The Erie Canal may seem far removed and insignificant to people today, but if you're living in the midwest or west, the Erie Canal could be the reason you ended up there. Most of my family stayed in New England and New York, but my paternal lineage was directly affected by the construction of the Erie Canal, but not necessarily in a good way.
Russel Leonard, my 4th great-grandfather, left his family in upstate New York in November of 1832 "to purchase land in the Territory of Michigan". His wife, Sophronia, published a missing persons ad in the Cayuga Republican in May, 1834, indicating that his "suffering wife and children" were desperate for information. In the notice, she states that he left from Lock Port (Lockport) on November 1, 1833, and had not been heard from since. The notice, published May 2, 1834, asked for information to be sent to the Post Master at Port Byron, Cayuga County, New York.
Since both Port Byron and Lock Port are located on the Erie Canal, I am assuming he traveled on the Erie Canal, but this has yet to be positively confirmed. As I continue my search for information, I came across an article, which sheds some light on the situation. It pertains to another pioneer, but contains much information about the circumstances and opportunities that led many New Englanders and New Yorkers to Michigan, specifically.
In this video you can learn a lot about the construction and westward migration. (Not my video).
If you have any information that could help in our search for information about Russel Leonard, or access to Michigan land patents, please let us know! Stay tuned for updates!