NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: More stories behind local road names

The 1908 Atlas of Niagara County shows Beach Ridge Road in the town of Pendleton.

 

Continuing on our “road trip” of unusual names for some of the thoroughfares in Niagara County:

Jockey Road in the town of Newfane. It is a short road that runs west to east between Transit and Phillips roads. It is on the 1852 Niagara County map so it predates that year. Bill Clark, Newfane town historian, stated, “I was told that in the days when horses were in common use, they would hold horse races on the road and it became known as Jockey Road, but I have no record or reference.” This would make sense since it is a straight, one mile long road. Bill made another point that I have also found true but frustrating. Many of the early county and town maps do not include road names, so it is sometimes difficult to learn what the roads were originally called and whether they have changed names.

Blank Road/Noodletown Road in the town of Niagara (as well as in part of Lewiston and Wheatfield). Blank Road is off Tuscarora Road, which runs south from Saunders Settlement Road in the town of Lewiston to Lockport Road in the town of Niagara. Blank Road runs east along the Lewiston-Niagara town line. Today it dead ends at the Wheatfield town line but originally the road turned south for a short distance then east again to connect with what is now Cory Drive off Walmore Road. The road is unnamed on the 1852 Niagara County map and on subsequent maps in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On the 1938 Niagara Frontier Planning Map, the eastern (Wheatfield) end of the road was labeled “Noodletown Road.” A plausible explanation for this term was found in the Spring 2016 issue of Der Brief, the newsletter of the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Bergholz. In Low German, the word for potato is “noodle” and there were several potato farms in the area bounded by Saunders Settlement, Tuscarora, Walmore and Lockport roads. It was referred to as “Noodletown Road” well into the 1960s. The earliest reference found to “Blank Road” was in 1944 but it was probably named earlier than that and the two names were used interchangeably. The reason for it being called Blank Road is not clear but today it is a dead end street.

Beach Ridge or Beech Ridge Road in the town of Pendleton. The spelling of this road’s name has changed over the past almost 200 years. On the early maps it is identified as “Beach Ridge Road” but on the 1938 map, and in many historical publications, it is “Beech Ridge Road.” Even newspapers used both spellings, sometimes within the same article. The “ridge” part refers to the elevation of the road, which was caused by the formation of a drumlin, a glacial geologic feature left over from the last ice age. Bear Ridge Road also sits atop a drumlin. But what about “beech” and “beach?” There were probably beech trees along that ridge but not enough to warrant any particular mention in the several histories of Niagara County. Although there is no beach there now, there is evidence that Pendleton was once covered by Ancient Lake Tonawanda and these drumlins may have created short stretches of shoreline in the shallow lake, hence the term “beach.” But did the people know this when they settled there in 1824? Today, it appears that Beach Ridge is the preferred name for this road.

East Avenue in the town of Porter. This name itself is not unusual, but the reason for its name change does have a story behind it. Prior to 1938, this road that connects Youngstown-Lockport Road (Roue 93) with Blairville Road, was called Poverty Road. Although the origin of the name is uncertain, one theory is that a local minister visited the homes on this road asking for contributions for his church and not one household made a donation, so he began referring to it as Poverty Road and the name stuck. What the road was called before that is not known. In 1938, the Porter Town Board changed the name to East Avenue, as it is the first road east of the village of Youngstown. Board documents do not indicate whether the property owners requested the name change or the board decided the name was a poor reflection on the town. The southern end of the road stops at Blairville Road, in the small community of Blairville, whose origins are also a bit murky. Blairville is at the intersection with Creek Road just north of Balmer Road. According to an 1882 article in the Niagara County News, “the capitol of Blairville is the blacksmith shop” of Mr. William Blair. Originally Blairville Road included part of what is now Creek Road but today it is a short span connecting Creek Road with Church Street in Youngstown.

NEXT WEEK: Roads in the towns of Royalton, Somerset, Wheatfield and Wilson.

Ann Marie Linnabery is the assistant director of the History Center of Niagara.

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