Prior to the Iroquois occupation of the region, the region was settled by the Neutral Nation. Later, the Senecas of the Iroquois Confederacy conquered the Neutrals. In 1804, Joseph Ellicott, a principal agent of the Holland Land Company, designed a radial street and grid system that branches out from downtown like bicycle spokes. During the War of 1812, on December 30, 1813, Buffalo was burned by British forces. On November 4, 1825 the Erie Canal was completed with Buffalo strategically positioned at the western end of the system. At the time, the population was about 2,400. The Erie Canal brought a surge in population and commerce which led Buffalo to incorporate as a city in 1832, with a population of about 10,000 people.
The City of Buffalo has long been home to African-Americans. An example is the 1828 village directory which listed 59 "Names of Coloured" heads of families. In 1845, construction was begun on the Macedonia Baptist Church (commonly called the Michigan Street Baptist Church). This African-American church was an important meeting place for the abolitionist movement. On February 12, 1974 the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Abolitionist leaders such as William Wells Brown made their home in Buffalo. Buffalo was also a terminus point of the Underground Railroad with many fugitives crossing the Niagara River from Buffalo to Fort Erie, Ontario and freedom.