Buffalo in 1795

Edited by Stephen R. Powell

In the summer of 1795, the Duke de la Rouchefoucault Liancourt passed through "Lake Erie," which was the name he understood was given to the "collection of houses" of white people he found to be near the Seneca village, which to him was "Buffalo Town." He wrote: "We at length arrived at the post on Lake Erie, which is a small collection of four or five houses, built about a quarter of a mile from the lake."

Evidently, one of the houses was an inn; whose, it is hard to determine. It may have been the store of Winney,-which in earlier years had been stocked with an abundance of spirituous liquor for purposes of barter with the Indians. It may have been the house of a man named Skinner, who is mentioned by Truman C. White as having been an early hotel-keeper: but it is more than possible that it was the inn opened by John Palmer, who is supposed to have arrived in Buffalo in that year, and, who by the testimony of an independent witness three years later, owned the "first tavern in Buffalo."

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Possibly, Palmer himself had reached the place only a short while before the coming of the distinguished Frenchman. At all events, the hotel-keeper had but meager accommodation to offer guests. Liancourt wrote: "We arrived late at the inn, and after a very indifferent supper, we were obliged to lie upon the floor in our clothes. There was literally nothing in the house; neither furniture, rum, candles, nor milk. After much trouble the milk was procured from neighbors, who were not as accommodating in the way of rum and candles."


"We at length arrived at the post on Lake Erie, which is a small collection of four or five houses, built about a quarter of a mile from the lake."

- Duke de la Rouchefoucault Liancourt, 1795


He found that "some were sick with fever in almost every house." Mosquitoes at "Lake Erie," which became Buffalo, were then perhaps especially troublesome. Duncan Ingraham, who passed along the Genesee River to Niagara, rode "through swarms of mosquitoes, gnats, &c., beyond all description." It was a condition invariably found by the pioneers, however, wherever there was much water; and their first trials were attacks of fever, which seemed to be taken as a matter of course, but which often prostrated whole households. Such a condition was perhaps then present in Buffalo.

Excerpted from the book: Hill, Henry Wayland, Ed. Municipality of Buffalo, New York, A History. 1720-1923. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc. New York. Chicago.

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