by Don Ames, Past Youngstown Historian
Youngstown is an historic village located at the northwestern corner of the state where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario.
In an area known to the Indians for hundreds of years, the French explorer La Salle left his mark by building a small fort in 1670, less than a mile north of where our village now stands. The French gained control of the Great Lakes area and by 1727 built the “Castle” which became the centerpiece of Old Fort Niagara.
In 1759, a large force of British soldiers under the command of General Ptideux was sent up the then Mohawk River and along Lake Ontario to lay siege to the French Fort.
During the battle, Ptideux was killed and Sir William Johnson took command. Following a successful ambush of the French and Indian relief forces at La Belle Famille, the Fort surrendered.
This action played an important part in the final loss for France of most of its possessions in the New World.
As a result of the 1763 Devil’s Hole Massacre above the escarpment, Johnson forced the Indian chiefs to give up their claims on the land along both sides of the Niagara River from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. A mile-wide strip along the eastern side eventually became the New York State Mile Reserve.
John Young, who lived across the river, saw opportunities on this side and built a store on the landing area in 1809. In 1811, he bought Lots 1 and 2 of the Mile Reserve. These included all the property from what is now the north side of Falkner Park and as far south as Campbell Street and from the river eastward to what is now the Robert Moses Parkway.
Young sold the Falkner Park area to Robert Greensit in March of 1812 before the war started between the U.S. and England.
By that time, a number of log cabins had been built to provide shelter for the skilled tradesmen and storekeepers who were attracted to the area by the Fort which needed many supplies and services.
In 1813, American forces captured Fort George across the river. At Christmas time, they retreated to the American side after burning the Village of Newark (now Niagara On The Lake). In retaliation, British and Indians captured Fort Niagara and burned most of the buildings and homes south of it to what is now Buffalo.
Rebuilding gradually took place and by the 1840’s the village was well established with many fine homes and stores. The moderate climate, the excellent fishing, accessibility by lake boats and nearness to Canada all played a part in Youngstown growth.
The soil proved invaluable for fruit culture which attracted many farmers. This lead to the development of industries such as barrel making, fruit packing and storage, the drying of apples and making of cider and vinegar.
Carpenters, blacksmiths and other tradesmen were needed as lumber and shipbuilding businesses were important for many years.
Many changes have come about through the years: concrete sidewalks replaced those made of wood. The dirt and stone road to Lewiston became a safe paved highway; the fire company grew from a man-pulled hose cart into a fully equipped fire department and water and sewer systems were installed throughout the village. The handling of mail began in Judge Hinman’s home and was finally delivered house to house in 1959.
Three railroads were built to the village. Two failed immediately in the 1850’s, but the electric line carried supplies to the village and fort as well as bringing thousands of people to the old beach amusement park.
The village had finally been Incorporated in 1854.
As new subdivisions such as Bon Wynn Acres were developed, the village became more of a bedroom community for many who worked to the south.
Youngstown is now a lovely and peaceful village which has matured very nicely through the years.