Grand Island

Niagara Falls USA Island

Grand Island is the largest island along the Niagara River, exceeding 17,000 acres in size.

Since 1655, the Iroquois Nation – Seneca Native Americans controlled the Niagara Frontier including Grand Island. They called the island Ga-We-Not: meaning Great Island. The Seneca used this island as a game preserve and as an Native American burying ground. Following the Devil’s Hole Massacre in 1763, when the Seneca Native Americans attacked a British supply wagon train.  The Natives expressed regret for the ‘massacre’ and to show their good faith gave all the islands in the Niagara River above the Falls to Sir William Johnson. This treaty was signed at Fort Niagara August 6, 1764 and Sir William Johnson immediately transferred the title of these islands to the King of England.

After the British were banned from this area, the Iroquois believed that the title to the islands in the river transferred to them. The State of New York, wanting to avoid antagonizing the Native Americans, recognized their claim. Representatives of the State met with the Natives in council at Buffalo Creek. It was then, September l2, 1815, when New York purchased Grand Island and other small islands in the Niagara River for $1000.

Although the state bought the island, the title to Grand Island was not clear until the boundary survey of 1822. The boundary commission declared that the west branch, the deeper area, of the Niagara River was the main channel. The Treaty of Ghent had determined that the sea boundary between the United States and Canada was to be midstream of the Niagara River. Since the location of midstream now determined, all the islands with the exception of Navy Island became part of the United States.

During the 1800’s, the Government declared free land availability on Grand Island. The population on the island grew to about 150 people. Then, in 1825, a regular Ferry Service to the island was established. In 1833, the East Boston Company purchased about 16,000 acres of land on Grand Island, at five dollars per acre. The Company planned to cut the white oaks and sell the timber to the shipyards in Boston and New York.

When the state surveyed the island in 1824, the land was divided into lots of at most 200 acres and sold at public auction. Mr. Samuel Leggett of New York City, acting for Major Mordecai M. Noah, purchased 2,555 acres as a safe haven for members of the Jewish race. The plan was to make Grand Island into a large and flourishing city, but this city never emerged.

In 1852, Grand Island, Buckhorn and Beaver Islands were made into the town of Grand Island.

The first time that a bridge was proposed for Grand Island was in 1819. On October 28th l933, the construction of the southern bridge commenced. By July 1935, the two bridges connecting Grand Island to the mainland were completed. Two bridges were built owing to the size of the island: one north and one south.

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