Judge Augustus Porter

Augustus Porter.jpg

One of Niagara Falls' earliest settlers, Judge Augustus Porter and family actually owned Goat Island between the American Falls, and the Horseshoe Canadian Falls.  

In a late 1924 Biological sketch, he was written of in this manner:

We will look ahead a few years for a perspective before we begin the sketch chronologically.  Judge Augustus Porter was virtually the first white settler of what is now the city of Niagara Falls, called Manchester up to 1840.  He was a pathfinder and pioneer in the promotion and development of the power of the Niagara River and in those things which have made this city great.  He was an engineer, a lawyer and a business man, as well as statesman.  He built the first mills to use Niagara power.  He promoted the then great project of the construction of the hydraulic canal.  He, as a civil engineer, surveyed some of the roads through the wilderness that lead to the present city.  He was a pioneer of great lakes transportation.  In official life he was the first county judge of Niagara county as it was first erected, and including Erie county, in 1808.  He was the first postmaster of what later became the village of Niagara Falls.  With his brother, Gen. Peter B. Porter, his name is writ large in the public and business affairs of Western New York, and beyond.

The genealogy of the Porter family traces back to sterling English origin, and representatives of the name settled in New England in the early colonial era of our national history.  Judge Augustus Porter was born at Salisbury, Conn., in January 1769, and the family home was established at Canandaigua, N.Y., in the year 1800.  Judge Porter first came to Niagara County in 1795, and incidentally he learned of the now historic ridge leading from the Niagara River, at Lewiston, eastward to Rochester, the Indians having given him the information, which led him to exploit the tracing of a road along the ridge, in 1789.  After visiting the Niagara Falls district in 1795, he returned to his home, but in the following year came again to Western New York, as head of a party of surveyors commissioned to lay out townships in this sparsely settled part of the state.  He was a skilled surveyor and did a large amount of important surveying work in the early period of the history of Western New York.

The first wife of Judge Porter bore the maiden name of Lavinia Steele, the one son, Augustus S., born of this union.  After the death of his first wife, he wedded Jane Howell, and they became the parents of two sons and two daughters: Albert H., Peter B., Jr., Lavinia and Jane S.

Concerning Judge Porter's activities and services to the community, the following statement was made in a newspaper in recent years:

"When Augustus Porter located in Niagara Falls, then called Manchester, the place was nearly a wilderness, there being only a few decayed log cabins and a dilapidated barracks at Fort Schlosser.  Judge Porter encouraged others to locate here and assist in building up the community in a business way.  After the destruction of his first house, he erected the substantial building which is still standing and still occupied by members of the Porter family.  For more than a century this house has been a center of gracious hospitality, and under its friendly roof many prominent men and women, from all over the nation, as well as many from foreign lands, have been entertained."

In May of 1789, Augustus Porter set out from Schenectady as one of a party of surveyors from western Massachusetts and Connecticut to locate some lands which had been bought by a group of neighbors, of which his father was one.

Similar programs, varied only in methods of travel, occupied several succeeding years.  One of these journeys was made in winter on foot.  On his second trip West he overtook young James Wadsworth stranded on Wood Creek on his way to settle on lands in Genesee and therewith began a friendship lasting through life.

In 1794 he participated in the last council with the Indians of the Iroquois Confederacy, which meeting is still commemorated by a stone and tablet in Canandaigua.  It was then that he first met Andrew Ellicot, who was United States Surveyor General, and by whom he was engaged as an assistant in running the line from Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario.  Subsequently he made the acquaintance of Oliver Phelps and was selected by him for important surveys on lands west of Seneca Lake and this, in turn, led to engagements by Robert Morris on extensive surveys on his large holdings leading, again, to like work on lands of the Holland Purchase.  During these times, too, he made purchase himself, including the buying of an interest in a tract of 20,000 where now is located the city of Rochester and, in 1795, purchased a tract six miles northeast of Avon and one-half mile west of Honeoye Falls.

In 1795 he was joined by a younger brother, Peter B. Porter, who then settled in Canandaigua as a lawyer and began a career of national brilliancy and of the closest of associations with that of his older brother.  In this year, too, Augustus Porter arrived in Niagara Falls in company with a party of surveyors and assistants to explore and lay out townships in the Western Reserve.  From Chippawa Creek he took passage, in company with his friend, Juday Colt, for Presque Isle (now Erie) on a British vessel, afor still the British were holding Oswego, Niagara, Detroit and Mackinac.  At Buffalo the only then residents were: Johnson, a British Indian interpreter; Winnie, and Indian trader, and two other families.  In all the Western Reserve not a family resided. 

In 1796 he was employed be the Connecticut Land Company as chief surveyor, with corps of 50 assistants, to make a traverse of the southern shore of Lake Erie.  This tract was estimated to contain more than 3,500,000 acres.  He laid out the city of Cleveland, which he named after General Moses Cleveland, who was the Connecticut Land Company's managing agent.

In 1797 there was built at the mouth of the Genesee river the first vessel of U.S. registry on the Great Lakes.  This was the schooner Jemima by Eli Granger and in which Augustus Porter was a part owners.  In the succeeding year this vessel became the property of Augustus Porter and his brother, Peter B.  They afterwards owned a fleet of vessels.  In 1802 he obtained the contract for carrying the mails from Utica to Fort Niagara and, during the same year, was elected to the New York Legislature in place of his brother, Peter B., who had withdrawn in his favor.  In 1803 Judge Porter and his associates leased from the State the Portage Road and that year he built the first saw mill on the river shore.  In 1807 the firm of Porter, Barton & Co. was formed to do a general forwarding business from Oswego, via the Portage, to Mackinaw, Chicago and Fort Wayne.  In 1808 be built the original of the present Porter residence on Buffalo Avenue, which was burned by the British during the War of 1812, and the present house was built in 1818.  In 1826 he, with his son, A. H. Porter, built a paper mill at Bath, now Green Island.  In 1816 Judge Porter and Gen. Porter acquired Goat Island from the State and it remained the property of the Porter family until 1885 when the State took it as a part of the Niagara Reservation.

Judge Porter died in 1849, aged four score.

Lot 348.