Tonawanda in Erie County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Great Ships of the Niagara
Niagara River Greenway
Three Centuries of Commerce The first great ship to pass by this spot was the Griffin built by Robert de La Salle in 1679 near Cayuga Island just around the bend behind Grand Island. She sailed up the Niagara River past this point on her way to Buffalo whence she set sail across the Great Lakes, being the first commercial ship to sail these inland waters.
The Erastus Corning, a 216 foot 3-masted bark, was built here at Tonawanda by F.N. Jones in 1867 with a capacity to haul 50,000 bushels of cargo.
"Mr. F.N. Jones, ably assisted by his Foreman - Mr. John Humble - has achieved the triumph of naval architecture on the inland waters, in building the bark Erastus Corning, the largest and finest vessel that ever sailed fresh water. She was built at Tonawanda and was launched Wednesday April 24th." Buffalo Daily Courier May 6, 1867
By the mid 19th Century, hundreds of lake ships began visiting Tonawanda Harbor, most bringing in lumber from the extensive Great Lakes watershed. By the 1890s, Tonawanda Harbor was the 2nd largest lumber port in the world. The 20th century saw the addition of even larger lake freighters hauling iron ore and more lumber to the Tonawandas.
Lumber hookers, the most frequent lake vessels to visit Tonawanda in the late 19th Century, played a major role
First conceived by Tonawanda interests in 1906, giant steel lake freighters topping 600 feet in length regularly hauled iron ore and pulp logs to Twin City industries through the first half of the 20th Century.
Any ship that caught fire in this vicinity was considered a great threat to the extensive lumber piles stretching along the shores on the Niagara River. These floating torches were usually guided to the far Grand Island shore where they could safely burn and sink to the river's depths.
The maritime relics on display nearby in Niawanda Park were all removed from the river's bottom in the 1970s. Their exact tales of destruction are lost now, but they could well have witnessed an event like the loss of the Embury at Tonawanda in 1903 as recorded in the Buffalo Times.
Narrow Escape of Crew
Gallant conduct of Capt. E.D. Curran and crew. Blazing vessel was laden with 250,000 feet of pine lumber and deck load of laths - beached on Grand Island last night - loss about $35,000.
Erected by Historical Society of the Tonawandas.
Location. 43° 0.981′ N, 78° 53.54′ W. Marker is in Tonawanda, New York, in Erie County. Click for map. Marker is on the riverwalk in Niawanda Park. It is along River Road, opposite Franklin Street. Marker is in this post office area: Tonawanda NY 14150, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Erie Canal Site (within shouting distance of this marker); Grand Island Ferry (approx. ¼ mile away); Engineering the Erie Canal (approx. ¼ mile away); Dedicated to the Memory (approx. 0.3 miles away); To The Glory of God and in Grateful Remembrance (approx. 0.3 miles away); Tonawanda All Heroes Memorial (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Brewery (approx. 0.4 miles away); Railroad Station (approx. 0.7 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Tonawanda.
Regarding Great Ships of the Niagara. "Twin Cities" in the marker text refers to Tonawanda and North Tonawanda.
Categories. • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 95 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page was last revised on October 8, 2016.