Skip to main content

Full text of "Old trails on the Niagara frontier [microform]"

See other formats







'f IIIM 12.5 

:- mi 

^ IM 







6" — 






WEBSTER, NY 14590 

(716) 872-4503 

























Collection de 

Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions / Institut Canadian de microreproductions historiques 

Technical and Bibliographic Notes/Notes techniques et bibliographiques 

The Institute has attempted to obtain the best 
original copy available for filming. Features of this 
copy which may be bibliographically unique, 
which may alter any of the images in the 
reproduction, or which may significantly change 
the usual method of filming, are checked below. 

L'Institut a microfilm^ le meilleur exemplaire 
qu'il lui a dt6 possible de se procurer. Les details 
de cet exemplaire qui sont peut-dtre uniques du 
point de vue bibliographique, qui peuvent modifier 
une image reproduite, ou qui peuvent exiger una 
modification dans la mdthode normale de filmage 
sont indiquds ci-dessous. 


Coloured covers/ 
Couverture de couleur 

Covers damaged/ 
Couverture endommagee 

I I Coloured pages/ 

Pages de couleur 

Pages damaged/ 
Pages endommagdes 






Covers restored and/or laminated/ 
Couverture restaur6e et/ou pellicul^e 

Cover title missing/ 

Le titre de couverture manque 

Coloured maps/ 

Cartes gdographiques en couleur 

Coloured ink (i.e. other than blue or black)/ 
Encre de couleur (i.e. autre que bleue ou noire) 

Coloured plates and/or illustrations/ 
Planches et/ou illustrations en couleur 

Bound with other material/ 
Reli§ avec d'autres documents 

Tight binding may cause shadows or distortion 
along interior margi.V 

La reliure serr^e peut causer de I'ombre ou de la 
distortion le long de la marge intdrieure 

Blank leaves added during restoration may 
appear within the text. Whenever possible, these 
have been omitted from filming/ 
II se peut que certaines pages blanches ajoutdes 
lors d'une restauration apparaissent dans le texte, 
mais, lorsque cela dtait possible, ces pages n'ont 
pas dt6 filmdes. 

□ Pages restored and/or laminated/ 
Pages restaurdes et/ou pellicuides 

I Y Pages discoloured, stained or foxed/ 
LjlI Pages ddcolorSes, tachet^es ou piqu^es 

I I Pages detached/ 


Pages d^tachSes 


Quality of print varies/ 
Qualitd in^gale de I'impression 

Includes supplementary material/ 
Comprend du materiel supplementaire 

Only edition available/ 
Seule Edition disponible 

Pages wholly or partially obscured by errata 
slips, tissues, etc.. have been refilmed to 
ensure the best possible image/ 
Les pages totalement ou partiellement 
obscurcies par un feuillet d'errata, une pelure, 
etc., ont 6t6 film^es d nouveau de fapon d 
obtenir la meilleure image possible. 


Additional comments:/ 
Commentaires suppl^mentaires: 

This item is filmed at the reduction ratio checked below/ 

Ce document est film^ au taux de reduction indiqu^ ci-dessous. 

10X 14X 18X 22X 










The copy film« d here has been reproduced thanks 
to the generosity of: 

National Library of Canada 

L'exemplaire film^ fut reproduit grace ck la 
g6n6rosit6 de: 

Bibliothdque natlonale du Canada 

The images appearing here are the best quality 
possible considering the condition and legibility 
of the original copy and in keeping with the 
filming contract specifications. 

Les images duivantes ont 6t6 reproduites avec le 
plus grand soin. compte tenu de la condition et 
de la nettet^ de l'exemplaire film6, et en 
conformity avec les conditions du contrat de 

Original copies in printed paper covers are filmed 
beginning with the front cover and ending on 
the last page with a printed or illustriited impres- 
sion, or the back cover when appropriate. All 
other original copies are filmed beginning on the 
first page with a printed or illustrated impres- 
sion, and ending on the last page with a printed 
or illustrated impression. 

The last recorded frame on each microfiche 
shall contain the symbol ^^ (meaning "CON- 
TINUED"), or the symbol V (meaning "END"), 
whichever applies. 

Les exemplaires originaux dont la couverture en 
papier est imprimde sont filmds en commengant 
par le premier plat et en terminant soit par la 
dernidre page qui comporte une empreinte 
d'impression ou d'illustration, soit par le second 
plat, selon le cas. Tous les autres exemplaires 
originaux sont filmds en commenpant par la 
premidre page qui comporte une empreinte 
d'impression ou d'illustration et en terminant par 
la dernidre page qui comporte une telle 

Un des symboles suivants apparaitra sur la 
dernidre image de chaque microfiche, selon le 
cas: le symbole — ^ signifie "A SUIVRE", le 
symbole V signifie "FIN". 

Maps, plates, charts, etc., may be filmed at 
different reduction ratios. Those too large to be 
entirely included in one exposure are filmed 
beginning in the upper left hand corner, left to 
right and top to bottom, as many frames as 
required. The following diagrams illustrate the 

Les cartes, planches, tableaux, etc., peuvent etre 
film^s d des taux de reduction diff^rents. 
Lorsque le document est trop grand pour etre 
reproduit en un seul cliche, il est filmd d partir 
de Tangle sup6rieur gauche, de gauche d droite, 
et de haut en bas, en prenant le nombre 
d'images n^cessaire. Les diagrammes suivants 
illustrent la mdthode. 

1 2 3 







'> 1 RAILS 

ON ilth 


H'jHaa Mb )'» /liii^i V d HI" 

.-r\ >y>'^ >»■'< 

.«YW\1 .\\ .\\ >i'\ M',SW*\ 

Bv ? NK H. Sh\ 


rFALtj N Y 




Drawn by H. H. Green. 

. . See Page /jr. 

Old Trails 


Niagara Frontier 

By Frank H. Severan 







•^x i^ 


:\ L ^ L i-i r- f.' c ' , r 

CoPYRtGHT 1899 

By Frank H. Severance 


eoMn.tie Art-Printing WOKKS, 




Young People of the Schools 
OF buffalo. 

Many of whom, on sundry pleasant 
occasions, have accompanied me, in 


Old 'Jrails which run in and out 


OF Niagara Frontier History are 
cordially inscribed. 

F. h. s. 





' V 



The Cross Bearers, 2 

The Paschal of the Great Pinch, ... 43 

With Bolton at Fort Nia(;ara, . . . 63 

What Befel David Ogden, jq; 

A Fort Niagara Centennial, 14] 

The Journals and Journevs of an Early 

Buffalo Merchant jg.^ 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh, . . . . 195 

Underground 'Irails, 227 

Niagara and The Poets, 275 




The Cross Bearers. 

1.,... S--v*-*^^,-,-,^ 

»*» < »» m i M ^ i i i nt m tm M 

■'■"•" ' l^*"*^^ 



l : 



I INVITE YOU to consider briefly with me the 
beginnings of known history in our home region. 
Of the general character of that history, as a jiart 
of the exploration and settlement of the lake region, 
you are already familiar. What I imdertake is to 
direct special attention to a few of the individuals 
v/ho made that history — for history, in the ultimate 
analysis, is merely the record of the result of personal 
character and influence ; and it is striking to note how 
relatively few and individual are the dominating minds. 
Remembering this, when we turn to trace the story 
of the Niagara, we find the initial impulses strikingly 
different from those which lie at the base of history in 
many places. Often the first chapter in the story is a 
record of war for war's sake — the aim being conquest, 
ac(iuisition of territory, or the search for gold. Not so 
here. The first invasion of white men in this mid-lake 
region was a mission of peace and good will. Our 
history begins in a sweet and heroic obedience to com- 
mands passed down direct from the Founder of Chris- 
tianity Himself. Into these wilds, long before the 
banner of any earthly kingdom was planted here, was 
borne the cross of Christ. Here the crucifix preceded 
the sword ; the altar was built before the hearth. 



!r ; 

2 T/te Cross Bearers, 

Now, I care not what the faith of the student he, he 
cannot escape the facts. The cross is stamped upon 
the first page of our home history — of this Buffalo and 
the banks of the Niagara ; and whoever would know 
something of that history must follow the footsteps of 
those who first brought the cross to these shores. It 
is, therefore, a brief following of the personal experi- 
ences of these early cross bearers that we undertake ; 
but first, a word may be permitted by way of re- 
minder as to the conditions here existing when our 
recorded history begins. 

From remote days unrecorded, the territory border- 
ing the Niagara, between Lakes Erie and Ontario, was 
occupied by a nation of Indians called the Neuters. A 
few of their villages were on the east side of the river, 
the easternmost being supposed to have stood near the 
present site of Lockport. The greater j^art of the 
Niagara peninsula of Ontario and the north shore of 
Lake Erie was their territory. To the east of them, in 
the Genesee valley and beyond, dwelt the Senecas, the 
westernmost of the Iroquois tribes. To the north of 
them, on Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay, dwelt 
the Hurons. About I60O the Iroquois overran the 
Neuter territory, destroyed the nation and made the 
region east of the Niagara a part of their own terri- 
tory ; though more than a century elapsed, after their 
con(iuest of the Neuters, before the Senecas made per- 
manent villages on Buffalo Creek and near the Niagara. 
It is necessary to bear this fact in mind, in considering 
the visits of white men to this region during that 

The Cross Bearers. 

It be, he 
)ed upon 
ffalo and 
lid know 
•tsteps of 
ores. It 
I experi- 
dertake ; 
^ of re- 
p^hen our 

r border- 

ario, was 

ters. A 

he river, 

near the 

t of the 

shore of 

them, in 

2cas, the 

orth of 


an the 

ade the 

In terri- 

r their 

|de per- 



ig that 

period ; it had become territory of the Senecas, but 
they only occupied it at intervals, on hunting or fish- 
ing expeditions. 

During the latter years of Xetiter possession of our 
region, mi.ssionaries began to approach the Niagara 
from two directions ; Irjt long before any brave soul 
had neared it through what is now New York State, — 
then the heart of the f.erce Irocjuois country, — others, 
more .successful, had come down from the early-estab- 
lished missions among the Hurons, had sojourned 
among the Neuters and had offered Christian ]jrayers 
among the savages east of the Niagara. 

Note, therefore, that the first white man known to 
have visited the Niagara region was a Catholic priest. 
Moreover, so far as is ascertained, he was the first man, 
coming from what is now Canada, to bring the Chris- 
tian faith into the present territory of the United 
States. This man v/as Joseph de la Roche Dallion.' 
The date of his visit is 162B. 

Father Dallion was a Franciscan of the Recollect 
refonn, who had been for a time at the mission among 
the Hurons, then carried on jointly by priests and lay 
brothers of the Recollects and also by Fathers of the 

'Often spelled "Daillon" or "d'Allion," the latter form suggesting 
origin from the name of a place, as is common in the French. Charlevon 
sometimes wrongly has it " de Dallion."' I follow the spelling as given in 
the priest's own signature to a letter to a friend in Paris, dated at " Tona- 
cham [Toanchain], Huron village, this iSth July, 1627,'" and signed 
•'Joseph De La Roche Dallion.' The -tudent of seventeenth-century 
history need not be reminded that little uniformity in the spelling of proper 
names' can be looked for. either in printed books or manuscripts. In 
French, as in English, men spelled their names in difTcrent ways— Shakes- 
peare, it is said, achieving thirty-nine vari.itions. The matter bears on 
our present study because the diversity cf spelling may involve the young 
student in perplexity. Thus, the name 01 the priests I-alemant (there 
were three of ifiem) is given by Le Clerc j as " Lailemant." by Charlevoi.\ 




t' I 

4 The Cross Bearers. 

Society of Jesus. On October 18th of this year 
(1626), he left his companions, resolved to carry the 
cross among the people of the Neuter nation. An in- 
terpreter, Brusle, had "told wonders" of these people. 
Brusle, it would seem, therefore, had been among them ; 
and although, as I have said, Father Dallion was the 
first white man known to have reached the Niagara, yet 
it is just to consider the probabilities in the case of 
this all but unknown interpreter. There are plausible 
grounds for belief, but no proof, that Etienne Brusle 
was the first white man who ever saw Niagara Falls. 
No adventurer in our region had a more remarkable 
career than his, yet but little of it is known to us. He 
was with Champlain on his journey to the Huron 
country. He left that explorer in September, 1615, 
at the outlet of Lake Simcoe, and went on a most 
perilous mission into the country of the Andastes, allies 
of the Hurons, to enlist them against the Irocjuois. 
The Andastes lived on the head-waters of the Sus(|ue- 
hanna, and along the south shore of Lake Erie, the 
present site of Buffalo being generally included within 
the bounds of their territory. Champlain saw nothing 

(a much later historian) as '• Lallemam " or " Lalemant," but in the con- 
temporary "Relations" of i64i-'42 as '' Lallemant," "Lalemant" or 
" L'" Many other names are ecjualiy variable, changes due to 
elision being sometimes, hut not always, indicated by accents, as " Hrusle," 
"Brule." Thus wr have "Jolliet" or "Joliet," " De Gallintie" or " De 
Galini-e," " Du Lu." " Du Luth." "Duluth," etc. When we turn to 
modern English, the confusion is much — and needlessly — increased. Dr. 
Shea, the learned translator and editor of Le Clercq, apparently aimed to 
put ail the names into English, without accents. Parkman, or his publish- 
ers, have been guilty of many inconsistencies, now speaking of "Brebeuf." 
now of " Brebeuf ." and changing " Le Clercq " to " Le Clerc." The 
"Historical Writings" of Buffalo's pre-eminent student in this tield, 
Orsamus H. Marshall, share with many less valuable works —the present, 
no doubt, among them — these inconsistencies of style in the use of proper 

The Cross Bearers. 

this year 
o carry the 
m. An in- 
lese people, 
nong them ; 
on was the 
Miagara, yet 
the case of 
.re plausible 
enne Brusle 
agara Falls. 
to us. He 
the Huron 
mber, 1()15, 
on a most 
Idastes, allies 
le Irocjuois. 
le Sus(|ue- 
e Erie, the 
iided within 
^aw nothing 

but in the cn- 

Lalemant " or 

:hanges due to 

ts. as •' Hrusle,"' 

llinue" or " De 

~n we turn ta 

increased. Dr. 

rently aimet! to 

or his pubhsh- 

of "Bnibeuf," 

Clerc." The 

in this field, 

. — the present, 

e use of proper 

more of BrnsU- for three years, but in the summer of 
1()18 met him at Saut St. Louis. Brusle had had 
wonderful adventures, had even been bound to the 
stake and burned so severely that he must have been 
frightfully scarred. The name by which we know him 
may have been given him on this account. He was 
saved from death by what the Indians regarded as an 
exhibition of wrath on the part of the Great Spirit. I 
find no trace of him between 1618 and lfl26, when 
Father Dallion appears to have taken counsel of him 
regarding the Neuters. Brusle was murdered by the 
Hurons near Penetanguishene in 11)32. What is 
known of him is learned from Champlain's narrative of 
the voyage of 1618 (edition of 1627). Sagard also 
speaks of him, and says he made an exploration of the 
upper lakes— a claim not generally credited. Parkman, 
drawing from these sources and the ** Relations," tells his 
story in "The Pioneers of France in the New World," 
admiringly calls him " That Pioneer of Pioneers," and 
says that he seems to have visited the Fries in 1615. 

The interesting thing about him in connection with 
our present study is the fact that he appears to have 
been the forerunner of Dallion among the savages of 
the Niagara. There is no white man named in history 
who may be even conjectured, with any plausibility, to 
have visited the Niagara earlier than I'ruslo.' 

' Mr. Consul W. Buttertield, wh^-se " History of Bnllo's Discoveries and 
Explorations, 1610-1626," has appeared since the above wis written, is of 
opinion that Brule did not \ isit the falls, nor gain any particular knowl- 
edge of Lake Krie, as that lake is not shown on Champlain's map of 1632 ; 
but that he and his Indian escort crossed the Niagara near Lake Ontario. 
" into what is now Western New York, in the present county of Niagara," 


\ I 












7/}^ Cross Bearers. 

Stimulated by this interpreter's reports, by the 
encouragement of his comjjanions and the jjromptings 
of his own zeal, Father Dallion set out for the unknown 
regions. Two Frenchmen, Grenole and Lavallee, 
accompanied him. They tramped the trail for six days 
through the woods, apparently rounding the western 
end of Lake Ontario, and coming eastward through 
the Niagara Peninsula. They were well received at 
the villages, given venison, squashes and parched corn 
to eat, and were shown no sign of hostility. "All 
were astonished to see me dressed as I was," writes 
the father, "and to see that I desired nothing of theirs, 
except that I invited them by signs to lift their eyes 
to heaven, make the sign of the cross and receive the 
faith of Jesus Christ." The good priest, however, 
had another object, somewhat unusual to the men of his 
calling. At the sixth village, where he had been 
advised to remain, a council was held. "There I 
told them, as well as I could, that I came on behalf of 
the French to contract alliance and friendship with 
them, and to invite them to come to trade. I also 
begged them to allow me to remain in their country, 
to be able to instruct them in the law of our Clod, 
which is the only means of going to paradise." The 

and thill ■' tlic journey was ilnubiless pursued through what arc now tlie 
c ninties of Erie, Cjeneset-, VVyomin^,', Livingston, Steuben and Chemung 
into Tioga, "^ and thence down the Susquehanna. It is prcibable that 
Brule's party would follow existing trails, and one ol the best defined 
trails, at a later period when the Sciiecas occupied the country as far w st 
as the Niagara, lollowed this easterly course ; but there were other trails, 
one Ol which lay along the east bank of the Niagara. So long as we have 
no other origin;il source of information except Champlain, Sagard and Le 
Caron, none of whom has left any explicit record of Uri'ile's journeyings 
hereabouts, so long n'ust his exact ;)ath in the Niagara region remain 

The Cross Bearers. 


Neuters accepted the priest's ofters, and the first re- 
corded trade in the Niagara region was made when 
he presented them "little knives and other trifles." 
They adoi)ted him into the tribe, and gave him a 
father, the chief Sonharissen. 

After this cordial welcome, Grenole and Lavallce 
returned to the Hurons, leaving Father Joseph "the 
hai)piest man in th«_ world, hoping to do something 
there to advance God's glory, or at least to discover 
the means, which would be no small thing, and to en- 
deavor to discover the mouth of the river of Hiroquois, 
in order to bring them to trade." After s])eaking of 
the jjeople and his efforts to teach them, he continues : 
"I have always seen them constant in their resolution 
to go with at least four canoes to the trade, if I would 
guide them, the whole difficulty being that we did not 
knov,- the way. Yroquet, an Indian known in those 
countries, who had come there with twenty of his men 
hunting for beaver, and who took fully HOG, would 
never give us any mark to know the mouth of the 
river. He and several Hurons assured us that it was 
only ten days' journey to the trading place ; but we 
were afraid of taking one river for another, and losing 
our way or dying of hunger on the land." So excel- 
lent an authority as Dr. John Gilmary Shea says: 
"This was evidently the Niagara River, and the route 
through Lake Ontario. He (Dallion) a;)j.'arently 
crossed the river, as he was on the Iro(|uois frontier." 
The great con<|uest of the Neuters by the Iroquois was 
not until 1(548 or 1650. Just what the "Iroquois 

if i 

'ii f 

„ I 


T/ie Cross Bear en. 





frontier " was in 1627 is uncertain. It appears to have 
been al)Out midway between the Niagara and the Gene- 
see, the easternmost Neuter village being some thirty 
miles east of the Niagara. The Recollect appears there- 
fore as the first man to write of the Niagara, from per- 
sonal knowledge, and of its mouth as a place of trade. 
The above (quotations are from the letter Father Dallion 
wrote to one of his friends in France July 18, 1627, 
he having then returned to Toanchain, a Huron village. 
I have followed the text as given by Sagard. It is 
significant that Le Clerccj, in his " Premier Etablisse- 
ment de la Foy," etc., gives a portion of Dallion's 
account of his visit to the Neuters, but omits nearly 
everything he says about trade. 

Father Dallion sojourned three winter months with 
the Neuters, but the latter part of the stay was far 
from agreeable. The Hurons, he says, having dis- 
covered that he talked of leading the Neuters to trade, 
at once spread false and evil reports of him. They 
said he was a great magician ; that he was a poisoner, 
that he tainted the air of the country where he tar- 
ried, and that if the Neuters did not kill him, he 
wo'^ld burn their villages and kill their children. The 
priest was at a disadvantage in not having much com- 
mand of the Neuter dialect, and it is not strange, after 
the evil report had once been started, that he should 
have seemed to engage in some devilish incantation 
whenever he held the cross before them or sought to 
baptize the children. When one reflects upon the 
dense wall of ignorance and superstition against which 


to have 
e Gene- 

2 thirty 
•s there- 
om per- 
if trade. 
^ 1627, 
. It is 
)alli oil's 

3 nearly 

ths with 

was far 

ng dis- 

o trade, 



he tar- 

, he 


n com- 




light to 

)on the 

t which 





The Cross Bearers. 


his every effort at moral or spiritual teaching was im- 
})Otent, the admiration for the martyr spirit which 
animated the effort is tempered by amazement that an 
acute and sagacious man should have thought it well 
to " labor " in such an obviously ineffective way. But 
history is full of instances of ardent devotion to aims 
which the "practical" man would denounce at once 
as unattainable. That Father Dallion was animated 
by the spirit of the martyrs is attested in his own 
account of what befel him. A treacherous band of 
ten came to him and tried to i)ick a quarrel. " One 
knocked me down with a blow of his fist, another took 
an ax and tried to split my head. God averted his 
hand ; the blow fell on a post near me. I also 
received much other ill-treatment ; but that is what 
we came to seek in this country." His assailants 
robbed him of many of his po.ssessions, including his 
breviary and compass. These precious things, which 
were no doubt " big medicine " in the eyes of his un- 
gracious hosts, were afterwards returned. The news 
of his maltreatment reached the ears of Fathers Brebeuf 
and De la None at the Huron mission. They sent the 
messenger, Grenole, to bring him back, if found alive. 
Father Dallion returned with Grenole early in the year 
1627 ; and so ended the first recorded visit of white 
man to the Niagara region. 

For fourteen years succeeding, I find no allusion to 
our district. Then comes an episode which is so 
adventurous and so heroic, so endowed with beauty 




The Cross Bearers. 





I'- ! 

and devotion, that it should be familiar to all who give 
any heed to what has happened in the vicinity of the 

Jean de BrcJbeuf was a missionary priest of the 
Jesuits. That implies much ; but in his case even 
such a general imputation of exalted (jualities falls 
short of justice. His is a superb figure, a splendid 
acquisition to the line of heroic figures that pass in 
shadowy procession along the horizon of our home 
history. Trace the narrative of his life as sedulously 
as we may, examine his character and conduct in what- 
ever critical light we may choose to study them, and 
still the noble figure of Father Brebeuf is seen without 
a flaw. There were those of his order whose acts were 
at times open to two constructions. Some of them 
were charged, by men of other faith and hostile alle- 
giance, with using their priestly privileges as a cloak 
for worldly objects. No such charge was ever brought 
against Father Brebeuf. The guilelessness and hero- 
ism of his life are unassailable. 

He was of a noble Normandy family, and when he 
comes upon the scene, on the banks of the Niagara, he 
was forty-seven years old. He had come out to 
Quebec fifteen years before and had been assigned to 
the Huron mission. In 1628 he was called back to 
Quebec, but five years later he was allowed to return 
to his charge in the remote wilderness. The record of 
his work and sufferings there is not a part of our pres- 
ent story. Those v/ho seek a marvelous exemplifica- 
tion of human endurance and devotion, may find it in 

ho give 
■ of the 

of the 
ic even 
es falls 
pass in 
r home 
in what- 
em, and 
cts were 
of them 
lie alle- 
a cloak 
id hero- 

v^hen he 
ara, he 
out to 
gned to 
jack to 
ecord of 
)ur pres- 
nd it in 


T/ie Cross Bearers. 


the ancient Relations of the order. He lived amid 
threats and plots against his life, he endured what 
seams unendurable, and his zeal throve on the experi- 
ence. In November, IfUO, he and a companion, the 
priest Joseph Chaumonot, resolved to carry the cross 
to the Neuter nation. They no doubt knew of Father 
Dallion's dismal experience ; and were si)urred on 
thereby. Like him, they sought martyrdom. Their 
route from the Huron country to the Niagara has been 
traced with skill and probable accuracy by the Very 
Rev. VVm. R. Harris, Dean of St. Catharines. At 
this time the Neuter nation lived to the north of Lake 
Erie throughout what we know as the Niat^ara Penin- 
sula, and on both sides of the Niagara, their most east- 
ern village being near the j)resent site of Lockport. 
From an uncertain boundary, thereabouts, they con- 
fronted the possessions of the Senecas, who a few years 
later were to wipe them off the face of the earth and 
occupy all their territory east of the lake and river. 

Fathers Brebeuf and Chaumonot set out on their 
hazardous mission November 2d, in the year named, 
from a Huron town in the present township of 
Medonte, Ontario. (Near Penetanguishene, on Georgian 
Bay.) Their ])robable path was through the present 
towns of Beeton, Orangeville, Georgetown, Hamilton 
and St. Catharines. They came out upon the Niagara 
just north of the Queenston escarpment. The journey 
thus far had been a succession of hardships. The 
interpreters whom they had engaged to act as guides 
deserted them at the outset. Ahead of them went the 







The Cross Bearers, 


I ■! 


reputation which the Ihirons sjiread abroad, that they 
were rnaj^icians and carried all manner of evils with 
them. Father I-rObeuf was a man of extraordinary 
physical strength. Many a time, in years gone by, he 
had astonished the Indians i)y his endurance at the 
paddle, and in carrying great loads over the portages. 
His companion, Chaumonot, was smaller and weaker, 
but was ecjually sustainecl by faith in Divine guid- 
ance. On their way through the forests, Father i>re- 
benf was cheered by a vision of angels, beckoning him 
on ; but when he and his companion finally stood on 
the banks of the Niagara, under the leaden sky of late 
November, there was little of the beatific in the 
|)rosj)ect. They crossed the swirling stream — by 
what means must be left to conjecture, the probability 
being in favor of a light bark canoe — and on the 
eastern bank found themselves in the hostile village of 
Onguiara — the first-mentioned settlement on the banks 
of our river. 

Here the half-famished priests w^re charged with 
having come to ruin the people. They were refused 
shelter and food, but finally found opportunity to step 
into a wigwam, where Indian custom, augmented by 
fear, permitted them to remain. The braves gathered 
around, and proposed to put them to death. "I am 
tired," cried one, "eating the dark flesh of our 
enemies, and I want to taste the white flesh of the 
Frenchman." So at least is the recoid in the Rela- 
tion. Another drew bow to pierce the heart of Chau- 
monot ; but all fell back in awe when the stalwart Bre- 


The Cross Bearers. 


hat they 
vils with 
e by, he 
c at the 
I weaker, 
ne g\iicl- 
ther iirc- 
ning him 
stood on 
<y of late 
c in the 
sam — by 
d on the 
village of 
the banks 

rged with 
e refused 
;y to step 
ented by 

" I am 
of oar 
5h of the 
the Rela- 

of Chau- 
iwart Bre- 

beuf stej)i)ed forth into their midst, without weapon 
and without fear, and raising his hand exclaimed : 
"We have not come here for any other purpose than 
to do you a friendly service. We wish ^o teach you 
to worship the Ma.ster of Life, so that you may be 
hap|)y in this world and in the other." 

Whether or not any of the spiritual import of his 
speech was com[)rehended cannot be said ; but the 
temper of the crowd changed, so that, instead of 
threatening immediate death, they began to take a 
curious, childish interest in the two ** black -gowns " ; 
examining the j^riests' clothes, and ai)i)ropriating their 
hats and other loose articles. 'I'hc travelers completely 
mystified them by rec M.ig a written message, and thus 
getting at another's thoughts without a sj)oken word. 
The Relation is rich in details of this sort, and of the 
wretchedness of the life which the missionaries led. 
They visited other '* towns," as the collections of bark 
wigwams are called; but everywhere they were looked 
upon as necromancers, and their lives were spared only 
through fear. 

Far into the winter the priests endured all manner 
of hardship. Food was sometimes thrown to them as 
to a worthless dog, sometimes denied altogether, and 
then they had to make shift with such roots and barks 
or chance game as their poor woodcraft enabled them 
to procure, or the meager winter woods afforded. On 
one occasion, when a chief frankly told them that his 
people would have killed them long before, but for 
fear that the spirits of the priests would in vengeance 







r I 





7"/;^ Cross Bcaj-crs. 

destroy them, BrObenf began to assure him that his 
mission was only to do good ; whereupon the savage 
replied by s])itting in the j)riest's face ; and the priest 
thanked God that he was worthy of the same indignity 
which had been put upon Jesus Christ. When one 
laces his foes in such a spirit, there is absolutely 
nothing to fear. And yet, after four months of these 
experiences, there seems not to have been the slightest 
sign of any good result. The savages were as invul- 
nerable to any moral or spiritual teach'^'gs as the chill 
earth itself. Dumb brutes would have shown more 
return for than they, 'i'he saying of Cha- 
teaul)riand, that man without religion is the most dan- 
gerous animal that walks the earth, found full justifi- 
cation in these savages. Finally, iJrebeuf and his 
associate determined to withdrav,- from the absolutely 
fruitless Held, and began to retrace their steps towards 

It was near the middle of February, 1641, when they 
began their retreat from the land of the Neuters. The 
story of that retreat, as indeed of the whole mission, 
has been most beautifully told, with a sympathetic fer- 
vency impossible for one not richly endowed with faith 
to simulate, by Dean Harris. Let his account of v,-hat 
happened stand here : 

"The snow was falling when they left the village 
Onguiara, crossed the Niagara River near Queenston, 
ascended its banks and disappeared in the shadowy 
forest. The i)ath, which led through an unbroken 
wilderness, lay buried in snow. The cold pierced 

The Cf OSS Bearers. 


1 that his 
he savage 
the priest 
A'hen one 
s of these 
e slightest 
; as invul- 
Ls the chill 
own more 
g of Cha- 
most dan- 
full justifi- 
f and his 
ps towards 

when they 
erri. 1'he 
thetic fer- 
with faith 
Qt of what 

he village 
; shadowy 
d pierced 

them through and through. The cords on Fr. Chau- 
monot's snow-shoe broke, and his stiffened fingers 
could scarcely tie the knot. Innumerable flakes of 
snow were falling from innumerable branches. 'I'heir 
only food was a pittance of Indian corn mixed with 
melted snow ; their only guide, a compass. Worn and 
sp'ent with hardships, these saintly men, carrying in 
sacks their portable altar, were returning to announce 
to their priestly companions on the Wye the dismal 
news of their melancholy failure and defeat. There 
was not a hungry wolf that passed them but looked 
back and half forgave their being human. There was 
not a tree but looked down upon them with pity and 
commiseration. Night was closing in when, spent with 
fatigue, they saw smoke rising at a distance. Soon 
they reached a clearing and descried before them a 
cluster of bark lodges. Here these Christian soldiers 
of the cross bivouacked for the night. 

"Early that evening while Chaumonot, worn with 
traveling and overcome with sleep, threw himself to 
rest on a bed that was not made up since the creation 
of the world, Father Brobeuf, to escape for a time the 
acrid and jmngent smoke that lilled the cabin, went 
out to commune with God alone in prayer. . 
He moved toward the margin 01 the wood;;, when 
presently he stoi)ped as if transfixed. Far away to the 
southeast, high in the air and boldly outlined, a huge 
cross floated suspended ir mid-heaven. Was it sta- 
tionary? No, it moved toward him from the land of 
the Iroquois. The saintly face lighted with unwonted 


The Cross Bearers. 





splendor, for he saw in the vision the presage of the 
martyr's crown. Tree and hillside, lodge and village, 
faded away, and while the cross was still slowly 
approaching, the soul of the great priest went out in 
ecstasy, in loving adoration to his Lord and his God. 
. Overcome with emotion, he exclaimed, ' Who 
will separate me from the love of my Lord? Shall 
tribulation, nakedness, peril, distress, or famine, or the 
sword? ' Emparadised in ecstatic vision, he again cries 
out with enthusiastic loyalty, ' Sentio me veheiJienter 
impelli ad monetuiiun pro Christo'' — 'I feel within me 
a mighty in-ipulse to die for Christ ' — and flinging him- 
self upon his knees as a victim for the sacrifice or a 
holocaust for sin, he registered his wondrous vow to 
meet martyrdom, when it came to him, with the joy 
and resignation befitting a disciple of his Lord. 

' * When he returned to himself the cross had faded 
away, innumerable stars were brightly shining, the cold 
was wrapping him in icy mantle, and he retraced his 
footsteps to the smoky cabin. He flung himself beside 
his weary brother and laid him down to rest. When 
morning broke they began anew their toilsome journey, 
holding friendly converse. 

" 'Was the cross large?' asked Father Chaumonot. 

" ' Large,' spoke back the other, * yes, large enough 
to crucifv us all.' " 

It is idle to insist on judgments by the ordinary 
standards in a case like this. As Parkman says, it 
belongs not to history, but to psychology. Brebeuf 
saw the luminous cross in the heavens above the 


The Cross Bearers. 

Niagara ; not the material, out-reaching arms of 
Niagara's spray, rising columnar from the chasm, then 
resting, with crosslike extensions on the quiet air, 
white and pallid under the winter moon. Such j^he- 
nomena are not unusual above the cataract, but may 
not he offered in explanation of the priest's vision. 
He was in the neighborhood of Grimsby, full twenty 
miles trom the falls, when he saw the cross ; much too 
far away to catch the gleam of frosted spray. Nor is 
it a gracious spirit which seeks a material explanation 
for his vision. The cross truly j^resaged his martyr- 
dom : and although the feet of Father Brebeuf never 
a'^ain sought the ungrateful land of the Neuters, vet 
his visit and his vision were not wholly without fniit. 
They endow local history with an example of pure 
devotion to the betterment of others, unsurpassed in 
all the annals of the holy orders. To Brtrbeuf the 
miraculous cross foretold martyrdom, and thereby was 
it a sign of conquest and of victory to this heroic 
Constantine of the Niagara. 

After Brebeuf and Chaumonot had turned their backs 
on the Neuters, the Niagara region was apparently 
unvisited by white men for more than a quarter of a 
century. were not, however, years of peaceful 
hunting andstill more placid corn and pumpkin-growing, 
such as some romantic writers have been fond of ascrib- 
ing to the red men when they were unmolested by the 
whites. As a matter of fact, and as Fathers Dallion, 
Brebeuf and Chaumonot had discovered, the people 



T/ic Cross Be aiders. 

who claimed the banks of the lower reaches of the 
Niagara as within their territory, were the embodiment 
of all that was vile and barbarous. There is no record 
that they had a village at the angle of lake and river, 
where now stands old Fort Niagara. It would have 
been strange, however, if they did not occasionally 
occupy that sightly plateau with their wigwams or 
huts, while they were laying in a supply of fish. If 
trees ever covered the spot they were killed by early 
camp-fires, probably long before the coming of the 
whites. Among the earliest allusions to the point is 
one which speaks of the difficulty of getting wood 
there ; and such a treeless tract, in this part of the 
countrv, could usuallv be attributed to the denudation 
consefjuent on Indian occupancy. 

A decade or so after the retreat of the missionaries 
came that fierce Indian strife which annihilated the 
Neuters and gave Niagara's banks into the keeping of 
the fiercer but somewhat nobler Irocjuois. The story 
of this Indian war ha? been told with all possible 
illumination from the few meager records that are 
known ; and it only concerns the present chronicle to 
note that about lOoO the site of Fort Niagara passed 
under Seneca domination. The Senecas had no per- 
manent town in the vicinity, but undoubtedly made it 
a rendezvous for war parties, and for hunting and fish- 
ing expeditions. 

Meanwhile, the Jesuits in their Relations, and after 
them the cartographers in Europe, were making hear- 
say allusions to the Niagara or locating it, with much 

The Cross Bearers. 


1 of the 
3 record 
id river, 
lid have 
vair.s or 
fish. If 
by early 
; of the 
point is 
ig wood 
t of the 

ited the 
eping of 
e story 
lat are 
nicle to 
no per- 
made it 
nd fish- 

,nd after 
ig hear- 

inaccuracy, on their now grotes(iue maps. In 1648 
the [esuit Ragueneau, writing to the Superior at Paris, 
mentions Niagara, which he had never seen or ap- 
proached, as "a cataract of frightful height." L'Alle- 
mant in the Relation published in 1642, had alluded 
to the river, but not to the fall. Sanson, in 165(5, put 
" Ongiara " on his famous map ; and four years later the 
map of Creuxius, published with his great "Historian 
Canadensis," gave our river and fall the Latin dignity 
of "Ongiara Catarractes. " (^ne map-maker copied 
from another, so that even by the middle of the seven- 
teenth century, the reading and student world — small 
anil ecclesiastical as it mostly was — began to have 
some inkling of the main features and continental 
position of the mid-lake region for the possession of 
which, a little later, several Forts Niagara were to be 
projected. It is not, however, until 1669 that we 
come to another definite episode in the history of the 


In that year came hither the Sulpitian missionaries, 
Franc^ois Dollier de Casson and Rene de Brehant' de 
Cralinee. They were bent on carrying the cross to 
nations hitherto unreached, on Western rivers. With 
them was the young Robert Cavelier, known as La Salle, 
who was less interested in carrying the cross than in 
exploring the country. Their expedition left Montreal 
July 6th, nine canoes in all. They made their way 
up the St. Lawrence, skirted the south shore of Lake 
Ontario, and on Aug. 10th were at Irondequoit Bay. 

' " Brehan de Gallinee,'" in Margry. Shea has it " Urehaut de Galim'e." 




T/te Cross Bearers. 

They made a most eventful visit to the Seneca villages 
south of the bay. Thence they continued westward, 
apparently by Indian trails overland, and not by canoe. 
De Galinee, who was the historian of the expedition, 
says that they came to a river **one eighth of a league 
broad and extremely rapid, forming the outlet or 
communication from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario," and 
he continues with a somewhat detailed account of Niag- 
ara Falls, which, although he passed near them, he did 
not turn aside to see. The Sulpitians and La Salle 
crossed the river, apparently below Lewiston. They 
may indeed have come to the river at its mouth, 
skirting the lake shore. One may infer either course 
from the narrative of de Galinee, which goes on to say 
that five days after passing the river they ** arrived at the 
extremity of Lake Ontario, where there is a fine, large 
sandy bay . . . and where we unloaded our canoes. " 
Pushing on westward, late in September, on the trail 
between Burlington Bay and the Grand River, they met 
Joliet, returning from his expedition in search of copper 
mines on Lake Superior. This meeting in the wilder- 
ness is a suggestive and picturesque subject, but we 
may not dwell on it here. Joliet, though he had thus 
preceded La Salle and the Sulpitians in the exploration 
of the lakes, had gone west by the old northern route 
along the Ottawa, Lake Nipissing and the French River. 
He was never on the Niagara, for after his meeting 
with La Salle, he continued eastward by way of the 
Grand River valley and Lake Ontario. Fear of the 
savages deterred him from coming by way of the 

The Cross Bearers. 



Niagara, and thereby, it is not unlikely, becoming 
the white discoverer of Niagara Falls.' He was the 
first white man, so far as records relate, to come east- 
ward through the Detroit River and Lake Erie. Our 
lake was therefore "discovered " from the west — a fact 
perhaps without parallel in the history of American 

After the meeting with Joliet, La Salle left the mis- 
sionaries, who, taking advantage of information had from 
Joliet, followed the Grand River down to Lake Erie. 
Subse(iuently they passed through Lake Erie to the west- 
ward, the first of white men to explore the lake in that 
direction. De Galinee's map (1669) is the first that 
gives us the north shore of Lake Erie with approximate 

of the 

' Why Joliet left the Lake Erie route on his way east, for one much more 
difficult, has been a matter of some discussion. According to the Abbe 
Galinee, he was induced to turn aside by an Iroquois Indian who had been 
a prisoner among the Ottawas. Joliet persuaded the Ottawas to let this 
prisoner return with him. As they drew near the Niagara the Iroquois 
became afraid lest he should fall into the hands of the ancient enemies of 
the Irofiuols, the Andastes, although the habitat of that people is usually 
given as from about the site ot Buffalo to the west and southwest. At 
any rate it was the representations of this Iroquois prisoner and guide 
which apparently turned Joliet into the firand River and kept him away 
from the Niagara. The paragraph in dc Galinee bearing on the matter is 
as follows : 

"Ce fut cet Iroquois qui montra \ M. Jolliet un nouveau chemin que les 
Fran(,-oic n'avoient point seen jusqi esalorspour revenir des Outaouacsd.'.ns 
le pays des Iroquois. Cependant la crainte que ce sauvage eut de retomber 
entre les mains des Antastoes luy fit dire \ M. Jolliet (lu'il falloit qu'il quit- 
tast son canot et marchast par terre plustost qu'il n'eust fallu. et mesme sans 
cette terreur du sauvage, M. JoUiet eust pu venir par e lu jusciues dans le 
lac (.)ntario. en faisant un portage de demi-lieue pour cviter le grand sault 
dont j'ay dt'i;^ park', mais enhn il fut oblige par son guide de faire 
cinquante lieucs par terre, et abandonnerson canot sur le bnrd du lac Erie.'* 

It is singular that so important a relation in the history of our region 
has never been published in E.nglish, DeGalini'e's original MS. Journal is 
preserved in the Hibliothcque Nationale, :n Paris. It was first i rinted in 
French by M. Pierre Margry in 1879 ; but five years prior to that date Mr. 
O. H Marshall of Buffalo, having been granted access to M. Margry's 
MS. copy, made extracts, which were printed in Eiu.'lish in 1S74. These 
wtre only a small portion of the Abbe's valuable record. The Ontario 
Historical Society has for some time coiitempl vted the translation and 
publication of the complete Journal — a work which students of the early 
history 01 the lake region will hope soon to see accomplished. 






T/ie Cross Bearers. 

accuracy. On October 15th this devout man and his 
comj)anion reached Lake Erie, which they described 
as **a vast sea, tossed by tempestuous winds." Deterred 
by the lateness of the season from attempting further 
travel by this course, they determined to winter where 
they were, and built a cabin for their shelter. 

Occasionally they were visited in their hut by 
Iroquois beaver hunters. For live months and eleven 
days they remained in their winter quarters and on the 
23d of March, 1670, being Passion Sunday, they 
erected a cross as a memorial of their long sojourn. 
The official record of the act is as follows : 

" We the undersigned certify that we have seen affixed on the 
lands of the lake called Eri6 the arms of the King of France with 
this inscription : ' The year of salvation 1669, Clement IX. being 
seated in St. Peter's chair, Louis XIV. reignhig in France, M. de 
Courcelle being Governor of New Franco, and M. Talon being 
intendant therein for the King, there arrived in this place two 
missionaries from Montreal accompanied by seven other French- 
men, who, the first of all European peoples, have wintered on this 
lake, of which, as of a territory not occupied, they have taken 
possession in the name of their King by the apposition of his 
arms, which they have attached to the foot of this cross. In wit- 
ness whereof we have signed the present certificate.' 

"Priest of the Diocese of Nantes in Brittany. 

"Deacon of the Diocese of Rennes in Brittany." 

The winter was exceedingly mild, but the stream ' 
was still frozen on the 26th of March, when they por- 
taged their canoes and goods to the lake to resume 

• Probably that now known as Patterson's Creek. 

The Cross Bearers. 


their westward journey. Unfortunately losing one of 
their canoes in a gale they were obliged to divide their 
party, four men with the luggage going in the two 
remaining canoes; while the rest, including the mis- 
sionaries, undertook the wearisome journey on foot all 
the way from Long Point to the mouth of the Kettle 
Creek. De Galinee grows enthusiastic in his admiration 
for the immense (juantities of game and fruits opposite 
Long Point and calls the country the terrestrial Para- 
dise of Canada. *'The grapes were as large and as 
sweet as the finest in France. The wine made from 
them was as good as vin de Grave. ' ' He admires the 
profusion of walnuts, chestnuts, wild apples and plums. 
Rears were fatter and better to the palate than 
the most "savory" pigs in France, Deer wandered 
in herds of fifty to an hundred. Sometimes even two 
hundred would be seen feeding together. Before arriv- 
ing at the sand beach which then connected Long Point 
with the mainland they had to cross two streams. To 
cross the first stream they were forced to walk four 
leagues inland before they found a satisfactory place 
to cross. One whole day was spent in constructing a 
raft to cross Big Creek, and after another delay caused 
by a severe snow-storm, they successfully effected a 
crossing and found on the west side a marshy meadow 
two hundred ])aces wide into which they sank to their 
girdles in mud and slush. Beset by dangers and re- 
tarded by inclement weather, they at last arrived at 
Kettle Creek, where they expected to find the canoe 
in which Joliet had come down Lake Huron and the 

1 1, 







The Cross Bearers. 




Detroit and which he had told them was hidden there. 
Great was their disappointment to find that the Indians 
had taken it. However, later in the day, while gath- 
ering some wood for a fire, they found the canoe be- 
tween two logs and joyfully bore it to the lake. In 
the vicinity of their encampment the hunters failed to 
secure any game, and for four or five days the party 
subsisted on boiled maize. The whole party then 
paddled up the lake to a place where game was plen- 
tiful and the hunters saw more than two hundred deer 
in one herd, but missed their aim. Disheartened 
at their failure and craving meat, they shot and 
skinned a miserable wolf and had it ready for the kettle 
when one of the men saw some thirty deer on the 
other side of the small lake they were on. The party 
succeeded in surrounding the deer and, forcing them 
into the water, killed ten of them. Now well supplied 
with both fresh and smoked meat, they continued their 
journey, traveled nearly fifty miles in one day and 
came to a beautiful sand beach (Point Pelee), where 
they drew up their canoes and camped for the night. 
During the night a terrific gale came up from the 
northeast. Awakened by the storm they made all 
shift to save their canoes and cargoes. Dollier's and 
de Galinee's canoes were saved, but the other one was 
swept away with its contents of provisions, goods for 
barter, ammunition, and, worst of all, the altar service, 
with which they intended establishing their mission 
among the Pottawatamies. 

The loss of their altar service caused them to aban- 

Tke Cross Bearers. 


don the mission and they set out to return to Montreal, 
but strangely enough chose the long, roundabout 
journey by way of the Detroit, Lake Huron and the 
French River, in preference to the route by which they 
had come, or by the outlet of Lake Erie, which they had 
crossed the autumn before. Thus de Galince and Dol- 
lierde Casson, likejoliet, — not to revert to Champlain 
half a century earlier, — missed the opportunity, which 
seemed to wait for them, of exploring the eastern end 
of Lake Erie, of correctly mapping the Niagara and 
observing and describing its incomparable cataract. 
Obviously the Niagara region was shunned less on 
account of its real difficulties, which were not then 
known, than through terror of the Irociuois. Our two 
Sulpitians reached Montreal June 18, 1670, which 
date marks the close of the third missionary visitation 
in the history of the Niagara. 

And now I approach the point at which many writers 
of our local history have chosen to begin their story — 
the famous expedition of La Salle and his companions 
in 1678-'79. For the purpose of the present study we 
may omit the more familiar aspects of that adventure, 
and limit our regard to the acts of the holy men who 
continue the interrupted chain of missionary work on the 
Niagara. On December 6th, St. Nicholas Day, 1678, 
with an advance party under La Motte de Lussiere, 
came the Flemish Recollect, Louis Hennepin. As the 
bark in which they had crossed stormy Lake Ontario 
at length entered the Niagara, they chanted the Am- 





' /? 



The Cross Bearers. 







brosian hymn, " Te Deum LatuUimus," and there is 
no gainsaying the sincerity of that thank-offering for 
perils escaped. Five days later, being encamped on 
the present site of Niagara, Ont., Father Hennepin 
celebrated the first mass ever said in the vicinity. A 
few days later, on the site of Lewiston, he had com- 
pleted a bark chapel, in which was held the first Chris- 
tian service which had been held on the eastern side of 
the Niagara since the visit of iJrebeuf thirty-eight years 
before. Father Hennepin has left abundant chronicles 
of his activities on the Niagara. As soon as the con- 
struction of the (iriffon was begun above the falls a 
chapel was established there, near the mouth of Cayuga 
Creek. Having blessed this pioneer vessel of the 
upper lakes, when she was launched, he set out for 
Fort Frontenac in the interests of the enterprise, and 
was accompanied to the Niagara, on his return, by the 
Superior of the mission. Father Gabriel de la Ribourde, 
and Fathers Zenobius Membre and Melithon Watteaux. 
All through that summer these devoted priests shared 
the varied labors of the camp. Hennepin tells us how 
he and his companions toiled back and forth over the 
portage around the falls, sometimes with their por- 
table altar, sometimes with provisions, rigging or other 
equipment for the ship. ** Father Gabriel," he says, 
"though of sixty-five years of age, bore with great 
vigor the fatigue of that journey, and W'ii\t thrice up 
and down those three mountains, which ai\i pretty high 
and steep. ' ' This glimpse of the saintiy old priest is 
a reminiscence to cherish in our local annals. He was 

The Cross Bearers. 


the last of a noble family in Burgundy who gave up 
worldly wealth and station to enter the Order of St. 
Francis. He came to Canada in 1670, and was the 
first Superior of the restored Recollect mission in that 
country. There is a discrepancy oetween Hennepin 
and Le Clercq as to his age ; the former says he was 
sixty-five years old in 1G70, when he was on the Niag- 
ara ; the later speaks of him as being in his seventieth 
year in 1680. Of the three missionaries who with 
La Salle sailed up the Niagara in August, 1679, and 
with j)rayers and hymns boldly faced the dangers of 
the unknown lake, the venerable Father Gabriel was 
first of all to receive the martyr's crown. A year 
later, September 9, 1080, while engaged -it his devo- 
tions, he was basely murdered by three Indians. To 
Father Membre there were allotted five years of mis- 
sionary labor before he, too, was to fall a victim to 
the savage. Father Hennepin lived many years, and 
his chronicles stand to-day as in some respects the 
foundation of our local history. But cherish as we may 
the memory of this trio of missionaries, the imagi- 
nation turns with a yet fonder regard back to the 
devoted priest who was not permitted to voyage west- 
ward from the Niagara with the gallant La Salle. 
When the Griffon sailed, Father Melithon Watteaux 
was left behind in the little palisaded house at Niagara 
as chaplain. He takes his place in our history as the 
first Catholic priest appointed to minister to v/hites in 
New York State. On May 27, 1679, La Salle had m'«de 
a grant of land at Niagara to these Recollect Fathers, 



*H t: 



i ii 



T/ie Cross Bearers. 

for a residence and cemetery, and this was the first 
property in the present" State of New York to which 
the CathoiiC Church held title. Who can say what 
were the experiences of the priest during the succeed- 
ing winter in the loneliness and dangers of the savage- 
infested wilderness? Nowhere have I as yet found 
any detailed account of his sojourn. We know, how- 
ever, that it was not long. During the succeeding 
years there was some passing to and fro. In 1680 La 
Salle, returning east, passed the site of his ruined and 
abandoned fort. He was again on the Niagara in 1681 
with a considerable party bound for the Miami. 
Tather Membre, who was with him, returned east in 
October, 1682, by the Niagara route ; and La Salle him- 
self passed down the river again in 1 683 — his last visit to 
the Niagara. His blockhouse, within which was Father 
Melithon's chapel, had been burned by the Senecas. 

From this time on for over half a century the 
missionary work in our region centered at Fort Niag- 
ara, which still stands, a manifold reminder of the 
romantic past, at the mouth of the river. Four years 
after La Salle's last passage through che Niagara — in 
1687 — the Marquis de Denonville led his famous 
expedition against the Senecas. With him in this cam- 
paign was a band of Western Indians, who were attend- 
ed by the Jesuit Father Enjalran. He was wounded 
in the battle with the Senecas near Boughton Hill, but 
appears to have accompanied de Denonville to his 
rendezvous on the site of Fort Niagara. Here he un- 
doubtedly exercised his sacred office ; and since the 

The Cross Bearers. 


construction of Fort Niagara began at this time his 
name may head the list of priests officiating at that 
stronghold. He was soon after dispatched on a peace 
mission to the West, which was the special scene of 
his labors. His part, for some years to come, was to 
be an important one as Superior of the Jesuit Mission 
at Michillimackinac. 

As soon as Fort Niagara was garrisoned, Father Jean 
de Lamberville was sent thither as chaplain. For 
the student, it would be profitable to dwell at length 
upon the ministrations of this devoted priest. He was 
of the Society of Jesus, had come out to Canada in 
1668, and labored in the Onondaga mission from 1671 
to 1687. His work is indelibly written on the history 
of missions in our State. He was the innocent cause 
of a party of Iroquoic falling into the hands of the 
French, who sent them to France, where they toiled 
in the king's galleys. When de Denonville, in 1687, 
left at Fort Niagara a garrison of one hundred men under 
the Chevalier de la Mothe, Father Lamberville came to 
minister to them. The hostile Iroquois had been dealt 
a heavy blow, but a more insidious and dreadful enemy 
soon appeared within the gates. The provisions which 
had been left for the men proved utterly unfit for food, 
so that disease, with astounding swiftness, swept away 
most of the garrison, including the commander. Father 
Lamberville, himself, was soon stricken down with the 
scurvy. Every man in the fort would no doubt have 
perished but for the timely arrival of a part) of friendly 
Miami Indians, through whose good offices the few 



S I' 

1 i 


The Cross Bearers. 


,' !■ 


survivors, Father Lamberville among them, were en- 
abled to make their way to Catarouquoi — now Kings- 
ton, Ont, There he recovered; and he continued in 
the Canadian missions until 1698, when he returned to 

Not willing to see his ambitious fort on the Niagara 
so soon abandoned, de Denonville sent out a new gar- 
rison and with them came Father Pierre Milet. He 
had labored, with rich results, among the Onondagas 
and Oneidas. No sooner was he among his country- 
men, in this remote and forlorn corner of the earth, 
than he took up his spiritual work with characteristic 
jceal. On Good Friday of that year, 1H88, in the 
center of the square within the palisades, he caused to 
be erected a great cross. It was of wood, eighteen 
feet high, hewn from the forest trees and neatly framed. 
On the arms of it was carved in abbreviated words the 
sacred legend, ^^ Regnaf, Vinci t, Imperat Christiis,'' and 
in the midst of it was engraven the Sacred Heart. 
Surrounded by the officers of rhe garrison, — gallant 
men of France, with shining records, some of them 
were, — by the soldiers, laborers and friendly Indians, 
Father Milet solemnly blessed it. Can you not see 
the little band, kneeling about that symbol of con- 
quest? Around them were the humble cabins and 
quarters of the soldiers. One of them, holding the 
altar, was consecrated to worship. Beyond ran the 
palisades and earthworks — feeble fortifications be- 
tween the feeble garrison and the limitless, foe-infested 
wilderness. On one hand smiled the blue Ontario, 

f Vl 

The Cross Bearers. 


and at their feet ran the gleaming Niagara, already a 
svnonym of hardship and suffering in the annals of 
three of the religious orders. What wonder that the 
sense of isolation and feebleness was borne in upon 
the little baud, or that they devoutly bowed before the 
cross which was the visible emblem of their strength 
and consolation in the wilderness. AVhere is the artist 
who shall paint us this scene, unique in the annals of 
any people? 

And yet, but a few months later — September loth 
of that year — the garrison was recalled, the post 
abandoned, the palisades broken down, the cabins left 
rifled a."! 1 ei^pty : and when priest and soldiers had 
sailed av.ay, ad only the prowling wolf or the stealthy 
Indian ventured near the spot, Father Milet's great 
cross still loomed amid the solitude, a silent witness of 
the faith which knows no vani}uishing. 

There followed an interim in the occupancy of the 
Niagara when neither sword nor altar held sway here ; 
nor was the altar reestablished in our region until the 
peimanent rebuilding of Fort Niagara in 172r3, True, 
Father Charlevoix })assed up the river in 1721, and has 
left an inceresting "ccount of his journey, his view of 
the falls, and his b.^e/ tarrying at the carrying-place — 
now Lewiston. This spot was the principal rendezvous 
of the region for oanv years ; and here, at the cabin 
of the interpreter jcn. .'re. where Father Charlevoix 
was received, we n ay be iure that spiritual ministra- 
tions were not omit ed. A somewhat similar incident, 
twenty-eight years later, was the coming to these 

, ;i 





The Cross Bearers. 

shores of the Jesuit Father honnecamps. He was not 
only the spiritual leader but appears to have acted as 
pilot and guide to De Celeron's expedition — an 
abortive attempt on the part of Louis XV. to reestab- 
lish the claims of France to the inland regions of 
America. The expedition came up the St. Lawrence 
and through Lake Ontario, reaching Fort Niagara on 
July 6, 1749. It passed up the river, across to the south 
shore of Lake Erie and by way of Chautauqua Lake 
and the Allegheny down the Ohio. Returning from 
its utterly futile adventure, w^ l*-^' ^he party resting 
at Fort Niagara for three days, C er 19-21. Who 
the resident chaplain wa.s at the at that date I 
have not been able to ascertain ; but we may be sure 
that he had a glad greeting for Father Bonnecamps. 
From 1726, when, as already mentioned, the fort was 
rebuilt, until its surrender to Sir Wm. Johnson in 
1759, a garrison was continually maintained, and with- 
out doubt was constantly attended by a chaplain. 
The register of the post during these years has never 
been found — the presumption being that it was 
destroyed by the English — so that the comj)lete list 
of priests who ministered there is not known. 

Only here and there from other sources do we glean 
a name by which to continue the succes.sion. Father 
Crespel was stationed at Fort Niagara for about three 
years from 1729, interrupting his ministrations there 
with a journey to Detroit, where his order — the 
Society of Jesus — had established a mission. Of Fort 
Niagara at this time he says: "I found the place 





The Cross Bearers. 



very agreeable ; hunting and fishing were very pro- 
ductive ; the woods in their greatest beauty, and full of 
walnut and chestnut trees, oaks, elms and some others, 
far superior to any we see in France. ' ' But not even the 
banks of the Niagara were to prove an earthly paradise. 
"The fever," he continues, "soon destroyed the 
pleasures we began to find, and much incommoded us, 
until the beginning of autumn, which season dispelled 
the unwholesome air. We passed the winter very quietly, 
and would have passed it very agreeably, if the vessel 
which was to have brought us refreshments had not 
encountered a storm on the lake, and been obliged to 
put back to Frontenac, which laid us under the necessity 
of drinking nothing but water. As the winter advanced, 
she dared not proceed, and we did not receive our 
stores till May." 

Remember the utter isolation of this post and mis- 
sion at the period we are considering. To be sure, it 
was a link in the chain of French posts, which included 
Quebec. Montreal, Kingston, Niagara, Detroit, Michilli- 
mackinac ; but in winter the water route for transport 
was closed, and Niagara, like the upper posts, was 
thrown on its own resources for existence. There is 
no place in our domain to-day which fairly may be 
comjjared to it for isolation and remoteness. The 
upper reaches of Alaskan rivers are scarcely less known 
to the world than was the Niagara at the beginning of 
the last century. A little fringe of settlement — hos- 
tile settlement at that — stretched up the Hudson from 
New York. Even the Mohawk Valley was still unset- 

' fO 


t ..r*. < • i. f- 

i^ ' 


The Cross Bearers. 



i I 

tied. From the Hudson to the remotest West the 
wilderness stretched as a sea, and Fort Niagara was 
buried in its midst. Although a full century had gone 
by since Father Dallior first reached its shores, there 
was now no trace of white men on the banks of the Niag- 
ara save at the fort at its mouth, where Father Crespel 
ministered, and at the carrying-place, where Joncaire 
the interpreter lived with the Indians. Not even the 
first Indian villages on Buffalo Creek were to be estab- 
lished for half a century to come. 

After Father Crespel's return from Detroit, he re- 
mained two years longer at Fort Niagara, caring for 
the spiritual life of the little garrison, and learning the 
Iroquois and Ottawah languages well enough to con- 
verse with the Indians. "This enabled me," he 
writes, "to enjoy their pa..y when 1 took a walk 
in the environs of our post." Tlie ability to converse 
with the Indians afterv/ards saved his life. When his 
three years of residence at Niagara expired he was 
relieved, according to the custom of his order, and he 
I)assed a season in the convent at Quebec. While he 
was undoubtedly immediately succeeded at Niagara by 
another chaplain, I have been unable to learn his name 
or aught of his ministrations. Indeed, there are but 
few glimpses of the post to be had from 1738 to 1759, 
when it fell into the hands of the English. One of the 
most interesting of these is of the visit of the Sulpitian 
missionary, the Abbe Piquet, who in 1751 came to Fort 
Niagara from his successful mission at La Presentation — 
now Ogdensburg. It is recorded of him that wliile here 




The Cross Bearers, 









he exhorted the Senecas to beware of the white man's 
brandy ; his name may perhaps stand as that of the first 
avowed temperance worker in the Niagara region. 

But the end of the French regime was at hand. For 
more than a century our home region had been claimed 
by France ; for the last thirty-three years the lily- 
strewn standard of Louis had flaunted defiance to the 
English from the banks of the Niagara. Now on a 
scorching July day the little fort found itself surrounded, 
with Sir Wm. Johnson's cannon roaring from the 
wilderness. There was a gallant defense, a baptism of 
fire and blood, an honorable capitulation. But in that 
fierce conflict at least one of the consecrated soldiers 
of the cross — Father Claude Virot — fell before British 
bullets ; and when the triple cross of Britain floated over 
Fort Niagara, the last altar raised by the French on the 
east bank of the Niagara river had been overthrown. 

On this eventful day in 1759, when seemingly the 
opportunities for the Catholic Church to continue its 
work on the Niagara were at an end, there was, in the 
poor parish of Maryborough, county Kildare, Ireland, 
a little lad of six whose mission it was to be to bring 
hither again the blessed offices of his faith. This was 
Edmund Burke, afterwards Bishop of Zion, and first 
Vicar- Apostolic of Nova Scotia, but whose name shines 
not less in the annals of his church because of his zeal 
as missionary in Upper Canada. Having come to 
Quebec in 1786, he was, in 1794, commissioned Vicar- 
General for the whole of Upper Canada — the province 






The Cross Bearers. 

having then been established two years. In that year 
we find him at Niagara, where he was the first English- 
speaking priest to hold Catholic service. True, there 
was at the post that year a French missionary named 
Le Dru, who could speak English ; but he had been 
ordered out of the province for cause. The field was 
ripe for a man of Father Burke's character and energy. 
His early mission was near Detroit ; he was the first 
English-speaking priest in Ohio, and it is worthy of 
note that he was at Niagara on his way east, July 22, 
1796 — only three weeks before the British finally 
evacuated Fort Niagara and the Americans took pos- 
session. Through his efforts in that year, the Church 
procured a large lot at Niagara, Ont., where he pro- 
posed a missionary establishment. There had probably 
never been a time, since the English conquest, when 
there had not been Catholics among the troops quar- 
tered on the Niagara ; but under a British and Protestant 
commandant no suitable provision for their worship had 
been made. In 1798 — two years after the British had 
relinquished the fort on the east side of the river to the 
Americans — Father Burke, being at the British garrison 
on the Canadian side, wrote to Monseigneur Plessis : 

Here I am at Niagara, instead of having carried out my original 
design of going on to Detroit, thence returning to Kingston to 
pass the winter. The commander of the garrison, annoyed by 
the continual complaints of the civic officials against the Catholic 
soldiers, who used to frequent the taverns during the hours of 
service on Sunday, gave orders that officers and men should attend 
the Protestant service. They had attended for three consecutive 
Sundays when I represented to the commander the iniquity of this 


The Cross Bearers. 


order. He replied that he would send them to mass if the chap- 
lain was there, and he thought it very extraordinary that whilst a 
chaplain was paid by the king for the battalion, instead of attend- 
ing to his duty he should be in charge of a mission, his men were 
without religious services, and his sick were dying without the 
sacraments. You see, therefore, that I have reason for stopping 
short at Niagara ; for we must not permit four companies, of 
whom three fourths both of officers and men are Catholics, to 
frequent the Protestant church. 

The name of the priest against whom the charge 
of neglect appears to lie, was Duval ; but it is not 
clear that he had ever attended the troops to the 
Niagara station. But after Father Burke came Father 
Desjardines and an unbroken succession, with the dis- 
trict fully organized in ecclesiastical jurisdiction. 



And now, although our story of mission work in the 
Niagara region has been long — has reviewed the visi- 
tations of two centuries — the reader may have re- 
marked the striking fact that every priest who came 
into our territory, up to the opening of the nineteenth 
century, came from Canada. This fact is the more 
remarkable when we recall the long-continued and vig- 
orous missions of the Jesuits in what is now New York 
State, extending west nearly to the Genesee River. But 
the fact stands that no priest from those early establish- 
ments made his way westward to the present site of 
Buffalo. Fathers Lamberville and Milet had been sta- 
tioned among the Onondagas and Oneidas before com- 
ing into our region at Fort Niagara ; but they came 
thither from Canada, by way of Lake Ontario, and not 

i I 


The Cross Bearers. 

! \ 




(, t: 

; i' 

through the wilderness of Western New York. The 
westernmost mission among the Iroquois was that of 
Fathers Carheil and Gamier at Cayuga, where they 
were at work ten years before La Salle built the GriflFon 
on the Niagara. It is interesting to note that this 
mission, which was established nearest to our own 
region, was "dedicated to God under the invocation 
of St. Joseph," and that, two hundred years after, the 
first Bishop of Buffalo obtained from his Holiness, 
Pope Pius IX., permission that St. Joseph should be 
the principal patron saint of this diocese. 

The earliest episcopal jurisdiction of the territory 
now embraced in the city of Buffalo, dating from the 
first visit of Dallion to the land of the Neuters, was 
directly vested in the diocese of Rouen — for it was 
the rule that regions new-visited belonged to the gov- 
ernment of the bishop from a port in whose diocese 
the expedition bearing the missionary had sailed ; and 
this stood until a local ecclesiastical government was 
formed ; the first ecclesiastical association of our re- 
gion, on the New York side, therefore, is with that 
grand old city, Rouen, the home of La Salle, scene of 
the martyrdom of the Maid of Orleans, and the center, 
through many centuries, of mighty impulses affecting 
the New World. From 1657 to 1670 our region was 
embraced in the jurisdiction of the Vicar Apostolic of 
New France ; and from 1670 to the Conquest in the 
diocese of Quebec. There are involved here, of 
course, all the questions which grew out of the strife 
for possession of the Niagara region by the French, 







The Cross Bearers. 



Englj h and Dutch. Into these questions we may not 
enter now further than to note that from 1684 the Eng- 
lish claimed jurisdiction of all the region on the east 
bank of the Niagara and the present site of Buffalo. 
This claim was in part based on the Treaty of Albany 
at which the Senecas had signified their allegiance to 
King Charles ; and by that acquiescence nominally put 
the east side of the Niagara under British rule. The 
next year, when the Duke of York came to the throne, 
he decreed that the Archbishop of Canterbury should 
hold ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the whole Colony 
of New York. It is very doubtful, however, if the 
Archbishop of Canterbury had ever heard of the Niag- 
ara — the first English translation of Hennepin did not 
appear for fourteen years after this date ; and nothing 
is more unlikely than that the Senecas who visited the 
Niagara at this period, or even the Dutch and English 
traders who gave them rum for beaver-skins, had ever 
heard of the Archbishop of Canterbury, or cared a 
copper for his ecclesiastical jurisdiction, either on the 
Niagara or even in the settlements on the Hudson. In 
the New York Colony, and afterward State, the legal 
discrimination against Catholics continued down to 
1784, when the law which condemned Catholic priests 
to imprisonment or even death was repealed. At the 
date of its repeal there was not a Catholic congrega- 
tion in the State. Those Catholics who were among 
the pioneer settlers of Western New York had to go as 
far east as Albany to perform their religious duties or 
get their children baptized. Four years later — in 



TAe Cross Bearers. 


1788 — our region was included in the newly-formed 
diocese of Baltimore. In 1808 we came into the new 
diocese of New York. Not until 1821 do we find 
record of the visit of a priest to Buffalo. In 1829 the 
Church acquired its first property here — through its 
benefactor whose name and memory are preserved by 
one of our noblest institutions — Louis Le Couteulx — 
and the first Buffalo parish was established under the 
Rev. Nicholas Mertz. 

We are coming very close to the present ; and yet 
still later, in 1847, when the diocese of Buffalo was 
formed, there were but sixteen priests in the sixteen 
great counties which constituted it. It is superfluous 
to contrast that time with the present. There is noth- 
ing more striking, to the student of the history and 
development of our region during the last half century, 
than the increase of the Catholic Church — in parishes 
and schools, in means of propaganda, in material wealth 
with its vast resources and power for good, and espec- 
ially in that personal zeal and unflagging devotion 
which know no limit and no exhaustion, and are drawn 
from the same source of strength that inspired and sus- 
tained Brebeuf and Chaumonot and their fellow-heroes 
of the cross on the banks of the Niagara. 


The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 


wm»'-*- •!< 











An Episode in the History of Fort Niagara ; being an Extract 
from the hitherto unknown Memoirs of the Che- 'alter De Tre- 
gay. Lieutenant under the Sieur de Troy x, commanding at 
Fort Dtnonville (noxv called Niagara'), in the Year of Starva- 
tion ibSy ; with Captain Dt'sbergeres at that remote fortress 
from the joy full Easter of 16S8 till its abandonment ; Soldier 
of His Excellency the Sr. de Brisuiy, Marquis de Denonville, 
Governor and Lieutenant Generot in Neiu France ; and humble 
Servitor of His Serene Majesty \ouis XJV. 

IT HAS BEEN my lot to suffer in many far parts of 
the earth ; to bleed a little and go hungry for the 
King ; to lie freezing for fame and France — and 
gain nothing thereby but a distemper ; but so it is to 
be a soldier. 

And I have seen trouble in my day. I have fought 
in Flanders on an empty stomach, and have burned my 
brain among the Spaniards so that 1 could neither fight 
nor run away ; but of all the heavy employment I ever 
knew, naught can compare with what befel in the 
remote parts of New France, where I was with the 
troops that the Marquis de Denonville took through 
the wilderness into the cantons of the Iro(iuois, and 
afterwards employed to build a stockade and cabins at 
the mouth of the Strait of Niagara, on the east side, 
in the way where they go a beaver-hunting. ** Fort 


i'' I .: i 

■ V 

r iv \ 

li t 

44 The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 

Denonville," the Sieur de Brissay decreed it should be 
called, for he held great hopes of the service which it 
should do him against both the Iroquois and the Eng- 
lish ; but now that he has fallen into the disfavor that 
has ever been the reward of faithful service in this 
accursed land, his name is no more given even to that 
unhappy spot, but rather it is called Fort Niagara. 

There were some hundreds of us all told that reached 
that fair plateau, after we left the river of the Senecas. 
It was mid-summer of the year of grace 1687, and we 
made at first a pleasant camp, somewhat overlooking 
the great lake, while to ilic v.c::t side of the point the 
great river made good haven for our batteaux and 
canoes. There was fine stir of air at night, so that we 
slept wholesomely, and the wounded began to mend at 
a great rate. And of a truth, tho' I have adventured 
in many lands, I have seen no spot which in all its 
demesne offered a fairer prospect to a man of taste. 
On the north of us, like the great sea itself, lay the 
Lake Ontario, which on a summer morning, when 
touched by a little wind, with the sun aslant, was like 
the lapis lazuli I have seen in the King's palace — 
very blue, yet all bright with white and gold. The 
river behind the camp ran mightily strong, yet for the 
most part glassy and green like the precious green-stone 
the lapidaries call verd-antique. Behind us to the south 
lay the forest, and four leagues away rose the triple 
mountains wherein is the great fall ; but these are not 
such mountains as we have in Italy and Spain, being 
more of the nature of a great table-land, making an 

The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 45 

exceeding hard portage to reach the Strait of Erie 
above the great fall. 

It was truly a most fit place for a fort, and the Mar- 
quis de Denonville let none in his command rest day 
or night until we had made a fortification, in part of 
earth, surmounted by palisades which the soldiers cut 
in the woods. There was much of hazard and fatigue 
in this work, for the whole plain about the fort had no 
trees; so that some of us went into the forest along 
the shore to the eastward and some cut their sticks on 
the west side of the river. It was hard work, getting 
them up the high bank ; but so pressed were we, some- 
what by fear of an attack, and even more by the zeal 
of our commander, that in three days we had built 
there a pretty good fort with four bastions, where we 
put two great guns and some pattareras ; and we had 
begun to build some cabins on the four sides of the 
square in the middle of it. And as we worked, our 
number was constantly diminished ; for the Sieurs Du 
Luth and Durantaye, with that one-handed Chevalier 
de Tonty of whom they tell so much, and our allies 
the savages who had come from the Illinois to join the 
Governor in his assault upon the Iroquois, as soon as 
their wounded were able to be moved, took themselves 
off up the Niagara and over the mountain portage I 
have spoken of ; for they kept a post and place of trade 
at the Detroit, and at Michillimackinac. And then 
presently the Marquis himself and all whom he would 
let go sailed away around the great lake for Montreal. 
But he ordered that an hundred, officers and men, .stay 


46 The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 



^ \ i'i 

behind to hold this new Fort Denonville. He 
had placed in command over us the Sieur de 
Troyes, of whom it would not become me to speak in 
any wise ill. 

There were sour looks and sad, as the main force 
marched to the batteaux. But the Marquis did not 
choose to heed anything of that. We were put on 
parade for the embarkation — though we made a sorry 
show of it, for there were even then more rags than 
lace or good leather — and His Excellency spoke a 
farewell word in the hearing of us all. 

"You are to complete your quarters with all con- 
venient expediency," he said to De Troyes, who stood 
attentive, before us. "There will be no lack of pro- 
vision sent. You have here in these waters the finest 
fish in the world. There is naught to fear from these 
Iroquois wasps — have we not just torn to pieces their 
nests ? ' ' 

He said this with a fine bravado, though methought 
he lacked somewhat of sincerity ; for surely scattered 
wasps might prove troublesome enough to those of us 
who stayed behind. But De Troyes made no reply, 
and saluted gravely. And so, with a jaunty word about 
the pleasant spot where we were to abide, and a light 
promise to send fresh troops in the spring, the General 
took himself off, and we were left behind to look out 
for the wasps. As the boats j)assed the sandbar and 
turned to skirt the lake shore to the westward, we gave 
them a salvo of musketry ; but De Troyes raised his 
hand — although the great Marquis was yet in sight 

\ A 

The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 47 

and almost in hailing distance — and forbade another 

"Save your powder," was all he said ; and the very 
brevity of it seemed to mean more than many words, 
and put us into a low mood for that whole day. 

Now for a time that followed there was work enough 
to keep each man busy, which is best for all who are in 
this trade of war, especially in the wilderness. It was 
on the third of August that M. de Brissay left us, he 
having sent off some of the militia ahead of him ; and 
he bade M. de Vaudreuil stay behind for a space, to 
help the Sieur de Troyes complete the fort and cabins, 
and this he did right ably, for as all Canada and the 
King himself know, M. de Vaudreuil was a man of 
exceeding great energy and resources in these matters. 
There was a vast deal of fetching and carrying, of hew- 
ing and sawing and framing. And notwithstanding 
that the sun of that climate was desperately hot the men 
worked with good hearts, so that there was soon finished 
an excellent lodgment for the commandant ; with a 
chimney of sticks and clay, and boards arranged into a 
sort of bedstead ; and this M. de Troyes shared with M. 
de Vaudreuil, until such time as the latter gentleman 
quit us. There were three other cabins built, with chim- 
neys, doors and little windows. We also constructed 
a baking-house with a large oven and chimney, partly 
covered with boards and the remainder with hurdles 
and clay. We also built an extensive framed building 
without chimney, and a large store-house with pillars 
eight feet high, and made from time to time yet other 






) I 

48 The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 

constnictions for the men and goods — though, Dieu 
defend ! we had spare room for both, soon enough. In 
the square in the midst of the buildings we digged a 
well ; and although the water was sweet enough, yet 
from the first, for lack of proper curbing and protec- 
tion, it was ever much roiled and impure when we drew 
it, a detriment alike to health and cookery. 

M. de Vaudreuil seeing us at last well roofed, and 
having directed for a little the getting of a store of 
firewood, made his adieux. Even then, in those fine 
August days, a spirit of discontent was among us, and 
more than one spark of a soldier, who at the first camp 
had been hot upon staying on the Niagara, sought now 
to be taken in M. de Vaudreuil's escort. But that 
gentleman replied, that he wished to make a good re- 
port of us all to the Governor, and that, for his part, 
he hoped he might come to us early in the spring, 
with the promised detachment of troops. And so we 

Now the spring before, when we had all followed 
the Manjuis de Denonville across Lake Ontario to 
harass the cantons of the Iroquois, this establishment 
of a post on the Niagara was assuredly a part of that 
gentleman's plan. It is not for me, who am but a 
mere lieutenant of marines, to show how a great com- 
mander should conduct his expeditions ; yet I do de- 
clare that while there was no lack of provision made 
for killing such of the savages as would permit it, there 
was next to none for maintaining troops who were to 
be left penned up in the savages' country. We who 


The Paschal of the Great Pinch . 49 

were left at Fort Denonville had but few mattocks or 
even axes. Of ammunition there was none too much. 
In the Senecas' country we had destroyed thousands of 
minots ' of corn, but had brought along scarce a week's 
rations of it to this corner. We had none of us gone 
a-soldiering with our pockets full of seed, and even if 
we had brought ample store of corn and pumpkin seed, 
of lentils and salad plants, the seat^n was too late to 
have done much in gardening. We made some feeble 
attempts at it ; but no rain fell, the earth baked under 
the sun so hard that great cracks came in it ; and what 
few shoots of corn and pumpkin thrust upward through 
this parched soil, withered away before any strength- 
ening juices came in them. To hunt far from the fort 
we durst not, save in considerable parties ; so that if 
we made ourselves safe from the savages, we also made 
every other living thing safe against us. To fish was 
well nigh our only recourse ; but although many of our 
men labored diligently at it, they met with but indif- 
ferent return. 

Thus it was that our most ardent hopes, our very life 
itself, hung upon the coming of the promised supplies. 
There was joy at the fort when at length the sail of the 
little bark was seen ; even De Troyes, who had grown 
exceeding grave and melancholy, took on again some- 
thing of his wonted spirit. But we were not quite yet 
to be succored, for it was the season of the most light 
and trifling airs, so that the bark for two days hung 
idly on the shining lake, some leagues away from the 

' A minot is an old French measure ; about three bushels. 


1,1 1 



50 The Paschal of the Great Pinch, 


t < 


mouth of the river, while we idled and fretted like 
children, impatient for her coming. When once we 
had her within the bar, there was no time lost in un- 
lading. It was a poor soldier indeed who could not 
work to secure the comfort of his own belly ; and the 
store was so ample that we felt secure for the winter, 
come what might. The bark that fetched these things 
had been so delayed by the calms, that she weighed 
and sailed with the first favoring breeze ; and it was 
not until her sail had fall'n below the horizon that 
we fairly had sight or smell of what she had brought. 

From the first the stores proved bad ; still, we made 
shift to use the best, eked out with what the near-by 
forest and river afforded. For many weeks we saw no 
foes. There was little work to do, and the men idled 
through the days, with no word on their lips but to com- 
plain of the food and wish for spring. When the frosts 
began to fall we had a more vigorous spell of it ; but 
now for the first time appeared the Iroquois wasps. 
One of our parties, which had gone toward the great 
fall of the Niagara, lost two men ; those who returned 
reported that their comrades were taken all unawares 
by the savages. Another party, seeking game to the 
eastward where a stream cuts through the high bank on 
its way to the lake,* never came back at all. Here we 
found their bodies and buried them ; but their scalps, 
after the manner of these people, had been taken. 

Christmas drew on, but never was a sorrier season 
kept by soldiers of France. De Troyes had fallen ill. 

' Evidently at Four or Six Mile Creek. 


The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 5 1 

Naught ailed him that we could see save low spirits and 
a thinning of the blood, which made him too weak to 
walk. The Father Jean de Lamberville, who had 
stayed with us, and who would have been our hope 
and consolation in those days, very early fell desperate 
ill of a distemper, so that the men had not the help of 
his ministrations and holy example. Others there were 
who either from feebleness or lack of discipline openly 
refused their daily duty and went unpunished. We 
had fair store of brandy ; and on Christmas eve those 
of us who still held some soul for sport essayed to 
lighten the hour. We brewed a comfortable draught, 
built the blaze high, for the frosts were getting exceed- 
ing sharp, gathered as many as could be had of officers 
and worthy men into our cabin, and made brave to 
sing the songs of France. And now here was a strange 
thing : that while the hardiest and soundest amongst 
us had made good show of cheer, had eaten the vile 
food and tried to speak lightly of our ills, no sooner 
did we hear our own voices in the songs that carried us 
back to the pleasantries of our native land, than we 
fell a-sobbing and weeping like children ; which weak- 
ness I attribute to the distemper that was already in 
our blood. 

For the days that followed I have no heart to set 
down much. We never went without the palisades 
except well guarded to fetch firewood. This duty 
indeed made the burden of every day. A prodigious 
store of wood was needed, for the cold surpassed any- 
thing I had ever known. The snow fell heavily, and 



r- , 



52 T/ie Paschal of the Great Pinch. 

there were storms when for days the gale drave straight 
across our bleak plateau. There was no blood in us 
to withstand the icy blasts. Do what we would the chill 
of the tomb was in the cabins where the men lay. 
The wood-choppers one day, facing such a storm, fell 
in the deep drifts just outside the gate. None durst go 
out to them. The second day the wolves found them 
— and we saw it all ! 

There was not a charge of powder left in the fort. 
There was not a mouthful of fit food. The biscuits 
had from the first been full of worms and weevils. 
The salted meat, either from the admixture of sea-water 
through leaky casks, or fiom other cause, was rotten 
beyond the power even of a starving man to hold. 

Le scorhut broke out. I had seen it on shipboard, 
and knew the signs. De Troyes now seldom left his 
cabin ; and when, in the way of duty, I made my de- 
voirs, and he asked after the men, I made shift to hide 
the truth. But it could not be for long. 

" My poor fellows," he sighed one day, as he turned 
feebly on his couch of planks, ** it must be with all as 
it is with me — see, look here, De Tregay, do you 
know the sign ? ' ' and he bared his shi -^ken ann and 

Indeed I knew the signs — the dry, pallid skin, with 
the purple blotches and indurations. He saw I was at 
a loss for words. 

** Sang de Dieu / " he cried, *' is this what soldiers 

of France must come to, for the glory of" . He 

stopped short, as if lacking spirit to go on. " Now I be- 




The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 53 

think me," he added, in a melancholy voice, *♦ it /^what 
soldiers must come to. ' ' Then, after a while he asked : 
" How many dead today, De Tregay ? " 
How many dead ! From a garrison of gallant men- 
at-arms we had become a charnel-house. In six weeks 
we had lost sixty men. P'rom a hundred at the begin- 
ning of autumn, we were now scarce forty, and Feb- 
ruary was not gone. A few of us, perhaps with stouter 
stomachs than the rest, did all the duty of the post. 
We brought the firewood and we buried the dead — 
picking the frozen clods with infinite toil, that we 
might lay the bones of our comrades beyond the reach 
of wolves. Sometimes it was the scurvy, sometimes it 
was the cold, sometimes, methinks, it was naught but a 
weak will — or as we say, the broken heart ; but it 
mattered not, the end was the same. More than twenty 
died in March ; and although we were now but a hand- 
ful of skeletons and accustomed to death, I had no 
thought of sorrow or of grief, so dulled had my spirit 
become, until one morning I found the brave De Troyes 
drawing with frightful pains his dying breath. With the 
name of a maid he loved upon his lips, the light went 
out ; and with heavy heart I buried him in that crowded 
ground, and fain would have lain down with him. 

And now with our commander under the snow, what 
little spirit still burned in the best of us seemed to die 
down. I too bore the signs of the distemper, yet to 
no great extent, for of all the garrison I had labored 
by exercise to keep myself wholesome, and in the 
woods I had tasted of barks and buds and roots of 


' li !^ 

i { 

IH \ W 


* \ 




! ; 

i ( 

i : 


i i 

1 yi, 

54 T/ie Paschal of the Great Pinch. 

little herbs, hoping to find something akin in its juices 
to the herbc de scorbut^ which I have known to cure 
sick sailors. But now I gave over these last efforts for 
life ; for, thought I, spring is tardy in these latitudes. 
Many weeks must yet pass before the noble Marquis at 
Montreal (where comforts are) will care to send the 
promised troop. And the Western savages, our allies 
the Illinois, the Ottawais, the Miamis, were they not 
coming to succor us here and to raid the Irocjuois can- 
ton? ? But of what account is the savage's word ! 

So 1 thougnt, and I turned myself on my pallet. I 
listened. There was no sound in all the place save the 
beating of a sleet. "It is appointed," I said within 
me. "Let the end come." And presently, being 
numb with the cold, I thought I was on a sunny hill- 
side in Anjou. It was the time of the grape-harvest, 
and the smell of the vines, laughter and sunshine filled 
the air. Young lads and maids, playmates of my boy- 
hood days, came and took me by the hand. 

A twinge of pain made the vision pass. I opened 
my eyes upon a huge savage, painted and bedaubed, 
after their fashion. It was the grip of his vast fist that 
had brought me back from Anjou. 

"The Iroquois, then," I thought, "have learned of 
our extremity, and have broken in, to finish all. So 
much the better," and I was for sinking back upon the 
boards, when the savage took from a little pouch a 
handful of the parched corn which they carry on their 
expeditions. "Eat," he said, in the language of the 

' Probably what the English call scurvy-grass. 









The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 55 

Miamis. And then I knew that relief had come — and 
I knew no more for a space. 

Now this was Michitonka himself, who had led his 
war party from beyond Lake Erie, where the Chevalier 
de Tonty and Du Luth were, to see how we fared at 
Fort Denonville, and to make an expedition against 
the Senecas — of whom we saw no more, from the 
time the Miamis arrived. There were of all our gar- 
rison but twelve not dead, and among those who threw 
off the distemper was the Father de Lamberville. His 
recovery gave us the greatest joy. He lay for many 
weeks at the very verge of the grave, and it was mar- 
velous to all to see his skin, which had been so em- 
purpled and full of malignant humors, come wholesome 
and fair again. I have often remarked, in this hard 
country, that of all Europeans the Fathers of the Holy 
Orders may be brought nearest to death, and yet regain 
their wonted health. They have the same prejudice 
for life that the wildest savage has. But as for the rest 
of us, who are neither savage nor holy, it is by a slim 
chance that we live at all. 

Now the Father, and two or three of the others who 
had the strength to risk it, set out with a part of Michi- 
tonka' s people to Cataracouy' and Montreal, to carry 
the news of our extremity. And on a soft April day as 
we looked over lake, we saw a sail ; and we knew that 
we had kept the fort until the relief company was sent as 
had been commanded. But it had been a great pinch. 

» Otherwise Fort Frontenac, now Kingston, Ont. 

1 1 




, iS 



f ■ 




i ■•! 

1 '*!. 





56 TAe Paschal of the Great Pinch. 

Now I am come to that which after all I chiefly set 
out to write down ; for I have ever held that great 
woes should be passed over with few words, but it is 
meet to dwell upon the hour of gladness. And this 
hour was now arrived, when we saw approach the new 
commandant, the Sieur Desbergeres, captain of one of 
the companies of the Detachment of the Marine, and 
with him the Father Milet, of the Society of Jesus. 
There v/as a goodly company, whose names are well 
writ on the history of this New France : the Sieurs De 
la Mothe, La Rabelle, Demuratre de Clerin and de 
Gemerais, and others, besides a host of fine fellows of 
the common rank ; with fresh food that meant life to us. 

Of all who that April day, it was the Father 
Milet who did the most. The very morning that he 
landed, we knelt about him at mass ; and scarce had 
he rested in his cabin than he marked a spot in the 
midst of the scjuare, where a cross should stand, and 
bade as many as could, get about the hewing of it ; 
and although I was yet feeble and might rest as I liked, 
I chose to share in the work, for so I found my 
pleasure. A fair straight oak was felled and well hewn, 
and with infinite toil the timber was taken within the 
palisades and further dre-ssed ; and while the carpenters 
toiled to mortise the cross-piece and fasten it with pins. 
Father Milet himself traced upon the arms the symbols 
for the legend : 

'Kegnat, IDincit, Imperat <XbridtU0. 

And these letters were well cut into the wood, in the 



' M 


The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 5 7 

midst of them being the sign of the Sacred Heart. 
We had it well made, and a place dug for it, on a 
Thursday ; and on the next morning, which was Good 
Friday, the reverend Father placed his little portable 
altar in the midst of the square, where we all, officers 
and men, and even some of the Miamis who were yet 
with us, assembled for the mass. Then we raised the 
great cross and planted it firmly in the midst of the 
little square. The service of the blessing of it lay 
hold of my mind mightily, for my fancy was that this 
great sign of victory had sprung from the midst of the 
graves where De Troyes and four score of my comrades 
lay ; and being in this tender mood (for I was still 
weak in body) the words which the Father read from his 
breviary seemed to rest the more clearly in my mind. 

'■^ Adjtitorium nostrum in nomine Domini y Father 
Milet had a good voice, with a sort of tenderness in 
it, so that we were every one disposed to such silence 
and attention, that I could even hear the little waves 
lapping the shore below the fort. And when he be- 
gan with the '* O ramus ^* — '■^ Rogamus te Domine sancte 
Pater omnipotens,^' — I was that moved, by the joy of 
it, and my own memories, that I wept — and I a 
soldier ! 

It may be believed that the Sunday which followed, 
which was the Paschal, was kept by us with such wor- 
ship and rejoicing as had never yet been known in 
those remote parts. Holy men had been on that 
river before, it is true ; but none had abode there for 
long, nor had any set up so great a cross, nor had there 



t t 






\ IT 






' T •■ 

|8 TAe Paschal of the Great Pinch. 

ever such new life come to men as we knew at Fort 
Denonville that Easter. 

B'or a space, all things went well What with the 
season (for spring ever inspires men to new undertak- 
ings) and the bitter lessons learned in the great pinch 
of the past winter, we were no more an idle set, but 
kept all at work, and well. Yet the Iroquois pestered 
us vastly, being set on thereto by the English, who 
claimed this spot. And in September there came that 
pilot Maheut, bringing his bark La General over the 
shoal at the river's mouth all unexpected ; and she was 
scarce anchored in the little roadstead than Desbergeres 
knew he was to abandon all. It was cause of chagrin 
to the great Marquis, I make no doubt, thus to drop 
the prize he had so tried to hold ; but some of us in 
the fort had no stomach for another winter on the 
Niagara, and we made haste to execute the orders 
which the Marquis de Denonville had sent. We put 
the guns on board La General. We set the gate open, 
and tore down the rows of pales on the south and east 
sides of the square. Indeed the wind had long ago 
begun this work, so that towards the lake the pales 
(being but little set in the earth) had fallen or leaned 
over, so they could readily have been scaled, or broken 
through. But as the order was, we left the cabins and 
quarters standing, with doors ajar, to welcome who 
might come, Iroquois or wolf, for there was naught 
within. But Father Milet took down from above the 
door of his cabin the little sun dial. *' The shadow of 
the great cross falls divers ways," was his saying. 


The Paschal of the Great Pinch. 59 

Early the next morning, being the loth of Septem- 
ber, of the year 1688, being ready for the embarka- 
tion. Father Milet summoned us to the last mass he 
might say in the place. It was a sad morning, for the 
clouds hung heavy, the lake was of a somber and for- 
bidding cast, and the very touch in the air forebode 
autumnal gales. As we knelt around the for the 
last time, the ensign brought the standards which Des- 
bergeres had kept, and holding the staves, knelt also. 
Certain Miamis, too, who were about to make the 
Niagara portage, stayed to see what the priest might 
do. And at the end of the office Father Milet did an 
uncommon thing, for he was mightily moved. He 
turned from us toward the cross, and throwing wide his 
arms s;)oke the last word — '* Amen." 

There were both gladness and sorrow in our heart- as 
we embarked. Lake and sky took en the hue of lead, 
foreboding storm. We durst carry but little sail, and at 
the sunset hour were scarce a league off shore. As it 
chanced, Father Milet and I stood together on the 
deck and gazed through the gloom toward that dark 
coast. While we thus stood, there came a rift betwixt 
the banked clouds to the west, so that the sun, just as 
it slipped from bight, lighted those Niagara shores, 
and we saw but for an instant, above the blackne?.* and 
the desolation, the great cross as in fire or blood 
gleam red. 

>/ ; 




11 ■I 

With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 





ii«. { 

/; I 

1 k 




] I 


ONE PLEASANT September day in 1897 it was 
my good fortune, under expert guidance, to fol- 
low for a little the one solitary trail made by the 
American patriots in Western New York during the Rev- 
olutionary War, the one expedition of our colonial forces 
approaching this region during that period. This was 
the famous ''raid" led by Gen. John Sullivan in the 
summer of 1779. Our quest took us up the long hill 
slope west of Conesus Lake, in what is now the town 
of Groveland, Livingston Co., to a spot — among the 
most memorable in the annals of Western New York, 
yet unmarked and known to but a few — where a de- 
tachment of Sullivan's army, under Lieut. Boyd, were 
waylaid and massacred by the Indians. It was on the 
loth of September that this tragedy occurred. Two 
days later Gen. Sullivan, having accomplished the 
main purpose of his raid — the destruction of Indian 
villages and crops — turned back towards Pennsylvania, 
returning to Easton, whence the expedition had started. 
He had come within about eighty miles of the Niagara. 
"Though I had it not in command," wrote Gen. 
Sullivan in his report to the Secretary of War, "I 

■ lit ii 

^ rr 



I v 









1 1 

■ \ 


: j 



64 ^z'M Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

should have ventured to have paid [Fort] Niagara a 
visit, had I been supplied with fifteen days' provisions 
in addition to what I had, which I am persuaded from 
the bravery and ardor of our troops would have fallen 
into our hands.'" This was the nearest approach to 
any attempt made by the Americans to enter this region 
during that war. 

The events of Sullivan's expedition are well known. 
Few episodes of the Revolution are more fully re- 
corded. But what is the reverse of the picture ? What 
lay at the other side of this Western New York wilder- 
ness which Sullivan failed to penetrate? What was 
going on, up and down the Niagara, and on Buffalo 
Creek, during those momentous years? We know that 
the region was British, that old Fort Niagara was its 
garrison, the principal rendezvous of the Indians and 
the base from which scalping parties set out to harry 
the frontier settlements. The most dreadful frontier 
tragedies of the war — Wyoming, Cherry Valley, and 
others — were planned here and carried out with 
British cooperation. But who were the men and what 
were the incidents of the time, upon our Niagara 
frontier? So far as I am aware, that period is for the 
most part a blank in our histories. One may search 
the books in vain for any adequate narrative — indeed 
for any but the most meager data — of the history of 
the Niagara region during the Revolution. The 
materials are not lacking, they are in fact abundant. 
In this paper I undertake only to give an inkling of 

' Sullivan to Jay, Teaogo (Tioga), Sept. 30, 1779. 



With Bo lion at Fort Niagara. 6; 

the character of events in this region during that grave 
period in our nation's history.' 

In 1778, Colonel Haldimand, afterward Sir Frederick, 
succeeded Gen. Cluy Carleton in the command of the 
British forces in Canada. He was Commander in 
Chief, and Governor of Canada, until his recall in 1784. 
Lord North was F^ngland's Prime Minister, Lord 
George Germaine in charge of American affairs in the 
Cabinet. Haldimand took up his residence at Quebec, 
and therefrom, for a decade, administered the affairs of 
the Canadian frontier with zeal and adroitness. He 
was a thorough soldier, as his letters show. He was 
also an a lept in the treatment of matters which, like 
the retention by the British of the frontier posts for 
thirteen years after they had been ceded to the Ameri- 
cans by treaty, called for dogged determination, veiled 
behind diplomatic courtesies. The troops which he 
commanded were scattered from the mouth of the St. 
Lawrence to Lake Michigan ; but to no part of this 

' I first struck the trail in London, among the Colonial Papers pre- 
served in the PuMic Records Office. Subsequently, in the Archives Depart- 
ment at Ottawa, iound that trail broaden into a fair highway. Some- 
thing has been (gleaned at Albany ; more, no doubt, is to be looked for at 
Washington ; but it is an amazing fact that our Government is far less 
liberal in granting access for students to its official records than is either 
England or Canada. But the Niagara region was British during the Revo- 
lution, and its history is chiefly to be sought in British archives. Especi- 
ally in the Haldimand Papers, preserved in the British Museum, but of 
which verified copies are readily accessible in the Archives at Ottawa, is 
the Revolutionary history of the Niagara to be found. Besides the 232 
great volumes in which these papers are gathered, there are thousands of 
other MSS. of value to an inquirer seeking the history of this region ; especi- 
ally the correspondence, during all that term of years, between the comman- 
dants at Fort Niagara and otner upper lake posts, and the Commander in 
Chief of the British forces in America ; between that general and the Minis- 
try in London, and between the commandants at the posts and the Indian 
agents, fur traders and many classes and conditions of men. For the 
incidents here recorded I have drawn, almost e.xclusively, on these unpub- 
lished sources. 

..Ml ' \ 








I , 

66 W^//^ Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

long line of wilderness defense — a line which was sub- 
stantially the enemy's frontier — did he pay more 
constant attention than to Fort Niagara. There were 
good reasons for this. Fort Niagara was not only 
the key to the upper lakes, the base of sui)plies for 
Detroit, Michillimackinac and minor posts, but it 
had long been an important trading post and the 
principal rendezvous of the Six Nations, upon whose 
peculiarly efficient services against the American 
frontiers Sir Frederick relied scarcely less than he did 
upon the British troops themselves. It was, therefore, 
with no ordinary solicitude that he made his appoint- 
ments for Niagara. 

I cannot state positively the names of all officers in 
command at Fort Niagara from the time war was be- 
gun, down to 1777. Lieut. Lernault, afterwards at De- 
troit, was here for a time ; but about the spring of '77 
we find Fort Niagara put under the command of Lieut. 
Col. Mason Bolton, of the 34th Royal Artillery. He 
had then seen some years of service in America ; had 
campaigned in Florida and the West Indies ; had been 
sent to Mackinac and as far west as the Illinois ; and it 
was no slight tribute to his ability and fidelity, when Hal- 
dimand put the Niagara frontier into his hands. Here, 
for over three years, he was the chief in command. 
In military rank, even if in nothing else, he was the 
principal man in this region during the crucial period 
of the Revolution. He commanded the garrison at 
Fort Niagara, and its dependencies at Schlosser and 
Fort Erie. Buffalo was then unthought of — it was 

! I 


With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 67 

merely Te-hos-e-ro-ron, the place of the basswoods ; 
but at the Indian villages farther up Buffalo Creek, 
which came into existence in 1780, the name of Col. 
Bolton stood for the highest military authority of the 
region. And yet, incredible as it may seem, after all 
these years in which — to adapt Carlyle's i)hrase — the 
Torch of History has been so assiduously brandished 
about, I do not know of any printed book which offers 
any information about Col. Mason Bolton or the life he 
led here. Indeed, with one or two exceptions, in 
which he is barely alluded to, 1 think all printed 
literature may be searched in vain for so much as a 
mention of his name. 

Other chief men of this frontier, at the period we 
are considering, were Col. Guy Johnson, Superintend- 
ent of Indian Affairs ; Sir John Johnson, son of the 
Sir William who captured Fort Niagara from the 
French in 1759; Col. John Butler, of the Queen's 
Rangers ; his son Walter ; Sayenqueraghta, the King 
of the Senecas ; Rowland Montour, his half-breed son- 
in-law ; and Brant, the Mohawk hero, who, e(iuipped 
with a New England schooling and enlightened by a 
trip to England, here returned to lead out scalping 
parties in the British interests. 

Col. Bolton had been for some time without authen- 
tic news of the enemy, when on the morning of 
December 14, 1777, the little garrison was thrown 
into unwonted activity by the arrival of Capt. La 
Mothe, who reported that Gen. Howe had taken Phila- 
delphia, and that the rebels had ** sustained an incred- 

• 1 


With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 





ible loss." By a forced march of Howe, La Mothe 
averred, (ien. Washington had been defeated, "with 
11,000 rebels killed, wounded and prisoners." Two 
days later the excitement was increased by the arrival 
at the fort of some Delaware Indians, who brought the 
great news that Washington was killed and his army 
totally routed. ** I had a meeting of the chiefs of the 
Six Nations," wrote Bolton to (ien. Carleton, "about 
an hour after the express arrived and told them the 
news. They seemed extremely pleased and have been 
in good temper ever since their arrival." Oddly 
enough, this news was confirmed by a soldier of the 
7th Regiment, who had been taken prisoner by the 
Americans, but had escaped and made his way to Ni- 
agara. He further embellished the report by declaring 
that 9,000 men under Lord Percy defeated 13,000 
rebels at Bear's Hill on December 20th, under Washing- 
ton, that Gates was sent for to take the command when 
Washington was killed, and that 7,000 volunteers from 
Ireland had joined Howe's army. Washington at this 
time, the reader will remember, had gone into winter 
quarters with his army at Valley Forge. 

There were 2,300 Indians at Fort Niagara at this 
period, all making perpetual demands for beef, flour 
and rum. The license of the jubilee over Washing- 
ton's death probably was limited only by the scantiness 
of provisions and the impossibility of adding to the 
store. Cold weather shut down on the establishment, 
the vessels were laid up, and all winter long Col. 
Bolton and his men had no word contradicting the 


: ( 

With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 69 

report of Washington's death. As late as April 8th, 
the following sjjring, he wrote to Gen. Carleton that 
"all accounts confinn Washington being killed and his 
army defeated in December last, and that Gates was 
sent for to take the command." 

The British early were ajiprised of Sullivan's intended 
raid, and although powerless to prevent it, kept well 
posted as to its progress. The various parties which 
Sullivan encountered, were directed from Fort Niagara. 
"Since the rebels visit the Indian country," wrote 
Gen. Haldimand to Sir John Johnson, September 14, 
1779, '* 1 am happy they are advancing so far. They 
can never reach Niagara and their difficulties and 
danger of retreat will, in proportion as they advance, 
increase." Again he wrote twelve days later : " You 
will be able to make your way to Niagara, and if the 
rebels should be encouraged to advance as far as that 
place, I am convinced that few of them will escape 
from famine or the sword. All in my power to do for 
you is to push up provisions, which shall be done with 
the utmost vigor, while the river and lake remain navi- 
gable, although it may throw me into great distress in 
this part of the province, should anything happen to 
prevent the arrival of the fall victuallers." There was 
however genuine alarm at Fort Niagara, and even Sir 
Frederick himself, though he wrote so confidently to 
Bolton, in his letters to the Ministry expressed grave 
apprehensions of what might happen. 

What did happen was bad enough for British inter- 
ests, for though the Americans turned back, the raid 




; i 

• '• 




70 With Bolt 071 at Fort Niagara. 

had driven in upon Bolton a horde of frightened, 
hungry and irres])onsiljle Indians, who had to be fed at 
the King's exjiense and were a source of unmeasured 
concern to the overworked commandant, notwithstand- 
ing the indei)endent organization of the Indian Depart- 
ment which was effected. 

To arrive at a just idea of conditions hereabouts 
at this period, we must keep in mind the relation of 
the fluctuating population, Indians and whites, to the 
unci;rtain and often inadequate food sui)ply. 

I'ort Niagara at this time — the fall of '7'*^ — was a 
fortification 1,100 yards in circumference, with five 
bastions and two blockhouses. Capt. John Johnson 
thought 1,000 men were needed to defend it ; "the 
present strength," he wrote, "amounting to no more 
than 200 rank and file, including fifteen men of the 
Royal Artillery and the sick, a number barely sufficient 
to defend the outworks (if they were in a state of 
defense) and return the necessary sentries, should the 

])lace be infested l)y a considerable force 

With a garrison of 500 or a less number, it is impreg- 
nable against all the savages in America, but if a 
strong body of troops with artillery should move this 
way, 1 believe no engineer who has ever seen these 
works will say it can hold out any considerable time." 

Un May 1st, 177H, there had been in the garrison at 
Fort Niagara 311 men. Half a dozen more were sta- 
tioned at I'ort Schlosscr, and thirty-two at I'ort Erie, a 
total of .'{40, of whom 20;') were reported as fit for duty. 
At this time Maj. Sutler's Rangers, numbering 106, 

.' ii 

With Bolto7i at Fort Niagara. 7 1 

had gone on ''an ex{)edition with the Indians towards 
the settlements of Pennsylvania or New York, which- 
ever he finds most practicable and advantageous to the 
King's service." These raids from Fort Niagara were 
far more fre(|uent than one would infer from the histo- 
ries — even from the American histories whose authors 
are not to be susjiected of purposely minimizing either 
their number or effect. But it appears from the rec- 
ords that not infrc([uently the expeditions accomplished 
nothing of more consequence than to steal stock. 
Horses, cattle and sheep were in more than one in- 
stance driven away from settlements far down on the 
Mohawk or Sus(|uehanna, and brought back alive or 
dead along the old trails, to Fort Niagara. 

To illustrate the methods of the time : In a report to 
Brig. Gen. Powell, Maj. Butler wrote : "In the spring 
of 177M I found it absolutely re(juisite for the good of 
His Majesty's service, with the consent and approba- 
tion of Lt. Col. Bolton, and on the application of the 
chiefs and warriors of the five united nations . . . ., 
to proceed to the frontiers of the colonies in rebellion, 
with as many officers and men of my cori)s as were 
then raised, in order to protect the Indian settlements 
and to annoy the enemy." At this time many of his 
men were new recruits from the colonies, sons or 
heads of Loyalist — or as we used to s:.y. en this side 
the border, of 'lory — families. As they approached 
American frontier settlements, *^ne ioyalty to King 
(leorge of some of his men hecame suspicious, so that 
Butler issued a proclamation that all deserters, if 
















72 IVi'^/i Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

apprehended, were to be shot. In the letter just tiuot- 
ed from he imports that this order had a good effect. 
Many curious circumstances arose at the time, due to 
the British or American allegiarre of men who before 
the war had been friendly neighbors, but who now 
met as hostilcs, as caj)tor and caj)tive, sometimes as 
victor and victim. There was a constant flight, by 
one route and another, of Loyalist refugees to Fort 
Niagara. Thus, by a return of Feb. 12, 1779, 1,846 
people were drawing rations from the stores of that 
place, of whom sixty-four were "distressed families," 
that is, Tories who had fled from the colonies (mostly 
from the Mohawk Valley); and 445 Indians. The war 
parties left early in the spring, and during the summer 
the supi)ly boats could get up from the lower stations. 
Then came that march of destruction up the (ienesee 
Valley ; winter shut down on lake and river communi- 
cation, and the most distressed i)eriod the frontier hatl 
known under British rule set in. In Octobc, immedi- 
ately after the invasion. Col. Bolton wrote (I (juote 
briefly from a very full report): " Josejjh Brant .... 
assures me that if 500 men had joined the Rangers in 
time, there is no doubt that instead of 300, at least 
1,000 warriors would have turned out, and with that 
force he is convinced that Mr. Sullivan woukl have had 
some reason to repent of his exj)edition ; but the 
Indians not being sujjportcd as they expected, thought 
of nothing more than carrying off their families, and 
we had at this Post the 21st of last month 5,030 to 
supply with provisions, and notwithstanding a number 

. iv 

! ■ 

With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

/ o 

of parties have been sent out since, we have still on 
the ground 3,67^^ to maintain. I am convinced your 
Excellency will not be surprised, if ! am extremely 
alarmed, for to support such a multitude I think w ill be 
absolutely impossible. I have recjuested of Major But- 
ler to try his utmost to |)revail on the Indians whose 
villages have been destroyed to go down to Montreal 
for the winter, where, I have assured him, they would 
be well taken care of; and to inform all the rest who 
have not suffered by the enemy that they i.mst return 
home and take care of their corn." 

Neither plan worked as hoped for. It was difficult 
to get the Indians to consent to go down the river, or 
even to Carleton Lsland ; and as Sullivan had destroyed 
every village save two, few of the Senecas could be in- 
duced to return into ihe Genesee country. Bolton's 
urgent appeals for extra provisions were also doomed to 
di.sappointment, owing to the lateness of the sea.son or 
the lack of traiu^ports. 

The winter aifcr .Sullivan's raid, Guy Johnson distrib- 
uted clothing to more than .3,000 Indians at lort Niagara. 
But the cost of clothing them was trifling comj)ared 
with the cost of feeding them. Expeditions against the 
distant American settlements were planned, not more 
through the desire for retaliation, than from the ne- 
cessity of reducing the number of dependents on Fort 
Niagara. When the inroads on provisions grew serious, 
the Indians were enc ouraged to go on the war-jtalh. 
But so exceedingly .severe wa.s the winter, so deep was 
the snow on the trails, that not until the middle of I'eb- 




'11 H 

l'7! I 

'. r'l 

















74 With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

ruary could any j^arties be induced to set out. The 
number camped around the fort, consuming the King's 
pork, beef, flour and rum, rose as we have seen, to 
more than 5,000. Many staned and many froze. 

Much could be said regarding the British policy of 
dealing with the Indians at I'ort Niagara, l)ut I may 
only touch upon the subject at this time. Haldimand, 
and behind him the British Ministry, placed great 
reliance upon them. The uniform instruction was 
that the Indians should be maintained as allies. On 
April 10, \~1>*>, Lord Cleorge (iermaine wrote to Gen. 
Haldimand that the designs of the rebels against Ni- 
agara and Detroit were not likely to be succe.ssful as 
long as the Six Nations continued faithful. Present.s, 
honors, and the full license of the tomahawk and scalp- 
ing-knife were allowed them. With a view to promot- 
ing their fidelity, Josej)h lirant was made a colonel. 
Significant, too. was the settling of a generous allowance 
for life upon Brant's sister. Sir William Johnson's con- 
sort ; which act was approved, about this time, by the 
august council at Whitehall. 

The British watched the state of the Indian mind as 
the sailor watches his barometer at the coming of a 
storm. And the Indian mind, though always cunning, 
was .sometimes childlike in the directne.ssand simplicity 
of its conclusions. The constant flight to Fort Niag- 
ara of refugee Tories was remarked by the savages, 
and in turn noted and reported to (Jen. Haldimand. 
"The frecpient jxtssing of white peoj)le to Niagara, 
wrote Capt. John Johnson to (len. Carleton, October 

/ ti 

JVith Bolton at Fort Niagara. 75 

6, 1778, " is m.ich taken note of by the Indians, who 
say they are running away and that they (the Tories) 
have begun the ([uarrel and leave them (the Indians) to 
defend it." However, Johnson counted on being able 
to change their minds, for he added: " I hojjc in my 
next to inform you of giving the rebels an eternal 

The usual British good sense — the national trades- 
man's instinct — seems to have been temjjorarily sus- 
jiended, held in abeyance, at the demands of these 
Indians. In his report of May 12, '78, Col. Bolton 
writes that he has aj)i)roved bills for nearly ^{^1 8,000 
"for sundries furnished savages which Maj. Butler 
thought ab.solutely necessary, notwithstanding all the 
presents sent to their posts last year; 'J, 700 being 
assembled at a time when I little expected such a 
number, obliged me to send to Detroit for a supply of 
provisions, and to buy up all the cattle, etc., that 
could i)Ossibly be j)rocured, otherwise this j.;arrison 
must have been distressed or the savages offended, and 
of course, I suppose, would have joined the rebels. 
Even after all that was done for them the) scarce 
seemed satisfied." In June he writes that only eight 
out of twenty j)unc:heons of rum ordered for Fort Niag- 
ara had l)een received, and that '* much wine has been 
given to the savages that was intended for this post." 

One reads in this old corresi)ondence, with mingled 
amusement and amazement, of the marvelous atten- 
tions j)aid these wily savages. ChiUUike, whatever they 
saw in the cargoes of the merchants, they wanted, and 









Fi t 


i ' 



76 ^^///i Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

England humored and pampered them, lest they trans- 
fer their affections. We have (iuy Johnson's word for 
it, under date of Niagara, July 3, IT.'^O, that *' many 
of the Indians will no longer wear tinsel lace, and are 
become good judges of gold and silver. They fre- 
(juently demand and have received wine, tea, cofi'ee, 
candles and many such articles, and they are fre(|uently 
nice in the choice of the finest black and other cloth 
for blankets, and the best linnen and cambrick with 
other things needless to enumerate. . . . The Six 
Nations are not so fond of gaudy colors as of good and 
substantial things, but they are passionately fond of 
silver ornaments and neat arrows." Elsewhere in 
these letters a reciuisition for port wine is explained on 
the ground that it was demanded by the chiefs when 
they were sick — dainty treatment, truly, for stalwart 
savages whose more accustomed diet was cornmeal and 
water, and who could feast, when fortune favored, on 
the reeking entrails of a dead horse. 

Now and then, it is true, advantages were taken of 
the Indians in ways which, presumably, it was thought 
they would not detect ; all, we must grant, in the in- 
rerest of economy. One was in the matter of powder. 
The Indians wore furnished with a grade inferior to 
the garrison powder. This was shown by a series of 
tests made at Fort Niagara by order of Brig. Gen. 
Powell — Col Bolton's successor — on July 10, 1782. 
We may sup])ose it to have been an agreeable summer 
day, that there was leisure at the fort to indulge in 
experiments, and that there were no astute Indians on 

IViih Bo/ ion at Fort Niagara. 

/ / 

hand to be unduly edified by the result. At Cien. 
Powell's order an eight-inch mortar was elevated to 
forty-five degrees, and six rounds fired, to find out how 
far one half a pound of powder would throw a forty-six 
pound shell. The first trial, with the garrison [>owder, 
sent the shell 285) yards. For rounds two and three In- 
dian Department powder was used ; the fine-glazed kind 
sent the shell eighty-two yards, the coarser grain car- 
ried it but seventy-nine yards. Once more the garri- 
son powder was used ; the shell flew 243 yards, while 
a second trial of the two sorts of Indian Dejiartment 
powder sent it but eighty-four and seventy-six yards, 
or about three to one in favor of the white man. With 
the garrison powder, a musket and carbine ball went 
through a two and one-quarter-inch oak plank, at the 
distance of fifty yards, and lodged in one six inches 
behind it ; but with the Indian powder these balls 
would not go through the first plank. 

This seems like taking a base advantage of the trust- 
ful Indian ally, esjjecially since he was to use his pow- 
der against the common foe, the American rebel ; in 
reality, however, the Indians were wasteful and irres}K)n- 
sible, and sciuandered their ammunition on the little 
birds of the forest and even in harmless but expensive 
salvos into the emj)ty air. 

Another economy was practiced in the Indian De- 
partment : when the stock ran low the rum wa.s wa- 
tered. Sometimes the precious contents of the casks 
were augmented one tliird, sometimes even two thirds, 
with the more abundant beverage from Niagara River, so 

1 ! ■■; 


-. ' 




78 JVi'/A Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

that the garp«!on rum, like the garrison powder, "car- 
ried" two ( iree times as well as did that of the 
Indian Department ; but whether this had a salutary 
effect upon the thirsty recipients is a problem the solu- 
tion of which lies outside the range of the exact his- 

Difficult as it was to hold the allegiance of the sav- 
age, it was harder yet — nay, it was impossible — to 
make him fight according to the rules of civilized war- 
fare. The Hritish (iovernment from the Ministry down 
stand in history in an ecjuivocal jjosition in this matter. 
Over and over again in the correspondence which I 
have examined, one finds vigorous condemnation of 
the Indian method of slaughter of women and chil- 
dren, and the torture of captives. Over and over again 
the officers are urged not to allow it ; and over and 
over again they report, after a raid, that they deplore 
the acts of wantonness which were committed, and 
which they were unable to prevent. But nowhere do I 
find any suggestion that the services of the Indians be 
disi)ensed with. Throughout the Revolution, the Sen- 
ecas, Cayugas, Onondagas and Delawares — for the 
last, also, were often at Fort Niagara — were sent 
against the Americans, by the British. The Oneidas, 
as is well known, were divided and vacillating in their 
allegiance. In August, 17^0, Io2 of them who hith- 
erto had been ostensibly friendly to the Americans, 
were induced to go to Niagara and give their pledges 
to the British. When they arrived (aiy Johnson jnit 
on a severe front and censured them for their lack of 


I i 


With Bolton at Fort Niagara, 79 

steadfastness to the King. According to him, some 
500 Oneidas in all came to the fort that year and 
declared themselves ready to fight the Americans. 
The last party that arrived delivered up to the Super- 
intendent a commission which, he says, "the Rebels 
had issued with a view to form the Oneidas into a 
corps, . . . they also delivered up to me the 
Rebel flag. " 

So far as I am aware this is the first mention of the 
Stars and Strii)es on the banks of the Niagara. By 
resolution of June 14, 1777, the American Congress 
had decreed "That the flag of the thirteen United 
States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white ; that 
the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, repre- 
senting a new constellation. " A little over three 
years had passed since John Paul Jones had first flung 
to the breeze, at the mast of his ship Ranger, this 
bright banner of the new nation. It was not to aj)pear 
in a British port for two and a half years to come ; 
sixteen years were to pass before it could fly triumphant 
over the old walls of Fort Niagara ; but France had 
saluted it, Americans were fighting for it, and although 
it is first found here in hostile hands, yet I like to reck- 
on from that August day in 1780, the beginning, if in 
proj)hecy only, of the reign of that new constellation 
over the Niagara region. 

Col. liolton's life at Fort Niagara ^»•as one of infinite 
care. Besides the routine of the garrison, he was con- 
stantly harra.ssed by the demands of the Indians, whom 
the British did not to feed, but whom they dared 


8o With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

not offend. The old fort, which now sleeps so (luietly 
at the month of the river, was a busy place in those 
days. There was constant coming and going. Schoon- 
ers, snows' and batteaux with provisions from Que- 
bec, or with munitions of war or detachments of troops 
for Detroit or Michillimackinac, were constantly arriv- 
ing. I ({uestion if the lower Niagara were not busier 
in that j^eriod than it is now. The transfer of supplies 
around the falls — the "great portage" — was hard 
and tedious work. Not Quebec, but Great Britain, was 
the real base of supplies. There were many deten- 
tions, and constant interruption in shipment, at every 
stage of the way. Sometimes a cargo of salt pork 
from Ireland or flour from London would reach Que- 
bec too late in the summer to admit of transfer to the 
posts until spring. Sometimes, in crossing Lake On- 
tario, the provisions would be damaged so as to be unfit 
for use ; sometimes they would be lost. Then not 
only the garrison at Niagara had to face starvation, but 
Col. Bolton soon had his ears ringing with messages 
and maledictions from Detroit and Mackinac, buried 
still farther in the wilderness, and all looking to Ni- 
agara for food and clothing. At such times of distress 
the upper posts (juestioned whether goods intended for 
them were not irregularly held at Niagara ; the mean- 
while. Col. Bolton would be straining every effort to get 
provisions enough to keep his own command from star- 

' A snow is a three-masted craft, the smallest mast abaft the mainmast 
being rigged with a trysail. Possibly, on the lakes where shipyards were 
primitive, this type was not always adhered to; but the correspondence 
and orders of the period under notice carefully discriminate between 
snows and schooners. 

With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 8 1 

vation. Indian supplies and traders' goods, loo, were 
liable to loss and detention ; and on very slight provo- 
cation, the demands of the Indians grew insolent. 

There were constant desertions, too, among the 
trooi)s. Indeed, there seems never to have been a time 
at Fort Niagara when desertions were not fre»|iient, and, 
more than once, so numerous as to threaten the very 
existence of the garrison. This, however, not in Bol- 
ton's time. As the correspondence shows, he enjoyed 
the utmost confidence of his superiors, and there is 
nothing to indicate that his men were not as devoted 
to him as any officer could exjject at a frontier post 
where service meant hard work and possible starvation. 

Fre(iuent as had been the raids against the settle- 
ments before the expedition of Sullivan, they became 
thereafter even more fre(]uent ; and, if less disastrous, 
they were so merely because the American frontier 
settlements had already jiaid their utmost tribute to But- 
ler and Brant. The expeditions, alon-r certain much- 
worn trails, had to go farther and farther in order to 
find foe? to attack or cattle to steal. This was especi- 
ally so in the valleys of the Mohawk and Susquehanna ; 
yet in one ciuarter and another this border warfare 
went on, and there is no lack of evidence, in the 
official correspondence, of its effectiveness. 'i'hus, 
writing from Fort Niagara, August 24, 17^0, Cluy 
Johnson reports : "I have the pleasure to inform your 
excellency that the partys who subdivided after Cai)t. 
Brant's success at the Cleysburg " — an expedition 
which he had previously reported — "have all been 


t ^ 





(I it 





':' m 


m III 2.0 


1.25 1.4 


-m 6" — 




°^4 ,>' 









WEBSTER, N.Y. l^^SflO 

(716) 872-4503 








82 With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

successful ; that Capt. Brant has destroyed twenty 
houses in Schoharie and taken and killed twelve persons, 
besides releasing several women and children. Among 
the prisoners is Lieut. Vrooman, the settlement of that 
name being that which was destroyed. The other 
divisions of that party have been also successful, par- 
ticularly Capt. David's party, and the number of killed 
and taken by them within that time, so far as it has 
come to my hands, is, killed, thirty-five, taken, forty- 
six, released, forty. . . . The remaining inhabit- 
ants on the frontiers are drawing in so as to deprive 
the rebels of any useful resources from them. I have 
at present on service, several partys that set out within 
one and the same week, and I apprehend that falling 
on the frontiers in different places at the same time will 
have a good effect. " September 18th he writes, tell- 
ing of the destruction of ** Kleysberg," " containing a 
church, 100 houses and as many barnes, besides mills 
and 500 cattle and horses." In the same letter he 
wrote : "I have now 405 warriors out in different 
parties and quarters, exclusive of some marched from 
Kadaragawas. . . . The greater part of the rest 
are at their planting grounds, and many sick here, as 
fevers and fluxes have for some time prevailed at this 
Post. ' ' October 1st he reports the number of men in 
the war parties sent out from Fort Niagara as 892. A 
return, dated June 30, 1781, shows that the war parties 
** have killed and taken during the season already 150 
persons." September 30th he reports an expedition 
under Walter Johnson and Montour, in which about 

1 1 


I,*' t 

K ' 



With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 8, 

"twenty rebels" were killed ; and on that day Capt. 
Nelles arrived with eleven prisoners taken in Pennsyl- 
vania. A postscript to this letter says : "Since writ- 
ing, I have received the disagreeable news of the death 
of the gallant Montour, who died of the wounds he 
received in the action before related. He was a chief 
of the greatest spirit and readiness, and his death is a 
loss." We can well believe that; for Montour, who, 
from the American view-point, had the reputation of 
being a fiend incarnate, had indeed shown "spirit and 
readiness" in stealing cattle, burning log cabins, kill- 
ing and scalping their occupants or bringing them 
captive to Fort Niagara. 

In another paper ' I have stated that I have traced out 
the individual experiences in captivity of thirty-two of 
these Americans, who were taken by the Indians and 
British and brought as prisoners to Fort Niagara. How 
much might be done on this line may be judged from a 
review of Col. Johnson's transactions, furnished by that 
officer at Montreal, March 24, 1782, in which it is 
stated that the number of Americans killed and taken 
captive by parties from Fort Niagara, amounted at that 
time to near 900. The time was rife with like experi- 
ences. For instance, there was the famous raid on 
Cherry Valley, from which Mrs. Jane Campbell and 
her four children, after a long detention among the 
Indians, were brought to Fort Niagara. There was 
Jane Moore, who was also taken at Cherry Valley, and 
who subsequently was married to Capt. Powell of the 

' See "What Refel David Ogden," in this volume. 









84 With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

Niagara garrison in the winter of 1779 — the cere- 
mony, by the Church of England service, so impress- 
ing Joseph Brant that he immediately led up to the 
minister the squaw with whom he had been livirg for a 
long time, and insisted on being married over again, 
white man's fashion. There was Lieut. Col. Stacia, 
another prisoner from Cherry Valley, whose head 
Molly Brant wanted for a football. Some of the stories 
of these captives, like that of Alexander Harper, who 
ran the gauntlet at Fort Niagara (the ordeal ai)parently 
being made light in his case), are familiar to readers 
of our history ; others, I venture to say, are unknown. 
For instance, there were John and Robert Brice, two 
little boys, who were taken in 1779 near Rensselaerville 
by a scouting party, and brought, with other prisoners 
and eight scalps, to Fort Niagara. But they did not 
come together. Robert, who was but eleven years old, 
was taken to Fort Erie and sold to a lake sailor for the 
sum of ;^ 3. This little Son of the Revolution was kept 
on the upper lakes until 1783, when he was summoned 
to Fort Niagara where he met his brother John, from 
whom he had parted near the mouth of the Unadilla 
River some four years before. They were sent to 
Montreal with nearly 200 liberated captives, and ulti- 
mately the boys reached Albany and their friends. 
Then there is the story of Nancy Bundy, who, her hus- 
band and children being killed, was brought to Fort 
Niagara and sold into servitude for S8. There was the 
famous Indian fighter, Moses Van Campen, whose ad- 
ventures and captivity in our region are the subject 

; I 




With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 85 

of a whole book. There were Horatio Jones and 
Jasper Parrish, who passed from Indian captives into 
the useful role of interpreters for the whites. 

Thus I might go on, naming by the score the heroes 
and heroines of Indian captivities whose sufferings 
and whose adventures make up the most romantic 
chapter in our home annals, as yet for the most part 
unwritten. But I take time now to dwell, briefly as 
possible, upon but one of these captivities — one of 
the notable incidents during Col. Bolton's time at Fort 
Niagara. This was the capture of the Gilbert family. 
It made so great a stir, even in those days accustomed 
to war and Indian raids, that in 1784 a little book 
was published in Philadelphia giving the history of it. 
The original edition' has long since l)een one of the 
scarcest of Americana. But in the unpublished corre- 
spondence between Gen. Haldimand and the officers at 
Fort Niagara, I find sundry allusions to '* the Quaker's 
family," and statements which go to show that the 
British at least were disposed to treat them well, and 

' " A Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of Benjamin Gilbert and 
his Family ; Who were surprised by the Indians, and taken from their 
Farms, on the Frontiers of Pennsylvania, in the Spring, 1780. Phila- 
delphia : Printed and sold by Joseph Crukshank, in Market-street, be- 
tween Second and Third-streets. M DCC LXXXIV." lamo, pp. iv-g6. 
It was reprinted in London (izmo, pp. 123) in 1785, and again (i2mo, pp. 
124, "Reprinted and sold by James Phillips, George-Vard, Lombard 
street") in itqo. A "third edition, revised and enlarged," i6mo, pp. 240, 
bears date Philadelphia, 1848. Of a later edition C8vo, PP- 38, Lancaster, 
Pa.. i8qo) privately printed, only 150 copies were issued. The work was 
written by William Walton, to whom the facts were told by the Gil- 
berts after their return. (Field.) Ketchum made some use of the " Narra- 
tive" in his " Buffalo and the Senecas," as has Wm. Clement Bryant and 
perhaps other local writers. See also " Account of Benjamin Gilbert," 
Vol. III., Register of Pennsylvania. A reissue of the original work, 
carefully edited, would not only be a useful book for students of the 
history of Buffalo and the Niagara region, but would offer much in the 
way of extraordinary adventure for the edification of "the general 

ti v:\% 

) \A 

<e - 

86 JV^iih Boll 071 at Fort Niagara. 


to effect their exchange as soon as possible. Notwith- 
standing, it was a long and cruel captivity, and pre- 
sents some features of ])eculiar significance in oui- local 

About sunrise on the morning of April 2-"), 1780. 
a party of eleven painted Indians suddenly issued from 
the woods bordering Mahoning Creek, in Northampton 
County, Penn. They had come from Fort Niagara, and 
were one of those scalping parties for the success of 
which so many encouraging messages had passed from 
Whitehall to Quebec, and from (Quebec to the frontier, 
and to stimulate which Guy Johnson had been so iavish 
with the fine linen, silver ornaments and port wine. 
The party was commanded by Rowland Montour, John 
Montour being second in command. Undiscovered, 
they surrounded the log house of the old Quaker 
miller, Benjamin (iilbert. With tomahawk raised and 
flint-locks cocked they suddenly appeared at door and 
windows. I'he old Quaker offered his hand as a 
brother. It was refused. Partly from the Quaker 
habit of non-resistance, partly from the obvious cer- 
tainty that to attempt to escape meant death, the whole 
household submitted to be bound, while their home 
was plundered and burned. Loading three of Gil- 
bert's horses with booty, and placing heavy packs on 
the back of each prisoner old enough to bear them, the 
expedition took the trail for Fort Niagara, more than 
200 miles away. This was "war" in '* the good old 

There were twelve prisoners in the party, of whom 



IVith Bolton at Fort i^^iagara. )>'] 

but five were men. T^e {)atriarch of the household, 
Benjamin, was sixty-nine years old : Elizabeth, his wife, 
wa.s fifty-five ; Joseph, Benjamin's son by a former wife, 
aged forty-one ; another son, Jesse, aged nineteen, 
and his wife Sarah, the same age. There were three 
younger children, Rebecca, Abner and Elizabeth, 
respectively sixteen, fourteen and twelve ; Thomas 
Peart, son to Benjamin Ciilbert's wife by a former 
husband, aged twenty-three ; a nephew, Benjamin Gil- 
bert, aged eleven ; a hired man, Andrev.- Harrigar, 
twenty-six ; and Abigail Dodson, the fourteen-year-old 
daughter of a neighbor ; she had had the ill-luck to 
come to (Gilbert's mill that morning for grist, and was 
taken with the rest. Half a mile distant lived Mrs. 
Gilbert's oldest son, Benjamin Peart, aged twenty- 
seven, his wife Elizabeth, who was but twenty, and 
their nine-months-old child. Montour added these to 
his party, making fifteen prisoners in all, burned their 
house and urged all along the trail, their first stop being 
near "Mochunk." (Mauch Chunk.) 

I must omit most of the details of their march north- 
ward. On the evening of the first day Benjamin Peart 
fainted from fatigue and Rowland Montour was with 
difficulty restrained from tomahawking him. At night 
the men prisoners were secured in a way which was 
usual on these raids, throughout Western New York and 
Pennsylvania, during those dismal years. The Indians 
cut down a sapling five or six inches in diameter, and 
cut notches in it large enough to receive the ankles of 
the prisoners. After fixing their legs in these notches, 

■ w 



1 •■ 





88 IVt'^k Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

they placed another pole over the first, and thus secured 
them as in stocks. This upper pole was then crossed 
at each end by stakes driven into the ground. The 
prisoners thus lay on the ground, on their backs. 
Straps or ropes around their necks were made fast to 
near-by trees. Sometimes a blanket was granted them 
for covering, sometimes r-ot. What rest might be had, 
preparatory to another day's forced march, I leave to 
the imagination. 

During the early stages of this march the old couple 
were constantly threatened with death, because unable 
to keep up. On the fourth day four negroes who 
claimed that they were loyal to the King, that they 
had escaped from the Americans and had set out for 
Fort Niagara, were taken up by Montour from a camp 
where he had left them on his way down the valley. 
These negroes frequently whipped and tortured the 
prisoners for sport, Montour making no objection. 
On the 4th of May, the Indians separated into two 
companies; one taking the westward path, and with 
this party went Thomas Peart, Joseph Gilbert, Benja- 
min Gilbert — the little boy of eleven — and Sarah, 
wife of Jesse. The others kept on the northerly 
course. Andrew Harrigar, terrified by the Indian 
boast that those who had gone with the other party 
** were killed and scalped, and you may expect the same 
fate tonight," took a kettle, under pretence of bringing 
water, but ran away under cover of darkness. After in- 
credible hardships he regained the settlements. His 
escape so angered Rowland Montour that he threw 

! I 

J » 


With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 89 

Jesse Gilbert down, and lifted his tomahawk for the 
fatal blow ; Elizabeth, Jesse's mother, knelt over him, 
pressed her head to her son's brow and begged the 
captain to spare his life. Montour kicked her over and 
tied them both by their necks to a tree ; after a time, 
his passion cooling, he loosed them, bade them pack 
up and take the trail. This is but a sample incident. 
I pass over many. 

None suffered more on the march than Elizabeth 
Peart, the giil mother. The Indians would not let her 
husband relieve her by carrying her child, and she was 
ever the victim of the whimsical moods of her captors. 
At one time they would let her ride one of the horses ; 
at another, would compel her to walk, carrying the 
child, and would beat her if she lagged behind. By 
the 14th of May Elizabeth Gilbert had become so 
weak that she could only keep the trail when led and 
supported by her children. On this day the main 
party was rejoined by a portion of the party that had 
branched off to westward ; with them were two of the 
four captives, Benjamin Gilbert, Jr., and Sarah, wife of 
Jesse. On this day old Benjamin was painted black, 
the custom of the Indians with prisoners whom they 
intended to kill. Later on they were joined by Brit- 
ish soldiers, who took away the four negroes and did 
something to alleviate the sufferings of the white 
prisoners. The expedition had exhausted its provis- 
ions and all that had been taken from the Gilberts. 
A chance hedgehog, and roots dug in the woods, sus- 
tained them for some days. May the 17th they ferried 

'^ {\ 




i,-i'! ■ 




I 1 




■ I 


- ^ 1 


i 1 

> 1 

90 IVz^/i Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

across the Genesee River on a log raft. Provisions 
were brought from Fort Niagara, an Indian having been 
sent ahead, on the best horse ; and on the morning of 
the 21st of May they heard, faintly booming beyond 
the intervening forest, the morning -\x\\ at Fort Niag- 
ara. An incident of that day's march was a meeting 
with Montour's wife. She was the daughter of the 
great Seneca Sayenqueraghta, the man who led the In- 
dians at Wyoming,' and whose influence was greater 
in this region, at the time we are studying, than even 
that of Brant himself. He was the Old King of the 
Senecas, called Old Smoke by the whites. Smoke's 
Creek, the well-known stream which empties into 
Lake Erie just beyond the southwest limit of Buffalo, 
between South Park and Woodlawn Beach, preserves 
his name to our day. It was there that he lived in 
his last years ; and somewhere on its margin, in a 
now unknown grave, he was buried. His daughter 
the "Princess," was, next to Molly Brant, the grandest 
Indian woman of the time on the Niagara. As she 
met the wretched Gilberts, " she was dressed altogether 
in the Indian costume, and was shining with gold lace 
and silver baubles." To her Rowland Montour pre- 
sented the girl Rebecca, as a daughter. The princess 
took a rilver ring from her finger and put it on Re- 
becca's, which act completed the adoption of this little 

' Ketchuni says he could not have done so. '" History of Buffalo,"' Vol. 
1., p. 32S.) But Ketchum was misled, as many writers have been in as- 
cribing the leadership to Brant. My assenion rests on the evidence of 
contemporary documents in the Archives at Ottawa, especially the MS. 
" Anecdotes of C.ipt. Joseph Brant, Niagara, 177s,'" in the handwriting of 
Col. Daniel Claus. Wm. Clement Bryant published a part of it in his 
"Captain Brant and the Old King," q. v. 

\ \ 


*-'-«■ ;a»Mft- *■**•*. -W-^ 

With Bolt 071 at Fort Niagara. 91 

(Quaker maid of sixteen into one of the most famous — 
])Ossibly the most infamous — family of the Niagara 
region during the Revolutionary period. 

At a village not far from Fort Niagara, a))})arently 
near the present Tuscarora village on the heights east 
of I-ewiston, Montour painted Jesse, Abner, Rebecca 
and Elizabeth Gilbert, Jr., as Indians are painted, and 
gave each a belt of wampum ; but while these marks of 
favor were shown to the young people, the mother, be- 
cause of her feebleness, was continually the victim of 
the displeasure and the blows of the Indians. On May 
28d, being at the Landing — what is now Lewiston 
— they were visited by Cai)tains Powell and Dace 
from the fort, and the next day, just one month 
from the time of their capture, they trudged down 
the trail which is now the pleasanc river road, towards 
the old fort, protected with difficulty from the blows of 
the Indians along the way. 

Now followed the dispersion of this unhappy family. 
After the Indian custom, the young and active prisoners 
were sought by the Indians for adoption. Many brave 
American boys went out to live, in the most menial 
servitude, among the Senecas and other tribes who 
during the later years of the Revolution lived on the 
Genesee, the Tonawanda, Buffalo, Cazenove, Smoke's, 
and Cattaraugus creeks. The old man and his wife 
and their son Jesse were surrendered to Col. Johnson. 
Benjamin Peart, Mrs. Gilbert's son, was carried off to 
the Genesee. The other members of the party were 
held in captivity in various places ; but I may only stay 










. > 



■ W'-mtMJiiimmjif 

92 lyt'^/i Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

'. ■' 

■' .i 

11 ! 

now to note what befel the little Rebecca and her 
sister-in-law, Elizabeth Peart. 

As already stated, Rebecca had been adopted by 
Rowland Montour's wife. In the general allotment of 
prisoners, her cousin, Benjamin Gilbert, the lad of 
eleven, also fell to this daughter of Sayenqueraghta. 
She took the children to a cabin where her father's 
family, eleven in number, were a.ssembled. After the 
usual grand lamentation for the dead, whose places 
were supposed now to be filled by the white prisoners, 
this royal household dejiarted by easy stages for their 
summer's corn-planting. They tarried at the Landing, 
while clothing was had from the fort. The little 
Quaker girl was dressed after the Indian fashion, 
"with short-clothes, leggins and a gold-laced hat"; 
while Benjamin, " as a badge of his dignity, wore a 
silver medal hanging from his neck." They moved 
up to Fort Schlosser ( just above the falls, near where 
the present power-house stands), thence by canoe to 
Fort Erie ; then " four miles further, up Buffalo Creek, 
where they pitched their tent for a settlement." Here 
the women planted corn ; but the little Rebecca, not 
being strong, was allowed to look after the cooking. 
The whole household, queen, princess and slave, had 
to work. The men of course were exempt ; but the 
chief advantage of Sayenqueraghta' s high rank was 
that he could procure more provisions from the T'ng's 
stores at Fort Niagara than could the humbler mem- 
bers of the tribe. The boy Ben had an easy time of 
it. He roamed at will with the Indian boys over the 

I i 


With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 93 

territory that is now Buffalo ; fished in the lake, 
hunted or idled without constraint, and it is recorded 
that he was so pleased with the Indian mode of life, 
that but for his sister's constant admonition he would 
have dropped all thought of return to civilization, and 
cheerfully have become as good an Indian aa the best of 
them. At eleven years of age savagery takes easy hold. 

These children lived with Montour's Indian rela- 
tives for over two years; sharing in the fensts when 
there was plenty, going pinched with hunger on the 
frequent occasions when improvidence had exhausted 
the supply. There were numerous expeditions, afoot 
and by canoe, to Fort Niagara. On one occasion 
Rebecca, with her Indian family, were entertained by 
British officers at Fort Erie, when Old Smoke drank so 
much wine that when he came to paddltj his canot 
homeward, across 'C:v.: river, he narrowly escaped an 
upset on th' '■ocky reef, just outside the enl'ance to 
Buffalo Creek. On every visit to Fort Niagara Re- 
becca would look for release ; but although the officers 
were kind to her, they did not choose to interfere with 
so powerful a family as Montour's. It was shortly 
after one of these disappointments that she heard of 
her father's death. For some months she was sick ; 
then came news of the death of her Indian father, 
Rowland Montour, who succumbed to wounds received 
in the attack already noted. There was great mourn- 
ing in the lodge on Buffalo Creek, and Rebecca had to 
make a feint of sorrow, weeping aloud with the rest. 

In the winter of '81-' 82 a scheme was devised by 



1 1' 

M I 

! ^ \ 

f " 








', I 


iVioiul'. Ml K\w IihI Im ;i1h1iu liiij; lu'V rio>\i tlu* ImiIimiis, 
Intt i( \\;is iu)l umioiliikcn. In liio spiii\i; «)l 'H'J per 
OMip(or\ oniiMs (";\iuo Irotn (ii'u. I laldiniand lli;il mII llic 
roiu.uiiing iiuMuboisiil \\\\.- K\\\W\{ linnilv who were still 
m liiiitivitv shouKl liotakiMi Irom iho IiuliiUis ; ImiI jiltcr 
;i(tiuiuil t'uo \\m\ hciMi li}4htt'(l. OKI Smoki", Moiilom's 
>vi(l<nv. aiui the riv>t ii! the lamilv. Kclu'cc;! niid Urn 
lUtlihUNl. n\ovoil si\ n\iU\s up iho I.tkc' shore appar- 
c\\\\\ (o Smoke's Ciei^k — wheie llu'\- staved several 
\V(>e'xs inakitii; maple slij;ar. Then, a ^;real pi};eon 
roost beiu!; reporli'd. men and bo\s went oil' to it, 
si>iue (ill\ miles, and the delii;litetl vouiig Hen went 
loo. Oi all the (lilhert eaplives he alone seems to 
have had experiences too lull ol" \vholeson\e adventure 
and eas\- livii^s; tv> warrant the expenditme ot the least 
bit ot svinpalhv upon him. Hut sooner or later the 
wilv Indians had to hiwl Sir l'"rederiek's eonnnand. 
auvi on the Isi ot" lum\ ITS'J. alter upwards ol" two 
\ears ot eaplixilN. Keheeea and her cousin were re 
leased at I'ort Nianara, and two days later, with others, 
embarked tor Montreal. 

lar more cheerless were the experiences ol" ICIiza- 
betii Teari. She was parted trom her husband, ado|)ted 
b\ a Sene(\i lamily. and was also brought to raise corn 
on HniValo Creek, l-'arly in her servitude among the 
lndiai\s her babe was taken trom her and carried across 
to Canada. She was but twenty yeai-s old herself"; the 
tamily that had taken her came by canoe to l^ufl'alo 
Creek, where they settled tor the corn-planting. This 
w.ts in the spring oi 1780. .Ml manner of drudgery 





"\ k. m-r %. 

jiiul limdcns were pii! iipoii lin . Ilci work \v;i;, lo 
cultivMlc IIm" ((iiii. I'';illiii;^ si» k, tlic IimIi.iii;; Imiil ;i 
lliil lor her hy tlic iiidc (»l !lic 'n\\\\'\v\{\, ;iii(l llicii 
iillrrly iicglcrlcd lirr. Il«"rc she r(iii;iiiir(| tlii(»ii(;li llic 
Slimmer, rog;iiiiiii,%' strength ciioiigli If) (;u'' lor iiiid 
j^;ilhcr th<* <(mii ; when (his done, Iki IihIkiii 
(iillicr pcrmillcd licr !(> < oiiu* imd live .ij;;iiii m ili'' 
Inmilv l()dK<'- '\^ ""t" liiiica drimkcii Iiidi.Mi .ii|;i(krd 
her, knocked lier down, ;uid (h;i|.;|,,'ed hei .dionl, licit 
inj; her. Al ;niolher, all provision l;iiIin/(, she lr;ni(|icd 
uilh olliers lour days Ihrongh (he snow lo loit Niaj.', 
ara. Mere ("apl. I'owell's wile - who had Wren a 
|)ri^.on(•r hersell inlerc ('(U'd in l'',h/.al)elh's heiiall, 
l)Ul to no avail. She was howev<'r j^iven an oppor- 
tnnily (o see her haWe, whi( h was hein^ » areil lor hy 
an Indian laniily on the ('anadian side of the river, op- 
posite l''ort Niaj.;ara. 'i'his privile^^e was ;i;aiiM;d lor 
the poor mother hy luiliin/^ her Indian lather with a 
l)Oltlc of rnm. So (ar as 1 am aware, this was the hest 
nse (o whi( h a hotlle ol rnm was pnt (hirinj.^ tlie Kevo 
hitionary War. Hnt hax k to I'.nlTalo ('rc(.'k lhennha.p[)y 
molher had lo < ome. Her release was linally ob- 
tained hy artifice. Beini^ allowc.'d to visit I'orl, .\ia|^- 
aia, where she had some i..'edlew(jrk to do for the 
white people, she tei/^Mied sickness, and by ouc. excnse 
and another the Indians were put off nntil she c(juld he 
shipptjd away to Montreal, 

Of the (lill)';rt family and those taken wilh them hy 
Montour, only the old man died in captivity. The 
adventures of each one would make a long story, hni 




.' • 




96 With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

may not be entered upon here. By the close of '82 
they were all released from the Indians, and after a 
detention at Montreal, reached their friends in Penn- 
sylvania and set about the reestablishment of homes. 

Beyond question, Elizabeth Peart and Rebecca Gil- 
bert were the first white women ever on the site of the 
present city of Buffalo. They were brave, patient, 
patriotic girls ; no truer Daughters of the American 
Revolution are known to history. It would seem 
fitting that their memory should be preserved and their 
story known — much fuller than I have here sketched 
it — by the patriotic Daughters of the Revolution of 
our own day, who give heed to American beginnings 
in this region. 

I have dwelt at length on the Gilbert captivity, not 
more because of its own importance than to illustrate 
the responsibilities which constantly rested on the com- 
mandant at Niagara, at this period. We now turn to 
other phases of the service which engaged the atten- 
tion and taxed the endurance of Col. Bolton. 

From the time of the conquest of Canada in 1760 
down to the opening of the Revolution, there had been 
a slow but steady growth of shipping on the lakes, 
especially on Lake Ontario. On this lake, as early as 
1767, there were four brigs of from forty to seventy 
tons, and sixteen armed deck-cutters. Besides the 
'* King's ships " there were still much travel and traffic 
by means of canoes and batteaux. One of the first 
effects of the war with the American colonies was to 
beget active ship-building operations by the British ; 

,-^^ • ■'^- 

With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 97 

for Lake Ontario, at Oswegatchie, Oswego and Niag- 
ara ; ?nd for Lake Erie, at Navy Island, Detroit and 
Pine River. An official return made in July, 1778, 
the summer after Col. Bolton assumed command at 
Niagara, enumerates twelve sailing craft built for 
Lake Ontario since the British gained control of that 
lake in 1759, and sixteen for Lake Erie ; seven of the 
Lake Ontario boats had been cast away, two were laid 
up and decayed ; so that at this time — midsummer of 
'78 — there were still in service only the snow Haldi- 
mand, eighteen guns, built at Oswegatchie in 1771 ; 
the snow Seneca, eighteen guns, built in 1777 ; and the 
sloop Caldwell, two guns, built in 1774. A memo- 
randum records that Capt. Andrews, in the spring of 
1778, sought permission to build another vessel at 
Niagara, to take the place of the Haldimand, which, he 
was informed, could not last more than another year. 
The vessel built, in accordance with this recommenda- 
tion, was a schooner ; her construction was entrusted to 
Capt. Shank, at Niagara, across the river from the fort. 
We may be sure that Col. Bolton visited the yard from 
time to time to note the progress of the work. There 
was discussion over her lines. ** Capt. Shank was told 
that he was making her too flat -bottomed, and that she 
would upset." The builder laughed at his critics and 
stuck to his model. She was launched, named the 
Ontario, and was hastened forward to completion, for the 
King's service had urgent need of her. 

Col. Bolton had long been in bad health, wearied 
with the cares and perplexities of his position and eager 


■ i 




I i 


r > 



I ! 


; r 

i I' 


i I 




1 '^ 


98 IVi'l/i Bolto7i at Fort Niagara. 

to get away from Fort Niagara. One source of con- 
stant annoyance to his military mind was tiie traders' 
supplies, which turned the fort into a warehouse and 
laid distasteful duties upon its commandant. His letters 
contain many allusions to the " incredible plague and 
trouble caused by merchants' goods frequently sent 
without a single person to care for them." "Last 
year," so he wrote in May, '78, ** every place in this 
fort was lumbered with them, and vessels were obliged 
to navigate the lakes until Nov. 30th." The vessels 
were primarily for the King's service, but when unem- 
ployed were allowed to be used in transporting 
merchants' goods, under certain regulations. The 
next statement in the same letter gives some idea of the 
magnitude of the transactions involved in the various 
departments in this region at the period : "I have 
drawn a bill of ;^14, 760-9-5 "—nearly ;374,000 — 
"on acct. of sundries furnished Indians by Maj. 
Butler, also another on acct. of Naval Dept. at Detroit 
for ;^4,070-18-9. Between us I am heartily sick of 
bills and accounts and if the other posts are as expen- 
sive to Government as this has been I think Old 
England had done much better in letting the savages 
take possession of them than to have put herself to half 
the enormous sum she has been at in keeping them. 
Neither does the climate agree with my constitution, 
which has already suffered by being employed many 
years in the West Indies and Florida, for I have been 
extremely ill the two winters I have spent here with 
rheumatism and a disorder in my breast." 




.,t-A4^ If. 







With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 99 

One source of annoyance to Bolton was a detachment 
of Hessians which was sent to augment the garrison at 
Fort Niagara. Col. Bolton did not find them to his 
liking, nor was life at a backwoods post at all congenial 
to these mercenaries, fighting England's battles to pay 
their monarch's debts. They refused to work on the 
fortifications at Niagara ; whereupon, in November, 
1779, Col. Bolton packed them off down to Carleton 
Island. Alexander Fraser, in charge of that post, 
wrote to Gen. Haldimand that he had ordered the 
"jagers" to be replaced by a company of the 34th. 
" Capt. Count Wittgenstein," he added, "fears bad 
consequences should the Jagers be ordered to return." 
Nowhere in America does the British employment of 
Hessian troops appear to have been less satisfactory 
than on this frontier. At Carleton Island, as at Niag- 
ara, they refused to work, many of them were accused 
of selling their necessaries for rum, and the Count de 
Wittgenstein himself was reprimanded. 

There were difficulties, too, with the lake service. 
Desertion and discontent followed an attempt to shorten 
the seamen's rations. In the summer of '78, the 
sailors on board the snow Seneca, at Niagara, asked to 
be discharged, alleging that their time had expired the 
preceding November, and the yet more remarkable 
reason that they objected to the service because they 
had been brought up on shore and life on the rolling 
deep of Lake Ontario afforded "no opportunity of 
exercising our Religion, neither does confinement 
agree with our healths." Like many lake sailors at this 


I , 






lOO With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

period they were probably French Canadian Catholics, 
with loyalty none too strong to the British cause. 

Bolton stuck to his post throughout that season, the 
year of alarm that followed, and the succeeding period 
of distress. The most frequent entries in his letters 
record the arrival of war parties, and his anxiety over 
the enormous expense incurred for the Indians by Maj. 
Butler. "Scalps and prisoners are coming in every 
day, which is all the news this place afibrds," he writes 
in June, '78 : and again, the same month: ** Ninety 
savages are just arrived with thirteen scalps and two 
prisoners, and forty more with two scalps are expected. 
All of these gentry, I am informed, must be clothed.'" 
While there does not seem ever to have been an open 
break between Bolton and Butler, yet the former 
looked with dismay, if not disapproval, upon the end- 
less expenditure incurred for the Indians. In August, 
1778, he wrote: ** Maj. Butler, chief of the Indian 
Department, gives orders to the merchants to supply 
the savages with everything to answer their demands, 
of which undoubtedly he is the best judge and only 
person who can satisfy them or keep them in temper. 
He also signs a certificate that the goods and cash 
issued and paid by his order were indispensably neces- 
sary for the government of His Majesty's service. The 

> What became of all the scalps brought in to Fort Niagara during these 
years, and delivered up to the British officers, if not for pay, certainly 
for presents ? The human scalp, properly dried, is not readily perishable, 
if cared for. Very many of them — from vouthful heads or tnose white 
with age. the long tresses of women and the soft ringlets of children — 
became the property of officers at this post. Little is said on this subject 
in the correspondence ; we do not see them with flags and other trophies 
in the cathedrals and museums of England. What became of them ? 

~ ■^^ 

With Bolton at Fort Niagara. loi 

commanding ofificer of this post is thus obliged to draw- 
bills for the amount of all these accounts, of which it is 
impossible he can be a judge or know anything about. 
I only mention these things to show Yr 
Excellency the disagreeable part that falls to my lot as 
commanding officer ; besides this is such a complicated 
command that even an officer of much superior abilities 
than I am master of, would find himself sometimes not 
a little embarrassed at this Post." 

Bolton was seriously ill during the winter of '79-* 80, 
as indeed were many of his gnrrison. In April, 1780, he 
reports his wretched health to Gen. Haldimand. AH 
through the succeeding summer he stuck to his jx)st ; 
but on September 13th, worn out and discouraged, he 
asked to be allowed to retire from the command of the 
upper posts and lakes. September 30th he again wrote, 
begging for leave of absence. Some weeks later the 
desired permission was sent, and Bolton determined to 
stay no longer. Late in October the new Ontario, 
which Capt. Shank had built across the river from the 
fort, was finished and rigged : she carried sixteen guns, 
and was declared ready for service. She was ordered 
to convey a company of the 34th down to Carleton 
Island. It was a notable departure. The season was 
so late, no other opportunit)- for crossing Lake Ontario 
might be afforded until spring. Lieut. Royce, with 
thirty men of the 34th, embarked, under orders ; so 
did Lieut. Colleton of the Royal Artiller)-. Capt. An- 
drews, superintendent of naval construction, at whose 
solicitations the Ontario had beer, built, being at Fort 






.1 if 







I la 


\ "1. 

1 02 IVt^A Bolton at Fort Niagara. 

Niagara at the time, also took passage. There was the 
full complement of officers and crew. Several pas- 
sengers — licensed Indian traders and fur merchants, 
probably — crowded aboard ; and among those who 
sailed away from Fort Niagara that last October day, 
was Col. Bolton. It was the Ontario's first voyage ; 
and we may be sure that there was no lack of specula- 
tion and wise opinion in the throng of spectators who 
watched her round the bar at the mouth of the river 
and take her course down the lake. The old criticism 
about her flat bottom and lack of draught was sure to 
be recalled. But the Ontario, with her notable pas- 
senger list, had sailed, and the only port she ever 
reached was the bottom of the lake. It is supposed 
she foundered, some forty miles east of Niagara, near 
a place called Golden Hill. On the beach there, some 
days after, a few articles were found, supposed to have 
come ashore ; but no other sign, no word of the Ontario 
or of any of the thro ig that sailed in her has been had 
from that day to this. In due time news of the loss 
reached Quebec. Sincere but short were the expres- 
sions of sorrow in the correspondence that followed. 
"The i^ss of so many good officers and men," wrote 
Haldimand, ** particularly at this period, and the dis- 
appointment of forwarding provisions for the great con- 
sumption at the upper posts, will be severely felt. " ' It 

' In another letter to Lord George Germaine, dated Nov. 20, 1780, we 
have a few additional particulars. It is probably the fullest account of 
this calamity in existence. " It is with great concern," wrote Haldimand, 
" I acquaint your Lordship of a most unfortunate event which is just 
reported to me to have happened upon Lake Ontario about the ist. 
[Nov., 1780 ] A very fine snow [schooner] carrying 16 guns, which wts 
built last winter, sailed the 31st ultimo from Niagara and was seen several 

SW ' 

With Bolton at Fort Niagara. 1 03 

was the fortune of war, and already the thought turned 
to those who had depended upon a return cargo of 
provisions by the Ontario. And so passes Mason 
Bolton out of the history of Fort Niagara. 

times the same day near the north shore. The next day it blew very hard, 
and the vessel's boats, binnacle, gratings, some hats, etc., were found upon 
the opposite shore, the wind having changed suddenly, by Lt, Col. Butler 
about forty miles from Niagara, on his way from Oswego, so there cannot 
be a doubt that she is totally lost and her crew, consisting of forty seamen, 
perished, together with Lt. Col. Bolton of the King's Regiment, whom I 
had permitted to leave Niagara on account of his bad state of health, Lt. 
Colleton of the Royal Artillery, Lt. Royce and thirty men of the 34th Regi- 
ment, who were crossing the lake to reinforce Carleton Island. Capt. 
Andrews who commanded the vessel and the naval armament upon that 
lake was a most zealous, active, intelligent officer. The loss of so many 
good officers and men is much aggravated by the consequences that will 
follow this misfortune in the disappointment of conveying provisions 
across the lake for the garrison of Niagara and Detroit, which are no: 
near completed for the winter consumption, and there is not a possibility 
of affording them much assistance with the vessels that remain, it being 
dangerous to navigate the lake later than the 20th inst., particularly as the 
large vessels are almost worn out. The master builder and carpenters arc 
sent off to repair this evil." 






* 'J 

•i ■ ' 







\i 'M'; 

V i 





what Befel David Ogden. 





',: % 



- ;'i 

'■^ i. 

•I . t ; '' 


I ■ r ■ 

i Ml 

i;/i 111 


IT WAS my privilege, in the summer of 1896, to 
share in the exercises which marked the Centen- 
nial of the delivery of Fort Niagara by Great Brit- 
ain to the United States. As I stood in that old strong- 
hold on the bank above the blue lake, strolled across 
the ancient parade ground, or passed from one historic 
building to another, I found myself constantly forget- 
ting the actual day an' hour, and slipping back a cen- 
tury or two. There was a great crowd at Fort Ni- 
agara on this August day ; thousands of people — 
citizens, officials, soldiers and pleasure -seekers ; but 
with them came and went, to my ret/ospective vision, 
many more thousands yet : missionary priests, French 
adventurers, traders, soldiers of the scarlet, and 
of the buff and blue. I saw Butler's Rangers 
in their green suits ; and I saw a horde of savages, 
now begging for rations from the King's stores, now 
coming in from their forays, famished but exultant, 
displaying the scalps they had taken, or leading their 
ragged and woebegone captives. It was upon these 
captives, whose romantic misfortunes make a long 
and dramatic chapter in the history of Fort Niagara, 
that my regard was prone to center. Their stories 
have nowhere been told, so far as I am aware, as a 


io8 JVka^ Befel David Ogden. 



ll ■ 


i . 


l)art of the history of the j)lace ; many of them never 
can 1)6 told ; but of others some details may be 

'I'hronghoiit the whole period of the Revolutionary 
War, I'ort Niagara wa.s a garrisoned British post, of 
varying strength. It was the sujjply dejiot for all arms 
and provisions which were destined for the upper posts 
of Detroit and Michillimackinac ; it was the rendez- 
vous of the Senecas, who worked the (lovernment for 
all the blankets and guns, trinkets and provi^'ons which 
they could get ; it was the headtpiarters of Col. (luy 
Johnson, Indian Superintendent ; and it was the rest- 
ing-place and of operations of They-en-dan- 
e-gey-ah — '\\\ Knglish, Josei)h Brant ; of Butler and his 
rangers, and of numerous other less famous but more 
cruel Indians, British and Tory leaders. No American 
troops reached Fort Niagara to attack it. Only once 
was it even threatened. Yet throughout the whole 
P'^riod of the war parties sallied forth from Fort Niag- 
ara to plunder, capture or kill the rebel settlers wher- 
ever they could be reached 

Sixty years ago Judge Samuel De Veaux wrote of 
this phase of the history of Fort Niagara : 

This old fort is as much noted for enormity .and crime, as for 
any good ever derived from it by the nation in occupation. . . 
Dnriiig the American Revolution it was the headquarters of all 
that was barbarous, unrelenting and cruel. There, were congre- 
gated the leaders and chiefs of those bands of murderers and mis- 
creants, that carried death and destruction into the remote Ameri- 
can settlements. There, civilized Europe revelled with savage 
America ; and ladies of education and rehnement mingled in the 

t t 

What Be/el David Ogden, 1 09 


society of those whose only distinction was to wield the bloody 
tomahawk and scalpiny-knifc. There, the s(|uaws of the forest 
were raised to eminence, and tlie most unholy unions between 
them and officers of the highest rank, smiled upon and counte- 
nanced. There, in their strong hold, like a nest of vultures, 
securely, for seven years, they sallied forth and preyed upon the 
distant settlements of the Mohawks and Sus(iuehannahs. It was 
the depot of their plunder ; there they planned their forays, and 
there they returned to feast, until the hour of action came again.' 

'I'his striking passage, which the worthy author did 
not substantiate l)y a single fact, may stand as the pres- 
ent text. I have undertaken to trace some of the 
flights of the birds of |)rey from this nest, and to l>ring 
together the details relating to the cai)tives who were 
brought hither. From many sources I have traced out 
the narratives of thirty-two persons who were brought 
to Fort Niagara captive by the Indians, during the 
years 1778 to 1783. Among them is my boy hero 
Davy Ogden, whose adventures I undertake to tell 
with some minuteness. Just how many American 
prisoners were brought into Fort Niagara 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 follov/ing ; 

' "The Falls of Niagara, or Tourist's Guide,' etc., by S. Dc Veaux. 
Buffalo, 1839. 




1 \ 


I lo JV/ia^ Befel David Ogden. 

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 informa- 
tion by which I find that he killed thirteen and took seven (the 
Indians not having reckoned two of the persons whom they left 
unscalped). ... 

Again : 

I have the honor 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 150 
persons, including those last brought in. . . . ' 

Again he reports, August 30, 1781 : 

The party with Capt. Caldwell and some of the Indians with 
Capt. Lottridge are returning, having destroyed several settle- 
ments 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 prison- 
ers 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 

I I 

What Befel David Ogden. 

1 1 1 

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 Jemi- 
son, 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 utilized as 
interpreters, but remained among the Indians.' And 

' Capt. Parrish became Indian agent, but Capt. Jones held the office of 
interpreter for many years. " Their councils [with the Indians] were held 
at a council house belonging to the Senecas situated a few rods east of the 
bend in the road just this side of the red bridge across Buffalo Creek on 
the Aurora Plank Road, then little more than an Indian trail ; but much of 
their business was transacted at the store of Hart & Lay, situated on ths 
west side of Main Street, midway between Swan and Erie streets, and on 
the common opposite, then known as Ellicott Square."— MS. narrative 
cf Capt. Jones's captivity, by Orlando Allen, in possession of William L. 





1 , , 

t . 


A 'f 




' i Hi 

•i l| 

\ wl 

'\.\ \m 



n S l!v 

. , 


a' 'Jl 



I 12 

JVAal Befel David Ogden. 

I M 


l^i f ^'f; 

/ , < 

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 exi)ense. In these cases the British were 
the real benefactors of the Americans, and the kind- 
ness 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 families."' 

I have spoken of Mrs. Campbell, who was held some 
months at Kanadasaga. The letter just cited further 
illustrates the point I would make : 

A former application had been made in behalf of Col. Campbell 
to procure the exchange of his family for that of Col. Butler, and 
the officer commanding the upper posts collected Mr. Campbell's 
and the family of a Mr. Moore, and procured their release from 
the Indians upon the above mentioned condition with infinite trou- 
ble and a very heavy expense. They are now at Fort Niagara where 
the best care that circumstances will admit of, is taken of them, 
and I am to acquaint you that Mrs. Campbell & any other 
women or children that shall be specified shall be safely con- 
ducted to Fort Schuyler, or to any other place that shall be 
thought most convenient, provided Mrs. Butler & her family 
consisting r^i a like number shall in the same manner have safe 

Bryant of Buffalo. Horatio Jones was captured about 1777 near Bedford, 
Pa., being aged 14 ; was taken to a town on the Genesee River, where he 
ran the gauntlet, was adopted, and lived with the Indians until liberated 
by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784. The MS. narrative atxive quoted 
is Orlando Allen's chronicle of facts given to him by Capts. Jones and 
Parrish, and is of exceptional value. 

' Brig. Powell to Col. van Schaick, Feb. 13, 1780- Haldimand Papers, 
" Correspondence relating to exchange of prisoners,'* etc., B. 175. 

IH , i 

! 1 


What Be/el David Ogden. 1 1 3 

conduct to my advance post upon Lake Champlain in order that 
she may cross the lake before the ice breaks up. 

The ofificial correspondence carried on during the 
years 1779 to '83, between Gen. Haldimand and the 
commanding officers at Fort Niagara shows in more 
than one instance that American prisoners were a 
burden and a trouble at that post. Sometimes, as in 
the case of Mrs. Campbell, who was finally exchanged 
for Mrs, Butler and her children, they were detained 
as hostages. More often, they were received from the 
Indians in exchange for presents, the British being 
obliged to humor the Indians and thus retain their 
invaluable services. Thus, under date of Oct. 2, 
1779, we find Col. Bolton writing from Fort Niagara to 
Gen. Haldimand: "I should be glad to know what 
to do with the prisoners sent here by Capt. Lernault. 
Some of them I forwarded to Carleton Island, and 
Maj. Nairne has applied for leave to send them to 
Montreal, I have also many here belonging to the 
Indians, who have not as yet agreed to deliver them 

>» I 

> I cannot better show the real state of affairs at Fort Niagara, towards 
the close of the Revolutionary War, than by submitting the following 
''' Review of Col. Johnson's Transactions," which I copy from the Canadian 
Archives. [Series B, Vol. io6, p. 123, et seg.^ I do not Icnow that it has ever 
been printed. Obviously written at the instigation of Col. Johnson, it is 
perhaps colored to justify his administrative conduct ; but in any event it 
IS a most useful picture of conditions at the time. Except for some slight 
changes in punctuation in order to make the meaning more readily 
apparent, the statement is given verbatim : 

Montreal, 24th March, 1782. 
Before Colonel Johnson arrived at Niagara in 1779 the Six Nations lived 
in their original possession the nearest of which was about ion and the 
farthest about 300 miles from that post. Their warriors were called upon 
as the service required parties, which in 1776 amounted to about 70 men, 
and the expenses attending them and a few occasional meetines 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 








1 1 4 What Be/el David Ogden. 

s , 

i\ ■! 

a ' ! 

I could multiply at great length these citations iVom 
the official corresi)ondence, but enough has been given 
to show that the wholesale condemnation of the British, 
into whose hands American prisoners fell, is not war- 
ranted by the facts. But there is no plainer fact in it 
all than that the British organized and aided the Indian 
raids, and were, therefore, joint culprits in general. 

And this brings us to the subject of scalps. For 
many years Fort Niagara was called a scalp-market. 

every want, to every temptation and with every claim which their dis- 
tingiiished sacrifices and the tenor of Soloman [solemn] Treaties had en- 
titled 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 ti be 
from 5 to foo 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 cloatbing, arms, silver works, Wampum Kettles and Impiemen's 
of Husbandry, the collection of ages of which were distroyed in" a delib- 
erate manner and march of the rebels. Two villages only escaped zhi.t 
were out of their route. 

The Indians having always apprehended that their distinguished Loyalty 
might draw some such calamity towards them had stipulated that under 
such circumstances they effected [expected] to have their 1 sses iiade up 
as well as a liberal continuation of favors and to be supported at the cx- 
pence of Government till they could be reinstated in their former p>js- 
sessions. 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 judge- 
ment 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 to the state and regulation of Colonel Johc- 
son's offices and department at that period he found the duties performed 
by 2 or three persons the rest little acquainted with them and considered as 
l«fss 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 to keep their 
minds occupied by constant military employment, all which he laid before 
the Commander in Chief who frequently honoured his conduct with par- 
ticular approbation. 

By His Instructions he was to apply to Lieut. Colonel Bolton, moe 
especially regarding the modes of this place and the public accounts <ic 
from whom he received no further information, than that they were kept, 
ar d made up by the established house at that post, and consider of goods, 
ofklers and all contingencies and disbursements for Indians, racgiog 
r' •'•=?«, Prisoners, &c. That they were generally arranged half yearly as 
™vi. ^-^ the nature of them and of the changeable people they had to deal 
witL would permit ; that he believed many demands were therefore out- 
standing and that he was glad to have done with passing [i. e., granting of 
passes] as it was impossible for him or any person that had other duties to 

What Bejel David Ogden. 1 1 

The statement is frequent in early writers that the Brit- 
ish officers offered about eight dollars for every Ameri- 
can's scalp, and that it was this offer, more than any- 
thing else, which fired the Indians to their most horrible 
deeds. Many scalps were brought into Fort Niagara, 
but I have failed, as yet, to find any report, or figure, 
or allusion, in the British archives pointing to the pay- 
ment of anything whatever. Further search may dis- 
cover something to settle this not unimportant matter ; 

discharge to give them much attentioa. At which Colonel Johnson ex- 
pressed his concern but was told that the bouse was established in the 
business and thro' the impossibility of baring proper circulating cash in 
another channell they advanced all msoies and settled all accounts and 
that that mode had been found most eligablc. Colonel Johnson thereupon 
issued the best orders he could devise for the preventing abuses and the 
better regulation of matters relating to goods payment of expenses, and 
proceeding to the discharge of the principal objects of bis duty, he, accord- 
ingly to a plan long since proposed, formed the Indians into Companies 
and by degrees taught them to feel the cooTcnience of having officers set 
apart to each, which they were sooo oot only reconciled to but highly 
pleased with, by which means he gave some degree of method and form to 
the most Independent race of the Indians, greatly facilitated all business 
with them and by a prudent arrangetceni of his officers those who were 
before uninformed became in a little time some of the most approved and 
uscfull persons in his department, being constantly quartered at such 
places or sent on some services as tended most to their improvement and 
the public advantage, whilst by spiriting up and employing the Indians 
with constant party s along the frontiers ^om Fort Stanwix to Fort Pitt 
he so harrassed the back settlements, as nnally to drive numbers of them 
from their plantation destroying their hoases. mills, granenes, &c, fre- 
quently defeating their scouting parties killing and captivating many of 
their people amounting in the whole to near cioo and all this with few or 
no instances of savage cruelty cxcIusiTc of what they performed when 
assisted by His Majesty's Troops as will appear from bis returns. By these 
means be presented [? preserved i the spuit of the Indians and kept their 
minds so occupied as to prevent their being disgusted at the want of Mili- 
tary aid, which had been long their Topic and which could then be afforded 
according to their requisitions : neither did be admit any point of negocia- 
tion during this period of peculiar harry, for knowing the importance the 
Oneidas &c., were off [of] to the rebels and the obstruction they gave to 
all means of intelligence from that quarter, he sent a private Belt and 
message on pretence of former Friendinip for them, in consequence of 
which he was shortly joined by 430 of them of [whom] 130 were men who 
have since on all occasions peculiarly distin^oished themselves, and after 
defeating the rebel Invitation to the Indians be by the renewal of the great 
covenant chain and war Belt which be sent thro' all the nations animation 
to the most western Indians. 

Soon after with intention to reduce the vast consumption of provi- 
sions, he with much difficulty prevailed on part of the Indians to begin 
some new plantation, that they might supply themselves with grain. &c; 



' .1 . 




1 1 6 What Be/el David Ogden. 



for we may readily believe that if such payments were 
made the matter would be passed over as unobtrusively 
as possible, especially in the reports to the Ministry. 
The facts appear to be that warriors who brought scalps 
into Fort Niagara gave them to the Superintendent ot 
Indian Affairs, or his deputy, and then received presents 
from him. Probably these presents were proportioned 
to the success on the warpath. 

but this being an object of the most serious and National concern, and 
urged in the strongest terms by the commander-in-chief, Col. Johnson, 
during the winter 1780, took indefatigable pains to persuade the whole 
to remove and settle the ensuing season on advantageous terms. He had 
himself visited for that purpose but finding that their treaties with and 
expectations from Government, combined with their natural Indul- 
gence to render it a matter of infinite difficulty which would encrease by 
delay and probably become unsurmountable he procured some grain from 
Detroit and liberally rewarded the families of Influence at additional ex- 
pence to sett the example to the rest and assisted their beginning to prevent 
a disappointment by which means he has enabled before the end of May 
last to settle the whole about 3500 souls exclusive of those who had joined 
the 2 farms that had not been distroyed by the rebels and thereby with a 
little future assistance, and good management to create a saving of 
£100,000 pr annum N. York currency at the rate of provision is worth there 
to Government, together with a reduction of rum and of all Indian Ex- 
penses, as will appear from the reduced accounts since these settlements 
were made. The peculiar circumstances above mentioned and the con- 
stant disappointment of goods from the Crown at the times they were 
most wanted will easily account for the occasional expence. The house 
which conducted the Business at Niagara was perpetually thronged 
by Indians and others. Lieut. Colonel Bolton often sent verbal orders 
for articles as did some other secretaries and sometimes necessity re- 
quired it and often they were charged and others substituted of egual 
value with other irregularities, the consequence of a crew of Indians 
before unknown, of an encrease of duties, and the necessity for sending 
them to plant well satisfied. 

The number of prisoners thrown upon Colonel Johnson from time to 
time and of Indian Chiefs and their families about his quarters was attended 
with vast trouble and an Expense which it was impossible to ascertain 
with exactness and when he directed the moiety of certain articles of 
consumption to be placed to the account of the Crown, he soon found 
himself lower. The merchants have since been accused of fraud by a 
clerk who lived some time with them, the investigation of which he was 
called suddenly to attend and he now tinds that many articles undoubt- 
edly issued have been placed to his account instead of their [the] Crown, 
and many false and malicious insinuations circulated to the prejudice of his 
character and bis influence with the Indians which is rendered the more 
injurious by his abrupt departure from the shortness of the time, which 
did not permit his callmg and explaining to the chiefs the reasons for his 
leaving them as [he] undoubtedly should have done, and therefore, and 
on every public account, his presence is not only effected fcApected], but 
is become more necessary among them than ever. This brief summary is 
candidly prepared and is capable of r uflicient proof and Illustration. 


What Be/el David Ogden. 



These facts and reflections are offered to assist the 
reader's ready understanding and imagination in fol- 
lowing in detail the adventures of one out of the mary 
prisoners whose paths we have glanced at ; for of all 
these unfortunate patriots who were thus brought to 
the "vultures' nest" none has laid hold of my inter- 
est and my imagination more strongly than has David 
Ogden. He was born in a troublous time, and the 
hazards of border life were his sole heritage, save alone 
a sturdy intrepidity of character which chiefly com- 
mends him to me as the typical hero of all the heroic 
souls, men, women, and children, who came through 
great bereavements and hardships, into old Fort Niag- 
ara as prisoners of war. Davy was bom at Fishkill, 
Dutchess Co., New York, in 1764. His parents made 
one remove after another, in the restless American 
fashion, for some years taking such chances of better- 
ment as new settlements afforded ; first at Waterford, 
Saratoga Co. ; then in the wilderness on the head-waters 
of the Susquehanna near the present village of Hunts- 
ville ; then up the river to the settlement known in those 
days as Newtown Martin, now Middlefield ; and later, 
for safety, to Cherry Valley. Here David's mother and 
her four boys were at the time of the famous massacre 
of November, 1778. When the alarm was given Mrs. 
Ogden snatched a blanket, and with her little ones 
began a flight through the woods towards the Mohawk. 
With them also fled Col. Campbell, of the patriot 
militia. Coming to a deserted cabin whose owner had 
fled, they did not scruple to help themselves to a loaf 








1 1 8 What Befel David Ogden. 

of bread, which Col. Campbell cut up with his sword. 
After another flight of some hours through a storm of 
mingled snow and rain, they came to the house of one 
Lyons, a Tory, who was absent, presumably because 
busied in the black work at Cherry Valley. Mrs. 
Lyons, who seems to have shared her husband's senti- 
ments, refused the refugees anything to eat, but finally 
let the mother and children spend the night on the 
floor. Col. Campbell left the Ogdens here and pushed 
on alone towards Canajoharie ; while Mrs. Odgen and 
her hungry little ones went on by themselves through 
the snow. That day they came to a more hospitable 
house, where the keen suff"ering of that adventure 
ended ; and some days later, on the Mohawk, the fatiier 
rejoined the family, he also having escaped the massacre 
at Cherry Valley. 

This incident may be reckoned the mere prelude of 
our Davy's adventures ; for the next spring, having 
reached the mature age of fourteen, he volunteered in 
the service of his country, entered upon the regular 
life of a soldier, and began to have adventures on his 
own account. The year that followed was spent in 
arduous but not particularly romantic service. He 
was marched from one point to another on the Mohawk 
and the Hudson ; saw Andre hanged at Tappan, and 
finally was sent to the frontier again, where at Fort 
Stanwix,' in the spring of 1781, what we may regard as 
the real adventures of Davy Ogden began. 

A party of eleven wood-choppers were at work in 

' Site of Rome, N. Y. 

What Be/el David Ogden. 1 1 9 

the heavy timber about two miles from the fort, and 
every day an armed guard was sent out from the garri- 
son to protect them. On March 2d, Corporal Samuel 
Betts and six soldiers, Davy among them, were de- 
tailed on this service. I conceive of my hero at this 
time as a sturdy, well-seasoned lad, to whom wood- 
craft and pioneer soldiering had become second nature. 
I would like to see him among city boys of his own 
age to-day. Most things that they know, and think 
of, would be quite out of his range. But there is a 
common ground on which all healthy, high-minded 
boys, of whatever time or station in life, stand on a 
level. I do not know that he had ever been to school, 
or that he could read, though I think his mother must 
have looked to that. But I do know that he was well 
educated. He was innocent of the bicycle, but I'll 
warrant he could skate. I know he could swim like 
an otter — as I shall presently record — and when it 
came to running, he would have been a champion of 
the cinder-path, to-day. He knew the ways of poverty 
and of self-denial ; knew the signs of the forest, of 
wild animal and Indian ; and best of all, I am sure he 
knew just why he was carrying a heavy flint-lock in 
the ragged, hungry ranks of the American * * rebels. ' ' It 
must be admitted, I linger somewhat over my hero ; 
but I like the lad, and would have the reader come 
into sympathy with him. I can see him now as he 
followed the corporal out of the fort that March morn- 
ing. He wore the three-cornered cocked-up hat of 
the prescribed uniform, and his powder-horn was slung 

" I 

*. J' 









1 r- 


1 20 What Befel David Ogden. 

at his side. The whole guard very likely wore snow- 
shoes, for the snow lay three feet deep in the woods, 
and a thaw had weakened the crust. 

Late in the afternoon, soldiers and wood-choppers 
were startled by the yells of Indians and Tories, who 
had gained a hill between them and the fort. Brant 
had achieved another of his surprises, and there was 
no escape from his party, which seemed to fill the 
woods. His evident intent was to make captives and 
not to kill, though his men had orders to shoot or 
tomahawk any who fired in self-defense. Two of 
Davy's companions were wounded by the enemy. 
One of them, Timothy Runnels, was shot in the 
mouth, "the ball coming through his cheek ; and yet 
not a tooth was disturbed, a pretty good evidence, in 
the opinion of his comrades, that his mouth was wide 
open when the ball went in. ' ' It fared more seriously 
with the other wounded soldier. This man, whose 
name was Morfat, had his thigh broken by a bullet. 
The Indians rushed upon him as he fell at Davy's side, 
tomahawked him, scalped him, stripped him and left 
him naked upon the snow, thus visiting a special ven- 
geance upon one who was said to be a deserter from 
the British. It is further chronicled that Morfat did 
not immediately die, but lived until he was found, 
hours after, by a party from the fort, finally expiring as 
his comrades bore him through the gate of Forf: Stanwix. 

Davy Ogden had seen this dreadful thing, but with 
no sign of fear or sickness. He had already mastered 
that scorn of suffering and death which always com- 

What Be/el David Ogden. 


mended the brave to their Indian captors. He was 
ranged up with the other prisoners, and Hrant asked of 
each his name. When Davy gave his, the great chief 
exclaimed : 

** What, a son of Ogden the leaver-hunter, that old 
scouter? Ugh! I wish it were he instead of you! 
But we will take care of his boy or he may become a 
scouter too ! " 

Thus began David's captivity, as the prisoner, and 
perhaps receiving some of the special regard, of Brant 
himself. There could ha"e been little doubt in Davy's 
mind, from the moment of his capture, that he was to 
be carried to Fort Niagara ; yet the first move of the 
party was characteristic of Indian strategy ; for instead 
of taking the trail westward, they all marched off to 
the eastward, coming upon the Mouawk some miles be- 
low Fort Stanwix. They forded the river twice, the 
icy water coming above their waists. On emerging 
upon the road between Fort Stanwix and Fort Herki- 
mer, Brant halted his sixteen prisoners and caused the 
buckles to be cut from their shoes. These he placed 
in a row in the road, where the first passing American 
would be sure to see them. There was something of 
a taunt in the act, and a good deal of humor ; and we 
may be sure that Joseph Brant, who was educated 
enough, and of great nature enough, to enjoy a joke, 
had many a laugh on his way back to Niagara as he 
thought of those thirty-two buckles in a row. 

The prisoners tied up their shoes with deerskin 
strings, and trudged along through the night until the 



( %\ 

I i 

I' i 

I ( 

ii f !■ , 



What Be/el David Ogden. 

gleam of fires ahead and a chorus of yells turned their 
thoughts towards the stake and an ignominious mar- 
tyrdom. But their fate was easier to meet. In a vol- 
ley of sixteen distinct yells for the prisoners and one 
for the scalp, the party — said to number 100 Indi- 
ans and fifty Tories — entered the first camp, where 
squaws were boiling huge kettles of samp — pounded 
corn — eaten without salt. All fared equally well, and 
all slept on the ground in the snow, Davy and his fel- 
lows being guarded by British soldiers. 

The next day's march brought them to Oneida Cas- 
tle, often the headquarters of Brant in his expeditions. 
Here the Indians dug up from the snow a store of un- 
husked corn, and shelled and pounded a quantity for 
their long march. Here, too, Davy's three-cornered 
Revolutionary hat was taken from him, and in its place 
was given him a raccoon skin. All o^ the captives ex- 
cept the corporal were similarly treated and the In- 
dians showed them how to tie the head and tail to- 
gether. On some the legs stuck up and on others the 
legs hung down. I do not know how Davy wore his 
— with a touch of taste and an air of gaiety, no 
doubt ; and we may be sure it made a better head-cover- 
ing for a march of 250 miles at that season than would 
the stiff hat he had lost. Corporal Betts alone was 
permitted to keep his hat, as insignia of rank, and it is 
to be hoped he got some comfort out of it. 

It would take too long to give all the dismal details 
of Davy's dreary tramp across the State. Other 
captivities which I have spoken of had incidents of 

What Be/el David Ogden. 1 23 

mere dire misery and greater horror than befel the 
party to which Ogden belonged ; and this is one 
reason why I have chosen to dwell upon his adventures, 
because my aim is, by a personal narrative, to illustrate 
the average experience of the time. 

There were hundreds of American prisoners brought 
to Fort Niagara during the period we are studying, but 
it would be far from just to their captors, and would 
throw our historical perspective out of focus, to take 
the extreme cases as types for the whole. 

Yet, put it mildly as we can, the experience per- 
sists in being serious. At Oneida Castle Brant, evi- 
dently fearing pursuit, roused his party in the middle 
of the night, and a forced march was begun through 
the heavy timber and up and down the long hills to the 
westward. When the moon went down they halted, 
but at the first streak of daylight they pushed on, not 
waiting even to boil their samp. An occasional hand- 
ful of parched corn, pounded fine and taken with a 
swallow of water, v/as all the food any of the party had 
that dav. 

The next encampment was on the Onondaga River, 
south of the lake ; and here occurred an incident as 
characteristic of Indian character as was the row of 
shoe-buckles in the road. Some Indians found a 
small cannon, which had probably been abandoned by 
one of the detachments sent out by Sullivan on his 
retreat from the Genesee in '70. Brant, who had 
plenty of powder, ordered his American prisoners to 
load and fire this gun a number of times, the Indians 



M ,; '' 

1 24 What Be/el David Ogden, 

\ '^ 




I J 

meanwhile yelling in delight and the Tories and British 
enjoying the chagrin of the helpless Americans. Then 
the march was resumed ; over the watershed to Cayuga 
Lake, which they crossed on the ice near the outlet, a 
long train, each man far from his fellow, for the ice 
was rotten and full of air-holes ; then along the old 
trail to Seneca River, which they forded ; thence the 
route was west by north, one camp being somewhere 
between the present villages of Waterloo and Lyons. 
Brant on this expedition appears to have kept to the 
north of Kanadasaga.' A day later they came to the 
outlet of Canandaigua Lake, where the Indians, finding 
a human head which they said was the head of a 
Yankee, had an improvised game of football with it, 
with taunts and threats for the edification of their pris- 
oners. The next day they crossed the Genesee River, 
at or near the old Genesee Castle. And still, as 
throughout all this march, unsalted, often uncooked, 
samp was their only food. 

On the march Davy and each of his fellows had worn 
about their necks a rope of some fourteen or sixteen 
feet in length. In the daytime these ropes were wound 
about their necks and tied. At night they were 
unwound, each prisoner placed between two captors, and 
one end of the rope was fastened to each of the double 
guard. Under the circumstances it is no reflection up- 
on our hero's courage ♦^hat he had not made his escape. 

' Perhaps more correctly, according to eoiinent authority (Lewis H, 
Morgan), "Ga-nun-da-sa-ga." It was one of the most important of the 
Seneca towns, situated near the site of the present town of Geneva. Gen. 
Sulhvan destroyed it in September, 1779, and no attempt was ever made to 
rebuild it. 

"■-.jfcMcgh— M^ i 

What Be/el David Ogden. 1 2 5 

West of the Genesee, and beyond the country which 
had been ravaged by Sullivan, signs of Indian occupancy 
multiplied ; but as yet there was no other food than 
corn to be had for their ill-conditioned bodies. As 
they filed along the trail, through the snow and mud 
of March, they met another large party just setting out 
from Niagara on a foray for prisoners and scalps. There 
were noisy greetings and many exultant yells ; and as 
the outbound savages passed the prisoners, they snatched 
from each one's head the raccoon -skin cap ; so that for 
the rest of the journey Davy and his companions met 
the weather bare-headed — all save Corporal Betts, to 
whom again was still spared the old three-cornered hat, 
The innMent bespeaks either the lack of control or the 
neglimnt good nature of Brant, for fifteen raccoo.i- 
skins at Fort Niagara would surely have been worth at 
least fifteen quarts of rum. Corporal Betts, however, 
must have got little comfort out of his hat ; for seeing 
him look so soldierly in it, the whim seized upon 
Brant to compel the unlucky corporal to review his 
woebegone troops. 

" Drill your men," said the fun-loving chief, "and 
let us see if these Yankees can go through the tactics of 
Baron Steul «n, " 

And so poor Betts, but with a broken spirit, mustered 
his forlorr guard, dressed them in a straight line, 
and put thvm *^'j)0".gh the manual according to Steuben. 
I doubt if the r^i^lory of Western New York can show 
a stranger nilitary function than this reluctant muster 
of patriot prisoners under compulsion of a playful tiger 

\ I 



■ ll. 










1 \ 






1 26 What Be/el David Ogden. 



of an Indian, jeered at meanwhile by British soldiers 
from Fort Niagara. When these latter went too far in 
their ridicule Brant stopped them. ** The Yankees, " 
he said angrily, ** do it a damned sight better than you 

This affair took place, as nearly as I can make out, 
somewhere between Batavia and Lockport ; probably 
not far from the old Indian village of Tonawanda. 

Being now in the valley of the Tonawanda, Brant 
seems to have sent ahead a runner to announce his ap- 
proach ; for the second or third day after crossing the 
Genesee they were met by a rarty f om the fort, bring- 
ing pork and flour, whereupo . ^ was a camp and a 
feast ; with the not strange re^", that many of them 
had to return to the astringent parched corn as a 

From this point on Davy and his friends were sub- 
jected to a new experience ; for, as they passed through 
the Indian villages, the old women and children exer- 
cised their accustomed privilege of beating and abus- 
ing the prisoners. On one occasion, as Davy was 
plodding along the path, a squaw ran up to him, and, 
all unawares, hit him a terrific blow on the side of the 
head, whereupon the boy came near getting into trou- 
ble by making a vigorous effort to kick the lady. At 
another time, as David marched near Brant, he saw a 
young Indian raise a pole, intending to give the pris- 
oner a whack over the head. Davy dodged, and the 
blow fell on Brant's back. The chief, though un- 
doubtedly hurt, paid no attention to the Indian lad. 

What Be/el David Ogden, 


but advised Davy to run, and Davy, knowing perfectly 
well that to run away meant torture and death, wise- 
ly ran towards the fort, which was but a few miles 
distant. A companion named Hawkins, who had 
marched with him, ran by his side. And, as they ran, 
they came upon still another village of the Senecas, 
from which two young savages took after them. Be- 
lieving that their pursuers would tomahawk them, 
the boys let out a link or two of their speed, and 
coming to a creek where logs made a bridge, Hawkins 
hid under the bridge, while Davy ran behind a great 
buttonwood tree. The young Indians, however, had 
seen them, and on coming up, one of them promptly 
went under the bridge, and the other around the tree 
for Davy. This Indian held out his hand in friend- 
ship, and said: "Brother, stop." And the hoys, 
seeing that the Indians had no tomahawks and could 
do them no harm, were reassured, and they all went on 
together toward Fort Niagara. 

Soon they met a detail of soldiers from the fort, who 
detained them until the rest of the party came up, 
when Davy saw that some of his friends had been so 
badly wounded by the assaults of these village Indians 
that they were now being carried. As the party went 
on together, the path was continually lined with Indians, 
whose camps were on the open plains about the fort ; 
and the clubbing and beating of the prisoners became 
incessant. This was all a regular part of a triumphal 
return to Fort Niagara of a party of British and In- 
dians with American prisoners, and was the mild pre- 

,! •. 




1 28 What Be/el David Ogden. 

liminary of that dread ordeal known as running the 

When Davy, well to the front of the procession, had 
been marched some distance farther through the wood, 
he looked out upon - clearing, across which ex- 
tended a long line of fallen trees, which lay piled 
with the butts inward, so that the sharpened points 
of the forked branches all pointed outwards, making a 
chevaux-de-frise upon which one might impale himself, 
but which could scarcely be scaled. Beyond this bar- 
rier, as Davy looked, he saw, first, the wagon road 
which ran between this chevaiix-de-frise and the pali- 
sades or pickets of the fort beyond. Within the 
palisades he could see the outlines of the fortification, 
the upper part of the oM castle which still stands 
there, and other buildings, and over all the red flag of 
Great Britain. But whil.^ he ..oted these things, his 
chief regard must have fallen upon the great crowd of 
Indians who were ranged along on either side of the 
road between the outwork of fallen trees and the pali- 
sades — two close ranks of painted savages in front, 
and behind them on either side a dense mass of yell- 
ing, gesticulating bucks, squaws, old men and chil- 
dren, impatient for the passing of the prisoners. Be- 
yond, the British sentries, officers and other inmates 
of the fort, awaited the sport, like spectators at a 

Davy knew the gravity and the chances of the situa- 
tion. He knew the Indian custom, which does not 
seem to have been at all interfered with by the officers 

What Be/el David Ogdefi. 1 29 

in command at Niagara,' which allowed the spectator 
to assault or wound the prisoner who should run be- 
tween the ranks, in any way which his ingenuity could 
suggest, except with hatchets and knives ; these could 
be used only on prisoners whose faces were painted 
black, by which sign wretches doomed to death were 
known ; yet any prisoner, even the black-painted ones, 
who lived through the gauntlet and gained the gate of 
the fort, was safe from Indian judgment, and could rest 
his case upon the mercies of the British. 

I do not know whether or not Davy's heart stood 
still for a second, but I am bound to say there was not 
a drop of craven blood in his veins. He was not 
exactly in training, as we would say of a sprinter today 
— his diet, the reader will remember, had been some- 
what deficient. But if he hesitated or trembled it was 
not for long. We can see him as he stands between 
the soldiers from the fort — bareheaded, ragged, 
dirty ; a blanket pinned about his shoulders and stiii 
with the rope about his neck by which he was secured 
at night. And now, as his guards look back to see the 
others come up, Davy tightens the leather strap at his 
waist, takes a deep breath, bends low, darts forward, 
and is half way down the line before the waiting 
Indians know he is coming. 

How he does run ! And how the yells and execra- 
tions follow ! There is a flight of stones and clubs, but 

» Except perhaps in the case of Cape .\jerander Harper and his party, 
for whom the ordeal was made ligbi. most of the Indians having been 
enticed away from the vicinity of the ion : but this was apparently due to 
Brant, rather than to the Bnttso.— i^^^ Ketchum's " History of Buffalo,' 
Vol. I., pp. 374, 375. 

I v 





i iit.11 


' ^ 1 

1 30 What Be/el David Ogden. 

not one touches the boy. One huge savage steps for- 
ward, to throw the ninner backward — he clutches only 
the blanket, which is left in his hands, and Davy runs 
freer than before. The twenty rods of this race for life 
are passed, and as the boy dashes upon the bridge by 
which the road into the fort crosses the outer ditch, he 
is confronted by an evil-looking squaw, who aims a blow 
with her fist square at his face. Davy knocks up her arm 
with such force that she sprawls heavily to the ground, 
striking her head on one of the great spikes that held 
the planking. And straight on runs Davy, not down 
the road along the wall to the place set for prisoners, 
but through the inner gate, under the guard-house ; and 
so, panting and spent, out upon the old parade-ground. 

Thus came the boy-soldier of the Revolution, David 
Ogden, to Fort Niagara, 118 years ago. 

The sentries .lailed him with laughter and jeers, and 
asked him what he was doing there. "Go back," 
they said, ** under the guard -house and down the road 
outside the wall, to the bottom." 

This was where Guy Johnson's house stood, and 
there the prisoners were to report. But when Davy 
looked forth he concluded that discretion was the better 
part of valor, for the angry Indians had closed upon 
his fellows who followed, and were clubbing them, 
knocking them down and kicking them ; so that of the 
whole party taken prisoners near Fort Stanwix, Davy 
Ogden was the only one who reached Fort Niagara 
without serious harm. Turning back upon the parade 
ground he flatly refused to go out again, whereupon 

What Bejel David Ogden. 1 3 1 

the officer of the guard was called, who questioned 
him, took pity on him, and sheltered him in his own 
quarters for three days. 

Now, if this were a mere story, we would expect, 
right here, a happy turn in Davy's fortunes. As mat- 
ter of fact, the most dismal days in Davy's life were 
just to begin. He had hoped that the worst would be 
detention at the fort, and a speedy shipment down the 
lake to Montreal, for exchange. But after some days 
he was summoned to Guy Johnson's house, where were 
many Indians, and here he was handed over to a squaw 
to be her son, in place of one she had lost in the war. 
David was powerless ; and after what, many years later, 
he described as a powwow had been held over him, he 
was led away by the squaw and her husband. A Brit- 
ish soldier, named Hank Haff, added to his grief by 
telling him that he was adopted by the Indians and 
would have to live with them forever ; and, as he was 
led off across the plain, away from his friends and even 
from communication with the British, who were at 
least of his own blood, it was small consolation to 
know that his adopted father's name was Skun-nun-do, 
that the hideous old hag, his mother, was Gunna-go- 
let, that there was a daughter in the wigwam named 
Au-lee-zer-quot, or that his own name was henceforth 
to be Chee-chee-le-coo, or ** Chipping-bird " — a good 
deal, I submit, for a soldier of the Revolution to bear, 
even if he were only a boy. ' 

• I have followed the old narrative in the speiling of these Indian 
names, which, no doubt, students of Indian linguistics will discover are 
not wholly in accord with the genius of the Seneca tongue. 


^ ^ ■ 'I 






I l 

132 What Bef el David Ogden. 

David lived with this fine family for over two years, 
being virtually their slave, and always under circum- 
stances which made escape impossible. He dressed in 
Indian fashion, and learned their language, their yells 
and signal whoops. During the first months of his 
adoption, their wigwam was about four miles from the 
fort — presumably east or southeast of it ; and one of 
David's first duties was to go with Gunna-go-let out on 
to the treeless plain overlooking Lake Ontario, where 
the old squaw had found a prize in the shape of a horse 
which had died of starvation. David helped her cut 
up the carcass and * * tote ' ' it home — and he was glad 
to eat of the soup which she made of it. They were 
always hungry. Skun-nun-do being a warrior, the bur- 
den of providing for the family Tell upon Gunna go- 
let. Her principal recourse was to cut faggots in the 
woods and carry them to the fort. Many a time did 
she and Davy Ogden carry their loads of firewood 
on their backs up to the fort, glad to receive in 
exchange cast-off meat, stale bread or rum. So much 
of this work did Davy do during the two years that he 
was kept with these Indians that his back became sore, 
then calloused. 

When he had lived with Gunna-go-let three months, 
she packed up and moved her wigwam to the carrying- 
place, now Lewiston. Here there was cleared land, 
and some 200 huts or wigwams were pitched, while 
the Indians planted, hoed and gathered a crop of corn. 
Davy was kept hard at work in the field, or in carrying 
brooms, baskets and other things to the fort for sale. 

1 -I \ 

What Be/el David Ogden. 133 

IS , 

When he had been at the carrying-place about a 
year and a half, he saw a large party of captives 
brought in from the settlements. Among them was 
a young woman who had been at Fort Stanwix when 
Ogden was on duty there. As she sat in the camp, 
Davy being present, she began to observe him care- 
fully. Although our hero was dressed as an Indian — 
Indian gaiters, a short frock belted at the waist, and 
with his hair cut close to the scalp over the whole head 
except a long tuft on the crown — yet this poor girl 
saw his real condition and soon learned who he was. 
There was no chance for confidences. What little they 
said had to be spoken freely, without feeling, as if 
casually between strangers indifferent to each other. 
She told David that she was gathering cowslip greens in 
a field, when an Indian rushed upon her and carried 
her away. What she endured while being brought to 
the Niagara I leave to the imagination. Davy saw 
her carried away by her captors across the river into 
Canada; and thus vanishes Hannah Armstrong, for I 
find no mention of her except in this reminiscence of 
her drawn from Ogden' s own lips. 

About this time David was taken the fort, old 
Gunna-go-let having heard that the british would give 
her a present for the lad. Davy trudged the nine miles 
from their hut to the fort with a good heart, for to him 
the news meant a chance of exchange. At Guy John- 
son's house he and his mother sat expectant on the 
steps. Presently out came Capt. Powell, who had 
married Jane Moore — who had herself been brought 





1 34 What Be/el David Ogden. 

to the tort a captive from Cherry Valley. This fine 
couple, from whom the lad had some right to expect 
kindness, paraded up and down the "stoop" or 
verandah of the house for a while, the wife hanging on 
her captain's arm and both ignoring the boy. At 
length they paused, and Capt. Powell said : 

" You are one of the squaw boys? Do you want to 
quit the Indians?" 

** Yes," said Davy, heart in mouth. 

** What for ? " quizzed the captain. 

" To be exchanged — to get back home, to my own 

"Well," said Powell, "if you really want to get 
free from the Indians come up and enlist in Butler's 
Rangers. Then we can ransom you from this old 
scjuaw — will you do it? " 

" No, I won't ! " blazed Davy, fiercely. 

Capt. Powell turned on his heel. " (io back with 
the Indians again and be damned ! " and with that he 
vanished into the house ; and we have no means of 
knowing whether Jane, his wife, had by this time be- 
come so "Tory " that she made no protest; but it is 
pleasanter to think of her as remembering her own 
captivity, and, still loyal at heart, as interceding for 
the boy. ' But that was the end of it for this time, and 

* Ketchum gives Capt. Powell a better character than this incident 
would indicate; and says that he "visited the prisoners among the 
Senecas, at Buffalo Creek, several times during the time they remained 
there, not only to encourage them by his counsel and sympathy, but to ad- 
minister to their necessities, and to procure their release ; which was ulti- 
mately accomplished, mainly through his efforts, assisted by other officers 
at the fort, which [f/d the example and interest of Jane Moore, the Cherry 
Valley captive had influenced to cooperate in this work of mercy." [" His- 
tory of Buffalo," Vol. I., p. 376.] I have adhered to the spirit and in part, 
to the language, of Ogrien's own narrative. 

IVAal Befel David Ogden, 135 

back Davy went, with an angry S(]uaw, to continue his 
ignoble servitude until the next spring. Then word 
spread all through the region that the prisoners must be 
brought into Fort Niagara, and this time Davy was not 
disappointed, for with many others he was hurried on 
board the schooner Seneca and carried to Oswego. 
Obviously the news of the preparations for a peace had 
reached Niagara. Although the Treaty of Paris was 
not signed until September 3d of that year (1783), yet 
the preliminary articles had been agreed upon in Jan- 
uary. The order from the British Ministry to cease 
hostilities reached Sir Guy Carleton about the 1st of 
April, and a week or so would suffice for its transmission 
to Niagara. Captives who had been detained and claimed 
by the Indians continued to be brought in during that 
summer, but we hear no more of returning war parties 
arriving with new prisoners. The War of the Revolu- 
tion was over, even at remote Niagara, although for 
one pretext and another — and for some good reasons 
— the British held on to Fort Niagara and kept up its 
garrison for thirteen years more. 

With the sailing of the Seneca the connection of 
Davy Ogden with Fort Niagara ended ; but no one who 
has followed his fortunes thus far can wish to drop him, 
as it were, in the middle of Lake Ontario. That is 
where Davy came near going, for a gale came up which 
not only made him and the throng of others who were 
fastened below decks desperately sick, but came near 
wrecking the schooner. She was compelled to put in 
at Buck's Island, and after some days reached Oswego, 

' m 

I I 



I '•■ 


i, i: 


1 36 JVAat Befel David Ogden. 

then strongly garrisoned. Here Davy stayed, still a 
prisoner, but living with the British Indians, through 
the winter. In the spring, with a companion named 
Danforth, who stole a loaf of bread for their sustenance, 
he made his escape. He ran through the woods, 
twenty-four miles in four hours; swam the Oswego 
River, and on reaching the far side, and fearing pur- 
suit, did not stop to dress, but ran on naked through 
the woods until he and his companion hoped they had 
distanced their pursuers. A party had been <?ent after 
them from the fort, but on reaching the point where 
the boys had plunged into the river, gave up the chase. 
Ogden and Danforth pressed on, around Oneida I-ake 
— having an adventure with a bear by the way, and 
another with rattlesnakes — and finally, following old 
trails, reached Fort Herkimer, having finished their 
loaf of bread and run seventy miles on the last day of 
their flight. Here Davy was among friends. The offi- 
cers promptly clothed him, gave him passports, and in 
a few days he found his parents at Warrensburg, in 
Schoharie County. 

When the War of 1812 broke out, David took his gun 
again. He fought at the Battle of Queenston, where 
forty men in his own company were killed or wounded. 
Two bullets passed through his clothes, but he wa.-} un- 
harmed. We can imagine the interest with which he 
viewed the Lewiston plateau where he had lived with 
Gunna-go-let more than thirty years before. After the 
war he returned East, and in 1840 was living in the 
town of Franklin, Delaware Co., being then seventy -six 

What Be/el David Ogden. 1 3 7 

years old. The story of his adventures was gathered 
from his own lips, but I do not think it has ever been 
told before as a part of the history of the Niagara 








4 i 

A Fort Niagara Centennial. 

1 ' 

. i 


4 . 


11 s 






I. 'J 

1 '"i 

1 ^ I [Ai 


) i 









i I 

I- n 


, t; 

t r' 

< < 

|l <c 

f rk 



IViiA Especial Reference to the British Retention of that Post for 
Thirteen Years after the Treaty of i-^Sj.^ 

THE PART assigned to me in these exercises is to 
review the history of Fort Niagara ; to summon 
from the shades and rehabilitate the figures 
whose ambitions or whose patriotism are web and woof 
of the fabric which Time has woven here. It is a 
long procession, led by the disciples of St. Francis and 
Loyola — first the Cross, then the scalping-knife, the 
sword and musket. These came with adventurers of 
France, under sanction of Louis the Magnificent, who 
first builded our Fort Niagara and with varying fortunes 
kept here a feeble footing for four score years, until, 
one July day. Great Britain's wave of continental con- 
quest passed up the Niagara ; and here, as on all the 
frontier from Duquesne to Quebec, 

"The lilies withered where the Lion trod."* 
The fragile emblem of France vanished from these 
shores, and the triple cross waved over Fort Niagara 
until, 100 years ago to-day, it gave way to a fairer 

' Address delivered at Fort Niagara, N. V., at the celebration of the 
centennial of British evacuation, Au)7ust ii, 1896. Amplification on some 
points, not possible in the brief time allotted for the spoken address on that 
occasion, is here made in foot-notes. 

» See Oliver Wendell Holmes's beautiful poem, " Francis Parkman," 
read at the meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society in memory of 
the historian, who died November 8, 1893. 









! : 




'( f 


t !l 


mi i 

142 A Fort Niagara Centennial. 

flag. This is the event we celebrate, this, with the 
succeeding yeai"s, the period we review : a period em- 
bncing three great wars between three great nations : 
covering our Nation's birth, growth, assertion and 
maintenance of independence. The story of Fort 
Niagara is peculiarly the story of the fur trade and the 
strife for commercial monopoly ; and it is, too, in con- 
siderable measure, the story of our neighbor, the mag- 
nificent colony of Canada, herself worthy of full 
sisterhood among the nations. It is a story replete 
with incident of battle and siege, of Indian cruelty, 
of patriot captivity, of white man's duplicity, of fam- 
ine, disease and death, — of all the varied forms of 
misery and wretchedness of a frontier post, which we \n 
days of ease are wont to call picturesque and romantic. 
It is a story without a dull page, and it is two and a 
half centuries long. 

Obviously something must be here omitted, for your 
committee have allotted me fifteen minutes in which 
to tell it ! 

Let us note, then, in briefest way, the essential data 
of the spot where we stand. 

A French exploratory expedition headed by Robert 
Cavelier, called La Salle, attempted the first fortifica- 
tion here in 1679.' There was a temporary Indian 

» The first official step towards such fortification was taken by Froo- 
tenac On Nov. 14, 1674, he wrote to the Minister, Colbert : " Sieur Jotiei 

. . . has returned three months ago, and discovered some very tice 
Countries, and a navigation so easy through the beautiful rivers be has 
found, that a person can go from Lake Ontario and Port Frontenac ia a 
bark to the Gulf of Mexico, there being only one carrying place, half a 
league in length, where Lake Ontario communicates with Lake Ene. A 
settlement could t>e made at this point and another bark built on Lake Erie 
These are projects which it will be possible to effect when Peace will be 

A Fort Niagara Centennial. 143 

village on the west side of the river, but no settle- 
ment here, neither were there trees on this point. 
Here, under the direction of La Motte de Lussiere, 
were built two timber redoubts, joined by a palisade. 
This structure, called Fort Conty, burned the same 
year, and the site of Fort Niagara was unfortified until 
the summer of 1687, when the Marquis de Denonville, 
Governor General of Canada, after his expedition 
against the Senecas, made rendezvous on this point, 
and (metaphorically ) shaking his fist at his rival Don- 
gan, the Governor of the English Colony of New 
York, built here a fort which was called Fort Denon- 
ville. It was a timber stockade, of four bastions ; was 
built in three days, occupied for eleven months by a 
garrison which dwindled from 100 men to a dozen, and 
would no doubt entirely have succumbed to the scur\y 
and the besieging Iroquois but for the timely arrival 
of friendly Miamis. It was finally abandoned Sep- 
tember 15, 1688, the palisades being torn down, but 
the little huts which had sheltered the garrison left 
standing. How long they endured is not recorded. 
All traces of them had evidently vanished by 1721, 
when in May of that year Charlevoix rounded yonder 
point in his canoe and came up the Niagara. His 
Journal gives no account of any structure here. Four 
years more elapsed before the French ventured to take 

firmly established, and wheaerer i: »j1' please the King to prosecute these 
discoveries." [Paris Docs. I.. X. V. Colonial MSS.] Joliet, it must be 
remembered, was never on the Niagara -. whatever representations he 
made to Frontenac resardin^ ii were based on hearsay, very likely on 
reports made to him by La SaLe a: tic:r meeiinjf in i66i ; so that priority in 
promoting the Niagara route reverts after all to that gallant adventurer. 




' ii 

\ «j 

h • 


I ■' , 







144 ^ Fort Niagara Centennial. 

decided stand on this ground. In 1725 Governor De 
Vaudreuil deputed the General De Longueil to erect a 
fort here. The work was entrusted to the royal en- 
gineer Chaussegros de Lery — the elder of the two 
distinguished engineers bearing that name. He came 
to this spot, got his stone from Lewiston Heights and 
his timber from the forest west of the river, and built 
the "castle." Some of the cut stone was apparently 
brought from the vicinity of Fort Frontenac, now 
Kingston, across the lake. The oldest part of this 
familiar pile, and more or less of the superstructure, is 
therefore 171 years old.' There is, however, probably 
but little suggestion of the original building in the 
present construction, which has been several times 
altered and enlarged. But from 1725 to the present 
hour Fort Niagara has existed and, with one brief in- 
terim, has been continuously and successively garrisoned 
by the troops of France, England, and the United States. 
By 1727 De Lery had completed the fortification of 
the ** castle, " and the French held the post until 
1759, when it surrendered to the English under Sir 
William Johnson. It was in its last defence by the 
French that the famous Capt. Pouchot first established 
the fortification to the eastward, with two bastions and 
a curtain-wall, apparently on about the same lines as 
those since maintained. The story of the siege, the 
battle, and the surrender is an eventful one ; it is also 
one of the most familiar episodes in the history of the 
place, and may not be dwelt upon here. 

' In 1896. 



1 1 III I <■ «»w.iO» 


A Fort Niagara Centennial. 145 

July 25, 1759, marks the end of the French period 
in the history of Fort Niagara. The real significance 
of that period was even less in its military than in its 
commercial aspect. During the first century and more 
of our story the possession of the Niagara was coveted 
for the sake of the fur trade which it controlled. I 
cannot better tell the story of that hundred years in 
less than a hundred words, than to symbolize Fort 
Niagara as a beaver skin, held by an Indian, a French- 
man, an Englishman and a Dutchman, each of the last 
three trying to pull it away from the others (the poor 
Dutchman being early bowled over in the scuffle), and 
each European equally eager to placate the Indian with 
fine words, with prayers or with brandy, or to stick a 
knife into his white brother's back. 

This vicinity also has peculiar precedence in the 
religious records of our State. It was near here' that 
Father Melithon Watteaux, the first Catholic priest to 
minister lo whites in what is now New York State, set 
up his altar." It has been claimed, too, by eminent 
authority, that on this bank of the Niagara, was 
acquired by the Catholic Church its first title to 
property in this State' ; and here at Fort Niagara, under 

> In the palisaded cabin on the site of Lewiston. 

'Father Watteaux (also spelled "Watteau," "Vatteaux." etc.) was 
first only in the sense of being assigned to a located mission. " Father 
Gabriel [de la Ribourde] was named Superior. . . . Father Melithon 
was to remain at Niagara and make it nis mission." (Le Clerca, Shea's 
translation, Vol. I., p. 112.) "Father Melithon remained in the bouse at 
Niagara with some laborers and clerks." (/^., p. 113.) This was in the 
summer of 1679 ; but six months earlier mass had been celebrated on the 
New York side of the Niagara by Father Hennepin. 

>This sutement, which I have elsewhere accepted (.9/^ "The Cross- 
Bearers," p. 28 of this volume), is on the usually unimpeachable authority 
of Dr. John Gilmary Shea, the historian of the Catholic Church in Amer- 


\ .. 

• \\ 


146 A Fort Niagara Centennial. 


I I' 

1 1 

the French regime^ ministered Fathers Lamberville and 
Milet, Crespel and others of shining memory. But 
the capture of Fort Niagara by Sir William Johnson 
overthrew the last altar raised by the French on the 
east bank of the Niagara. 

The first period of British possession of this point 
extends from 1759 to 1796. This includes the Revo- 
lutionary period, with sixteen years before war was 
begun, and thirteen years after peace was declared. 
When yielded up by the French, most of the buildings 
were of wood. Exceptions were the castle, the old 
barracks and magazine, the two latter, probably, dating 
from 1756, when the French engineer, Capt. Pouchot, 
practically rebuilt the fort. The southwest blockhouse 
may also be of French construction. A tablet on the 
wall of yonder bake-house says it was erected in 1762. 
There were constant repairs and alterations under the 
English, and several periods of important construction. 
They rebuilt the bastions and waged constant warfare 
against the encroaching lake. In 1789 Capt. Gother 
Mann, Royal Engineer, made report on the needs of 
the place, and his recommendations were followed the 
succeeding year. In his report for 1790 he enumer- 
ates various works which have beer iccomplished on 
the fortifications, and says: "The blockhouse [has 

ica. (,See "The Catholic Church in Colonial Days," p. 322.) I find, how- 
ever, on referring to the authorities on which Dr. Shea rests his statement 
that the particular grant made on the date named — May 27, 1679 — was 
not at Niagara but at Fort Frontenac. (Hennepin, " Nouvelle D^cou- 
verte," p. 108.) At Frontenac La Salle had seigniorial rights, and could 
pass title as he wished ; but on the Niagara he had no right to confer 
title, for he held no delegated power beyond the letters patent from the 
King, which permitted him to explore and buiiJ forts, under certain 


A Fort Niagara Centennial. 147 

been] moved to the gorge of the ravelin so as to form 
a guard-house for the same, and to flank the line of 
picketts. ... A blockhouse has been built on 
the lake side." This obviously refers to the solid old 
structure still standing there. ' 

The real life of the place during the pre-Revolu- 
tionary days can only be hinted at here. It was the 
scene of Sir William Johnson's activities, the rendez- 
vous and recruiting post for Western expeditions. 
Here was held the great treaty of 1764 ; and here 
England made that alliance with the tribes which turned 
their tomahawks against the ** American rebels." It 
may not be too much to say that the greatest horrors 
of the Revolutionary War had their source in this spot. 
Without Fort Niagara there would have been no mas- 
sacre of Wyoming," no Cherry Valley and Bowman's 
Creek outrages. Here it was that the cunning of 
Montour and of Brant joined with the zeal of the But- 

' This would seem to fix the date of the northeast blockhouse at 1790 ; 
but on examination of other sources of information I discover strong evi- 
dence that the original construction was earlier. The Duke de la Roche- 
foucault Liancourt, who visited Fort Niagara in June, 1795, wrote : '* All 
the buildings, within the precincts of the fort, are of stone, and were built 
by the French." (" Travels," etc., London ed., 1793, Vol. I., p. 957.) 
This would make them antedate July, 1759, which is not true of the 
bakehouse. The Duke may therefore have erred regarding other build- 
ings, the northeast blockhouse among them ; yet had it been but four or 
live years old, he would not be likely to attribute it to the French. 
Pouchot's plan of the fort (1730) does not show it. I have seen the original 
sketch of a plan in the British Museum, dated Niagara. 1773, which shows, 
with several buildings long since destroyed, two constructions where the 
blockhouses now stand, with this note: "Two stone redoubts built in 1770 
and 1771. " An accompanying sketch of the southwest redoubt shows a 
striking similarity to the southwest blockhouse as it now stands, although 
a roadway ran through it and a gun was mounted on top. These redoubts 
may have been remodeled by Gother Mann. 

3 Although I am aware that some American writers, and probably all 
Canadian writers who touch the subject, are offering evidence that there 
was no "massacre" at Wyoming, I still tind in the details of that affair 
what I regard as abundant warrant for the designation of " massacre.'^ 





,-1 ! 


i ; 

148 A Fort Niagara Centennial. 

lers and Guy Johnson, and all were directed and 
sanctioned by the able and merciless Haldimand, then 
Governor General of Canada. When Sullivan, the 
avenger, approached in 1779, Fort Niagara trembled ; 
had he but known the weakness of the garrison then, 
one page of our history would have been altered. The 
British breathed easier when he turned back, but an- 
other avenger was in the camp ; for the 5,000 inflock- 
ing Indians created a scarcity of provisions ; and 
starvation, disease and death, as had been the case 
rrox' than once before on this point, became the real 
commanders of the garrison at Fort Niagara. 

I hurry over the Revolutionary period in order to 
dwell, briefly, on the time following the treaty of 1783. 
By that treaty Great Bxitain acknowledged the inde- 
pendence of this country. When it was signed the 
British held the posts of Point au Fer and Dutchmen's 
Point on Lake Champlain, Oswegatchie on the St. 
Lawrence, Oswego, Niagara, Detroit and Mackinac. 
The last three were important depots for the fur trade 
and were remote from the settled sections of the 
country. The British alleged that they held on to 
these posts because of the non-fulfillment of certain 
clauses in the treaty by the American Government. 
But Congress was impotent ; it could only recommend 
action on the part of the States, and the impoverished 
States were at loggerheads with each other. England 
waited to see the new Nation succumb to its own do- 
mestic difificulties. It is exceedingly interesting to 
note at this juncture the attitude of Gov. Haldimand. 

\ s 

^ A I ■ i lii i i r iii C iii 

^frar . 

A Fori Niagara Centennial. 149 

In November, 1784, more than a year after the signing 
of the treaty, he wrote to Hrig.Oen. St. Leger : 
*' Different attempts having been made by the Ameri- 
can States to get possession of the posts in the Upper 
Country, I have thought it my duty uniformly to op- 
pose the same until His Majesty's orders for that pur- 
pose shall be received, and my conduct upon that 
occasion having been approved, as you will see by en- 
closed extract of a letter from His Majesty's Minister 
of State, I have only to recommend to you a strict 
attention to the same, which will be more than ever 
necessary as uncommon returns of furs from the Upper 
Country this year have increased the anxiety of the 
Americans to become masters of it, and have prompted 
them to make sacrifices to the Indians for that pur- 
pose"; and he adds, after more in this vein, that 
should evacuation be ordered, "on no account what- 
ever are any stores or provisions to be left in the forts" 
for the use of the Americans. 

Not only did Haldimand, during the years imme- 
diately following the treaty, refuse to consider any 
overtures made by the Americans looking to a transfer 
of the posts, but he was especially solicitous in main- 
taining the garrisons, keeping them provisioned, and 
the fortifications in good repair. There were over 
2,000, troops. Loyalists and Indians, at Fort Niagara, 
October 1, 1783. A year later it was much the best- 
equipped post west of Montreal ; and ten years later it 
was not only well garrisoned and armed, mounting twelve 
24-pounders, ten 12-pounders, two howitzers and five 









1 50 A Fort Niagara Centennial, 

mortars, with large store of shell and powder, but it had 
become such an important depot of supply to the im- 
poverished Loyalists that a great scandal had arisen 
over the matter of feeding them with King's stores ; and 
the last spring of the Britishers' sojourn here was 
enlivened by the proceedings of a court of inquiry, 
with a possible court-martial in prospect, over a whole- 
sale embezzlement of the King's flour. 

Haldimand prized Niagara at its true value. In 
October, 1782, several months before peace was de- 
clared, with admirable forethought and diplomacy, he 
wrote to the Minister : "In case a peace or truce 
should take place during the winter . . great 

care should be taken that Niagara and Oswego should 
be annexed to Canada, or comprehended in the gene- 
ral words, that each of the contending parties in 
North America should retain what they possessed at 
the time. The possession of these two forts is essen- 
tially necessary to the security as well as trade of the 
country. ' ' ' He ordered the commandant at Fort Niagara 
to be very much on his guard against surprise by the wily 
Americans, and at the same time to "be very industri- 
ous in giving every satit-faction to our Indian allies."* 

' Haldimand to T. Townshend, October 25, 1782. 

* Haldimand to Lord North, June 2, 1782. In the same letter he wrcte 
" I have lately received a letter from Brie.-Gen. Maclean who commands 
at Niag^ara. . . . Affairs with the Indians are in a very critical state 
I have ordered and insisted upon Sir John Johnson's immediate departure 
for Niai^ara in hopes that his influence may be of use in preventing the 
bad consequences which may be appi lended. I have been assured by 
the officers who brought me the accounts of the cessation of arms, via 
New York, that Gen. Schuyler and the American officers made no secret 
of their hostile intentions against the Indians and such Royalists as had 
served amongst them. It is to be hoped that the American Congress will 
adopt a line of conduct more consonant to humanity as well as Policy." 


> la 

A Fori Niagaf^a Centennial, 1 5 1 

On the 2d of May, t783, an express messenger from 
Gen. Washing. jn arrived at Fort Niagara, bringing the 
terms of the treaty. The news gave great uneasiness 
to indian-Supt. Butler. ** Strict attention to the In- 
dians," he wrote next day to Capt. Mathews, "has 
hitherto kept them in good humor, but now I am fear- 
ful of a sudden and disagreeable change in their con- 
duct. The Indians, finding that their lands are ceded 
to the Americans, will greatly sour their tempers and 
make them very troublesome. " The British, with 
good reason, were constantly considering the effect of 
evacuation upon the Indians. 

The Americans made an inetfectual effort to get 
early possession of the posts. New York State made a 
proposition for garrisoning Oswego and Niagara, but 
Congress did not accede. On January 21, 1784, Gov. 
Clinton advised the New York State Senate and Assem- 
bly on the subject. The British commander [Haldi- 
mand] , he said, had treated the Provisional Articles as 
a suspension of hostilities only, "declined to with- 
draw his garrison and refused us even to visit those 
posts.'" The Legislature agreed with the Governor 

' The full story of the efforts of the United States Government to obtain 
possession of Fort Niagara and the other posts on the northern frontier 
would make a long chapter. I have barely touched a few features of it. 
One episode was the mission of the Baron Steuben to Haldimand, to claim 
the delivery of the posts. Washington selected Steuben because of his 
appreciation of that general's tact and soundness of judgment in military 
matters. The President's instructions under date of July j2, 1783, were 
characteristically precise and judicious. Steuben was to procure from 
General Haldimand, if possible, immediate cession of the posts ; failing in 
that, he was to get a pledge of an early cession; "bur if this cannot be 
done," • rote Washington, ^' you will endeavor to procure from him posi- 
tive and definite assurances, that he will as soon as possible give informa- 
tion of the time that shall be fixed on for the evacuation of these posts, and 
that the troops of his Britannic Majesty shall not be drawn therefrom until 
sufficient previous notice shall be given of that event ; that the troops of 

f \ 

1 I'fl 

152 A Fort Niagara Centennial. 


that nothing could be done until spring. ' Spring found 
them equally impotent. In March Gov. Clinton sent 
a copy of the proclamation announcing the ratification 
of the treaty to Gen. Haldimand : *' Having no doubt 
that Your Excellency will, as soon as the season admits, 
withdraw the British garrisors under your command 
from the places they now hold in the United States, 
agreeable to the 7th Article of the Treaty, it becomes a 

; >\ 

I ' ' i 

:« 1 '■ 

the United States may be ready to occupy the fortresses as soon as they 
shall be abandoned by those of his Britannic Majesty." An exchange of 
artillery and stores was also to be proposed. Having made these arrange- 
ments with Haldimand, Steuben was to go to Oswego, thence to Niagara, 
and after viewing the situation, and noting the strength and all 'lie military 
and strategic conditions, was to pass on to Detroit. Armed with ihe?c instruc- 
tions from the Commander-in-Chief, Steuben went to Canada, and on the 
8th of August met Gen. Haldimand at Sorel. For once, the man who had 
disciplined the American Armyr met his match. His report to Washington 
indicates an uncommonljr positive reception. 

"To the tirsi proposition which I had in charge to make," he wrote to 
Washington, Aug. 23, 1783 ["Correspondence of the Revolution," IV., 
41, 42], "Gen. Haldimand replied that he had not received any orders for 
making the least arrangement for the evacuation of a single post ; that he 
had only received orders to cease hostilities; those he nad strictly com- 
plied with, not only by restraining the British troops, but also the savages, 
from committing the least hostile act ; but that, until he should receive 

Fositive oraers for thai purpose, he would not evacuate an inch of ground, 
informed him that I was not instructed to insist on an immediate evacua- 
tion of the posts in question, but that I was ordered to demand a safe con- 
duct to, and a liberty of visiting the posts on our frontiers, and no at 
occupied by the British, that I might judge of the arrangements necessary 
to be made for securing the interests of the United Slates. To this he 
answered that the precaution was premature ; that the peace was not yet 
signed ; that he was only authorized to cease hostilities ; and that, in this 
point of view, he could not permit that I should visit a single post occupied 
by the British. Neither would he agree that any kind of neg[otiution 
should take place between the United States and the ladians, if in his 
power to prevent it, and that the door of communication should, on his 
part, be shut, until he received positive orders from his court to open it. 
My last proposal was that he should enter into an agreement to advise 
Congress of the evacuation of the posts, three months previous to their 
abandonment. This, for the reason before mentioned, he refused, declaring 
that until the definite treaty should be signed, he would not enter into 
any kind of agreement or negotiation whatever." 

' The inability of the New York State Government to accomplish any- 
thing in the matter at this time is illustrated by the following extract from 
Gov. Clinton's speech to the Senate and Assembly, January ai, 1784 : " Vou 
will perceive from the communication which relates to the subject that I 
have not been inattentive to the circumstances of the western posts within 
this State. They are undoubtedly of great importance for the protection 
of our trade ard '.frontier settlements, and it was with concern I learnt 

A Fort Niagara Centennial. 153 

part of my duty to make the necessary provisions for 
receiving the Post of Niagara and the other posts 
within the limits of this State, and it is for this purpose 
I have now to request that Your Excellency would 
give me every possible information of the time when 
these posts are to be delivered up." 

Lieut. -Col. Fish, who carried Gov. Clinton's letter 
to Quebec, received no satisfaction. Gen. Haldimand 
evaded anything like a direct reply, saying that he 
would obey the instructions of His Majesty's Minis- 
ters — whom he was meanwhile urging to hold on to 
the posts — but he gave the American officer the gratu- 
itous information that in his [Haldimand's] private 
opinion '* the posts should not be evacuated until such 
time as the American States should carry into execu- 
tion the articles of the treaty in favor of the Loyalists ; 
that in conformity to that article [I <]uote from Haldi- 
mand's report of the interview to Lord North], I had 
given liberty to many of the unhappy people to go 
into the States in order to solicit the recovery of their 

that the propositions made by the State for governing those posts were 
not acceded to by Congress. It affords me, however, some satisfaction 
to find that the Commander-in-Chief was in pursuit of measures for that 
purpose, but my expostulations proved fruitless. The British commander 
in that Department treating the Provisional Articles as a suspension of 
hostilities only, declined to withdraw his garrisons and lefused us even 
to visit these posts. It is necessary for me to add that it will now be im- 
practicable to take possession of them until soring, and that I have no 
reason to believe that Congress have, or are likely to make any provision 
for the expense which will necessarily occur, it therefore remains for you 
to take this interesting subject into your further consideration." 

To this the Senate made answer : " The circumstances of our western 
posts excite our anxiety. We shall make no comment on the conduct of 
the British officer in Canada as explained by your Excellency's com- 
munication. It would be in vain. Convinced that our frontier settlements, 
slowly emerging from the utter ruin with which they were so lately over- 
whelmed, and our fur trade which constitutes a valuable branch in our 
remittances, will be protected by these posts, we shall adopt the best 
measures in our power for their reUstablishment." 



I' 1 1 

1 54 A Fort Niagara Centennial. 

estates and effects, but that they were glad to return, 
without effecting anything after having been insulted 
in the grossest manner ; that although in compliance 
with His Majesty's order, and [to] shun everything 
which might tend to prevent a reconciliation between 
the two countries, I had make no public representation 
on that head. I could not be insensible to the suffer- 
ings of those who had a right to look up to me for pro- 
tection, and that such conduct towards the Loyalists 
was not a likely means to engage Great Britain to 
evacuate the posts ; for in all my transactions, ' ' he 
adds, **I never used the words either of my 'deliver- 
ing ' or their * receiving ' the posts, for reasons men- 
tioned in one of my former letters to Your Lordship. " 
And with this poor satisfaction Col. Fish was sent back 
to Gov. Clinton.' 

In June, Maj.-Gen. Knox, Secretary of War, sent 
Lieut. -Col. Hull to Quebec on the same errand. In a 
most courteous letter he asked to be notified of the 
time of evacution, and proposed, "as a matter of mu- 
tual convenience, an exchange of certain cannon and 
stores now at these posts for others to be delivered at 
West Point upon Hudson's River, New York, or some 
other convenient place," and he added that Lieut. - 
Col. Hull was fully authorized to make final arrange- 
ments, "so that there may remain no impediment to 
the miurch of the American troops destined for this ser- 

'"Lt.-Col. Fish," the Governor General's report continues, "gave me 
the strongest assurances that the proceedings against the Loyalists were 
disapproved by the leading men in the dinerent States, and gave me a 
recent instance of Gov. Clinton having [? saving] Capt. Moore [?] of the 
53d Regiment from the insolence of the mob in New York. " 



A Fort Niagara CentenniaL 155 

vice." Holdfast Haldimand sent him back with no 
satisfaction whatever, and again exulted, in his report 
to Lord Sydney, over his success in withstanding the 
Americans. ' It was with great reluctance that in the 
summer of 1784 he reduced the number of British ves- 
sels by one on each of the lakes Erie and Ontario. 
" It appears to be an object of National advantage," he 
wrote to an official of the British Treasury, " to pre- 
vent the fur trade from being diverted to the Ameri- 
can States, and no measure is so likely to have effect as 
the disallowing, as long as it shall be in our power, the 
navigation of the lakes by vessels or small crafts of any 
kind belonging to individuals ; hence I was the more 
inclined to indulge the merchants, though in opposition 
to the plan of economy which I had laid down."' 

In October, 1784, Congress ordered 700 men to be 
raised for garrisoning the posts ; but the season was 
late, the States impotent or indifferent, and nothing 
came of the order. Congress faithfully exercised all 
the power it possessed in the matter. In 1783, and 
again in 1787, it unanimously recommended to the 
States (and the British commissioner was aware, when 
the treaty was made, that Congress could do no more 
than recommend) to comply speedily and exactly with 


' " Lt.-Col. Hull in the American service, arrived here on the loth 
with a letter from Major Gen. Knox, dated New York the 13th lune. . . 
I did not think myself, from the tenor of Vr Lordship's letter of the 3th of 
April, authorized to give publicly, any reason for delaying the evacuation 
of^the Posts, tho' perhaps it miffnt have had some effect in ouickeninfj^ the 
efforts of Congress to produce the execution of the Article of the Difinitive 
Treaty in favor of the Royalists, tho' I held the same private conversation 
to Lt.-Col. Hull as I had to Lt.-Col. Fish." —Haldimand to Lord Sydney 
Quebec, July i6, 1784. 

* Haldimand to Thos. Steile, Esq., of the Treasury ; Quebec, Sept. i, 17S4. 






1 i 





156 A Fort Niagara Centennial. 

that portion of the treaty that concerned creditors and 
Royalists. The States were unable to act in concen, 
and alleged infractions of the compact by the British, 
as, indeed, there were. There was a sporadic show of 
indignation in various (juarters over the continued 
retention of the posts ; but in view of more vital 
matters, and consciousness that the British claim of 
unfulfilled conditions was not wholly unfounded, the 
agitation slumbered for long periods, and matters re- 
noained in statu quo. 

The establishment of the Federal Constitution in 
1789 gave the States a new and firmer union ; and the 
success of Wayne's expedition materially loosened the 
British hold on the Indians and the trade of the lake 
region ; so that (Jreat Britain readily agreed to the 
express stipulation in the commercial treaty of 17&4, 
that the posts should be evacuated "on or before the 
1st of June, 1796." This treaty, commonly called 
Jay's, was signed in London, November 19, 1794, bat 
not ratified until October 28, 1795. No transfer of 
troops was then reasonably to be expected during the 
winter. Indeed, it was not until April 25, 1796, that 
Lord Dorchester officially informed his council at 
Castle St. Louis that he had received a copy of the 
treaty. Even then the transfer was postponed until 
assurances could be had that English traders among the 
Indians should not be unduly dealt with.' There was 

* At tbc risk of overloading^ my pages with citations from this old corre- 
spondence. I Tcnture to give the following letter from Lord Dorchester -ji 
Lt.-GoT. Simcoe, so admirably does it illustrate the British apprefacnmoaa 
at the time. It is dated yuebec, Apr. 3, 1796 : 

"Circumstances have arisen, which will probably, for a time. deUf the 
evacuation of the L'pper Posts, among which ^ome relating to the intereso 

A Fort Niagara Centennial. 157 

much highly-interesting correspondence between Lord 
Dorchester and the commandant at Niagara on this 
point ; with James McHenry, our Secretary of War ; 
with Robert Liston, the British Minister at Philadel- 
phia ; and, of course, with the Duke of Portland and 
others of the Ministr>\ Capt. Lewis, representing the 
United States, was sent to Quebec for definite infor- 
mation of British intention. He fared better than the 
American emissaries had twelve years before. He was 
cordially received and supplied with a copy of the 
official order commanding evacuation of the posts. 
Whereupon, having received the assurance which his 
Government had so long sought, he immediately re- 
cjuested that the posts should not be evacuated until the 
troops of the United States should be at hand to pro- 

of the Indians do not appc&r ihe iea^t im^^onant. Hy the 3th article of the 
treaty entered into the >d .\ucust last, between >ir. Wayne and them, 
it is stipulated that no penon shall be allowed to reside among >^r to trade 
with these Indian tribes, unless they be furnished with a license from the 
Government of the United S^aie^ and that ever)' peirson so trading shall 
be delivered up by the Indians to an .American Superintendent, to be dealt 
with according to law. whicii is inconsistent witn the third article of the 
Treaty of Amity, Commeixe and NaTigatiun, previously concluded be- 
tween His Majesty and the L'mted States by which it is agreed that 'it 
shall at all times be free to His Maiesty's subjects and to the citizens of the 
United States and also to ibe Indians dwelling on either side of the Boun- 
dary Line, freely \o pau amJ ref^st, by land or inland navigation, into the 
respective territories and coiontries o» the two parties on th^ C'jntment of 
America (the country within the hoiitsof the Hudson Bay Co. only except- 
ed), and to navigate the lakes, nrers and waters thereof, and ireely to 
carry on trade and commerce ■aeith ea^h other.' 

" Previously therefore to the actual execution of the treaty on our part, 
it is requisite that we should be cooriaced t^^at the stipulations entered into 
by the United States will aUso be fultilJcd by them : and on a point so 
interesting to His Majesty's sab^ects and more especially to the Indians, 
it is indispensably necessary that aJl doubts and misconceptions should 
be removed. His Majesty's Minister at Philadelphia is accordingly in- 
structed to require an explanauoc on this subject. Till therefore the same 
shall be satitfactorily terminated I shall delay the surrender of the Posts. 
These matters you will be pieased to explain to the Indians, pointing out to 
them at the same time the bcneroien: care and regard always manifested 
towards them by the King thesr Father, and particularly the attention that 
has been shown to their interests oo tiic present occasion." 


\ h 


158 A Fort Niagara Centennial. 

tect the works and public buildings. "Being desir- 
ous, ' ' wrote Lord Dorchester, * * to meet the wishes of 
the President, I have qualified my orders in a manner 
that I think will answer this purpose.'" Thus it hap- 
pened that the evacuation occurred at several different 
dates. It not being thought necessary to await the 
coming of American forces at the small posts on Lake 
Champlain and at Oswegatchie, the British withdrew 
from those points without ceremony about July 1st. 
Detroit followed, July 11th ; then Oswego, July 15th. 
Most of the garrison appears to have left Fort Niagara 
early in July, but an officer's guard remained until 
August llth," when American troops arrived from 
Oswego, and the Stars and Stripes went to the mast- 

I have dwelt upon this period in the history of Fort 
Niagara at some length, partly because it is the exact 
period marked by our celebration today, partly because 
most of the data just related are gleaned from unpub- 
lished official MSS., of which but scant use appears 
to have been made by writers on the subject. 

1 Dorchester to Robert Listen (British Minister at Philadelphia), June 
6, 1796. 

'Under date of Niagara, August 6, 1706, Peter Russell wrote to the 
Duke o! Portland : " All the p>osts we held on the American side of the 
line in the vicinity of this province, are given up to the United States 
agreeable to the treaty, excepting that of Niagara, which remains occupied 
by a small detachment from the 5th Regiment, until the garrison they have 
ordered thither may arrive from Oswego. And I understand that they 
have not vet taken possession of MichilTimackinac from the want of pro- 
visions. I have directed the officers commanding his Majesty's troops in 
this Province to make me a return of the effective number that may remain 
after the departure of the 5th and 34th Regiments, and of their distribu- 
tion." On August 3oth he wrote : " The Fort of Niagara was delivered 
up to a detachment of troops belonging to the United States of America 
on the nth inst. and the guard left in it by the sth Regiment has sailed for 
Lower Canada." Mackinac, the last of the posts to be surrendered, 
did not pass into the hands of the Americans until the following October 




A Fort Niagara Centennial. 1 59 

Of Fort Niagara under the American flag I shall be 
very brief. No loyal American can take pride in tell- 
ing of its surrender to the British, December 19, 1813. 
There was neither a gallant defense nor a generous 
enemy. Cowardice on the one hand and retaliation 
on the other sum up the episode. The place was 
restored to the United States March 27, 1815, and with 
the exception of one brief interim has been maintained 
as a garrison to this day. The Morgan affair of 1826 
need only be alluded to. The last defensive work of 
consequence — the brick facing of the bastions, front- 
ing east — dates from 1861. 

In the continental view, Fort Niagara was never of 
paramount importance. Before the British comjuest, 
Niagara was the key to the inner door, but Quebec wa-s 
the master-lock. The French Niagara need never 
have been attacked ; after the fall of Quebec it would 
inevitably have become Great Britain's without a blow. 
In English hands its importance was great, its expense 
enormous. Without it, Detroit and Mackinac could 
not have existed ; yet England's struggle with the 
rebellious colonies would have been inevitable, and 
woi'M have terminated exactly as it did, had she never 
possessed a post in the lake region. And of Fort Ni- 
agara as an American }X)ssession, the American historian 
can say nothing more true than this : that it is a strik- 
ing exemplification of the fact that his beloved country 
is ill prepared upon her frontiers for anything save a 
state of international amity and undisturbed peace. 

} '■ ,1! 



V' I 

i t 

The Journals and Journeys of an 
Early Buffalo Merchant. 

( , 








1; j 


i i 

V I' 

1 i 




ON THE frosty morning of February 5, 1822, a 
strange equipage turned out of Erie Street into 
Willink Avenue, Buffalo, drove down that 
steep and ungraded highway for a short distance, then 
crossed to Onondaga Street, and turning into Crow, 
was soon lost to sight among the snowdrifts that lined 
the road running round the south shore of Lake Erie. 
At least, such I take to have been the route, through 
streets now familiar as Main, Washington and Ex- 
change, which a traveler would choose who was bound 
up the south shore of I^ke P>ie. 

The ecjuipage, as I have said, was a strange one, and 
a good many people came out to see it ; not so much 
to look at the vehicle as to bid good-bye to its solitary 
passenger. The conveyance itself was nothing more 
nor less than a good-sized crockery-crate, set upon 
runners. Thills were attached, in which was harnessed 
a well-conditioned horse. The baggage, snugly 
stowed, included a saddle and saddle-bags, and a sack 
of oats for the horse. Sitting among his effects, the 
passenger, though raised but a few inches above the 
snow, looked snug and comfortable. With a chorus 
of well-wishes following him, he left the village and 

I > 





' I 

164 An Early Buffalo Merchant, 

by niuhttall had traveled many miles to the west 
ward, taking his course on the ice that ( overcd Lake 

This was John Lay, a merchant of the early HiitTalo, 
whom even yet it is only necess;iry to introduce to the 
young people and to new-comers. I'he older genera- 
tion remembers well the enterprising and successful 
mcrt hant who shared fortunes with buffalo in her most 
romantic days, before going after him, up the ice- 
covered lake, let us make his (loser acnuaintance. 

Mr. I«iy, who was of good New-ICngland stock, 
came to bull'alo in 1810 to clerk in the general store of 
his brother-in-law, Kb Hart. Mr. Hart had built his 
store on Ntain near the corner of Krie Street, the site 
now occupied by the American i'Apress Co.'s buiUbng. 
His dwelling was on ICrie Street, ailjoining, anil 
between the house and store was an ample garden. 
The space now occuj ■ jd by St. I'aul's C'hun h and the 
Eric County Savings liank was a rough common ; 
native timber still stood thick along the east side of 
Main, above South Division Street ; the town had been 
laitl out in streets and lots for four years, and the 
poj)ulation, exceeding at that time 400, was rapidly 
increasing. There was a turnpike road to the e.ust- 
ward, with a stage route, buffalo Creek tlowed lazily 
into the lake ; no harbor had been begun ; antl on 
(juict days in summer the bees could still be heard 
hununing among the basswoods by its waters. 

This was the buffalo to which young I -ay had come. 
Looking back to those times, even more novel than 


An Early Buffalo Merchant. 165 

the < onditiori of the frontier village, was the character 
of the frontier trade carried on hy Mr. Hart. The 
trade of the vilhxgers was less important than that 
which was held with the Canadians or Knj^lish who 
were in office nnder the (lovernment. To them they 
sold India goods, silks and muslins. Side by side with the shelves were stocked with hardware, cro<k- 
ery, cottonades, jeans and flaimels, Indian supplies, 
groceries and li(|uors. 'i'he young New Englander 
soon founti that with such customers as Red Jacket and 
other re|)resentative red-men his usefulness im- 
paireil unless he could speak Indian. With < haracter- 
istic energy he set himself at the task, and in three 
months hatl mastered the Senera. New goods came 
from the l*-ast by the old Mohawk River and Lewiston 
route, were poleil up the Niagara from .S< hlosser's, 
above the falls, on flatboats, and were stored in a log at the foot of Main Street. 

\}\i to IHIO the growth of HulTalo had been exceed- 
ingly slow, even for a remote frontier i)oint. Hut 
al)out the time Mr. Kay came here new life was shown. 
Ohio and Michigan were fdling up, and the tide of 
migration strengthened. Mr. Hart's market extended 
yearly farther west and southwest, and for a time the 
firm did a profitable business. 

Then came the war, |)ari«iy'<i: ax trade, and destruc- 
tion of property. Mr. Lay wa : enrolled as a private in 
Butts's ComiMiny, for dc'cnse. The night the village 
was burned he with his brolher-in-law, Hli Hart, were 
in their store, 'i'he people were in terror, fearing 

« *|1 






I , 





1 66 An Early Bujffalo Merchant, 

1 1 

?. by the Inilians, hesitating to fly, not kiiowini; 
in wliich dirctlion safety lay. 

"John," said Mr. Hart, " there's all that lii|uor in 
the cellar — the redskins mustn't get at that." 

'I'ogether they went down and knocked in the heads 
of all the casks until, as Mr. l,ay .said afterwards, they 
stood up to their knees in li(|U()r. .\s he was < omini; 
up from the work he encountered a villainous-looking; 
Dnotulaga chief, who was knocking off the iron shut 
tcrs from the store windows. I'hey had been none too 
(juick in letting the whisky run into the grountl. Mr. 
Lay said to the Indian: 

" You no hurt friend ? " 

Just then a soUlier jimii)ed from his horse before the 
door. Mr. I.ay caught up a i)air of saddle-bags, filled 
with silver ami valuable papers, threw them across the 
horse, and cried out to his brother-in-law: 

" Here, jump on and strike out for the woods." 

Mr, Hart took this advice and started. The horse 
was shot from uniler him, but the rider fell unharmed, 
and, catching up the .saddle-bags, made his way on fool 
to the house of another brother-in-law, Mr. C.'omstock. 
Later that ilay they came back to the town, and with 
others they picked up thirty dead bodies and |)ut them 
into Rees's blacksmith shop, where the next day they 
were burned with the shoj). 

After starting his relatives towartl safety, Mr. Lay 
thought of himself. The Onondaga had di.sai)peared, 
and Mr. Lay went into the house, took a long stirtout 
that hung on the wall and ])Ut it on. As he stepped 


An Early Buffalo Merchant. 167 

out of the door he was taken prisoner, and that night, 
with many others, soKliers and civilians, was tarried 
across the river to Canada. 

And here begins an episode over which I am 
tempted to linger ; for the details of his captivity, as 
they were related to me liy his widow, the late Mrs. 
Frances I^y, are worthy of consideration. I will only 
rehearse, as brietly a.s possible, the chief events of this 
(aptivity in Canada, which, although not recorded in 
Mr. Lay's journals, resulted in one of his most arduous 
and adventurous journeys. 

The night of December ,S0, IHl.'J, was bitterly cold. 
The captured and the ( aptors made a hard march from 
Fort F>ie to Newark — or, as we know it now, 
Niagara, Ont, on I^ke Ontario. The town was full 
of Indians, and many of the Indians were full of 
whisky. Under the es( ort of a body-guard Mr. I,ay 
was n'lowed to go to the house of a Mrs. Secord, whom 
he k iC'v While there, the enemy surrounded the 
house and demanded I -ay, but Mrs. Secord hid him in 
a closet, and kept him concealed until Mr. Mart, who 
had followed with a flag of truce, had learned of his 
safety. Then came the long, hard march through 
Canadian snows to Montreal. The [)risoners were put 
on short rations, were grudgingly given water to drink, 
and were treated with such unneces.sary harshness that 
Mr. Lay boldly told the officer in charge of the e.xpedi- 
tion that on reaching Montreal he should report him to 
the Government for violating the laws of civilized war- 


1;^ .1 







1 68 An Early Buffalo Merchant. 



In March he was exchanged at Greenbush, opposite 
Albany, There he r,ot some bounty and footed it 
across the country to Oneida, where his father lived. 
As he walked through the village he saw his father's 
sleigh in front of the postoffice, where his parents had 
gone, hoping for news from him. They burned his 
war-rags, and he rested for a time at his father's home, 
sick of the horrors of war and fearful lest his constitu- 
tion had been wrecked by the hardships he had under- 
gone. It will be noted that this enforced journey from 
Buffalo through Canada to Montreal and thence south 
and west to Oneida had been made in the dead of 
winter and chiefly, if not wholly, on foot. Instead of 
killing him, as his anxious parents feared it might, the 
experience seems to have taught him the pleasures of 
pedestrian ism, for it is on foot and alone that we are to 
see him undertaking some of his most extended journeys. 

I cannot even pause to call attention to the slow 
recovery of Buffalo from her absolute prostration. The 
first house rebuilt here after the burning was that of 
Mrs. Mary Atkins, a young widow, whose husband, 
Lieut. Asael Atkins, had died of an epidemic only ten 
days before the village was destroyed. The young 
widow had fled with the rest, finding shelter at 
Williamsville, until her new house was raised on the 
foundation of the old. It stood on the corner of Church 
and Pearl streets, where the Stafford Building now is. 

The reader is perhaps wondering what all this has to 
do with John Lay. Merely this : that when, at Mr. 
Hart's solicitation, Mr. Lay once more returned to 


( ; 

An Early Buffalo Merchant. 169 

Kuffalo, he boarded across the common from the rebuilt 
store, with the Widow Atkins, and later on married her 
daughter Frances, who, many years his junior, long sur- 
vived him, and to whose vigorous memory and kind gra- 
ciousness we are indebted for these pictures of the past. 
The years that followed the War of 1812 were de- 
voted by Messrs. Hart & Lay to a new upbuilding of 
their business. Mr. Hart, who had ample capital, 
went to New York to do the buying for the firm, and 
continued to reside there, establishing as many as five 
general stores in different parts of Western New York, 
He had discerned in his young relative a rare com- 
bination of business talents, made him a partner, and 
entrusted him with the entire conduct of the business 
at Buffalo. After peace was declared the commercial 
opportunities of a well-e(iuipj)ed firm here were great. 
Each season brought in larger demands from the 
western country. Much of the money that accrued 
from the sale of lands of the Holland flowed 
in the course of trade into their hands. The pioneer 
families of towns to the west of Buffalo came hither 
to trade, and jjersonal friendshij)s were (cmented 
among residents scattered through a large section. I 
find no i)eriod of our local history so full of activities. 
From Western New York to Illinois it was a lime of 
foundation laying. I,et me ([uote a few |)aragiaphs 
from memoranda which Mrs. Lay made relating to this 
period : 

The war had brought men of strong character, a1)le to cope 
with pioneer life ; among other-;, professional men, surgeons, 




H ' 



1 70 An Early Buffalo Merchant. 

doctors and lawyers : Trowbridge, Marshall, Johnson, *»! 
others. Elliot of Erie was a young lawyer, of whom Mr. Laf kai 
often said. •• Ilis word is as good as his bond." Another bracmd 
was Hamot of Erie, who had married Mr. Hart's niece. He 
made frequent visits to his countryman, Louis Le Couteulx. 'At 
whose house, by the way, John Lay and Frances Atkms wts^ 
married. Red Jacket being among the guests. ] At Erie, tiiea a 
naval station, were the families of Dickinson, Brown, Kelso, Reed, 
Col. Christy, and many others, all numbered among Mr. Lay'i 
patrons. Albert II, Tracy came here about that time ; he bm«gi: 
a letter from his brother Phineas, who had married Mr. L»«"i 
sister. He requested Mr. Lay to do for him what he could m '.ie 
way of business. Mr. Lay gave him a room over his 4tioc«, 
and candles and wood for five years. Even in those (iari 
Mr. Tracy used to declare that he should make public life !u* 

Hart /ic I^y became consignees for the Astors in the far base- 
ness. I well remember that one vessel-load of furs from the \Vca£ 
got wet. To dry them Mr. Lay spread them on the grasa^ hfllif 
the green where the churches now are. The wet skins tainterithe 
air so strongly that Mr. Lay was threatened with indictmen: — 
but he saved the Astors a large sum of money. 

Hart & I^y acciuired tracts of land in Canada, 
Ohio and Michigan. To look after these and other 
interests Mr. l^y made several adventurous joumejrs to 
the West — such journeys as deserve to be chronicled 
with minutest details, which are not known to have 
been preserved. On one occasion, to look after 
Detroit interests, he went up the lake on the ice with 
Maj. Barton and his wife ; the jKirty slept in the wig- 
wams of Indians, and Mr. I^y has left on record his 
admiration of Mrs. Barton's ability to make even such 
rough traveling agreeable. 

\ \ 

An Early Buffalo Merchant. 171 

A still wilder journey took him to Chicago. He 
went alone, save for his Indian guides, and somewhere 
in the Western wilderness they came to him and told 
him they had lost the trail. Before it was regained 
their provisions were exhausted, and they lived tor a 
time on a few kernels of corn, a little mutton tallow, 
and a sip of whisky. Fort Dearborn — or Chicago — 
at that date had but one house, a fur-trading post. 
When Mr. Lay and his guides reached there they were 
so near star\'ation that the people dared give them 
only a teaspoonfixl of pigeon soup at a time. Nor had 
starvation been tiie only f^eril on this journey. An 
attempt to rob him, if not to murder him, lent a grim 
spice to the experience. Mr. Lay discovered that he 
was followed, and kept his big horse-pistols in readiness. 
One night, as he lay in a log-house, he suddenly felt a 
hand moving along the belt which he wore at his waist. 
Instantly he raised his pistol and fired. The robber 
dashed through the window, and he was molested no 

Such adventurous joumeyings as these formed no 
inconsiderable fiart of the work of this pushing Buffalo 
merchant during the half dozen years that followed 
the burning of the town. Business grew so that half a 
do/en clerks were employed, and there were frequently 
crowds of people waiting to be served. The store 
became a favorite rendezvous of prominent men of the 

Many a war episode was told over there. Albert 
Gallatin and Henij Clay, Jackson and the United 

; 1 





I i 



I 72 

An Early Buffalo Merchant. 

States banks — the great men and measures of the day 
— were ' "'v discussed there; and many a time did 
the group ...ten a.s Mr. lay read from AV/tj' Rej^is- 
ter, of which he wa.s a constant subscriber. There 
were sometimes lively scrimmages there, as the fol- 
lowing incident, narrated by Mrs. Lay, will illus- 
trate : 

There was a family in New York City whose son 
was about to form a misalliance. His friends put him 
under Mr. Hart's care, and he brought the youth to 
Buffalo. Here, however, an undreamed-of difficulty 
was encountered. A young Seneca scjuaw, well known 
in town as Suse, saw the youth from New York and fell 
desperately in love with him. Mr. Lay, not caring to 
take the responsibility of such a match-making, shipped 
the young man back to New York. The forest maiden 
was disconsolate ; but, unlike Viola^ she told her love, 
nor " let concealment, like the worm i' the bud, feed 
on her damask cheek." Not a bit of it. On the con- 
trary, whenever Suse saw Mr. Lay she would ask him 
where her friend was. One day she went into the 
store, and, going up to the counter behind which Mr. 
I^y was busy, drew a club from under her blanket and 
'♦let him have it" over the shoulders. The attack 
was sudden, but just as suddenly did he jump over the 
counter and tackle her. Suse was a love-lorn maid, 
but she was strong as a wildcat and as savage. Albert 
H. Tracy, who was in the store, afterwards described 
the trouble to Mrs. Lay. 

"I never saw a fight," he said, "where both par- 


An Early Buffalo Merchant, 1 7 

ties came so near being killed ; but I^y got the better 
of her, and yanked her out into the street with her 
clothes torn off" from her," 

" I should think you would have helped John," said 
the gentle lady, as Mr. Tracy told her this. 

By the close of the year 1821, although still a young 
man, the subject of this sketch had made a consider- 
able fortune. Feeling the need of rest, and anxious to 
extend his horizon beyond the frontier scenes to which 
he was accustomed, he decided to go to Europe. 
Telling Mr. Hart to get another jurtner, the business 
was temporarily left in other hands ; and on February 
r>, 1822, as narrated at the opening of this paper, Mr. 
Lay drove out of town in a crockery -crate, and took 
his course up the ice-covered lake, bound for Europe. 

Recall, if you please, something of the conditions 
of those times. \o modern journeyings that we can 
conceive of, short of actual exploration in unknown 
regions, are quite comj)arable to such an undertaking 
as Mr. Lay proposed. Partly, perha[js, because it was 
a truly extraordinary thing for a frontier merchant to 
stop work and set off" for an indefinite period of sight- 
seeing ; and partly, too, because he was a man whose 
love for the accumulation of knowledge was regulated 
by precise habits, we are now able to follow him in 
the closely-written, faded pages of half a dozen fat 
journals, written by his o-vu hand day by day during 
the two years of his wanderings. No portion of these 
journals has ever been published ; yet they are full of 
interesting {)ictures of the |jast, and show Mr. I^y to 








1 74 -^^ Early Buffalo Merchant. 







have been a close observer and a receptive student of 
nature and of men. 

The reason for his crockery-crate outfit may have 
been divined. He wanted a sleigh which he could 
leave behind without loss when the snow disappeared. 

Business took him first to Cleveland, which he 
reached in six days, driving much of the distance on the 
lake. Returning, at Erie he headed south and fol- 
lowed the old French Creek route to the Allegheny. 
Presently the snow disappeared. The crockery-crate 
sleigh was abandoned, and the journey lightly contin- 
ued in the saddle ; among the few impedimenta which 
were carried in the saddle-bags being **a fine picture 
of Niagara Falls, painted on satin, and many Indian 
curiosities to present to friends on the other side." 

Pittsburg was reached March 2d ; and, after a delay 
of four days, during which he sold his horse for $30, we 
find our traveler embarked on the new steamer Gen. 
Neville, carrying $120,000 worth of freight and fifty 

Those were the palmy days of river travel. There 
were no railroads to cut freight rates, or to divert the 
passenger traffic. The steamers were the great trans- 
porters of the middle West. The Ohio country was 
just emerging from the famous period which made the 
name "river-man" synonymous with all that was dis- 
reputable. It was still the day of poor taverns, poor 
food, much bad liquor, fighting, and every manifesta- 
tion of the early American vulgarity, ignorance and 
boastfulness which amazed every foreigner who ven- 


An Early Buffalo Merchant. 


tured to travel in that part of the United States, 
and sent him home to magnify his had imj)ressions in 
a book. Hut with all its discomforts, the great South- 
ern river route of 1.^22 proved infinitely enjoyable to 
our Buffalonian. At Louisville, where the falls inter- 
cepted travel, he recmbarked on the boat Frank 
fort for a fourteen-days' journey to New Orleans. 
Her cargo included barrels of whisky, hogsheads of 
tobacco, some flour and cotton, |)acks of furs, and two 
barrels of bear's oil — how many years, I wonder, 
since that last item has been found in a bill of lading 
on an Ohio steamer ! 

I must hurry our traveler on to New Orleans, where, 
on a Sunday, he witnessed a Congo dance, attended 
by 5,000 people, and at a theater saw "The Battle of 
Chippewa" enacted. There are antiquarians of the 
Niagara Frontier today who would start for New 
r)rleans by first train if they thought they could see 
that play. 

A])ril 27th, Mr. Lay sailed i^uva New Orleans, the 
only pa.ssenger on the ship Triton, 810 tons, cotton- 
laden, for Liverpool. It was ten days before they 
passed the bar of the Mississippi and entered the (iulf, 
and it was not until June 28th that they anchored in 
the Mersey. The chronicle of this sixty days' voyage, 
as is apt to be the with journals kept at sea, is e.x- 
ceedingly minute in detail. Day after day it is 
recorded that •' we sailed thirty miles to-day," '^sailed 
forty miles to-day," etc. There's travel for you — 
thirty miles on long tacks, in twenty-' ir hours ! The 







1 '! 




1.0 ^ 









1.25 1.4 



&' — 











WEBSTER, N.Y. 14^60 

(716) 872-4503 










^% # 





















1 76 An Early Buffalo Merchant. 

ocean greyhound was as yet unborn. The chief diver- 
sion of the passage was a gale which blew them along 
195 miles in twenty-four hours ; and an encounter 
with a whaleship that had not heard a word from the 
United States in three years. ** I tossed into their 
boat," Mr. Lay writes, "a package of newspapers. 
The captain clutched them with the avidity of a starv- 
ing man." 

Ashore in Liverpool, the first sight he saw was a 
cripple being carried through the streets — the only 
survivor from the wreck of the President, just lost on 
the Irish coast. ' 

He hastened to London just too late to witness the 
coronation of George IV. , but followed the multitude 
to Scotland, where, as he writes, " the outlay of atten- 
tions to this bad man was beyond belief. Many of 
the nobility were nearly ruined thereby." He was in 
Edinburgh on the night of August 15, 1822, when that 
city paid homage to the new King ; saw the whole 
coast of Fife illuminated ** with bonfires composed of 
thirty tons of coal and nearly 1,000 gallons of tar and 
other combustibles"; and the next day, wearing a 
badge of Edinburgh University, was thereby enabled 
to gain a good place to view the guests as they passed 
on their way to a royal levee. To the nobility our 
Buffalonian gave little heed ; but when Sir Walter 
Scott's carriage drove slowly by he gazed his fill. ** He 

' This must not be confounded with the wreck of the steamer President, 
which was never heard from after the storm of March 13, 1841. The 
President of which Mr. Lay wrote was obviously a bark, ship, or other 
sailing craft. 


An Early Buffalo Merchant. 


has gray thin hair and a thoughtful look," Mr, Lay 
wrote. "The Heart of Midlothian" had just been 
pablished, and Mr. Lay went on foot over all the 
ground mentioned in that historical romance. He 
stayed in pleasant private lodgings in Edinburgh for six 
months, making pedestrian excursions to various parts 
of Scotland. In twenty-eight days of these wanderings 
he walked 260 miles. 

Instead of following him closely in these rambles, 
my readers are asked to recall, for a moment, the time 
of this visit. Great Britain was as yet, to all intents 
and purposes, in the eighteenth century. She had few 
canals and no railroads, no applied uses of steam and 
electricity. True, Stephenson had experimented on 
the Killingworth Railway in 1814 ; but Parliament had 
passed the first railway act only a few months before 
Mr. Lay reached England, and the railway era did not 
actually set in until eight years later. There is no 
reference in the Lay journals to steam locomotives or 
railways. Liverpool, which was built up by the African 
slave trade, was still carrying it on ; the Reform Bill 
was not born in Parliament ; it was still the old regime. 

Our traveler was much struck by the general bad 
opinion which prevailed regarding America. On 
meeting him, people often could not conceal their sur- 
prise that so intelligent and well-read a man should be 
an American, and a frontier tradesman at that. They 
quizzed him about the workings of popular government. 

I told them [writes this true-hearted democrat] that as long as 
we demanded from our public men honesty and upright dealings, 

it J 




n i\t' 

t M'j 


1 1 





1 78 An Early Buffalo Merchant. 

our institutions would be safe, but when men could be bought or 
sold I feared the influence would operate ruinously, as all former 
republics had failed for lack of integrity and honesty. 

His political talks brought to him these definitions, 
which I copy from his journal : 

Tory was originally a name given to the wild Irish robbers who 
favored the massacre of the Protestants in 1041. It was after- 
ward applied to all highflyers of the Church. Whig was a name 
first given to the country field-elevation meetings, their ordinary 
drink being whig, or whey, or coagulated sour milk. Those 
against the Court interest during the reigns of Charles II. and 
James II. and for the Court in the reigns of William and George 
I. were called Whigs. A Yankee is thus defined by an English- 
man, who gives me what is most likely the correct derivation of 
the epithet : The Cherokee word eanker [?] signifies coward or 
slave. The Virginians gave the New Englanders this name for 
not assisting in a war with the Cherokees in the early settlement 
of their country, but after the affair of Bunker Hill the New Eng- 
landers gloried in the name, and in retaliation called the Virginians 
Buckskins, in allusion to their ancestors being hunters, and selling 
as well as wearing buckskins in place of cloth. 

In Edinburgh he saw and heard much of some of 
Scotia's chief literary folk. Burns had been dead 
twenty-six years, but he was still much spoken of, 
much read, and admired far more than when he lived. 
With Mr. Stenhouse, who for years was an intimate 
of Burns, Mr. Lay formed a close acquaintance: 

Mr. Stenhouse has in his possession [says the journal] the mss. 
of all of Burns's writings. I have had the pleasure of perusing 
them, which I think a great treat. In the last of Burns's letters 
which I read he speaks of his approaching dissolution with sorrow, 
of the last events in his life in the most touching and delicate 

An Early Buffalo Merchant. 1 79 

The journal relates some original Burns anecdotes, 
which Mr. Lay had from the former companions of the 
bard, but which have probably never been made pub- 
lic, possibly because — in characteristic contrast to the 
letter referred to above — they are touching but not 

Our Buffalonian encountered numerous literary lions, 
and writes entertainingly of them. He speaks often of 
Scott, who he says "is quite the theme. He is con- 
stantly writing — something from his pen is shortly 
expected. I saw him walking on the day oi the grand 
procession. He is very lame, has been lame from his 
youth, a fact I did not know before." James Hogg, 
author of the *' Winter Evening Tales," lived near 
Edinburgh. Mr. Lay described him as **a singular 
rustic sort of a genius, but withal clever — very little 
is said about him." 

I have touched upon Mr. Lay's achievements in 
pedestrianism, a mode of travel which he doubtless 
adopted partly because of the vigorous pleasure it afford- 
ed, partly because it was the only way in which to visit 
some sections of the country. A man who had walked 
from Fort Erie to Montreal, to say nothing of hun- 
dreds of miles done under pleasanter circumstances, 
would naturally take an interest in the pedestrian 
achievements of others. Whoever cares for this 
"sport" will find in the Lay journals unexpected 
revelations on the diversions and contests of three-quar- 
ters of a century ago. Have we not regarded the 
walking-match as a modern mania, certainly not ante- 






1 8o An Early Buffalo Merchant. 



f T (: 

Lrl'l . 

dating Weston's achievements? Yet listen to this page 
of the old journal, dated Edinburgh, Aug. 27, 1822 : 

I went to see a pedestrian named Russell, from the north of 
England, who had undertaken to walk 102 miles in twenty-four 
successive hours. He commenced his task yesterday at 1.15 
o'clock. The spot chosen was in the vale between the Mound 
and the North Bridge, which gave an opportunity for a great 
number of spectators to see him to advantage ; yet the numbers 
were so great and so much interested that there were persons con- 
stantly employed to clear his way. The ground he walked over 
measured one eighth of a mile. I saw him walk the last mile, 
which he did in twelve minutes. He finished his task with eleven 
minutes to spare, and was raised on the shoulders of men and 
borne away to be put into a carriage from which the horses were 
taken. The multitude then drew him through many principal 
streets of the city in triumph. The Earl of Fyfe agreed to give 
him £,Tf) if he finished his work within the given time. He 
also got donations from others. Large bets were depending, one 
of 500 guineas. He carried a small blue flag toward the last and 
was loudly cheered by the spectators at intervals. 

Nor was the "sport" confined to Scotland. Au- 
gust 4, 1823, being in London, Mr. Lay writes: 

To-day a girl of eight years of age undertook to walk thirty 
miles in eight consecutive hours. She accomplished her task in 
seven hours and forty-nine minutes without being distressed. A 
wager of 100 sovereigns was laid. This great pedestrian feat took 
place at Chelsea. 

A few weeks later he writes again : 

This is truly the age of pedestrianism. A man has just ac- 
complished 1,250 miles in twenty successive days. He is now to 
walk backward forty miles a day for three successive days. Mr. 
Irvine, the pedestrian, who attempted to walk from London to 
York and back, 394 miles, in five days and eight hours, accom- 
plished it in five days seven and c ne-half hours. 

An Early Buffalo Merchant. i8i 

With men walking backwards and eight-years-old 
girls on the track, these Britons of three-quarters of a 
century ago still deserve the palm. But Mr. Lay's 
own achievements are not to be lightly passed over. 
Before leaving London he wrote : ** The whole length 
of my perambulations in London and vicinity exceeds 
1,200 miles." 

The journals, especially during the months of his 
residence in Scotland, abound in descriptions of people 
and of customs now pleasant to recall because for the 
most part obsolete. He heard much rugged theology 
from Scotland's greatest preachers ; had an encounter 
with robbers in the dark and poorly-policed streets of 
Edinburgh ; had his pockets picked while watching the 
King ; and saw a boy hanged in public for house- 
breaking. With friends he went to a Scotch wedding, 
the description of which is so long that I can only give 
parts of it : 

About forty had assembled. The priest, a Protestant, united 
them with much ceremony, giving them a long lecture, after 
which dinner was served up and whisky toddy. At six, dancing 
commenced and was kept up with spirit until eleven, when we had 
tea, after which dancing continued until three in the morning. 
The Scotch dances differ from the American, and the dancers hold 
out longer. The girls particularly do not tire so early as ours at 
home. We retired to the house where the bride and groom were 
to be bedded. The females of the party first put the bride to bed, 
and the bridegroom was then led in by the men. After both were 
in bed liquor was served. The groom threw his left-leg hose. 
Whoever it lights upon is next to be married. The stocking 
lighted on my head, which caused a universal shout. We reached 
home at half past six in the morning, on foot. 




t : 

i \ 


'I \ 


^VV -1 

?y 1 1. 


182 y4;2 Early Buffalo Merchant. 

I have been much too long in getting Mr. Lay to 
London, to go about much with him there. And yet 
the temptation is great, for to an American of Mr. 
Lay's intelligence and inquiring mind the great city 
was beyond doubt the most diverting spot on earth. 
One of the first sights he saw — a May -day procession 
of chimney-sweeps, th-^ir clothes covered with gilt 
paper — belonged more to the seventeenth century 
than to the nineteenth. Peel and Wilberforce, 
Brougham and Lord Gower, were celebrities whom he 
lost no time in seeing. On the Thames he saw the 
grand annual rowing match for the Othello wherry 
prize, given by Edmund Kean in commemoration of 
Garrick's last public appearance on June 10, 1776. 
Mr. Lay's description of the race, and of Kean himself, 
who ** witnessed the whole in an eight-oared cutter," 
is full of color and appreciative spirit. He saw a man 
brought before the Lord Mayor who " on a wager had 
eaten two pounds of candles and drank seven glasses of 
rum," and who at another time had eaten at one meal 
"nine pounds of ox hearts and taken drink propor- 
tionately"; and he went to Bartholomew's Fair, that 
most audacious of English orgies, against which even 
the public sentiment of that loose day was beginning 
to protest. As American visitors at Quebec feel to-day 
a flush of patriotic resentment when the orderly in the 
citadel shows them the little cannon captured at Bunker 
Hill, so our loyal friend, with more interest than 
pleasure, saw in the chapel at Whitehall, '* on each side 
and over the altar eight or ten eagles, taken from the 

7 !| 

An Early Buffalo Merchant. 183 

French, and flags of different nations ; the eagle of the 
United States is among tiicn, two taken at New Orleans, 
one at Fort Niagara, one at Queenston, and three at 
Detroit "; but like the American at Quebec, who, the 
familiar story has it, on being taunted with the captured 
Bunker Hill trophy, promptly re[)lied, '*Yes, you got 
the cannon, but we kept the hill," Mr. Lay, we may 
be sure, found consolation in the thought that though 
we lost a few eagle-crested standards, we kept the Bird 
o' Freedom's nest. 

On July 5, 1823, he crossed London Bridge on foot, 
and set out on an exploration of rural England ; tour- 
ings in which I can not take space to follow him. 
When he first went abroad he had contemplated a trip 
on the continent. This, however, he found it advis- 
able to abandon, and on October 5, 1823, on boaid 
the Galatea, he was beating down the channel, bound 
for Boston. The journey homeward was full of grim 
adventure. A tempest attended them across the 
Atlantic. In one night of terror, "which I can never 
forget," he writes, **the ship went twice entirely 
around the compass, and in very short space, with con- 
tinual seas breaking over her." The sailors mutinied 
and tried to throw the first mate into the sea. Swords, 
pistols and muskets were made ready by the captain. 
Mr. Lay armed himself and helped put down the 
rebellion. When the captain was once more sure of 
his command, ''Jack, a Swede, was taken from his 
confinement, lashed up, and whij^ped with a cat-o'- 
nine-tails, then sent to duty." The dose of cat was 

% ■: H 

\'\ *y 

I :^! 








184 An Early Buffalo Merchant, 

aftenvards administered to the others. It is no wonder 
that the traveler's heart was cheered when, on Novem- 
ber 13th, the storm-tossed Galatea passed under the 
guns of Forts Warren and Independence and he stepped 
ashore at Boston. 

He did not hurry away, but explored that city and 
vicinity thoroughly, going everywhere on foot, as he 
had, for the most part, in England. He visited the 
theaters and saw the celebrities of the dav, both of 
the stage and the pulpit. At the old Boston Theater, 
Cooper was playing Marc Antony, with Mr. Finn as 
Brutus, and Mr. Barrett as Cassius. 

On November 20th he pictures a New-England 
Thanksgiving : 

This is Thanksgiving Day throughout the State of Massa- 
chusetts. It is most strictly o])servecl in this city ; no business 
whatever is transacted — all shops remained shut throughout the 
day. All the churches in the city were open, divine service per- 
formed, and everything wore the appearance of Sunday. Great 
dinners are prepared and eaten on this occasion, and in the even- 
ing the theaters and ball-rooms tremble with delight and carriages 
fill the streets. ... A drunken, riotous gang of fellows got 
under our windows yelping and making a great tumult. 

A week later, sending his baggage ahead by stage- 
coach, he passed over Cambridge Bridge, on foot for 
Buftdlo, by way of New York, Philadelphia, Washing- 
ton, Pittsburg and Erie. 

Once more I must regret that reasonable demands 
on the reader's patience will not let me dwell with much 
detail on the incidents and observations of this unusual 
journey. No man could take such a grand walk and fail 

y. .1 

An Early Buffalo Merchant. 185 

to see and learn much of interest. But here was a prac- 
tical, shrewd, observant gentleman who, just returned 
from two years in Great Britain, was studying his own 
countrymen and weighing their condition and ideas 
by most intelligent standards. The result is that the 
pages of the journals reflect with unaccustomed fidelity 
the spirit of those days, and form a series of historical 
pictures not unworthy our careful attention. Just a 
glimpse or two by the way, and I am through. 

The long-settled towns of Massachusetts and Con- 
necticut appeared to him in the main thrifty and grow- 
ing. Hartford he found a place of 7,000 inhabitants, 
"completely but irregularly built, the streets crooked 
and dirty, with sidewalks but no pavements." He 
pas.sed through Wethersfield, ** famous for its quantities 
of onions. A church was built here, and its bell pur- 
chased," he records, "with this vegetable." New 
Haven struck him as "elegant, but not very flourish- 
ing, with 300 students in Yale." Walking from 
twenty-five to thirty-five miles a day, he reached Rye, 
just over the New York State line, on the ninth day 
from Boston, and found people burning turf or peat for 
fuel, the first of this that he had noticed in the United 

At Harlem Bridge, which crosses to New York 
Island, he found some fine houses, "the summer resi- 
dences of opulent New Yorkers" ; and the next day 
"set out for New York, seven miles distant, over a 
perfectly straight and broad road, through a rough, 
rocky and unpleasing region." In New York, where 




; M 



■k 4'.'' 

Us ■] 

1 86 An Early Buffalo Merchant. 

he rested a few days, he reviewed his New England 
walk of 212 miles : 

The general aspect of the country is pleasing ; inns are provided 
with the best, the people are kind and attentive. I think I have 
never seen tables better spread. I passed through thirty-six 
towns on the journey, which are of no mean appearance. I never 
had a more pleasant or satisfactory excursion. There are a great 
number of coaches for public conveyance plying on this great 
road. The fare is .*12 for the whole distance. Formerly it was 
254 miles between Boston and New York, but the roads are now 
straightened, which has shortened the distance to 212 miles. 

He had experienced a Boston Thanksgiving. In 
New York, on Thursday, December 18th, he had another 
one. Thanksgiving then was a matter of State proc- 
lamation, as now, but the day had not been given its 
National character, and in many of the States was not 
observed at all. We have seen what it was like in 
Boston. In New York, "business appears as brisk as 
on any other laboring day." The churches, however, 
were open for service, and our traveler went to hear 
the Rev. Mr. Cummings in Vanderventer Street, and to 
contribute to a collection in behalf of the Greeks. 

Four days before Christmas he crossed to Hoboken, 
and trudged his way through New Jersey snow and 
mud to Philadelphia, which he reached on Christmas. 
At the theater that night he attended — 

a benefit for Mr. Booth of Covent Garden, London, and was filled 
with admiration for Mr. Booth, but the dancing by Mit.^ Hathwell 
was shocking in the extreme. The house was for a long time in 
great uproar, and nothing would quiet them but an assurance 
from the manager of Mr. Booth's reappearance. 


I : 



An Early Buffalo Merchant. 187 

This of course was Junius Brutus Booth. Here is Mr. 
Lay's pen-picture of Philadelphia seventy-six years ago : 

The streets of Philadelphia cross at right angles ; are perfectly 
straight, well-paved but miserably lighted. The sidewalks break 
with wooden bars on which various things are suspended, and in 
the lower streets these bars are appropriated for drying the wash- 
women's clothes. Carpets are shaken in the streets at all hours, 
and to the annoyance of the passer-by. Mr. Peale of the old 
Philadelphia Museum was lecturing three nights a week on gal- 
vanism, and entertaining the populace with a magic lantern. 

It is much the same Philadelphia yet. 

January 8th, Mr. I^y took his way south to Balti- 
more, making slow progress because of muddy road" ; 
but he had set out to walk, and so he pushed ahead 
on to Washington, although there were eight coaches 
daily for the conveyance of passeng-^rs betwee' ihe 
two cities, the fare being $4. The road for part of 
the way lay through a wilaemess. ' ' The inns generally 
were ba;. and the attention to travelers indifferent." 

In Washington, which he reached on January 14th, he 
lost no time in going to the House of Representatives, 
where he was soon greeted by Albert H. Tracy, whose 
career in Congress I assume to be familiar to the reader. 

On the day named, the House was crowded to excess with 
spectators, a great number of whom were ladies, in conse- 
quence of Mr. Clay's taking the floor. He spoke for two hours 
on the subject of internal improvements, and the next day the 
question of erecting a statue to Washington somewhere about 
the Capitol, was debated warmly. 

On his return North, in passing through Baltimore, he 
called on Henry Niles, who as editor of Niks' Weekly 




1 I: 


■sH ' 


1 88 Ah Early Buffalo Merchanf. 

! i 


i ! 

/Cfji^-tsfrr, was to thousands of Americans of that day 
what Horace (kecley became later on — an oracle; 
and on January I8th strucl. out over a line turnpike 
road for Pittsburg. 

'i'he Pittsburg pike was then the greatest highway to 
the West. The Erie Canal was nearing completion, 
and the stage-routes across New York State saw much 
trat^ic. Yet the South- Pennsylvania route led more 
directly to the Ohio region, and it had more traffic 
from the West to the East than the more northern 
highways had for years to come. In the eastern i)art 
of the State it extends through one of the most fer- 
tile and best-settled parts of the United States. Far- 
ther west it climbs a forest-clad mountain, winds 
through picturesque valleys, and from one end of the 
great State to the other is yet a pleasant path for the 
modern tourist. The great Conestoga wagons in end- 
less trains, which our pedestrian seldom lost sight of, 
have now disappeared. The wayside inns are gone or 
have lost their early character, and the locomotive has 
everywhere set a new pace for progress. 

When Mr. I^y entered the Blue Ridge section, be- 
yond Chambersburg, he found Dutch almost the only 
language spoken. The season was at first mild, and as 
he tramped along the Juniata, it seemed to him like 
May. "Land," he notes, '*is to be had at from $1 
to $3 per acre." It took him seventeen days to walk 
to Pittsburg. Of the journey as a whole he says : 

At Chambersburg the great stage route from Philadelphia 
unites with the Baltimore road. Taverns on these roads are fre- 

i ■ .t 

An Early Buffalo Merchant. 189 

quent and nearly in sij^ht of each other. The gates for the col- 
lection of toils (lilfer in <lihtance — some five, others ten, and others 
twenty-live miles asunder. Notwithstandinj^ the travel is great 
the stock yields no profit, hut, on the contrary, it is a sinking con- 
ccrn on some i>arts, and several of the companies arc in debt for 
opening the road. About ifSlOO per mile are annually expended in 
rejiairs. It cost a great sum to open the road, particularly that 
portion leading over the mountains and across the valleys. 

Taverns ;ire very cheap in their charges ; meals are a fourth of 
a dollar, beds 6^ cents, lirpiors remarkably cheap. Their t.ibles 
arc loaded with food in variety, well prejiared and cleanly served 
up with the kindest attention and smiling cheerfulness. The 
women are foremost in kind abilities. Beer is made at ChamVjers- 
burg of an excellent quality and at other jjlaces. A goo<l deal 
of this beverage is used and becoming (piite common ; it is found 
at most of the good taverns. Whisky is universally drank and it 
is most prevalent. I'laccs for divine service are rarely to be met 
with immediately on the road. The inhabitants, however, are 
provided with them not far distant in the back settlements, for 
almost the whole distance. The weather has been so cold that 
for the two last days before reaching I'ittsburg I could not keep 
myself comfortable in walking ; indeed, I thought several times I 
might perish. 

In Pittsburg he lodged at the old Spread Eagle 

Tavern, and afterwards at Conrad Upperman's inn on 

Front Street at ^2 a week. He found the city dull 

and depressed : 

The streets are almost deserted, a groat number of the houses 
not tenanted, shops shut, merchants and mechanics failed ; the 
rivers are both banked by ice, and many other things wearing the 
aspect of decayed trade and stagnation of commerce. Money I 
find purchases things very low. Flour from this city is sent over 
the mountains to Philadelphia for %\ per barrel, which will little 
more than half pay the wagoner's expenses for the 280 miles. 
Superfine flour was §4.12'^ in Philadelphia, and coal three cents 


\ 1 


'5 1 S 



r' 1 



/. 3 I It * ' 





■ fl 











^Hi JVI 




E ^Biv l7- 


a ^bI t .li 




! 1 

190 y4« Early Buffalo Merchant. 

per bushel. Coal for cooking is getting in use in this city — prob- 
ably two-thirds the cooking is with coal. 

He had had no trouble up to this point in sending 
his baggage ahead. It was some days before the stage 
left for Erie. All was at length dispatched, however, 
and on February 14th he crossed over to Allegheny — 
I think there was no bridge there then — and marched 
along, day after day, through Harmony, Mercer and 
Meadville, his progress much impeded by heavy snow ; 
at Waterford he met his old friend G. A. Elliott, and 
went to a country dance ; and, finally, on February 20th 
found himself at Mr. Hamot's dinner-table in Erie, 
surrounded by old friends. They held him for two 
days ; then, in spite of heavy snow, he set out on foot 
for Buffalo. Even the faded pages of the old journal 
which hold the record of these last few days bespeak 
the eager nervousness which one long absent feels as 
his wanderings bring him near home. With undaunted 
spirit, our walker pushed on eastward to the house of 
Col. N. Bird, two miles beyond Westfield ; and the 
next day, with Col. Bird, drove through a violent snow- 
storm to Mayville to visit Mr. William Peacock — the 
first ride he had taken since landing in Boston in 
November of the previous year. But he was known 
throughout the neighborhood, and his friends seem to 
have taken possession of him. From Mr. Bird's he 
went in a stage-sleigh to Fredonia to visit the Burtons. 
Snow two feet deep detained him in Hanover town, 
where friends showed him * * some tea-seed bought of a 
New-England peddler, who left written directions for 

! )' 

;■ iV 


An Early Buffalo Merchant. 191 

its cultivation." ''It's all an imposition," is Mr. 
Lay's comment — but what a horde of smooth-tongued 
tricksters New England has to answer for ! 

The stage made its way through the drifts with diffi- 
culty to the Cattaraugus, where Mr. Lay left it, and 
stoutly set out on foot once more. For the closing 
stages of this great journey let me quote direct from 
the journal : 

I proceeded over banks of drifted snow until I reached James 
Marks's, who served breakfast. The stage wagon came up again, 
when we went on through the Four-mile woods, stopping to see 
friends and spending the night with Russell Goodrich. On Feb- 
ruary 29th [two years and twenty-four days from the date of set- 
ting out] I drove into Buffalo on Goodrich's sleigh and went 
straight to Rathbun's, where I met a great number of friends, 
and was invited to take a ride in Rathbun's fine sleigh with four 
beautiful greys. We drove down the Niagara as far as Mrs. 
Seely's and upset once. 

What happier climax could there have been for this 
happy home-coming ! 

I ft 



* t y 

I Hi 



Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 









m : 

> fir. ) . 




, # 




li I 

■,1 > 


[(11 !/ - 


ROBERT MARSH claimed American citizenship, 
but the eventful year of 1837 found him on the 
Canadian side of the Niagara River. His 
brother was a baker at Chippewa, and Robert drove a 
cart, laden with the bakery products, back and forth 
between the neighboring villages. From St. Catha- 
rines to Fort Erie he dispensed bread and crackers and 
the other perhaps not wholly harmless ammunition that 
was moulded in that Chippewa bakery ; and he natur- 
ally absorbed the ideas and the sentiments of the men 
he met. The Niagara district was at fever heat. 
Mackenzie had sown his Patriot literature broad- 
cast, and what with real and imaginary wrongs the 
majority of the community sentiment seemed ripe for 

It is easy enough now, as one reads the story of that 
uprising, to see that the rebels never had a ghost of a 
chance. The grip of the Government never was m 
real danger of being thrown off in the upper province ; 
but a very little rebellion looks great in the eyes of 
the rebel who hazards his neck thereby ; and it is no 
wonder that Robert Marsh came to the conclusion that 
the colonial government of Canada was about to be 







196 Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 

overthrown, or that he decided to cast in his lot with 
those who should win glory in the cause of freedom. 
As an American citizen he had a right to do this. 
History was full of high precedents. Did not Byron 
espouse the cause of the Greeks ? Did not Lafayette 
make his name immortal in the ranks of American 
rebels? One part of America had lately thrown off 
the hated yoke of Great Britain ; why should not 
another part? So our cracker peddler reasoned; and 
reasoning thus, began the train of adventures for the 
narration of which I draw in brief upon his own ob- 
scure narrative. It is a story that leads us over some 
strange old trails, and its value lies chiefly in the fact 
that it illustrates, by means of a personal experience, a 
well-defined period in the history of the Niagara 
region. Robert Marsh is hardly an ideal hero, but 
he is a fair type of a class who contrived greatly to 
delude themselves, and to pay roundly for their 
experience. He thought as many others thought ; 
what he advent ired was also adventured by many 
other men of spirit ; and what he endured before he 
got through with it was the unhappy lot of many of 
his fellows. 

It was a time of great discontent and discourage- 
ment on both sides of the border. Throughout the 
Holland Purchase the difficulties over land titles had 
reached a climax, and the sheriff and his deputies en- 
forced the law at the risk of their lives. This year of 
1837 also brought the financial panic which is still a 
high-water mark of hard times in our history. Buffalo 



Misadventu res of Robe^'t Ma rsh . 197 

[ a 

suffered keenly, and it is not strange that such of her 
young men as had a drop of adventurous blood in their 
veins were ready to turn " Patriot" for the time being ; 
though as a matter of sober fact it must be recorded 
that the enthusiasm of the majority did not blind their 
judgment to the hopelessness of the rebellion. On 
the Canadian side the case was different. Unlike their 
American brethren, many of the residents there felt 
that they had not a representative government. It is 
not necessary now, nor is it essential to our story, to 
rehearse the grievances which the Canadian Patriots 
undertook to correct by taking up arms against the 
established authority. They are presented with great 
elaboration in many histories ; they are detailed with 
curious ardor in the Declaration of Rights, a docu- 
ment ostentatiously patterned after the Declaration of 
Independence. William Lyon Mackenzie was a long 
way from being a Thomas Jefferson ; yet he and his 
associates undertook a reform v/hich — taking it at 
their valuation — was as truly in behalf of liberty as 
was the work of the Signers of the Declaration of In- 
dependence. They made the same appeal to justice ; 
argued from the same point of view for man's inalien- 
able rights; they were temperate, too, in their de- 
mands, and sought liberty without bloodshed. Yet 
while the American patriots were enabled to persist 
and win their cause, though after two bitter and ex- 
hausting wars, their Canadian imitators were ignomin- 
iously obliterated in a few weeks. In the one case the 
cause of Liberty won her brightest star. In the other, 

1 fl, iV 

■> i 

' 1« 


k! ■! 

i ■•Ih 

198 Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 

there is complete defeat, without a monument save the 
derision of posterity. 

It was in November of this year of rebellion 1837 
that Marsh, being at Chippewa, decided to cast in his 
lot with the Patriots. *'I began to think, " he says, 
** that I must soon become an actor on one side or the 
other. " He saw the Government troops patrolling 
every inch of the Canadian bank of the Niagara, and 
concentrating in the vicinity of Chippewa. " Boats of 
every description were brought from different parts ; at 
the same time they were mustering all their cannon 
and mortars intending to drive them [the Patriots] off ; 
one would think by their talk, that they would not 
only kill them all, but with their cannon mow down 
all the trees, and what the balls failed in hitting the 
trees would fall upon, and thus demolish the whole 
Patriot army. ' ' Our hero's observations have this pecu- 
liar value : they are on the common level. He heard 
the boasts and braggadocio of the common soldier ; 
the diplomatic or guarded speech of officers and offi- 
cials he did not record. He heard all about the plot 
to seize the Caroline, and could not believe it at first. 
But, he says, ** when I beheld the men get in the boats 
and shove off and the beacon lights kindled on the 
shore, that they might the more safely find the way 
back, my eyes were on the stretch, towards where the 
ill-fated boat lay. " When he saw the party return 
and heard them boast of what they had done, he 
thought it high time for him to leave the place. 
"Judge my feelings," he says, **on beholding this 

! S, 

Mis.idvefitures of Robert Marsh. 199 

1 *• 1 

within two short 
ng at the rate of 

boat on fire, i)erhaps some on board 
miles of the Falls of Niagara, 
twelve miles an hour.'" 

The Caroline was burned on the 29th of December. 
On the next day our hero and a friend set out to join 
the Patriots. Let me (^uote in condensed fashion from 
his narrative, which is a tolerably graphic contribution 
to the history of this famous episode : 

** We succeeded in reaching the river six miles above 
Chippewa about 11 o'clock in the evening, after a 
tedious and dangerous journey through an extensive 
swamp. There is a small settlement in a part of this 
swamp which has been called Sodom. There were 
many Indians prowling about. We managed to evade 
them but with much difificulty. There were sentinels 
every few rods along the line." A friendly woman at a 
farmhouse let them take a boat. They offered her 
$5 for its use, but she declined; '*she said she would 
not take anything ... as she knew our situation 
and felt anxious to do all in her power to help us across 
the river ; she also told us that her husband had taken 
Mackenzie across a few nights previous. ' Leave the 
boat in the mouth of the creek,' said she, pointing 

1 In one Canadian work, John Charles Dent's " Story of the Upper Cana- 
dian Rebellion," statements are printed to show that the Caroline did not 
go over the falls, but that her hull sank in shallow water not far below the 
Schlosser landing. There is however a mass of evidence to other effect. 
It is striking that so sensational an episode, happening within the memory 
of many men yet living, should be thus befogged. The contemporary 
accounts which were published in American newspapers were wildly 
exaggerated, one report making the loss of life exceed ninety. (There 
was but one man killed.) Mackenzie himself is said to have spread these 
extravagant reports. He had a gift for the sort of journalism which in 
this later day is called " yellow," a chief iniquity of which is its wanton 
perversion of contemporary record, and the ultimate confusion of history. 

< li 


■ I ! '<■ 




200 Misadventures of Robert Ma'^sh. 

across the river towards Grand Island, ... * there 
is a man there that will fetch it back, you have only 
to fasten it, say nothing and go your way.' We were 
convinced that we were not the only ones a.ssisted by 
this patriotic lady." 

Marsh and his companion, whose surname was 
Thomas, launched the boat with much difficulty, and 
with muffled oars they rowed across to Grand Island. 
♦' It was about 1 o'clock in the morning and we had to 
go eight or nine miles through the woods and no road. 
There had been a light fall of snow, and in places 
[was] ice that would bear a man, but oftener would 
not ; once or twice in crossing streams the ice gave 
way and we found ourselves nearly to the middle in 
water." Our patriot's path, the reader will note, was 
hard from the outset, but he kept on, expecting to be 
with his friends again in a few days, and little dream- 
ing of what lay ahead of him. " We at near daylight 
succeeded in reaching White Haven, a small village, 
where we were hailed by one of our militia sentinels : 
* Who comes there ? ' * Friends. ' ' Advance and give 
the countersign.' Of course we advanced, but we 
could not give the countersign; a guard was immedi- 
ately dispatched with us to headquarters, where we 
underwent a strict examination." 

He was sent across to Tonawanda, where he took 
the cars for Schlosser. There the blood-stains on the 
dock where Durfee had been killed sealed his resolu- 
tion ; he crossed to Navy Island and presented himself 
at the headquarters of William Lyon Mackenzie, the 

i; ft 



I , 



\ •- , 







Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 201 

peppery little Scotchman who was the prime organi/er 
of the Provisional Government, and of General Van 
Rensselaer, commander-in-chief of the Patriot Army. 
"The General produced the list and asked mc the 
length of time I wished to enlist. I was so confident 
of success that I unhesitatingly replied, ' Seven years 
or during the war.' The General remarked, ' I wish 
I had 2,000 such men, we have about 1,000 already,' 
and I think this Caroline affair will soon swell our force 
to 2,000, and then I shall make an attack at some 
point where they least expect, . . . and as you are 
well acquainted there I want you to be by my side.' " 
Here was preferment indeed, for Marsh believed that 
Van Rensselaer was brave and able ; history has a 
different verdic , but we must a.ssume that our hero 
entered upon the campaign with high hopes and who 
knows what visions of trlorv. 

Now, at the risk of tiresomeness, I venture to dwell 
a little longer on this occupancy of Navy Island ; I 
promise to get over ground faster fartlier along in the 
story. It is assumed that the reader knows the princi- 
pal facts of this familiar episode ; but in Marsh's jour- 
nal I find graphic details of the affair not elsewhere 
given, to my knowledge. Let me quote from his 
obscure record : 

After my informing the General of their preparations and inten- 
tion of attacking the Island, breastworks were hastily thrown up, 

* By the end of Decemb«r. iijr- about ''oo men had resorted to Navy 
Island in the guise of " Patriots.'" .•Mthough this number was later 
somewhat increased, the entire "army" at that point probably never 
numbered 1,000. 






m ■ 

202 Misadventtires of Robert Marsh. 

and all necessary arrangements made to give them a warm recep- 
tion. There were twenty-tlve cannon, mostly well mounted, 
which could easily be concentrated at any point required ; and 
manned by men that knew how to handle them. Besides other 
preparations, tops of trees and underbrush were thrown over the 
bank at different places to prevent them landing. I know there 
were various opinions respecting the strength of the Island, but 
from close observation, during these days of my enlistment, it is 
my candid opinion that if they had attacked the Island, as was 
expected, they would mostly or all have found a watery grave. 
The tories were fearful of this, for when the attempt was made 
men could not be found to hazard their lives in so rash an 
attempt. . . . 

It was hoped and much regretted by all on the Island that the 
attempt was not made ; for if they had done so it would have 
thinned their ranks and made it the more easy for us to have en- 
tered Canada at that place. They finally concluded to bring all 
their artillery to bear upon us, and thus exterminate all within 
their reach. They were accordingly arranged in martial pomp, 
opposite die Island, the distance of about three-quarters of a mile. 
Now the work of destruction commences ; the balls and bombs 
fly in all directions. The tops of the trees appear to be a great 
eye-sore to them. I suppose they thought by commencing an 
attack upon them, their falling would aid materially in the de- 
struction of lives below. 

Robert, the reader will have observed, had a fine 
gift of sarcasm. The thundering of artillery was 
heard, by times, he says, for twenty and thirty miles 
around, for a week, ** [the enemy] being obliged to 
cease firing at times for her cannons to cool. They 
v/ere very lavish with Her Gracious Majesty's powder 
and balls. ' ' He continues : 

1 recollect a man standing behind the breastwork where were 
four of us sitting as the balls were whistling through the trees. 











ged to 

Misadve7itures of Robert Marsh. 203 

♦•Well," says he, "if this is the way to kill the timber on this 
island, it certainly is a very expensive way as well as somewhat 
comical ; I should think it would be cheaper to come over with 
axes, and if they are not iii too big a hurry, girdle the trees and 
they will die the sooner." I remarked: "They did not know 
how to use an axe, but understood girdling in a different way." 
An old gentleman from Canada taking the hint quickly responded, 
"Yes. Canada can testify to the fact of their having other ways 
of girdling besides with the axe, and unless there is a speedy stop 
put to it, there will not be a green tree left," There was another 
gentleman about to say something of their manner of swindling 
in other parts of the world, he had just commenced about Ireland 
when I felt a sudden jar at my back, and the other three that sct 
near me did the same ; we rose up and discovered that a cannon 
ball had found its way through our breastwork, but was kind 
enough to stop after just stirring the dirt at our backs. I had 
only moved about an inch of dirt when I picked up a six -pound 

As it happened, our gun was a six-pounder. We concluded, 
as that was the only ball that had as yet been willing to pay us a 
visit, we would send it back as quick as it come. We immediately 
put it into our gun and wheeled around the corner of the breast- 
work. "Hold," said I, "there is Queen Ann's Pocket Piece, as 
it is called, it will soon be opposiie, and then we'll show them 
what we can do." It was not mounted, but swung under the ex 
[axle] of a cart, such as are used for drawing saw-logs, with very 
large wheels. I had seen it previous to my leaving Chippewa. 
I think there was six horses attached to the cart, for it was very 
heavy, it being a twenty-four-pcninder. I suppose it was their 
intention to split the Island in two with it, hoping by so doing it 
might loosen at the roots and move off with the current and go 
over the falls, and thus accomplish their great work of destruction 
at once. As they were opposite, the words "ready, fire," were 
given ; we had the satisfaction of seeing the horses leave the 
battleground with all possible speed. The gun was forsaken in 
no time, and in less than five minutes there was scarcely a man to 






: *1 


n .' it\r 


■/ i 

204 Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 

be seen. The ball had gone about three feet further to the left 
than had been intended ; it was intended to lop the wheels, but it 
severed the tongue from the ex and the horses took the liberty to 
move off as fast as possible. 

We were about to give them another shot, when the officer ot 
the day came up and told us the orders from headquarters were 
not to fire unless it was absolutely necessary, that we must be 
saving of our ammunition. I told him that it was their own ball 
that we had just sent back. When he saw the execution it had 
done he smiled and weni on, remarking, "They begin to fire a 
little lower." "Yes," said I, "and as that was the first, we 
thought we would send it back and let them know we did not 
want it, that we had balls of our own." 

This incident was the beginning of more active opera- 
tions. For the next nine days and nights there was a 
great deal of firing, with one killed and three wounded. 
The Patriot army held on to its absurd stronghold for 
four weeks, causing, as Marsh quaintly puts it, "much 
noise and confusion on both sides ' ' ; and he at least 
was keenly disappointed when it was evacuated, Jan. 
12, 1838. The handful of Patriots scattered and 
Chippewa composed herself to the repose which, but 
for one ripple of disturbance in 1866, continues to the 
present day. 

Up to the end of this abortive campaign Robert 
Marsh's chief misadventure had been to cut himself off, 
practically, from a safe return to the community where 
his best interests lay. But he had a stout heart if a 
perverse head. "I was born of Patriot parentage, " 
he boasted ; * ' I am not a Patriot today and tomorrow 
the reverse"; and being fairly identified with the 
rebels, he determined to woo the fortunes of war wher- 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh, 205 




if a 

^e " 




ever opportunity offered. His ardor must have been 
considerable, for he made his way in the dead of win- 
ter from Buffalo to Detroit ; just how I do not know ; 
but he speaks of arriving at Sandusky "after a tedious 
walk of five days. " Here he joined a party for an 
attack on Maiden, but the Patriots were themselves 
attacked by some 300 Canadian troops who came across 
the lake in sleighs ; there was a lively fight on the ice, 
with some loss of life, when each party was glad to 
retire. Next he tried it with a band of rebels on 
Fighting Island, below Detroit; treachery and "the 
power of British gold " seem to have kept Canada from 
falling into their hands ; and presently, ** being sick of 
island fighting," as he puts it, he made his way to 
Detroit, where, all through that troubled summer of 
*38, he appears to have been one of the most active 
and ardent of the plotters. Certain it is that he was 
promptly to the front for the battle of Windsor, and 
was with the invaders on Dec. 4, 1838, when a band 
of 164 misguided men crossed the Detroit River to take 
Canada. He was ** Lieutenant " Marsh on this expedi- 
tion, but it was the emptiest of honors. At four in the 
morning they attacked the barracks on the river banks 
above Windsor, and, as often happens with the most 
fatuous enterprises, met at the outset with success. 
They burned the barracks and took thirty-eight prison- 
ers (whom they could not hold), looking meanwhile 
across the river for help which never came. "We 
were about planting our standard," wrote Marsh after- 
ward ; ' ' the flag was a splendid one, with two stars for 


t Vl* 






206 Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 

Upper and Lower Canada. We had just succeeded in 
getting a long spar and was in the act of raising it, as 
the cry was heard, — * There comes the Red -coats ! 
There are the dragoons ! ' " Our Patriot, it will be ob- 
served, made no nice distinctions between British and 
Canadian troops ; that distinction will not fail to be 
made for him, in a province which has always claimed 
the honor — to which it is fully entitled — of putting 
down this troublesome uprising without having to call 
for help upon the British regulars. But the invaders 
did not raise nice points then. They hastily formed 
and withstood the attack for a little ; but it was a hope- 
less stand, for numbers and discipline were all on the 
other side. According to Marsh, the regulars num- 
bered 600. There was sharp firing, eleven Patriots and 
forty -four Canadians were killed ; and seeing this, and 
learning, later than his friends across the river, that 
discretion is the better part of valor, he did the only 
thing that remained to do — he took to the woods. 

The woods were full just then of discreet Patriots, 
and several of them held a breathless council of war. 
Here is Marsh's account of it : 

It was finally concluded for every man to do the best he could 
for himself. We accordingly separated and I found myself pur- 
sued by a man hollowing at the top of his voice, "Stop there, 
stop, you damned rebel, or I'll shoot you ! stop, stop ! " I was 
near a fence at that time crossing a field. I proceeded to the 
fence, dropped on one knee, put my rifle through the fence, took 
deliberate aim. He had a gun and was gaining on me. I had a 
cannister of powder, pouch of balls, two pistols and an overcoat 
on, which prevented me from attempting to run. I saw all hopes 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 207 

f pur- 
I was 
to the 
i, took 
had a 

of escape was useless : I discharged my rifle, but cannot say 
whether it hit the mark or not, for I did not look, but immediately 
rose and walked off. At any rate I heard no more "Stop there, 
you damned rebel." 

Marsh's narrative is too diffuse, not to mention 
other faults, for me to follow it verbatim et (Jl-^ literatim. 
I give the events of the next few days as simply as pos- 
sible. After he fired his gun through the fence at the 
red -coat who followed no more — his last shot, be it 
remarked, for the relief of Canada — he found that he 
was very tired. It was late in the day of the battle and 
he had eaten nothing for nearly forty-eight hours. 
Pushing on through the woods he came to a barn, but 
had scarcely entered when it was surrounded by ten or 
twelve "dragoons," as he calls them. He scrambled 
up a ladder to the hay-mow, dug a hole in the hay, 
crawled in and smoothed it over himself, and, he says, 
"had just got a pistol in each hand as the door flew 
open ; in they rushed, crying, ' Come out, you damned 
rebel, we'll shoot you, we'll not take you before the 
Colonel to be shot, come out, come out, we'll hang 
you.' Said another, ' We'll quarter you and feed you 
to the hogs as we've just served one ! ' They thrust 
their swords into the hay, and threatened to burn the 
barn ; but as it belonged to one of their sort, they 
thought better of it and went off. They soon came 
back, and saying they would place a sentry, disappeared 
again." Marsh tore up certain papers which he feared 
would be troublesome if found on him and then slept. 
It was dark when he awoke. He crept out of the barn 







2o8 Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 

% !'f 7, 

' \ 

J '*/il? 1 

and wandered through the woods until daylight, nar- 
rowly escaping some Indians. He applied at the 
house of a French settler for something to eat ; frankly 
admitting, what it obviously was folly to deny, that 
he was a fugitive. Three "large bony Frenchmen" 
came to the door, made him their prisoner and marched 
him off through the woods to Sandwich, where he was 
stripped of his valuables and locked up with several 
others, his captors cheerfully assuring them that they 
would have a fine shooting-match tomorrow. Marsh 
stoutly maintained that, as he owed the Queen no 
allegiance, he was not a rebel ; but his protests did him 
no good. He was not shot on the morrow, although 
others of the captives were summarily executed, without 
a pretext of trial or even a chance to say their prayers. 
And now begins an imprisonment of ten months full 
of such distress and atrocity that I should not please, 
however much I might edify, by its recital. We read 
today of the horrors of Spanish and Turkish massacres 
or of Siberian prisons, and every page of history has 
its record of inhumanity — its Black Hole, its Dart- 
moor, its Andersonville. In this dishonor roll of 
official outrages surely may be included the backwoods 
prisons of Upper Canada in 1838 and '39. Our mis- 
adventurer was shifted from one to another. At Fort 
Maiden, on the shore of Lake Erie, he was kept for 
seven weeks in a small room with twenty-eight other 
men. It was the dead of winter, but they had no 
warmth save from their emaciated and vermin-infested 
bodies. They were ironed two and two, day and 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 209 

night. They were so crowded that there was not floor- 
room for all to sleep at once. According to Marsh, 
who afterwards wrote a minute record of this imprison- 
ment, their feeding and care would have been fatal to 
a herd of hogs. The acme of the miseries of the prison 
at Fort Maiden I cannot even hint at with propriety. 
When transferred from Sandwich to Maiden, and later 
from Maiden to London, Marsh, like many of his fel- 
low sufferers, had his feet frozen ; and when his limbs 
swelled so that life itself was threatened, it was not the 
surgeon but a clumsy blacksmith who cut off the irons 
and supplied new ones. 

In London the treatment of Maiden was repeated. 
Here the trials began. The gallows was erected close 
to the jail wall ; day by day the doomed ones walked 
out of a door in the second story to the death platform ; 
and day by day Marsh and the other wretches in the 
cells heard the drop as it swung, in falling, against the 
jail wall. Marsh lived in hourly expectation of the 
summons, but before his turn came there was a stay in 
the work which had been going on under the warrants 
signed by Sir George Arthur — as great a tyrant, prob- 
ably, as ever held power on the American continent. 
A far more philosophic writer than Robert Marsh has 
called him the Robespierre of Canada. Whatever 
may be held as to the illegality of the trials which sent 
some twenty-five men to the gallows at this time, cer- 
tain it is that the hangings stopped before our hero's 
neck was stretched. Fate still had her quiver full of 
evil days for him ; and fortune, like a gleam of sun 



\\ ' 



• '' 

'ij, i 

II 4 

2IO Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 

between clouds, moved him on to the prison at Toronto, 
where his mother came to see him. 

It was in the early spring of 1839 that he was trans- 
ferred to Toronto. In June following, with a boat- 
load of companions, he was shipped down to Fort 
Henry at Kingston. Here, for three months, he was 
deluded with the constant expectation of release ; but 
he must have had some foreshadowings of his fate 
when, after three months of wretched existence at Fort 
Henry, he was again sent on, down the river to Quebec ; 
and there, on September 28, 1839, he and 137 com- 
panions in irons were put aboard the British prison- 
ship Buffalo, commanded by Capt. Wood. They were 
stowed on the third deck, below the water line ; 140 
sailors were placed over them ; and the Buffalo took 
her course down the widening gulf. The dismal 
departure was lightened by a touch of human nature. 
There were several of the convicts who, like Marsh, 
claimed American citizenship, and American blood 
will show itself. ' As the prisoners were marched down 
with clanking chains from Fort Henry for the shipment 
to Quebec, many of them thought that it was their 
last shift before release. "There were three or four 

'There were about 150 Patriots, claiming to be citizens of the United 
States, who were taken prisoners in Upper Canada, and transported to 
Van Dieman's Land. Among those taken near Windsor, besides Marsh, 
were Ezra Horton, Joseph Horton and John Simons of Buffalo, John W. 
Simmons and Truman Woodbury of Lockport. Taken at Windmill Point, 
near Prescott, was Asa M. Richardson of Buffalo. Taken at Short Hills, 
Welland Co., was Linus W. Miller of Chautauqua Co., who afterwards 
wrote a book on the rebellion and his exile ; and Benjamin Waite, whose 
"Letters from Van Dieman's Land" were published in Buffalo in 1843. 
Waite died at Grand Rapids, Mich., Nov. 9, 1895, aged eighty-two. It is 
not unlikely that some Americans who underwent that exile are still liv- 
ing. I have seen no list of Americans captured during the outbreak in 
Lower Canada. 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh, 2 1 1 




e was 

;; but 

is fate 

It Fort 

lebec ; 

7 com- 


;y were 

e; 140 

lIo took 

d down 
s their 
or four 

Jie United 
tported to 
les Marsh, 
L John W. 
Viill Point, 
liort Hills. 
ite, whose 
llo in 1843. 
two. It IS 
Ire still liv- 
Ltbreak in 

very good singers amongst us," says Marsh, "which 
made the fort ring with the 'American Star,' 'Hunt- 
ers of Kentucky ' and other similar songs, which caused 
many to flock to our windows. Some of them re- 
marked, * You will not feel like singing in Botany 
Bay.' * Give us " Botany Bay," ' said one, and it was 
done in good style." 

If the reader will permit the digression, it may 
afford a little entertainment to consider for a moment 
these old songs. The literature of every war includes 
its patriotic songs — seldom the work of great poets, 
and most popular when they appeal to the quick sym- 
pathies and sense of humor of the common people. 
Every people has such songs, sometimes cherished and 
sung for generations. England has them without 
number, Canada has hers, the United States has hers ; 
and among the most popular for many years, strange as 
it now may seem, were "The American Star" and 
"The Hunters of Kentucky," which were sung by 
these none-too-worthy representatives of the United 
States, through Canadian prison bars, this autumn 
morning sixty years ago. Both songs had their origin, 
I believe, at the time of the War of 1812. That such 
barren and bomba.stic lines as "The American Star" 
should have remained popular a quarter of a century 
seems incredible, and appears to indicate that the youth 
of the country were very hard up for patriotic songs 
worth singing. Here follows "The American Star": 

Come, strike the bold anthem, the war dogs are howling, 
Already they eagerly snuff up their prey, 


1 ! 

h i 

' 1 



*, ; 





' :i:; 

212 Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 

The red clouds of war o'er our forests are scowling, 
Soft peace spreads her wings and flies weeping away ; 

The infants, affrighted, cling close to their mothers. 
The youths grasp their swords, for the combat prepare, 

While beauty weeps fathers, and lovers and brothers, 
Who rush to display the American Star. 

Come blow the shrill bugle, the loud drum awaken. 

The dread rifle seize, let the cannon deep roar ; 
No heart with pale fear, or faint doubtings be shaken, 

No slave's hostile foot leave a print on our shore. 
Shall mothers, wives, daughters and sisters left weeping. 

Insulted by ruffians, be dragged to despair ! 
Oh no ! from her hills the proud eagle comes sweeping 

And waves to the brave the American Star. 

The spirits of Washington, Warren, Montgomery, 

Look down from the clouds with bright aspect serene ; 
Come, soldiers, a tear and a toast to their memory, 

Rejoicing they'll see us as they once have been. 
To us the high boon by the gods has been granted, 

To speed the glad tidings of liberty far ; 
Let millions invade us, we'll meet them undaunted. 

And vanquish them by the American Star. 

Your hands, then, dear comrades, round Liberty's altar, 

United we swear by the souls of the brave 
Not one from the strong resolution shall falter, 

To live independent, or sink to the grave ! 
Then, freemen, fill up — Lo, the striped banner's flying. 

The high bird of liberty screams through the air ; 
Beneath her oppression and tyranny dying — 

Success to the beaming American Star. 

Every one of its turgid and wordy lines bespeaks the 
struggling infancy of a National literature. "The 
Hunters of Kentucky " is a little better, because it has 
humor — though of the primitive backwoods type — in it. 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 213 
New Orleans : " '"'P'"' "^ '"^ '^"'"^ "f 

Ve gentlemen and ladies fair, 

Who grace this famous city, 
Just listen, if you've time to spare, 
While I rehearse a ditty j ' 

And for the opportunity 

Conceive yourselves quite lucky 
For 'tis not often that you see 
A hunter from Kentucky; 
O ! Kentucky, 

The hunters of Kentucky. 

We are a hardy free-born race. 
Each man to fear a stranger'; 
Whate'er the game, we join in chase, 

Despising toil and danger ; 
And if a daring foe annoys, 

Whate'er his strength or force is 
We'll show him that Kentucky boys 
Are alligators,— horses: 
O ! Kentucky, etc. 

I s'pose you've read it in the prints. 

How Packenham attempted 
To make Old Hickory Jackson wince, 

But soon his schemes repented ; 
For we, with rifles ready cock'd, ' 

Thought such occasion lucky,' 
And soon around the general flock'd 

The hunters of Kentucky : 
O ! Kentucky, etc. 

I s'pose you've heard how New Orleans 
Is famed for wealth and beauty ; 









» : 


214 Misadventures 0/ Robert Marsh. 

There's gals of every hue, it seems, 

From snowy white to sooty : 
So, Packenham he made liis brags 

If he in fight was lucky. 
He'd have their gals and cotton bags. 

In spite of Old Kentucky : 
O ! Kentucky, etc. 

But Jackson he was wide awake, 

And wasn't scared at trifles, 
For well he knew what aim we take 

With our Kentucky rifles ; 
So, he led us down to Cypress Swamp, 

The ground was low and mucky ; 
There stood John Bull in martial pomp — 

But here was Old Kentucky : 
O ! Kentucky, etc. 

We raised a bank to hide our breasts, 

Not that we thought of dying. 
But then we always like to rest, 

Unless the game is flying ; 
Behind it stood our little force — 

None wish'd it to be greater. 
For every man was half a horse 

And half an alligator : 
O ! Kentuck}, etc. 

They didn't let our patience tire 

Before they show'd their faces ; 
We didn't choose to waste our fire, 

But snugly kept our places ; 
And when so near we saw them wink, 

We thought it time to stop 'em. 
It would have done you good, I think. 

To see Kentuckians drop 'enx : 
O ! Kentucky, etc. 

I I 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 215 

They found, at length, 'twas vain to fight, 

When lead was all their booty, 
And Si), they wisely took to flight, 

And left us all the beauty. 
And now, if danger e'er annoys, 

Kcmember what our trade is ; 
Just send for us K' ntucky boys, 

And We'll protect you, ladies : 
O I Kentucky, etc. 

At least it has a gallant ending, which was not alto- 
gether apposite to the situation of Marsh and his fellow- 
prisoners at Kingston. ** Botany Bay" was more in 
their line just then ; but, at any rate, it was just as 
philosophic to go into exile singing as mourning or 

Were I a Herman Melvilh or a Clark Russell I 
should be tempted to dwell on this dreary voyage of 
the prison-ship Buffalo. Even Marsh's humble chron- 
icle of it is graphic with unstudied incidents. They 
ran into rough weather at once ; so that to the wretch- 
edness of their imprisonment was added the misery of 
seasickness. No one had told them of their destina- 
tion, and many of them, like Marsh, stoutly maintained 
from first to last that they were transported without a 
sentence. Their daily life in this dark and crowded 
'tween-decks, practically the hold of a staggering old 
sailer, could not be detailed without offense ; and if it 
could be, I have no desire to heap up the horrors. In 
mid-voyage there was an attempted mutiny ; the con- 
victs tried to seize the ship ; but the only result was 
heavier irons, closer confinement, and a stricter guard. 



2 1 6 Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 

v!' 1/ 


' ^ ! 

s it 

After two months of the stormy Atlantic the Buffalo 
put into Rio Janeiro, where she lay three tantalizing 
days. " It happr^ned to be the Emperor's birthday," 
says Alarsh, "and although we were not allowed to go 
on shore, we could discover through a skylight the flags 
on the pinnacles of houses and hills apparently reach- 
ing to the clouds. " A little fniit was had aboard to 
allay the scurvy which was making havoc, and the 
Buffalo lumbered away again and ran straight into a 
savage gale, in which she sprung a bad leak. She was 
an old ship, and had formerly been a man-of-war, but 
for some years now had been employed as a convict 
transport between England and New South Wales. 
From Rio arourd the Cape of Good Hope the log kept 
by Robert Marsh is a story of sickness and death. 
Those who had had their limbs frozen in Canada now 
found the skin and flesh coming away and the sea 
water on their bare feet gave them excruciating agony. 
The shotted sack slid into the shark-patrolled waters of 
the Indian Ocean, and the wretches who still lived were 
envious of the dead. And on the 13th of February, 
1840, four months and a half from Quebec, the Buffalo 
anchored in Hobart Town haibor, Van Dieman's Land. 
And now a word about this antipodean land on 
which our unlucky hero looked out from the prison - 
ship. We are wont to regard it, perhaps, as a new 
and well-nigh unknown part of the world ; possibly 
some of us would have to think twice if asked off- 
hand, Where is Van Dieman's Land? Of course we 
remember, when we glance at the map, that it is a 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 217 

good-sized island just south of Australia. From ex- 
treme north to extreme south it is about as far as from 
Buffalo to Philadelphia, and east and west not quite 
so far as from Buffalo to Albany. And here is a 
coincidence : Hobart Town, in the harbor of which 
the prison-ship Buffalo dropped anchor with her load of 
misery, is exactly as far south of the equator as Buffalo 
is north of it. Other parallel data may perhaps be 
helpful : It was in 1642 that the navigator Tasman 
discovered the island, naming it after his Dutch patron, 
Van Dieman. The explorer's name has now been 
substituted, as it should be, and Tasmania, not Van 
Dieman' s Land, appears on modern maps. The history 
of that land dates from 1642. It was in 1641 that 
those adventurous missioners, Brebeuf and Chaumonot, 
first carried their portable altar across the Niagara ; and 
from the Relations of their order for that year the 
world gained the first actual glimpse of the Niagara 
region. In the v/orld's annals, therefore, this far-away 
island and our own Niagara and lake region are of the 
same age. One other parallel may be ventured. The 
first permanent settlement in Van Dieman's Land was 
made in 1803. In 1804 Buffalo had fifteen actual 
settlers and a few squatters. But here our parallels 
end, for when, on that February morning of 1840, the 
unhappy Marsh was put ashore, he found a community 
unlike any that has ever existed in th's happier part 
of the world. For over thirtv years England had been 
sending thither her wont criminals. Shipload after 
shipload, year after year, of the most depraved and 


> lit 


1 = 



, <fi 

2 1 8 Misadventures oj Robert Marsh, 

i.! ^■• 


vicious of mankind, had been sent out. England had 
made of it and of Botany Bay a dumping-ground for 
whatever manner of evil men and women she could 
scrape from her London slums. There was some free 
colonization, but it went on slowly. Honest men 
hesitated to go where society was so handicapped. 
The treatment of the convicts varied according to the 
Governors, but for years before Marsh arrived it seems 
to have been as harsh and brutalizing as imperiousness 
and cruelty could devise. In 1836 Sir John Franklin 
was sent out to the station. He was an exceptionally 
humane and generous man, according to most accounts. 
Marsh does not complain of any severity from him, 
but calls him an old granny, a glutton and a temporizer 
in his promises to convicts. It is something foreign to 
our purpose to dwell upon this point, nor is it a 
gracious thing to seek any imputation against a charac- 
ter which history delights to hold as the embodiment 
of the gallant and heroic. We must remember that 
Robert Marsh's point of view was not likely to bring 
him to favorable estimates of those in authority 
over him and through whom his very real oppression 
came. Years after, when the great explorer's bones 
lay whitening in the unknown North, this far-away col- 
ony raised to his memory a noble bronze statue, which 
stands to-day in P>anklin Square, Hobart, not far from 
the old Government Hovise, the scene of his uncon- 
genial administration. 

And now behold our hero marched ashore with his 
fellows ; reeling like a drunken man, the strange effect 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 219 

of firm earth under foot after months of heaving sea- 
way ; examined, ticketed and numbered, clad in Her 
Majesty's livery, and sent to a near-by country station, 
where he is put to work under savage overseers at car- 
rying stone for road-building ; and thus began five 
years of unmitigated suffering for Robert Marsh in that 
detestable land. There were about 48,000 convicts on 
the island at the time, 25,000 of whom were driven to 
daily work in chain gangs, on the roads, in the wet 
mines or the forest. The rest were ex-convicts ; had 
served their sentences and counted themselves among 
the free population, which all told did not then exceed 
60,000. Conceive of a free community, nearly one half 
of whom, men and women, were former convicts, but 
not regenerate. For years the brothels of London, 
Glasgow, Edinburgh, were emptied into Van Dieman's 
Land. A reputable writer has said that at this time 
female virtue was unknown in the island. The wealthy 
land-owners, under government patronage, were auto- 
crats in their own domain. The whipping-post, the 
triangle — a refinement of cruelty — and the gallows 
v»'ere familiar sights. The slightest failure at his daily 
task sent the convict to the whipping-post or to soli- 
tary confinement. 

Officia 'nivjuity flourisIi.-d under Sir George Arthur's 
reign of eleven years. He was Franklin's predecessor, 
and his iiuuioii? were still in control when Marsh came 
under tl.eir 'jO*ver. He was shifted from station to 
station ; f^d Wv^- 1 dog, lodged in the meanest huts 
and worked well nigh to death. The worst characters 



\ \ 


*!■' ! « 



2 20 Misadventures 0/ Robert Marsh. 

Ej / 





i 1 

were his overseers, and the day began with the lash. 
A convict's strength would give out Under his load ; 
he would lag behind, or stop to rest. At once he 
would be taken to the station, stripped to the waist — 
if he chanced to have anything on — strung up to the 
post or triangle, and flogged. As an additional meas- 
ure of reform, brine was thrown into the gashes which 
the lash had made. These were the milder forms of 
daily punishment. Sir George Arthur's prouder record 
comes from the executions. Travelers to-day tell us that 
Tasmania is really a ^^^or^d England ; in its settled 
portions it is a land of p it vales and gentle rivers, 

rich in harvests of the temp*.; Ate zone. *' Appleland," 
some have called it, from its fruitful orchards ; but no 
tree transplanted from Merrie England ever flourished 
more than the black stock from Tyburn Hill. Sir 
George hanged 1,500 during his stay. Marsh tells of 
a compassionate clergyman who was watching with in- 
terest the erection of a gallows. "Yes," he said, *•! 
suppose it will do, but it is not as large as we need. I 
think ten will hang comfortable, but twelve will be 
rather crowded. ' ' 

It is small wonder that our hero tried to escape. He 
took to the bush — which means the unexplored and 
inhospitable forest — with a band of friends ; was cap- 
tured, punished, and thereafter dressed in magpie — 
trousers and frock one half black, one half yellow ; and 
in this garb, which advertised to all that he had been a 
bush-ranger, he worked on until the spring of 1842, 
when Sir John Franklin made him a ticket-of-leave 

■S -.1 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 221 


man. This relieved him from the overseers, and gave 
him permission to work, for whatever wages he could 
get, in an assigned district. 

And now again, of this new phase of his misad- 
ventures, a long story could be made. At that time 
the best circumstanced ticket-of-leave men got about 
a shilling a day and boarded themselves. But there 
was little work and many seekers. They roamed over 
the country, turned away from plantation after planta- 
tion, and in many cases became the boldest of outl?vvs. 
Escape from the island was well nigh impossible ; but 
after many hardships, utterly unable to get honest 
work, Marsh was one of a party that determined to try 
it. Making their way eighty miles to the seashore, 
they hid in the woods, where for a week or so they 
gathered firewood, buried potatoes and snared kangaroo. 
One of their number reached a settlement and returned 
with the word that an American whaler was coming to 
take them off. After six days more of waiting the 
vessel hove in sight. As she tried to draw near and 
send boats ashore a storm came up and she narrowly 
escaped the breakers. At this critical moment a British 
armed patrol schooner rounded a point down the coast 
and the American made her escape with great difificulty, 
leaving the score of runaway convicts at their precarious 
lookout, hopeless and despondent. 

They were soon arrested, Marsh among them. He 
was tried for breaking his patrol, and sent to an inland 
district, 100 miles through the bush and swamps. " It 
was all punishment," he says pathetically, in describ- 

■ '% 



: ^ 'i i 

I . \\\ \ 

2 22 Misadve7ittires of Robert Marsh. 





t '! 


ing this journey on which he nearly perished. So 
down-hearted and distressed were they, so appalled 
by the war of nature and man against them, that one 
of Marsh's comjjanions, with fagged-out brain, came 
to the conclusion that they were really in hell and that 
the devil himself was in charge of them. But there is 
always a turn to the tide. The) trapped a kangaroo 
and did not starve. Marsh reached his district and 
this time found work, which had to be light, for he 
was weak, emaciated and troubled day and night with 
a pain in his chest. And finally the glad word came 
that he was gazetted for pardon and could go to 
Hobart. There, on January 27, 1845, after ten 
months in Canada prisons, four and a half months in a 
transport shij), and five years in a convict colony, he 
went on board 'h . American whaler Steiglitz of Sag 
Harbor, Selah Young, master, a free man. 

The Steiglitz was bound out on a whaling voyage. 
No matter, she would take Marsh away from that hell. 
She cruised for whale off New Zealand, then made 
north, and in April anchored off Honolulu. King 
Hamehameha III., on hearing the story of the con- 
vict Americans, welcomed them ashore, and there 
Marsh stayed for four months, exploring the islands 
and waiting for a chance to get home. At last it came 
in the welcome shape of the whaler Samuel Robertson, 
Capt. Warner, bound for New Bedford. She touched at 
the Society Islands and Pernambuco, and on March 13, 
1846, after seven years four and a half months absence, 
Marsh stepped ashore in his own country again. The 

Misadventures of Robert Marsh. 223 

people of New Bedford helped him and a few others as 
far as Utica. There one of his comrades in exile left 
him for his home in Watertown, and others went theii 
several ways. Marsh was helped as far as Canandaigua, 
where his brother met him and took him to his home 
in Avon ; and after a time of recuperation there, they 
came on to Buffalo, where he met his father, his 
mother and sister. He soon crossed the river, visited 
Toronto, and probably looked over the scenes of his 
early cracker-peddling and subseciuent campaigning, up 
and down the Niagara. He had traveled 77,000 miles, 
but here his journey ended ; and here the Patriot exile 
told his story, which I have drawn on in an imperfect 
way, for this true chronicle of old trails. 

: ''^m 








' fF)' f- 

Underground Trails. 








1 J 






, - 



\ i 

i ' ■ ■ 







BH ?T ,| 

lii : 

1 (- 


» i i' 


I ;< t 





IT WAS Dame Nature who decreed that the Niagara 
region should be peculiarly a place of trails. 
When she set the great cataract midway between 
two lakes, she thereby ordained that in days to come 
the Indian should go around the falls, on foot. The 
Indian trail was a footpath ; nothing more. Here it 
followed the margin of a stream ; there, well nigh 
indiscernable, it crossed a rocky plateau ; again, worn 
deep in yielding loam, it led through thick woods, 
twisting and turning around trees and boulders, with 
detours for swamps or bad ground, and long stretches 
along favorable slopes or sightly ridges. Who can 
hazard a guess as to the time when, or by what manner 
of men, these trails were first established in our region ? 
Immemorial in their source — akin in natural origins 
to the path the deer makes in going to the salt-lick or 
to drink — they were old, established, when our history 
begins. And when the white man came he followed 
the old trails. Traveling like the Indian, by water when 
he could ; when lakes and rivers did not serve, he found 
the footpaths ready made for him in the forest. Ar- 
mies came, cutting military roads. Settlers followed 
to banish forests, drain swamps, and make new high- 
ways. And yet the horseman, the military train, the 
wagon of the pioneer, the early stage-coach, the rail- 




^ i 

M : 


Underground Trails. 

' I, 


V I, 




road, ea* h in its day, along many of the most direct 
and imijortant thoroiighfares, has but followed the 
ancient ways. 'I'he thing is axiomatic. Nature for 
the most part decrees where men shall walk. Her 
lakes and rivers and her hills may be strewn by whim ; 
but there are plain reasons enough for our road-build- 
ing. We go where we can, with safety and expedition. 
So ran the red man. We still follow the old trails. 

Other aspects of our frontier are worthy of a 
thought. Two nations look across the Niagara, so 
that, even though its flow were placid from lake to 
lake, it would still be a political barrier, a halting- 
place. This fact has fdled it full of trails in history. 
Again, as the gateway of the West, the j)aths of immi- 
gration and of commerce for a century have here con- 
verged. The early settlers of Michigan and Wiscon- 
sin went by the old Lewiston ferry. From Buffalo by 
boat, and from old Suspension Bridge by rail, who 
can estimate the thousands who have gone on to create 
the New West? From the earliest Iroquois raid upon 
the Neuters, down to yesterday's excursion, the Ni- 
agara frontier has been peculiarly a region of pa.ssing, 
of coming and going, along old trails. 

Now of all the paths that have led hitherward, none 
has greater significance in American history than that 
known as the Underground Railroad. Other paths, 
touching here, have led to war, to wealth, to pleasure ; 
but this led to Liberty. Thousands of negro slaves, gain- 
ing after infinite hardships these shores of the lake or 
river, have looked across the smiling expanse to such an 

:d the 
re for 
whim ; 
I trails. 
V of a 
;ara, so 
lake to 
)f immi- 
ere con- 
uffalo by 
ail, who 
to create 
id upon 
the Ni- 

Ird, none 
Ihan that 
;r paths, 
)leasure ; 
^es, gain- 
le lake or 
lo such an 

Cjuierfrroiind Trails. 


elysium as only a slave can dream of. Once the pas- 
sage made, no matter how poor the passenger, freedom 
became his pos.session and the heritage of his children. 
The chattel became a man. I c an never sail upon the 
blue lake, or down the pleasant river, without seeing 
in fancy this throng of famished, frightened, blindly 
hopeful blacks, for whom these waters were the gateway 
to new life. The most vital part of the Underground 
Railroad was the over-water ferry. Bark canoe and 
great steamer alike leave no lasting trail ; but to him 
who reads the history of our region, this fair watenvay 
at our door is thronged as a street ; and every secret 
traveler thereby is worthy of his attention. Much has 
been recorded of these refugees, who came, singly or 
in small {)arties, for more than thirty years j)receding 
the Civil War. Indeed, runaway slaves pass d this way 
to Canada soon after the War of 1812. Ihe tales of 
soldiers returning to Kentucky from the Niagara fron- 
tier and other campaigns of that war, first planted in 
the minds of Southern slaves the idea that Canada was 
a land of freedom. By 1830 many earnest people who 
disapproved of slavery, the Quakers prominent among 
them, were giving organized aid to the escaping blacks. 
V^ many secret ways the refugees were passed on from 
one friend to another. Hiding-places were established, 
and routes which were found advantageous were regu- 
larly followed. 

It is no part of my present plan to enter upon a 
general sketch of the Underground Railroad. That 
task has already been admirably performed, at volumi- 



i 1' 




2 30 

Underground Trails. 

I' ■ 1 

V !L^ 


) < 





nous length, by careful students. My aim in this paper 
is to bring together a number of incidents and narra- 
tives, particularly illustrative of its work at the eastern 
end of Lake Erie and along the Niagara frontier, in 
order that the student may the better appreciate how 
vital this phase of the slavery issue was, even in this 
region, for more than a generation preceding the 
Civil War. There were established routes for the pas- 
sage of fugitive slaves : From the seaboard States to the 
North, by water from Newberne, S. C. and Portsmouth, 
Va.; or by land routes from Washington and Philadel- 
phia, to and through New England and so into Quebec. 
There was "John Brown's route" through Eastern 
Kansas and Nebraska ; and there were many routes 
through Iowa and Illinois, most of them leading to 
Chicago and other I^ke Michigan ports, whence the 
refugees came by boat to Canadian points, chiefly 
along the north shore of Lake Erie ; or even, in some 
cases, by water to Collirigwood on Georgian Bay, where 
a considerable number of runaway slaves were carried 
prior to the Civil War. But the travel by these extreme 
East and West routes was insignificant as compared 
with the number that came through Western Pennsyl- 
vania, Ohio and Indiana, to points on the south shore 
of Lake Erie and the Detroit and N'^gara rivers at 
either end. The region bounded by the Ohio, the 
Allegheny, and the western border of Indiana was a 
vast plexus of Underground routes. The negroes were 
taken across to Canada in great numbers from Detroit 
and other points on that river ; from Sandusky to Point 




his paper 
nd narra- 
te eastern 
ontier, in 
:.iate how 
:n in this 
:ding the 
)r the pas- 
ates to the 
i Philadel- 
o Quebec. 
;h Eastern 
any routes 
leading to 
vhence the 
-Its, chiefly 
:n, in some 
Bay, where 
ere carried 
ese extreme 
5 compared 
•n Pennsyl- 
louth shore 
a rivers at 
Ohio, the 
iana was a 
;groes were 
om Detroit 
Ikv to Point 

Underground Trails. 


Pelee ; from Ashtabula to Port Stanley ; from Conneaut 
to Port Burwell ; from Erie to Long Point ; and from 
all south-shore points on Lake Erie they were brought 
by steamer to Buffalo. Often, the vessel captains would 
put the refugees ashore between Long Point and 
Buffalo. At other times, the fugitives were sent to 
stations at Black Rock or Niagara Falls, whence they 
were soon set across the river and were free. There 
were some long routes ac, oss New York State, the chief 
one being up the Hudson and Mohawk valleys to Lake 
Ontario ports. There was some crossing to Kings- 
ton, and some from Rochester to Port Dalhousie or 
Toronto. Anot'ier route led from Harrisburg up the 
Susquehanna to Williamsport, thence to Elmira, and 
northwesterly, avoiding large towns, to Niagara Falls. 
But the most active part in the Underground Railroad 
operations in New York State was borne by the west- 
ern counties. There were numerous routes through 
Allegany, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, along 
which the negroes were helped ; all converging at 
Buffalo or on the Niagara. In the old towns of this 
section are still many houses and other buildings which 
are pointed out to the visitor as having been former 
stations on the Underground. The Pettit house at 
Fredonia is a distinguished example. 

It is impossible to state even approximately the num- 
ber of refugee negroes who crossed by these routes to 
Upper Canada, now Ontario. In 1844 the number 
was estimated at 40,000;' in 1852 the Anti-Slavery 

' Sft " Reminiscences of Levi Coffin," p. 253. 






Underground Trails. 

Society of Canada stated in its annual report that there 
were about 80,000 blacks in Canada \Vest ; in 1858 the 
number was estimated as high as 75,000. ' This figure is 
probably excessive ; but since the negroes continued to 
come, up to the hour of the Emancipation Proclama- 
tion, it is probably within the fact to say that more 
than 50,000 crossed to Upper Canada, nearly all from 
points on Lake Erie, the Detroit and Niagara rivers. 

Runaway slaves appeared in Buffalo at least as early 
as the '30's. ** Professor Edward Orton recalls that in 
1838, soon after his father moved to Buffalo, two 
sleigh-loads of negroes from the VV' estern Reserve were 
brought to the nouse in the night-time ; and Mr. 
Frederick Nicholson of Warsaw, N. Y., statss that the 
Underground work in his vicinity began in 1840. From 
this time on there was apparently no cessation of migra 
tions of fugitives into Canada at Black Rock, Buffalo 
and other points."- Those too were the days of much 
passenger travel on Lake Erie, and certain boats came 
to be known as friendly to the Underground cause. 
One boat which ran between Cleveland and Buffalo 
gave employment to the fugitive William Wells Brown. 
It became known at Cleveland that Brown would take 
escaped slaves under his protection without charge, 
hence he rarely failed to find a little company ready to 
sail when he started out from Cleveland. "In the 
year 1842," he says, "I conveyed from the 1st of 
May to the 1st of December, sixty-nine fugitives over 

' -S"**' "John Brown and His Men," p. 171. 

'^ Set Siebert's " The Underground Railroad," pp. 35, 36. 

lat there 
1858 the 
figure is 
dnued to 
hat more 
all from 
t as early 
Us that in 
ffalo, two 
erve were 
and Mr. 
;s that the 
40. From 
1 of migra 
:k, Buffalo 
■s of much 
loats came 
nd cause, 
xl Buffalo 
lis Brown, 
ould take 
|ut charge, 
y ready to 
** In the 
the 1st of 
titives over 

Undergrou7id Trails. 

Lake Erie to Canada."' Many anecdotes are told of 
the search for runaways on the lake steamers. Lake 
travel in the ante-bellum days was ever liable to be 
enlivened by an exciting episode in a " nigger -chase " ; 
but usually, it would seem, the negroes could rely ui)on 
the friendliness of the captains tbr concealment or 
other assistance. 

There are chronicled, too, many little histories of 
flights which brought the fugitive to Buffalo. • pass 
over those which are readily accessible elsewhere lo 
the student of this phase of our home history.- It is 
well, however, to devote a paragraph or two to one 
famous affair which most if not all American writers on 
the Underground Railroad appear to have overlooked. 

One day in l83i> an intelligent negro, riding a 
thoroughbred but jaded horse, appeared on the streets 
of Buffalo. His appearance must have advertised him 
to all as a runaway slave. I do not know that he made 
any attempt to conceal the fact. His chief concern 
was to sell the horse as (juickly as possible, and get 
across to Canada. And there, presently, we find him, 
settled at historic old Niagara, near the mouth of the 
river. Here, even at that date, so many negroes had 

•"Narrative of William W. Brown," 1848. pp. 117, io8. yuoied by 

''There is a considerable literature on the spccilic subject nf the I'nder- 
ground Railroad, and a great deal mor»; relating; to it is to be found in 
works dealing more broadly with sl.ivery, and the political history of our 
country. Of especial local interest is fiber ,M. I'ettit's "Sketches in the 
History of the Underground Railroad," etc., Fretonia, 187Q. The aut.ior. 
"for many years a conductor on the Underground Railroad line from 
slavery to freedom," has recorded many episodes in which the fu>,'itives 
were brought to Buffalo, B!ack Rock, or Niagara Falls, and gives valuablt: 
and interesting data regarding the routes and men who operated tlicm in 
Western New York and Western Pennsylvania. 



\ \ ' 






Undergrou7id Trails, 


made their way from the South, that more than 400 
occupied a quarter known as Negro Town. The new- 
comer, whose name was Moseby, admitted that he had 
run away from a plantation in Kentucky, and had used 
a horse that formerly belonged to his master to make 
his way North. A Kentucky grand jury soon found a 
true bill against him for horse-stealing, and civil officers 
traced him to Niagara, and made requisition for his 
arrest and extradition. The year before. Sir Francis 
Bond Head had succeeded Sir John Colborne as Gov- 
ernor of Canada West, and before him the case was laid. 
Sir Francis regarded the charge as lawful, notwith- 
standing the avowal of Moseby' s owners that if they 
could get him back to Kentucky they would **make 
an example of him " ; in plainer words, would whip 
him to death as a warning to all slaves who dared to 
dream of seeking freedom in Canada. 

Moseby was arrested and locked up in the Niagara 
jail ; whereupon great excitement arose, the blacks and 
many sympathizing whites declaring that he should 
n'jver be carried back South. The Governor, Sir Fran- 
cis, was petitioned not to surrender Moseby ; he replied 
that his duty was to give him up as a felon, •* although 
ho would have armed the province to protect a .slave." 
For more than a week crowds of negroes, men and 
women, camped before the jail, day and night. Un- 
der the leadership of a mulatto schoolmaster named 
Holmes, and of Mrs. Carter, a negress with a gift for 
making fiery speeches, the mob were kept worked up 
to a high pitch of excitement, although, as a contem- 

Underground Trails. 


tn 400 

e new- 
he had 

id used 

) make 

found a 

for his 


as Gov- 

iras laid. 

if they 

Id whip 

dared to 


icks and 

;ir Fran- 

len and 

tt. Un- 
gift for 

>rked up 

porary writer avers, they were unarmed, showed ** good 
sense, forbearance and resolution," and declared their 
intention not to commit any violence against the Eng- 
lish law. They even agreed that Moseby should 
remain in jail until they could raise the price of the 
horse, but threatened, "if any attempt were made to 
take him from the prison, and send him across to 
Lewiston, they would resist it at the hazard of their 
lives." The order, however, came for Moseby's de- 
livery to the slave-hunters, and the sheriff and a party 
of constables attempted to execute it. Moseby was 
brought out from the jail, handcuffed and placed in a 
cart ; whereupon the mob attacked the officers. The 
military was called out to help the civil force and 
ordered to fire on the assailants. Two negroes were 
killed, two or three wounded, and Moseby ran off and 
was not pursued. The negro women played a curi- 
ously-prominent part in the affair. '* They had been 
most active in the fray, throwing themselves fearlessly 
between the black men and the whites, who, of course, 
shrank from injuring them. One woman had seized 
the sheriff, and held him pinioned in her arms ; an- 
other, on one of the artillery-men presenting his piece, 
and swearing that he would shoot her if she did not 
get out of his way, gave him only one glance of un- 
utterable contempt, and with one hand knocking up 
his piece, and collaring him with the other, held him 
in such a manner as to prevent his firing."' 

* I have drawn these facts from Mrs. Jameson's "Winter Studies and 
Summer Rambles in Canada," published in London in 1B38. Mrs. Jameson 
was at Niagara in 1837, apparently during or soon after the riot. She 





ill • 


• f ' 

i 1 



« 1^' 


?< I 





Under ground Trails. 

Soon after, in the same year, the Governor of 
Kentucky made recjuisition on the Governor of the pro- 
vince of Canada West for the surrender of Jesse Happy, 
another runaway slave, also on a charge of horse-steal- 
ing. Sir Francis held him in confinement in Hamilton 
jail, but refused to deliver him up until he had laid 
the case before the Home Government. In a most 
interesting report to the Colonial Secretary, under 
date of Toronto, Oct. ^, 1837, he a.sked for instruc- 
tions "as a matter of general policy," and reviewed 
the Moseby case in a fair and broad spirit, highly 
creditable to him alike as an administrator and a friend 
of the oppressed. "I am by no means desirous," he 
wrote, "that this province should become an asylum 
for the guilty of any color ; at the same time the 
documents submitted with this dispatch will I conceive 
show that the subject of giving up fugitive slaves to the 
authorities of the adjoining republican States is one 
respecting which it is highly desirable I should receive 
from Her Majesty's Government specific instructions. 
It may be argued that the slave escaping 
from bondage on his master's liorse is a vicious struggle 
between two guilty parties, of which the slave-owner 
is not only the aggressor, but the blackest criminal 

called on one of the negro women who had been foremost in the fray. 
This woman was " apparently about tive-and-twenty," had been a slave in 
Virginia, but had run away at sixteen. This would indicate that she may 
have come a refugee to the Niagara as early as 1828. William Kirby, in 
his "Annals of Niagara," has told Moseby's story, with more detail than 
Mrs. Jameson ; he reports only one as killed in the mfUe— the schoolmas- 
ter Holmes— and adds that " Moseby lived quietly the rest of his life in 
St Catharines and Niagara." Sir Francis Bond Head's official communi- 
cation to the Home Government regarding tl.e matter reports two as 

Underground Trails. 

irnor of 
the pro- 
; Happy, 
rse -steal - 
had laid 
1 a most 
y, under 
r instruc- 
it, highly 
d a friend 
rous," he 
an asylum 
; time the 
I conceive 
wes to the 
tes is one 
>ld receive 
AS struggle 
;t criminal 

in the fray. 
|)een a slave in 
that she may 
jiam Kirby, in 
Ire detail than 
the schoolmas- 
[t of his life in 
Icial communi- 
^ports two as 

of the two. It is a case of the dealer in human flesh 
versus the stealer of horse-flesh ; and it may be argued 
that, if the British (iovernment does not feel itself 
authorized to pass judgment on the plaintiff, neither 
should it on the defendant." Sir Francis continues in 
this ingenious strain, observing that "it is as much a 
theft in the slave walking from slavery to liberty in 
his master's shoes as riding on his master's horse." 
To give up a slave for trial to the American laws, he 
argU2d, was in fact giving him back to his former 
master; and l-e held that, until the State authorities 
could separate trial from unjust punishment, however 
willing the (iovernment of Canada might be to deliver 
up a man for trial, it was justified in refusing to deliver 
him up for punishment, "unless sufficient security be 
entered into in this province, that the person delivered 
up for trial shall be brought back to Upper Canada as 
soon as his trial or the punishment awarded by it shall 
be concluded." And he added this final argument, 
begging that instructions should be sent to him at once : 

It is argued, that the republican states have no rij^ht, under the 
pretext of any human treaty, to claim from the Britisli (iovern- 
ment, which does not recognize slavery, beings who by -;lavc-la\v 
are not recognized as men and who actually existed as brute l)easts 
in moral darkness, until on reaching British soil they suddenly 
heard, for the first time in their lives, the sacred words, "Let 
there be light ; and there was light ! " From that moment it is 
argued they were created men, and if this be true, it is said thoy 
cannot be held responsible for conduct prior to their existence.' 

' See "A Narrative," by Sir Francis Bond Head, Bart., id e(i . London, 
183Q, pp. 200-204. 



Underground Trails. 



i) .1 ■ 


Sir Francis left the Home Government in no doubt 
as to his own feelings in the matter ; and although I 
have seen no further report regarding Jesse Happy, 
neither do I know of any case in which a refugee in 
Canada for whom requisition was thus made was per- 
mitted to go back to slavery. It did sometimes happen, 
however, that refugees were enticed across the river on 
one pretext or another, or grew careless and took their 
chances on the American side, only to fall into the 
clutches of the ever-watchful slave-hunters. 

British love of fair play could be counted on to stand 
up for the rights of the negro on British soil ; but that 
by no means implies that this inpouring of ignorant 
blacks, unfitted for many kinds of pioneer work and 
ill able to withstand the climate, was welcomed by the 
communities in which they settled. At best, they 
were tolerated. Very different from the spirit shown 
in Sir Francis Bond Head's plea, is the tone of much 
tourist comment, especially during the later years of 
the Abolition movement. Thus, in 1854, the Hon. 
Amelia M. Murray wrote, just after her Niagara visit : 

** One of the evils consequent upon Southern Slavery, 
is the ignorant and miserable set of coloured people 
who throw themselves into Canada. ... I must 
regret that the well-meant enthusiasm of the Aboli- 
tionists has been without judgment, ' ' ' Another partic- 
ularly unamiable critic, W. Howard Russell, a much- 
exploited English war correspondent who wrote volum- 

>" Letters from the United States, Cuba and Canada," London, 1856, 
p. 118. 

Underground Trails. 


inously of the United States during the Civil War, and 
who showed less good will to this country than any 
other man who ever wrote so much, came to Niagara in 
the winter of 1862, and in sourly recording his un- 
pleasant impressions wrote : "There are too many free 
negroes and too many Irish located in the immediate 
neighborhood of the American town, to cause the doc- 
trines of the Abolitionists to be received with much 
favor by the American population ; and the Irish of 
course are opposed to free negroes, where they are 
attracted by paper mills, hotel service, bricklaying, 
plastering, housebuilding, and the like — the Ameri- 
cans monopolizing the higher branches of labor and 
money-making, including the guide business. ' A few 
pages farther on, however, describing his sight-seeing 
on the Canadian side, he speaks of "our guide, a 
strapping specimen of negro or mulatto. ' ' Quotations 
of like purport from English writers during the years 
immediately preceding the Civil War, might be multi- 
plied. One rarely will find any opinion at all favorable 
to the refugee black, and never any expression of sym- 
pathy with the Abolitionists by English tourists who 
wrote books, or endorsal of the work accomplished by 
the Underground Railroad. 

From its importance as a terminal of the Under- 
ground, one would look to Buffalo for a wealth of 
reminiscence on this subject. On the contrary, com- 
paratively little seems to have been gathered up 

•"Canada, Its Defences, Condition and Resources," by W. Howard 
Russell, LL. D., London, 1S65, pp. 33, 34. 










a 4 

' ^'1 



t- f -i 

It 1 



> • 




Underground Trails. 

regardint^ Huffalo stations and workers. The Buffalo 
of ante-helium days was not a large place, and many 
"personally-escorted" refugees were taken direct 
from country stations to the river ferries, without 
havin<^ to be hid away in the city. Certain houses 
there were, however, which served as stations. One of 
these, on Ferry Street near Niagara, long since disap- 
peared. When the "Morris Butler house," at the 
corner of Utica Street and Linwood Avenue, built 
about 1857, was taken down a few years ago, hiding- 
places were found on either side of the front door, 
accessible on'y from the cellar. Old residents then 
recalled that Mr. Butler was reputed to keep the last 
station on the Underground route to Canada.' 

Many years before Mr. Butler's time runaway slaves 
used to appear in Buffalo, eagerly asking the way to 
Canada. Those days were recalled by the death, on 
Aug. 2, 18!^!), in the Kent County House of Refuge, 
Chatham, Ont., of '* Mammy" Chaawick, reputed to 
be over 100 years old. She was born a slave in 
Virginia ; was many times sold, once at auction in New 
Orleans, and later taken to Kentucky. She escaped 
and made her way by the Cnderground to Bufitalo in 
1887. She always fixed her arrival at Fort Erie as 
"in de year dat de (^ueen was crowned." She mar- 

' Mr Butler's name does not appear in Siebert's history, "The Under- 
ground Railroad" The "operators" for Erie County named therein 
(p. 414) are Gideon Barker, the Hon. Wm. Haywood, Geo. W. Johnson, 
Deacon Henry Moore, and Messrs. Aldrich and VViUiams. For Niagara 
County he names Thomas Binmore, VV. H. < hilds, M. C. Richardson, 
Lyman Spauldin^. Chautauqua and Wyoming counties present longer 
lists, and thirty-si.x are named for .Monroe County, As appears from my 
text, the Erie County list could be extended. 

Undcrs^round Trails, 


I many 



One of 
e disap- 

at the 
le, built 

it door, 
Its then 

the last 

ay slaves 
; way to 
leath, on 

puted to 

slave in 
n in New 
Buffalo in 
Erie as 
She mar- 

The Under- 
med therein 
W. Johnson, 
For Niagara 

esent longer 
ars from my 

ried in I-'oit F.rie, but after a few years went to 
C'hatham, in the midst of a district full of refugee 
blacks, and there she lived for sixty years, rejoicing in the 
distinction of having nursed in their infancy many who 
became Chatham's oldest and most prominent citizens. 
There still lives at Fort Erie an active old woman 
who came to Buffalo, a refugee from slavery, some 
time prior to 1837; she herself says, " a good while 
before the Canadian Rebellion," and her memory is so 
clear and vigorous in general that there appears no 
warrant for mistrusting it on this point. This interest- 
ing woman is Mrs. Betsy Robinson, known throughout 
the neighborhood as "Aunt" She lately told 
her story to me at length. Robbed of all the pictur- 
esque detail with which she invested it, the bare facts 
are here recorded. Her father, mother, and their seven 
children were slaves on a plantation in Rockingham 
County, Virginia. There came a change of owner- 
ship, and Baker (her father) heard he was to be sold 
to New Orleans — the fate which the Virginia slave 
most dreaded ; "and yet," says Aunt Betsy, "I've seen 
dem slaves, in gangs bein' sent off to New Orleans, 
singin' and play in' on jewsharps, lettin' on to be that 
careless an' happy." But not so Baker. He made 
ready to escape. B'or a week beforehand his wife hid 
food in the woods. On a dark night the whole family 
stole away from the plantation, crossed a river, prob- 
ably the north fork of the Shenandoah, and pushed 
northward. The father had procured three "passes," 
which commended them for assistance to friends 








» » 



t i 


Underground Trails. 

.J !■ 




along the way. According to Aunt Betsy, there were 
a good many white people in the South in those 
days who helped the runaway. She was a little girl 
then, and she now recalls the child's vivid impressions 
of the weeks they spent traveling and hiding in the 
mountains, which she says were full of rattlesnakes, 
wolves and deer. It was a wild country that they 
crossed, for they came out near Washington, Pa. Here 
the Quakers helped them ; and her father and brothers 
worked in the coal mines for a time. Then they came 
on to Pittsburg. From that city north there was no 
lack of help. "We walked all the way," she says. 
"There was no railroads in them days, an' I don't re- 
member's we got any wagon-rides. You see, we was so 
many, nine in all. 1 remember we went to Erie, and 
came through Fredonia. We walked through Buffalo — 
it was little then, you know — and down the river road. 
My father missed the Black Rock ferry an' we went 
away down where the bridge is now. I remember we 
had to walk back up the river, and then we got brought 
across to Fort Erie. That was a good while before the 
Canadian Rebellion.'" 

Samuel Murray, a free-born negro, came to Buffalo 
from Reading, Pa., in 1852. For a time he was 
employed at the American Hotel, and went to work 

' No doubt an investigator couid find a number of former slaves, rich in 
reminiscences of Underground days, still living in the villages and towns 
of the Niagara Peninsula, though they would not be very numerous, for, 
as Aunt Betsy says, "the old heads are 'bout all gone now." Between 
Fort Erie and Ridgeway lives Daniel Woods, a former slave, who came by 
the Underground. Harriet Black, a sister-in-law of Mrs. Robinson, still 
livim; near Ridgeway, was also a "passenger." Probably others live at 
St. Catharines, Niagara and other points of former negro settlement, who 
could tell thrilling tales of their escape from the South. There ar man 

\. } 

f.. \ 

Under ^ound Trails. 


e were 
I those 
tie girl 

in the 
at they 
ley came 

was no 
he says, 
ion't re- 
ve was so 
£rie, and 
Buffalo — 
ver road, 
we went 
imber we 
t brought 
lefore the 

lo Buffalo 
he was 
to work 

laves, rich in 
Is and towns 
limerous. for, 
" Between 
,.vho came by 
lobinson, still 
lathers live at 
flement. whr 
[re ar -nan' 

very early in the morning. It wa.s, he ha.s said, a 
common occurrence to meet strange negroes, who 
would ask him the way to Canada. " Many a time," 
said Murray, '* I have gone into the hotel and taken 
food for them. Then I would walk out Niagara Street 
to the ferry- and see them on the boat bound for Canada. ' ' 
Mr. Murray has related the following incidents : 

"There was a free black man living in Buffalo in 
the '50's who made a business of going to the South 
after the wives of former slaves who had found com- 
fortable homes, either in the Northern States or in 
Canada. They paid him well for his work, and he 
rarely failed to accomi)lish his mission. 

"While connected with the Underground Railroad 
in Buffalo word was sent us that a colored man from 
Detroit, a traitor to his color, was coming to Buffalo. 
This man made a business of informing Southerners of 
the whereabouts of their slaves, and was paid a good 
sum per head for those that they recovered. ^Vhen we 
heard that he was coming a meeting was held and a 
committee appointed to arrange for his reception. 
After being here a few days, not thinking that he was 
known, he was met by the committee and taken out in 
the woods where the Parade House now stands. Here 
he was tied to a tree, stripped and cow-hided until he 

survivors on the Canada side of the Niagara, of another class ; men or 
women who were bom in slavery but were "freed by the bayonet," and 
came North with no fear of the slave-catchers. Of this class at Fort Erie 
are Melford Harris and Thomas Banks. Mr. Banks was sold from Vir- 
ginia to go " down the river " ; got his freedom at Natchez, joined the if)2d 
Michigan Infantry, and fought for the Union until the end of the war. 
His case is probably typical of many, but does not belong to the records 
of the Underground Railroad. 








Underground Trails. 

was almost dead. He lay for a time insensible in a 
pool of his own blood. Finally regaining conscious- 
ness, he made his way back into Buffalo and as soon as 
he was able complained to the city authorities. His 
assailants were indentified, arrested, and locked up in 
the old jail to await the result of his injuries. After a 
time the excitement caused by the affair subsided and 
the men were let out one day without having been 
tried." The sympathy of the sheriff, and probably that 
of the community as a whole, was plainly not with the 
renegade who got flogged. 

Another celebrated Underground case was the arrest 
at Niagara Falls of a slave named Sneedon, on a charge 
of murder, undoubtedly trumped up to procure his 
return South. Sneedon is described as a fine-looking 
man, with a complexion almost white. He was 
brought to trial in Buffalo, when Eli Cook pleaded his 
case so successfully that he was acquitted. No sooner 
was he released than he was spirited away via the 
Underground Railroad. 

Niagara Falls, far more than Buffalo, was the .scene 
of interesting episodes in the Underground days. Not 
only did many refugee negroes find employment in the 
vicinity, especially on the Canada side, but many 
Southern planters used to visit there, bringing their 
retinue of blacks. Many a time the trusted body- 
servant, or slave-girl, would leave master or mistress in 
the discharge of some errand, and never come back. 
Instances are related, too, of sudden meetings, at the 
Falls hotels, between negro waiters and the former 


Undevfrround Trails. 


ble in a 
? soon as 
es. His 
ed up in 
After a 
ided and 
ing been 
jably that 
t with the 

the arrest 
1 a charge 
rocure his 
He was 
leaded his 
No sooner 
y via the 

the scene 
[lays. Not 
lent in the 
jbut many 
Iging their 
Ited body- 
Imistress in 
|ome back, 
igs, at the 
the former 

masters they had run away from. It is recorded that 
'vhen Gen. Peter B. Porter brought his Kentucky wife 
home with him to Niagara Falls, she was attended by a 
numerous retinue of negro servants, but that one by 
one they ".scented freedom in the air" and ran away, 
though probably not to any immediate betterment of 
their condition. 

Henry Clay visited Buffalo in September, 1849. 
When he left for Cleveland his black servant Levi was 
missing, but whether he had gone voluntarilv or against 
his wishes Mr. Clay was uncertain. "There are cir- 
cumstances having a tendency both ways," he wrote to 
Lewis L. Hodges of Buffalo, in his effort to trace the 
lost property. ** If voluntarily, I will take no trouble 
about him, as it is probable that in a reversal of our 
conditions I would have done the same thing."' The 
absentee had merely been left in Buffalo — probably he 
missed the boat — and reported in due time to his mas- 
ter at Ashland. The incident, however, suggests the 
hazards of Northern travel which in tiiose years awaited 
wealthy Southerners, who were fond of making long so- 
journs at Niagara Falls, accompanied by many servants. 

An "old resident of Buffalo" is to be credited 
with the following reminiscence : 

" 1 remember one attempt that was made to capture 
a runaway slave. It was right up here on Niagara 
Street. The negro ventured out in daytime and was 
seized by a couple of men who had been on the watch 




' H. Clay to Lewis L. Hodges ; original letter in possession of the Buf- 
falo Historical Society. 

[/ 'tV 

'. r 

I •■ i.< 



Underground Trails. 

for him. The slave was a muscular fellow, and fought 
desperately for his liberty ; but his captors began beat- 
ing him over the head with their v.-hips, and he would 
have been overpowered and carrier off if his cries had 
not attracted the attention of two Abolitionists, who 
ran up and joined in the scuffle. It was just above 
Ferry Street, and they pulled and hauled at that slave 
and pounded him and each other until it looked as 
though somebody would be killed. At lost, however, 
the slave, with the help of his friends, got away and ran 
for his life, and the slave-chasers and the Abolitionists 
dropped from blows to high words, the former threat- 
ening prosecutions and vengeance, but I presume 
nothing came of it.'" 

Nowhere were the friends of the fugitive more 
active or more successful than in the towns along 
the south shore of Lake Erie, from Erie to Buffalo.'' 
Some years ago it was my good fortune to become 
acquainted with Mr. Frank Henry of Erie, who 
had been a very active "conductor" on the Under- 
ground.' From him I had the facts of the following 

* Anonymous reminiscences published in the Buffalo Courier, about 1887. 

' Apparently the greatest travel, at least over these particular routes, 
was during 1840-41. It was a justifiable boast of the "conductors '* that a 
"passenger" was never lost. In a journal of notes, which was annually 
kept for many years by one of the zealous anti-slavery men of that day, 
I tind the following entry in 1841 : " Nov. i.— The week has been cold ; 
some hard freezing and snow; now warm; assisted six fugitives from 
oppression, from this land of equal rights to the despotic government of 
Great Britain, where they can enjoy their liberty. Last night put them on 
board a steamboat and paid their passage to Bunalo." 

' When I knew Frank Henry, he was light-house keeper at Erie. He 
dieii in October, 1880, and his funeral was a memorable one. After the 
body had been viewed by his friends, while it lay in state in the parlor of 
his old home in Wesleyvitle, the casket was lifted to the shoulders of the 
pall-bearers, who carried it through the streets of the little village to the 
church, all the friends, which included all the villagers and many from the 

Underground Trails. 


I fought 
in beat- 
e would 
ries had 
sis, who 
;t above 
hat slave 
joked as 
y and ran 
;r threat - 

;ive more 
(vns along 
, Buffalo.' 
o become 
rie, who 
e Under - 

er. about lE^Sy. 

ticular routes, 
iclors" that a 

, was annually 

[n of that day. 

has been cold ; 

lugitives from 
rovernment of 
ii put them on 

at Eric. He 
■ne. .^ft«»' the 
Vi the parlor of 
loulders of the 
IvillaRe to the 
Imany from the 

experiences, which he had not in earlier years thought 
it prudent to make public. These I now submit, partly 
in Mr. Henry's own language, as fairly-illustrative epi- 
sodes in the history of Underground trails at the eastern 
end of I^ke Erie. 

In the year 1841 Capt. David Porter Dobbins, after- 
wards Superintendent of Life Saving Stations in the 
Ninth U. S. District, including Lakes Erie and Onta- 
rio, was a citizen of Erie. In politics he was one 
of the sturdy, old-time Democrats, not a few of whom, 
in marked contrast to their "Copperhead" neighbors, 
secretly sympathized with and aided the runaway slaves. 
Capt. Dobbins had in his employ a black man named 
William Mason, his surname being taken, as was the 
usual, but not invariable, custom among slaves, from 
that of his first master. Now Mason, some time be- 
fore he came into th** employ of Capt. Dobbins, had 
apparently become tired of getting only the blows and 
abuse of an overseer in return for his toil ; so one night 
he fjuietly left his "old Kentucky home," determined 
to gain his freedom or die in the attempt. In good 
time he succeeded in getting to Detroit, then a small 
town ; and there he found work, took unto himself a 


city and the country round about, followine in procession on foot. The 
little church could not hold the assemblage, out the overflow waited until 
the service was over, content, if near enough the windows or the open 
door, to hear but a portion of the eulogies his beloved pastor pronounced. 
Then they all proceeded to the graveyard behind the hist<>ric church and 
laid him away. He was a man of an exceptionally frank and lovable 
character. Prof. Wilbur H. Siebert mentions him in his history, "The 
IJnderground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom"; but nowhere else, I 
believe, is as much recorded of the v.ork which he did for the refugee 
slaves as in the incidents told in the following pages ; and these, we may 
be assured, are but examples of the service in which he was engaged 
fur a good many years. 


'i' ., 



\ , 





:: i.i" 





Underground Trails, 

wife, and essayed to settle down. Instead, however, 
of settling, he soon found himself more badly stirred 
up than ever before, for his wife proved to be a 
veritable she-devil in petticoats, with a tongue keener 
than his master's lash. They parted, and the unfaith- 
ful wife informed against him to the slave-hunters. 
Mason fled, made his way to Erie, and was given work 
by Capt. Dobbins. He was a stalwart negro, intelli- 
gent above the average, altogether too fine a prize to 
let slip easily, and the professional slave-hunters lost 
no time in hunting him out. 

For many years prior to the Civil War a large class 
of men made their living by ferreting out and recaptur- 
ing fugitive slaves and returning them to their old 
masters ; or, as was often the case, selling them into 
slavery again. Free black men, peaceful citizens of 
the Northern States, were sometimes seized, to be sold 
to unscnipulous men who stood ever ready to buy 
them. There was but little hope for the negro who 
found himself carried south of Mason and Dixon's line 
in the clutches of these hard men, who were generally 
provided with a minute description of runaways from 
the border States, and received a large commission for 
capturing and returning them into bondage. 

One day, as Mason was cutting up a quarter of 
beef in Capt. Dobbins's house, two men came in, 
making plausible excuses. Mason saw they were 
watching him closely, and his suspicions were at once 

" Is your name William ? " one of them asked. 


J stirred 
be a 
; keener 
^en work 
, intelli- 
L prize to 
Iters lost 

irge class 
their old 
;hem into 
iti/.ens of 
to be sold 
y to buy 
legro who 
Ixon's line 
rt-ays from 
rtission for 

^juarter of 

came in, 

[hey were 

Ire at once 


Underground Trails. 


'* No, " said Mason curtly, pretending to be busy 
with his beef. 

Then they told him to take off his shoe and let them 
see if there was a scar on his foot. On his refusing to 
do so, they produced handcuffs and called on him to 
surrender. Livid with desperation and fear, Mason 
rushed upon them with his huge butcher-knive, and 
the fellows took to their heels to save their heads. 
They lost no time in getting a warrant from a magis- 
trate on some pretext or other, and placed it in the 
hands of an officer for execution. 

While the little by-play with the butcher-knife was 
going on, Capt. Dobbins had entered the house, and 
to him Mason rushed in appeal. Swearing "by de 
hosts of heaben " that he would never be captured, he 
piteously begged for help and the protection of his em- 
ployer. And in Capt. Dobbins he had a friend who 
was equal to any emergency. Calling Mason from the 
room his employer hurried with him to Josiah Kellogg's 
house, then one of the finest places in Erie, with a 
commanding view from its high bank over lake and 
bay.' To this house Ma.son was hurried, and Mrs. 
Kellogg com])rehended the situation at a glance. The 
fugitive was soon so carefully hidden that, to use the 
Captain's expression, "The Devil himself couldn't 
have found him, sir ! " 

Expeditious as they were, they had been none too 
quick. Capt. Dobbins had scarcely regained his own 

> Afterwards long known as the Lowry Mansion, on Second Street, 
between French and Holland streets. It is still standing. 


y It 






1. 1 


f • "^ 




i" i 


i ' 


» i 

I. ii 


( 1- 

: f: I* 


2 so 

Under grou7id Trails, 

door, when the two slave-hunters came back with the 
sheriff and demanded Ma;ion. 

'* Search the premises at your pleasure," was the re- 

The house was ransacked from cellar to garret, but, 
needless to say, Mason was not to be found. 

There was living in Erie at that time a big burly 
negro, Lemuel Gates by name, whose strength was 
only surpassed by his good nature. He was willing 
enough to lend himself to the cause of humanity. The 
Captain owned a very fast horse, and while the officer 
and his disappointed and suspicious companions were 
still lurking around, just at nightfall, he harnessed 
his horse into the buggy and seated the Hercules by 
his side. All this was (juietly done in the barn with 
closed doors. At a given signal, the servant-girl threw 
open the doors, the Captain cracked his whip, and out 
they dashed at full speed. He took good care to be 
seen and recognized by the spies on watch, and then 
laid his course for Hamlin Russell's house at Belle 
Valley. Mr. Russell was a noted Abolitionist, and 
lived on a cross-road between the Wattsburg and Lake 
I'leasant roads. Just beyond Marvintown, at Davison's, 
the Lake Pleasant road forks off from the Wattsburg 
road to the right. The travelers took the I^ake road. 
W'hen Mr. Russell's house was reached, the Captain 
slipped a half-eagle into the hand of his grinning com- 
panion, with the needless advice that it would be well 
to make tracks for home as fast as possible. Mr. Rus- 
sell was told of the clever ruse, and then Capt. Dobbins 


I' I 



Underground Trails. 



th the 

the re- 

t, but, 

r burly 
th was 
. The 
z officer 
ns were 
:ules by 
irii with 
irl threw 
and out 
re to be 
md then 
at Belle 
list, and 
nd Lake 
ce road. 
ng com- 
be well 
r. Rus- 

drove leisurely homeward. At the junction of the two 
roads he met the officer and his comrades in hot pursuit. 

•'Where is Mason?" they demanded. 

" P'ind out, " was the Captain's only answer, as he 
drove (|uietly along, chuckling to himself over the suc- 
cess of his strategy ; while the slave-hunters worked 
themselves into a passion over a fruitless search of Mr. 
Russell's innocent premises. 

Early one morning a few days afterward, as Capt. 
Dobbins was on the bank of the lake, he saw a vessel 
round the point of the Peninsula, sail up the channel, 
and cast anchor in Misery Bay, then, and for many 
years afterwards, a favorite anchorage for wind-bound 
vessels. Soon a yawl was seen to put off for the 
shore with the master of the vessel aboard. Capt. 
Dobbins contrived to see him during the day, and 
was delighted to find him an old and formerly 
intimate shipmate. The ship-master heartily entered 
into the Captain's plans, and it was agreed to put 
Mason aboard of the vessel at two o'clock the next 

At the time of which we write, the steamer docks and 
lumber-yards which later were built along the shore at 
that point, were yet undreamed of, and the waters of 
the bay broke unhindered at the foot of the high bank 
on which stood Mrs. Kellogg' s house, where Mason 
was hid. It would not do openly to borrow a boat, 
and Capt. Dobbins had no small difficulty in getting 
a craft for the conveyance of his protci^e to the vessel. 
At last, late at night, a little, leaky old skiff was 












r : 





* /• 


l; : 

,;! !. 


Underground Trails. 

temporarily confiscated. By this time a strong breeze 
had sprung up, and it was difficult to approach the 
shore. A tree had fallen over the bank with its top in 
the water, and the Captain found precarious anchorage 
for his leaky tub by clinging to its branches. With a 
cry like the call of the whip-poor-will the runaway was 
summoned. In his hurry to get down the bank he 
slipped and fell headlong into the fallen treetop ; 
while a small avalanche of stones and earth came crash- 
ing after and nearly swamped the boat. When the 
boat had been lightened of its unexpected cargo, the 
voyage across the bay began. The poor darky, how- 
ever, was no sooner sure that his neck was not broken 
by the tumble, than he was nearly dead with the fear 
of drowning. Their boat, a little skiff just big enough 
for one person, leaked like a sieve, and soon became 
water-logged in the seaway. Mason's hat was a stiff 
"plug," a former gift of charity. It had suffered 
sorely by the plunge down the bank, but its niin was 
made complete by the Captain ordering its owner to 
fall to and bail out the boat with it. The brim soon 
vanished, but the upper part did very well as a bucket ; 
and the owner consoled himself that in thus sacrificing 
his hat he saved his life. It was a close call for safety. 
The Captain tugged away at the oars as never before, 
and the shivering negro scooped away for dear life to 
keep the boat afloat. In after years Capt. Dobbins 
experienced shipwreck more than once, but he used 
to say that never had he been in greater peril than 
when making that memorable trip across Presque Isle 


Underground Trails, 


ich the 
s top in 
With a 
way was 
bank he 
treetop ; 
ne crash- 
^hen the 
argo, the 
•ky, how- 
at broken 
I the fear 
ig enough 
n became 
vas a stiff 
i suffered 
; ruin was 
owner to 
irini soon 
bucket ; 
jfor safety, 
er before, 
ear life to 
jt he used 
peril than 
jesque Isle 

Bay in the wild darkness and storm of midnight. The 
vesjiel was at length reached. She was loaded with 
staves, and a great hole was made in the deck load, 
within which Mason was snugly stowed away, while 
the staves were piled over him again. Capt. Dobbins 
reached the mainland in safety before daylight, and 
during the morning had the satisfaction of seeing the 
wind haul around off land, when the vessel weighed 
anchor and sailed away. 

Knowing that pursuit was impo.ssible (there were 
no steam tugs on the bay in those days), Capt, Dob- 
bins quietly told the officer that he was tired of being 
watched, and that if he would come along, he would 
show him where Mason was. The Captain had noti- 
fied some of his friends, and when the bank of the lake 
was reached, a crowd had gathered, for the affair had 
created quite a stir in the village, 

"Do you see that sail?" said the Captain, pointing 
to the retreating vessel, 

" Well ?" was the impatient answer, 

"Mason is aboard of her," was the quiet reply. 
The befooled magistrate of the law, who had taken great 
care to bring handcuffs for his expected prisoner, 
acknowledged himself beaten; while the "nigger- 
chasers" were glad to sneak off, followed by the shouts 
and jeers of the crowd. "Pretty well done — for a 
Democrat," said Mr, Russell to the Captain a few days 
afterwards. "After your conversion to our principles 
you will make a good Abolitionist." 

Some years after the event above narrated, as Caj)t. 



.- * \\ 


Underground Trails. 


Dobbins' was in the cabin of his vessel as she lay at 
Buffalo, a respectably-dressed black man was shown 
into the cabin. It was Mason, who had come to repay 
his benefactor with thanks and even with j)roffered 
money. He had settled somewhere back of Kingston, 
Ontario, on land which the Canadian Government at 
that time gave to actual settlers. He had married an 
amiable woman, and was prosperous and happy. 

I give the following incident substantially as it was 
set down for me by Mr. Frank Henry : 

In the summer of 1858 Mr. Jehiel Towner (now 
deceased) sent me a note from the city of Erie, asking 
me to call on him that evening. When night came I 
rode into town from my home in Harborcreek, and saw 
Mr. Towner. "There are three 'passengers' hidden 
in town, Henry," said he, "and we must land them 
somewhere on the Canada shore. You are just the 
man for this work ; will you undertake to get them 
across ? ' ' 

You must remember that we never had anything to 
do with "runaway niggers" in those days, nor even 
with "fugitive slaves"; we simply "assisted pas- 
sengers." I knew well enough that there was a 
big risk in the present case, but I promised to do 
my part, and so after talking over matters a little I 
drove home. 

' Capt. D. P. Dobbins was for many years a distinguished resident of 
Buffalo. As vessel master, Government official, and especially as inventor 
of the Dobbins life-boat, he acquired a wide reputation ; but little has been 
told of his Underground Railroad work. He died in 189a. 


Underground Trails. 


I lay at 
1 shown 
to repay 
iment at 
tried an 

as it was 

ler (now 
le, asking 
It came I 
, and saw 
5' hidden 
ind them 
just the 
et them 

ything to 

nor even 

ted pas- 

was a 

ed to do 

a little I 


resident of 
y as inventor 
Itle has been 

The next night just about dusk a wagon was driven 
into my yard. 'I'he driver, one Hamilton Waters, 
was a free mulatto, known to everybody around Erie. 
He had brought a little boy with him as guide, for he 
was almost as blind as a bat. In his wagon were three 
of the strangest-looking "passengers ' ' I ever saw ; I can 
remember how oddly they looked as they clambered out 
of the wagon. There was a man they called Sam, a 
great strapping negro, who might have been forty \ ears 
old. He was a loose-jointed fellow, with a head like 
a pumj)kin, and a mouth like a cavern, its vast circum- 
ference always i;t:.ciched in a glorious grin ; for no 
matter how badly Sam might feel, or how frightened, 
the grin had so grown into his black cheeks that it 
never vanished. I remember how, a few nights after, 
when the poor fellow was scared just about out of his 
wits, his grin, though a little ghastly, was as broad 
as ever. Sam was one of the queerest characters I ever 
met. His long arms seemed all wrists, his legs all 
ankles ; and when he walked, his nether limbs had a 
flail-like flop that made him look like a runaway wind- 
mill. The bases upon which rested this fearfully- 
and wonderfully-made superstructure were abundantly 
ample. On one foot he wore an old shoe — at least 
number twelve in size — and on the other a heavy 
boot ; and his trousers-legs, by a grim fatality, were 
similarly unbalanced, for while the one was tucked 
into the boot-top, its fellow, from the knee down, had 
wholly vanished. Sam wore a weather-beaten and 
brimless "tile" on his head, and in his hand carried 



\ ,1 





Underground Trails. 

' '. • 

!• ' 


V i 



an old-fashioned long-barreled rifle. He set great 
store by his " ole smooth bo'," though he handled it in 
a gingerly sort of way, that suggested a greater fear of 
its kicks than confidence in its aim. Sam's comjian- 
ions were an intelligent-looking negro about twenty- 
five years old, named Martin, and his wife, a pretty 
<|uadroon girl, with thin lips and a pleasant voice, for 
all the world like Eliza in "Uncle Tom's Cabin." 
She carried a plunij) little piccaninny against her 
breast, over which a thin shawl was tightly drawn. 
She was an uncommonly attractive young woman, and I 
made up my mind then and there that she shouldn't 
be carried back to slavery if 1 had any say in the matter. 

J'he only persons besides myself who knew of their 
arrival were William P. Trimble and Maj. F. L. Fitch. 
The i^arty was conducted to the old Methodist church 
in Wesleyville, which had served for a long time as a 
place of rendezvous and concealment. Except for the 
regular Sunday services, and a Thursday-night prayer- 
meeting, the church was never opened, unless for an 
occasional funeral, and so it was as safe a place as could 
well have been found. In of unexpected intruders, 
the fugitives could crawl up into the attic and remain 
as safe as if in Liberia. 

It was my plan to take the " j)assengers " from the 
mouth of Four-Mile Creek across the lake to Long 
Point light-house, on the Canada shore, but the wind 
hung in a bad quarter for the next two or three days, 
and our party had to keep in the dark. One rainy 
night, however — it was a miserable, drizzling rain, 

et great 
lied it in 
:r fear of 
a pretty 
:oice, for 
linst her 
y drawn, 
lan, and I 
le matter. 
V of their 
L. Fitch, 
ist church 
time a.s a 
ipt for the 
t prayer- 
;ss for an 
as could 
d remain 

from the 
to Long 
the wind 
[ree days, 
)ne rainy 
[ing rain, 

Underground Trails. 


and dark as Egypt — I was suddenly notified that a 
sailboat was in readiness off the mouth of Four-Mile 
Creek. At first I was at a loss what to do. I didn't 
dare go home for provisions, for I had good reason to 
believe that my house was nightly watched by a 
cowardly wretch, whose only concern was to secure the 
$500 offered by .Sam's former master for the capture of 
the slaves. In the vicinity lived a well-to-do farmer, 
a devoted pro-slavery Democrat. Notwithstanding his 
politics, I knew the man was the soul of honor, and 
possessed a great generous heart. So I marshaled my 
black brigade out of the church, and marched them 
OiT, through the rain, single file, to his house. In 
answer to our knock, our friend threw open the door ; 
then, with a thousand interrogation points frozen into 
his face, he stood for a minute, one hand holding a 
candle above his head, the other shading his eyes, as 
he stared at the wet and shivering group of darkies, 
the very picture of dumfounded astonishment. In less 
time than it takes to tell it, however, he grasped the 
situation, hustled us all into the house and shut the 
door with a most expre.ssive slam. 

" What in does all this mean? " was his pious 


He saw what it meant, and it needed but few words 
of explanation on my part. "They are a party of 
fugitives from slavery," said I, calling our friend by 
name. "We are about to cross the lake to Canada; 
the party are destitute and closely pursued ; their only 
crime is a desire for freedom. This young woman and 





; V, 1 

, 1 


5; f^ 

* M 


Underground Trails, 




mother has been sold from her husband and child to a 
dealer in the far South, and if captured, she will be 
consigned to a life of shame." The story was all too 
common in those days, and needed no fine words. 
'I'he young girl's eyes pleaded more forcibly than any 
words I could have spoken. 

" Well — what do you want of me? " demanded our 
host, trying hard to look fierce and angry. 

" Clothing and provisions," I replied. 

"Now look here," said he, in his gruffest voice, 
" this is a bad job — bad job." Then, turning to the 
negroes: "Better go back. Canada is full of runa- 
way niggers now. They're freezin' and starvin' by 
thousands. Was over in Canada t'other day. Saw six 
niggers by the roadside, with their heads cut off. 
Hones of niggers danglin' in the trees. Crows pickin' 
their eyes out. You better go back, d'ye hear T' 
he added, turning suddenly towards Sam. 

Poor Sam shook in his shoes, and his eyes rolled in 
terror. He fingered his cherished smooth-bore as 
though uncertain whether to shoot his entertainer, or 
save all his ammunition for Canada crows, while he 
cast a helpless look of ai)i>eal ujjon his {omi)anions. 
The young woman, however, with her keener insight, 
had seen through the sham bruscpieness of their host ; 
and although she was evidently appalled by the horrible 
picture of what lay before them across the lake, her 
heart told her it was immeasurably to be preferred to a 
return to the only fate which awaited her in the South. 
Her thoughts lay in her face, and our friend read them ; 


i M 

hikl to a 
I will be 
lb all too 
le words, 
than any 

mded our 

est voice, 
ing to the 
1 of runa- 
tarvin' by 
Saw six 
s cut off. 
»ws pickin' 
e /war / ' ' 

rolled in 
ih-bore as 
rtainer, or 
while he 

r insight, 

heir host ; 

e horrible 
lake, her 

Iferred to a 

Ithe South. 

lead them ; 

Underground Trails. 


and not having a stone in his broad bosom, l)ut a big, 
warm, thimiping old heart, was moved to pity and to 
aid. He set about getting a basket of provisions. 
Then he skirmished around and found a i)lankct and 
hood for the woman ; all the time declaring that lie 
never would help runaway niggers, no sir ! and draw- 
ing (for Sam's especial delec tation) the most horrible 
pictures of Canadian hospitality that he could ( onjure 
up. " Vou'll find 'em on shore waitin' for ye, " said 
he ; "they'll catch ye and kill ye and strir. ., \o up for 
a scare-crow. " Seeing that Sam was coatless, he 
strip|)ed off liis own coat and bundled it upon the 
astonished darky with the consoling remark : " When 
they get hold of you they'll tan your black hide, 
stretch it for drum-heads, and beat ' Ciod Save the 
(^)ueen ' out of ye every day in the year." 

All being in readiness, our bene fat tor plunged his 
hand into his |)Ockct, and pulling it out full of small 
change thrust it into the woman's hands, still urging 
them to go back to the old life. .\t the door Sam 
turned back and spoke for the first time : 

" Look '*' hyar, Massa, you's good to we uns an' 'fo' 
de Lo'd I tank yer. Kfenny No'then gemmen hankah 
fur my chan< es in de Souf, I' zign in dair lavo'. 'Fo' 
de good I.o'd I tank ye. Ma. sa, I does, shiiah .' " 

Here Sam's feelings [Oi die better of him, and we 
were hurrying off, wh on o;ir entertainer said : 

" See here, now, Henry, remember you were never 
at my house with a lot of damned niggers in the night. 
Do you unilerstand ? " 


m »i 


' ii 





Underground Trails. 

<< \ 


I ( 

M -y- 

All right, sir. You are the last man who would 
ever be charged with Abolitionism, and that's the 
reason why we came here tonight. Mum is the word." 
The rain had stopped and the stars were shining in a 
cheerful way as we all trudged down the wet road to 
the lake shore. Our boat was found close in shore, 
and Martin and his wife had waded out to it, while 
Sam and I stood talking in low tones on the beach. 
Suddenly a (rush like the breaking of fence-boards was 
heard on the bank near by, and to the westward of us. 
We looked u|) cjuickly and saw the form of a man (limb 
over the fence and then crouch down in the shadow. 
Up came Sam's rifle, and with a hurried aim he fired 
at the moving object. His old gun was trusty and his 
aim true, and had it not been for a lucky blow from my 
hand, which knocked the gun uj^wards just as he fired, 
and sent the ball whistling harmlessly over the bank, 
there' d have been one less mean man in the world, and 
we should have had a corpse to dispose of. I scrambled 
up the bank, with my heart in my mouth, I'll confess, 
just in time to see the sneak scurry along in the direc- 
tion of the highway. I watched a long time at the 
creek after the boat left, and seeing no one astir started 
for home. By the time 1 reached the l.ake road the 
moon had come up, and a fresh carriage-track could be 
plainly seen. I followed it down the road a short dis- 
tance, when it turned, ran the sod, and ended 
at the lence, which had been freshly gnawed by horses. 
It then turned back into the highway, followed up the 
crossroad to Wesleyville, and thence came to the city. 

Underground Trails, 


'I'he fugitives reached the promised land in safety, 
and I heard from them several times thereafter. The 
man Sam subse(}uentiy made two or three successful 
trips l>ack to the old home, once for a wife and after- 
wards for other friends. He made some money in the 
Canada oil fields, and some time after sent me $100, 
S.IO for myself to invest in books, and 850 for the fish- 
ermen who carried them safely across to Long Point 
and liberty. 




■ f 

Of all the places which have .sheltered the fugitive 
slave there is none better known, along the southeast- 
ern shore of I^ke Krie, than the old Methodist church 
at VVesleyville, Krie Co., Pennsylvania. It stands 
today much as it stood a half century since; though 
re|)airs have been made from time to time, and of late 
y*»ars modern coal stoves have replaced the ca{)acious 
hut 'yrvid old wood -eaters known as box -stoves. Dedi- 
cated to (iod, it has been doubly hallowed by being 
devoted to the cause of humanil\. To more than 
one wretch, worn out with the toils of a long flight, it 
has proved a glorious house of refuge ; and if safety 
lay not within the shadow of its sacred altar, it surely 
did amidst the shadowy gloom of its dingy garret. 

In the year 185() there lived in Caldwell County, 
in western Kentucky, a well-to-do farmer named Wil- 
son. He owned a large and well-stO( ked farm, which 
he had inherited, with several slaves, from his father. 
Mr. Wilhon was an easy-going and indulgent master, 
and reaped a greater reward of affection from his 



Underground Trails. 


M i 

; / 

"people" than he did of pecuniary gain from his 
plantation. In the autumn of the above-named year 
he died, and his servants were divided among tht- 
heirs, who lived in Daviess County, in the same State. 
Two of the slaves. Jack and Nannie, a young man and 
his sister, fell to the lot of a hard master named VVat 
son. The housekeeper dying, Nannie was taken from 
the field to fill her place. Nothing could have been 
worse for the i)Oor girl. She was hantlsome, her young 
master a brute. Because she defended her honor she 
was cnielly punished and locked up for many hours. 
Her brother succeeded in freeing her, and together 
they fled, only to be recaptured. They were whipped 
so terribly that the girl Nannie died. Jack survived, 
heart-broken, <juiet for a time, but with a growing re- 
solve in his heart. One night his master < ame home 
from a debauch, and ordered Jack to perform some un- 
reasonable and impossible task. Because the i)Oor boy 
failed, the master tlew at him with an ojjen knife. It 
was death for one of them. The image of poor Nan, 
beaten to an awful death, rose before Jack's eyes. In 
a moment he became a tiger. Seizing a cart-stake, he 
dealt his master a l)low that killed him. The blood of 
his sister was avenged. 

Once more Jack fled. The murder of the master 
had arou.sed the neighborhood. Blood hounds, both 
brute and human, sc oureil the woods and swamjis ; 
flaming handbills offered great rewards for Jack Wat- 
son, dead or alive. With incredible cunning, and 
grown wary as a wild animal. Jack lurked in the vicin- 

r I 


Under in^ounci Trails, 


rom his 
ed year 
ang thf 
\e State, 
man ami 
lecl Wat 
ten from 
ive been 
,er young 
lonor she 
\y hours, 
I whipped 
3\ving re- 
me home 
I some un- 
)Oor l)oy 
life. It 
)oor Nan, 
yes. In 
stake, he 
blood of 

ic master 

nds, both 

swami>s ; 

ack Wat- 

iing, and 

the vicin- 

ity a long time. When the excitement had somewhat 
abated, he found his way to Salem, Ohio, anil was for 
a time in the employ of a worth) (Quaker named Hon- 
sell, whose descendants still live in that locality. It 
was then a neighborhood of Friends, and Jack's life 
among them brought him great good. He learned to 
reatl and write, and became in heart and conduct a 
changed man. His life, however, wa.s hauntetl by two 
ghastly forms ; and as often as the image of his mur- 
dereel master rose before him, that of Nan came also 
to justify the deed. These ap|>aritions wore u|)on him, 
and made his life unnatural and highly sensitive. On 
one occasion, while in Pittsburg, he saw what he took 
to be the ghost of his murdered master < oming toward 
him in the street. He turned and Hcd in abject ter- 
ror, much to the astonishment of all pas.sers-by. I-ong 
afterward he learned that the sup|)Osed ap'parition was 
a half-brother of his former master. 

Jack now determinetl to tlevote hi.s life to freeing his 
countrymen from bondage. In due time he found his 
way to the of Mr. John > oung, a noted Aboli- 
tionist of Wdmington townships in Mencr (.'ounty, 
Pennsylvania. Mr. V'oung was ouv-; of the first 'nen in 
Mercer County to proclaim his political convit tions to 
the world, and to stand by them, bravely and consist- 
ently, and through n«ny a dangerous hour, until slavery 
was a thing of the past. No man ever asked brave 
John N'oung for hel|» and was refused. His house was 
known among Abolitionists far and wide as a safe sta- 
tion for the I'nderground Koad. 






Underground Traih. 


'fil ;l 


While Jack was at Mr. Young's he fell in with a 
young minister, himself a former fugitive from Ken- 
tucky, and who was at the time an earnest Baptist 
preac her in Syracuse, N. Y. I'his friend, named Jarm 
W. l.ognen, promised Jack shelter if he <ould but 
reach Syracuse, and so Jack was "forwarded" along 
the road. 

When he reached Krie. the late Mr. Thomas FMli- 
ott, of Harborcreek, carried him to Wesley ville. VI is 
pursuers were incidentally heard of as being in the 
vicinity of Meadville, and it was necessary to proceed 
with great caution ; so Ja( k was hidden away for a few 
days beneath the shelter of the old chun h roof. 

It so happened that at this time a protracted meeting 
was in progress in the church. It was a great awaken- 
ing, well remembered yet in the neighborhood. There 
were meetings every night, though the chun h was 
shut up during the day. During the evening meetings 
Jack would stay ([uietly concealetl in the garret ; but 
after the congregation dis|)ersed and the key was 
turned in the door, he would descend, stir iij) a rousing 
fire, and make himself as comfortable as possible until 
the meeting-hour c ame roumi again. It is related that 
Mr. David Chambers generously kej)t the house sup- 
plied with fuel ; and his boys, to whose lot fell the 
manipulation of the wood-jiile, were in ( onstant won- 
der at the disappearance of the wood. " I shan't be 
very sorry when this revival winds up," said one of them 
confidentially to the other; " it takes an awful lot of 
wood to run a red-hot revival." The meanwhile bla< k 


Underground Trails. 


n with a 
om Ktn- 
it Baptist 
Tied J arm 
•ould but 
d ' ' along 

omas EUi- 
ille. His 
ng in the 
o proceed 
y for a few 


ed meeting 
;at awaken - 
od. There 
[•hnnh was 
\g meetings 
,rarrct ; but 
f Uey was 
|, a rousing 
^ssible until 
Irelated that 
house sup- 
ot fell the 
Instant won- 
I shan't be 
,ne of them 
lawful lot of 
while blark 

Jack toasted his shins by the revival fire, and found, no 
doubt, a deal of comfort in the sacred atmosphere of 
the sheltering < hur< h. 

I'he meetings grew in interest with every night. 
S< ores were gathered into the fold of the ( hurc h, and 
the whole community, young and old, were tou( hed by 
the mysterious power. The meetings were conducted 
by the Rev. John McLean, afterwards a venerable 
suj»eranntiateof the F.astOhio Conference, yet living ( at 
least a few years ago) in (anfield, Mahoning Count), 
Ohio; by the Rev. B. Marsteller, and others. The 
interest came to a climax one Sunday night. A most 
thrilling sermon had been preached. Kvery heart was 
on fire with the sacred excitement, and it seemed as if 
the Holy Spirit wt're almost taiigii)le in their ver) midst. 
The ( hurch was full, even to (he gallery that surrounds 
three sides of the interior. Methodists are not — at 
least were not in tho^e days — afraid to shout; and 
Jack, hidden above the ceiling, had long been a rapt 
listener to the earnest exhortations. Mis murder, his 
people in bondage, all the sorrows and sins of his 
eventful life, rose betbre his eyes. Overcome with 
contrition, he knelt upon the ri<:kety old boards, and 
poured out his troubles in prayer. Meanwhile, down 
below, the excitement grew. The Rev. James Sullivan 
made an impa.ssioned exhortation, anil when he fmi.shed. 
the altar was < rowded with penitents. The service re- 
solved itself into a general |)rayer-meeting. Men 
embraced each other in the aisles, or knelt in tearful 
prayer together ; while shouts of victory and groans 






li ' 


!>. -^i 





Underground Trails. 

i repentance filled the church. God bless the good 
old-fashioned shouting Methodists, who shouted all 
the louder as the Lord drew near! Some of the old 
revival hymns, sent rolling across winter fields, and 
throl)l)ing and ringing through the midnight air, would 
set the very universe rejoicing, and scatter the legions 
of Satan in dismay. Alas that the religion of lungs — 
the shouting, noisy, devout, glorious old worship, is pass- 
ing away I The whispers of the Devil too often drown 
the modulations of modern prayer, and instead of glori- 
fied visions of angels and the .saints, the eyes of modern 
worshifjcrs rest weariedly upon the things of the world. 

As the title of excitement swelled higher. and wilder 
that night, it caught poor lack, up in the garret. 
Through narrow cracks he could .see the emotions and 
devotions of the audience ; and in his enthusiasm he 
wholly forgot that he was in concealment and his 
presence known to only two or three of the worshij)ers. 

"Come u]), sinners, come up to the 'I'hrone of 
Orate and cast your heavy burdens down," called the 
pastor, his face aglow with exercise and emotion, and 
his heart throbbing with exultation. "Praise be to 
God on High for this glorious harvest of souls." 

"(ilory, glory, amen ! " rose from all parts of the 

"Glory, glory, amen!" came back a voice from 
the unknown al)ove. 

The hubbub was at such a pitch down stairs that 
Jack's unconscious response was scarcely heard ; but 
to those in the gallery it was plainly audible. 

Underground Trails. 


he good 
ited all 
the old 
Ids, and 
r, would 
; legions 
lungs — 
p, is pass - 
;n drown 
. of glori- 
f modern 
e world, 
rid wilder 
e garret, 
tiors and 
asiasm he 
and his 
hrone of 
ailed the 
)tion, and 
ise be to 

irts of the 

oice from 

stairs that 
leard ; but 

" Lord God of Sabbaoth," prayed the minister, 
" come down upon us tonight. Send Thy Spirit into 
our midst ! ' ' 

"Amen! glory! hallelujah!" shouted Jack in the 

The people in the gallery were in holy fear. "It is 
(iabriel," they said. 

*' We come to Thee, Lord ! We come, we come !" 
cried the repentent sinners down stairs. 

" I come, I come, glory to (lod, hallelujah, amen ! " 
shouted back the (iabriel in the garret, clapping his 
hands in the fervor of his ecstacy. 

All at onci. his Abolition friends below heard him. 
They were struck with consternation and looked at 
each other in dismay. If Jack was discovered, there 
would be trouble ; they must (|uiet him at any hazard. 
"The idea of that nigger getting the power in the 
garret ! A stop must be put to that at once. A 
revival in full blast is an unusual treat for an Under- 
ground Railroad traveler : he should take with grati- 
tude what he could hear, and keep still for the safety 
of his skin." So thought his frightened friends, who 
at once cast about for means to quiet him. 

Now it so happened — how fortimate that there is 
always a way out of a dilemma ! — that the old stove- 
pipe, which connecttv' with the chimney in the attic, 
fre(|uently became di;iconnected ; and on more than 
one occasion incipient fires had started among the dry 
boards of the garret (loor. The people were used to 
seeing the boys go aloft to look after the safety of the 





Underground Trails. 

'hk \\ 




; \ 

house ; so, when Dempster M. Chambers, a son of Mr. 
Stewart Chambers, insjiired by a happy thought, scram- 
bled up the ladder and crawled through the trap-do'^r 
into the gloom, those who noticed it thought only that 
the old stove-pii)e had slipped out, and continued to 
throw their sins as fuel into the general religious 
blaze ; or thinking of the fires of hell, gave little heed 
to lesser flames. Jack was soon (juieted, and the meet- 
ing, having consumed itself with its own fervor, broke 
up without further incident. There is no doubt, how- 
ever, that certain worthy people who were seated in the 
gallery have ever stoutly maintained that the Angel 
Gabriel actually replied to the prayers of that memor- 
able night.' 

In due time Jack Watson reached the home of his 
friend, the Rev. Jarm W. Loguen ; and during the dark 
days of the War he rendered valuable aid to the Union 
cause along the Kentucky and Virginia borders, and in 
one guerrilla skirmish he lost his left arm. A few 
years since he was still living on a preempted land- 
claim in Rice County, Kansas. 

The following incident, connected with Watson's 
career, will not be out of place in closing this sketch : 

Some years since the Rev. Cilezen Fillmore, a 
famous pioneer of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 

' I had the facts of this experience from Mr. P'rank Henry, and lirst 
wrote them out and printed them in the Krie (ia/cttc in 1880. (Ah, Time, 
why hasten so!) In i8g,} H. U. Johnson of Orwell, (J., published a 
book entitled " From Dixie to Canadii. Romances and Realities of the 
Undcrg[round Railroad," in which a chapter is devoted to Jack Watson, 
and this experience at the Wesleyville church is narrated, considerably 
embellished, but in parts with striking similarity to the version for which 
Frank Henry and I were responsible. Mr. Johnson gives no credit for his 
facts to any source. 

ti of Mr. 
t, scram - 
)nly that 
inued to 
:tle heed 
he meet- 
)r, broke 
ibt, how- 
ed in the 
le Angel 
t memor- 

le of his 
the dark 
le Union 
s, and in 
A few 
ted land- 

sketch : 
more, a 
Ihurch in 

|y, and tirst 
(All, Time. 
)»ihlished ii 
rities of the 
Ick Watson, 
In for which 
Iredit for his 

Underground Trails. 


Huffalo, and for more than half a century an honored 
member of the Oeneset- Conference, was engaged in 
raising funds for the Freedmen's Aid Society. One 
day his cousin, the late ex-President Millard Fillmore, 
rode out from Buffalo to visit him. During the con- 
versation the venerable preacher related the story of 
Watson's escape, as Watson himself had told it while 
at Fillmore's Underground Railroad de|)Ot. The 
former President was strongly touched by the story, 
and at its he drew a check for fifty dollars for the 
Freedmen. "Thank you, thank you," said the good 
old parson. " I was praying that the Lord would open 
your heart to give ten dollars, and here are fifty." 

No study of Underground Railroad work in this 
region, even though, like the present |)aper, it aims to 
be chiefly anecdotal, can neglect recognition of the 
fact that it was a Buffalo man in the Presidential (hair 
who, by signing the Fugitive Slave act of 1850, brought 
ujMjn his head the maledictions of the Abolitionists, 
who were so stimulated thereby in their humanitarian 
law-breaking, that the most active period in Under- 
ground Railroad work dates from the stroke of Millard 
Fillmore's pen which sought to put a stop to it. No 
[massage in American history displays more acrimony 
than this. Wherever the friends of the negro were at 
work on Underground lines, Mr. Fillmore was de- 
nounced in the most intemperate terms. In his home 
city of Buffalo, some who had hitherto prided them- 
selves upon his distinguished acquaintance, estranged 
themselves from him, and on his return to Buffalo he 




\ > 


1 - 










1.25 1.4 


^ 6" — 















WEBSTER, N.Y 14380 

(716) 872-<;^03 

,> -c? 














*' w^ 


■ li 







Underground Trails. 

found cold and formal treatment from people whom he 
had formerly greeted as friends. Insults were offered 
him ; and the changed demeanor of many of his towns- 
men showed itself even in the church ^7hich he 
attended. Certain ardent souls there were who refu.sed 
any longer to worship where he did.' Mr. Fillmore 
met all these hostile demonstrations, as he sustained 
the angry protests and denunciations of the Abolition- 
ists in general, in dignified impurturbability, resting 
his case upon the constitutionality of his conduct. 
The act of 1850 reaffirmed the act of 1793, and both 
rested upon the explicit provision in the Constitution 
which declares that '* no person held to service or 
labor in one State under the laws thereof, escaping into 
another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation 
therein, be discharged from such service or labor ; but 
shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such 
service or labor may be due. ' ' Obviously, so far as this 
section was concerned, many people of the North were 
in rebellion against the Constitution of the United 
States fur many years before the Civil War. That the 
work of the Underground Railroad was justifiable in 
the humanitarian aspect needs no argument now. But 
the student of that period cannot overcome the legal 
stand taken by Mr. Fillmore, his advisers and sym- 

• Such an one was the anti-slavery worker, Sallie Holley, who had for- 
merly taken great pleasure in the sermons of Mr. Fillmore's pastor, the 
Rev, Dr. Hosmer of the Unitarian Church. When Mr. Fillmore returned 
to FJuffalo and was seen again in his accustomed seat, Miss Holley refused 
to attend there. " I cannot consent," she wrote, "that my name shall 
stand on the books of a church that will countenance voting for any pro- 
slavery presidential candidate. Think of a woman-whipper and a baby- 
stealer being countenanced as a Christian ! " — See " A Life for Liberty," 
edited by John White Chadwick, pp. 60, 69. 

horn he 
5 towns - 
hich he 
) refused 
, resting 
ind both 
ervice or 
ping into 
ibor; but 
horn such 
far as this 
orth were 
e United 
That the 
ifiable in 
low. But 
the legal 
and sym- 

whohad for- 
■s pastor, the 
lore returned 
olley refused 
r name shall 
,■ for any pro- 
and a baby- 
tor Liberty,' 

Underground Trails. 

i f 

I .; 


pathizers, unless he asserts, as Mr. Seward asserted, 
that the provision of the Constitution relating to the 
rendition of slaves was of no binding force. *' The law 
of nations," he declared, "disavows such compacts — 
the law of nature written on the hearts and consciences 
of men repudiates them.'" This was met by the 
plausible assertion that "the hostility which was 
directed against the law of 1850 would have been 
equally violent against any law which effectually car- 
ried out the provision of the Constitution."^ During 
the years that followed, efforts were made to recover 
fugitive slaves under this law. Special officers were 
appointed to execute it, but in most Northern com- 
munities they were regarded with odium, and every 
possible obstacle put in the way of the discharge of 
their offensive duties. Many tragic affairs occurred ; 
but the organization of the Underground Railroad was 
too thorough, its operation was in the hands of men too 
discreet and determined, to be seriously disturbed by a 
law which found so little moral support in the com- 
munities through which its devious trails ran. Thus the 
work went on, through civil contention and bloody 
war, until the Emancipator came to loose all shackles, 
to put an end to property in slaves, and to stop all 
work, because abolishing all need, of the Underground 

» See Seward's " Works," Vol. I., p. 65, et .u-.j. 

'^See Chamberlain's " Biography of Millard Fillmore," p. 13']. 








{(■■■^- ^ 





Niagara and the Poets. 

■ * ' 











^^ - 



|r ' 


1/ ^ 


.-; i. 

*l "' 


I !( 










ON A DAY in July, 1804, a ruddv-faced, hand- 
some young Irishman, whose apj.earance must 
have commanded unusual attention in wild 
fron ,er surroundings, came out of the woods that 

st.l l-standrng stumps, and trudged down the Indian 
trad, wh,ch had not long been made r<assable or 
wagons. Presently he came into the bette part of the 
road, named Willink Avenue, passed a dozen scatte ed 
houses, and finally stopped at John CroWs log tavern 
he prmc,pal inn of the infant Buffalo. He L dust, 
tired, and d.sgusted with the fortune that had brou'.-h; 
an accdent some distance back in the woods, compd h,m to finish this stage of his journev, nm merelv 
on foot, but disabled. Here, surrounded bv mo e 
Indians than whites, he lodged for a dav or so beforl 
contmumg h,s journey to Niagara Fail^ : and here 
accordmg to his own testimony, he wrote a long poem 
wh,ch was not only, in all probability, the firft'^oem 
ever composed in Buffalo, and one of the bit erest 
tirades agamst America and American institutions to 
be found ,n luerature ; but which contained, so far as 
I have been able to discover, the first allusion to \i- 
agara Falls written by one who actuallv traveled 
thither, m the poetry of any language 



' I 



2 76 

Niagara and the Poets. 

I I 



The poetry of Niagara Falls is contem[)orary with 
the first knowledge of the cataract among civilized 
men. One n;ay make this statement with positiveness, 
inasmuch as the first book printed in Europe which 
mentions Niagara Falls contains a poem in which allu- 
sion is made to that wonder. This work is the excess- 
ively r, e " Des Sauvages" of Champlain (Paris, 
1004),' in which, after the dedication, is a sonnet, 
inscribed *' Le Sievr de la Franchise av discovrs Dv 
Sievr Chamjjlain." It seems proper, in tpioting this 
first of all Niagara poems, to follow as closely as may 
be in modern type the archaic spelling of the original : 

Mvses, si vous chantez, vraynient ie vous conseille 

Que vous louez Champlain, pour estre courageux : 
S.ins crainte des hasards, il a veu tant de lieux, 

Que ses relations nous contentent I'oreille. 
II a veu le Perou,'' Mexique «S: la Merueille 

Du Vulcan infernal qui vomit tant de feux, 
Et les saults Mocosans,"'' qui ofTenscnt les yeux 

De ceux qui osent voir leur cheute nonpareille. 

' For the knowledge that the first mention of Niagara Falls is in Cham- 
plain's ■' Des Sauvages," we are indebted to the Hon. Peter A. Porter of 
Niagara Falls, who recently discovered, by comparisoii of early texts, 
that the allusions to the falls in Marc Lescarbot's " Histoire de la Nouvelle 
France" (i6og), heretofore attributed to Jacques Cartier, are really quota- 
tions from " Des Sauvages." published some five years before. There is, 
apparently, no warrant for the oft-repeated statement that Cartier, in 1535, 
was the first white man to hear of the falls. That distinction passes to 
Champlain, who heard of them in 1603, and whose first book, printed at 
the end of that year or early in 1604, gave to the wf>rld its first knowledge 
of the great cataract.— iVf "Champlain not Cartier," by Peter A. Porter. 
Niagara Falls, N. V., 1899. 

'^ Champlain a bien etd jusqu'i Mexico, comme on peut le voir dans son 
voyage aux Indes Occidentales ; mais il ne s'est pas rendu au P^rou, que 
nous sachions. — AWd' in Quebec reprint, i8-]Q. Nor had he been to 

3 Mocosa est le nom ancien de la Virginie. Cette expression, saults 
MiHosans, semble donner k entendre que, Ahs 1603 au moins, Ton avait 
ijuelque connaissance de la grande chute de Niagara.— A'l?/^ in Quel'ec 

rtprint, I8^0. 

jy with 
le which 
.ich allu- 
2 excess- 
( Paris, 
L sonnet, 
covrs Dv 
)ting this 
y as may 
original : 



Js is in Cham- 
A. Porter of 
early texts, 
\e la Nouvelle 
really quota- 
re. There is, 
irlier, in 1535. 
Lion passes to 
)k, printed at 
At knowledge 
[er A. Porter. 

ireir dans son 
I P^rou, que 
he been to 

sion, saults 

3, Ton avail 

in Quebec 

Niagara and the Poets. 277 

II nous promet encor de passer plus auant, 
Koduire les Gentils, & trouucr le Leuaiit, 

Par le Nort, ou le Su, pour aller a la Chine. 

C'est charitablement tout pour I'amour do Dieu. 

Fy des lasches poltrons qui ne bougent d'vn lieu ! 
Leur vie, sans mentir, me paroist trop mcsejuine. 

I regret that some research has failed to discover 
any further information regarding the poet De la Fran- 
chise. Obviously, he took rather more than the per- 
missi])le measure of poet's license in saying that Cham- 
plain had seen Peru, a country far beyond the known 
range of Champlain's travels. But in the phrase ^^ les 
saiilts Mocosans ,' '' the falls of Mocosa, we have the 
ancient name of the undefined territory afterwards 
labeled "Virginia." The intent of the allusion is 
made plainer by Marc Lescarbot, who in 1610 wrote a 
poem in which he speaks of "great falls which the 
Indians say they encounter in ascending the St. Law- 
rence as far as the neighborhood of Virginia.'" The 
allusion can only be to Niagara. 

It is gratifying to find our incomparable cataract a 
theme for song, even though known only by aboriginal 
report, thus at the very dawn of exploration in this 
part of America. It is fitting, too, that the French 
should be the first to sing of what they discovered. 
More than a century after De la BYanchise and Lescar- 
bot, a Frenchman who really saw the falls introduced 
them to the muse, though only by a quotation. This 

1 '• Lescarbot ^crit, en 1610, une pifece de vers dans laquelle il parle des 
Brands sauts que les sauvages disent rencontrer en remontant le Saint- 
Laurent jusqu"au voisinage de la Virginie."— AVwy', Suite, '' Meiang-es 
D'Ifisttiire ft de Litteiafint'" p. 41$. 


hi y 


Niagara and the Poets. 

' i u 


was Father Charlevoix, who, writing **From the Fall 
of Niagara, May 14, 1721," to the Duchess of Lesdi- 
guieres, was moved to aid his description by quoting 
poetry. "Ovid," the priest wrote to the duchess, 
"gives us the description of such another cataract, 
situated according to him in the delightful valley of 
Tempe. I will not pretend that the country of Niag- 
ara is as fine as that, though I believe its cataract much 
the noblest of the two, ' ' and he thereupon quotes these 
lines from the "Metamorphoses": 

Est nemus Ilcemonire, prxrupta quod undique claudit 
Sylva ; vocant Tempe, per quce Peneus ab imo 
Effusus Pindo spumosis volvitur undis, 
Dejectisque gravi tenues agitantia fumos 
Nubila conducit, summisque aspergine sylvas, 
Impluit, et sonitu plusquam vicina fatigat. 

It would be strange if there were not other impres- 
sionable Frenchmen who composed or quoted verses 
expressive of Niagara's grandeur, during the eighty- 
one years that elapsed between the French discovery 
of Niagara Falls and the English Conquest — a period 
of over three-quarters of a century during which 
earth's most magnificent cataract belonged to France. 
But if priest or soldier, coureur-de-bois or verse-maker 
at the court of Louis said aught in meter of Niagara in 
all that time, I have not found it. 

A little thunder by Sir William Johnson's guns at 
Fort Niagara, a little blood on the Plains of Abraham, 
and Niagara Falls was handed over to Great Britain. 
Four years after the Conquest English poetry made its 

Niagara and the Poets, 

n the Fall 
5 of Lesdi- 
3y quoting 
2 duchess, 
r cataract, 
I valley of 
ry of Niag- 
aract much 
uotes these 


ler impres- 
Dted verses 
;he eighty- 
1 discovery 
— a period 
ing which 
to France, 
erse -maker 
Niagara in 

I's guns at 
■ Abraham, 
lat Britain, 
ry made its 


fv^ddilrV'^'"^""^- ^'^^'^^^Pl-redthat 
or ."society, wherein we read : 

Have we not seen at ple.isure'.s lonllv call 

The smihng long-frequented village fall > 
Behold the duteous son, the sire decayed 

1 he modest matron or the blushing maid' 
^ orced from their homes, a melancholy train 
To traverse climes beyond the western main '• 
Uhere w,ld Oswego spreads her swamps around 
And Niagara- stuns with thundering sound 
tven now, perhaps, as there some pilgrim strays 
Through tangled forests and through dangerous ways 

A Tl T" ^'"^ "^" ''^'^''-'^ ^-Pi- claim, ' ' 

And the brown Indian marks with murderous aim • 

There whde above the giddy tempest flies, 

And all around distressful yells arise 

The pensive exile, bending with his woe 

To stop too fearful and too faint to go ' 

Casts a long look where England's glo'ries shine. 

And bids h.s bosom sympathize with mine.'^ 

Obviously Oliver Goldsmith's -Iraveller," ,n its 
American allusions, reflected the current literature o 
those^^y^ar^hen Englishmen heard more of Oswego 

' The pronunciation of " Niaeara " hf>rA ti,» 
anlv w th the nrim^.-,, „ '.'^ '^*. "?re, the read 


sarily wfth ^he pH^aV^kccetltrtherh^^d^^ir/bf ^^^''' ^ l^' - "eces- 
^' NU^^'a ?»"'"^ authorities maintain ; and ^s I h'od'th'"'''"" P^onunci- 

iNi-ag -a-ra" gives us one hard syllable '• m; r 2 °' "'^ '"ore musical 
makes each syllable end in ^^nTlf \ .' f"*" better, -neel -a-^a'-rA " 
;.Xi-ag^a.ra "'would have'Un'?mpL\s?bIe ro'\h"%'^^ word lo't^t etr. 
Le T'^ '^ """^ '°° «^ed in its perverted usa^efnJ''^''"^'; '°"f "«. Bu 
we may expect to hear the harsft '' Ni "e'-a ra^'' n T^^^ l^eform likely, and 

» Dr. Samuel Tnhn«nn .0 .v *^ ^""^^ '« '^e end of the chapter. 

» Dr. Samuel Johnson as is well tn ^^ ^"'^ °^ '^« chapter, 

lines in " The T^raveire"'. -"^^ K'' "^^^^^^^^^^ {-a „,^ ^ , ^, 

. "^o «t°P too fearful and too faint to ,Tn " 





Niagara and the Poets. 

than they ever have since. Niagara and Oswego were 
uttermost i)oints told of in the disjjatches, during that 
long war, reached and held by England's "far-flung 
battle line"; but if Britain's poets foiuid T.y inspira- 
tion in Niagara's mighty fount for a half century after 
Goldsmith, 1 know it not. 

And this brings us again to our first visiting poet, 
'lom Moore, whose approach to Niagara by way of 
Buffalo in 1804 has been described. Penning an 
epistle in rhyme from "Buffalo, on Lake Erie," to 
the Hon. W. R. Spencer — writing, we are warranled 
in fancying, after a supper of poor bacon and tea, or 
an evening among the loutish Indians who hung about 
Crow's log-tavern — he recorded his emotions in no 
amiable mood : 


Even now, as wandering upon Eric's shore 
I hear Niagara's distant cataract roar,' 
I sigh tor home — alas ! these weary feet 
Have many a mile to journey, ere we meet. 

Niagara in 1804 was most easily approached from 
the East by schooner on Lake Ontario from Oswego, 
though the overland trail through the woods was begin- 
ning to be used. Moore came by the land route. The 
record of the journey is to be found in the preface to 
his American Poems, and in his letters to his mother, 

» This is not necessarily hyperbole, b. ny means. Before the Niagara 
region was much settled, filled with the dm of towns, the roar of trains, 
screech of whistles and all manner of ear-offending sounds. Niagara's voice 
could be heard for many miles. Many early travelers testify to the same 
effect as Moore. An early resident of Buffalo, the late Hon. Lewis F. 
Allen, has told me that many a lime, seated on the veranda of his house on 
Niagara Street near Ferry, in the calm of a summer evening, he has 
heard the roai of Niagara Falls. 

I *. 

S ) 


Niagara and the Poets. 

28 r 

TO were 
ng that 
iry after 

ig poet, 
way of 
ning an 
,rie," to 
i tea, or 
ng about 
ns in no 

led from 


.'as begin- 

Ite. The 

)reface to 


Ithe Niagara 
|ar of trains, 
igara's voice 
J to the same 
In. Lewis F. 
Ihis house on 
iing, he has 

published for the first time in his "Memoirs, Journal 
and Correspondence," edited by Earl Russell and 
issued in London and Boston in 1858-'r)H. The 
letters narrating his adventures in the region are 
dated "(leneva, Genessee County, July 17, 1804" ; 
"Chippewa, Upper Canada, July 22d " ; "Niagara, 
July 24th "; — in which he cojjies a description of the 
falls from his journal, not elsewhere published — and 
"Chippewa, July 2oth," signed "Tom." There is 
no mention in these letters of Buffalo, but in the jjrefa- 
tory narrative above alluded to we have this interesting 
account of the visit : 

It is but too true, of all grand objects, whether in nature or 
art, that facility of access to them much dimini' h.s the feeling '.i 
reverence they ought to inspire. Of this fault, howevei, the 
route to T-'iagara, at this period — at least tlie portion ci" '> which 
led through the Gt-nesee country — could not iusiiy b; accused. 
The latter part of the journey, which lay chiefly through yet but 
half-cleared woods, we were obliged to perform on foot ; and a 
slight accident I met with in the course of our rugged walk laiil 
me up for some days at Buffalo. 

And so laid up — perhaps with a blistered heel — 
he sought relief by driving his quill into the lieart of 
democracy. His friend, he lamented, had often told 
him of happy hours passed amid the cla.ssic associations 
and art treasures of Italy : 

But here alas, by Erie's stormy lake, 
As far from such bright haunts my course I take, 
No proud remembrance o'er the fancy plays, 
No classic dream, no star of other days 

if d! 

282 Niagara and the Poets, 

I lath left the visionary light behii.'l, 
That linger!- <7 radiance of immortal mind, 
Which gilds and hallows even the rudest scene, 
The humblest shed where Genius once had been. 

He views, not merely his immediate surroimdings in 
the pioneer village by Lake Erie, but the general char- 
acter of the whole land : 

All that creation's varying mass assumes, 
Of grand or lovely, here aspires and blooms. 
Bold rise the mountains, rich the gardens glow. 
Bright lakes expand and conquering rivers flow ; 
r.ut mind, immortal mind, without whose ray 
This world's a wilderness and man but clay, 
Mind, mind alone, in barren still repose. 
Nor blooms, nor rises, nor expands, nor flows. 
Take Christians, Mohawks, democrats and all, 
From the rude wigwam to the Congress Hall, 
From man the savage, whether slaved or free. 
To man the civilized, less tame than he, 
'Tis one dull chaos, one unfertile strife 
Betwixt half-polished and half-barbarous life ; 
Where every ill the ancient world could brew 
Is mixed with every grossness of the new ; 
Where all corrupts, though little can entice. 
And naught is known of luxury, but its vice ! 
Is this the region then, is this the clime 
For soaring fancies? for those dreams sublime, 
Which all their miracles of light reveal 
To heads that meditate and hearts that feel ? 
Alas ! not so ! 

And after much more of proud protest against Co- 
lumbia and ** the mob mania that imbrutes her now," 
our disapproving poet turned in to make the best, let 

M H 


Niagara and the Poets. 

prepare for Niagara. Years afterwards he admitted 

us that " Fvin h . \ ")■ complacently he tells 

ti 1 of . P^et "h'„°" T "' *"" '" '^^»' "^^ 

bestowed 1,1 -'"'"'f™'- '" ">^' i">"^nce unworthily 
for rt~ '" .r "' "" ''■^"■"«'"-^'>ed welcotn 
DackllinTu, '*'"^'" »h° commanded the 

other "r.^'t ' "O^^^" ^^«= 0"'a"0, in addition to 
Tl! "■"^^■^ °f ™"««^y. begged, on parting with me 
to be allowed to decline payment for my ,isaJ ■• I 
cannot do better than to c.uote further froiTtoun 
of the visit to the falls : 'it-count 

and I lay' awake al^^: tl^^-^'-^^fr ^^^ —^"^ ^ 
cataract in my ears TJ,./ r n ^ ""^ '^^ '°""^ °f the 
era in my liTe and the fir f'r "'"^ ' ^""^'''^^ ^ ^ -"^ of 

cataract gav me " f el n^ V T'" J '^'"^'^' °' ^^'^^ ^-^-^"1 
avval<en again It was t " o ^ H "^'"^ '" ^^'^ "'°^'^ ^^ -- 

upon us. that I cauaht th;. i- , ^ ^^s to burst 

■n. ».s ,he notion 1, ,„.el, of .hraX, ^p. ,rr'w""- 
proachmg, that during the short interval that Ml / '''" 
uation had far outrun the reality l„7 °. ''' """S'" 

- the scene that then o^ 'eVupl":; "^ T'f f "I- "» 
was that of disappointment. I, wouTd have „ ' "''"^ 

.ndeed for anything real to con,e : ' t ", L' sriT:" °' 
these few seconds, formed of if .L .u ^'"'' '" 

words, .The fouitains of 1 ' 1 ' 1'°" ^^^"' -''inural 
can alone give any notion of thJ ^ ""'"'" ^''°^''' "P'" 

was prepared ^' "'^"' ^'^"^^'•^ f'^-" which I 

' f 






Iff & 

ii . 




Niagara and the Poets. 

But, in spite of the start thus got by imagination, the triumph 
of reality was, in the end, but the greater ; for the gradual glory of 
the scene that opened upon me soon took possession of my whole 
mind ; presenting from day to day, some new beauty or wonder, 
and like all that is most sublime in nature or art, awakening sad as 
well as elevating thoughts. 1 retain in my memory but one other 
dream — for such do events so long past appear — which can by 
any respect be associated with the grand vision I have just been 
describing ; and however different the nature of their appeals to 
the imagination, I should find it difficult to say on which occasion I 
felt most deeply affected, when looking at the Falls of Niagara, 
or when standing by moonlight among the ruins of the Coliseum. 

It was the tranquillity and unapproachableness of the 
great fall, in the midst of so much turmoil, which most 
impressed him. He tried to express this in a Song of 
the Spirit of the region : 

There amid the island sedge. 
Just upon the cataract's edge. 
Where the foot of living man 
Never trod since time began. 
Lone I sit at close of day,' . . . 

The poem as a whole, however, is not a strong one, 
even for Tom Moore. 

As the Irish bard sailed back to England, another 
pedestrian poet was making ready for a tour to Niagara. 
This was the Paisley weaver, rhymster and roamer, 
Alexander Wilson, whose fame as an ornithologist out- 
shines his reputation as a poet. Yet in him America 
has — by adoption — her Oliver Goldsmith. In 1794, 
being then twenty-eight years old, he arrived in Phila- 

' Introduced in the Epistle to Lady Charlotte Rawdon. In Moore's day 
there was a tiny islet, called Gull Island, near the edge of the Horseshoe 
Fall. It long since disappeared. 

t ■ 


Niagara and the Poets. 



glory of 

ly whole 


ng sad as 

ane other 

hi can by 

just been 

appeals to 

Dccasion I 



:ss of the 
ich most 
. Song of 

[ong one, 


)s;ist out- 

lln 1794, 
I in Phila- 

iMoore's day 

delphia. For eight years he taught school, or bota- 
nized, roamed the woods with his gun, worked at the 
loom, and peddled his verses, among the inhabitants of 
New Jersey. In October, 1804, accompanied by his 
nephew and another friend, he set out on a walking 
expedition to Niagara, which he satisfactorily accom- 
plished. His companions left him, but he persevered, 
and reached home after an absence of fifty-nine days and 
a walk of 1,260 miles. It is very pleasant, especially 
for one who has himself toured afoot over a considerable 
part of this same route, to follow our naturalist poet and 
his friends on their long walk through the wilderness, in 
the pages of Wilson's descriptive poem, *'The Forest- 
ers." Its first edition, it is believed, is a ([uaint 
little volume of 106 pages, published at Newtown, 
Penn., in 1818.' The route led through Bucks and 
Northumberland counties, over the mountains and up 
the valley of the Suscjuehanna ; past Newtown, N. Y., 
now Elmira, and so on to the Indian village of Cath- 
erine, near the head of Seneca Lake. Here, a quarter 
of a century before, Sullivan and his raiders had brought 
desolation, traces of which stirred our singer to some 
of his loftiest flights. In that romantic wilderness of 
rocky glen and marsh and lake, the region where Mon- 
tour Falls and Watkins now are, Wilson lingered to shoot 
wild fowl. Thence the route lay through that interval 
of long ascents — so long that the trudging poet thought 

To Heaven's own gates the mountain seemed to rise 




' It had prior publication, serially, with illustrations, in the " Portfolio" 
of Philadelphia, i8oq-'io. 



Niagara and the Poets. 



i)' I 


i -i 

— and ecjiially long descents, from Seneca Lake to Cayu- 
ga. Here, after a night's rest, under a pioneer's roof: 

Our boat now ready and our baggage stored, 
Provisions, mast and oars and sails aboard, 
With three loud cheers that echoed from the steep, 
We launched our skiff '* Niagara" to the deep. 

Down to old Cayuga bridge they sailed and through 
the outlet, passed the salt marshes and so on to Fort 
Oswego. That post had been abandoned on the 28th 
of October, about a week before ^Vilson arrived there. 
A desolate, woebegone place he found it : 

Those struggling huts that on the left appear, 
Where fence, or field, or cultured garden green, 
Or blessed plough, or spade were never seen, 
Ts old Oswego ; once renowned in trade. 
Where numerous tribes their annual visits paid. 
From distant wilds, the beaver's rich retreat. 
For one whole moon they trudged with weary feet ; 
Piled their rich furs within the crowded store, 
Replaced their packs and plodded back for more. 
But time and war have banished all their trains 
And naught but potash, salt and rum remains. 
The boisterous boatman, drunk but twice a day, 
I>egs of the landlord ; but forgets to pay ; 
Pledges his salt, a cask for every quart, 
Pleased thus for poison with his pay to part. 
From morn to night here noise and riot reign ; 
From night to morn 'tis noise and roar again. 

Not a flattering picture, truly, and yet no doubt a 
trustworthy one, of this period in Oswego's history. 

But we must hurry along with the poet to his desti- 
nation, although the temptation to linger with him in 

Niagara and the Poets. 

I'oresters ,s a h.storic chronicle of no slight value 

seen by ,ts author at the beginning of the centur- ■ 
wh,leh.s poetic philosophizing is 'now sh ewd no.' 
absurd but always ardently American in tone 

Shore n the.r fra.l " Niagara' ^ narrowly escaped 
swamping, and were picked up by '^ 

A friendly sloop for Queenstown Harbor bound, 

sick" a? Th"' "'''^' ^''" "^''"S glorioullv sea- 
sick. I, „as the season of autumn gales. .A few dav, 

twenty or th.rty persons on board, including a jud^e 
advocate, other judges, witnesses and an Indian prisoner 
had foundered and every soul perished. Xo'^ „} 
he Speedy was afterwards found but the pump, rtich 
n.lson says h,s captain picked up and carr ed o 
Queenston. «iiicu ro 

VVilson had moralized, philosophized and rhapsodized 
all the way from the Schuylkill. His ver,e as he 

.ar:;h"e f "^ °' ■•■^ ™''"'"s=' ^-'^ ^-i 

tates w,th expectation and excitement. He was no a 

Jul t!lh ,' '""™'""-' '= -vid and of historic 
value. .As they tramped through the forest, _ 

Heavy and slow, increasing on the car 

Deep through the woods a rising slorm we hear. 





Niagara and the Poets, 


!,l % 

; \ 

Th' approaching gust still loud and louder grows, 
As when the strong northeast resistless blows, 
Or black tornado, rushing through the wood. 
Alarms th' affrighted swains with uproar rude. 
Yet the blue heavens displayed their clearest sky. 
And dead below the silent forests lie ; 
And not a breath the lightest leaf assailed ; 
But all around tranquillity prevailed. 
" What noise is that ? " we ask with anxious mien, 
A dull salt-driver passing with his team. 
" Noise? noise? — why, nothing that I hear or see 
But Nagra Falls — Pray, whereabouts live ye?" 

This touch of realism ushers in a long and over- 
wrought description of the whole scene. The "craish- 
ing roar," he says, 

bade us kneel and Time's great Clod adore. 

Whatever may have been his emotions, his adjectives 
are sadly inadequate, and his verse devoid of true 
poetic fervor. More than one of his descriptive 
passages, however, give us those glimpses of conditions 
past and gone, which the historian values. For in- 
stance, this : 

High o'er the wat'ry uproar, silent seen, 
Sailing sedate, in majesty serene, 
Now midst the pillared spray sublimely lost, 
Swept the gray eagles, gazing calm and slow. 
On all the horrors of the gulf below ; 
Intent, alone, to sate themselves with blood, 
From the torn victims of the raging flood. 

Wilson was not the man to mistake a bird ; and 
many other early travelers have testified to the former 
presence of eagles in considerable numbers, haunting 

Niagara and the Poets. 





r see 


md over- 
e ** crash- 

d of true 
For in- 

)ird ; and 

Ihe former 


the gorge below the falls in 'juest of the remains of 
animals that had been carried down stream 

Moore, as we have seen, denounced the country for 
its lack of 

That lingering radiance of immortal mind 

which so inspires the poet in older lands. He was 
right in his fact, but absurd in his fault-finding. It 
has somewhere been said of him, that Niagara Falls 
was the only thing he found in America which over- 
came his self-importance ; but we must remember his 
youth, the Hatteries on which he had fed at home and the 
crudities of American life at that time. For a quarter 
of a century after Tom Moore's visit there was much 
in the crass assertiveness of American democracy which 
was as ridiculous in its way as the Old-World ideas of 
class and social distinctions were in their way — and 
vastly more vulgar and offensive. Read, in evidence, 
Mrs. Trollope and Capt. Basil Hall, two of America's 
severest and sincerest critics. It should be put down 
to Tom Moore's credit, too, that before he died he ad- 
mitted to Washington Irving and to others that his writ- 
ings on America were the greatest sin of his early life.' 

' Tom Moore's infantile criticisms of .-Vmerican institutions have often 
been quoted with approbation by persons sharing his supp>osed hostile views. 
What his maturer judgment was may be gathered fr^m the following 
extract from a letter which he wrote, July 12, i8i3, to J. E. Hall, editor of 
the ■' Portfolio," Philadelphia. I am not awire that it ever has been pub- 
lished. I quote from the original manuscript, in my possession : 

" You are mistaken in thinking that my present views of politics are a 
change from those I formerly entertained. They are but a return to those 
of my school & college days — to principles, of which I may say what 
Propertius said of his mistress : Cynihia prima /uit^ Cynthia finis erit. 
The only thing that has ever made them citrate in their o>/iii was that 
foolish disgust I took at what I thought the lonsequenci-s of democratic 

f)rinciples in America - but I juiced by the ibu-e. n.)t the «i-f — and the 
ittle information I took the trouble of seeking came to me through twisted 


i . 1 

:»' •■( 

•j J ■ 

> u 



Niagara and the Poets, 

Like Moore, Alexander Wilson felt America's lack 
of a poet ; and, like Barlow and Hum[)hreys and 
Freneau and others of forgotten fame, he undertook — 
like them again, unsuccessfully — to supply the lack. 
There is something pathetic — or grotesc[ue, as we look 
at it — in the patriotic efforts of these commonplace 
men to be great for their country's sake. 

To Europe's shores renowned in deathless song, 

asks Wilson, 

Must all the honors of the bard belong ? 

And rural Poetry's enchanting strain 

Be only heard beyond th' Atlantic main ? 

Yet Nature's charms that bloom so lovely here, 

Unbailed arrive, unheeded disappear ; 

While bare black heaths and brooks of half a mile 

Can rouse the thousand bards of Britain's Isle. 

There, scarce a stream creeps down its narrow bed, 

There scarce a hillock lifts its little head, 

Or humble hamlet peeps their glades among 

But lives and murmurs in immortal song. 

Our Western world, with all its matchless floods. 

Our vast transparent lakes and boundless woods, 

Stamped with the traits of majesty sublime, 

Unhonored weep the silent lapse of time, 

Spread their wild grandeur to the unconscious sky, 

In sweetest seasons pass unheeded by ; 

While scarce one Muse returns the songs they gave. 

Or seeks to snatch their glories from the grave. 

and tainted channels — and, in short, I was a rash boy & made a fool of 
myself. But, thank Heaven, I soon righted again, and I trust it was the 
only deviation from the path of pure public feeling I ever shall have to re- 
proach myself with. I mean to take some opportunity (most probably in 
the Life of Sheridan I am preparing) of telling the few to vvhcim my 
opinions can be of any importance, how much I regret & how sincerely 
I retract every syllable, injurious to the great cause of Liberty, which my 

hasty view of America & her society provoked me into uttering 

" Always faithfully & cordially Yours, 



Niagara and the Poets. 



Ide a lool of 
\\. it was the 
|i have to re- 
1 probably in 
) whom my 
ow sincerely 
^, which my 


'I'his solicitude by the early American writers, lest 
the poetic themes of their coimtry should go unsung, 
contrasts amusingly, as does Moore's ill-natured com- 
plaining, with the prophetic assurance of Bishop Berke- 
ley's famous lines, written half a century or so before, 
in allusion to America : 

The muse, disgusted at an age and clime 

Barren of every glorious theme, 
In distant lands now waits a better time. 

Producing subjects worthy fame. 

Westward the course of empire takes its way, ... 

I have found no other pilgrim poets making Niagara 
their theme, until the War of 1812 came to create 
heroes and leave ruin along the frontier, and stir a few 
patriotic singers to hurl back defiance to the British 
hordes. Iambic defiance, unless kindled by a grand 
genius, is a poor sort of fireworks, even when it un- 
dertakes to combine patriotism and natural grandeur. 
Certainly something might be expected of a poet who 
sandwiches Niagara Falls in between bloody battles, 
and gives us the magnificent in nature, the gallant in 
warfare and the loftiest patriotism in purpose, the three 
strains woven in a triple paean of passion, ninety-four 
duodecimo pages in length. Such a work was offered 
to the world at Baltimore in 1818, with this title-page : 
** Battle of Niagara, a Poem Without Notes, and Gol- 
dau, or the Maniac Harper. Eagles and Stars and 
Rainbows. By Jehu O' Cataract, author of * Keep 
Cool.'" I have never seen "Keep Cool," but it 



Niagara and the Poets. 

E'^ { 


must be very different from the "Battle of Niagara," 
or it belies its name. The fiery Jehu O' Cataract was 
John Neal.' 

The "Battle of Niagara," he informs the reader, 
was written when he was a prisoner ; when he " felt 
the victories of his countrymen." " 1 have attempted," 
he says, " to do justice to American scenery and Amer- 
ican character, not to versify minutiae of battles." 
The poem has a metrical introduction and four cantos, 
in which is told, none too lucidly, the story of the 
battle of Niagara ; with such flights of eagles, scintil- 
lation of stars and breaking of rainbows, that no brief 
quotation can do it justice. In style it is now Mil- 
tonic, now reminiscent of Walter Scott. The opening 
canto is mainly an apostrophe to the Bird, and a vision 
of glittering horsemen. Canto two is a dissertation on 
Lake Ontario, with word-pictures of the primitive In- 
dian. The rest of the poem is devoted to the battle 
near the great cataract — and throughout all are 
sprinkled the eagles, stars and rainbows. Do not infer 
from this characterization that the production is wholly 
bad ; it is merely a good specimen of that early Ameri- 

1 John Neal, or " Yankee Neal," as he was called, is a figure in early 
American letters which should not be forgotten. He was of Quaker 
descent, but was read out of the Society of Friends in his youth, as he 
says, " for knocking a man head over heels, for writing a tragedy, for pay- 
ing a militia tine and for desiring to be turned out whether or no.'' He was 
a pioneer in American literature, and won success at home and abroad 
several years before Cooper became known. He was the first American 
contributor to English and Scotch quarterlies, and compelled attention to 
American topics at a time when English literature was regarded as the 
monopoly of Great Britain. His career was exceedingly varied and pic- 
turesque. He was an artist, lawyer, traveler, journalist and athlete. He 
is said to have established the first gymnasium in this country, on foreign 
models, and was the first to advocate, in 1838, in a Kourth-of-July oration, 
the right of woman suffrage. His writings are many, varied, and for 
the most part hard to find nowadays. 


Niagara and the Poets. ^ 

Zr'' "*"" '"^^ ^■-' •'-' enough .o escape being 

tive of the battle : ^^^^^^^ ^^^^^'P- 

The drum is rolled again. The bugle sin.s 
And ar upon the wind the cross flag fl "f^ 
A raclunt challenge to its starry foe.' ' 

Where "or ^ ""T °' ^'^^^ "' — ^ '^elow. 

t'Hy waters ; where an angry li.rht 
f;.::'^ ^'-^-^he cataract, and fifls'the'ies 

That one may see at morn i„ youthful po'et?:;. 
^•agara! Niagara! I hear 

Th ^ !r^J'"^ ''"''''■ ^"d I «ee thee rear 

I eV•t":at'"^^r^'^^ ^° ^^^ ^^-^^^^ "- •• 

. see It wave - 1 hear the ocean rise 
And roll obedient to thy call, l^. 
The tempest-hymning of thy floods in fear • 
The quaking mountains and the nodding tr^s 
The reehng birds and the careering breez !! ~" 
The tottermg hills, unsteadied in thy roar 
Niagara ! as thy dark waters pour ' 

One everlasting earthquake rock3 thy lofty shore.- 
The cavalcade went by. The dav, 
A„d,ee,he soldier ,4 ;httl'-f*«7^ 

c^M- , ^ ^ '"^ mighty falls • 




Niagara and the Poets, 


The following picture of the camp at sunset, as the 
reveille rings over the field, and Niagara's mufTled 
drums vibrate through the dusk, presents many of the 
elements of true poetry : 

Low stooping from his arch, the glorious sun 
Hath left the storm with which his course begun ; 
And now in rolling clouds goes calmly home 
In heavenly pomp adown the far blue dome. 
In sweet-toned minstrelsy is heard the cry, 
All clear and smooth, along the echoing sky. 
Of many a fresh-blown bugle full and strong. 
The soldier's instrument ! the soldier's song ! 
Niagara, too, is heard ; his thunder comes 
Like far-off battle — hosts of rolling drums. 
All o'er the western heaven the flaming clouds 
Detach themselves and float like hovering shrouds. 
Loosely unwoven, and afur unfurled, 
A sunset canopy enwraps the world. 
The Vesper hymn grows soft. In parting day 
Wings flit about. The warblings die away. 
The shores are dizzy and the hills look dim. 
The cataract falls deeper and the landscapes swim. 

Jehu O' Cataract does not always hold his fancy with 
so steady a rein as this. He is prone to eccentric 
flights, to bathos and absurdities. His apostrophe to 
Lake Ontario, several hundred lines in length, has many 
fine fancies, but his luxuriant imagination continually 
wrecks itself on extravagancies which break down the 
effect. This I think the following lines illustrate : 

He had fought with savages, whose breath 
He felt upon his cheek like, mildew till his death. 

So stood the battle. Bravely it was fought. 

Niagara and the Poets. 


Lions and Eagles met. That hill was bought 

i^ied these idolaters of bannered fame. 

Three times that meteor hill was bravely lost - 

Three times 'twas bravely won, while madly tost 

f,!".°""f' "S red plumes in the dusky air • ' ' 

^^ h.le Slaughter shouted in her bloody lair 

And spectres blew their horns and shook their whistling hair. 

Of Ih\X?/ 1817 ^° ""'^T •" "^^"^^ ^^ ^^^ ^^"^^^ 

01 me vvar of 1812, one of the finest of which "Sea 
and Land Victories," beginning ' '''^ 

With half the western world at stake 
See Perry on the midland lake,- 
appeared in the Naval Songster of '1 SI ■-. , a 

great avorite half a centurv or ' ""^'' ' 

k^ (-entur> or more aeo So far 

however, as the last War with Creat Britain ha, added 

poet, to the Niagara region as a strilcingly nicturesoue 
scene of war, there is little worthy of atten 1„ o 
ambitious wor. is remembered, wVen rlem e-d " 
all, as a cur.o of literature. This is •< The Contd 
or Independence Preserved," an epic poem L r° ha'd 

ed.t,on, ostentatiously dedicated to Lafayett. - The 

":^:rb..sre: ?:r ::z:'^L!rr ''^■' 

4A000 hnes. I he first and second cantos are devoted 


Niagara and the Poets. 

;< y- 

i i 


to Hell, the third to Heaven, and the fourth to Detroit. 
About one-third of ihe whole work is occupied with 
military operations on the Niagara frontier. Nothing 
from Fort Erie to Fort Niagara escapes this meter- 
machine. The Doctor's poetic feet stretch out to 
miles and leagues, but not a single verse do I find that 
prompts to quotation ; though, I am free to confess, I 
have not read them all, and much doubt if any one save 
the infatuated author, and perhaps his proof-reader, 
ever did read the whole of " The Fredoniad." 

No sooner was the frontier at peace, and the path- 
ways of travel multiplied and smoothed, than there set 
in the fir-^t great era of tourist travel to Niagara, From 
1825, when the opening of the Erie Canal first made 
the falls easily accessible to the East, the tide of visit- 
ors steadily swelled. In that year came one other 
poetizing pilgrim, from York, now Toronto, who, 
returning home, published in his own city a duodecimo 
of forty-six pages, entitled ** V/onders of the West, or 
a Day at the Falls of Niagara in 1825. A Poem. By 
a Canadian." The author was J. S. Alexander, said 
to have been a Toronto school-teacher. Tt is a great 
curio, though of not the least value as poetry ; in fact, 
as verse it is ridiculously bad. The author does not 
narrate his own adventures at Niagara, but makes his 
descriptive and historical passages incidental to the 
story of a hero named St. Julian. Never was the name 
of this beloved patron saint of travelers more unhappily 
bestowed, for this St. Julian is a lugubrious, crack- 

I ,*•, * 




Niagara and the Poets. 

brained individual who mourns the supposed death of 

namedT' ""J^''^^'^'' ^""P' « remarkable driver 
inTslo^T^ ^'"^''«™''^^"'' '"■^'°- '"-dents 
produi :";';"'""""•'•' - ""^ -"o^ was able to 

rtver hi h \f ' " "'""" '° ""•°»' "^'^elf into the 
Za T •"»^*"'^ voice -the lady, i, seem. 

had come from France by a ditferent route- ^e 

tneir iriends decide to ' ' hasten hence, ' ' 

Again to our dear native France 

Where we shall talk ofall we saw 
At thy dread falls, Niagara ' 

From about this date the personal adventtires of indi- 
v^duas bound for Niagara cease to be told in v rs 
and ,f they were they would cease to be of much h s- 
tonc ,„,erest. The relation of the poets to Niagara 
no longer concerns u^becau^e^ts historic aspect 

^^V^T^'^F'^^^ --^ -Ponant 
ratTve Tan •! r' ^'^ '^'^ "^^ ^e less nar- 
WhL '"'''"^' ^° ^"^'^y ^he natural inquirv 

What^unpress upon the poetry of our literature h.; 

•*VVo^rs'S^[hT^ei^1Sfcre"^r'^ -^^^ - ^"- that th.s 
-certain almanacs and smal? prims e^Sn^'ln" '" ^<= '^e second book 
ada West, now Ontario orifT7>ni^^^ """'*' ^^s published in C^n- 
oA'hrvV"".^^^ Canada" K^nesto*^ ^2^ 'nn'°''- "A "^'rsula's Con- 
Of the York school-master's N?-,.vfri 2:. ^'r"? ''"P^ '« b -lieved to exist 
one owned by M. Phileas Ga^n* n^K^^f!"' J '"'°^ °f but two conies" 


Niagara and the Poets. 

this greatest of cataracts made during the three-quar- 
ters of a century that it has been easily accessible to 
the world ? What of the supreme in poetry has been 
prompted by this mighty example of the supreme in 
nature ? The proposition at once suggests subtleties 
of analysis which must not be entered upon in this 
brief survey. The answer to the question is attempted 
chiefly by the historical method. A few selected ex- 
amples of the verse which relates to Niagara will, by 
their very nature, indicate the logical answer to the 
fundamental inquiry. 

There is much significance in the fact, that what has 
been called the best poem on Niagara was written by 
one who never saw the falls. Chronologically, so far 
as I have ascertained, it is the work which should next 
be considered, for it appeared in the columns of a 
New-England newspaper, about the time when the 
newly-opened highway to the West robbed Niagara 
forever of her majestic solitude, and filled the world 
with her praise. They may have been travelers' tales 
that prompted, but it was the spiritual vision of the true 
poet that inspired the lines printed in the Connecticut 
Mirror at Hartford, about 1825, by the delicate, 
gentle youth, John G. C. Brainard. It is a poem 
much quoted, of a character fairly indicated by these 
lines : 

It would seem 
As if God formed thee from his "hollow hand" 
And hung his bow upon thine awful front ; 
And spoke in that loud voice, which seemed to him 

; f 


ssible to 
las been 
reme in 
in this 
:ted ex- 
will, by 
r to the 

ivhat has 
itten hj 
y, so far 
uld next 
ins of a 
tien the 

le world 
2rs' tales 

the true 
a poem 
by these 

Niagara and the Poets. 



Who dwelt in Patmos for his Savior's sakt 
"The sound of many waters " ; and bade ' 
Ihy flood to chronicle the ages back. 
And notch his centuries in the eternal rocks 

Measured by the strength of an Emergen or a Low- 
ell, th>s ,s but feeble blank verse, approaching the 
bombastic ; but as compared with what had 'gone 
before, and much that was to follow, on the Niag"! 
theme, ,t is a not unwelcome variation 

Ihe soul's vision, through imagination's magic glass 
recetves more of Poes/s divine light than is sfed upon 
all the rapt gazers at the veritable cliff and falling flood 
During the formative yeats of what we now regard 
-an established literary taste, but which later gen'erl 
tions wtil modify in turn, most American poefry wL 
mitative of English models. Later, as 'has 'been 
hown, there was an assertively patriotic era ; and later 
st.ll, one of great laudation of America's newly-dis- 
coveted wonders, which in the cace of Niagara took 
the form of apostrophe and devotion. To the patriotic 
l.t«.ture of Niagara, besides examples already cited 

w h"'U°"ri'^ ■""""" ^""^"^'^ "N'iagara.-'printed 
*.th "The Culprit Fay, and Other Poems" in 18,3,5 ■ 

It .s a poem which would strike the critical ear of 

today, I think, as artificial ; its sentiment, however is 

not to be impeached. The poet sings of the love' of 

onhe^r H '''^""S-^"- '"^ Swiss mountaineer; 
?fJl>if!]?Lidanng and bravery ; of the soldier's hero^ 

■ American Literature?' Jo\.\C^^^ ^ rivers.- .SV, Richardson's 


300 Niagara and the Poets, 

ism, even to death. Niapjara, like the alp, the sea, and 
the battle, symbolizes freedom, triumph and glory : 

Then pour thy broad wave like a flood from the heavens, 
Each son that thou rearest, in the battle's wild shock, 

When the death-speaking note of the trumpet is given, 
Will charge like thy torrent or stand like thy rock. 

Let his roof be the cloud and the rock be his pillow, 
Let him stride the rough mountain or toss on the foam, 

Let him strike fast and well on the field or the billow, 
In triumph and glory for God and his home ! 

Nine years after Drake came Mrs. Sigourney, who, 
notwithstanding her genuine love of nature and of 
mankind, her sincerity and occasional genius, was 
hopelessly of the sentimental school. Like Frances 
S. Osgood, N. P. Willis and others now lost in even 
deeper oblivion, she found great favor with her day 
and generation. Few things from her ever-productive 
pen had a warmer welcome than the lines beginning : 

Up to the table-rock, where the great flood 
Reveals its fullest glory, 

and her "Farewell to Niagara," concluding 

. . . . it were sweet 
To linger here, and be thy worshipper. 
Until death's footstep broke this dream of life. 

Supremely devout in tone, her Niagara poems are 
commonplace in imagination. Her fancy rarely reaches 
higher than the perfectly obvious. I confess that I 
cannot read her lines without a vision of the lady her- 
self standing in rapt attitude on the edge of Table 
Rock, with note-book in hand and pencil uplifted to 

Niagara and the Poets. 

catch the purest inspiration from the scene before her 

wrrfeV'" "? ™"-derable train of writers uhose 
Niagara effusaon.s leave on the reader's mind little im- 
pre.s,on beyond an iterated "Oh, thou great Nia.ara, 
^h . Such a one was Richard Kelsev, v.hose 

IS^^'T-."!' °*" ''°^"'''" P""'^" '" London in 
1848. ,s hkely to be encountered in old London l«ok- 

times. Once when I first secured the handsome rilt- 

edged volume ; again, later on, to discover whv I faded 

o remember any word or thought of it ; and 'again „ 

general ,mpress,on of Parnassian attitudinizing and 
extmvagan apostrophe I get nothing out of its ^.J 
Decidedly better are the lines -On V.siting the h^m 
o( Ntagam," by Lord Morpeth, the Earl of Carl Z 

tle^nri'tlb, '"^'"'' '■" ''''■' «^' •-' '-«--" 
me inevitable apostrophe : 

There's nothing great or bright, thou glorious fall • 
1 hou mayst not to the fancy's sense recall - 
but he saves himself with a fairly creditable sentiment • 

Oh . tnay the wars that madden in thy deeps 
There spend their rage nor climb the encirc'ing steeps. 
And t.ll the conflict of thy surges cease ^ 

The nations on thy bank repose in peace. 

_J^_5ritish^poet who should perhaps have mention in 

^^:\^Zr&. r.tnS^trSS 'of-l:,?^^^,,"^ -,- ^^* ^-n.. nd 
n>e„t, but rarely rise ^o.^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 



\t m 



Niagara a7id the Poets. 

this connection is Thomas Campbell, whose poem, 
"The Emigrant," contains an alhision to Niagara. It 
was published anonymously in 1823 in the New Monthly 
Mas^azine, which Campbell then edited.' 

No poem on Niagara that I know of is more entitled 
to our respectful consideration than the elaborate work 
which was published in 1848 by the Rev. C. H. A. 
Bulkley of Mt. Morris, N. Y. It is a serious attempt to 
produce a great poem with Niagara Falls as its theme. 
Its length — about 3,600 lines — secures to Western 
New York the palm for elaborate treatment of the cata- 
ract in verse. "Much," says the author, ** has been 
written hitherto upon Niagara in fugitive verse, but no 
attempt like this has been made to present its united 
wonders as the theme of a single poem. It seems a bold 
adventure and one too hazardous, because of the great- 
ness of the subject and the obscurity of the bard ; but 
his countrymen are called upon to judge it with impar- 
tiality, and pronounce its life or its death. The 
author would not shrink from criticism. . . . His 
object has been, not so much to describe at length 
the scenery of Niagara in order to excite emotions in 
the reader similar to those of the beholder, for this 
would be a vain endeavor, as to give a transcript of 
what passes through the mind of one who is supposed 
to witness so grand an achievement of nature. The 
difficulty," he adds, "with those who visit this won- 
derful cataract is to give utterance to those feelings and 

' The lines are not included in ordinary editions of Campbell's poems. 
The original MS. is in the possession of the Buffalo Public Library. 

D »t 

Niagara and the Poets, 


thoughts thp.t crowd within and often, thus pent 
up produce what may be termed the pain of delight " 
Of a poem which fills 132 duodecimo pages it ,s 
d.fificult to give a fair idea in a few words. There is an 
mtroductory apostrophe, followed by a specific apos- 
trophe to the falls as a vast form of life. Farther on the 
cataract is apostrophized as a destroyer, as an historian, 
a warning prophet, an oracle of truth, a laborer. 
I here are many passages descriptive of the islands, the 
gorge, the whirlpool, etc. Then come more apos- 
rophes to the fall respecting its origin and early life 
It IS vewed as the pre.sence-chamber of God, and as a 
proof of Deity. Finally, we have the cataract's hymn 
to the Creator, and the flood's death-dirge 

No long poem is without its commonplace intervals 
Mr. Bulkley's "Niagara" has them to excess, yet as a 
whole it IS the work of a refined and scholarly mind, its 
imagination hampered by its religious habit, but now 
and than quickened to lofty flights, and strikingly sus- 
tained and noble in its diction. Only a true poet takes 
such cognizance of initial impulses and relations in na- 
ture as this : 

In thy hoarse strains is heard the desolate wail 
Of streams unnumbered wandering far away, 
From mountain homes where, 'neath the shady rocks 
Their parent springs gave them a peaceful birth. 

It presents many of the elements of a great poem 
reaching the climax in the cataract's hymn to the 
Creator, beginning 

Oh mighty Architect of Nature's home ! 



Niagara and the Poets. 


(f ** 

At about this period — to be exact, in 1848 — there 
was published in New York City, as a pamphlet or 
thin booklet, a poem entitled "Niagara," by "A 
Member of the Ohio Bar," of whose indentity I know 
nothing. It is a composition of some merit, chiefly 
interesting by reason of its concluding lines : 

. . • . Then so live, 
That when in the last fearful mortal hour, 
Thy wave, borne on at unexpected speed, 
O'erhangs the yawning chasm, soon to fall, 
Thou start not back affrighted, like a youth 
That wakes from sleep to find his feeble bark 
Suspended o'er Niagara, and with shrieks 
And unavaihng cries alarms the air, 
Tossing his hands in frenzied fear a moment. 
Then borne away forever ! But with gaze 
Calm and serene look through the eddying mists. 
On Faith's unclouded bow, and take thy plunge 
As one whose Father's arms are stretched beneath, 
Who falls into the bosom of his God ! 

The close parallelism of these lines with the exalted 
conclusion of * * Thanatopsis " is of course obvious; 
but they embody a symbolism which is one of the best 
that has been suggested by Niagara. 

From the sublime to the ridiculous was never a 
shorter descent than in this matter of Niagara poetry. 
At about the time Mr. Bulkley wrote, and for some 
years after, it was the pernicious custom to keep public 
albums at the Table Rock and other points at the 
falls, for the record of "impressions." Needless to 


Niagara and the Poets. 


say, these albums filled up with rubbish. To bad taste 
«-as added the iniquity of publication, so that future 

Te7TT r' '' "'^"'^"^^^ ^^^^ °"^ «f ^he least 
creditable of native American literary whims. The 

editor of one of these albums, issued in 1856, lamented 
that the innumerable host of visitors who have per- 
petrated composition in the volumes of manuscript 
now before us, should have added so little to the gen- 
eral stock of legitimate and permanent literature"- 
and he adds -by way seemingly of adequate excuse- 
that the actual amount of frivolous nonsense which 
constitutes so large a portion of the contents 
IS not all to be calculated by the specimens now and 
then exhibited. We have given the best," he says, 
always taking care that decency shall not be outraged, 
nor delicacy shocked; and in this respect, howeve; 
improbable it may seem, precaution has been by no 
means unnecessary. ' ' What a commentary on the sub- 
lime in nature, as reflected on man in the mass ' 

I hese Table-Rock Albums contain some true poetry • 
much would-be fine verse which falls below medicare • 
much of horse-play or puerility : and now and then a 
gleam ol wit. Here first appeared the lines which 
I remember to have conned years ago in a school- 
rhetoric, and for which, I believe, N. P. Willis wa^ 
responsible : 

To view Niagara Falls one day, 

A parson and a tailor took their way ; 

The parson cried, whilst wrapped in wonder. 

And listening to the cataract's thunder, 




306 Niagara and the Poets. 

" Lord ! how thy works amaze our eyes, 
And fill our hearts with vast surprise"; — 
The tailor merely made his note : 
"Lord ! what a place to sponge a coat !*' 

There has been many a visitor at Niagara Falls who 
shares the sentiments of one disciple of the realistic 
school : 

Loud roars the waters, O, 
Loud roars the waters, O, 
When I come to the Falls again 
I hope they will not spatter so. 

Another writes : 

My thoughts are strange, sublime and deep, 
As I look up to thee — 
What a glorious place for washing sheep, 
Niagara would be ! 

Examples of such doggerel could be multiplied by 
scores, but without profit. There was sense if not 
poetry in the wight who wrote : 

I have been to "Termination Rock " 
Where many have been before ; 
But as I can't describe the scene 
I wont say any more. 

Infinitely better than this are the light but pleasing 
verses written in a child's album, years ago, by the late 
Col. Peter A. Porter of Niagara Falls. He pictured 
the discovery of the falls by La Salle and Hennepin 
and ponders upon the changes that have followed : 

What troops of tourists have encamped upon the river's brink ; 
What poets shed from countless quills Niagaras of ink ; 

Niagara and the Poets. 


Falls who 
e realistic 

:iplied by 
36 if not 

: pleasing 
y the late 
! pictured 
»^ed : 

3 brink ; 

What artist armies tried to fix the evanescent bow 

Of the waters falling as they fell two hundred years ago. 

And stately inns feed'scores of guests'from well.;eplenished larder 
And h ,„,en dnve their horses hard, but drive a'bargain ha" ' 
And serean.,ng locomotives rush in anger to and fro ^ ' ' 

But the waters fall as once they fell two hundred yea;s ago 
And brides of every age and clime frequent the islands' bower 
And ga. .om_o. the stone-built perch -hence called the H^da. 

And many a lunar belle goes forth to meet a lunar beau, 
By the waters falling as they fell two hundred years ago. 

a more"'' ''' "'"" "' ''' ^'"^ ^"^"^ ^^^ -^^^- takes 
a more senotts tone, but throt:ghout he keeps up a 

happy cleverness, agreeably in contrast to the prevail- 
ing high gush on one hand and balderdash on the other 
Among the writers of serious and sometimes credit- 
able verse whose names appear in the Table-Rock 
Albums were Henry D. O'Reilly, C. R Rowland 
Sarah Pratt Maria del Occidente'' George Men f 
Henry Lmdsay, the Rev. John Dowling, J. S Buck' 
mgharn, the Hon. C. N. Vivian, Douglas'stuart, A s" 
Ridge y of Baltimore, H. W. Parker, and Josef 
Leopold Stiger. Several of these names are not un 
known ,n hterature. Prof. Buckingham is remembered 
as an earher Bryce, whose elaborate three-volume 
work on America is still of value. Vivian was a dis- 
tinguished traveler who wrote books; and Josef Leo- 
pold otiger's stanzas beginning 

Sei mir gegriisst, des jungen Weltreichs Stolz und Zierde ! 

are by no means the worst of Niagara poems. 


Niagara and the Poets. 


:r • 



I cannot conceive of Niagara Falls as a scene pro- 
motive of humor, or suggestive of wit. Others may 
see both in John (1. Saxe's verses, of which the first 
stanza will suffice to (luote : 

See Niagara's torrent pour over the height, 
How rapid the stream! how majestic the flood 

Rolls on, and descends in the strength of his might, 
As a monstrous great frog leaps into the mud ! 

The ** poem " contains six more stanzas of the same 

The writing of jingles and doggerel having Niagara 
as a theme did not cease when the Albums were no 
longer kept up. If there is no humor or grotesqueness 
in Niagara, there is much of both in the human acces- 
sories with which the spot is constantly supplied, and 
these will never cease to stimulate the wits. I believe 
that a study of this field — not in a restricted, but a 
general survey — would discover a decided improve- 
ment, in taste if not in native wit, as conii)ared with 
the compositions which found favor half a century ago. 
Without entering that field, however, it will suffice to 
submit in evidence one "poem" from a recent publi- 
cation, which shows that the making of these American 
genre sketches, with Niagara in the background, is not 
vet a lost art : 

Before Niagara Falls they stood. 
He raised xloft his head, 

For he was in |ic{ tic mood, 
And this is what he said : 


Niagara and the Poets. 

" Oh, work sublime ! Oh, wondrous law 

That rules thy presence here ! 
How filled I am with boundless awe 
To view thy waters clear ! 

"What myriad rainbow colors float 

About thee like a veil. 
And in what countless streams remote 

T!iy life has left its trail !" 

"Yes, George," the maiden cried in haste 
" Such shades I've never seen, ' 

I'm going to have my next new waist 
The color of that green." 


Fro,., about 1850 down to the present hour there is 
a stnkjng dearth of verse, worthy to be called poetry N,agara for its theme. News,«pers and maLte; 
would no doubt yi,.|d a store if they could be glfa, Id 
perchance the one Niagara pearl of poetry .'thus 

re^r^'rea't" '' " ""r"'^ "''^ '» -"- '^^ 
lew really great poems s,nk utterly from sight There 

.s, or was a self-styled Bard of N.agata, whose vers^ 

pnnted at Montreal in 1872, need not detain us, S 

only long work on the subject of real merit that I know 


Niagara and the Poets. 

Scooped wore round bowls for lakes and grooves for the sliding 

of rivers, 
Whilst with a cunning hand, the mountains were linkM together. 
Then tji rough the day-dawn, lurid with cloud, and rent by forked 

Stricken by earthquake beneath, above by the rattle of thunder. 
Sudden the clamor was pierced by a voice, deep-lunged and 

portentous — 
Thine, O Niagara, crying, "Now is creation completed !" 

He sees in imagination the million sources of the 
streams in forest and prairie, which ultimately pour 
their gathered "tribute of silver" from the rich 
Western land into the lap of Niagara. He makes 
skillful use of the Indian legendry associated with the 
river', he listens to Niagara's "dolorous fugue," and 
resolves it into many contributory cries. In excjuisite 
fancy he listens to the incantation of the siren rapids : 

Thus, in some midnight obscure, bent down by the storm of 

(So hath the wind, in the beechen wood, confided the story). 
Pine trees, thrusting their way and trampling down one another, 
Curious, lean and listen, replying in sobs and in whispers ; 
Till of the secret possessed, which brings sure blight to the hearer 
(So hath the wind, i'l the beechen wood, confided the story). 
Faltering, they stagger brinkward — clutch at the roots of the 

Cry — a pitiful cry of remorse — and plunge down in the darkness. 

The cataract in its varied aspects is considered with 
a thought for those who 

Sin, and with wine-cup deadened, scoff at the dread of hereafter, — 
And, because all seems lost, besiege Death's door-way with 

le sliding 

by forked 

igcd and 

; of the 
ly pour 
he rich 
J makes 
kvith the 
s," and 
rapids : 

storm of 


s ; 

the hearer 


its of the 

red with 

;reafter, — 
way with 

Niaa^ara and the Poets. 3 , j 

The master-stroke of the poem is in two hnes: 
That alone is august which is gazed upon by the nol,le 
That alone .s gladsome .yes full of gLlness dlLvcr 
Herein lies the rebuking judgment upon Niagara's de 
trac ors^not ail of .horn have perpetrated album' rhyLe 

Mr. Houghton, a.s the reader will note, recogni. " 
the trag.c aspect of Niagara. Considering the Li" 
ence wah which accident and suicide attend, mak g 

m:;:k:;;;Th'""^' ^'"" ^'^ -knessesanJ woe. o'f 
mank.nd th.s aspect of Niagara has been singularlv 
neglected by the poets. We have .t, however, e^ us' 
•tely expressed, in the best of all recent Niagara ve"e 

^"der. 1 he fo^lovvmg Imes illustrate our point : 
Thore at the chasm's edge behold her lean 
1 remblmg, as, 'neath the charm 
A wild bird lifts no wing to 'scape from harm • 
fler very soul drawn to the glittering, green, ' 
Smooth, lustrous, awful, lovely curve of per.l ; 
■ !>ile far below the bending sea of beryl 
n.umler and tumult - whence a billowy spray 
fc-nclouds the day. J V ^ 

There is a considerable amount of recent verse corn 
mon ycalied ..fugitive" that has Niagara for i s helT 
but Ihnd httle that calls for special attention. A ft ; 
Buffalo wruers. the Rev. John C. Lord, Judge Jele 

and^hejlev^ Ben«mm Copeland among them, hav^ 

' S,. ■• F,v, Books 01 SooK.- tf R. vv. Gilder. ,8„. 



Niagara and the Poets. 

I '; 

■ •' 

found inspiration in the lake and river for some of the 
best lines that adorn the purely local literature of the 
Niagara region. Indeed, I know of no allusion to Ni- 
agara more exquisitely poetical than the lines in David 
Gray's historical poem, "The Last of the Kah- 
Kwahs," in which he compares the Indian villages 
sleeping in ever-threatened peace to 

the isle 

That, locked in wild Niagara's fierce embrace, 
Still wears a smile of summer on its face — 
Love in the clasp of Madness. 

With this beautiful imagery in mind, recall the lines 
of Byron : 

On the verge 

An Iris sits amidst the infernal surge 

Resembling, 'mid the tortures of the scene, 
I.ove watching Madness with unalterable mien. 

Byron did not write of Niagara, but these stanzas 

The roar of waters 

often have been applied to our cataract. Mr. Gray 
may or may not have been familiar with them. In any 
event he improved on the earlier poet's figure. 

Merely as a matter of chronicle, it is well to record 
here the names of several writers, some of them of 
considerable reputation, who have contributed to 
the poetry of Niagara. Alfred B. Street's well- 
known narrative poem, ** Frontenac," contains Niagara 
passages. So does Levi Bishop's metrical volume 

Niagara and the Poets. 


"Teuchsa Grondie" ("Whip-poor-will"), the Nias 
-a ,K>mo„ dedicated to the Hon. A„g„s.„s S. Porter 
Ever s,„ce Chateaubriand wrote •• Atala," authors 
have been prompted to associate Indian legends with 

wZm T " T: "t^ """^ '^'» -- happily than 

Whi e Can"™'" ' "*°" '"'^■"' " "^"^ L^Send of the 
White Canoe, dlustrated by F. V. Du Mond, is one of 

the most article works in all the literature of Niagara 
The Rev, VVdIiam Ellery Channing, the Rev. jLph 

?ra„ K nV ' ^''- ■'^^^P'' ^°'''^' Christopher P. 
Cranch, Ohver I. Taylor, Grenville Mellen Prof 

Baxley of V,rg,n,a, Abraham Coles, M. D., Henry 
Howard Brownell, the Rev. Roswell Park Wills 
Oaylord Clark, Mary J. Wines, M. E. Wo"d E H 
Dewart, G W. Cutter, J. N. Mcjilton, ^nd t"e 
Chicago wnter, Harriet Monroe, are, most of them 
mmor poets (some, perhaps, but poets by cour.esv)' 
whose tributes to our cataract are contained in the t 
conected volume., of verse. In E. G. Holland 

Nia^^^.K' '^*" ''°™^" ^'»")' '•=■ ^ poem on 
Niagara thirty-one pages long, with several pages of 

notes, -composed for the most part by the Orachen- 

fels, one 01 the Seven Mountains of the Rhine, in the 

vicinity of Bonn September, ,856, and deliv;red Is 

L'.r- .f" ! ^^"^ °" '^'""'■^'"' Scenery the day 
following •• Among the Canadian poets who have 
W. npted the theme, besides several alreadv named, 
"".■ be recorded John Breakenridge, a volume o 
whos,. verse was printed at Kingston in 1846 ; Charles 


Niagara and the Poets. 

Sangster, James Breckenridge, John Imrie, and William 
Rice, the last three of Toronto. The French- 
Canadian poet, Louis Frechette, has written an excel- 
lent poera, ** Le Niagara." Wm. Sharpe, M. D., 
"of Ireland," wrote at length in verse on "Niagara 
and Nature Worship." Charles Pelham Mulvaney 
touches the region in his poem, "South Africa 
Remembered at Niagara." One of the most striking 
effusions on the subject comes from the successful 
Australian writer, Douglas Sladen. It is entitled "To 
the American Fall at Niagara," and is dated " Niagara, 
Oct. 18, 1899" : 

Ni^ ;' wa, na; lonal emblem ! Cataract 

B( '» ' ".e maddened rapids, sweeping down 
Dii^ ist less from the abyss's crown 

Into the u . p, fierce pool with vast impact 

Scarce broken by the giant boulders, stacked 
To meet thine onslaugiit, threatening to drown 
Each tillaged plain, each level-loving town 

" Twixt thee and ocean. Lo ! the type exact ! 

America Niagarized the world. 

Europe, a hundred years agone, beheld 
An avalanche, like pent-up Erie, hurled 

Through barriers, to which the rocks of eld 
Seemed toy things — leaping into godlike space 
A sign and wonder to the human race.' 


Friedrich Bodenstedt and Wilhelm Meister of 
Germany, J. B. Scandella and the Rev. Santo Santelli 
of Italy ("Cascada di Niagara," 1841), have place 

' Dedicatory sonnet in " Younger American Poets, 1830-1890," edited by 
Douglas Sladen and G. H. Roberts. 

Niagara and the Poets. 


among our Niagara poets. So, conspicuously, has 
Juan Antonio Perez Bonalde, whose illustrated volume 
-El Poema del Niagara," dedicated to Emilio Caste- 
lar, with a prose introduction of twenty-five pages by 
the Cuban martyr Jose Marti, was published in New 
York, reaching at least a second edition, in 1883 
beveral Mexican poets have addressed themselves to 
N lagara. - A la Catarata del Niagara " .s a sonnet bv 
Don Manuel Carpio, whose collected works have been 
issued at Vera Cruz, Paris, and perhaps elsewhere In 
the dramatic works of Don Vincente Riva Palacio 
and Don Juan A. Mateos is found -La Catarata del 
Niagara," a three-act drama in ve-^ : the first two 
acts occur in Mexico, in the hou.e of Dona Rosa, the 
third act is at Niagara Falls, the time being 1847 " 
The Spanish poet Antonio Vinageras, nearlv fiftv years 
ago, wrote a long ode on Niagara, dedicating it to 
'la celebre poetisa. Dona Gertrudis Gomez de 
Avellaneda. " In no language is there a nobler poem 
on Niagara than the familiar work bv Maria Jose 
Heredosia, translated from the Spanish by William 
Cullen Bryant. The Comte de Fleury, who visited 
Niagara a few years ago, left a somewhat poetical 
souvenir in French verse. Fredrika Bremer, whose 
prose ,s often unmetered poetry even after translation 
wrote of Niagara in a brief poem. The following is 
a close paraphrase of the Swedish original : 

Niagara is the betrothal of Earth's life 
With the Heavenly life. 

' The only edition I have seen was printed in the C.ty ot m .871. 

[;' i 

f I 

i •! 

3 1 6 Niagara and the Poets. 

That has Niagara told me to-day. 

And now can I leave Niagara. She has 

Told me her word of primeval being. 

Another Scandinavian poet, John Nyborn, has writ- 
ten a meritorious poem on Niagara Falls, an adaptation 
of which, in English, was published some years since 
by D". Albin Bernays. 

It is a striking fact that Niagara's stimulus to the 
poetic mind has been quite as often through the ear as 
through the eye. The best passages of the best poerrss 
are prompted by the sound of the falling waters, rather 
than by the expanse of the flood, the height of cliffs, 
or the play of light. In Mr. Bulkley's work, which 
indeed exhausts the whole store of simile and compar- 
ison, we perpetually hear the voice of the falls, the 
myriad voices of nature, the awful voice of God. 

*' Minstrel of the Floods," 

he eric.-. 

What pa-ans full of triumph dost thou hymn ! 

However varied is the rhythm sweet 

Of thine unceasing song ! The ripple oft 

Astray along thy banks a lyric is 

Of love ; the cool drops trickling down thy sides 

Are gentle sonnets ; and thy lesser falls 

Are strains elegiac, that sadly sound 

A monody of grief ; thy whirlpool fierce, 

A shrill-toned battle-song ; thy river's rush 

A strain heroic with its couplet rhymes ; 

"While the full sweep of thy close-crowded tide 
Resounds supreme o'er all, an epic grand. 

Niagara and the Poets. 317 

Of this class, too, is the "Apostrophe to Niagara " 
by one B. Frank Palmer, in l«oo. It is said to have 
been -written with the pencil in a few minutes, the 
author seated on the bank, drenched, from the mighty 
bath at Termination Rock, and still listening to the 
roar and feeling the eternal jar of the cataract. ' ' The 
Rev. T. Starr King, upon reading it in 185o, said : 
"The apostrophe has the music of Niagara in it." 
As a typical example of the devotional apostrophe it 
is perhaps well to give it in full : 

This is Jehovah's fullest organ strain .' 

I hear the liquid music rolling, breaking. 
From the gigantic pipes the great refrain 

Bursts on my ravished ear, high thoughts awaking ! 
The low sub-bass, uprising from the deep, 

Swells the great pxan as it rolls supernal — 
Anon, I hear, at one majestic sweep 

The diapason of the keys eternal I 

Standing beneath Niagara's angry flood — 

The thundering cataract above m: Ixjunding — 
I hear the echo : '• Man, there is a God ! " 

From the great arches of the gorge resounding ! 
Behold, O man ! nor shrink aghast in fear ! 

Survey the vortex boiling deep before thee ! 
The Hand that ope'd the liquid gateway here 

Hath set the beauteous bow of promise o'er thee ! 
Here, in the hollow of that Mighty Hand, 
Which holds the basin of the tidal ocean, 
I^et not the jarring of the spray-washed strand 

Disturb the orisons of pure devotion. 
KoU on, Niagara ! great River King • 
Beneath thy sceptre all earth's rulers, mortal. 


Niagara and the Poets. 

Bow reverently ; and bards shall ever sing 

The matchless grandeur of thy peerless portal ! 

I hear, Niagara, in this grand strain, 

His voice, who speaks in flood, in flame and thunder — 
Forever mayst thou, singing, roll and reign — 

Earth's grand, sublime, supreme, supernal wonder. 

Such lines as these — which might be many times 
multiplied — recall Eugene Thayer's ingenious and 
highly poetic paper on "The Music of Niagara.'" 
Indeed, many of the prose writers, as well as the versi- 
fiers, have found their best tribute to Niagara inspired 
by the mere sound of falling waters. 

That Niagara's supreme appeal to the emotions is not 
through the eye but through the ear, finds a striking 
illustration in "Thoughts on Niagara," a poem of 
about eighty lines written prior to 1854 by Michael 
McCiuire, a blind man.- Here was one whose only 
imi)ressions of the cataract came through senses other 
than that of sight. As is usual with the blind, he uses 
phrases that imply consciousness of light ; yet to him, 
as to other poets whose devotional natures respond to 
this exhibition of natural laws, all the phenomena 
merge in '* the voice of God " : 

I stood where swift Niagara pours its flood 
Into the darksome caverns where it falls. 
And heard its voice, as voice of God, proclaim 
The power c,f Him, who let it on its course 
Commence, with the green earth's first creation ; 

' See Scribner's Monthly, Feb., i88i. 

* See " Beauties and Achievements of the Blind," by Wm. Artman and 
I,. V. Hall. Dansville, N. Y., 1854. 

1 ') 

Niagara and the Poets. 


And I was where the atmosphere shecl tears, 
As giving back the drops the waters wept, 
On reaching that great sepulchre of floods, — 
Or bringing from above the bow of f lod, 
To plant its beauties in the pearly spray.' 

And as I stood and heard, though seeing nought. 
Sad thoughts took deep possession of my mind, ' 
And rude imagination venturing forth, 
Did toil to pencil, though in vain, that scene, 
Which, in its every feature, spoke of God. 

The poem, which as a whole is far above common- 
place, develops a pathetic prayer for sight ; and em- 
ploys much exalted imagery attimed to the central idea 
that here Omnipotence speaks without ceasing; here is 
A temple, where Jehovah is felt most. 
But for the most part, the world's strong singers have 
passed Niagara by ; nor has Niagara's newest aspect, 
that of a vast engine of energy to be used for the good 
of man, yet found worthy recognition by any poet of 

This survey, though incomplete, is yet sufficiently 
comprehensive to warrant a few conclusions. More 
than half of all the verse on the subject which I have 
examined was written during the second quarter of this 
century. The first quarter, as has been .shown, was 
the age of Niagara's literary discovery, and produced 
a few chronicles of curious interest. During the last 
half of the century -the time in which practically the 
whole brilliant and substantial fabric of American liter- 


If " 1. 1 



Niagara and the Poets, 

ature has been created — Niagara well-nigh has been 
ignored by the poets. In all our list, Goldsmith and 
Moore are the British writers of chief eminence who 
have touched the subject in verse, though many British 
poets, from Edwin Arnold to Oscar Wilde, have written 
poetic prose about Niagara. Of native Americans, 1 
have found no names in the list of Niagara singers 
greater than those of Drake and Mrs. Sigourney. 
Emerson nor Lowell, Whittier nor Longfellow, Holmes 
nor Stedman, has given our Niagara wonder the dowry 
of a single line. Whitman, indeed, alludes to Ni- 
agara in his poem "By Blue Ontario's Shore," but 
his poetic vision makes no pause at the falls ; nor 
does that of Joseph O'Connor, who in his stirring and 
exalted Columbian poem, **The Philosophy of Amer- 
ica," finds a touch of color for his continental cos- 
morama by letting his sweeping glance fall for a 

To where, 'twixt Erie and Ontario, 
Leaps green Niagara with a giant roar. 

But in such a symphony as his, Niagara is a subser- 
vient element, not the dominating theme. Most of the 
Niagara poets have been of local repute, unknown to 

What, then, must we conclude ? Shall we say with 
Martin Farquhar Tupper — who has contributed to the 
alleged poetry of the place — that there is nothing sub- 
lime about Niagara? The many poetic and impas- 
sioned passages in prose descriptions are against such a 

! . 

Niagara and the Poets. 



view. \{ dimensions, volume, exhibition of power are 
elements of sublimity, Niagara Falls are sublime But 
It cannot be said that superlative exhibitions of nature 
some essentially universal phenomena, like those ot 
the sea and sky, excepted, have been made the specific 
subject of verse, with a high degree of success. The 
reason ,s not far to seek, and lies in the inherent nature 
of poetry. It is a chief essential of poetry that it ex- 
press, in imaginative form, the insight of the human 
soul. The feeble poets who have addressed themselves 
to Niagara have stopped, for the most part, with purely 
objective utterance. In .some few instances, as we have 
seen, a truly subjective regard has given us noble lines 
I he poetic in nature is essentially independent of the 
detail of natural phenomena. A waterfall 150 feet high 
IS not intrinsically any more poetic than one but half 
that height ; or a thunder-peal than the tinkle of a rill 
I rue poetry must be self-expression, as well as interpre- 
tive of truths which are manifested through physical 
phenomena. Hence it is in the nature of things that a 
nameless brook shall have its Tennyson, or a Niagara 
now unsung.