Niagara River – The Old Niagara Frontier

WHAT has been loosely called the ” Niagara Frontier” embraces all the beautiful stretch of territory south of Lakes Ontario and Erie, extending westward quite to Cleveland, the Forest City on the latter lake. It would be difficult to point to a tract of country in all America the history of which is of more inherent interest than this far-flung old-time frontier of which the Niagara River was the strategic key. The beautiful cities now standing here, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Toronto, as well as the ancient Falls, forever new and wonderful, bring to this fair country, in large volume, the modern note that would drown the memory of the long ago ; but here, as elsewhere, and particularly here, the Indian left his names upon the rivers and the shores of the lakes, beautiful names that will neither die nor permit the days of Iroquois, Eries, and Hurons to pass forgotten.

Historically, the Niagara frontier is memorable, firstly, because it embraced in part the homes and hunting-grounds of the Six Nations, the pre-eminent Indian confederacy of the continent. The French name for the confederacy was Iroquois; their own, ” Ho-de-nosote,” or the ” Long House,” which extended from the Hudson to Lake Erie and from the St. Lawrence to the valleys of the Delaware, Susquehanna, and Allegheny. This domain was divided between the several nations by well-defined boundary lines, called ” lines of property.” The famous Senecas were on the Niagara frontier.

In this pleasant land the Iroquois dwelt in palisaded villages upon the fertile banks of the lakes and streams which watered their country. Their houses were built within a protecting circle of palisades, and, like all the tribes of the Iroquois family, were long and narrow, not more than twelve or fifteen feet in width, but often exceeding one hundred and fifty in length. They were made of two parallel rows of poles stuck upright in the ground, of sufficient widths at the bottom to form the floor, and bent together at the top to form the roof ; the whole was entirely covered with strips of peeled bark. At each end of the long house was a strip of bark or a bear skin hung loosely for a door. Within, they built their fires at intervals along the centre of the floor, the smoke rising through the opening in the top, which served, as well, to let in light. In every house were fires and many families, and every family having its own fire within the space allotted to it.

Among all the Indians of the New World, there were none so politic and intelligent] none so fierce and brave, none with so many heroic virtues mingled with savagery, as the people of the Long House. They were a terror to all the surrounding tribes, whether of their own or of Algonquin speech. In 1650 they overran the country of the Huron; in 1651 they destroyed the neutral nation along the Niagara; in 1652 they exterminated the Eries. They knew every war-path and ” their war-cry was heard westward to the Mississippi and southward to the great gulf.” They were, in fact] the conquerors of the New World, perhaps not unjustly styled the “Romans of the West.” Wrote the Jesuit Father Ragueneau, in 1650, ” My pen has no ink black enough to describe the fury of the Iroquois.” In 1715, the Tuscaroras] a branch of the Iroquois family, in the Carolinas] united with the Five Nations] after which the confederacy was known as the Six Nations, of which the other five tribes were named in order of their rank, Mohawks, Onondagas, Senecas, Oneidas, and Cayugas.

Iroquois government was vested in a general council composed of fifty hereditary sachems, but the order of succession was always in the female and never in the male line. Each nation was divided into eight clans or tribes. The spirit of the animal or bird after which the clan was named, called its ” To-tem,” was the guardian spirit of the clan] and every member used its figure in his signature as his device. It was the rule that men and women of the same tribe could intermarry. In this manner relationships were interlocked forever by the closest of ties. The name of each sachemship was permanent. When a sachem died the people of the league selected the most competent from among those of his family] who by right inherited the title, and the one so chosen was raised in solemn council to the high honour, and dropping his own received the name of the sachemship. Two sachemships, however] after the death of the original sachems ever remained vacant, those of the Onondagas and ” Ha-yo-went-ha ” (Hi-awat-ha) immortalised by Longfellow, of the Mohawks. Daganoweda was the founder of the league, whose head was represented as covered with tangled serpents Hi-a-wat-ha (meaning ” he who combs “) put the head in order and this aided the formation of the league. In honour of these great services this sachemship was afterward held vacant.

The entire body of sachems formed the council league ; their authority was civil, confined to affairs of peace, and was advisory rather than otherwise. Every member of the confederacy followed, to a great extent, the dictates of his own will, controlled very much by the customs of his people and ” a sentiment that ran through their whole system of affairs which was as inflexible as iron.”

The character of the Iroquois confederacy has a bearing on the history of the Niagara country of prime importance; while their immediate seats were somewhat south of Niagara River itself, they were the red masters of the eastern Great Lake region when white men came to know it, conquering, as we have noted, the earlier red races, the Eries and Neutrals, who lived beside Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Of these very little is known; placed between the Iroquois on the South and the Hurons on the North both are accounted to have been fierce and brave peoples, for a long time able to withstand the savage inroads of the people of the Long House. The Eries occupied the territory just south of Lake Erie, while the Neuter or Neutral towns lay on the north side of the lake—stretching up perhaps near to Niagara Falls. They claimed the territory lying west of the Genesee River, and extending northward to the Huron land about Georgian Bay as their hunting–ground, and could, it was affirmed by Jesuits, number twelve thousand souls or four thousand fighting men in 1641, only a decade before annihilation by the southern foe.

Although the French applied to them the name of “neuter” [writes Marshall, the historian of the Niagara frontier], it was always an allusion to their neutrality between the Hurons and the Iroquois. These contending nations traversed the territories of the Neutral Nation in their wars against each other, and if, by chance] they met in the wigwams or villages of this people] they were forced to restrain their animosity and to separate in peace.

Notwithstanding this neutrality, they waged cruel wars with other nations, toward whom they exercised cruelties even more inhuman than those charged upon their savage neighbours. The early missionaries describe their customs as similar to those of the Hurons, their land as producing Indian corn, beans , and squashes in abundance, their rivers as abounding in fish of endless variety, and their forests as filled with animals yielding the richest furs.

They exceeded the Hurons in stature, strength, and symmetry of form, and wore their dress with a superior grace, and regarded their dead with peculiar affection; hence arose a custom which is worthy of notice, and explains the origin of the numerous burial mounds which are scattered over this vicinity. Instead of burying the bodies of their deceased friends, they deposited them in houses or on scaffolds erected for the purpose. They collected the skeletons from time to time and arranged them in their dwellings, in anticipation of the feast of the dead, which occurred once in ten or twelve years. On this occasion the whole nation repaired to an appointed place, each family, with the greatest apparent affection, bringing the bones of their deceased relatives enveloped in the choicest furs.

The final disruption between Neuters and Senecas came, it would seem, in 1648, in the shape of a challenge sent by the latter and accepted; the war raged until 1651, when two whole villages of Neuters were destroyed, the largest containing more than sixteen hundred men. Father Fremin in 1669 found Neuters still living in captivity in Gannogarae] a Seneca town east of the Genesee. Some two years later, seemingly by accident, a rupture between Senecas and Fries, farther to the westward, took place, resulting in a similar Seneca victory; thus the Iroquois came to be the masters of the Niagara country.

What this meant becomes very evident with the advance of France to this old-time key of the continent ; here lay the strongest] most civilised Indian nations, conquerors of half a continent; what the friendship of the Iroquois meant to these would-be white conquerors of the self-same empire no words could express; as we have noted, the Niagara River was the direct passageway to the Mississippi basin. It is one of the most interesting caprices of Fate that France should have been given the great waterway -key of the continent ; now, with a friendly alliance with the Six Nations the progress of French arms could hardly be challenged. But France, in the early hours of her progress, and by the hand of her best friend and wisest champion, Champlain] incurred the inveterate hatred of these powerful New York confederates. This he did in 1609 by joining a war-party of Algonquins of the lower St. Lawrence region on one of their memorable raids into the Iroquois country by way of the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain. Dr. Bourinot,’ perhaps most clearly of all, has explained Champlain’s own.

The Old Niagara Frontier 159 comprehension of the matter by saying that the dominating purpose of his life in New France was the exploration of the vast region from which came the sweeping tides of the St. Lawrence; supposing, naturally, that the Canadian red men were to be eventually the victors in the ancient war, especially if aided by the government of New France, it was politic for Champlain to espouse their cause since no general scheme of exploration ” could have been attempted had he by any cold or unsympathetic conduct alienated the Indians who guarded the waterways over which he had to pass before he could unveil the mysteries of the Western wilderness.”

In June this eventful invasion of the Iroquois country was undertaken, and on the last day of July but one, near what was to become the historic site of Fort Ticonderoga, a pitched battle was fought. Champlain’s own account of this the first decisive battle of America cannot be excelled in its quaint and picturesque simplicity:

At night [he wrote] we embarked in our canoes, and, as we were advancing noiselessly onward, we encountered a party of Iroquois at the point of a cape which juts into the lake on the west side. It was on the twenty-ninth of the month and about ten o’clock at night. They, as well as we, began to shout, seizing our arms. We withdrew to the water] and the Iroquois paddled to the shore, arranged their canoes] and began to hew down trees with villainous-looking axes and fortified themselves very securely. Our party kept their canoes alongside of the other, tied to poles] so as not to run adrift] in order to fight all together if need be. When everything was arranged they sent two canoes to know if their enemies wished to fight. They answered that they desired nothing else but that there was not then light enough to distinguish each other and that they would fight at sunrise. This was agreed to. On both sides the night was spent in dancing, singing, mingled with insults and taunts. Thus they sang, danced, and insulted each other until daybreak. My companions and I were concealed in separate canoes belonging to the savage Montagnoes. After being equipped with light armour] each of us took an arquebus and went ashore. I saw the enemy leaving their barricade. They were about two hundred men] strong and robust, who were coming toward us with a gravity and assurance that greatly pleased me, led on by three chiefs. Ours were marching in similar order, and told me that those who bore the three lofty plumes were chiefs and that I must do all I could. The moment we landed they began to run toward the enemy] who stood firm and had not yet perceived my companions who went into the bush with some savages. Ours commenced calling me with a loud voice, opening the way for me and placing me at their head, about twenty paces in advance] until I was about thirty paces from the enemy. The moment they saw me they halted, gazing at me and I at them. When I saw them preparing to shoot at us, I raised my arquebus] and aiming directly at one of the chiefs, two of them fell to the ground by this shot, and one of their companions received a wound of which he died afterwards. I had put four balls into my arquebus. Ours] on witnessing a shot so favourable to them] set up such tremendous shouts that thunder could not have been heard, and yet there was no lack of arrows on the one side or the other. The Iroquois were greatly astonished at seeing two men killed so instantaneously, notwithstanding that they were provided with arrow-proof armour woven of cotton thread and wood. This frightened them very much.

Whilst I was unloading, one of my companions fired a shot which so astonished them anew, seeing their chiefs slain, that they lost courage] took to flight, and abandoned the field and their fort, hiding in the depths of the forest, whither pursuing them I killed some others. Our savages also killed several of them and took ten or twelve of them prisoners. The rest carried off the wounded. These were promptly treated.

After having gained this victory, our party amused themselves plundering Indian corn and meal from the enemy, and also their arms which they had thrown away the better to run. And having feasted] danced] and sung] we returned three hours afterwards with the prisoners.

No victory could have been so costly as this; indeed, one is led to wonder whether any battle in America ever cost more lives than this; for one hundred and fifty years and forty-five days, or until the fall of Quebec and New France, this strongest of Indian nations remembered Champlain, and was the implacable enemy of the French; and, what was of singular ill-fortune, these very Iroquois, in addition to holding the key of the West in their grasp, lay exactly between the French and their English rivals at the point of nearest and most vital contact. After the Ticonderoga victory an Iroquois prisoner, previous to being burned at the stake, chanted a song; wrote the humane Champlain, “the song was sad to hear.” For a century and a half sad songs were sung by descendants of those Algonquin and French victors who listened in the wavering light of that cruel fire to the song of the captive from the land of Long Houses below the Lakes! True, the Iroquois and the French were not continually at war through this long series of years; and French blandishments had their effect, sometimes, even on their immemorial foe, especially at the Seneca end of the Long House, nearest Niagara.

Six years later, in 1615, Champlain set out on his most important tour of western discovery, largely for the purpose of fulfilling a promise made to one of his lieutenants on the upper Ottawa to assist him in the continual quarrel between the Hurons to the northward and the Iroquois. Here again is forced upon our attention one of the most important sequences of the battle of Lake Champlain. The two routes to the Great Lakes of Montreal were by the St. Lawrence River and by the Ottawa River. Either route the voyage was long and difficult, but by the Ottawa the voyageur came into the ” back door ” of the Lakes, Georgian Bay, by a taxing portage route; while, once stemming the St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario was gained and, with the Niagara portage accomplished the traveller was afloat on Lake Erie beyond which the waterway lay fair and clear to the remotest corner of Superior. But the St. Lawrence led into the Iroquois frontier, and the Ottawa to the country of the French allies, the Hurons. The result was that, to a great extent, French movement followed the northerly course; no one could bring this out more clearly than Hinsdale and those whom he quotes:

The Iroquois] turned the Frenchmen aside from the St. Lawrence and the Lower Lakes to the Ottawa and Nipissing; they ruined the fur trade “which was the life-blood of New France ” ; they “made all her early years a misery and a terror ” ; they retarded the growth of Absolutism until Liberty was equal to the final struggle; and they influence our national history to this day, since “populations formed in the ideas and habits of a feudal monarchy, and controlled by a hierarchy profoundly hostile to freedom of thought, would have remained a hindrance and a stumbling-block in the way of that majestic experiment of which America is the field.”

Two insignificant historical facts illustrate this power exerted on westward movement from Canada: Lake Eric was not discovered until half a century after Lake Superior, in fact was practically unknown even for fifty years after Detroit was founded in 1701.

From the rendezvous in the Huron country this second army of invasion, at the head of which rode Champlain] set out for the Iroquois land, to carry fire and sword to the homes of the enemy and forge so much the more firmly the chains of prejudice and hatred. Crossing Lake Ontario at its western extremity the march was taken up from a point near Sacketts Harbour for the Onondaga fort, which was located, probably, a few miles south of Lake Oneida.

The importance of the campaign on the Niagara frontier history is sufficient for us to include again Champlain’s account of it:

We made about fourteen leagues in crossing to the other side of the Lake] in a southerly direction, towards the territories of the enemy. The Indians concealed all their canoes in the woods near the shore. We made by land about four leagues over a sandy beach, where I noticed a very agreeable and beautiful country, traversed by many small streams, and two small rivers which empty into the said Lake. Also many ponds and meadows, abounding in an infinite variety of game] numerous vines, and fine woods, a great number of chestnut trees, the fruit of which was yet in its covering. Although very small, it was of good flavour. All the canoes being thus concealed, we left the shore of the Lake, which is about eighty leagues long and twenty-five wide, the greater part of it being inhabited by Indians along its banks, and continued our way by land about twenty-five or thirty leagues. During four days we crossed numerous streams and a river issuing from a lake which empties into that of the Entouhonorons. This Lake, which is about twenty-five or thirty leagues in circumference] contains several beautiful islands, and is the place where our Iroquois enemies catch their fish, which are there in great abundance. On the 9th of October] our people being on a scout, encountered eleven Indians whom they took prisoners] namely, four women, three boys] a girl, and three men, who were going to the fishery, distant four leagues from the enemies’ fort. . . . The next day, about three o’clock in the afternoon] we arrived before the fort. . . . Their village was enclosed with four strong rows of interlaced palisades, composed of large pieces of wood, thirty feet high, not more than half a foot apart and near an unfailing body of water. . . . We were encamped until the z 6th of the month] .. As the five hundred men did not arrive] the Indians decided to leave by an immediate retreat and began to make baskets in which to carry the wounded, who were placed in them doubled in a heap, and so bent and tied as to render it impossible for them to stir] any more than an infant in its swaddling clothes, and not without great suffering] as I can testify, having been carried several days on the back of one of our Indians, thus tied and imprisoned, which made me lose all patience. As soon as I had strength to sustain myself I escaped from this prison, or to speak plainly, from this hell.

The enemy pursued us about half a league, in order to capture some of our rear guard] but their efforts were useless and they withdrew. . . The retreat was very tedious] being from twenty- five to thirty leagues, and greatly fatigued the wounded, and those who carried them, though they relieved each other from time to time. On the 8th considerable snow fell which lasted but a short time. It was accompanied with a violent wind, which greatly incommoded us. Nevertheless we made such progress, that we reached the banks of the lake of the Entouhonorons, at the place where we had concealed our canoes, and which were found all whole. We were apprehensive that the enemy had broken them up.

As the roar of Niagara greets from afar the listening ears of the innumerable host of pilgrims who come to it today, so the fame of the cataract reached the first explorers of the continent long before they came to it, indeed almost as soon as their feet touched the shore of the New World. Four centuries ago Niagara was the wonder of the world as it must be four centuries hence and four times four.

In May, 1753, Jacques Cartier left France on his second voyage to America in three ships; reaching the St. Lawrence, which he so named from the Saint, he asked concerning its sources and was told that, after ascending many leagues among rapids and waterfalls, he would reach a lake 140 or 150 leagues broad, at the western extremity of which the waters were wholesome and the winters mild; that a river emptied into it from the south, which had its source in the country of the Iroquois; that beyond the lake he would find a cataract and portage, then another lake about equal to the former] which they had never explored.

This is the first known mention of Niagara Falls. Champlain mapped the Niagara frontier, and his map of 1613 shows the position of the great Falls; he refers to it only as a ” waterfall,” which was ” so very high that many kinds of fish are stunned in its descent.” He probably never saw Niagara but wrote his description from hearsay. During the half century between Champlain’s Lake Ontario tour and the coming of La Salle and Hennepin the Niagara must have been often visited by the Catholic missionaries, but few of them left mention of it_

In 1615, Champlain’s interpreter, Etienne Brule, was sent southward to seek aid from the Andastes and is lost to sight in the western forests for three years; it is possible that Brule even reached the copper region of Lake Superior at this time, and it is fairly probable that this intrepid wanderer, first of all Frenchmen, followed the Niagara River and gazed upon its mighty cataract. The first knowledge we have, however, of a Frenchman’s presence on Niagara River is of Father Joseph de la Roche Dallion, who crossed it near Lewiston eleven years later, 1626. Nicolet was in the Straits of Mackinac and at Sault Ste. Marie in 1634, at the time that Champlain (now in the last year of his eventful life) founded Three Rivers on the St. Lawrence above Quebec for the defence of this endangered capital !

Montreal was founded in 1642, simultaneously with the memorable capture of Father Jogues, who now, first of Europeans, passed through Lake George en route to the homes of the merciless Iroquois. In fact it was Father Jogues who first named this beautiful sheet of water, when he entered it on the eve of Corpus Christi, ” Lake Saint Sacrament “; Sir William Johnson, at a later date rechristened it Lake George. Jogues may have heard the Niagara cataract.

Ragueneau, writing to France in 1648, affirmed that ” North of the Eries is a great lake, about two hundred leagues in circumference, called Erie, formed by the discharge of the mer-douce, or Lake Huron, and which falls into a third lake called Ontario, over a cataract of frightful height.” The description by La Salle’s Sulpician companion, Galinee, in 1669, is the most accurate of all early accounts. After La Salle’s yisit to the Senecas the party struck westward toward Niagara.

We found [wrote Galinee] a river, one-eighth of a league broad and extremely rapid, forming the outlet of communication from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The depth of the river (for it is properly the St. Lawrence)] is] at this place extraordinary, for, on sounding close by the shore, we found 15 or 16 fathoms of water. The outlet is 4o leagues long, and has, from to to 12 leagues above its embouchure into Lake Ontario, one of the finest cataracts, or falls of water, in the world, for all the Indians of whom I have enquired about it, say, that the river falls at that place from a rock higher than the tallest pines] that is about 200 feet. In fact we heard it from the place where we were, although from 10 to 12 leagues distant, but the fall gives such a momentum to the water, that its velocity prevented our ascending the current by rowing] except with great difficulty. At a quarter of a league from the outlet where we were, it grows narrower, and its channel is confined between two very high] steep, rocky banks, inducing the belief that the navigation would be very difficult quite up to the cataract. As to the river above the falls, the current very often sucks into this gulf, from a great distance, deer and stags, elk and roebucks, that suffer themselves to be drawn from such a point in crossing the river, that they are compelled to descend the falls] and to be overwhelmed in its frightful abyss.

Our desire to reach the little village called Ganastogue Sononotoua O-tin-a-oua prevented our going to view the wonder, which I consider as so much the greater in proportion as the river St. Lawrence is one of the largest in the world. I will leave you to judge if that is not a fine cataract in which all the water of that large river, having its mouth three leagues broad, falls from a height of 20o feet, with a noise that is heard not only at the place where we were, 10 or 12 leagues distant] but also from the other side of Lake Ontario, opposite its mouth, where M. Trouve told me he had heard it.

We passed the river] and finally, at the end of five days’ travel arrived at the extremity of Lake Ontario, where there is a fine large sandy bay. at the end of which is an outlet of another small lake which is there discharged. Into this our guide conducted us about half a league, to a point nearest the village, but distant from it some 5 or 6 leagues, and where we unloaded our canoes.

The first eye-witness to describe Niagara Falls was Father Hennepin who visited them in the winter of 1678-79, and made the first pictorial representation of them.

Betwixt the Lake Ontario and Erie] there is a vast and prodigious Cadence of Water which falls down after a surprizing and astonishing manner] insomuch that the Universe does not afford its Parallel. ‘T is true, Italy and Suedeland boast of some such Things; but we may well say they are but sorry

Patterns, when compared to this of which we now speak. At the foot of this horrible Precipice we meet with the River

Niagara, which is not above half a quarter of a League broad] but is wonderfully deep in some places. It is so rapid above this Descent, that it violently hurries down the Wild Beasts while endeavouring to pass it, to feed on the other side; they not being able to withstand the force of its Current, which inevitably casts them down head-long above Six hundred foot. This wonderful Downfall is compounded of two great Cross-streams of Water, and two Falls, with an Isle slopeing along the middle of it. The Waters which fall from this vast height do foam and boil after the most hideous manner imaginable, making an outrageous Noise, more terrible than that of Thunder; for when the Wind blows from off the South, their dismal roaring may be heard above fifteen Leagues off.

The River Niagara having thrown itself down this incredible Precipice continues its impetuous course for two Leagues together, to the great Rock above-mentioned, with an inexpressible Rapidity: But having pass’d that, its Impetuosity relents] gliding along more gently for two Leagues, till it arrives at the Lake Ontario or Frontenac.

Any Barque or greater Vessel may pass from the Fort to the foot of this huge Rock above-mentioned. This Rock lies to the Westward, and is cut off from the Land by the River Niagara, about two Leagues farther down than the great Fall ; for which Hennepin’s exaggerations add a spice to his marvellous stories as is true of Arabella B. Buckley’s The Fairyland of Science (p. 122) wherein we read: “The river Niagara first wanders through a flat country and then reaches the Great Lake Erie in a hollow plain. After that it flows gently down for about fifteen miles and then the slope becomes greater and it rushes on to the Falls of Niagara. ” Every age has its Hennepins! two Leagues the People are oblig’d to carry their Goods overland ; but the way is very good, and the Trees are but few, and they chiefly Firrs and Oaks.

From the great Fall unto this Rock] which is to the West of the River, the two Brinks of it are so prodigious high, that it would make one tremble to look steadily upon the Water, rolling along with a Rapidity not to be imagin’d. Were it not for this vast Cataract, which interrupts Navigation, they might sail with barques or greater Vessels, above four hundred and fifty Leagues further, cross the Lake of Hurons, and up to the farther end of the Lake Illinois; which two Lakes, we may well say] are little Seas of fresh Water.

In 1646 Father Jogues was killed in the Long House, and though in 1647 eighteen priests were at work in the eleven missions in the West (most of them in the Huron country), the Iroquois carried the war to their very altars, the mission of St. Joseph being destroyed and the Hurons, blasted as a nation, scattered to the four winds of heaven_ In 1656 Mohawks even descended upon fugitive Hurons hovering about Quebec under the very guns of Fort St. Louis; it is interesting to compare these far-eastwardly onslaughts with the simultaneous far-eastern progress of the French explorers, for, as the Mohawks were falling upon Quebec those adventurous pioneers, Raddison and Grossilliers, were (it is now believed) on the point of discovering the Mississippi River, which they probably did in 1659.

The plan of a grand Iroquois campaign against Canada in 166o probably had its part in the awakening of the monarchy at home to the real state of affairs in America ; if New France was to be more than a myth something must now be done or the entire European population of the St. Lawrence—not yet numbering more than two thousand souls—might be swept away as were the Hurons. The energy of Louis’s famous minister, Colbert, is now in evidence as Marquis de Tracy, special envoy, appeared on the scene, as the population of Canada doubled in a score of months, the Richilieu was manned with forts and an army of thirteen hundred men invaded the Iroquois country and secured a comparatively lasting peace.

A new era dawned, renewed spirit enthused the explorer, missionary, coureur-de-bois] and soldier. In 1669 the boldest man after Champlain, as Frontenac was the most chivalrous, La Salle, crossed Lake Ontario and in the two following years probably discovered and followed the Ohio, if not the Mississippi itself. In 1671 the noblest soldier of the cross in early American annals, Marquette, founded St. Ignace, and] two years later, in company with Joliet, found and descended the ” Missipi.” Simultaneously, as if to end once for all fear of Iroquois opposition, Frontenac erected the fort named for himself near the present site of Kingston, Canada. But French activity proved a little too successful, for it not only awed the Iroquois but alarmed the English] who had taken New York from the Dutch nine years before.

La Salle was in France during 1677, where he received letters-patent concerning forts to be built south and west, in which direction “it would seem a passage to Mexico can be discovered,” while Father Hennepin, soon to be the great discoverer’s companion and mouthpiece, was among the Senecas near the Niagara frontier gaining a useful fund of information for the grand campaign of empire founding that La Salle had planned with Fort Frontenac as his base of supplies.

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