DUNKIRK Between 1826 and 1849:


1) A mercantile establishment was formed by Walter Smith and George French.Mr. Smith promoted work in the harbor and other civic improvements. Y, C

(2) The Chautauque Gazette, the first newspaper published in the county, which had been established in January of 1817 in Fredonia, united with the People’s Gazette, and was moved to Dunkirk by Mr. Hull. It remained in this community for only a few months, when it was moved to Westfield. C, W

(3) A brick schoolhouse was commenced, located on the south side of Third Street east of Center Street. There had been a small schoolhouse on the north side of Third Street west of Center Street, but the date of the building and the length of time it stood there are not known, and it was later converted into aresidence. HD et al

4) The United States government appropriated funds for the building of a lighthouse at Point Gratiot.

5) The Population was estimated as 100.


1) The brick schoolhouse on the south side of East Third Street was completed and began playing a large part in the activities of the community. It was on land later opened as Lynx Street. It was 30’ x 40’, with two stories and a cupola. It was called the Free School of Dunkirk. It received a small amount of state aid. The payment by parents of a sum per pupil days of attendance, called the “rate bill”, financed the greater part of the cost. Elementary subjects only, [sic] were taught. H, C, OM

2) As the result of an appropriation of $4000 by Congress, the building of the lighthouse, started in 1826, was completed in 1827, and improvements were made in the harbor. This was the first government appropriation for work in the harbor. The lighthouse location was listed as 42deg32’ latitude, and 79deg59’ longitude. Whale-oil lamps, set in polished metal reflectors, were installed. The tower was 50 feet in height, measured from the ground level. A keeper’s house was provided. (Part of lighthouse?—handwritten note) The area was called Lighthouse Point. C, W, GB, OM

3) The brick for the lighthouse was made by Sampson Alton from clay found in the vicinity of the lagoon, the area near Front Street and Brigham Road. The lantern was made in the blacksmith shop of Adam Fink at the northeast corner of Center and Third Streets, where he had cleared the woods from his property when he settled here. (handwritten note here, partially illegible; asks for date and mentions natural gas). OM


1) Congress appropriated the sum of $3000 for a breakwater in Dunkirk Harbor. W

(u) The community had one constable, and a jail was established on East Third Street. (u)


1) Between 1825 and 1830 the population of the community increased from 50 to over 300. C, E, D

2) The First Baptist Church was organized May 5, with 22 members, thus being the first officially rganized church in the community. C, Y, E

3) The First Presbyterian Church was organized May 22. There were ten members, six of whom had attended the Fredonia Presbyterian Church. The first pastor, who came in September, was the Rev. Timothy Stillman. He received a yearly salary of $400. C, E

4) The Baptists and Presbyterians joined in the project of completing the second story of the brick school house on Third Street, so that they might use it for their respective services. (Y says 1831.) HD


1) Walter Smith spent the greater part of the winter of 1831-1832 in Albany, promoting the interests of Dunkirk as a terminus for a railroad. The railroad was chartered April 24, under the title “New York and Erie Railroad” [sic] The idea of a railroad had come about when some authorities felt that there were too many obstacles to the building of a canal. A New York City man and a group of Jamestown people first advocated the building of a railroad, to run from New York through the southern tier of counties and through the village of Jamestown, thence to Lake Erie. The meeting to encourage this plan had been held in Jamestown on September 20, 1831. C, D, et al

2) A mill race, three miles long, was constructed so that the community could have saw and grist mills. It ran from the Canadaway Creek along the southeast side of what became Willow Road, and joined Crooked Brook at what was later Seventh Street. At Sixth Street a dam and spillway were built. The race then continued to an area between Robin and Pike Streets and on and on to Mullett, where it entered the lake. The grist mill, called “Dunkirk Mill”, was built at Third Street between Robin and Pike. The first meal was ground on December 21. A sawmill stood near Plover and Sixth, and another was constructed on Mullett close to the lake. The power for the latter was obtained from a catch basin where a dam held back water from the race. OM


1) A preliminary survey for the New York & Erie Railroad was made, and the required stock was subscribed. C

2) A Methodist class is supposed to have been started in 1833, but definite records are not available. Some meetings may have been held as early as 1830. The members met at various homes at first. Later

the schoolhouse was used for services. (?), C, M

3) An important transaction took place at this time when Walter Smith sold his half interest in the Dunkirk Association to a group of New York City men, and purchased of the company its other half of the property. Y, C, HD


1) The survey for the New York & Erie Railroad was completed. C, OW

2) The first breakwall was built in the harbor. DE

3) The Chautauque Whig commenced publication in August, becoming Dunkirk’s first permanent newspaper. It was owned by Thompson and Carpenter. W, E, C, CG


1) Census figures at this time indicated a population of 628. Fredonia was listed as having 915. E, C

The Presbyterian Church started building a wooden structure at the corner of Third and Center Streets, facing Third Street a little to the east of Center. The basement was completed and used for services. E.C.

2) The original breakwall in the harbor was washed away. DE

3) Walter Smith laid the foundations for Loder House, which was to be a brick building, at the west side of Center Street and south side of Third Street. It was intended as a hotel, and was the largest structure so far attempted in the community. With a 60’ frontage, it was planned to have four stories with skylight in the cupola. Of native brick, it had sandstone pillars at the front. It was sixty feet square. There were no other buildings in that block as far as Fourth Street at that time. The hotel was named for Benjamin Loder, the president of the New York & Erie Railroad. (The hotel was not completed until about 1850. The land was originally valued at $20,000. During a period of speculation it changed hands for $70,000.) C, OM

4) The Chautauque Whig changed its name to Dunkirk Beacon.


1) The Presbyterian church building was completed and dedicated in June. Y

2) At the presidential election, in which Martin Van Buren won, there were 193 votes cast in which [sic] later became the city and town of Dunkirk. Of these, 164 were Whig and 29 Democrat. C

3) Progress was made on the Loder House, but at the end of the year it was still far from completed. It was a three-story building, constructed so that light from the cupola shone down to light all three floors. E, OM

4) A petition to the state legislature was signed by 119 persons, asking that the community be incorporated as a village. OM


1) The winter of 1836-1837 was very severe. The schooner Western Trader was frozen in the ice outside the harbor and not free until nearly June. E

2) Dunkirk, now a settlement of 700 people, was granted a charter by the state, and incorporated as a village on May 15. It was to be governed by a village president and a board of trustees. A meeting of citizens was held on June 4, when the following trustees were selected: Walter Smith, Ernest Mullett, Noah Draper, David McDonald, Edward Keyes, David Gould, and Adam Fink. The trustees then met on July 12 and chose Mr. Smith as village president, and William L. Carpenter as village clerk. A map of the village, known as the Doughty map, dated November 18, showed fifteen streets. They were: Front, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Robin, Dove, Eagle, Swan, Center, Buffalo, Elk, Deer, and Lion. A previous map had been made by D. H. Burr. W, Y, C, OM, et al

3) The Dunkirk Academy was incorporated on May 1. It had been proposed in 1835. It was established on the second floor of the brick schoolhouse, which was no longer being used by the Baptists and Presbyterians for services. The lower grades continued using the first floor of the building. Tuition rates were set up for the academy pupils. The school had a bell in its cupola, which, besides summoning the pupils to their classes, sounded the fire alarm and performed various other functions for the village. W, E, C, HD, OM

4) The Dunkirk Marine Insurance Company was incorporated by the legislature, which empowered it to effect insurance upon vessels and goods on the navigable waters in the vicinity. W, E, C

5) A national financial crisis occurred at this time, which severely affected Dunkirk. Because of plans for the railroad, there had been much buying of property, and Dunkirk was hard hit by the crisis. (From 1837 until 1851 the village was a place of dilapidated houses and broken-down fences, and it lost about three-fourths of its population.) E, C, W, D

6) The Chautauqua County Agricultural Association was organized on January 4, following an October, 1836, planning meeting.


1) The property of the Dunkirk Association was divided into shares among the owners. (?), C

2) Resolutions were passed regarding the setting aside of land for a public square, a hotel, and a park at Point Gratiot (Washington Park? High School campus?) (?), C,OM

3) The ship Washington burned, with a loss of fifty lives, on June 14, off the shore between Silver Creek and Dunkirk.(?),M,M

4) Legal incorporation of the Methodist Church was effected July 23. The incorporation was for the Wesleyan Society of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Dunkirk. A class had been in existence since 1833. Services had been held in the school on East Third Street. It was first called a mission church, included with Fredonia and Portland as one appointment. This area was part of the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. (Later the services were held in Concert Hall on Center Street and still later in the second floor rooms of Parson’s Wagon Shop on the north side of East Third Street east of Center Street. See 1853 for first permanent building.) (??)

5) There was a forest fire in the area just south of Fifth Street, which endangered some of the houses of the village. The smoke caused such darkness that the householders had to have candles lighted for two days. (??)

6) As a result of the survey made in 1837, Congress declared that the light at Point Gratiot should be discontinued. A subsequent recommendation led to restoration of this service. (??)

The roadbed for the New York & Erie Railroad was started, the route beginning at Third and Lion Streets and following what was later Railroad Avenue, going in a southeasterly direction out of the village. The first contract called for ten miles of clearing and grading. (The street was first known as the New York & Erie Railroad Avenue, until the city obtained the property after the company relocated its route for the railroad.)


1) A notice in the Dunkirk Beacon gave the starting date for classes of the Academy, with the tuition rates listed: Classical studies and French Language, $5 per term; Common Branches of education, $4 per term; Primary Department, $2 per term. The Free School had a rate fee for all citizens. The school year had three terms. (??)

2) The firm of Smith & Abell was formed by Walter Smith and his brother-in-law, Thomas B. Abell. It was a storage, forwarding, and commission business.


The steamboat Erie burned near Dunkirk on August 9. The number of persons lost was variously reported as 171, 215, or about 300. Many of these were buried in the block set aside for school purposes and later occupied by the new Dunkirk Academy. E, C. OC

A dock, extending out from the foot of Lion Street and one thousand feet long, was built. There was a depth of 12 feet of water for boat dockage. The cost was $25,000. This was intended as the link between the New York & Erie Railroad and the lake shipping. O, M

The Dunkirk Grist Mill was purchased and reopened by Horace Comstock. OM


Dunkirk’s first bank, a bank of issue, was established by A.J. Webb. It was known as the Dunkirk Bank. It issued privately-printed currency containing Webb’s signature. The printing was done in New York City. E, C, OM

A terrific storm occurred in October. The Center and Buffalo Street wharves were washed away,

merchandise scattered along the shore, and the water extended up Buffalo Street where it washed several buildings from their foundations. Loss was estimated to total $50,000 to $75,000. E, C, OM


1) A unique entertainment was provided for a group of Dunkirk people on July 4. Flatcars were taken to the end of the trackage which had been laid out along Railroad Avenue for the New York & Erie Railroad, extending from the village for six or eight miles. The cars were then allowed to run downgrade into town, thus giving many people their first ride on a railroad line. (These tracks were later abandoned, since the Erie route was established in a different location. At that time there was not a street there but merely a roadbed. The railroad officials traded it with to, the city for land on East Third Street where the railroad was later located.) OM


1) About 1848 (or 1850?) a candle-making factory was established by Wilson and Harmon Camp, who had been in business in Sinclairville. It was placed at the water’s edge at the foot of Elk Street. C, OC

2) The main breakwater in the harbor was demolished. GB

3) As there were then a number of Roman Catholic families in the village, a Catholic priest came to visit them and see to their spiritual welfare. The first mass was held in the home of the O’Neil family at the northwest corner of Front and Lion Streets. OM

4) A report to the Town Superintendent of Common Schools of School District No. 9 (the Dunkirk school on East Third Street) showed 171 children between the ages of 5 and 16 receiving instruction, and 422 volumes in the district library.