Joseph Hodge was born into slavery and died a successful business man. Hodge escaped from slavery in the late 1700s and is believed to be Buffalo’s first non Native American settler. He arrived a few years before many of the white settlers moved into modern day Buffalo.

Photo courtesy of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society

Hodge lived among and bartered with the Seneca. He married an Indian woman. He and his wife would go on to operate a trading post and open one of Buffalo’s first taverns. Hodge also found work as a successful interpreter, and was known to have been fluent in the Seneca language. At a time when many African Americans were not allowed to learn to read or write, Hodge was a bilingual speaker and a business man. He would go on to pave the trail for other future African Americans in Western New York.