Native Americans built a "mound" on the island, which is noted by early explorers of the region. The island's first European inhabitant arrives in 1791, one Edward Carney, who hopes to "squat" his way into possession of the island. In 1833, Stephen White of the East Boston Timber Company buys the island (as his company harvested the precious and abundant white oak from Grand Island), and builds the mansion seen in these illustrations. It was named "Beechwater." The famous Daniel Webster's son Fletcher is married to White's daughter Caroline here in 1836. By 1840 the white oak of Grand Island is gone, and White's business moves him elsewhere. The island and the mansion are deserted. William Wilkeson purchases the property in 1869, planting orchards and vineyards. In 1881, he sells to Smith, Fassett & Company, a lumber concern, beginning the island's long and enduring industrial phase. Beechwater, the mansion, is torn down by the company in 1906.
Account of Indian mound, armory on Tonawanda Island, excerpt (Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York, 1849).jpg
A set of aerial photographs showing Tonawanda Island and the Little River.
From History of Niagara County 1821-1878 (1878): James Carney was a pioneer in the town as early as 1819, locating with his father, Edward Carney,…