LEWISTON – Pam Hauth loves to tell about the day she discovered the oldest known map of the Village of Lewiston, hanging on the wall of the Townsend family descendants in Buffalo.
“I just love it,” said Hauth, executive director of the Lewiston Historical Association.
“We do have some other exciting things, but this is the most important thing we have that relates to the War of 1812. There’s not much else that survived,” she said. “It represents the time when Lewiston was being rebuilt after the war, when people started coming back and rebuilding their homes and business. That’s what this map represents – the rebirth, after Lewiston was burned to the ground.”
Hauth noted that most of the streets on the map remain the same today as they were 200 years ago.
She said the handwritten, linen-backed map has frayed and faded over the past 200 years but is still readable. She said the first thing she did was to tell the family to take it down in order to preserve it.
The owner of the map, Stephen Townsend, is a direct descendent of Jacob Townsend, who with his partners had a shipping and supply company in Lewiston just before the War of 1812, Hauth said.
Jacob Townsend came to Lewiston from Connecticut in 1810. He and his partners, including the first mayor of Buffalo, Sheldon Thompson, formed Townsend, Bronson and Co., a portage company operating from Oswego, Lewiston and Black Rock.
“Because it was a shipping company, the government appropriated some of its ships for the war. One was lost, and one he was able to buy back after the war,” said Hauth.
One of the ships, Charles and Ann was renamed Governor Tompkins, and it was the ship that was sold back to the company; the other, Catherine, was renamed the USS Somers and was captured by the British on Lake Erie.
Hauth said that because the Townsends are direct descendants they had a number of items that were passed down. She said Townsend’s wife, Barbara Townsend, met with Hauth to let her copy some of the letters that the Townsend family and the Townsend company had passed back and forth, which were used for the museum’s exhibit on the War of 1812.
“In the process of that, she showed me this map. It was framed and hanging on the wall, and I said, ‘Oh my gosh. I’ve never seen an original. I don’t have an original,’ ” Hauth said.
She said she also told them that they needed to take it down because otherwise it would fade.
“Eventually you won’t be able to see it,” Hauth said she told the family.
Hauth said at first they had planned to make a copy for the museum, but instead the family kept the copy and let the museum have the family’s heirloom map.
“They decided it was the best place for it, said Hauth. She said a high-quality reproduction of the map, which was provided by Biel’s Document Management in West Seneca, was given to the Townsend family.
She said the copy is so good that you can see the threads and the linen backing of the map.
Hauth said the map, along with the original artifacts, will bring the museum’s War of 1812 display to life.
“This map was drawn in 1815, when people were coming back to the village,” she said. “Not much happened here between the war and the burning. This is the very beginning of the restart of the village, and it’s incredibly important.”
She also stressed how important donations are to the museum, which opened 40 years ago and is located at 469 Plain St. in the historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The museum is open in June, July and August.
“We depend on the families to give us these artifacts. That’s the only way we can get them,” Hauth said. “We depend on the descendants to donate them so we can preserve them for future generations. That’s our lifeblood.”
Hauth said the museum is in the midst of creating a special display for the map, which will be part of the War of 1812 exhibit when the museum’s exhibit hall reopens in June.