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Joseph Ellicott: Surveyor, Frontiersman and Businessman

Editor's Note: Ellicott is a genuine icon of New York State.

Joseph Ellicott

**The Erie Canal connected the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and hundreds of smaller towns and hamelts across the state and was a prime reason for the eventual, astronomical growth of New York City. Click here for a map of the Erie Canal.

   Joseph Ellicott [left] is responsible for the "Great Survey" of 1798-1800 that measured the extent of Indian lands encompassing several western New York State counties, including: Niagara, Allegheny, Genesee, Olean, Cattaraugus and Chautaqua counties [see survey map for visualization]. The survey was methodical, extensive and accurate and solidified Ellicott's reputation as as a tireless resource for the Holland Land Company - his employer. (The Buffalo Creek Reservation is marked in print just above the notation "Erie C" on survey map in very small letters,) Furthermore, he used his influence to create Genesee County-those lands west of the Genesee River which had formerly been a part of Ontario County. Ellicott's role in the creation of the Erie Canal west of Rochester is extensive. Accordingly, Ellicott is mentioned in the Granger letter dated May 26, 1806. Before a tragic end to his life in 1826, he became a founding father of the City of Buffalo and was appointed the first Commissioner of the completed Erie Canal** in 1825. His name is synonymous with Buffalo and its frontier history. Here are some links to information on Joseph Ellicott, including works by the late Dr. William Chazanof, Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Below is the old Ellicott home in Batavia, NY.

Joe's House

Other available resources:

  • Joseph Ellicott and the Holland Land Company; William Chazanof; Syracuse University Press,1970
  • Holland Land Company Archives, SUNY at Fredonia, N.Y.
  • The Developers Frontier; William Wycoff; Yale University Press, 1988
  • The Holland Land Company; Paul D. Evans; Buffalo Historical Society, 1924
  • Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase; O. Turner; G.H. Derby Co, 1850 (reprinted by: James Brunner; Geneseo, 1974)
  • Western New York Land Transactions; Karen E. Livsey; Genealogical Publing Co, 1991
  • Frontier Settlement and Market Revolution: The Holland Land Purchase; Charles E. Brooks; Cornell University Press, 1996
  • Joseph Ellicott and Stories of the Holland Purchase, Clara L. T. Williams, published by author, 1936
  • The Holland Land Company Papers: Reports of Joseph Ellicott, Vol. 1, Buffalo Historical Society, 1937
  • The Holland Land Company Papers: Reports of Joseph Ellicott, Vol. 2, Buffalo Historical Society, 1941

    The Erie Canal
  • Maps of the Erie Canal
  • More about the Erie Canal
  • University of Rochester Site on the Erie Canal
  • Photographs of the old Erie Canal.
  • Official Site of the New York State Canal System
  • A Journey Through History With the Erie Canal