The Age of Boston
Physically the Town of Boston is very old. Scientists tell us that the shale rock, which underlies this area, was formed under the sea in the Devonian age, about 280,000,000 years ago. Later, the land was raised up so that before the glacial period, our hills were higher by possibly 1,800 feet than they are at present. When the great ice sheet came down from the north and overran Western New York, its great weight depressed the land and it has never come back to its pre-glacial elevation. Then too, the glacier planed off the top of the hills to a considerable extent.
Eighteen Mile Creek existed before the ice age but its valley was narrower than at present, and it flowed into a river which went southwest through was is now Lake Erie, and into the Mississippi River.
The Glaciers Came
During the glacial period, which began about 750,000 to 100,000 years ago, the ice sheet moved up eighteen mile creek valley and must have dammed up the stream and at one time it drained into Cattaraugus Creek near Springville. At the most southerly advance of the ice it reached a point south of Boston, near the Pennsylvania line. There were four or five major advances with warm interglacial intervals, probably covering many thousands of years. The high ridge of hill south of the Cattaraugus Creek is a moraine deposited by the last major advance of the ice, which is known as the Wisconsin glaciation. Each advance of the ice up the Boston valley widened and deepened the valley and cut away the spurs between the tributary creeks on each side so that it was gradually converted from a “V” shaped stream valley into a “U” shaped glacial valley.
The Glacier Melted
Whenever the glacier receded, as it melted under warmer conditions, it dropped its load of earth and rocks which it had pushed ahead of it as it came down from the north. This accounts for the boulders of granite brought from Canada and found all over this area. The earth from the glacier washed into the soil and into the lake which was backed up in the valley behind the retreating glacier. The soil in the lake settled to from the wide flat floor of our valley. Some idea of the depth and size of this lake may be had by observing the valley out across the western hill, crossed by the Zimmerman and Feddick roads, where the outlet of this glacial lake overflowed west and down the valley of Hampton Brook.
The last glacier probably melted in Boston Valley about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. What a desolate landscape our hills and valley must have been. Not a blade of grass nor tree nor shrub but only mud, gravel and rocks everywhere. Gradually, we suppose, seeds were brought in by the birds and winds and vegetation was re-established. As the centuries passed a forest of mixed hardwoods and evergreens covered the land and animals and birds became abundant.
The First Visitors
It was probably 4,500 years after the ice disappeared, or 5,500 years ago, when the first human beings visited the valley. These early visitors were not the Indians that the settlers encountered but a more primitive people who knew nothing of farming nor pottery making. They lived by hunting everything edible; berries, nuts, shellfish, snails, fish, and game. This kind of life required them to move frequently to find more food, so they had no settled life, but moved about wherever food was to be found. Such food as they cooked was roasted over a fire or “stone boiled” by dropping heated stones into bark, skin, or basketry containers to boil the contents. When the hot stones dropped into cold water they often split and these split stones are found at sites along Eighteen Mile Creek. Fish were caught with barbless fish-hooks, spears, and probably nets and notched stone sinkers are sometimes found. Acorns and other vegetable foods were ground on shallow stone mortors, millers or hand grinding stones to form a kind of flour. All these artifacts have been found in the valley. Skins probably provided the only clothing and their weapons were rather crude.
The First Residents
Later than these primitive people were the “woodland people” who practiced some farming, made pottery and made and smoked clay pipes. They may have come into this region from the south and southwest where higher cultures were developing. Probably these Indians came in about 3,000 years ago and were related to the “mound builders” of the Midwest. They raised corn and beans and were therefore more inclined to live in permanent villages than the earlier people. However, as the game was killed off and the agricultural land exhausted, they moved to new locations. Anthropologists are able to distinguish the artifacts of these different cultures.
Before the Europeans arrived in this part of the country the Indian living hereabouts were known as Eries, from whom our county and great lake are named, Neuters and Wenroes, all related to the Iroquois who formed the Five Nations of the area to the east. Trouble arose between these Indians and the other Iroquois and in 1654 the Eries were exterminated. From then until the Sulivan expedition of the Revolutionary period destroyed their power the Iroquois Five Nations ruled west of the Hudson River, with the Seneca tribe dominant in this area.
The Iroquois Indians, known as Indians of the long house, built houses so poles and bark, in villages, which were sometimes palisaded by setting up logs twenty or more feet high. These palisades were further strengthened by piling earth against them on the inside and outside. As the total population of the Five Nations, at the time when the first Europeans arrived, is estimated at 5,500, have been only a scattered occupation of this area. Where a village existed for any length of time there is bound to be an accumulation of broken pottery, lost tools and weapons, and when the village was abandoned or burned, a surviving ridge of earth where the palisade had been.
An Indian Village
When the first settler arrived in Boston and built his cabin about where Liebler Road intersects Route 219, old records tell us that nearby was an opening in the forest of about thirty acres, except for a few trees. Here was an earthen embankment about two feet high, with a ditch on the outside about two feet deep, enclosing a space of about two and a half acres. “There were a few trees growing on the embankment, one of them being a chestnut from two and two to two and a half feet in diameter.” This undoubtedly marked the site of an old palisaded village and may have been in what is now Patchin. It is also recorded that there was a trail from this site to where Hamburg now is and from there along the ridge, where Pleasant Avenue leads to the lake.
By the time the settlers arrived here the Indians were living on reservations at Buffalo, Cattaraugus Creek or elsewhere, but occasionally they would pass through the valley. Their days warfare were over and they were harmless except for petty thievery.