Goat Island

Niagara Falls USA Island

Goat Island was named by John Stedman in the 1770’s. John Stedman had been named “Master of the Portage” by British General – Sir William Johnson. Stedman was given the task of reorganizing the methods of transporting material along the portage of the Niagara River. This included the difficult climb at the Niagara Escarpment.

On September 14th 1763, John Stedman was leading a supply convoy southward along the edge of the Niagara Gorge, which the Seneca Native Americans called Devil’s Hole. It was at this point where the Seneca Native Americans attacked the wagon train killing eighty, including citizens and British soldiers. Stedman was one of two survivors of the Devil’s Hole Massacre.

In August of 1764, in order to make amends with the British, the Seneca Native Americans gave up a four mile wide strip of land to the British. The land was along the east side of the Niagara River from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. In addition, the Seneca Natives also gave up all the islands upstream of the Falls to Sir William Johnson.

Stedman claimed the land, and islands above the Falls, for himself. He claimed the land was given to him by the Seneca Natives after the peace talks with the British in 1764. Stedman lived with his brothers Phillip and William in the first house built near the Falls by Fort Schlosser.

John Stedman named the island – Goat Island.  Stedman used the island to raise a herd of goats on Goat Island during the 1770’s. During the extremely cold winter of 1780, all but one goat died. John Stedman left Niagara in 1795. Stedman left his property under the care of a friend. In 1801, Stedman lost possession of his land including Goat Island to the State of New York.

General Augustus Porter, a United States Commissioner, renamed Goat Island to Iris Island, after the Greek Goddess of the Rainbow. People resisted this name change, so the island reverted back to its original name of Goat Island. By 1806, Goat Island had little development. Bears and wolves were common sights along with a plentiful deer population.

In 1816, Augustus Porter bought Goat Island from the State of New York. In 1817, he built a wooden bridge from the mainland to the upper end of the island. This bridge was destroyed by ice the following winter. So, in 1818, Porter built another bridge to Goat Island but this time it was closer to the Falls. In 1856, this bridge was replaced with an iron bridge. On July 15th 1885, the State of New York created the New York State Niagara Reservation Park. The largest and closest island to the Goat Island shore was known by local citizens as Deer Island.

Also read about the Goat Island Rescue of 1973.

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