Why did pioneers think it was a good idea to settle in Buffalo?
November 22, 2014 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Not meant to be snarky on Buffalo per se-I wonder this about most cold places- but why did the people who settled Buffalo think it would be a good idea to live there permanently?

I mean, the winters are extremely difficult there now in 2014, so what would it have been like in the 1700s? I see on Wikipedia that Buffalo was settled around 1800 which means the existence of the West Indies and Mexico were known about for roughly 300 years previously, so why did people go through such hardships to live in northern, harsh climates? Was the prospect of land and abundant game that attractive to put up with those winters?

Interested to hear all perspectives here, from the point of view of the native peoples who originally decided to inhabit it through to modern business people who decided they could do business in an area where 2-3 months of the year the roads might not be passable. Educate me!
posted by the foreground to Society & Culture (28 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Erie Canal was a major trade route in a time when water was the best way to transport goods. Buffalo became a major city and major trading post. What you are seeing in Buffalo right now is a year's worth of snow in the matter of a day. Literally. Buffalo does get a lot of snowfall, but to get this amount of snow at the very beginning of the winter season is highly unusual. Global warming actually makes lake effect snow worse because the lake stays warmer and gives off more moisture into the air that cold fronts turn into snow. So winters in Buffalo have likely or will likely get worse since Buffalo was founded. In other words, the city's founders probably didn't deal with nearly as much snow as people are right now. Beside, Chicago and Milwaukee are major cities founded a long time ago that get a lot of snow too, and they also are near water -- it's not really that much different.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:20 PM on November 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

I can't speak to Buffalo's demographics, but much of northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan was settled by Finnish immigrants, so the cold and snow was no big deal since they'd already found ways to adapt for centuries. I mean, why do people live in Finland or Iceland or Alaska? You get used to it.
posted by desjardins at 3:20 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't forget that for a long time, up until the invention of air-conditioning and its mass availability in the US at least, that it was much easier to heat an indoors space than to cool it. We tend to look at places like Buffalo today and wonder why anyone would put up with the snow and cold, but it bears remembering that places like Washington DC, not to mention places further south like Miami, were pretty intolerable in the summer before the availability of AC. (Much of the South's growth, especially Florida's, has been in the postwar period when AC really became widespread.)
posted by andrewesque at 3:58 PM on November 22, 2014 [38 favorites]

Many places have climate extremes. I live in Toronto, which admittedly gets less snow than Buffalo, but has a reasonably similar climate. My sister lives in Alabama in a building with a tornado shelter and has had a rather devastating one touch down less than a mile away. The West Indies gets hurricanes. Nature can be really, really mean.

Originally these areas were explored for the fur trade. Also, many of the original settlers were from cooler climate places, where they had no hope of ever owning a patch of land big enough to grow enough for their families, let alone enough to sell. There is lots of arable land around the Great Lakes. There was fish in the rivers and lots of game. The spring, summer and fall are quite pleasant since the Great Lakes provides a moderating influence on weather extremes.
posted by TORunner at 4:00 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

A lot of crops require cold winters to grow; cropland around the Great Lakes is, in general, extremely fertile. If you're a settler after farmland, that's pretty attractive, especially if you're familiar with European crops that require winters. The key point is whether you can lay in enough food during the growing season to survive the off-season; you clearly can in the Buffalo area.

Anything that was under the Wisconsin glaciation has kick-ass soil; Buffalo is near the southern end of that glaciation, so kick-ass glacial till plus a long growing season (for glacial soil) means highly-desirable farmland, regardless of unfortunate weather.

(Also, Chicago as a city wasn't founded until 1833 (population 350) -- before that it was an army fort and associated 12-house village -- and explodes after 1850 or so -- it's actually quite young. It is a great site for shipping because of the lake and the short portage to the Mississippi River system, but it's pretty swampy, not so great for crops, so it doesn't get big until shipping starts to matter that far west and the Illinois legislature orders a canal built. Older settlements in Chicago -- both Native and European -- are farther south, along the glacial rivers.)

Also North American settlers coming from Europe are mostly the people who thought, "Six weeks in steerage that I might or might not survive is a way better deal than I have now!" so their opinions on "hardship" and "good idea" are kinda skewed to the modern mind.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:01 PM on November 22, 2014 [29 favorites]

Also, until a little over a hundred years ago, people were getting around on horses and horse-drawn carriages. Horses can get through snow, unlike cars which have to wait for the plow to come through, and carriages can be switched out for sleighs. Life did not stop after a heavy snowstorm.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:06 PM on November 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

Well, first, dispense with the idea that going any place you wanted was an option. It usually wasn't. Second, a lot of Europeans did settle in the West Indies (British, Dutch, French, and even a Danish possession) and throughout Central and South America (primarily within the Spanish and Portuguese Empires). In combination, you generally went someplace where your country of departure had some sort of interest. Many people came in organized parties or working for a particular enterprise, so you would go where you had to. For varied historical and political reasons, the American colonies were the best place for anyone else to go, such as my German ancestors who arrived here ca. 1810.

Two more points about the warmer climes. First is that industrial development was very limited before the invention of air conditioning. Second is that tropical diseases such as malaria were huge problems before modern medicine.

Now, development patterns and transportation. The early Americas developed almost exclusively around river systems, because it was so difficult to get anyplace any other way. This led to canals, and the most important of these was the Erie Canal. It is literally credited with opening up what was then known as the west, but essentially the North Central and Midwest regions from Wisconsin to Ohio, then called the Northwest Territory [not to be confused with the Canadian "Territories"]. They were on the other side of the Appalachians, and getting to the other side was no easy task in the days of the Conestoga wagon (probably the most important technology in land transportation before the railroad). To get to the Northwest Territories was one thing; to make a living there was another. If you were a farmer you need to get your grain or meat to market, and that meant the rivers and canals. Chicago developed all because of the Erie Canal even though they are hundreds of miles from each other. If you could get your goods to Chicago, they could go through Lake Michigan/Huron, the strait for which Detroit (another beneficiary of the canal) is named, and Lake Erie, then through the Canal, down the Hudson, and from New York anywhere along the Atlantic Coast. It was really that important.

The New York Governor who was key to getting the canal built, DeWitt Clinton, was so beloved by settlers that, among other things, he has two counties in Illinois named for him, apparently the only person for whom that's true. And two important streets in downtown Chicago are Canal St. and Clinton St. The city knew it would hardly have had a chance at existing without the canal.

So given that this was the transportation structure of the early US, it's not at all surprising that at several points Buffalo was among the ten largest cities in the country, arriving on the list in 1860 at #10 (with a population of 80,000), peaking at 8th in 1900 (with 340K), and its inhabitants peaking in 1950 with 580,000. The coming of the railroads had synergistically boosted the importance of Great Lakes cities even as they eclipsed the canal itself for the overland routes, but it was the Interstates that really led to the long decline of Buffalo. They finally had built that freedom of choice into not just people but businesses. With a bunch of other factors, like air conditioning, antibiotics, anti-unionism, and free trade, places like Buffalo lost key advantages, leaving someone like yourself to wonder why they ever had any in the first place.

And I see while typing this others have added very similar points. Obviously these are extremely intelligent persons who are a credit to the site.
posted by dhartung at 4:09 PM on November 22, 2014 [20 favorites]

A lot of cities were started at transportation choke points, because of trade. In early years that meant rivers and inland waterways. (Then it meant canals. Even later it meant railroads, which is why Dallas.)

Buffalo is at the mouth of the Niagara river on Lake Erie. It would be a natural point for a trading post, which is often the seed that leads to a town and then a city.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:38 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also remember that a lot of warmer climate places bought equally serious problems, until modern times (and even now still in parts of the world) the diseases you get in some hotter climates could make such places even more of a hardship. Malaria alone still kills a scary number of people in this day and age. Add to that trying to work land in a climate that is not conducive to heavy physical labor and a milder Northern summer might not look so bad.
posted by wwax at 5:09 PM on November 22, 2014

Another thing is that while Buffalo is indeed very snowy, winters here are really not *that* cold for North America. A bit colder than NYC/Boston/Philly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:53 PM on November 22, 2014

In warmer places like the American south and West Indies slavery was huge. That would have impacted how welcoming they were for immigrants anyway. The north needed people to farm/settle for themselves, whereas in these other places they could just grow their estates/plantations with slave labour.

Also, places like Buffalo aren't that far from more established "civilized" cities like New York or Boston. So you would still have relatively easy access to culture and power and could dream of making it big.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:01 PM on November 22, 2014

This is similar to asking why one would consider living in NYC because Superstorm Sandy. Or San Francisco because they have had major earthquakes. Or New Orleans because Hurricane Katrina. Or the Midwest because tornadoes and floods. In fact, those are all arguably worse than a major snowstorm because, for the most part, snow doesn't destroy property or cause loss of life. I'm a little defensive because Buffalo is home but I would take snow over any other natural disaster, no question.
posted by kat518 at 6:04 PM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think it would be very physically unpleasant for a Caucasian person to live in the West Indies or Mexico during the colonial era, due to the heat. Unless they were wealthy enough to be indoors all day while the purchased slaves and indentured servants did all the labour on their behalf. Even then, the hot climate would be harder on their bodies than a person of colour that can stand the weather better. I have very dark skin and coarse hair and it doesn't trouble me to be walking about in 35C tropical afternoon sun. It makes me tired and sweaty after a while, but I don't need to wear a hat or sunblock and I'm not going to get a sunburn or heatstroke from hours of doing that. But even though I can physically take it, it is not particularly comfortable, and nights can be stifling when there is no such thing as air conditioning. I could not imagine what a person capable of getting sunburn would experience.

Also, these tropical areas have tons of bugs. I like cold climates because once winter hits you don't have to deal with nasty flies and mosquitoes. If I was in the Caribbean and left a sweaty shirt out to air on the back of a chair that had traces of perfume on it, or if I left some dirty dishes in the sink, the items would be swarming with vermin within minutes. Bugs and their excrement and eggs also get into your stored food and water supply easily. It's foul because insects carry diseases and you can pick it up from them if you ingest them or their droppings or they bite you. This issue does not seem as horrible in a place like Buffalo. Even in modern times as a teen it was common for people in my community to get malaria, dengue fever, cholera, "jigger foot" and worms. The local tv station would advertise about how to avoid these things or what local medicines you could buy for it. These are all awful diseases that aren't as prevalent in the Northern US and I can imagine before modern medicine it would have been devastating for a settler and their family.

The heat additionally means that food spoils unpredictably so prior to refrigeration it was very hard to store food (nothing like cold cellars exist). Which is a big deal for people struggling to survive. You can salt fish to preserve it or let it sit in vinegar, and maybe make some pepper sauce but I can't think of a good and easy way to keep crops before refrigerators existed without a cold cellar. Tropical areas just like temperate regions have growing seasons so it's not like someone will have guaranteed crops all year round to pick out the garden whenever one is hungry. So at least in Buffalo

Also, Latin America and most of the Caribbean were Spanish (i.e. Catholic) settlements during the colonial era. Protestant settlers were not welcome so they had to go to Protestant friendly areas like Northern sections of the US, Canada and India. Spanish-Catholic strategies for colonization meant somewhat more tolerance for intermarrying between races (to "whiten" the "savages" and introduce "culture" to their blood), and involved a lot of rich people of colour passing as "white" or partly white. On the other hand, Protestant strategies seemed more focused on everyone staying separate and whiteness was a lot less fluid in interpretation. The result is after a few centuries the ancestors of the original settlers in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean are perceived as people of colour that have always been there... It's easy to forget, for example, that some descended from German, Chinese, or Russian settlers who came just a few generations back.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 6:07 PM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's hard to understate the importance of the Erie Canal to Buffalo. Before the canal, it was basically a rural village. After the canal, it was the most important domestic port in the country. The canal is the whole story.

New Yorkers hated Clinton because building the canal was an expensive and time-consuming endeavor that basically no one but Clinton thought would work so it was derisively called Clinton's Ditch until it opened and turned out to grow money.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:29 PM on November 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

snow doesn't destroy property or cause loss of life

Yes, but in say the 1700s, where this question was clearly geared towards, I would imagine prolonged freezing cold and crippling snow storms would present both of those risks to intrepid settlers.

I can't get my head around how it must have been so much harder to deal with bitter cold and regular deep snow back then than it is now.

To rephrase, my question is basically what motivated these early people to leave say, Albany or New York City, to go further out to an even less hospitable climate and decide, "hey, I want to stay out here permanently" ?

I think the canal is quite an enlightening answer in the specific case of Buffalo and other cities that gained positive impact from it...still wonder about why people were there in the first place though, predating the advent of serious trade.
posted by the foreground at 7:07 PM on November 22, 2014

Snowstorms were likely less severe years ago because when it was colder, the lake froze over sooner and the longer the lake isn't frozen, the worse lake effect snow is. A snowstorm picks up moisture from the lake and dumps that inland. Warmer weather means more snow and warmer weather is a recent development. So if your question is why people settled in an area where it snows a lot, the answer is that it snowed less in the past. It's significant that this storm happened in November because that's unusual, indicating the warmth is a major factor.
posted by kat518 at 7:13 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know for sure, but being the around northernmost point on Lake Erie would be a potentially major spot both for shipping and, perhaps, a good place to be in relation to the British if they were making trouble.

Just as an analogy, Duluth, MN, was bigger in 1880 than it is now because it is at the westernmost point of Lake Superior. Had the railroad not gone through Chicago (which led to its growth) it would have very likely gone there. As for Great Lake shipping, Duluth had more millionaires per capita than anywhere in the United States in 1900, and lumber played a significant role. Lumber may've been a big deal in Buffalo as well.
posted by mr. digits at 7:25 PM on November 22, 2014

There were no salt trucks or fleet of road plows, but cars didn't exist back then either. As people noted above, horses can ride in the snow with sleighs. And for the individual person, dealing with the snow is much the same as it was back then -- burn a fire to keep warm, layer your clothes, and shovel snow out of the way. It isn't too different, although now we have things like vent heating systems and fireplaces aren't necessary. As others noted above, people couldn't live in most places that don't get snow because those locations were too hot. People didn't really live in places like Florida or the west until air conditioning became available.

Why does anyone settle in a place where nothing is there yet? That question seems to extend far beyond Buffalo. Buffalo had about 2,000 people in it -- it was a tiny little town -- until the Erie Canal opened and the population exploded. The economic opportunities and commerce in Buffalo as a gateway via the Erie Canal is what drew enough people to expand it from being a tiny nothing town to an actual city.

Based on your question, it sounds like maybe you've never lived in a place that gets a significant amount of snow. It's not that bad. I prefer it over the oppressive heat of, say, Arizona. I've lived through having my power off for a week in a snowstorm -- layers and a fire made it fine, if not very inconvenient and annoying. But if you're hot and you don't have air conditioning, there's not a whole lot you can do to help.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:26 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

the foreground: "still wonder about why people were there in the first place though, predating the advent of serious trade."

In the case of the American frontier, the answer is almost always "abundant cheap land" -- and later on, "you know civilization is coming west eventually and the land will go up in value (and its products down in shipping price)" and "US government programs designed to encourage settlement on the frontier." It turns out a large enough subset of people to create permanent settlement will move JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE if you offer them cheap (or free!) land that they can own, not just sharecrop for someone else.

The American frontier is super-interesting to study, though, in terms of exactly your question -- why did a city end up here instead of there, especially for the parts of the frontier that were platted before non-Native settlers got there (so people's farmland was in evenly-dispersed equal squares, not clustered around natural resources radiating out). And then the secondary question is, which cities remain vibrant as the frontier stops being subsistence agriculture, hunting/trapping, and family farms? It's probably the closest we'll ever get to a natural experiment on "how to plant a city." Navigable rivers matter a lot (but a navigable river alone can't save a planted city); government infrastructure matters a lot (capital cities or military-base-adjacent cities, even if they're in terrible locations just put there because someone donated land, tend to stay at least minimally viable); rail matters quite a bit but is heavily impacted by the interstate in ways that rivers aren't. Accidents turn out to matter -- some random missionary priests stuck a college here; a wealthy farmer paid for a school there. Getting to a self-sustaining size before a historical contingency that created the city goes bust (rail; fur trapping; open range herding) matters. It's a really interesting question, and one that community advocates in the "rust belt" think about a lot, because it might help guide the next phase of development.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:31 PM on November 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

Lots of great answers here, and I'll echo the comments that Buffalo's weather is actually pretty nice for much of the year, which makes up for the winters. Lived there for four years in college; summer and fall were glorious. Buffalo has even been rated as having some of the best summers in the country. I live in Western Washington now and they're about equal in terms of having dry, not-too-hot summer days and cool summer nights.

I do remember thinking at various points during Buffalo winters, while shuffling across campus: "Holy shit, how did the Iroquois live through this?!" But I also find myself thinking that about the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest. How did they live through these cold, wet winters?
posted by bennett being thrown at 9:54 PM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, but in say the 1700s, where this question was clearly geared towards, I would imagine prolonged freezing cold and crippling snow storms would present both of those risks to intrepid settlers.

The prolonged freezing cold in Buffalo is only marginally worse than the prolonged freezing cold in New York or Boston. Really. Hell, winters here are positively balmy compared to Vermont/NH/QC.

Yeah, there's more snow, but you start getting some substantial increases in snow as you start heading up the Hudson valley or start west -- Albany gets 60" in an average year, and Binghamton 80", as compared to Buffalo's 100". Syracuse, on the way there, usually gets more snow than Buffalo. A farmhand or second-son in upstate NY wouldn't be terribly shocked by the snow in Buffalo when they moved out there to get their own land.

Again, this storm was *rare*. The last time something like this happened was (long term residents tell me) 1977, or 37 years ago. Yes, Buffalo gets 100 inches of snow in a normal year. Yes, that's a lot. But in a normal winter, it's not common for there to be more than a foot or so on the ground at any given time. You get some snow, then it melts in a thaw, repeat until late March / early April. It's really... unspectacular. You get the odd blizzard here, but there's nowhere that's free from natural disasters.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:01 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can't get my head around how it must have been so much harder to deal with bitter cold and regular deep snow back then than it is now.

They had fire, and fur, and wool back then, y'know. They knew how to make warm and water-resistant clothing. They knew or figured out how to heat buildings and construction techniques to retain heat in those buildings. They weren't Neanderthals.

And I think lots of people didn't need to go outside for very long distances or times in the worst of the weather. Business owners lived in the back or above the business, employees often lived in rooms in the business or a few blocks away, people didn't have 20-mile-each-way daily commutes. And in the face of a really horrible blizzard a town could basically shut down for a day or two without collapsing, nobody's boss was gonna call them on the phone shrieking that the company would lose thousands of dollars if they didn't make it to work.

And in a more rural situation, my modern-day small farmer friends have a couple of hours worth of chores taking care of the animals and not much else they need to do in winter. So AFAICT, farmers could spend a large part of their days in bad weather inside where it's warm. They certainly didn't need to tramp through miles of fields planting crops.

IOW, you're having problems getting your head around it because 1) you're kind of assuming that our recent ancestors were far more primitive than they actually were, and 2) you're applying industrial/post-industrial standards of work and lifestyle to a pre-industrial society, which is a bad match.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:34 PM on November 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

Towns often tended to spring up in places where cargo had to be switcheded from one kind of transportation to another, because then you needed warehouses and you needed a lot of strong backs and you needed guards, so there was work.

That's why Dodge City, for example; it was the end of a rail line, and lots of cattle were brought in from ranches near (and not so near) to be shipped by rail to slaughterhouses back east. Which meant big stock yards, which meant lots of men were needed to work in the stock yards.

And so it was for Buffalo, even before the Erie Canal. Lake Erie was a major transportation asset, but cargo on that waterway going east couldn't proceed past Buffalo because just downstream was Niagara Falls. So anything being shipped from the Great Lakes to pretty much anywhere else had to unload at Buffalo, to be carried further east by pack animals. (Likewise, anything going west came in on pack animals.)

Then the Erie Canal was dug, and the amount of cargo passing through Buffalo (going east and going west) exploded -- and so did the population of the town.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:12 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

To rephrase, my question is basically what motivated these early people to leave say, Albany or New York City, to go further out to an even less hospitable climate and decide, "hey, I want to stay out here permanently" ?

Farmland. Also, I'm not sure you have a grasp on how winter farming works. It mostly involves staying indoors. Livestock isn't pastured in winter. Farmland isn't tended in any way. There was little need to go outdoors in foul weather. You might find thisa good explaination of farming through seasons in the north-east.

Also as people keep telling you, there was much less snow.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:51 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to comment on one thing AppleTurnover said:

Global warming actually makes lake effect snow worse because the lake stays warmer and gives off more moisture into the air that cold fronts turn into snow.

Global Climate Change - which will lead to an overall warming of the globe - causes increased storm activity in general, because it agitates the system. All the soup was going around the pot clockwise, when someone stuck a spoon in and swished it back and forth, making it splash.

This is the general reason why some places will get super-cold winters occasionally, even while globally the average temperatures increase - humans have stirred the pot, badly.

So winters in Buffalo have likely or will likely get worse since Buffalo was founded.

Worse, and better. Unpredictably, in the near future. Heck, the rest of the winter might be mild for Buffalo. Or insane.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:30 AM on November 23, 2014

I live near an Indian reservation in a place that, while accessible to some great water ways is pretty inhospitable in the winters. Short summers, crap for crops, kinda swampy otherwise, and I've often wondered why anybody would have wanted to live here in the winter before heat and snowplows.

The answer is, for the native inhabitants, that they didn't. Tribes or family groups would come through in the spring and summer, plant a bit, hunt and gather, then stay into early winter to trap. Then they'd book it back down state south of the timberline and stay further inland, away from the lake shore and its miserable snow. As European settlers came in, they didn't care for the native inhabitants (since migration isn't "civilized") showing up to their winter villages that the Europeans had converted into towns and pastures.

At the same time, lumber barons wanted the wood north of the timber line plus the great access to the waterways to ship the lumber down to Chicago. So they came up in the winter when the native inhabitants were fewer and basically squatted to claim it, so that even when the government granted it back to certain tribes as a reservation to use year-round in their "home" lands (even though those lands were usually only used seasonally). This also pleased the southern urban Europeans were turning their wintering villages into cities. So the timber barons and lumberjacks squatted to undermine the government's treaty and the Indians got stuck with their summer hunting grounds to live in even when the snow is butt-deep and it's 20 below.
posted by mibo at 8:10 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mention of clothing and such above suggests you look up Ötzi, the "Iceman" discovered in the Alps, who died there five thousand years ago. Due to the altitude and climate his corpse and possessions were relatively well-preserved, and analysis of his clothing and equipment shows that he was well-prepared for the cold and snow, fifty centuries before the invention of Gore-Tex.

If you look at some studies of early European man during the last period of glaciation, you can actually measure different groups' tolerance for snow-cover. (Neanderthals didn't like it much, but Anatomically Modern Humans eventually seem to have developed much greater tolerances, perhaps as a result of interest in prey or hunting advantages during winter, perhaps as a result of technological assistance such as with Ötzi.)

In general, if you read about the kinds of things that our ancestors went through just to travel or live or make a living, it's remarkable what sort of risk (or mere discomfort) tolerance they had compared to middle-class Americans today.
posted by dhartung at 10:08 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Something else I've remembered that may have had an impact, though I am not sure on the settlement times for buffalo. From the Middle Ages until around the early 1800's much of the world was going through a mini Ice age, Buffalo after that time frame might not have seemed so bad by comparison to what people had left back home in Europe. Though I guess depending on the history it might have been worse, or as others have stated the extra cold at that time made Lake effect snow less of a concern, by the time it was over & they found out just how bad it would be the canal was there and the city was thriving.
posted by wwax at 3:17 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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