19th Century Monographs on the History of Western New York

"To one whose own neighborhood has been the theater of events prominent in the nation's annals, the history of those events is the most interesting of all history..."
History of Niagara County, N.Y., Preface

This collection includes two published books from the 19th century relating to regional history in Western New York that are held in the Library at Niagara University:

History of Niagara County, N.Y., with illustrations descriptive of its scenery, private residences, public buildings, fine blocks and important manufactories and portraits of old pioneers and prominent residents was published in 1878 by Sanford & Co. This book gives the reader a sense of the struggles the pioneers had while creating farmland, the War of 1812, relations with Native American tribes, detailed descriptions of each town in Niagara County, as well as the founding of Niagara University. History of Niagara County, N.Y. is also filled with early etchings of some of the orchards and farms in the area.

History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County ; With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers In Two Volumes. Volume 1, History of Erie County was published in 1884. Edited by H. Perry Smith, this book begins with a description of Erie County in 1620 of French and Dutch colonial settlers, Native American tribes, involvement in The Civil War (called The Union War in this book), railroad and other industrial and agricultural histories, as well as detailed descriptions of the histories of the towns in Erie County. Volume 2 of the same title begins with the time period just before the War of 1812 and covers cultural developments, banking, journalism, the first churches, the law, and medical professions. Volume 2 concludes with pictures and biographical descriptions of early pioneers.

Background

Nineteenth century local history monographs gained in popularity and production due to a number of social and economic factors. First, a series of technological advances in the book trade market and related sectors led to a rise in output of publications and a parallel decrease in costs. Second, from a social standpoint, the rising tide of immigration and the centennial celebration of the United States were contributing factors in generating increased feelings of American patriotism (and nativism). Many of the earliest county histories often mirrored genealogies of leading families in a municipality.

Each of the books, as is typical in earlier local history publications, adopts a fairly chronological approach to the subject, beginning with pre-European history of the region (including geographical and topographical features, Native American settlements, and conflicts) and moving through the early exploration of New York (describing the Dutch, French, and British roles). The publications typically include detailed information on Native cultures and contact with Europeans, the period of the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Erie Canal, the Central Railroad, and New York State in the Civil War.

In the History of Niagara County, N.Y., the author first traces the chronological events at the New York State level followed by the Niagara County level in the second part of the book. The publications also include sections with biographical information about prominent citizens (names like Fillmore, Porter, Tryon, Holley, Walden, Tupper, Wilkeson, Johnson, Hodge, and others appear) as well as additional sections that provide brief histories of cities, towns, or villages within the counties. Each of the publications includes a table of contents, index, and illustrations.

The first book, History of Niagara County, N.Y., with illustrations descriptive of its scenery, private residences, public buildings, fine blocks and important manufactories and portraits of old pioneers and prominent residents, was published by Sanford & Co. (New York, NY) in 1878.

The second book is Volume 1 of two of the History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County ; With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers In Two Volumes, published by D. Mason & Co. (Syracuse, NY) in 1884 and edited by H. Perry Smith. The D. Mason publishing company produced several other local history titles by various authors and editors during this same time period.

Henry Perry Smith (1839-1925) was also the author of several other local history books including: History of Oakwood Cemetery (1871); A Summer Picture: And Other Verses (1879); History of Rutland County, Vermont, with illustrations and biographical information (1886); The Modern Babes in the Wood, or Summerings in the Wilderness (with E.R. Wallace, 1872); History of Essex County with illustrations and biographical sketches (1885); History of Warren County, N.Y., with illustrations and biographical sketches (1885); History of Broome County, with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (1885); History of Cortland County, with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (1885); Landmarks of Orleans County, New York (edited by Hon. Isaac S. Signor of Albion, N.Y., assisted by H.P. Smith and others, 1894); and Columbia County at the End of the Century, a Historical Record of its Formation and Settlement, its Resources, its Institutions, its Industries, and its People (1900).

Additional Resources

Collection owner: Niagara University