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Buffalo's First Settler: Joseph “Black Joe” Hodge

Little can be known for sure about the life of Joseph “Black Joe” Hodge. But even though historical records may differ on a few points, there was one thing known to be true: Joseph “Black Joe” Hodge was the first non-native settler of Buffalo.

A runaway slave, Hodge was captured by members of the Seneca Nation during the Revolutionary war and lived with them until 1784. During this time he befriended members of the tribe, married a Seneca woman, and learned their language making life long connections in the area.

Hodge was a successful businessman. His supplies and hospitality were widely known, but his most valuable commodity was his knowledge. His fluency in the Seneca language allowed him to trade easily with native people and act as an interpreter for other settlers. Using his unique skills, and knowledge of the area Hodge operated a thriving trading post and tavern on the Buffalo Creek near Niagara River for many years.

Many historians have noted that the accomplishments made throughout Hodge’s life were much more than personal. His time spent in Buffalo helped shape the region into the trading center it would one day become.


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