Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

November 23, 2013

NIAGARA DISCOVERIES:

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The first roads in Niagara County, as in most areas, started out as Native American trails traversing the county north to south, east to west, and diagonally from one corner to the other. Worn footpaths only a few feet wide served the first settlers who ventured into the area prior to 1808 when this area was still part of Genesee County. 

The War of 1812 caused a temporary interruption in the development of settlements but by 1817, when it was announced where the Erie Canal would be passing through, settlers from the east began pouring in. With more people, the poor road conditions needed to be addressed. The New York Legislature passed laws to fund road building and maintenance across the state. Roads were widened and improved, inns and taverns sprang up at crossroads, and citizens were asked to assist with maintaining the roads in their vicinity. Roads became essential for transporting products to the newly opened Erie Canal.

One of the oldest and most traveled roads in Niagara County was Ridge Road, present day Route 104. Beginning in the central part of the state, Ridge Road traveled west along the sand ridge shoreline of ancient Lake Iroquois (larger predecessor of Lake Ontario) to Lewiston. Although used as a woodland path for years, this route was officially declared a road in 1816. 

For most of the way, Ridge Road parallels the Niagara Escarpment, which lies to the south. This road was popular with travelers and soon wagons and stagecoaches were trundling along. Where Ridge Road intersected with north/south roads, ambitious entrepreneurs set up establishments to accommodate locals and guests. 

Every few miles you could find a place of respite along Ridge Road. Some of the more well-known establishments were located at “corners.” Some of these early taverns still survive including Warren’s, Howell’s and Dickerson’s. Some have now been turned into private homes. Others were lost to fire, neglect or new development. The following is a list of some of the junctions along Ridge Road that were once bustling stops on the overland route to the west.

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