The rivalry between the village of Black Rock and Buffalo goes back to their origins. Black Rock from the earliest times existed because of its unique service it provided for either a ferry to Canada or as a port for shipping goods west on schooners. Buffalo existed solely as a residential settlement. The Holland Land Company provided a platt for the town and championed it as the future center of population. Although the Buffalo River, known as Buffalo Creek showed obvious potential as a future port for Lake Erie, at the time the river was blocked most of the year by a sand bar. Thus any goods shipped to or from Buffalo had to be carried out to anchored schooners by boat. Thus Black Rock was oriented to transportation while Buffalo was oriented to typical business/residential mix. Both candidates for the dominant port for the Upper Great Lakes had serious flaws. Black Rock’s handicap was the swift current of the Niagara River. For a vessel loaded at Black Rock must be hauled to the open lake by teams of Oxen, while at Buffalo a sand bar forced a vessel to remain far off shore and load by boat.
Although Black Rock was known by first the Neuter Indians and later the Senecas it seems to have had little significance to these cultures beyond the possible place to fish. Their canoes might have found the protection of the Black Rock convenient but not essential for crossing the river at this point. Little is known of this early history except that there are brief mentions of a battle in December of 1763 between British soldiers and Indians during the French and Indan War. The earliest mention of using the Black Rock as a ferry crossing was during the Revolutionary War and it appears that the ferry was well establlished by 1796. The first written account comes from General Timothy Hopkins of Williamsville, who with a wagon load of wheat pulled by three oxen, crossed on the ferry from Black Rock to Canada in the early 1800’s. Another account published in the Port Folio periodica in 1810 tells, “I arrived about 12 o’clock M. (noon); the ice was so thick in the River Niagara that it was impossible to cross until 3 o’clock P.M. There were three wagons of emigrants waiting to cross (to ) the British side ... The crossing here is three-quarters of a miile wide ; half -a-dollar for man and horse. They catch abundance of fish with a seine ; the famiily ( of the wagon) were dining on pickerel and salmon trout, each four pounds weight.”