Blessed with a fertile agricultural plain between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, Niagara County has developed a reputation for its delicious bounty of fruit, and especially apples. So it should not surprise us that part of the celebration for the opening of the Erie Canal involved the shipment of local apples.
The inauguration of the Erie Canal opened up a transportation network to ship Niagara County apples to other parts of the state and country. Prior to that time, it was impossible to ship local apples any distance and expect to return a profit. At a cost of over $100 per ton to ship from Niagara County to the eastern cities, the profit equation was tipped completely into red ink. However, after the opening of the Erie Canal on October 26, 1825, the cost to ship local apples dropped to as low as $6 per ton. This cost reduction was all it would take to create a booming agricultural industry around some of the finest produce to be grown in our country.
In 1825, area farmer, Absolum Bull was growing apples within 300 yards of Niagara Falls. Having a keen mind for marketing his produce, and knowing very well the stories told of the success of the Erie Canal in other parts of the state, he contacted Judge Augustus Porter of Niagara Falls. Porter was to be involved in the opening day celebrations for the Erie Canal in Niagara County. Bull acquired Porter’s permission to piggy-back on the notoriety of the event by sending a letter to New York City Mayor William Paulding informing him of a plan to ship apples on the “maiden voyage” of Governor Clinton’s flotilla in October. The plan called for shipping four barrels of Bull’s finest Niagara County apples onboard the packet boat Niagara. The Niagara was part of the five-boat official flotilla that would carry the Governor and hundreds of well-wishers. Local pioneer, Peter Porter, was among participants onboard the Niagara. The apples were to be delivered, to the Mayor of the city of Troy, and the Mayor of New York City. The apples traveled along with several barrels of Lake Erie water that DeWitt Clinton carried onboard for his ceremonial “Wedding of the Waters” mixing event in New York harbor.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094