Community

Small town, now gone, was founded in 1858 along Blairs Ferry Road

This is an early image of the Buffalo United Methodist Church that was built in 1905. The evangelical church first opened in 1876 in the village of New Buffalo, northwest of Cedar Rapids, and was the last building standing after the village dissolved. (The History Center)
This is an early image of the Buffalo United Methodist Church that was built in 1905. The evangelical church first opened in 1876 in the village of New Buffalo, northwest of Cedar Rapids, and was the last building standing after the village dissolved. (The History Center)
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Today, a Casey’s General store and a Goodyear Tire store stands at the southwest corner of the Blairs Ferry Road and Edgewood Road NE intersection near the boundary between Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha.

Starting later this year, the area behind these businesses is to be developed for new commercial properties. The new development is to be called Edgewood Town Center.

This area, however, has a much older history. It was once the site of a small Linn County community known as New Buffalo.

On Dec. 14, 1858, just two years after Cedar Rapids was incorporated as a city, a plat was recorded for the town of New Buffalo along the already well-established Blairs Ferry Road.

Four town lots were laid out on the north side of Blairs Ferry Road, close to where Miller Road intersects today. A cemetery was established nearby.

The main section of the town of New Buffalo was laid out along the south side of Blairs Ferry Road. It offered two town blocks with eight lots per block. Six additional lots were laid out, and four town streets were established as well.

Access to the well-traveled Blairs Ferry Road was an early advantage for New Buffalo in the early 1860s.

RAILROAD ROUTE

But soon an east-west route for the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad was established along what is today Highway 100, or Collins Road NE. The railroad tracks were a short distance from the New Buffalo town center.

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The community formed an independent school district and built the New Buffalo School close to the new railroad, near what is today the entrance to the Hy-Vee grocery store on Edgewood Road NE. Access to the school from New Buffalo was along a mostly north-south street later known as Buffalo Road.

Although the potential for growth seemed promising, the railroad did not stop at New Buffalo, thereby limiting its growth. The railroad instead stopped east of New Buffalo at Center Point Road at was known for years as the Sylvia and Louisa Station.

As a result, the population of New Buffalo barely exceeded three dozen people at its peak.

BUFFALO CHURCH

Some growth did occur.

In particular, New Buffalo residents concentrated on establishing an evangelical church that evolved into the Buffalo United Methodist Church. Two substantial church structures were built, the first in 1876 and a larger building in 1905.

In addition, several homes were built within the tiny town. Just to the west of the town, a Cedar Township Hall was built along Blairs Ferry Road.

The New Buffalo School did not survive for long. It was eventually absorbed into the larger Big Springs School, which sat at what is today the intersection of Center Point Road and 42nd Street NE, now the location of a Wendy’s restaurant.

The small number of homes disappeared, one by one, and only the Buffalo church remained in New Buffalo.

In the early 1970s, the area was greatly changed by construction of the Edgewood Road Bridge over the Cedar River and the extension of Edgewood Road north to Blairs Ferry Road.

The extension meant the old Buffalo Road was no longer needed as a main transportation route.

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The result of all this was the Linn County supervisors legally dissolving the New Buffalo town lots in the late 1970s.

CHURCH GONE

Until just a few years ago, the Buffalo United Methodist Church was still standing and functioning.

But the church relocated to 30th Street NE to make way for a new Goodyear Tire store in 2014. The old 1905 church building became the last structure to be demolished from the old town of New Buffalo.

Only the New Buffalo cemetery remains, accessible from Miller Road and located behind where Peck’s Greenhouses and Garden Center sat for so many years.

Whether the New Buffalo name is incorporated into any component of the forthcoming Edgewood Town Center development remains to be seen.

l Mark Stoffer Hunter is the historian at The History Center in Cedar Rapids. Comments: mark@historycenter.org

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