Niagara River – Niagara Under Three Flags

THE abdication of De Nonville at Niagara marks, as nothing else perhaps can, the rise of English influence along the Lakes and among the crafty Iroquois. Slowly but surely this influence made itself felt among the Six Nations in the attempt to swing the entire current of the fur trade from the north-west through the Long House to New York.

With the destruction of the little fort built by De Nonville, however, it becomes clear that when on the same basis the English were no match for the French, so far as winning the redskins to their interests was concerned; it may be that with the withdrawal of the French there followed a natural diminution of English anxiety and activity in the matter: whether this was true or not there immediately ensued a notable increase of French attention to the Six Nations who, after all, controlled the destinies of this key of the continent. As days of war and days of peace came and went the governors both of New York and Quebec sought permission to fortify the Niagara River, but the eighteenth century dawned with no step taken by either side, though each had most jealously been watching the other.

It was characteristic of Frenchmen, however, to meet and mingle with the Indians as the English seldom did; it was not wholly out of the common, indeed, for them to adopt Indian dress and customs and be, in turn, adopted into some Indian tribe. Through the fortunate influence exerted by one of these adopted sons of the wilderness was New France now able to refortify the strategic Niagara region, temporarily besting England in the contest for the supremacy here. Chabert Joncaire, taken prisoner by the Senecas and adopted into their tribe, married an Indian woman and became an important factor among the warriors and war councils of the western end of the Long House. In the year 1700 Joncaire became a missionary for the French political cause, and he seems to have managed affairs so diplomatically that he in no wise lost caste among the Iroquois, for six years later they suggested to him “to establish himself among them, granting him liberty to select on their territory the place most acceptable to himself for the purpose of living and in peace] even to remove their villages to the neighbourhood of his residence in order to protect him.”

In the next decade France made considerable headway in undoing the miserable workof De Nonville by disarming the hostility of the Iroquois, especially with the Senecas who held the Niagara frontier, through Joncaire, who in 1719 was sent to “try the minds of the Seneca nation and ascertain if it would permit the building of a French house in their country.” As a result, in 172o, Joncaire built a bark cabin at Lewiston which he called “Magazine Royal.” In November of that year, according to English report, which was undoubtedly exaggerated through prejudice, the “cabin” is described as a blockhouse forty feet in length and thirty in width, enclosed with palisades, musket-proof and provided with port-holes. The location of this post signifies of itself alone the larger strategic nature of Niagara geographically, for it was not at the mouth of the river but at the beginning of the portage around the Rapids and Falls, at Lewiston, just where La Salle’s storehouse, built in 1679, had stood. It is believed that the former building had disappeared by this time. Charlevoix, who came here the next year, 1721, confounds the sites of De Nonville’s fort and the “Magazine Royal.” Mr. Porter brings out well the office of Joncaire’s cabin, in which, by the way, a few soldiers were maintained as “traders” by saying:

The trade in furs was brisk, the Indians from the north, west, and south coming there to barter. The chain of friendship with the Senecas was kept bright by friendly intercourse with their warriors] who constantly came there; French trading vessels came often to its rude wharf bringing merchandise to Frontenac and returning laden with furs. Thus the English for the first time failed to overcome the French, while the English in New York did not delay their expostulations regarding what they called French incroachment at Niagara; but so far were they from being successful that the French were able within four years to begin a more important fortification on the site of the “Magazine Royal.”

American history furnishes many illustrations of the genius of the French coureurs-de-bois for winning to themselves the friendship of the Indians, but perhaps there is no specific illustration of this more clear than this reabsorption of the Niagara region after having once abandoned it. Said Sir Guy Carleton:

France did not depend upon the number of her troops] but upon the discretion of her officers who] learned the language of her natives, distributed the king’s presents, excited no jealousy, entirely gained the affections of an ignorant, credulous, but brave people] whose ruling passions are independence, gratitude, and revenge.

Governor Duquesne once said to a deputation of Indians:

Are you ignorant of the defence between the king of France and the English? Look at the forts which the king has built ; you will find that under their very walls the beasts of the forests are hunted and slain; that they are] in fact, fixed in places most frequented by you merely to gratify more conveniently your necessities.

M. Garneau, the historian, frankly acknowledges that the Marquis accurately stated the route of Indian admiration for the Frenchmen they saw; but it should not be overlooked that the French also were ” the most romantic and poetic characters ever known in American frontier life. Their every moment attracts the rosiest colour of imagination”; all this helps to fascinate the savage.

In 1725, the Marquis De Vaudreuil proposed the erection of a storehouse at Niagara, and soon the agent met the council of the Five Nations and got their permission to build what was really a fort at Niagara] which was to cost $5592; one hundred men were instantly sent to begin the work.’ Thus the historic pile known as the ” Mess House ” or ” Castle ” was begun in 1725 and completed in 1726; at a council fire at Niagara the Senecas gave their final ratification to this project, July 14, 1726.

Joncaire’s ” Magazine Royal” was permitted to fall into decay, being abandoned in 1728 despite the fact that Louis XV. gave his approval to a plan for spending twenty thousand livres for its repair although approving strongly the erection of the castle, as it would prevent the English from trading on the north shore of Lake Ontario as well as getting a foothold on the Niagara River. Mr. Porter brings out well the service of Joncaire’s ” Magazine Royal” by saying:

That building had done good service; it had given the French the desired foothold on the Niagara River ; it had held and fostered the trade in furs; it had established French supremacy in this region, and furnished them with the key to the possession of the Upper Lakes and the Ohio Valley; and last] and most important of all, it had been the means of France obtaining a real fortress at the point where her diplomats and armies had been waiting to erect one; for over half a century it had served its purposes; a fort had been built at the mouth of the river, its usefulness was ended, and it was abandoned forever.

The story that the foundations of the castle were laid within a gigantic wigwam at a time when the French had induced the Indians to go on a hunting expedition is probably no less true than most legends of the kind with which our history is filled; and if it is not literally true, the spirit of it undoubtedly is, for there must have been a fine story of stratagem and diplomacy in the conception and the erection of this massive old building upon which the tourist looks to-day with much interest. It is also a legend that the stone for the fort was brought from Fort Frontenac; this in a way threatens the authenticity of the former legend of the magical erection of the building. De Witt Clinton writing in 1810 explains that as the stones about the windows are different and more handsome than those in the rest of the building it is possible that they were brought from Kingston; he gave the measurements of the building as 105 by 47 feet.

It is interesting and informing to observe from whence the fort here at the mouth of the Niagara received, first and last, its armament; it appears that upon the capture of Oswego twenty-four guns ” of the largest calibre” were sent to Fort Niagara, and we know that during the final siege in 1759 some of the guns trained upon Johnson’s army were lost by Braddock away down in the forests beside the Monongahela River. The position held by Fort Niagara in the French scheme of western occupation is clearly suggested by these facts.

The modern tourist looking upon the massive, picturesque “Mess House” must not forget that ” Fort Niagara” was a thing of slow growth. The first work here was undoubtedly the foundation and first story of the Mess House, surrounded by the common picket wall always found around the frontier fort. The first picket wall was falling down by 1739, when it was repaired. At this time Niagara was fast losing its hold on western trade because of the enforcing of the policy of not selling the Indians liquor; however, in 1741, the Governor of New York affirmed that he held the Six Nations only by presents and that Fort Niagara must be captured. In 1745, when the French policy regarding the Indians was changed, Fort Niagara contained only a hundred men and four guns. It is said that the fort had been used to some extent as a State prison; surely few French prisons, at home or abroad, had a more gloomy dungeon than that in Fort Niagara which is shown visitors to-day; the apartment measures six by eighteen feet and ten feet in height, of solid stone with no opening for light or air. The well of the castle was located here, and many a weird story attaches, especially of the headless trunk of the French general that haunted the curbstone moaning over his sorry lot. This dungeon is one of the places named as the scene of imprisonment of the anti-Masonic agitator William Morgan in later days.

As the middle of the eighteenth century drew on France and England turned from the European battlefields to America to settle their immemorial quarrel for the possession of the continent. It is interesting to note that the opening of the struggle occurred not in the North or East, as would naturally be expected, but in the West to which Niagara offered ” the communication.”

In 1747 the Ohio Company was formed in Virginia and received its grant of land beyond the Alleghanies from the British King. With the exception of Lederer, whose explorations did not reach westward of Harper’s Ferry, and Batts, who had visited the Falls of the Great Kanawha, the English colonies knew little or nothing of the West, save only the fables brought back by Spottswood’s Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. But the doughty Irish and Scotch Irish traders had pierced the mountains and made bold to challenge the trade of the French with the western nations. Immediately Celoron was sent from Montreal on the long voyage by way of Niagara to bury his leaden plates on the Ohio to re-establish the brave claim incised on La Salle’s plate buried at the mouth of the Mississippi in 1682, which vaunted French possession of all lands drained by waters entering the Gulf of Mexico through the mouth of the Mississippi.

Celoron’s expedition is interesting because this was the first open advance upon the Ohio Valley by France, leading to the building of a chain of forts westward from the key position] Fort Niagara. Celoron’s Journal reads:

I arrived at Niagara on the 6th of July, where I found him [Mr. Labrevois]; we conferred together] and I wrote to the Chevalier de Longnaiul that which I had learned from Mr. de la Nardiere, and desired him, that if these nations of Detroit. were in the design to come and join me, and not delay his departure, I would give the rendezvous at Strotves on the 9th or 10th of August; that. if they had changed their mind I would be obliged to him to send me couriers to inform me of their intentions, so that I may know what will happen to me. On the 7th of July, I sent M. de Contrecceur, captain and second in command of the detachment] with the subaltern officers and all my canoes to make the portage. I remained at the fort, to wait for my savages who had taken on Lake Ontario another route than I had; having rejoined me I went to the portage which M. de Contrecoeur had made] on the 14th of the same month we entered Lake Erie; a high wind from the sea made me camp some distance from the little rapid; there I formed three companies to mount guard, which were of forty men commanded by an officer.

Returning from the Ohio trip Celoron reached Niagara again the igth of February, 175o, and Montreal the 10th of March. At last reaching Quebec the frank leader of this spectacular expedition rendered his report concerning French possession of the West. “All that I can say is, that the [Indian] nations of these places are very ill-disposed against the French,” were his words, ” and entirely devoted to the English. I do not know by what means they can be reclaimed.” Then followed one of the earliest suggestions of the use of French arms to retain possession of the great interior. ” If violence is employed they [Indians] would be warned and take to flight . . . if we send to trade with them, our traders can never give our merchandize at the price the English do . . . people our old posts and perpetuate the nations on the Belle Riviere and who are within the reach of the English Government.”

The plates of lead along the Ohio had very little effect in retarding the Ohio Company of Virginians, and Celoron had hardly left the Ohio Valley when Christopher Gist entered it to pick out and mark the boundaries of the Ohio Company’s grant of land. This was in 1750. The Quebec Government, too, acted. If leaden plates would not hold the Ohio, then forts well guarded and manned would accomplish the end sought; and English spies on watch at Fort Oswego now saw a strange flotilla crossing Lake Ontario and knew something extraordinary was in the air. It was Marin’s party on its way to fortify Celoron’s route by building a chain of posts from Fort Niagara to the present site of Pittsburg at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. After a rest at Niagara the fort-building party proceeded along Lake Erie to Presqu’ Isle, now Eric, Pennsylvania. There they built Fort Presqu’ Isle; at Watertown Fort La Boeuf was erected and Fort Machault at Franklin on the Allegheny, and Fort Duquesne at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela. All this between 1752 and 1754, despite the message sent by Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia by the hand of Major Washington requesting that the French withdraw from the Ohio Valley. In the latter year Washington marched westward to support the party of Virginian fort-builders who had been sent to fortify the strategic position on the Ohio, but was forced to capitulate by the French army, which drove back the English and on their beginnings erected Fort Duquesne.

The line of forts from Quebec to Fort Duquesne was now complete, and of them Fort Niagara was the key. To wrest from the French this western empire it was necessary to strike Fort Niagara] but, with the rare lack of foresight characteristic of the government headed by the impossible Newcastle, the great campaign of 1755 was as poorly conceived as it was executed. It was composed of three spectacular advances on this curling line of French forts that hemmed in the colonies; one army, under Sir William Johnson, should attack the forts on Lakes George and Champlain; Governor Shirley of Massachusetts should leap at Fort Niagara, and General Braddock, formerly commander of Gibraltar, should lead an army from Virginia across the mountains upon Fort Duquesne, after capturing which he should then join forces with Shirley for the conquest of Niagara if that post had not been previously reduced.

From almost any view-point the scheme of conquest seems a glaring inconsistency, but from what is this so conspicuous as by looking upon this french line of fortresses as a serpent whose head was Quebec, whose heart was Fort Niagara, and whose tail rattled luringly on the Ohio at Fort Duquesne? The chief expedition, on which the eyes of the ministry were centred, was the one which launched at this serpent’s tail. Moreover, in addition to being wrongly directed it was improperly routed, since there were both waggons and wheat in Pennsylvania but comparatively none in Virginia, and the ill-fated commander of the expedition, General Edward Braddock, was the victim of the lethargy and indifference of the colonies.

It is pitifully interesting to observe in the letter of instruction issued by Cumberland to Braddock that the latter seemed to have held the view that his most proper course was to strike at Niagara at the outset, undoubtedly appreciating the significant fact that to capture that key position of communication was to doom the Allegheny line of forts to starvation itself. ” As to your design,” read those instructions, ” of making yourself master of Niagara, which is of the greatest consequence, his Royal Highness recommends you to leave nothing to chance in the prosecution of that enterprise.” In all that was planned for this grand campaign those words give us the only hint of Braddock’s own notion.’ Those instructions also advise that if the Ohio campaign should progress slowly Braddock was to consider whether he should not give over the command of that campaign to another officer and proceed to Niagara. Nothing could illustrate more clearly than this the importance of the position of Niagara in the old French War. But as Braddock did not deem it wise to give over the command of the Ohio campaign, Governor Shirley was left in charge of it.

The Northern campaigns, however, were of little more success than that of the ill-fated Braddock. True, Johnson won his knighthood beside the lake to which he gave his master’s name, but the victory was as much of an accident as was Braddock’s defeat, and was not followed up with the capture of the forts on Lake Champlain which was the object of the campaign. Shirley, on the other hand, made an utter failure of his coup, after reaching Oswego with incredible hardship; the news of Braddock’s defeat demoralised whatever spirit was left in his sickly army; and Fort Niagara was not even threatened. We note here again the interdependence of the Braddock and Shirley campaigns, and the pity that the two armies could not have been combined for a strong movement against Fort Niagara. The Ohio fortress could not have existed with the line of communication once cut, and Braddock’s as well as Forbes’s campaigns, costing such tremendous sums, would have been unnecessaryor Prideaux’s in ’59 either, for that matter.

And yet the English campaigns of this year played their part in awakening the French to the situation; and Niagara was taken in hand at once, as though the presentiment was plain that the flag of the Georges would wave over the Niagara some day. Writes Mr. Porter:

The contemplated attaek on Fort Niagara, in 1755, under Shirley, had told the French that that fort must be further strengthened, and Pouchot, a captain in the regiment of Beam, and a competent engineer, was sent to reconstruct it. He reached the fort with a regiment in October, 1755. Houses for these troops were at once constructed in the Canadian manner. These houses consisted of round logs of oak, notched into each other at the corners, and were quickly built. Each had a chimney in the middle, some windows, and a plank roof. The chimneys were made by four poles] placed in the form of a truncated pyramid, open from the bottom to a height of three feet on all sides] above which was a kind of basket work, plastered with mud ; rushes] marsh grass or straw rolled in diluted clay were driven in between the logs, and the whole plastered. The work of strengthening the fort was pushed on all winter, 30o men being in the garrison] and in March, 1756, the artillery taken from Braddock arrived. By July, 1756, the defences proposed were nearly completed, and Pouchot left the fort. Vaudreuil stated that he {Pouchot] “had almost entirely superintended the fortifications to their completion, and the fort, which was abandoned and beyond making the smallest resistance, is now a place of considerable importance in consequence of the regularity] solidity, and utility of its works.” Pouchot was sent back to Niagara, as commandant, with his own regiment, in October, 1756, and remained there for a year. He still further strengthened the fort during this period] and when he left he reported that ” Fort Niagara and its buildings were completed and its covered ways stockaded.” On April 30, 1759, he again arrived at Niagara to assume command and ” began to work on repairing the fort, to which nothing had been done since he left it. He found the ramparts giving way] the turfing all crumbled off] and the escarpment and counter escarpment of the fosses much filled up. He mounted two pieees to keep up appearances in case of a siege.” From the general laudatory tune of his own work we are led to feel that Pouchot overpraised his own work of fortifying Niagara in 1756 and 1757, when no immediate attack was looked for, otherwise it could hardly have been in so pour a condition eighteen months afterwards (1759, as just quoted), unless, as is very likely, he foresaw defeat when attacked] as he was advised it would be] and wanted to gain special credit for a grand defence under very disadvantageous conditions. By July Pouchot had finished repairing the ramparts. He gives this description of the defence: “The batteries of the bastions which were in barbette had not yet been finished. They were built of casks and filled with earth. He had since his arrival constructed some pieces of blindage of oak, fourteen inches square and fifteen feet long, which extended behind the great house on the lake shore, the place most sheltered for a hospital. Along the faces of the powder magazine, to cover the wall and serve as casemates, he had built a large storehouse with the pieces secured at the top by a ridge. Here the guns and gunsmiths were placed_ We may remark that this kind of work is excellent for field-forts in wooded countries, and they serve very well for barracks and magazines; a bullet could only fall upon an oblique surface and could do little harm, because this structure is very solid.” Pouchot says that the garrison of the fort at this time consisted of 149 regulars, 183 men of colonial companies] 133 militia and 21 cannoniers. A total of 486 soldiers and 39 employees, of whom 5 were women or children. These served in the infirmary, as did also two ladies, and sewed cartridge bags and made bags for earth. There were also some Indians in the fort, and the officers may not have been included in this number. The fort was capable of accommodating 1,000 men.

The great campaigns of 1759 were planned by the new commander-in-chief, Sir Jeffrey Amherst. The Niagara attack was placed in the hands of General John Prideaux, who was ready to sail from Oswego to his death at Fort Niagara on the 1st of July, 1759, with twenty-two hundred regulars and provincials and seven hundred of the Six Nations, brought very quickly to their senses after the successes of British arms in the year previous when Fort Duquesne was captured, under Sir William Johnson. On the 6th of July a hunter brought word to Pouchot that the English were at the doors of Niagara, the army having landed down the shore of the lake at a distance of four miles.

The commander, realising that the crucial moment had come, sent a messenger post-haste to Little Fort Niagara, at the upper end of the portage, and on to the forts in the West for aid; Niagara had assisted Fort Duquesne and the Allegheny forts in their days of trial and it was now turn for them to help her. Little Fort Niagara, or, more properly, Fort du Portage, previously mentioned, was erected probably about ten years before this to defend the portage landing. It was now commanded by the Joncaire—son of the famous French emissary among the Senecas who had given New France a foothold at Niagara—who had proved such a diplomatic guide to Celoron in his western trip; Pouchot ordered him to move the supplies at Fort du Portage across to the mouth of the Chippewa Creek and hasten to Fort Niagara. It is worth while to pause a moment to observe that we have here one of the first references to that shadowy western shore of the Niagara, where Forts Erie, George, and Mississaga were soon to appear; though the town of Newark, or Niagara-on-the-Lake, as it is known to-day, was the first settlement on this side of the river, it is clear that there was at least a storehouse at Chippewa Creek in 1759; unquestionably the portage path on the western shore of the river was a well-worn highway long before even Fort Niagara itself was proposed, for we know that it was the northern shore of Lake Erie that was the common route of the French rather than the southern from the record left by the Celoron expedition and Bonne- camp’s map.

Prideaux forced the siege by digging a series of trenches toward the fort, each one in advance of the last. Finally, just before merited success was achieved, a bursting cohorn killed Prideaux and thrust the command upon that deserving but lucky son of fortune, Sir William Johnson. The siege was pressed most diligently—as though Johnson was fearful that the honour thrust upon him would escape him through the arrival of General Gage, who was on his way to assume command. The fort was completely hemmed in, and its surrender was peremptorily demanded. Johnson was more than a match for the intriguing French Indians who attempted to alienate his Iroquois. He likewise played the clever soldier in handling the relieving army that was already on its way from the West. Three of the four messages sent by Pouchot had been intercepted by the English commander’s scouts. The one that went through successfully accomplished its purpose and twelve hundred recruits were en route for the besieged fortress. The scouts told of their progress, to which captured letters from the commanding officers, D’Aubrey and De Lignery, to General Pouchot, gave added information. Descending the Niagara from its head to Navy Island, the reinforcements awaited the commands of their general. The order was to hasten on. Johnson redistributed his force to meet the crisis, at once detailing a sufficient part to cope with the relieving party and retaining a sufficient quota to prevent a sortie from the rapidly crumbling fort, which at best could not hold out longer unless succoured. At an eighth of a mile from the fort, in olden times called La Belle Famille, now within the limits of the beautiful village of Youngstown, the clash occurred that settled the fate of the brave Pouchot. With the Iroquois posted in hiding on either flank and the regulars waiting behind slight breastworks, the French force rushed headlong to the attack within the carefully laid ambuscade. After the opening fire of the Indians, the English troop made a savage charge—and the affair was over; the retreating French were followed and nearly a hundred and fifty were captured, including the officers.

Sir William Johnson used his leverage thus gained upon the commander of the doomed fortress with alacrity and success, sending with the officer who went to demand its surrender some of the prisoners captured at the scrimmage up the river, who told the story of their defeat and rout. Had they known it, they might have added that the terror-stricken fugitives from that field of strife hastened to the fleet of boats (in which they had descended the Niagara) and, steering them all into what is called even to this clay Burnt Ship Bay, on the shore of Grand Island, set fire to the entire flotilla, lest the English secure an added advantage; and from this fact may we not draw the conclusion that these French hoped to hold the remainder of the great western waterway even if Fort Niagara fell? They could not use those boats very well on the lower Niagara, though with them once in hand they could easily strike at Presqu’ Isle and Detroit.

Poor Pouchot demanded the best terms that he dared; it was agreed that the garrison should retain arms and baggage and one cannon as they marched out of the battered shell of a fort they had endeavoured to hold, and, upon laying down their arms, should be transported, in vessels furnished by the English, to New York; it was also demanded that they should be protected from the insults of the redskin allies of the English. That the latter stipulation was agreed to and honestly enforced illustrates the genuine hold Johnson had upon his brown brethren of the Long House. The articles were signed on the night of July 24th and on the 25th the flag of England rose to the breeze that fanned the lake and the wide-sweeping Niagara frontier —the second flag that had dominated that strategic spot in the century. The garrison numbered over six hundred men and eleven officers; the French total loss was about two hundred including the action at Youngstown; the English loss was sixty killed and 180 wounded. Forty-three iron cannon were found within the fort, fifteen hundred round shot, forty thousand pounds of musket-balls, five hundred hand grenades, and many tools] etc. The important result, however, was the removal of French domination over the warlike Seneca nation in this region and the natural inheritance that came with Niagara, the trade of which it was the centre. Near the site of the destroyed Fort du Portage, at the upper end of the portage, Captain Schlosser erected Fort Schlosser. Fort Niagara itself was improved; the present ” bakehouse ” was built in 1762. The Niagara of this time has been well described by Mr. Porter:

It was the head centre of the military life of the entire region, the guardian of the great highway and portage to and from the West; and hereabouts, as the forerunners of a coming civilisation and frontier settlement, the traders were securing for themselves the greatest advantages. To the rude transient population—red hunters] trappers] Indianised bush-rangersstarting out from this centre] or returning from their journeys of perhaps hundreds of miles, trooping down the portage to the fort, bearing their loads of peltrics, and assisted by Indians who here made a business of carrying packs for hire, Fort Niagara was a business headquarters. There the traders brought their guns and ammunition, their blankets, and cheap jewelry, to be traded for furs; there the Indians purchased, at fabulous prices, the white man’s “fire water,” and many, yes, numberless were the broils and conflicts in and around the fort] when the soldiers under orders tried to calm or eject the savage element which so predominated in the life of the Garrison.

Pontiac’s rebellion came fast on the heels of the old French War] so fast indeed that we cannot really distinguish the line of division except for the fact of English occupation of Fort Niagara; with astonishing alacrity the incorrigible Senecas took up Pontiac’s bloody belt, especially disgruntled with English rule in the Niagara country because the carrying business at the Niagara portage had been taken away from them upon the introduction of clumsy carts which carried to Fort Schlosser what had before been transported on the backs of Seneca braves. The retaliation for this serious loss of business was the terrible Devil’s Hole Massacre of September 14] 1763, which occurred on the new portage road between Fort Schlosser and Lewiston at the head of what is known as Bloody Brook, in the ravine of which at the Gorge lies the Devil’s Hole. Here a party of five hundred Senecas from Chenussio, seventy miles to the eastward of Niagara, waylaid a train of twenty-five waggons and a hundred horses and oxen] guarded, probably indifferently, by a detachment of troops variously estimated from twenty-five to three hundred in number, on its way from Lewiston to the upper fort. But three seem to have escaped that deadly ambuscade, and a relieving party, coming hurriedly at the instance of one of the survivors, ran into a second ambush, in which all but eight out of two companies of men escaped. On the third attempt the commander of the fort hastened to the bloody scene with all of the troops at his command except what were needed to defend the fort. But the redskins had gone, leaving eighty scalped corpses on the ground. The first convoy probably numbered about twenty-five and the relieving party probably twice that number. The Indians had thrown or driven every team and all the whites surviving the fire of their thirsty muskets over the brink of the great ravine in which lies the Devil’s Hole, fitly named.

At the great treaty that Sir William Johnson now held at Niagara with all the western Indians—one of the most remarkable convocations ever convened on this continent—the Senecas were compelled to surrender to the English Government all right to a tract four miles wide on each side of the Niagara River from Fort Niagara to Fort Schlosser. When it came time to sign the articles agreeing to this grant, Johnson, at the suggestion of General Bradstreet, who had in mind a fortification of the present site of Fort Erie, asked to extend the grant to include all land bordering the entire river from mouth to source and for four miles back. To this the Senecas agreed, but signed the treaty, as it were, with their left hands, never intending to keep it. However, it is to this date that we trace first actual white man’s ownership of the first foot of land on the Niagara frontier, save perhaps the enclosure at Fort Niagara. Until this agreement was reached Sir William refused to deal with the gathered host of Indians from the West ; thus was the Devil’s Hole Massacre avenged.

Over two thousand Indians had met to treat with the now famous Indian Commissioner for the Crown, coming from Nova Scotia in the East and the head streams of the Mississippi River in the West ; that Niagara should have been the chosen meeting-place illustrates again its geographical position on the continent. Shrewd at this form of procrastinating business, Sir William laid down the policy of treaty with each tribe separately and not with the nations as such, and this, added to the formality observed, tended to make the procedure of almost endless duration. But Johnson knew his host and it is said on good authority that the vast sum now invested by the Crown paid good interest ; the congress cost about ten thousand dollars in New York currency, and about two hundred thousand was distributed in presents to the vast assemblage. ” Though this assemblage consisted of peace-desiring savages, their friendly disposition was not certain. Several straggling soldiers were shot at, and great precautions were taken by the English garrison to avert a rupture.” Writes the graphic Parkman: ” The troops were always on their guard, while the black muzzles of the cannons, thrust from the bastions of the fort, struck a wholesome awe into the savage throng below.”

The Fort Niagara of that day little resembled the sight that greets the tourist’s eye at that point to-day. When the French built the ” Mess House ” or ” Castle ” they built one story only, but afterward added a second, the walls of which probably extended above the roof to serve as a breastwork for gunners. The present roof is an English addition, comparatively modern. The French built also the two famous block-houses, the walls of which also protruded from the ancient roof for the same purpose as on the ” Mess House,” and these were used as late as the War of 1812. The old Magazine was built by the French, but its present-day roof is, of course, of modern construction, being in reality nothing but a covering over the stone arch which was the ancient roof. So far as appearance goes the waters of the hungry lake have probably done more altering of the natural aspect than has the hand of man. The fantastic ” castle ” now stands close to the water’s edge, whereas, in the olden time there were upwards of thirty rods of ground between the ” Mess House ” and the lake, supporting an orchard. The present stone wall was erected in 1839, and the brick walls constructed outside the old line of breastworks in 1861; four years later the lighthouse was established in the upper story of the ” Castle “; in 1873 the present lighthouse was erected.

No serious conflict now marked England’s rule in her new territory, and the people of Canada, and especially of the Niagara region, had now comparatively a few years’ repose, but then came one of the most important periods in its history. Their country was invaded, and for a time seemed on the point of passing under the control of the Congress of the old Thirteen Colonies, now in rebellion against England. Only the genius of an able governor-general saved the valley of the St. Lawrence to the British Crown.

In the year 1774, Parliament intervened for the first time in Canadian affairs, and passed what was known as the ” Quebec Act,” which greatly extended the boundaries of the province of Quebec, as defined by the Proclamation of 1763. On one side the province now extended to the frontiers of New England, Pennsylvania, New York Province, the Ohio, and the left bank of the Mississippi; on the other to the Hudson’s Bay Territory; Labrador, Anticosti, and the Magdalen Islands, annexed to Newfoundland by the Proclamation of 1763, were made part of the province of Quebec. The ” Quebec Act” created much debate in the House of Commons. The Earl of Chatham, in the House of Lords, described it as a “most cruel and odious measure.” The opposition in the province was among the British inhabitants, who sent over a petition for its repeal or amendment, their principal grievance being that it substituted the laws and usages of Canada for English law. The “Act of 1774″ was exceedingly unpopular in the English-speaking colonies, then at the commencement of the Revolution, on account of the extension of the limits of the province so as to include the country long known as the ” Old North-west” in American history, and the consequent confinement of the Thirteen Colonies between the Atlantic coast and the Alleghany Mountains, beyond which the hardy and bold frontiersmen of Virginia and Pennsylvania were already passing into the great valley of the Ohio. Parliament, however, appears to have been influenced by a desire to adjust the government of the province so as to conciliate the majority of the Canadian people at the critical time.

The advice of Sir Guy Carleton, afterwards Lord Dorchester] who succeeded General Murray as Governor-General] had much to do with the liberality of the ” Quebec Act ” towards the French Canadians. He crossed the Atlantic in 1769 and remained absent from Canada for four years. He returned to carry out the ” Quebec Act,” which was the foundation of the large political and religious liberties which French Canada has ever since enjoyed. The “Act ” aroused the indignation of the older American colonies, and had considerable influence in directing the early course of the Revolution which ended in the establishment of a federal republic. To it the Declaration of Independence refers as follows: “Abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighbouring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in other colonies.” During the Revolution the Continental Congress attempted to secure the active alliance of Canada, and to that end sent a commission made up of Franklin, Chase, Charles Carroll, and John Carroll to Quebec; but the province remained loyal throughout. It will be noticed in another chapter that General Brock, in answering the ” Proclamation” issued by Hull in 1812, voiced the belief that Canada was the price the American Colonies had promised to pay France in return for her valuable aid in the Revolution !

It is not necessary to dwell here on the events of a war the history of which is so familiar to every one.’ When the first Continental Congress met at Philadelphia on September 5, 1774, the colonies were on the eve of independence as a result of the coercive measures forced on Parliament by the King’s pliable ministers led by Lord North_ The “Declaration,” however, was not finally proclaimed until nearly two years later, on July 4, 1776, when the Thirteen Colonies declared themselves ” free and independent States,” absolved of their allegiance to the British Crown. But many months before this great epoch-making event, war had actually commenced on Lake Champlain. On an April day, in the now memorable year 1775, the “embattled farmers” had fired at Concord during this period I am unable to say, though it is possible that from the official correspondence of the time figures could be had on which a very close estimate could be based. My examination of the subject warrants the assertion that several hundred were brought in by the war-parties under Indian. British. and Tory leaders. In this correspondence, very little of which has ever been published, one may find such entries as the following :

” Guy Johnson wrote from Fort Niagara, June 30, 1781:

” In my last letter of the 24th inst. I had just time to enclose a copy of Lieut. Nelles’s letter with an account of his success, since which he arrived at this place with more particular information by which I find that he killed thirteen and took seven (the Indians not having reckoned two of the persons whom they left unscalped).


” I have the honour to transmit to Your Excellency a general letter containing the state of the garrison and of my Department to the 1st inst.] and a return, at the foot] of the war parties that have been on service this year, . . by which it will appear that they have killed and taken during the season already 1 so persons, including those last brought in. . . . ‘

“Again he reports] August so, 1781:

” ‘The party with Capt. Caldwell and some of the Indians with Capt. Lottridge arc returning, having destroyed several settlements in Ulster County, and about 100 of the Indians are gone against other parts of the frontiers, and I have some large parties under good leaders still on service as well as scouts towards Fort Pitt. . . . ‘

“Not only are there many returns of this sort, but also tabulated statements, giving the number of prisoners sent down from Fort Niagara to Montreal on given dates, with their names, ages] names of their captors, and the places where they were taken. There were many shipments during the summer of ’83] and the latest return of this sort which I have found in the archives is dated August 1st of that year, when eleven prisoners were sent from the fort to Montreal. It was probably not far from this time that the last American prisoner of the Revolution was released from Fort Niagara. But let the reader beware of forming hasty conclusions as to the cruelty or brutality of the British at Fort Niagara. In the first place, remember that harshness or kindness in the treatment of the helpless depends in good degree—and always has depended—upon the temperament and mood of the individual custodian. There were those in command at Fort Niagara who appear to have been capable of almost any iniquity. Others gave frequent and conspicuous proofs of their humanity. Remember, secondly, that the prisoners primarily belonged to the Indians who captured them. The Indian custom of adoption—the taking into the family circle of a prisoner in place of a son or husband who had been killed by the enemy—was an Iroquois custom] dating back much further than their acquaintance with the English. Many of the Americans who were detained in this fashion by their Indian captors, probably never were given over to the British. Some, as we know, like Mary Jemison] the White Woman of the Genesee, adopted the Indian mode of life and refused to leave it. Others died in captivity, some escaped. Horatio Jones and Jasper Parrish were first prisoners, then utilised as interpreters, but remained among the Indians. And in many cases, especially of women and children, we know that they were got away from the Indians by the British officers at Fort Niagara, only after considerable trouble and expense. In these cases the British were the real benefactors of the Americans, and the kindness in the act cannot. always be put aside on the mere ground of military exchange, prisoner for prisoner. Gen. Haldimand is quoted to the effect. that he does not intend to enter into an exchange of prisoners, but he will not add to the distresses attending the present war, by detaining helpless women and children from their.

In justice to Cal. Guy Johnson’s administration at Fort Niagara] as well as to give one of the clearest (if biased) views of the trials and perplexities of those hard days, we reproduce a ” Review of Cal. Johnson’s Transactions”; as Mr. Severance notes, this review shows “the real state of affairs at Fort Niagara towards the close of the Revolutionary War” better than does almost any other document:

MONTREAL, 24th March, 1782.

” Before Colonel Johnson arrived at Niagara in I 779 the Six Nations lived in their original possessions the nearest of which was about. too and the farthest about. 300 miles from that post. Their warriors were and Lexington, the shots “heard round the world,” and a few weeks later the forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, then defended by very feeble garrisons, were in the possession of colonial troops, led by Ethan Allen and Seth Warner, the two “Green Mountain Boys” who organised this expedition. Canada was at this time in a very defenceless condition. Burgoyne was called upon as the service required parties] which in 1776 amounted to about 70 men, and the expenses attending them, and a few occasional meetings ought to have been and he presumes were a mere Trifle when compared with what must attend their situation when all [were] driven to Niagara, exposed to every want] to every temptation, and with every claim which their distinguished sacrifices and the tenor of Soloman [solemn] Treaties had entitled them to from Government. The years 1777 & 1778 exhibited only a larger number occasionally employed and for their fidelity and attachment to Government they were invaded in 1779 by a rebel army reported to be from 5 to 600 men with a train of Artillery who forced them to retire to Niagara leaving behind them very fine plantations of corn and vegetables, with their cloathing, arms, silver works, wampum Kettles and Implements of Husbandry, the collection of ages of which were destroyed in a deliberate manner and march of the rebels. Two villages only escaped that were out. of their route.

” The Indians having always apprehended that their distinguished loyalty might draw sonic such calamity towards them had stipulated that under such circumstances they effected [expected] to have their losses made up as well as a liberal continuation of favours and to be supported at the expence of Government till they could be reinstated in their former possessions. They were accordingly advised to form camps around Niagara which they were beginning to do at the time of Colonel Johnson’s arrival who found them much chagrined and prepared to reconcile them to their disaster which he foresaw would be a work of time requiring great judgment and address in effecting which he was afterwards successful beyond his most sanguine expectations] and this was the state of the Indians at Colonel Johnson’s arrival. As t.o the state and regulation of Colonel Johnson’s officers and department at that. period he found the duties performed by 2 or three persons the rest little acquainted with them and considered as less capable of learning them, and the whole number inadequate to that of the Indians] and the then requisite calls of the service, and that it was necessary after refusing the present wants of the Indians t.o keep their minds occupied by constant military employment] all which he laid before the Commander in Chief who frequently honoured his conduct with particular approbation.”

Had General Sullivan’s campaign of 1779, as planned, been successful, he would have attacked Fort Niagara, but disaster overtook him, though he led an expedition against the Iroquois, routed a force of Indians and Tories at Newtown, near the present Elmira, and wrought wide devastation in the country of the Cayugas and Senecas.

Yorktown led to the Treaty of Versailles and independence, but oddly enough it was almost a generation before a third flag arose above the historic ” Castle ” at the mouth of the Niagara. In 1784 the United States came into the control of the territory extending from Nova Scotia (which then included New Brunswick) to the head of the Lake of the Woods and to the Mississippi River in the West, and in the North from Canada to the Floridas in the South, the latter having again become Spanish possessions. The boundary between Nova Scotia and the Republic was so ill defined that it took over fifty years to fix the St. Croix and the Highlands which were, by the treaty, to divide the two countries. In the Far West the line of division was to be drawn through the Lake of the Woods ” to the most north-western point thereof] and from thence on a clue west course to the River Mississippi “—a physical impossibility, since the head of the Mississippi, as was afterwards found, was a hundred miles or so to the south! In later times this geographical error was corrected, and the curious distortion of the boundary line that now appears on the maps was necessary at the Lake of the Woods in order to strike the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude, which was subsequently arranged as the boundary line as far as the Rocky Mountains_

A strip of land one mile wide along the American shore from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie had been exempted when New York ceded the ownership of what is now the western part of this State to Massachusetts, which ownership New York subsequently reacquired. Finally the Indians] who, in spite of their former cessions to England, still claimed an ownership, ceded to New York, for one thousand dollars and an annuity of one thousand five hundred dollars, their title to all the islands in the Niagara River. The State of New York patented the mile-strip to individuals, commencing in the first decade of the nineteenth century.

In spite of the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, as noted, neither Niagara nor Detroit was surrendered by the British until 1796. Both forts were held as English outposts and strengthened. We have shown that the boundary-line between Canada and the United States was improperly conceived; but it is a fact that during the Revolutionary War the people of the Northwest had been warned from Niagara and Detroit to take up arms in behalf of the Americans. Nothing aggressive, however, had been accomplished. The wilderness of three hundred miles between Detroit and the Eastern States made an attack upon the posts by the Americans impracticable; moreover, most of the fighting in this region was done by the British and the Indians and the people of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

It is due to the statesmanship of John Jay that the posts still garrisoned by British troops in the United States, contrary to the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris, were finally evacuated in 1796. Jay had been sent by President Washington to go to Great Britain in 1794 as special envoy to settle differences growing out of the failure of that country to keep the obligations of the Treaty of 1784, differences which had aroused a strong war-spirit all over the States. It was easy to foresee, as Jay recognised, that the outcome of the situation would in all probability be unpopular with the people, but he did not hesitate to meet the responsibility that Washington believed he could meet better than any other man, partially because of the reputation he had established in England while negotiating the Treaty of 1784. Jay set sail on May 12, 1794 in the ship Ohio, with his son Peter Augustus, and with John Trumbull as secretary. On June 8th he landed at Falmouth and at once entered into relation with Lord Grenville, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, who was commissioned by the King to treat with Mr. Jay. The sincerity and candour of the two negotiators soon led to a degree of mutual confidence that both facilitated and lightened their labours. A treaty resulted known on this side of the ocean as “Jay’s Treaty,” which settled the eastern boundary of Maine, recovered for illegal captures by British cruisers $10,000,000, secured the surrender of the western forts still garrisoned by the British] and contained an article about the West India trade. With the exception of the latter article, the treaty was approved by the President and ratified by the Senate. But many were not satisfied, and denounced Jay with tongue and pen, and even burned him in effigy in Boston, Philadelphia, and at his own home in New York. How different was the homecoming from that after the negotiation of the other treaty, when the freedom of the city was presented to him in a golden box, and each one seemed to vie with every other in extending a welcome! In a letter to a friend, Jay said at that time, “Calumny is seldom durable] it will in time yield to truth,” and he bore himself at that time as one having full confidence that he had acted both wisely and skilfully, and expected the people to realise it in time. The British, however, would not evacuate Niagara and the other forts without a semblance of fighting on paper. They held, amongst other reasons, that they were yet justified in maintaining a garrison on American soil because ” it was alleged by divers merchants and others, His Majesty’s subjects,” that they had sustained various losses by the legal impediments they had experienced in collecting debts in America due to them before the war. Mr. Jay, however, with great diplomacy, removed this obstacle by the appointment of Commissioners of Award, and as the British finally were deprived of all pretence for maintaining the posts, it was agreed that they should be surrendered on or before the first of June, 1796. This was finally clone and the third and last flag floated lazily in the Lake Ontario breezes over the historic point. The settlers and traders within the jurisdiction of the posts were permitted to remain and to enjoy their property without becoming citizens of the United States unless they should think proper to do so.

Anthony Wayne’s army now took full possession of the Niagara region. With the exception of a small strip of land on the river and lake, all the present State of Michigan was occupied by Indians—Pottawattomies, Miamis, Wyandots, Chippewas, Winnebagoes, and Ottawas. The first American commander of the post was Colonel John Francis Hamtramck, who died in 1803. At that period Detroit was headquarters of the Western Army, but the whole garrison only consisted of three hundred men.

Niagara-on-the-Lake may be called the Plymouth Rock of upper Canada. It was once its proud capital. Variously known in the past as Loyal Village, Butlersbury, Nassau, and Newark, it had a daily paper as early as 1792, and was a military post of distinction at the same period, its real beginnings, however, being contemporaneous with the War of Independence. Here, within two short hours’ ride of the most populous and busy city of western New York, typical of the material forces that have moulded the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we come upon a spot of intensest quiet, in the shadow of whose ivy-mantled church tower sleep trusted servants of the Georges, Loyalists and their Indian allies.

The place has been overtaken by none of that unpicturesque commercial prosperity which further up the frontier threatens to destroy all the natural beauties of the river-banks.

The Welland Canal and the Grand Trunk and Great Western Railway systems diverted the great part of the carrying trade, and with it that growth and activity which have signalised the neighbouring cities of Canada. ” Refuse the Welland Canal entrance to your town,” said the Commissioners, ” and the grass will grow in your streets.” Here General Simcoe opened the first Upper Canadian Legislature; and later, from here the noble Brock planned the defence of Upper Canada. While the cities of western New York, which have now far eclipsed it, were rude log settlements, at ” Newark ” some little attempt was made at decorum and society.

Here landed in 1783–84 ten thousand United Empire Loyalists, who, to keep inviolate their oaths of allegiance to the King, quitted their freeholds and positions of trust and honour in the States to begin life anew in the unbroken wilds of Upper Canada. History has made us somewhat familiar with the settlement of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by the expatriated Loyalists. Little has been written of the sufferings and privations endured by the ” makers ” of Upper Canada. Students and specialists who have investigated the story of a flight equalled only by that of the Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes have been led to admire the spirit of unselfish patriotism which led these one hundred thousand fugitives to self-exile. While the Pilgrims came to America leisurely, bringing their household goods and their charters with them, the United Empire Loyalists, it has well been said, ” bleeding with the wounds of seven years of war, left ungathered the crops of their rich farms on the Mohawk and in New Jersey, and, stripped of every earthly possession, braved the terrors of the unbroken wilderness from the Mohawk to Lake Ontario.” Inhabited to-clay by the descendants of these pioneers, the old-fashioned loyalty and conservatism of the Niagara district is the more conspicuous by contrasting it with neighbouring republicanism over the river.

Here, over a century ago, near Fort George, stood the first Parliament House of Upper Canada. Here, seventy years before President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the first United Empire Loyalist Parliament, like the embattled farmers at Concord, ” fired a shot heard round the world.” For one of the first measures of the exiled patricians was to pass an act forbidding slavery. Few readers know that at Newark, now Niagara, was enacted that law by which Canada became not only the first country in the world to abolish slavery, but, as such, a safe refuge for the fugitive slaves from the Southern States.

General Simcoe, the first governor, was born in 1752 and died in 1806. A landed gentleman of England and likewise a member of the British House of Commons he voluntarily relinquished all the luxuries of his beautiful English home and estates to bury himself in the wilderness of Canada and the Niagara region. As governor-general he exemplified the extremest simplicity. His guard consisted of four soldiers who came from Fort George, close by, to Newark, every morning and returned thither in the evening. Mrs. Simcoe not only performed the duties of wife and mother] but also acted as her husband’s secretary. The name of Simcoe is indelibly entered in the history of the development of the Niagara, and it is doubly appropriate that her interesting drawings should illustrate a volume den ling with this region she loved.

Here Cooper is said to have written his admirable novels of border and Indian life, novels which have been devoured by me and millions of readers; it is fair to predict that the stories will be read for another century to come.’ Many other interesting characters have at different periods made Fort George their abode. In 178o, a handsome house within its enclosure was occupied by General Guy Johnson.

I Here, the story runs, the brother of Sir Walter Scott concocted the plots and outlines of Sir Walter’s famous novels and sent them on to England to be polished up for publication—a story worthy of a Hennepin.

The Niagara River:Niagara River – Buffalo And The Upper NiagaraNiagara River – From The Falls To Lake OntarioNiagara River – The Birth Of NiagaraNiagara River – Niagara Bond And FreeNiagara River – Harnessing Niagara FallsNiagara River – A Century Of Niagara CranksNiagara River – The Old Niagara FrontierNiagara River – From La Salle To De NonvilleNiagara River – Niagara Under Three FlagsNiagara River – The Hero Of Upper Canada