) A store advertisement by N.M. Capron, proprietor, mentioned a great variety of merchandise for sale to the residents of the settlement. OM

5) A postoffice [sic] was established on February 5, but no postmaster was appointed. It was located on the north side of Front Street near Center Street.

6) Governor DeWitt Clinton was responsible for the naming of Dunkirk streets, using birds, beasts, and fish. (The exact date of the selection of these names is not known. Mr. Clinton died in 1828.)


1) The first marriage in Dunkirk was that of Adam Fink, who had settled here in 1818. He cleared land on the east side of Center street between Second and Third Streets, and built a shop on the northeast corner of Third Street. He was an axe-maker, and made the first cast steel-edged tool in the county. Later, in 1829?, Mr. Fink was postmaster of Dunkirk under President Jackson.) E, C, OM

2) The Dunkirk Association made extensive improvements in the harbor for the use of larger ships.

3) John Beggs, of the merchandising firm of Beggs & Lynde, called “The Dunkirk Store”, came here from Scotland. (He later built the Buffalo Street dock.)


1) Dr. Ezra Williams was the first physician to practice in Dunkirk. He came here in 1818(?) (He became postmaster of Dunkirk in 1825 under President John Quincy Adams. Or 1822? under President Monroe?) OC

2) The road south from Dunkirk (later Central Avenue) was still lined with deep forests from Third Street south to Fredonia. Much of the time teams had to go along the road west to the Canadaway Creek and south on that road. OM

3) Charles Beggs became the first druggist in the settlement. Date? [sic] DS


The decision of New York State in favor of Buffalo as the terminus for the Erie Canal brought about a decline in prosperity for Dunkirk. OM


1) Between 1823 and 1825 the community suffered from a depression, and the population decreased, so that in 1825 there were but fifty inhabitants. C, Y

2) The Erie Canal was completed, with its terminus at Buffalo, thus affecting the future of Dunkirk. OW

3) Walter Smith, an enterprising merchant from Fredonia, became interested in Dunkirk, and bought the undivided half of the property of the Dunkirk Association, with its improvements, for $10,000. He began a development project in the community. C, Y

4) General Lafayette came to Fredonia on June 4, attended a banquet there, and then was brought to Dunkirk to embark on the brig Superior for the voyage to Buffalo. A military salute was accorded him as the boat left the harbor. In preparation for his trip from Fredonia to Dunkirk, the road which was the extension of Center Street and then called the Fredonia Road, was improved. C, et al

5) On December 24, a company of surveyors arrived at Dunkirk, having gone over a possible route for a state road from the Hudson River. C, et al