Family history and adding new branches of information to my family tree has been a great passion of mine for many years. As I was researching my New Buffalo roots which go back to the mid 1800's, I kept connecting people with last names that were very familiar to me and sparked my curiousity even further. Then one day I thought about how New Buffalo's history was more like one big family than it was anything else. There are many websites that contain information about county and state records, but I had never seen a website that was totally devoted to one city and its entire history. Well...now there is and I hope that this site not only helps others in their research, but will add missing pieces to the "city tree" so that those who came before us will not only be appreciated but won't be forgotten.
Now for a brief history...
Before New Buffalo officially had a name and became a city, Indians were the only residents of the area. The Miami Indians, then the Iroquois, and finally the Potowatomi. On September 26, 1833, the United Nation of Chippewa, Ottowa, and Potawatamie Indians signed the Chicago treaty which gave up all of their land around Lake Michigan. This left land open and ready for its next page in history.
In 1834, Captain Wessel D. Whittaker and his crew were sailing on Lake Michigan in his vessel named the "Post Boy". He got caught in a terrible storm and the Post Boy was destroyed as it landed near what is now Grand Beach. As they were making their way to St. Joseph to report their loss, Captain Whittaker was struck by the potential for a great harbor where the Galien River flows into Lake Michigan. He continued on to St. Joseph to finish his old business and then he immediately went to Kalamazoo where the land records were kept. He purchased a large tract of land around the area he had seen and the new page in history had begun.
Captain Whittaker went back home to Buffalo, New York to acquire some business partners. Jacob Barker and Nelson Willard bought a half interest for $13,000 and the three men from Buffalo came up with the creative name New Buffalo!
Captain Whittaker returned to the area in 1835 and brought with him Truman Clough, William Hammond, Henry Bishop and Henry Merchant. Alonzo Bennett from Bertrand became the surveyor. Captain Whittaker's wife and four children arrived shortly after.
Other noted pioneers were: Mr. and Mrs. Cummings: As tenants, they ran the first lodging house for travelers. Mrs. Eber Knight: The first white woman to reach New Buffalo. Other early settlers: Russell Goodrich, Dr. Reuben Pierce, Festus Holbrook, Moses Pratt, Simeon Pierce, Myel Pierce and Thatcher Abbot. (The Pierces were all cousins of the Whittakers and Goodrich and Abbot were his brother-in-laws) Russell Goodrich: Innkeeper in Hamberg, NY, he build the first hotel in New Buffalo. Isaac Adams, E.T. Clark and Timothy Harris built "Bachelor's Hall" where the men gathered. William Ratcliff: First mail carrier Moses Pratt: Drove first stage to and from Michigan City Alonzo Bennett: First township supervisor in 1836 (included Chikaming and Three Oaks until 1856) Jacob Gerrish: Arrived with his family in 1835 from New Hampshire. He was storekeeper, blacksmith, farmer and Real Estate agent. He also held many offices such as postmaster. Jacob kept a day by day diary of the events that occured in New Buffalo. A transcript of this diary still exists and is located at the New Buffalo Public Library. It is a wonderful reference since Jacob never failed to include the full names of the people he encountered daily.