City of North Tonawanda
Map Site 15: Burning of Bridge Across Tonawanda Creek

This military bridge on River Road was burned by the citizens of the village of Tonawanda to slow the British advance to Buffalo in December, 1813. A blockhouse was also located at nearby.

After the British burned Manchester and Schlosser, they continued down the Niagara River toward Tonawanda. Ahead of them were soldiers and civilians who had escaped those areas and were heading south toward Black Rock and Buffalo. After crossing the wooden bridge at Tonawanda Creek, the Americans burned the bridge to prevent any further advance by the British. This was as far south as the British advanced until they crossed the river again and burned Black Rock and Buffalo later in the month.

The following additional information has been provided by Donna Zellner Neal, Director of the North Tonawanda History Museum.

The British and Native American forces were advancing from the north in December 1813 after having destroyed Lewiston and everything in their path. The only known permanent structures in what would become North Tonawanda in later years were three log taverns along the Niagara River shore, contructed by three brave settlers who built their structures along the military road which ran from Fort Tompkins in Buffalo to Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario.

George N. Burger had acquired a large piece of property and constructed his log tavern in 1809 where Keil Street would have connected to the River once it was created as a street. He received compensation from the Federal Government after the war for his losses but never moved back. He is believed to have moved to the Finger Lakes area.

Garrett Van Slyke and Joshua Pettit constructed their log taverns in 1810, Van Slyke’s where Sommer Street would have connected with the River and Pettit’s where Wheatfield Street would have connected with the River.

The American forces are said to have destroyed the military bridge crossing Tonawanda Creek to slow down the advancing British forces on their way to Fort Tompkins in Buffalo. The military bridge had been constructed in 1801.

The Tonawanda blockhouse on the south side of Tonawanda Creek was destroyed by the advancing British forces on their way to Buffalo. The blockhouse remained standing longer than expected because the crafty American officer in command, with only a handful of soldiers (13 to be exact), is said to have had them keep changing clothing. He sent them in and out in an effort to convince the advancing forces that he had more troops than he actually had.

The Colonel John Sweeney Rural Cemetery, established in 1825 on part of the James and John Sweeney property was the original Sweeney family burial ground. It was named in honor of War of 1812 veteran John Sweeney who had lost a leg in the War. The Sweeney brothers and George Goundry were the first to purchase land in what is now North Tonawanda following the War of 1812.

Additional War of 1812 veterans buried in the Sweeney Cemetery, in addition to John Sweeney himself, are: Timothy Lounsbury, Samuel Siminton, Robert Simson, and Thaddeus Sturges.

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© 2013 NCHS & J.Christian Krull