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Augustus Porter Collection

Buffalo History Museum. Research Library

1 Museum Court
Buffalo, NY 14216
Phone: 716-873-9644 ext. 306
Fax: 716-873-8754

Porter, Augustus, 1769-1849

5.25 linear feet (12 boxes, 2 oversize volumes)


Collection consists of correspondence, journals, legal documents, and other personal, military and political papers.

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Collection Details

Arranged/described; 2010/09; Jeane Lugris. Arranged/described; 2015/03; Amy Miller & Shane Stephenson.

Loaned to the History Museum by Old Fort Niagara Association, 1942 and 1975.

Augustus Porter studied at “Common School” in Connecticut until age 15/16, studied surveying at 17, and at 20 joined a party traveling to Ontario County NY to survey lands that his father, Dr. Joshua Porter, held an interest. Landing in Canandaigua, NY he surveyed lands now incorporated by the towns of Bloomfield and Livonia. It was also during his time surveying this county that he was one of the witnesses who signed the last treaty between the Iroquois Confederacy and the United States.

For seven years he surveyed the wilderness in WNY for various families and interested back east and became an assistant surveyor to Andrew Ellicott, who ran the Holland Land Company, which surveyed all of the lands lying west of the Seneca Lake.

In 1796, in his 30th year, he married Lavinia Steele and they moved to his house in Canandaigua. In this same year he also was hired by the Connecticut Land Company as Chief Surveyor. His charge was to survey the land on the south shore of Lake Erie, called the Western Reserve. It is here that he laid out the town of Cleveland, OH.

In 1799, Lavinia passed and in 1801 Porter married Jane Howell. Later, in 1802, having lessened his work in surveying, and took a more active role in public affairs, he was awarded the contract for transporting the mail from the town of Utica, NY to Fort Niagara. This stage line traveled from Utica to Buffalo, and then down the river to the Fort. He was also, in this year, elected to the State Legislature from the counties of Ontario and Genesee.

In 1806 Porter moved his family, consisting of a second wife, a son from his first marriage, and a son from his second marriage, to Niagara Falls and begins to develop a business interest, with his brother Peter B., Benjamin Barton and Joseph Annin. They purchased a large tract of land from the State of New York, adjacent to and above Niagara Falls. They had exclusive rights of transporting various goods and services across this acreage if certain requirements were met – including: the building of warehouses, provide teams, and meet the demand for transportation at reasonable rates. Since the land abutted the river, they were able to build and retain ownership of vessels that traveled throughout Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. By virtue of a monopoly on the land that was the favored water route, they handled nearly all of the business of the American fur companies and large Indian traders. The name of this company was Porter, Barton & Co. While he was the owner of this business, in 1808, the county of Niagara was created and Augustus was appointed its first judge.

In 1810, the company passed exclusively into his hands and during the War of 1812, made an agreement with the United States to deliver goods, services and mail to frontier posts all along the great lakes. In 1813, Porter was away traveling from post to post on the great lakes buying and delivering provisions and word came to his wife and children that they should leave their Niagara Falls home and travel back to Canandaigua. There they stayed for four years while the Niagara Peninsula burned.

He returned with his family to Niagara and assisted in the rebuilding of the frontier. It was during this time that Porter became the postmaster of Niagara and then the postmaster of both Niagara and Erie Counties, and served until 1837.

In 1816, the Niagara Bank was organized in Buffalo and Porter was made the Director.

The rest of his life was devoted to Niagara Frontier civic services. He oversaw the growth of the region, he helped to rebuild it after the War of 1812, he worked toward bringing Goat Island under his ownership and care, spending time building various bridges to it. He worked plans and ideas to best utilize the water power of the Niagara River and Falls, which led to the construction of a hydraulic canal, which was built after his death.

In 1841, his second wife passed away, in 1844 his brother, Peter B. Porter passed away, and he succumbed to death after a slip and fall injured his hip and on June 10, 1849 at the age of 80.

Collection consists of correspondence, journals, legal documents, and other personal, military and political papers.

Collection is arranged into eight series: Series A: Personal, box/folder 1:1 - 3:7, items 100.001-102.219; Series B: Porter-Barton, box/folder 3:8 - 7:5, items 200.001-202.199; Series C: Marine, box/folder 7:6 - 7:10, items 300.001-300.050; Series D: Lands, box/folder 8:1 - 8:3, items 350.001-350.031; Series E: Military, box/folder 8:4 - 10:11, items 400.001-401.304; Series F: Political, box/folder 10:12 - 11:5, items 600.001-650.010; Series G: Miscellaneous, box/folder 11:6 - 12:7, items 700.001-700.53; Series H: Navy, box/folder 12:8 - 12:4, items 800.001-800.043. *Note: Pay special attention to the item number, IE item numbers 700.010 and 700.10. This is not a mistake on the finding aid but in fact how the items are individually numbered.

Collection Access & Use

Researchers wishing to access this collection must apply for a Scholar Pass and present valid photo ID upon arrival to the library.

Written permission required to reproduce and/or publish. Information on use and fees may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives.

Buffalo History Museum Research Library, Augustus Porter Collection, Mss. C2014-01

Collection Subjects & Formats

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