Sunday, December 10, 2023

Settler found perfection in Chautauqua County

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Paul Busti

In the first years of the 1800s, Paul Busti, the director of operations for the Holland Land Co., formulated plans for the company’s lands in northwestern Pennsylvania, Western New York, and Central New York.

Busti hired Joseph Ellicott in 1800 as the resident agent for lands in western New York and Ellicott established his sales office at a former Seneca village site that Busti named Batavia. Unfortunately for the Holland Land Co., Batavia and the Genesee Lands were best known in those days for ague (malaria) sending many potential settlers further west to Ohio.

Busti sent his 26-year-old assistant, Harm Jan Huidekoper, on a review of the tracts in the summer of 1802. Huidekoper traveled on horseback from Philadelphia to Meadville accompanied by Jabez Colt. After spending a month in Meadville correcting the accounting of Capt. Roger Alden, Huidekoper continued to Colt’s Station to meet Colt’s brother, Judah, the resident agent for the company’s Pennsylvania lands in Erie.

Huidekoper then entered Chautauqua County and followed a new road (now Route 20) opened by the Connecticut Land Co. between New Amsterdam (Buffalo) and its tracts in Ohio’s Western Reserve. Huidekoper noted in his October 1802 report (original spelling):

“I entered upon the lands of the HLCo. in the State of New York, about two miles to the South of lake Erie and following a road of about one rod wide, opened last year to New Amsterdam, by the Connecticut Company. I arrived in the afternoon at the Settlement made by Mr. Machan, 11 miles from the State line. Seldom in my life have I seen lands that please me better than the Township purchased by McMahan, and the one that lays west of it. The soil is excellent, and the timber (chiefly consisting of white and black oaks, white and black walnut, the tulip, maple & cucumber trees,) grows there to such an height, and appears so straight and sound that a view of it was sufficient to convince me of the strength and mildness of the land. … Mr. Machan’s Settlement consists of three houses and four or five pretty considerable clearings on the road.

…From Mr. MacMahan’s to the Cataraugus Creek, the land, with the exception of a few spots, is equally good as that which I had seen the day before, and the Canadaway or Cascade Creek offers a number of excellent Millseats. I passed the night in the house of a squatter, who had built himself a little hut on the bank of the Creek, where he keeps a tavern for Travellers and a Store for the indians of his Neighbourhood. The Creek or River is pretty Deep, and would make a good harbour, were it nor for a Sandbar which lays at its entrance. For the rest of the borders of the Cataraugus are not healthy on account of the Stagnated Situation of its Water and that of two Small Creeks that empty themselves into it, which render the fevers and ague very prevalent there.”

Huidekoper then visited the small community at New Amsterdam (8 to 10 houses). He then followed the Niagara River to the Falls and enjoyed one day at Niagara Falls. Huidekoper then continued on his way to Batavia to visit Joseph Ellicott.

Then Huidekoper traveled to Cazenovia to visit John Lincklaen who had also been sent by Paul Busti to inspect the lands of western New York that summer. Huidekoper then visited Oldenbarneveld, the Dutch emigre community where he had lived before becoming Busti’s assistant in Philadelphia. After a brief stay with the Mappa and Van der Kemp families, Huidekoper descended along the Mohawk and the Hudson to New York and arrived back at the office in Philadelphia to report to Busti in early October.

Paul Busti is the most significant Italian-American in the early history of the United States and the town of Busti was named for him. A slideshow describing new biographical research just published in the summer edition of the journal Italian Americana will be presented by one of its authors, John Everett Jones, as part of the celebration of the bicentennial of the Town of Busti. That presentation is Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Lakewood Fire Training Center, East Summit at Pleasantview in Lakewood.

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