NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: Jacob Houstater, an original owner of Bond Lake property

COURTESY NIAGARA HISTORY CENTERHoustater house at Bond Lake Park, built by Jacob Houstater in the 1840s, was demolished last week.

Most histories that are written about Bond Lake Park in Lewiston begin with the development of the quarries that operated there in the early 20th century to harvest the limestone that was used in the steel making process in the steel plants in Lackawanna. Prior to the quarries, this area was privately owned by many different people and several homes lined both sides of Lower Mountain Road (some 19th century sources called this the “Middle Ridge Road”). Despite being right on the Niagara Escarpment with limestone and other rock not too far below the surface, most of these property owners made their living as farmers. Sometimes referred to as “Collins’ Hollow,” after one resident, Lewis Collins, the subject of this week’s installment of Niagara Discoveries is the family whose residence was the last remaining house at Bond Lake until it was recently torn down.

Jacob Houstater was born in Pennsylvania in 1802. He came to Niagara County in the 1820s and married Belinda Gould sometime between 1823 and 1825. She was the daughter of John Gould, the early settler of both Lewiston and Cambria who kept the “Red Tavern” on Lower Mountain Road at Cambria Center. Belinda was born in 1809, making her a teenager when she married Jacob. The couple had nine children between 1826 and 1847, six girls and three boys. In 1830, they were living in Cambria and in 1835 Houstater purchased the property on Lower Mountain Road in Lewiston where Bond Lake Park is today.

It’s not certain when Houstater built the brick house but it was probably in the in the 1840s, as it was of the style being built at that time. Houstater owned about 175 acres of land in lots 45 and 50 between Lower Mountain Road and Ridge Road and he listed his occupation as “farmer” on the federal and state censuses. Two of the Houstaters’ children died before adulthood and at least three daughters did not marry. Several of the children were musically gifted and became music teachers.

In September 1861, son Henry enlisted at Lockport as a private in Battery M, 1st Regiment, Light Artillery under Capt. George Cothran, for a duration of three years. He was soon promoted to corporal and then sergeant. Henry Houstater saw action at Antietam, Winchester and in the Shenandoah Valley. Like his siblings, he had musical ability and wrote a song called the “Soldier’s Farewell,” and a poem called “A Dream,” about the horrors he saw on the battlefields of the Civil War.

Ironically, after writing these pieces, Henry Houstater died of typhoid fever in Sandy Hook, Maryland, on Oct. 29, 1862. He was brought home for burial in Mount View Cemetery in Pekin. His father passed away just two years later.

In his will, Jacob Houstater left all of his property to his wife and daughters. In 1870, his only surviving son, John Gould, named for his grandfather, was assaulted by his sister’s fiancé during a music program in Pekin. Gould was a gifted musician and was conducting a music convention when this happened. Shortly afterward he moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he worked as a brick mason and was also involved in the music community. He never married and in 1876 he committed suicide while living there.

Matriarch Belinda Houstater died in 1888 and was interred at Mount View Cemetery along with Jacob and all of their children.

Sometime in the 1890s, the Houstater property was sold to Jacob Miller, who later leased, then sold, the property to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The steel company owned the property on the north side of Lower Mountain Road while Frederick Bond owned the property on the south side. Both Bond and Bethlehem Steel also leased, and later sold, the property to local farmers.

In 1964, 13 properties were purchased by Niagara County for development of a new park which would be called Bond’s Lake (the “s” was later dropped). Over the next 50 years, the original houses and out buildings were removed from the park until the Houstater home was the last one remaining. It was used for a number of years as the park administrative offices and later for storage. Maintaining the 160+ year old house became too cost prohibitive and the structure was torn down last week.

Ann Marie Linnabery is the assistant director of the History Center of Niagara.

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