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Where We Live: Town of Tonawanda

Town of Tonawanda

With infrastructure work under way at the North Youngmann Commerce Center, town officials are wondering what to name an access road on the 92-acre site being made shovel-ready for development.

Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana asked historian John Percy for suggestions and revealed last week that Percy came up with “Pirson” after a family of German Protestants that settled on the land.

John and Eva Pirson came to the United States from Alsace-Lorraine in a group that fled Europe sometime in the 1820s during the tumult of the Napoleonic era, Percy said. They traveled west through the Mohawk Valley near Albany and settled along what is now Military Road, which was referred to as the Mohawk Settlement.

“They had a log cabin on that property where the new road is supposed to go,” Percy said.

As people fled Buffalo in 1848 during a cholera epidemic, the Pirsons used cheap labor to build a brick home and farm at 2250 Military Road – land later used for many years as the Bisonite paint company.

The Pirsons were part of the town’s first religious congregation – the German Congregation of the Evangelical Church – and helped build a church in 1849, which was active until 1967. The town acquired the building in 1973. There was talk of tearing it down or putting a hot dog stand there, Percy said, but supervisor Henry DeWitt “had the foresight to save the property.” Today it’s the town’s historical society on Knoche Road.

While there’s some uncertainty over the spelling of their name — it’s “Pierson” on an 1880 map — there’s no street already named Pirson in the town, Percy said. In a town that is almost fully developed, the chance to name a new street is rare.

“You don’t get to name streets very often,” Percy said. “Like, never.”

The town board would have to approve the name.

Also this week:

• The 2013 Franco’s Pizza Kenmore Children’s Concert Season continues Tuesday with Dr. Jazz & the Jazzbugs. The weekly free event takes place at 6:15 p.m. at Kenmore Middle School. The rain location is the Community Center on Wilbur Ave. across from Mang Park.

• Tickets are now available for an Aug. 25 event at Ellwood Fire Hall to benefit the family of Town of Tonawanda police officer Tim Day who is in need of a heart transplant. Anyone interested in donating items for a basket raffle may contact Colleen Donovan at Visit for more information.