Torn-Down Tuesday: The mills of the Black Rock Canal, 1899

By Steve Cichon

When you look at the water when you’re driving along the I-190 between the Peace Bridge and the International Rail Bridge, you’re looking at the Black Rock Canal.

Buffalo Stories archives

In 1899, on this spot, you would have been surrounded by grain storage, milling and malting infrastructure. The photo above shows the foot of Ferry Street looking toward Breckenridge – or in other words, if you’re driving along the I-190 north, this is the area across the water starting at the Ferry Street bascule lift bridge (which was built 14 years after this photo was taken).

This 1894 map shows the mills in the photo at the top, in the area that is now Broderick Park. The I-190 now runs along what is the lower shore of the Black Rock Canal on this map. Rich Products manufacturing and headquarters now takes up the space between West Ferry and Breckenridge on this map.

The Frontier, Clinton and Queen City mills were destroyed by fire in 1901.

Buffalo in the ’60s: Torso found in Black Rock Canal solves mystery of missing banker

By Steve Cichon

In 1959, Buffalo industrialist, banker and former Assistant Navy Secretary Edward Germain seemed to vanish without a trace.

When he left a small group of friends at the Buffalo Club, the longtime president of Dunlop Rubber told friends he was going to drive to his summer home just over the Peace Bridge in Canada.

He never arrived. A 32-state search ensued, and the case made national headlines.

A $10,000 reward was offered, but the only information on the case came from a man who watched Germain’s blue 1958 Chevrolet scrape along several parked cars on Buffalo’s Lower West Side. The car was moving slowly enough that the man could run alongside and offer to help, but the man behind the wheel — who appeared to be the 69-year-old Germain — seemed to be in some sort of trance and unable to stop or move.

Another less-certain report told of a car like Germain’s traveling the wrong way on a I-190 offramp.

When this was all the investigation netted, one doctor supposed that Germain could have had a stroke, but those who knew him said that he was as healthy as a man going on 50 even though he was going on 70.  Germain’s family seemed to think the wealthy man, who lived on Nottingham Terrace, was robbed. They feared they wouldn’t find him alive.

Germain’s Nottingham Terrace home. (Buffalo News archives)

Police seemed hung up on the fact that the car hadn’t been found. Divers searched the Niagara River but found nothing, and the case went cold for four years.

Then in 1963, kids playing in the Black Rock Canal found the decomposed remains which were matched to Germain by the still-intact clipping of his sister’s obituary in his pocket. Robbery didn’t seem to be a motive. Along with the newspaper article, his wallet also was filled with cash.

Buffalo News archives

Divers searched the river again — this time north of the Peace Bridge, instead of south near where his car was last seen.

Buffalo News archives

After 365 search hours, the mangled remains of Germain’s car were found, with the key still in the on position, and a shoe with bone fragments in it near the accelerator.

Buffalo News archives

Once the car and car were found, the case was closed. No further reporting was done on any investigation after the accident. The final mentions of the incident came with the probate of Germain’s $740,000 estate.