Grand Island - was formed from Tonawanda as a town, Oct. 19, 1852. It is the N.W. corner town in the co., and comprises Grand, Buckhorn, and Beaver Islands, in Niagara River. Its surface is nearly level, and a considerable portion of it is still covered with forests. The soil of the upper part is clayey, and of the lower part sandy. The people are principally engaged in grain raising and lumbering. Grand Island is a p.o. on the E. shore. There is no village on the island, although it is thickly settled along the shores. The first settlers were squatters, who located soon after the War of 1812 and before it was decided to which Government the island belonged.(1) In 1820, Mordecai M. Noah, of New York, conceived the project of forming a colony of Jews upon Grand Island, as an Ararat, or resting place, for that scattered and broken people.(2)
(1)The treaty of peace fixed the boundary between the two countries along the principal branch of Niagara River. A dispute in regard to which was the principal branch was settled in 1818, by commissioners appointed respectively by the United States and British Governments. While the matter was still undecided, a large number of lawless persons - mostly refugees from justice from both sides of the river - squatted upon the island, locating principally along the shores. Remaining for some time unmolested, they began to commit extensive depredations upon the timber; and finally they set up an independent government and elected a full quota of municipal officers. In April, 1819, the legislature passed an act authorizing the removal of these intruders. During the succeeding summer the governor issued a proclamation commanding them to desist from depredations upon the property of the State, and at once to remove. A few obeyed the command; but seeing no active demonstrations on the part of the government, they returned. In the fall of 1819, Gov. Clinton directed Col. Jas. Cronk, the sheriff of Niagara co., to call out a sufficient military force for the purpose and forcibly expel them. On the 9th of Dec. 1819, the sheriff, accompanied by Lieuts. Benj. Hodge and --- Osborne, 2 serjeants, 4 corporals, and 24 privates, went to the island in boats, manned by 20 boatman, to carry into execution the orders of the governor. Every facility was given the people to remove with their effects; and the boatman took them to either shore, as they might elect. The military were divided into 3 parties; a vanguard, to read the governor's orders and assist in clearing the houses; a second party, to forcibly remove all property left in the buildings; and a rear guard, to burn the buildings and complete the removal and destruction. Seventy houses were burned, and 150 people, consisting of men, women, and children, were turned out shelterless upon the U.S. and Canada shores. Two buildings, filled with grain, alone were saved. The removal and destruction occupied 5 days and cost the State $568.99. A few families returned immediately, but did not remain.
(2)In a memorial to the legistature in 1820 for the purchase of the island, Maj. Noah explained his object; recounted the persecution which his co-religionists in the Old World had suffered through many centuries; pointed out the benefits that had resulted to Spain, Portugal, France, and Germany from the commercial enterprise and the capital of the Jews when allowed the exercise of their rights; and painted in brilliant colors the benefits that would accrue to the U.S. if his people could exchange "the whips and scorns of Europe, Asia, and Africa for the light of liberty and civilization" which this country afforded. He estimated that there were 7,000,000 of Jews in the World, and predicted that, if the existence of an asylum of freedom were made known, large numbers would be induced to emigrate. The sanction of law was asked to give confidence to those who might not otherwise be induced to remove. His attempt to gather the Jews, like those before it, ended in day dreams. The European rabii refused to sanction the effort; and Maj. Noah soon gave up the attempt, leaving no trace of his "city" upon the island but a monument of brick and wood. It bore, on a marble tablet, the following inscriptions from Deuteronomy vi. 4:-
The monument has since tumbled down; and the schemes of Maj. Noah have now scarcely a place in memory or a trace in history.
A Boston company was formerly extensively engaged in the manufacture of ship timber upon the island.
J.H. French, Gazetteer of the State of New York (Syracuse, New York: R. Pearsall Smith, 1860), p. 290 - 291.