THE TONAWANDAS - Past, Present and Future

Two hundred years ago, this area of Western NY was a land of vast forests and beautiful waterways. The only inhabitants were the Iroquois Indians and a few brave traders. It was the Iroquois who named this area “Tonawanda” after the “Swift Running Water” of the Tonawanda Creek.

Settlers began to arrive in the early 1800’s and formed the various settlements which later became the Tonawandas. The area has experienced many changes in it’s economy since then, going from farming and lumber to heavy industry throughout the years.

Because of the birth of the Erie Canal, the area saw a rapid growth in population and jobs. In 1890, the Tonawandas became the largest lumber port in the country.


As the lumber supply in the area decreased, other major industries began to move in due to the extensive water frontage and good labor supply.

During the 1970’s, the area saw a significant decline in the economy due to the great “Rust Belt” depression that hit all of the major industrial cities in the northeast. The Tonawandas have now turned things around and the economy is beginning to thrive once again.

Because of the central location to major cities in the US and Canada, the area is becoming the location of choice for many high tech industries. Focus is also being placed on the historical value of the community which has increased tourism.