Smith Salisbury: the man who dropped the ‘e’ from Buffaloe

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

When the Hotel Statler was built on Niagara Square, it famously replaced Millard Fillmore’s grand retirement home, which after he died became the Castle Inn.

The Salisbury House stood in what is now the footprint of Statler City.

But in 1880, on the same block as Fillmore’s digs, stood a smaller, much more modest house that had stood through most of Buffalo’s history up until that point.

The little wooden cottage on Mohawk Street, closer to Franklin than Delaware, was built in 1828 by Smith H. Salisbury. He was the publisher of several different newspapers through the years in the villages of Buffalo and Black Rock, including the area’s first newspaper, the Buffalo Gazette, starting in 1811.

In 1814, he and his brother Hezekiah had built one of the first buildings in Buffalo after the village was burned to the ground in 1813. It was a printing works for the Buffalo Gazette, which they had been printing at Harris Hill with printing equipment they’d been able to get out of Buffalo before the British and their native allies laid torch to the village.

Salisbury’s greatest and longest lasting contribution is an interesting one. He might be the man most responsible for the spelling of Buffalo.

When the tiny hamlet was still little more than mud trails and log cabins, there were citizens – and even maps – which referred to the place as “Buffaloe.”

He made it his first civic crusade to codify the spelling of the village’s name – without the “e.”

From the 1811 Buffalo Gazette discussion of the spelling of Buffalo(e).

In a series of writings that might have been funny two centuries ago, Salisbury said anyone spelling the village’s name with an “e” at the end “was guilty not only of a gross dereliction in thus adding the silent, superfluous ‘e’ to the high-sounding Buf-fa-lo, but that he had in his filchings taken one of the official functionaries, one of the most important members of the alphabet, one in fact introduced into all circles, parties, societies and even into electioneering caucuses, and placed him where his usefulness would be entirely abridged, where he must raise his final head in silence, where he would be known only in name.”

There are conflicting reports on what eventually happened to the home near Niagara Square where Salisbury spent the last three decades of his life, but the most plausible seems to be a 1909 newspaper account, which said the house was demolished in 1891.

The Statler Hotel was opened on the spot in 1923.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.