This post is the second in an occasional series examining the history of the names of Buffalo’s streets.
There’s a fork in the road near the Buffalo city line in West Seneca, where a left takes drivers onto Indian Church Road and a right onto Mineral Springs Road. Both uniquely named streets are arteries through the Winchester area, travel into South Buffalo and end at Seneca Street. And both are linked to the area’s Native American past.
In Buffalo’s early days, the entire southeastern corner of the city was part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, where the Seneca people lived, according to a historic resources survey published at the city’s website. The reservation was established following the Revolutionary War after the Senecas, who were allied with the British, negotiated with the victorious Americans.
Missionaries converted some of the Senecas to Christianity, and the Senecas built a church about 400 feet from present-day Seneca Street – in the center of present-day Indian Church Road – that was dedicated in 1829, according to professional urban planner Angela Keppel’s Buffalo Streets blog.
Settlers and developers encroached on the reservation, and as part of a dark chapter in American history, the Senecas were dispossessed of the land. The site of the old Indian Church was the subject of a minor controversy in 2009, when a Buffalo Sewer Authority project dug through the pavement on Indian Church Road amid concerns about desecrating a Native American burial ground.
A post at the website Buffalo Architecture and History called the Seneca people’s loss of the Buffalo Creek Reservation “one of the ugliest episodes of trickery in our history.”
To the north of the Indian Church, a mineral spring flowed near the present-day site where I-90 crosses the Buffalo River, according to Keppel. The Seneca called the spring “Dyos-hih,” or “the sulfur spring.”
Early settlers believed the mineral spring – which gave Mineral Springs Road its name – had healing powers.
“The water was found to contain sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, lime carbonate, soda carbonate, magnesia sulfate, and lime sulfate,” according to Keppel’s blog.