History of Cheektowaga, New York

March 18, 2021

The first known inhabitants of what is now Cheektowaga, New York (and the surrounding Erie County) were the Wenrohronon people, an Iroquoian tribe. They were conquered by the Iroquois Confederacy (Five Nations) in 1638-39 and 1643.

The Wenrohronon, along with the Iroquoian collective known by French settlers as the Neutral Nations, were forced out of the area by the Seneca tribe (one of the Five Nations) by the early 1650s.

The name "Cheektowaga" is a corruption of the town's 19th-century name "Chictawauga", itself a derivation of the Erie-Seneca word "Ji-ik-do-wah-gah" meaning, "land of the crab apples". The Seneca sided with the British during the Revolutionary War.

The Seneca were defeated by the Americans during the war, but their land was already being contested by the states of New York and Massachusetts. In 1788, Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham obtained the land from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Phelps and Gorham later sold the land to Pennsylvanian Robert Morris. In 1792 and 1793, Morris sold his share to the Holland Land Company, a collection of Dutch investors -- who still needed land rights from the Seneca.

In 1797, the Treaty of Big Tree was signed between the Seneca people and the United States, ceding much of their territory to the latter and the Holland Land Company. The Seneca then existed for decades (in part) on the Buffalo Creek Reservation -- which covered central Erie County.

In 1808 Apollos Hitchcock, Sr. purchased land in what is now Cheektowaga, and later moved his family there as well.

A farmer and tavern owner, Hitchcock is regarded as one of the first European American farm settlers of the area. After several municipal name changes, Cheektowaga was distinguished from the Town of Amherst on March 22nd, 1839.

Cheektowaga's first town meeting was held on April 16th, 1839. Alexander Hitchcock, son of Apollos, was designated the first Supervisor of Cheektowaga. The Ebenezer Community of True Inspiration continued to make purchases of Seneca land through the 1840s.

In the early to mid-1800s, Cheektowaga was still rural, with cereal grains and potatoes being prominent crops. Livestock farming, sawmilling, and dairy farming endured as well.

Two prominent toll roads -- Plank Road and Batavia Road -- were constructed during this time (now Genessee and Broadway). By the 1860s, railroads were gaining prominence, with five railroad stations in Cheektowaga by 1893.

The city experienced an influx of Polish and German immigration from Buffalo in the late 1800s. Railways and trolleys eventually gave way to automobiles, and the Buffalo Municipal Airport (later Buffalo Niagara International Airport) opened in 1926.

Suburban developments continued to grow during the Second World War and postwar period. This was in part due to aviation, heavy manufacturing, and electrical engineering factories, like the Curtiss-Wright Corporation and the Westinghouse Electric Corporation.

Walden Galleria, the region's largest mall -- was opened in 1989 and remains a top location for entertainment, dining, and shopping. At an estimated 87,000 residents as of 2017, Cheektowaga remains a strong suburban town with a rich history.


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