A Brief History of Clarence, New York

Clarence, New York has a long and interesting history. Over time it has progressed from a forest to a thriving suburb of Buffalo. Named after the English House of Clarence, it was the first Erie County township established in 1808. Its landmass is over 52 square miles, making it a sprawling and picturesque area.

Native American History

Many years ago, Clarence was inhabited by American Indian tribes, who named the town “Ta-Num-No-Ga-O,” meaning “Place of the Hickory Bark.” Over the years, the town underwent many name changes, and was called Ransom’s Grove, Pinegrove, Ransomville, and Clarence Hollow.

Interesting Beginnings

Before the town was established in 1808, Joseph Ellicott arrived in the area in 1799 to sell unclaimed lots on “Buffalo Road” to anyone who agreed to build and operate taverns. Asa Ransom, the first settler to take Ellicott up on his offer, was originally from Geneva New York, where he worked as a young silversmith. Ransom is still acknowledged as the town’s first resident, and quickly moved on from merely building taverns to operations such as a gristmill before he went on to become a Revolutionary War Colonel in 1807. Most of the taverns built along Buffalo Road are now gone, but some were preserved as historical buildings on what is now called Harris Hill. Asa Ransom House Country Inn dates back to 1853 and is a quaint, historic B&B  that allows you to stay within the center of Clarence history.

The First Clarence Newspaper

When the War of 1812 began, able-bodied boys and men left the area to join the Niagara Frontier American militia, which was assembling nearby. In the city of Buffalo, a fledgling newspaper called the Buffalo Gazette, published by Hezekiah and Smith Salisbury, would have been burned to the ground during the war. The owners escaped with their printing equipment and purchased the Harris Tavern on Clarence’s Buffalo Road. They printed their first issue on January 14, 1814 and published newspapers in Clarence for the next 40 years.

Post-Depression Expansion

After the depression era, Clarence experienced a great period of development, including an impressive land boom. The chief source of income was agriculture, however, the industrial history of the town also began during this time. This includes the building of brick factories–which were possible due to the rich supply of clay from nearby Branson Creek–and the manufacturing of potash, which created many industrial jobs.

These developments were followed by numerous rock quarries, which supplied a number of industries with gravel and sand. Gypsum was discovered in the area during this time as well, which drew the Universal Atlas Cement Company and the National Gypsum Company, both of which developed local plants. In the 1980s, Wilson Greatbatch brought the medical industry to Clarence with his pioneering discoveries concerning the development of heart pacemakers and other medical devices. This provided employment for thousands of people during the 1980s and 1990s. Clarence still thrives today as a popular suburb of Buffalo with industrial opportunities and cultural and historical attractions.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.