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Title: Old Trails on the Niagara Frontier
Author: Severance, Frank H.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [Illustration: THE VISION OF BRÉBEUF.
  _Drawn by H. H. Green._           _See Page 15._]







                                                            F. H. S.


  DEDICATION,                                                  v
  PREFACE,                                                    ix
  THE CROSS BEARERS,                                           1
  THE PASCHAL OF THE GREAT PINCH,                             43
  WITH BOLTON AT FORT NIAGARA,                                63
  WHAT BEFEL DAVID OGDEN,                                    107
  A FORT NIAGARA CENTENNIAL,                                 141
  MISADVENTURES OF ROBERT MARSH,                             195
  UNDERGROUND TRAILS,                                        227
  NIAGARA AND THE POETS,                                     275


The essays herein contained have been written at "odd moments," and
for divers purposes. Their chief value lies in the fact that they
illustrate, several of them by means of individual experiences, certain
typical and well-defined periods in the history of the Niagara region.
By "Niagara region," a phrase which no doubt occurs pretty often in the
following pages, I mean to designate in a historic, not a scenic, sense
the frontier territory of the Niagara from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. It
is a region which has a concrete but as yet for the most part unwritten
history of its own. The value of its past to the student, as is ever the
case with "local history" in its worthy aspect, depends upon the
importance of its relation to the general history of our country. That
the Niagara region has played an important part in that history, is an
assurance wholly superfluous for even the most casual student of
American development. All that the following studies undertake is to
give a glimpse, with such fidelity as may be, of events and conditions
hereabouts existing, at periods which may fairly be termed typical.

"The Cross Bearers," a paper originally prepared as a lecture for a
class that was studying the history of the Catholic Church in America,
is, so far as I am aware, the first attempt to review in a single
narrative all of the French missions in this immediate vicinity, and the
work of the English-speaking missionary priests who said mass in the
Niagara region prior to its full organization under ecclesiastical
jurisdiction. The data are drawn from the original sources--the Jesuit
Relations, Champlain, Le Clercq, Hennepin, Charlevoix, Crespel and other
early writers whose works, in any edition, are often inaccessible to the
student. For data relating to Bishop Burke, and for other valuable
assistance, I am indebted to my friend the Very Rev. Wm. R. Harris, Dean
of St. Catharines.

"The Paschal of the Great Pinch" is an attempt to picture, in narrative
form, conditions conceived to exist at Fort Niagara in 1687-'8, when the
Marquis de Denonville made his abortive attempt to occupy that point.
Lest any reader shall be in doubt as to the genuineness of the memoirs
of the Chevalier De Tregay, I beg to assure him that Lieut. De Tregay is
no myth. His name, and practically all the facts on which my sketch is
based, will be found in the Paris Documents (IV.), "Documentary History
of the State of New York," Vol. I. This paper stands for the French
period on the Niagara; the two next following, for the British period.

"With Bolton at Fort Niagara" is almost wholly drawn from unpublished
records, chiefly the Haldimand Papers, the originals of which are in the
British Museum, but certified copies of which are readily accessible to
the student in the Archives at Ottawa. I have made but a slight study of
the great mass of material from which practically the history of the
Niagara region during the Revolution is to be written; yet it is
probable that this slight study makes known for the first time, to
students of our home history, such facts as the employment of Hessians
on the Niagara during the Revolution, the first bringing hither of the
American flag, possibly even the work and fate of Lieut. Col. Bolton

The next paper, "What Befel David Ogden," is drawn from a widely
different, though scarcely less known source. The personal narrative is
based on an obscure pamphlet by Josiah Priest, published at
Lansingburgh, N. Y., in 1840. I am aware that Priest is not altogether
trustworthy as a historian. Dr. Thos. W. Field calls him a "prolific,
needy and unscrupulous author" [_See_ "An Essay Toward an Indian
Bibliography"]; yet he concedes to his works "a large amount of historic
material obtained at some pains from sources more or less authentic." My
judgment is, that Priest is least trustworthy in his more ambitious
work; whereas his unpretentious pamphlets, wretchedly printed at a
country press sixty years ago, contain true narratives of individual
undertakings in the Revolution, Indian captivities and other pioneer
experiences, gathered by the writer direct from the hero whose
adventures he wrote down, without literary skill it is true, but also
without apparent perversion or exaggeration. The very circumstantiality
with which David Ogden's experiences are narrated is evidence of their
genuineness. Corroborative evidence is also furnished by the
lately-published muster-rolls of New York regiments during the
Revolution. In the Third Regiment of Tryon County militia, among the
enlisted men, appears the name of David Ogden ["New York in the
Revolution," 2d ed., p. 181], and there was but one David Ogden, not
merely in the Tryon County militia, but so far as these records show, in
the entire soldiery of New York State. In the same regiment there was
also a "Daniel" Ogden, Sr., possibly David's father. The name Daniel
Ogden also occurs in the list of Tryon County Rangers ["New York in the
Revolution," 2d ed., p. 186], a service in which we would naturally
expect to find one whom the Indian Brant called "the beaver hunter, that
old scouter." In short, I think we may accept David as altogether
genuine, and in his adventures--never told before, I believe, as a part
of Niagara history--may find an example of patriotic suffering and
endurance wholly typical of what many another underwent at that time and
in this region.

The "Fort Niagara Centennial Address" is here included because its most
important part relates to that period in our history immediately
following the Revolution, the "hold-over period," during which, for
thirteen years after the Treaty of 1783, the British continued to occupy
Fort Niagara and other lake posts. What I say on the negotiations
leading to the final relinquishment of Fort Niagara is based on
information gleaned from the manuscript records in London and Ottawa.

"The Journals and Journeys of an Early Buffalo Merchant" is also a
contribution to local annals from an unpublished source, being drawn
from the MS. journals of John Lay, very kindly placed in my hands by
members of his family. They afford a picture of conditions hereabouts
and elsewhere, during the years 1810-'23, which I have thought worthy of

In the "Misadventures of Robert Marsh" I have endeavored by means of a
personal narrative to illustrate another period in our history. The
misguided Marsh fairly stands for many of the so-called Patriots whose
uprising on this border is known as Mackenzie's Rebellion of 1837-'8.
The considerable literature on this subject includes a number of
personal narratives, for the most part published in small editions and
now hard to find; but the scarcest of all, so far as my experience has
discovered, is that from which I have drawn the story of Robert Marsh:
"Seven Years of My Life, or Narrative of a Patriot Exile, who together
with eighty-two American Citizens were illegally tried for rebellion in
Upper Canada and transported to Van Dieman's Land," etc., etc. It is an
exceedingly prolix and pretentious title, after the fashion of the time,
prefacing a badly-written, poorly-printed volume of 207 pages, turned
out by the press of Faxon & Stevens, Buffalo, 1848. In view of the fact
that neither in Sabin nor any other bibliography have I found any
mention of this book, and the further fact that in fifteen years of
somewhat diligent book-hunting I have discovered but one copy, it is no
exaggeration to call Marsh's "Narrative" "scarce," if not "rare."

The incidents related in "Underground Trails" are illustrative of many
an episode at the eastern end of Lake Erie in the days preceding the
Civil War. I had the facts of the principal adventures some years ago
from the late Mr. Frank Henry of Erie, Pa., who had himself been a
participant in more than one worthy enterprise of the Underground
Railroad. Sketches based on information supplied by Mr. Henry, and
originally written out for the Erie Gazette, are the latter part of the
paper as it now stands.

The last essay, "Niagara and the Poets," is a following of "Old Trails"
chiefly in a literary sense, but it is thought its inclusion here will
not be found inappropriate to the general character of the collection.

I must add a word of grateful acknowledgment for help received from
Douglas Brymner, Dominion Archivist, at Ottawa; from the Hon. Peter A.
Porter of Niagara Falls, N. Y., Charles W. Dobbins of New York City, and
John Miller, Erie, Pa. F. H. S.

The Cross Bearers.


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 part
of the exploration and settlement of the lake region, you are already
familiar. What I undertake is to direct special attention to a few of
the individuals who 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, acquisition
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 commands passed
down direct from the Founder of Christianity 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.

Now, I care not what the faith of the student be, 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 experiences of these early cross bearers that we
undertake; but first, a word may be permitted by way of reminder as to
the conditions here existing when our recorded history begins.

From remote days unrecorded, the territory bordering 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 part 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 1650 the Iroquois overran
the Neuter territory, destroyed the nation and made the region east of
the Niagara a part of their own territory; though more than a century
elapsed, after their conquest of the Neuters, before the Senecas made
permanent 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 period; it had become territory of the
Senecas, but they only occupied it at intervals, on hunting or fishing

During the latter years of Neuter possession of our region, missionaries
began to approach the Niagara from two directions; but long before any
brave soul had neared it through what is now New York State,--then the
heart of the fierce Iroquois country,--others, more successful, had come
down from the early-established missions among the Hurons, had sojourned
among the Neuters and had offered Christian prayers 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 Christian faith into the present territory of the United
States. This man was Joseph de la Roche Dallion.[1] The date of his
visit is 1626.

Father Dallion was a Franciscan of the Recollect reform, 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
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 interpreter, Bruslé, had "told wonders" of these people.
Bruslé, 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 Étienne Bruslé 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 Iroquois. The Andastes lived on the
head-waters of the Susquehanna, 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 more of Bruslé for three
years, but in the summer of 1618 met him at Saut St. Louis. Bruslé 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 1626, when
Father Dallion appears to have taken counsel of him regarding the
Neuters. Bruslé was murdered by the Hurons near Penetanguishene in 1632.
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 Eries
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 Bruslé.[2]

Stimulated by this interpreter's reports, by the encouragement of his
companions and the promptings of his own zeal, Father Dallion set out
for the unknown regions. Two Frenchmen, Grenole and Lavallée,
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 God, which is the
only means of going to paradise." The Neuters accepted the priest's
offers, and the first recorded trade in the Niagara region was made when
he presented them "little knives and other trifles." They adopted him
into the tribe, and gave him a father, the chief Souharissen.

After this cordial welcome, Grenole and Lavallée returned to the Hurons,
leaving Father Joseph "the happiest man in the 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 endeavor to discover the
mouth of the river of Hiroquois, in order to bring them to trade." After
speaking of the people 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 know 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 500, 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 excellent an authority as Dr. John Gilmary Shea says: "This was
evidently the Niagara River, and the route through Lake Ontario. He
(Dallion) apparently crossed the river, as he was on the Iroquois
frontier." The great conquest of the Neuters by the Iroquois was not
until 1648 or 1650. Just what the "Iroquois frontier" was in 1627 is
uncertain. It appears to have been about midway between the Niagara and
the Genesee, the easternmost Neuter village being some thirty miles east
of the Niagara. The Recollect appears therefore as the first man to
write of the Niagara, from personal 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 Clercq, in his "Premier
Établissement de la Foy," etc., gives a portion of Dallion's account of
his visit to the Neuters, but omits nearly everything he says about

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 discovered 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 tarried, and that if the Neuters did not kill him, he would
burn their villages and kill their children. The priest was at a
disadvantage in not having much command 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 his
every effort at moral or spiritual teaching was impotent, 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 pick 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 possessions,
including his breviary and compass. These precious things, which were no
doubt "big medicine" in the eyes of his ungracious hosts, were
afterwards returned. The news of his maltreatment reached the ears of
Fathers Brébeuf and De la Nouë 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 and devotion, that it should be familiar to all who give any
heed to what has happened in the vicinity of the Niagara.

Jean de Brébeuf was a missionary priest of the Jesuits. That implies
much; but in his case even such a general imputation of exalted
qualities 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
whatever critical light we may choose to study them, and still the noble
figure of Father Brébeuf 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 allegiance, with using
their priestly privileges as a cloak for worldly objects. No such charge
was ever brought against Father Brébeuf. The guilelessness and heroism
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 present story.
Those who seek a marvelous exemplification of human endurance and
devotion, may find it in the ancient Relations of the order. He lived
amid threats and plots against his life, he endured what seems
unendurable, and his zeal throve on the experience. In November, 1640,
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 spurred 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. Wm. 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 Niagara Peninsula, and
on both sides of the Niagara, their most eastern village being near the
present site of Lockport. From an uncertain boundary, thereabouts, they
confronted 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 Brébeuf 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 probable 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 reputation which the Hurons spread abroad, that they were magicians
and carried all manner of evils with them. Father Brébeuf was a man of
extraordinary physical strength. Many a time, in years gone by, he had
astonished the Indians by his endurance at the paddle, and in carrying
great loads over the portages. His companion, Chaumonot, was smaller and
weaker, but was equally sustained by faith in Divine guidance. On their
way through the forests, Father Brébeuf 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 prospect. 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 were 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 record in the Relation. Another drew bow to pierce the
heart of Chaumonot; but all fell back in awe when the stalwart Brébeuf
stepped 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 to teach you to worship the
Master of Life, so that you may be happy in this world and in the

Whether or not any of the spiritual import of his speech was
comprehended 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
priests' clothes, and appropriating their hats and other loose articles.
The travelers completely mystified them by reading a written message,
and thus getting at another's thoughts without a spoken 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 destroy them,
Brébeuf began to assure him that his mission was only to do good;
whereupon the savage replied by spitting in the priest's face; and the
priest thanked God that he was worthy of the same indignity which had
been put upon Jesus Christ. When one faces 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 invulnerable to any moral or spiritual
teachings as the chill earth itself. Dumb brutes would have shown more
return for kindness than they. The saying of Chateaubriand, that man
without religion is the most dangerous animal that walks the earth,
found full justification in these savages. Finally, Brébeuf and his
associate determined to withdraw from the absolutely fruitless field,
and began to retrace their steps towards Huronia.

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
fervency impossible for one not richly endowed with faith to simulate,
by Dean Harris. Let his account of what 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 path, which led through an unbroken wilderness, lay
buried in snow. The cold pierced them through and through. The cords on
Fr. Chaumonot's snow-shoe broke, and his stiffened fingers could
scarcely tie the knot. Innumerable flakes of snow were falling from
innumerable branches. Their only food was a pittance of Indian corn
mixed with melted snow; their only guide, a compass. Worn and spent 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 Brébeuf, to escape for a time the
acrid and pungent smoke that filled the cabin, went out to commune with
God alone in prayer.... He moved toward the margin of the woods, when
presently he stopped as if transfixed. Far away to the southeast, high
in the air and boldly outlined, a huge cross floated suspended in
mid-heaven. Was it stationary? No, it moved toward him from the land of
the Iroquois. The saintly face lighted with unwonted 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 vehementer impelli ad moriendum pro Christo_'--'I
feel within me a mighty impulse to die for Christ'--and flinging himself
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 crucify 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. Brébeuf saw the luminous cross in the heavens above the
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 phenomena are
not unusual above the cataract, but may not be offered in explanation of
the priest's vision. He was in the neighborhood of Grimsby, full twenty
miles from 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 presaged his
martyrdom; and although the feet of Father Brébeuf never again sought
the ungrateful land of the Neuters, yet his visit and his vision were
not wholly without fruit. 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 Brébeuf the miraculous cross foretold martyrdom,
and thereby was it a sign of conquest and of victory to this heroic
Constantine of the Niagara.

       *       *       *       *       *

After Brébeuf 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. These were not, however, years of peaceful hunting
and still more placid corn and pumpkin-growing, such as some romantic
writers have been fond of ascribing to the red men when they were
unmolested by the whites. As a matter of fact, and as Fathers Dallion,
Brébeuf and Chaumonot had discovered, the people 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 country, could usually be attributed
to the denudation consequent 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 Iroquois. The story
of this Indian war has 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 1650 the site of Fort Niagara passed under
Seneca domination. The Senecas had no permanent town in the vicinity,
but undoubtedly made it a rendezvous for war parties, and for hunting
and fishing expeditions.

Meanwhile, the Jesuits in their Relations, and after them the
cartographers in Europe, were making hearsay allusions to the Niagara or
locating it, with much inaccuracy, on their now grotesque maps. In 1648
the Jesuit Ragueneau, writing to the Superior at Paris, mentions
Niagara, which he had never seen or approached, as "a cataract of
frightful height." L'Allemant in the Relation published in 1642, had
alluded to the river, but not to the fall. Sanson, in 1656, put
"Ongiara" on his famous map; and four years later the map of Creuxius,
published with his great "Historiæ Canadensis," gave our river and fall
the Latin dignity of "Ongiara Catarractes." One map-maker copied from
another, so that even by the middle of the seventeenth century, the
reading and student world--small and 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 region.

In that year came hither the Sulpitian missionaries, François Dollier de
Casson and René de Bréhant[3] de Galinée. 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. 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 Galinée, 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 Niagara 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 Galinée, 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
wilderness is a suggestive and picturesque subject, but we may not dwell
on it here. Joliet, though he had thus preceded LaSalle 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 LaSalle, 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 Niagara, and
thereby, it is not unlikely, becoming the white discoverer of Niagara
Falls.[4] He was the first white man, so far as records relate, to come
eastward 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 exploration.

After the meeting with Joliet, La Salle left the missionaries, who,
taking advantage of information had from Joliet, followed the Grand
River down to Lake Erie. Subsequently they passed through Lake Erie to
the westward, the first of white men to explore the lake in that
direction. De Galinée's map (1669) is the first that gives us the north
shore of Lake Erie with approximate accuracy. On October 15th this
devout man and his companion 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

Occasionally they were visited in their hut by Iroquois beaver hunters.
For five 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 Erié 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. reigning in France, M. de
     Courcelle being Governor of New France, and M. Talon being
     intendant therein for the King, there arrived in this place two
     missionaries from Montreal accompanied by seven other Frenchmen,
     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 witness
     whereof we have signed the present certificate.'

                                                  "FRANCOIS DOLLIER,
                        "Priest of the Diocese of Nantes in Brittany.
                                                  "DE GALINÉE,
                        "Deacon of the Diocese of Rennes in Brittany."

The winter was exceedingly mild, but the stream[5] was still frozen on
the 26th of March, when they portaged their canoes and goods to the lake
to resume 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 missionaries, undertook the wearisome journey on foot all the way
from Long Point to the mouth of the Kettle Creek. De Galinée grows
enthusiastic in his admiration for the immense quantities of game and
fruits opposite Long Point and calls the country the terrestrial
Paradise 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.
Bears 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 arriving 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 paces
wide into which they sank to their girdles in mud and slush. Beset by
dangers and retarded 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 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 gathering some wood for a
fire, they found the canoe between 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
plentiful 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
Pelée), 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 Galinée'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 abandon 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
Galinée and Dollier de Casson, like Joliet,--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 Iroquois. 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 Lussiére, 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 Ambrosian
hymn, "Te Deum Laudamus," 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 completed a bark chapel, in which was held the first
Christian service which had been held on the eastern side of the Niagara
since the visit of Brébeuf thirty-eight years before. Father Hennepin
has left abundant chronicles of his activities on the Niagara. As soon
as the construction of the Griffon 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 Zénobius Membré 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 portable 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 went thrice up and down those three mountains, which are
pretty high and steep." This glimpse of the saintly old priest is a
reminiscence to cherish in our local annals. He was 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 between Hennepin and Le Clercq as to his age; the former
says he was sixty-five years old in 1679, when he was on the Niagara;
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 prayers 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, 1680, while engaged at his
devotions, he was basely murdered by three Indians. To Father Membré
there were allotted five years of missionary 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 imagination turns with a yet fonder regard back to the
devoted priest who was not permitted to voyage westward 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 whites in New York State. On May 27, 1679, La
Salle had made a grant of land at Niagara to these Recollect Fathers,
for a residence and cemetery, and this was the first property in the
present State of New York to which the Catholic Church held title. Who
can say what were the experiences of the priest during the succeeding
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, however, 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. Father Membré,
who was with him, returned east in October, 1682, by the Niagara route;
and La Salle himself passed down the river again in 1683--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 Niagara, 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 the Niagara--in 1687--the Marquis de
Denonville led his famous expedition against the Senecas. With him in
this campaign was a band of Western Indians, who were attended 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 undoubtedly exercised
his sacred office; and since the 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

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 Iroquois 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 party of friendly Miami Indians, through whose
good offices the few survivors, Father Lamberville among them, were
enabled to make their way to Catarouquoi--now Kingston, Ont. There he
recovered; and he continued in the Canadian missions until 1698, when he
returned to France.

Not willing to see his ambitious fort on the Niagara so soon abandoned,
de Denonville sent out a new garrison and with them came Father Pierre
Milet. He had labored, with rich results, among the Onondagas and
Oneidas. No sooner was he among his countrymen, in this remote and
forlorn corner of the earth, than he took up his spiritual work with
characteristic zeal. On Good Friday of that year, 1688, 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, "_Regnat, Vincit, Imperat Christus_," and in the midst of
it was engraven the Sacred Heart. Surrounded by the officers of the
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 conquest? 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
between the feeble garrison and the limitless, foe-infested wilderness.
On one hand smiled the blue Ontario, and at their feet ran the gleaming
Niagara, already a synonym 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 band, or that they devoutly
bowed before the cross which was the visible emblem of their strength
and consolation in the wilderness. Where is the artist who shall paint
us this scene, unique in the annals of any people?

And yet, but a few months later--September 15th of that year--the
garrison was recalled, the post abandoned, the palisades broken down,
the cabins left rifled and empty; and when priest and soldiers had
sailed away, and 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 vanquishing.

There followed an interim in the occupancy of the Niagara when neither
sword nor altar held sway here; nor was the altar reëstablished in our
region until the permanent rebuilding of Fort Niagara in 1726. True,
Father Charlevoix passed up the river in 1721, and has left an
interesting account of his journey, his view of the falls, and his brief
tarrying at the carrying-place--now Lewiston. This spot was the
principal rendezvous of the region for many years; and here, at the
cabin of the interpreter Joncaire, where Father Charlevoix was received,
we may be sure that spiritual ministrations were not omitted. A somewhat
similar incident, twenty-eight years later, was the coming to these
shores of the Jesuit Father Bonnecamps. He was not only the spiritual
leader but appears to have acted as pilot and guide to De Céloron's
expedition--an abortive attempt on the part of Louis XV. to reësablish
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, we find the party resting
at Fort Niagara for three days, October 19-21. Who the resident chaplain
was at the post 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 without 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
complete 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 succession. 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 very agreeable; hunting and fishing were very productive; 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 mission 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,
Michillimackinac; 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 compared 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--hostile settlement at that--stretched up the Hudson from New
York. Even the Mohawk Valley was still unsettled. 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 Dallion first reached its shores, there was now no trace of white
men on the banks of the Niagara 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 established for half a century to come.

After Father Crespel's return from Detroit, he remained 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 converse
with the Indians. "This enabled me," he writes, "to enjoy their company
when I took a walk in the environs of our post." The ability to converse
with the Indians afterwards saved his life. When his three years of
residence at Niagara expired he was relieved, according to the custom of
his order, and he passed 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 1733 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 Abbé Piquet, who
in 1751 came to Fort Niagara from his successful mission at La
Présentation--now Ogdensburg. It is recorded of him that while here 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 _régime_ 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
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
possession. Through his efforts in that year, the Church procured a
large lot at Niagara, Ont., where he proposed a missionary
establishment. There had probably never been a time, since the English
conquest, when there had not been Catholics among the troops quartered
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 order. He
     replied that he would send them to mass if the chaplain was there,
     and he thought it very extraordinary that whilst a chaplain was
     paid by the king for the battalion, instead of attending 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 Désjardines
and an unbroken succession, with the district fully organized in
ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, although our story of mission work in the Niagara region has
been long--has reviewed the visitations of two centuries--the reader may
have remarked 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 vigorous 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 establishments made his way
westward to the present site of Buffalo. Fathers Lamberville and Milet
had been stationed among the Onondagas and Oneidas before coming into
our region at Fort Niagara; but they came thither from Canada, by way of
Lake Ontario, and not through the wilderness of Western New York. The
westernmost mission among the Iroquois was that of Fathers Carheil and
Garnier at Cayuga, where they were at work ten years before La Salle
built the Griffon 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 government 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 region, 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,
English and Dutch. Into these questions we may not enter now further
than to note that from 1684 the English 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
Niagara--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
congregation 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 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 nothing 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 especially 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 sustained Brébeuf and
Chaumonot and their fellow-heroes of the cross on the banks of the

The Paschal of the Great Pinch.


     _An Episode in the History of Fort Niagara; being an Extract from
     the hitherto unknown Memoirs of the Chevalier De Tregay, Lieutenant
     under the Sieur de Troyes, commanding at Fort Denonville (now
     called Niagara), in the Year of Starvation 1687; with Captain
     Désbergeres at that remote fortress from the joyfull Easter of 1688
     till its abandonment; Soldier of His Excellency the Sr. de Brissay,
     Marquis de Denonville, Governor and Lieutenant General in New
     France; and humble Servitor of His Serene Majesty Louis XIV._

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

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 I 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 Iroquois, 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
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 English; 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 the west 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 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 Marquis 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, somewhat 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 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 convenient expediency," he
said to De Troyes, who stood attentive, before us. "There will be no
lack of provision 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 passed 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 and almost
in hailing distance--and forbade another discharge.

"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

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 hewing 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 chimneys, 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 constructions for the men and goods--though, _Dieu
défend_! 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
protection, 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 report
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 parted.

Now the spring before, when we had all followed the Marquis 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 commander should conduct his expeditions;
yet I do declare 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 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[6] 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 season 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 strengthening 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 indifferent

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 something 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 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
unlading. 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 complain 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,[7] never came back at all. Here we found their bodies and buried
them; but their scalps, after the manner of these people, had been

Christmas drew on, but never was a sorrier season kept by soldiers of
France. De Troyes had fallen ill. 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 exceeding 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
weakness 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 anything I had ever known. The snow fell
heavily, and 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 from other cause, was rotten beyond the power
even of a starving man to hold.

_Le scorbut_ 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 devoirs, 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 shrunken arm and side.

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 bethink me," he added, in a melancholy voice, "it _is_ 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. From a hundred at the
beginning of autumn, we were now scarce forty, and February 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 handful 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 little herbs, hoping to find something akin
in its juices to the _herbe de scorbut_[8] 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 Iroquois cantons? But of what account is the
savage's word!

So I thought, 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 hillside 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 boyhood 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 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 garrison 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 marvelous to all to see his skin, which had been so empurpled
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 Michitonka's people to Cataracouy[9] 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.

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
Désbergeres, captain of one of the companies of the Detachment of the
Marine, and with him the Father Milet, of the Society of Jesus. There
was 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 came 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 square, 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 dressed; 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:

  Regnat, Vincit, Imperat Christus.

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

"_Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini._" 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 began with the
"_Oramus_"--"_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

It may be believed that the Sunday which followed, which was the
Paschal, was kept by us with such worship 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 ever such new life come to men as we
knew at Fort Denonville that Easter.

For a space, all things went well. What with the season (for spring ever
inspires men to new undertakings) 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 Désbergeres 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.

Early the next morning, being the 15th of September, of the year 1688,
being ready for the embarkation, 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 forbidding cast, and the very
touch in the air forebode autumnal gales. As we knelt around the cross
for the last time, the ensign brought the standards which Désbergeres
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 spoke the last word--"Amen."

There were both gladness and sorrow in our hearts as we embarked. Lake
and sky took on 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 sight, lighted those Niagara shores, and we saw but
for an instant, above the blackness and the desolation, the great cross
as in fire or blood gleam red.

With Bolton at Fort Niagara.


One pleasant September day in 1897 it was my good fortune, under expert
guidance, to follow for a little the one solitary trail made by the
American patriots in Western New York during the Revolutionary 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 detachment of Sullivan's army,
under Lieut. Boyd, were waylaid and massacred by the Indians. It was on
the 13th 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 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."[10] 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 recorded. But what is the reverse of the
picture? What lay at the other side of this Western New York wilderness
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 coöperation. 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 the character of events in this region during that grave
period in our nation's history.[11]

In 1778, Colonel Haldimand, afterward Sir Frederick, succeeded Gen. Guy
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 England'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 adept 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 Americans 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 long line of
wilderness defense--a line which was substantially 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 supplies 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 appointments for Niagara.

I cannot state positively the names of all officers in command at Fort
Niagara from the time war was begun, down to 1777. Lieut. Lernault,
afterwards at Detroit, 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 Haldimand 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 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
phrase--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, I 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, Superintendent 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, equipped 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 authentic 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 Philadelphia, and that the rebels had
"sustained an incredible loss." By a forced march of Howe, La Mothe
averred, Gen. 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 Gen.
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 Niagara. 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 Washington, 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 Washington'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 report of
Washington's death. As late as April 8th, the following spring, he wrote
to Gen. Carleton that "all accounts confirm Washington being killed and
his army defeated in December last, and that Gates was sent for to take
the command."

The British early were apprised 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, "I 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
navigable, 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

What did happen was bad enough for British interests, for though the
Americans turned back, the raid had driven in upon Bolton a horde of
frightened, hungry and irresponsible Indians, who had to be fed at the
King's expense and were a source of unmeasured concern to the overworked
commandant, notwithstanding the independent organization of the Indian
Department 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 uncertain and often inadequate food supply.

Fort Niagara at this time--the fall of '78--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 place be infested
by a considerable force.... With a garrison of 500 or a less number, it
is impregnable against all the savages in America, but if a strong body
of troops with artillery should move this way, I believe no engineer who
has ever seen these works will say it can hold out any considerable

On May 1st, 1778, there had been in the garrison at Fort Niagara 311
men. Half a dozen more were stationed at Fort Schlosser, and thirty-two
at Fort Erie, a total of 349, of whom 255 were reported as fit for duty.
At this time Maj. Butler's Rangers, numbering 106, had gone on "an
expedition with the Indians towards the settlements of Pennsylvania or
New York, whichever he finds most practicable and advantageous to the
King's service." These raids from Fort Niagara were far more frequent
than one would infer from the histories--even from the American
histories whose authors are not to be suspected of purposely minimizing
either their number or effect. But it appears from the records that not
infrequently the expeditions accomplished nothing of more consequence
than to steal stock. Horses, cattle and sheep were in more than one
instance driven away from settlements far down on the Mohawk or
Susquehanna, 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 1778 I found it absolutely
requisite for the good of His Majesty's service, with the consent and
approbation 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 corps 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 say, on this
side the border, of Tory--families. As they approached American frontier
settlements, the loyalty to King George of some of his men became
suspicious, so that Butler issued a proclamation that all deserters, if
apprehended, were to be shot. In the letter just quoted from he reports
that this order had a good effect. Many curious circumstances arose at
the time, due to the British or American allegiance of men who before
the war had been friendly neighbors, but who now met as hostiles, as
captor and captive, 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, 1,346 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 supply boats could get up from the
lower stations. Then came that march of destruction up the Genesee
Valley; winter shut down on lake and river communication, and the most
distressed period the frontier had known under British rule set in. In
October, immediately after the invasion, Col. Bolton wrote (I quote
briefly from a very full report): "Joseph 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 would have had some reason to
repent of his expedition; but the Indians not being supported as they
expected, thought of nothing more than carrying off their families, and
we had at this Post the 21st of last month 5,036 to supply with
provisions, and notwithstanding a number of parties have been sent out
since, we have still on the ground 3,678 to maintain. I am convinced
your Excellency will not be surprised, if I am extremely alarmed, for to
support such a multitude I think will be absolutely impossible. I have
requested of Major Butler to try his utmost to prevail 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 must
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 Island; and as
Sullivan had destroyed every village save two, few of the Senecas could
be induced to return into the Genesee country. Bolton's urgent appeals
for extra provisions were also doomed to disappointment, owing to the
lateness of the season or the lack of transports.

The winter after Sullivan's raid, Guy Johnson distributed clothing to
more than 3,000 Indians at Fort Niagara. But the cost of clothing them
was trifling compared with the cost of feeding them. Expeditions against
the distant American settlements were planned, not more through the
desire for retaliation, than from the necessity of reducing the number
of dependents on Fort Niagara. When the inroads on provisions grew
serious, the Indians were encouraged to go on the war-path. But so
exceedingly severe was the winter, so deep was the snow on the trails,
that not until the middle of February could any parties 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
starved and many froze.

Much could be said regarding the British policy of dealing with the
Indians at Fort Niagara, but 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, 1778, Lord George Germaine wrote
to Gen. Haldimand that the designs of the rebels against Niagara and
Detroit were not likely to be successful as long as the Six Nations
continued faithful. Presents, honors, and the full license of the
tomahawk and scalping-knife were allowed them. With a view to promoting
their fidelity, Joseph Brant was made a colonel. Significant, too, was
the settling of a generous allowance for life upon Brant's sister, Sir
William Johnson's consort; 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 directness and simplicity
of its conclusions. The constant flight to Fort Niagara of refugee
Tories was remarked by the savages, and in turn noted and reported to
Gen. Haldimand. "The frequent passing of white people to Niagara," wrote
Capt. John Johnson to Gen. Carleton, October 6, 1778, "is much taken
note of by the Indians, who say they are running away and that they (the
Tories) have begun the quarrel and leave them (the Indians) to defend
it." However, Johnson counted on being able to change their minds, for
he added: "I hope in my next to inform you of giving the rebels an
eternal thrashing."

The usual British good sense--the national tradesman's instinct--seems
to have been temporarily suspended, held in abeyance, at the demands of
these Indians. In his report of May 12, '78, Col. Bolton writes that he
has approved bills for nearly £18,000 "for sundries furnished savages
which Maj. Butler thought absolutely necessary, notwithstanding all the
presents sent to their posts last year; 2,700 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
possibly be procured, otherwise this garrison 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 they scarce seemed
satisfied." In June he writes that only eight out of twenty puncheons of
rum ordered for Fort Niagara had been received, and that "much wine has
been given to the savages that was intended for this post."

One reads in this old correspondence, with mingled amusement and
amazement, of the marvelous attentions paid these wily savages.
Childlike, whatever they saw in the cargoes of the merchants, they
wanted, and England humored and pampered them, lest they transfer their
affections. We have Guy Johnson's word for it, under date of Niagara,
July 3, 1780, that "many of the Indians will no longer wear tinsel lace,
and are become good judges of gold and silver. They frequently demand
and have received wine, tea, coffee, candles and many such articles, and
they are frequently 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
requisition 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

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 interest of economy. One was in the matter of powder. The
Indians were 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
suppose 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 hand to be unduly edified by the result. At Gen. 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 powder, sent
the shell 239 yards. For rounds two and three Indian Department powder
was used; the fine-glazed kind sent the shell eighty-two yards, the
coarser grain carried it but seventy-nine yards. Once more the garrison
powder was used; the shell flew 243 yards, while a second trial of the
two sorts of Indian Department 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 trustful Indian ally,
especially since he was to use his powder against the common foe, the
American rebel; in reality, however, the Indians were wasteful and
irresponsible, and squandered their ammunition on the little birds of
the forest and even in harmless but expensive salvos into the empty air.

Another economy was practiced in the Indian Department: when the stock
ran low the rum was watered. Sometimes the precious contents of the
casks were augmented one third, sometimes even two thirds, with the more
abundant beverage from Niagara River, so that the garrison rum, like
the garrison powder, "carried" two or three 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 solution of which lies outside the
range of the exact historian.

Difficult as it was to hold the allegiance of the savage, it was harder
yet--nay, it was impossible--to make him fight according to the rules of
civilized warfare. The British Government from the Ministry down stand
in history in an equivocal position 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 children,
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 dispensed with. Throughout the Revolution,
the Senecas, 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, 1780, 132 of them who hitherto had been
ostensibly friendly to the Americans, were induced to go to Niagara and
give their pledges to the British. When they arrived Guy Johnson put on
a severe front and censured them for their lack of 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 Superintendent 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 Stripes
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, representing 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 appear 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 reckon from that August day
in 1780, the beginning, if in prophecy only, of the reign of that new
constellation over the Niagara region.

Col. Bolton's life at Fort Niagara was one of infinite care. Besides the
routine of the garrison, he was constantly harrassed by the demands of
the Indians, whom the British did not wish to feed, but whom they dared
not offend. The old fort, which now sleeps so quietly at the mouth of
the river, was a busy place in those days. There was constant coming and
going. Schooners, snows[12] and batteaux with provisions from Quebec, or
with munitions of war or detachments of troops for Detroit or
Michillimackinac, were constantly arriving. I question if the lower
Niagara were not busier in that period 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 detentions, 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 Quebec too late in the summer to admit of
transfer to the posts until spring. Sometimes, in crossing Lake Ontario,
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 Niagara for food and clothing. At such
times of distress the upper posts questioned whether goods intended for
them were not irregularly held at Niagara; the meanwhile, Col. Bolton
would be straining every effort to get provisions enough to keep his own
command from starvation. Indian supplies and traders' goods, too, were
liable to loss and detention; and on very slight provocation, the
demands of the Indians grew insolent.

There were constant desertions, too, among the troops. Indeed, there
seems never to have been a time at Fort Niagara when desertions were not
frequent, and, more than once, so numerous as to threaten the very
existence of the garrison. This, however, not in Bolton'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 expect at a frontier post where service meant hard
work and possible starvation.

Frequent as had been the raids against the settlements before the
expedition of Sullivan, they became thereafter even more frequent; and,
if less disastrous, they were so merely because the American frontier
settlements had already paid their utmost tribute to Butler and Brant.
The expeditions, along certain much-worn trails, had to go farther and
farther in order to find foes to attack or cattle to steal. This was
especially so in the valleys of the Mohawk and Susquehanna; yet in one
quarter and another this border warfare went on, and there is no lack of
evidence, in the official correspondence, of its effectiveness. Thus,
writing from Fort Niagara, August 24, 1780, Guy Johnson reports: "I have
the pleasure to inform your excellency that the partys who subdivided
after Capt. Brant's success at the Cleysburg"--an expedition which he
had previously reported--"have all been 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, particularly 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 inhabitants 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, telling 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 "twenty rebels" were killed; and on that day Capt. Nelles arrived
with eleven prisoners taken in Pennsylvania. A postscript to this letter
says: "Since writing, 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, killing and scalping their occupants or bringing them captive to
Fort Niagara.

In another paper[13] 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 experiences. 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 Niagara garrison in the winter of 1779--the ceremony, by
the Church of England service, so impressing Joseph Brant that he
immediately led up to the minister the squaw with whom he had been
living 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 apparently 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 ultimately the boys reached Albany and their friends. Then there is
the story of Nancy Bundy, who, her husband and children being killed,
was brought to Fort Niagara and sold into servitude for $8. There was
the famous Indian fighter, Moses Van Campen, whose adventures and
captivity in our region are the subject 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[14] has long
since been one of the scarcest of Americana. But in the unpublished
correspondence 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 to effect their exchange as soon as possible. Notwithstanding, it
was a long and cruel captivity, and presents some features of peculiar
significance in our local history.

About sunrise on the morning of April 25, 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
lavish 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 Gilbert. With tomahawk raised and flint-locks cocked they
suddenly appeared at door and windows. The old Quaker offered his hand
as a brother. It was refused. Partly from the Quaker habit of
non-resistance, partly from the obvious certainty that to attempt to
escape meant death, the whole household submitted to be bound, while
their home was plundered and burned. Loading three of Gilbert'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 days."

There were twelve prisoners in the party, of whom but five were men.
The patriarch of the household, Benjamin, was sixty-nine years old;
Elizabeth, his wife, was 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 Gilbert's wife by a former husband, aged twenty-three; a
nephew, Benjamin Gilbert, aged eleven; a hired man, Andrew 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 northward. 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, 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 not. 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, Benjamin 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 incredible
hardships he regained the settlements. His escape so angered Rowland
Montour that he threw 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 girl 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 British
soldiers, who took away the four negroes and did something to alleviate
the sufferings of the white prisoners. The expedition had exhausted its
provisions and all that had been taken from the Gilberts. A chance
hedgehog, and roots dug in the woods, sustained them for some days. May
the 17th they ferried 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 gun at
Fort Niagara. 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 Indians at Wyoming,[15] 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 presented the girl Rebecca, as a daughter. The princess
took a silver ring from her finger and put it on Rebecca's, which act
completed the adoption of this little Quaker maid of sixteen into one
of the most famous--possibly the most infamous--family of the Niagara
region during the Revolutionary period.

At a village not far from Fort Niagara, apparently near the present
Tuscarora village on the heights east of Lewiston, 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, because of her feebleness,
was continually the victim of the displeasure and the blows of the
Indians. On May 23d, being at the Landing--what is now Lewiston--they
were visited by Captains 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 pleasant 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 now
to note what befel the little Rebecca and her sister-in-law, Elizabeth

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 assembled. After the usual grand lamentation for the dead, whose
places were supposed now to be filled by the white prisoners, this royal
household departed 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 King's stores at Fort Niagara than could the humbler
members of the tribe. The boy Ben had an easy time of it. He roamed at
will with the Indian boys over the 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
as the best of them. At eleven years of age savagery takes easy hold.

These children lived with Montour's Indian relatives for over two years;
sharing in the feasts 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 paddle his canoe homeward, across the river, he narrowly
escaped an upset on the rocky reef, just outside the entrance to Buffalo
Creek. On every visit to Fort Niagara Rebecca 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 mourning 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 friends at the fort
for abducting her from the Indians, but it was not undertaken. In the
spring of '82 peremptory orders came from Gen. Haldimand that all the
remaining members of the Gilbert family who were still in captivity
should be taken from the Indians; but after a council fire had been
lighted, Old Smoke, Montour's widow, and the rest of the family, Rebecca
and Ben included, moved six miles up the lake shore--apparently to
Smoke's Creek--where they stayed several weeks making maple sugar. Then,
a great pigeon roost being reported, men and boys went off to it, some
fifty miles, and the delighted young Ben went too. Of all the Gilbert
captives he alone seems to have had experiences too full of wholesome
adventure and easy living to warrant the expenditure of the least bit of
sympathy upon him. But sooner or later the wily Indians had to heed Sir
Frederick's command, and on the 1st of June, 1782, after upwards of two
years of captivity, Rebecca and her cousin were released at Fort
Niagara, and two days later, with others, embarked for Montreal.

Far more cheerless were the experiences of Elizabeth Peart. She was
parted from her husband, adopted by a Seneca family, and was also
brought to raise corn on Buffalo Creek. Early in her servitude among the
Indians her babe was taken from her and carried across to Canada. She
was but twenty years old herself; the family that had taken her came by
canoe to Buffalo Creek, where they settled for the corn-planting. This
was in the spring of 1780. All manner of drudgery and burdens were put
upon her. Her work was to cultivate the corn. Falling sick, the Indians
built a hut for her by the side of the cornfield, and then utterly
neglected her. Here she remained through the summer, regaining strength
enough to care for and gather the corn; when this was done, her Indian
father permitted her to come and live again in the family lodge. At one
time a drunken Indian attacked her, knocked her down, and dragged her
about, beating her. At another, all provision failing, she tramped with
others four days through the snow to Fort Niagara. Here Capt. Powell's
wife--who had been a prisoner herself--interceded in Elizabeth's behalf,
but to no avail. She was however given an opportunity to see her babe,
which was being cared for by an Indian family on the Canadian side of
the river, opposite Fort Niagara. This privilege was gained for the poor
mother by bribing her Indian father with a bottle of rum. So far as I am
aware, this was the best use to which a bottle of rum was put during the
Revolutionary War. But back to Buffalo Creek the unhappy mother had to
come. Her release was finally obtained by artifice. Being allowed to
visit Fort Niagara, where she had some needlework to do for the white
people, she feigned sickness, and by one excuse and another the Indians
were put off until she could be shipped away to Montreal.

Of the Gilbert family and those taken with them by Montour, only the old
man died in captivity. The adventures of each one would make a long
story, but 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 Pennsylvania and set about the reëstablishment
of homes.

Beyond question, Elizabeth Peart and Rebecca Gilbert 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 commandant at Niagara, at this period. We now turn to
other phases of the service which engaged the attention 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; for Lake Ontario, at Oswegatchie, Oswego and
Niagara; and 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 Haldimand, 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 memorandum
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 recommendation, 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 to get away from Fort Niagara.
One source of constant annoyance to his military mind was the 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 unemployed 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 $74,000--"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
expensive 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."

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 Niagara, 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 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 affords," 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."[16] 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 endless
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 necessary for the
government of His Majesty's service. The commanding officer 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 garrison. In April, 1780, he reports his wretched health to
Gen. Haldimand. All through the succeeding summer he stuck to his post;
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 opportunity 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 Artillery.
Capt. Andrews, superintendent of naval construction, at whose
solicitations the Ontario had been built, being at Fort Niagara at the
time, also took passage. There was the full complement of officers and
crew. Several passengers--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 speculation
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 passenger 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 throng 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 expressions of sorrow in the correspondence that
followed. "The loss of so many good officers and men," wrote Haldimand,
"particularly at this period, and the disappointment of forwarding
provisions for the great consumption at the upper posts, will be
severely felt."[17] It 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

What Befel David Ogden.


It was my privilege, in the summer of 1896, to share in the exercises
which marked the Centennial of the delivery of Fort Niagara by Great
Britain to the United States. As I stood in that old stronghold 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
forgetting the actual day and hour, and slipping back a century or two.
There was a great crowd at Fort Niagara on this August day; thousands of
people--citizens, officials, soldiers and pleasure-seekers; but with
them came and went, to my retrospective 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 part of the history of the place;
many of them never can be told; but of others some details may be

Throughout the whole period of the Revolutionary War, Fort Niagara was a
garrisoned British post, of varying strength. It was the supply depot
for all arms and provisions which were destined for the upper posts of
Detroit and Michillimackinac; it was the rendezvous of the Senecas, who
worked the Government for all the blankets and guns, trinkets and
provisions which they could get; it was the headquarters of Col. Guy
Johnson, Indian Superintendent; and it was the resting-place and base of
operations of They-en-dan-e-gey-ah--in English, Joseph 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 period of the war parties sallied forth from Fort Niagara to
plunder, capture or kill the rebel settlers wherever they could be

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.... During
     the American Revolution it was the headquarters of all that was
     barbarous, unrelenting and cruel. There, were congregated the
     leaders and chiefs of those bands of murderers and miscreants, that
     carried death and destruction into the remote American settlements.
     There, civilized Europe revelled with savage America; and ladies of
     education and refinement mingled in the society of those whose
     only distinction was to wield the bloody tomahawk and
     scalping-knife. There, the squaws of the forest were raised to
     eminence, and the most unholy unions between them and officers of
     the highest rank, smiled upon and countenanced. 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 Susquehannahs. 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.[18]

This striking passage, which the worthy author did not substantiate by a
single fact, may stand as the present text. I have undertaken to trace
some of the flights of the birds of prey from this nest, and to bring
together the details relating to the captives 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

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

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


     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 settlements in
     Ulster County, and about 100 of the Indians are gone against other
     parts of the frontiers, and I have some large parties under good
     leaders still on service as well as scouts towards Fort Pitt....

Not only are there many returns of this sort, but also tabulated
statements, giving the number of prisoners sent down from Fort Niagara
to Montreal on given dates, with their names, ages, names of their
captors, and the places where they were taken. There were many shipments
during the summer of '83, and the latest return of this sort which I
have found in the archives is dated August 1st of that year, when eleven
prisoners were sent from the fort to Montreal. It was probably not far
from this time that the last American prisoner of the Revolution was
released from Fort Niagara. But let the reader beware of forming hasty
conclusions as to the cruelty or brutality of the British at Fort
Niagara. In the first place, remember that harshness or kindness in the
treatment of the helpless depends in good degree--and always has
depended--upon the temperament and mood of the individual custodian.
There were those in command at Fort Niagara who appear to have been
capable of almost any iniquity. Others gave frequent and conspicuous
proofs of their humanity. Remember, secondly, that the prisoners
primarily belonged to the Indians who captured them. The Indian custom
of adoption--the taking into the family circle of a prisoner in place of
a son or husband who had been killed by the enemy--was an Iroquois
custom, dating back much further than their acquaintance with the
English. Many of the Americans who were detained in this fashion by
their Indian captors, probably never were given over to the British.
Some, as we know, like Mary Jemison, the White Woman of the Genesee,
adopted the Indian mode of life and refused to leave it. Others died in
captivity, some escaped. Horatio Jones and Jasper Parrish were first
prisoners, then utilized as interpreters, but remained among the
Indians.[19] And in many cases, especially of women and children, we
know that they were got away from the Indians by the British officers at
Fort Niagara, only after considerable trouble and expense. In these
cases the British were the real benefactors of the Americans, and the
kindness in the act cannot always be put aside on the mere ground of
military exchange, prisoner for prisoner. Gen. Haldimand is quoted to
the effect that he "does not intend to enter into an exchange of
prisoners, but he will not add to the distresses attending the present
war, by detaining helpless women and children from their families."[20]

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 trouble 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 conducted to Fort Schuyler, or
     to any other place that shall be thought most convenient, provided
     Mrs. Butler & her family consisting of a like number shall in the
     same manner have safe conduct to my advance post upon Lake
     Champlain in order that she may cross the lake before the ice
     breaks up.

The official 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 up."[21]

I could multiply at great length these citations from the official
correspondence, but enough has been given to show that the wholesale
condemnation of the British, into whose hands American prisoners fell,
is not warranted 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. The statement is frequent in early writers
that the British officers offered about eight dollars for every
American's scalp, and that it was this offer, more than anything 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
payment of anything whatever. Further search may discover something to
settle this not unimportant matter; 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 of Indian Affairs, or his deputy, and then received
presents from him. Probably these presents were proportioned to the
success on the warpath.

These facts and reflections are offered to assist the reader's ready
understanding and imagination in following in detail the adventures of
one out of the many 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 interest 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 commends 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 Niagara as prisoners of war.
Davy was born 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 betterment 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
Huntsville; 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 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 sentiments, 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 suffering
of that adventure ended; and some days later, on the Mohawk, the father
rejoined the family, he also having escaped the massacre at Cherry

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 André hanged at Tappan, and finally was sent to the frontier
again, where at Fort Stanwix,[22] 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 the heavy timber about
two miles from the fort, and every day an armed guard was sent out from
the garrison to protect them. On March 2d, Corporal Samuel Betts and six
soldiers, Davy among them, were detailed on this service. I conceive of
my hero at this time as a sturdy, well-seasoned lad, to whom woodcraft
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
morning. He wore the three-cornered cocked-up hat of the prescribed
uniform, and his powder-horn was slung at his side. The whole guard
very likely wore snowshoes, 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 vengeance 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 Fort 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 commended the brave to their Indian captors. He was ranged
up with the other prisoners, and Brant asked of each his name. When Davy
gave his, the great chief exclaimed:

"What, a son of Ogden the beaver-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 have 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 Mohawk
some miles below Fort Stanwix. They forded the river twice, the icy
water coming above their waists. On emerging upon the road between Fort
Stanwix and Fort Herkimer, 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 gleam of fires ahead and a chorus of
yells turned their thoughts towards the stake and an ignominious
martyrdom. But their fate was easier to meet. In a volley of sixteen
distinct yells for the prisoners and one for the scalp, the party--said
to number 100 Indians 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 fellows being guarded by British soldiers.

The next day's march brought them to Oneida Castle, often the
headquarters of Brant in his expeditions. Here the Indians dug up from
the snow a store of unhusked 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
of the captives except the corporal were similarly treated and the
Indians showed them how to tie the head and tail together. 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-covering 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 more 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 persists in being serious.
At Oneida Castle Brant, evidently 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 handful of
parched corn, pounded fine and taken with a swallow of water, was all
the food any of the party had that day.

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 '79. Brant, who had plenty
of powder, ordered his American prisoners to load and fire this gun a
number of times, the Indians 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.[23] 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 prisoners. 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 upon our hero's courage that he had not made his escape.

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 incident bespeaks either the lack of control or the negligent
good nature of Brant, for fifteen raccoon-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 Steuben."

And so poor Betts, but with a broken spirit, mustered his forlorn guard,
dressed them in a straight line, and put them through the manual
according to Steuben. I doubt if the history of Western New York can
show a stranger military function than this reluctant muster of patriot
prisoners under compulsion of a playful tiger 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 can."

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

Being now in the valley of the Tonawanda, Brant seems to have sent ahead
a runner to announce his approach; for the second or third day after
crossing the Genesee they were met by a party from the fort, bringing
pork and flour, whereupon there was a camp and a feast; with the not
strange result that many of them had to return to the astringent parched
corn as a corrective.

From this point on Davy and his friends were subjected to a new
experience; for, as they passed through the Indian villages, the old
women and children exercised their accustomed privilege of beating and
abusing 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
trouble 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 prisoner a whack over the head. Davy dodged, and
the blow fell on Brant's back. The chief, though undoubtedly hurt, paid
no attention to the Indian lad, but advised Davy to run, and Davy,
knowing perfectly well that to run away meant torture and death, wisely
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. Believing 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
friendship, and said: "Brother, stop." And the boys, 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 Indians with American
prisoners, and was the mild preliminary of that dread ordeal known as
running the gauntlet.

When Davy, well to the front of the procession, had been marched some
distance farther through the wood, he looked out upon a clearing, across
which extended 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 barrier,
as Davy looked, he saw, first, the wagon road which ran between this
_chevaux-de-frise_ and the palisades or pickets of the fort beyond.
Within the palisades he could see the outlines of the fortification, the
upper part of the old castle which still stands there, and other
buildings, and over all the red flag of Great Britain. But while he
noted 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 palisades--two close ranks
of painted savages in front, and behind them on either side a dense mass
of yelling, gesticulating bucks, squaws, old men and children, impatient
for the passing of the prisoners. Beyond, 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 situation. He knew the
Indian custom, which does not seem to have been at all interfered with
by the officers in command at Niagara,[24] which allowed the spectator
to assault or wound the prisoner who should run between 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 somewhat 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 still 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 execrations follow! There is a
flight of stones and clubs, but not one touches the boy. One huge
savage steps forward, to throw the runner 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 hailed 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 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 matter 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
British 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.[25]

David lived with this fine family for over two years, being virtually
their slave, and always under circumstances 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 burden of providing for
the family fell 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.

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
carefully. 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 to 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 Johnson'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 to the
fort 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 country."

"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 squaw--will you do it?"

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

Capt. Powell turned on his heel. "Go 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 become 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.[26] But that was the end of it for this time, and back
Davy went, with an angry squaw, 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 January. 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 Revolution 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, 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
pursuit, 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 sent 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 Lake--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 officers 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 was unharmed.
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 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 frontier.

A Fort Niagara Centennial.


_With Especial Reference to the British Retention of that Post for
Thirteen Years after the Treaty of 1783._[27]

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 conquest passed up the
Niagara; and here, as on all the frontier from Duquesne to Quebec,

  "The lilies withered where the Lion trod."[28]

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 flag. This is the event we celebrate, this, with the
succeeding years, the period we review: a period embracing 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 considerable measure, the story of our
neighbor, the magnificent 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 famine, disease and death,--of all the varied forms
of misery and wretchedness of a frontier post, which we in 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 fortification here in 1679.[29] There was a
temporary Indian village on the west side of the river, but no
settlement 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 Dongan, the Governor of
the English Colony of New York, built here a fort which was called Fort
Denonville. 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
scurvy and the besieging Iroquois but for the timely arrival of friendly
Miamis. It was finally abandoned September 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 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 engineer Chaussegros de Léry--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.[30] 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 interim, has been continuously and successively garrisoned by the
troops of France, England, and the United States.

By 1727 De Léry 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

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 Frenchman, 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

This vicinity also has peculiar precedence in the religious records of
our State. It was near here[31] that Father Melithon Watteaux, the first
Catholic priest to minister to whites in what is now New York State, set
up his altar.[32] 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[33]; and here at Fort Niagara,
under the French _régime_, 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 Revolutionary 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 enumerates various works which have been accomplished
on the fortifications, and says: "The blockhouse [has 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.[34]

The real life of the place during the pre-Revolutionary days can only be
hinted at here. It was the scene of Sir William Johnson's activities,
the rendezvous 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 massacre of Wyoming,[35] 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 Butlers 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 another avenger was in
the camp; for the 5,000 inflocking Indians created a scarcity of
provisions; and starvation, disease and death, as had been the case more
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 Britain
acknowledged the independence 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 domestic
difficulties. It is exceedingly interesting to note at this juncture the
attitude of Gov. Haldimand. In November, 1784, more than a year after
the signing of the treaty, he wrote to Brig. Gen. St. Leger: "Different
attempts having been made by the American States to get possession of
the posts in the Upper Country, I have thought it my duty uniformly to
oppose the same until His Majesty's orders for that purpose shall be
received, and my conduct upon that occasion having been approved, as you
will see by enclosed 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 purpose"; and he adds, after more in this vein,
that should evacuation be ordered, "on no account whatever are any
stores or provisions to be left in the forts" for the use of the

Not only did Haldimand, during the years immediately 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
maintaining 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 mortars, with large store of shell
and powder, but it had become such an important depot of supply to the
impoverished 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 wholesale
embezzlement of the King's flour.

Haldimand prized Niagara at its true value. In October, 1782, several
months before peace was declared, 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 general
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 essentially necessary to the security as well as trade of the
country."[36] 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 industrious in giving every satisfaction to our Indian

On the 2d of May, 1783, an express messenger from Gen. Washington
arrived at Fort Niagara, bringing the terms of the treaty. The news gave
great uneasiness to Indian-Supt. Butler. "Strict attention to the
Indians," he wrote next day to Capt. Mathews, "has hitherto kept them in
good humor, but now I am fearful of a sudden and disagreeable change in
their conduct. 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 ineffectual 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 Assembly on the subject. The
British commander [Haldimand], he said, had treated the Provisional
Articles as a suspension of hostilities only, "declined to withdraw his
garrison and refused us even to visit those posts."[38] The Legislature
agreed with the Governor that nothing could be done until spring.[39]
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 garrisons under your command from
the places they now hold in the United States, agreeable to the 7th
Article of the Treaty, it becomes a 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
Ministers--whom he was meanwhile urging to hold on to the posts--but he
gave the American officer the gratuitous information that in his
[Haldimand's] private opinion "the posts should not be evacuated until
such time as the American States should carry into execution the
articles of the treaty in favor of the Loyalists; that in conformity to
that article [I quote from Haldimand'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 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 sufferings
of those who had a right to look up to me for protection, 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 'delivering' or their 'receiving' the
posts, for reasons mentioned in one of my former letters to Your
Lordship." And with this poor satisfaction Col. Fish was sent back to
Gov. Clinton.[40]

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 evacuation, and proposed, "as a matter of mutual
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 arrangements, "so that there may remain
no impediment to the march of the American troops destined for this
service." 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.[41] It was with great reluctance
that in the summer of 1784 he reduced the number of British vessels 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 prevent the fur trade from being diverted to the American 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."[42]

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 that portion of the
treaty that concerned creditors and Royalists. The States were unable to
act in concert, and alleged infractions of the compact by the British,
as, indeed, there were. There was a sporadic show of indignation in
various quarters 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 remained _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 Great Britain readily agreed to the express stipulation
in the commercial treaty of 1794, 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, but 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.[43] There was 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 Philadelphia; and, of course, with the
Duke of Portland and others of the Ministry. Capt. Lewis, representing
the United States, was sent to Quebec for definite information 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 requested that the posts should not be evacuated until
the troops of the United States should be at hand to protect the works
and public buildings. "Being desirous," 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."[44] Thus it happened 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
11th,[45] when American troops arrived from Oswego, and the Stars and
Stripes went to the masthead.

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
unpublished official MSS., of which but scant use appears to have been
made by writers on the subject.

Of Fort Niagara under the American flag I shall be very brief. No loyal
American can take pride in telling 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, fronting east--dates from 1861.

In the continental view, Fort Niagara was never of paramount importance.
Before the British conquest, Niagara was the key to the inner door, but
Quebec was 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 would have terminated exactly as it did, had she
never possessed a post in the lake region. And of Fort Niagara as an
American possession, the American historian can say nothing more true
than this: that it is a striking 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.

The Journals and Journeys of an Early Buffalo Merchant.


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 Exchange, which a traveler would choose who was
bound up the south shore of Lake Erie.

The equipage, 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 by
nightfall had traveled many miles to the westward, taking his course on
the ice that covered Lake Erie.

This was John Lay, a merchant of the early Buffalo, whom even yet it is
only necessary to introduce to the young people and to new-comers. The
older generation remembers well the enterprising and successful merchant
who shared fortunes with Buffalo in her most romantic days. Before going
after him, up the ice-covered lake, let us make his closer acquaintance.

Mr. Lay, who was of good New-England stock, came to Buffalo in 1810 to
clerk in the general store of his brother-in-law, Eli Hart. Mr. Hart had
built his store on Main near the corner of Erie Street, the site now
occupied by the American Express Co.'s building. His dwelling was on
Erie Street, adjoining, and between the house and store was an ample
garden. The space now occupied by St. Paul's Church and the Erie County
Savings Bank was a rough common; native timber still stood thick along
the east side of Main, above South Division Street; the town had been
laid out in streets and lots for four years, and the population,
exceeding at that time 400, was rapidly increasing. There was a turnpike
road to the eastward, with a stage route. Buffalo Creek flowed lazily
into the lake; no harbor had been begun; and on quiet days in summer the
bees could still be heard humming among the basswoods by its waters.

This was the Buffalo to which young Lay had come. Looking back to those
times, even more novel than the condition of the frontier village, was
the character of the frontier trade carried on by Mr. Hart. The trade of
the villagers was less important than that which was held with the
Canadians or English who were in office under the Government. To them
they sold India goods, silks and muslins. Side by side with these the
shelves were stocked with hardware, crockery, cottonades, jeans and
flannels, Indian supplies, groceries and liquors. The young New
Englander soon found that with such customers as Red Jacket and other
representative red-men his usefulness was impaired unless he could speak
Indian. With characteristic energy he set himself at the task, and in
three months had mastered the Seneca. New goods came from the East by
the old Mohawk River and Lewiston route, were poled up the Niagara from
Schlosser's, above the falls, on flatboats, and were stored in a log
house at the foot of Main Street.

Up to 1810 the growth of Buffalo had been exceedingly slow, even for a
remote frontier point. But about the time Mr. Lay came here new life was
shown. Ohio and Michigan were filling 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, paralysis of trade, and destruction of property. Mr.
Lay was enrolled as a private in Butts's Company, for defense. The night
the village was burned he with his brother-in-law, Eli Hart, were in
their store. The people were in terror, fearing massacre by the
Indians, hesitating to fly, not knowing in which direction safety lay.

"John," said Mr. Hart, "there's all that liquor in the cellar--the
redskins mustn't get at that."

Together they went down and knocked in the heads of all the casks until,
as Mr. Lay said afterwards, they stood up to their knees in liquor. As
he was coming up from the work he encountered a villainous-looking
Onondaga chief, who was knocking off the iron shutters from the store
windows. They had been none too quick in letting the whisky run into the
ground. Mr. Lay said to the Indian:

"You no hurt friend?"

Just then a soldier jumped from his horse before the door. Mr. Lay
caught up a pair of saddle-bags, filled with silver and 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 under
him, but the rider fell unharmed, and, catching up the saddle-bags, made
his way on foot to the house of another brother-in-law, Mr. Comstock.
Later that day they came back to the town, and with others they picked
up thirty dead bodies and put them into Rees's blacksmith shop, where
the next day they were burned with the shop.

After starting his relatives toward safety, Mr. Lay thought of himself.
The Onondaga had disappeared, and Mr. Lay went into the house, took a
long surtout that hung on the wall and put it on. As he stepped out of
the door he was taken prisoner, and that night, with many others,
soldiers and civilians, was carried 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 by his widow, the
late Mrs. Frances Lay, are worthy of consideration. I will only
rehearse, as briefly as possible, the chief events of this captivity 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 30, 1813, was bitterly cold. The captured and the
captors made a hard march from Fort Erie to Newark--or, as we know it
now, Niagara, Ont., on Lake Ontario. The town was full of Indians, and
many of the Indians were full of whisky. Under the escort of a
body-guard Mr. Lay was allowed to go to the house of a Mrs. Secord, whom
he knew. While there, the enemy surrounded the house and demanded Lay,
but Mrs. Secord hid him in a closet, and kept him concealed until Mr.
Hart, 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
prisoners were put on short rations, were grudgingly given water to
drink, and were treated with such unnecessary harshness that Mr. Lay
boldly told the officer in charge of the expedition that on reaching
Montreal he should report him to the Government for violating the laws
of civilized warfare.

In March he was exchanged at Greenbush, opposite Albany. There he got
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
constitution had been wrecked by the hardships he had undergone. 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 pedestrianism, 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 Buffalo, 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 survived him, and to whose vigorous
memory and kind graciousness we are indebted for these pictures of the

The years that followed the War of 1812 were devoted 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 combination 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-equipped 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 Purchase flowed in the course of trade into their hands. The
pioneer families of towns to the west of Buffalo came hither to trade,
and personal friendships were cemented among residents scattered through
a large section. I find no period of our local history so full of
activities. From Western New York to Illinois it was a time of
foundation-laying. Let me quote a few paragraphs from memoranda which
Mrs. Lay made relating to this period:

     The war had brought men of strong character, able to cope with
     pioneer life; among others, professional men, surgeons, doctors
     and lawyers: Trowbridge, Marshall, Johnson, and many others. Elliot
     of Erie was a young lawyer, of whom Mr. Lay had often said, "His
     word is as good as his bond." Another friend 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 Atkins were married, Red Jacket being among the
     guests.] At Erie, then a naval station, were the families of
     Dickinson, Brown, Kelso, Reed, Col. Christy, and many others, all
     numbered among Mr. Lay's patrons. Albert H. Tracy came here about
     that time; he brought a letter from his brother Phineas, who had
     married Mr. Lay's sister. He requested Mr. Lay to do for him what
     he could in the way of business. Mr. Lay gave him a room over his
     store, and candles and wood for five years. Even in those days Mr.
     Tracy used to declare that he should make public life his business.

     Hart & Lay became consignees for the Astors in the fur business. I
     well remember that one vessel-load of furs from the West got wet.
     To dry them Mr. Lay spread them on the grass, filling the green
     where the churches now are. The wet skins tainted the air so
     strongly that Mr. Lay was threatened with indictment--but he saved
     the Astors a large sum of money.

Hart & Lay acquired tracts of land in Canada, Ohio and Michigan. To look
after these and other interests Mr. Lay made several adventurous
journeys 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 party slept in the wigwams of
Indians, and Mr. Lay has left on record his admiration of Mrs. Barton's
ability to make even such rough traveling agreeable.

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 for 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 starvation that the
people dared give them only a teaspoonful of pigeon soup at a time. Nor
had starvation been the only peril 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 more.

Such adventurous journeyings as these formed no inconsiderable part 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
dozen 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 place.

Many a war episode was told over there. Albert Gallatin and Henry Clay,
Jackson and the United States banks--the great men and measures of the
day--were hotly discussed there; and many a time did the group listen as
Mr. Lay read from _Niles' Register_, of which he was a constant
subscriber. There were sometimes lively scrimmages there, as the
following incident, narrated by Mrs. Lay, will illustrate:

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 squaw, 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 contrary,
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. Lay 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 parties came so near being
killed; but Lay 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 considerable 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 partner, the business was temporarily left in other hands;
and on February 5, 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. No
modern journeyings that we can conceive of, short of actual exploration
in unknown regions, are quite comparable to such an undertaking as Mr.
Lay proposed. Partly, perhaps, 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 own 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 pictures of the past, and
show Mr. Lay to 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

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 followed the old French Creek route to the Allegheny.
Presently the snow disappeared. The crockery-crate sleigh was abandoned,
and the journey lightly continued 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 transporters 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 disreputable. It was still the day of poor
taverns, poor food, much bad liquor, fighting, and every manifestation
of the early American vulgarity, ignorance and boastfulness which amazed
every foreigner who ventured to travel in that part of the United
States, and sent him home to magnify his bad impressions in a book. But
with all its discomforts, the great Southern river route of 1822 proved
infinitely enjoyable to our Buffalonian. At Louisville, where the falls
intercepted travel, he reëmbarked on the boat Frankfort for a
fourteen-days' journey to New Orleans. Her cargo included barrels of
whisky, hogsheads of tobacco, some flour and cotton, packs 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 Orleans by first train if they
thought they could see that play.

April 27th, Mr. Lay sailed from New Orleans, the only passenger on the
ship Triton, 310 tons, cotton-laden, for Liverpool. It was ten days
before they passed the bar of the Mississippi and entered the Gulf, 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 case with
journals kept at sea, is exceedingly 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-four hours! The ocean greyhound was as yet unborn. The chief
diversion 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 starving 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.[46]

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 attentions 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 has
gray thin hair and a thoughtful look," Mr. Lay wrote. "The Heart of
Midlothian" had just been published, 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 _régime_.

Our traveler was much struck by the general bad opinion which prevailed
regarding America. On meeting him, people often could not conceal their
surprise 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, 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 1641. It was afterward
     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 Englishman, 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 Englanders 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 language.

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 public, possibly because--in characteristic contrast to the
letter referred to above--they are touching but _not_ delicate.

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 constantly writing--something from his pen is shortly
expected. I saw him walking on the day of 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 afforded, 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 hundreds 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-quarters of a century ago. Have we not regarded the walking-match
as a modern mania, certainly not antedating 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 constantly 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 £30 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. August 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

A few weeks later he writes again:

     This is truly the age of pedestrianism. A man has just accomplished
     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, accomplished it in five days
     seven and one-half hours.

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.

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, their 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 proportionately"; 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 French, and flags of different nations; the
eagle of the United States is among them, 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 replied, "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; tourings 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 advisable to abandon, and on
October 5, 1823, on board 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 continual 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 whipped with a cat-o'-nine-tails,
then sent to duty." The dose of cat was afterwards administered to the
others. It is no wonder that the traveler's heart was cheered when, on
November 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 day, 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 Massachusetts. It
     is most strictly observed 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 performed, and
     everything wore the appearance of Sunday. Great dinners are
     prepared and eaten on this occasion, and in the evening 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 Buffalo, by way of New York, Philadelphia,
Washington, 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
to see and learn much of interest. But here was a practical, 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 Connecticut appeared to him
in the main thrifty and growing. Hartford he found a place of 7,000
inhabitants, "completely but irregularly built, the streets crooked and
dirty, with sidewalks but no pavements." He passed through Wethersfield,
"famous for its quantities of onions. A church was built here, and its
bell purchased," he records, "with this vegetable." New Haven struck him
as "elegant, but not very flourishing, 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 States.

At Harlem Bridge, which crosses to New York Island, he found some fine
houses, "the summer residences 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 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 proclamation, 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

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 Miss 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.

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
     washwomen'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 galvanism,
     and entertaining the populace with a magic lantern.

It is much the same Philadelphia yet.

January 8th, Mr. Lay took his way south to Baltimore, making slow
progress because of muddy roads; 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 passengers between the two cities, the fare being
$4. The road for part of the way lay through a wilderness. "The inns
generally were bad 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

     On the day named, the House was crowded to excess with spectators,
     a great number of whom were ladies, in consequence 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 _Niles' Weekly Register_, was to thousands of
Americans of that day what Horace Greeley became later on--an oracle;
and on January 18th struck out over a fine turnpike road for Pittsburg.

The 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 traffic. 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 part of
the State it extends through one of the most fertile and best-settled
parts of the United States. Farther 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 endless 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. Lay entered the Blue Ridge section, beyond 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 frequent and nearly
     in sight of each other. The gates for the collection of tolls
     differ in distance--some five, others ten, and others twenty-five
     miles asunder. Notwithstanding the travel is great the stock yields
     no profit, but, on the contrary, it is a sinking concern on some
     parts, and several of the companies are in debt for opening the
     road. About $100 per mile are annually expended in repairs. It cost
     a great sum to open the road, particularly that portion leading
     over the mountains and across the valleys.

     Taverns are very cheap in their charges; meals are a fourth of a
     dollar, beds 6¼ cents, liquors remarkably cheap. Their tables
     are loaded with food in variety, well prepared and cleanly served
     up with the kindest attention and smiling cheerfulness. The women
     are foremost in kind abilities. Beer is made at Chambersburg of an
     excellent quality and at other places. A good deal of this beverage
     is used and becoming quite common; it is found at most of the good
     taverns. Whisky is universally drank and it is most prevalent.
     Places 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
     Pittsburg 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 great 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 $1 per barrel, which will little more than half
     pay the wagoner's expenses for the 280 miles. Superfine flour was
     $4.12½ in Philadelphia, and coal three cents per bushel. Coal
     for cooking is getting in use in this city--probably 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 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 difficulty 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 February 29th [two
     years and twenty-four days from the date of setting 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!

Misadventures of Robert Marsh.


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.
Catharines 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 naturally absorbed the ideas and the sentiments of the
men he met. The Niagara district was at fever heat. Mackenzie had sown
his Patriot literature broadcast, 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 in 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 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 obscure 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 adventured 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 discouragement 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 enforced
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 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 document
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 which--taking it at their
valuation--was as truly in behalf of liberty as was the work of the
Signers of the Declaration of Independence. They made the same appeal to
justice; argued from the same point of view for man's inalienable
rights; they were temperate, too, in their demands, and sought liberty
without bloodshed. Yet while the American patriots were enabled to
persist and win their cause, though after two bitter and exhausting
wars, their Canadian imitators were ignominiously obliterated in a few
weeks. In the one case the cause of Liberty won her brightest star. In
the other, 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 peculiar 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 officials 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 boat on fire,
perhaps some on board, within two short miles of the Falls of Niagara,
going at the rate of twelve miles an hour."[47]

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 quote 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 difficulty. 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 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
assisted 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 dreaming 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
immediately 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 resolution; he crossed to Navy Island and presented himself at the
headquarters of William Lyon Mackenzie, the peppery little Scotchman
who was the prime organizer of the Provisional Government, and of
General Van Rensselaer, commander-in-chief of the Patriot Army. "The
General produced the list and asked me 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,[48] 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 verdict; but we must assume that our hero
entered upon the campaign with high hopes and who knows what visions of

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
farther along in the story. It is assumed that the reader knows the
principal facts of this familiar episode; but in Marsh's journal 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 intention
     of attacking the Island, breastworks were hastily thrown up, and
     all necessary arrangements made to give them a warm reception.
     There were twenty-five 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 entered 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 the 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 destruction 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 were very lavish with Her
Gracious Majesty's powder and balls." He continues:

     I recollect a man standing behind the breastwork where were four of
     us sitting as the balls were whistling through the trees. "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 in 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 set 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 ball.

     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 breastwork.
     "Hold," said I, "there is Queen Ann's Pocket Piece, as it is
     called, it will soon be opposite, 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-pounder. 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 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

     We were about to give them another shot, when the officer of 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
     went 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

This incident was the beginning of more active operations. 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
wherever opportunity offered. His ardor must have been considerable,
for he made his way in the dead of winter 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
Malden, 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
expedition, 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 prisoners (whom
they could not hold), looking meanwhile across the river for help which
never came. "We were about planting our standard," wrote Marsh
afterward; "the flag was a splendid one, with two stars for 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 observed,
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
hopeless stand, for numbers and discipline were all on the other side.
According to Marsh, the regulars numbered 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 pursued 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 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 (il-)literatim_. I give the events of the next
few days as simply as possible. 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 and wandered through the woods until
daylight, narrowly 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 Dartmoor, its Andersonville. In this
dishonor roll of official outrages surely may be included the backwoods
prisons of Upper Canada in 1838 and '39. Our misadventurer was shifted
from one to another. At Fort Malden, 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 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
imprisonment, their feeding and care would have been fatal to a herd of
hogs. The acme of the miseries of the prison at Fort Malden I cannot
even hint at with propriety. When transferred from Sandwich to Malden,
and later from Malden to London, Marsh, like many of his fellow
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 Malden 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, probably, 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, certain 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 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 transferred to Toronto.
In June following, with a boatload 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 companions 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.[49] 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 very good singers amongst us," says
Marsh, "which made the fort ring with the 'American Star,' 'Hunters of
Kentucky' and other similar songs, which caused many to flock to our
windows. Some of them remarked, 'You will not feel like singing in
Botany Bay.' 'Give us "Botany Bay,"' said one, and it was done in good

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 sympathies 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
bombastic 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,
  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. If
the reader has not heard it lately, perhaps he can stand a little of it.
It was inspired by the battle of New Orleans:

  Ye gentlemen and ladies fair,
    Who grace this famous city,
  Just listen, if you've time to spare,
    While I rehearse a ditty;
  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;
  There's gals of every hue, it seems,
    From snowy white to sooty:
  So, Packenham he made his 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! Kentucky, 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 'em:
        O! Kentucky, etc.

  They found, at length, 'twas vain to fight,
    When lead was all their booty,
  And so, they wisely took to flight,
    And left us all the beauty.
  And now, if danger e'er annoys,
    Remember what our trade is;
  Just send for us Kentucky boys,
    And we'll protect you, ladies:
        O! Kentucky, etc.

At least it has a gallant ending, which was not altogether 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 cursing.

Were I a Herman Melville or a Clark Russell I should be tempted to dwell
on this dreary voyage of the prison-ship Buffalo. Even Marsh's humble
chronicle of it is graphic with unstudied incidents. They ran into rough
weather at once; so that to the wretchedness of their imprisonment was
added the misery of seasickness. No one had told them of their
destination, 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 convicts tried to seize the ship; but the
only result was heavier irons, closer confinement, and a stricter
guard. After two months of the stormy Atlantic the Buffalo put into Rio
Janeiro, where she lay three tantalizing days. "It happened to be the
Emperor's birthday," says Marsh, "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 reaching to the clouds." A
little fruit 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 around 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 harbor, 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 good-sized
island just south of Australia. From extreme 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, Brébeuf 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 world'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 this happier part
of the world. For over thirty years England had been sending thither her
worst criminals. Shipload after shipload, year after year, of the most
depraved and 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 character 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 colony raised to his
memory a noble bronze statue, which stands to-day in Franklin Square,
Hobart, not far from the old Government House, the scene of his
uncongenial administration.

And now behold our hero marched ashore with his fellows; reeling like a
drunken man, the strange effect of firm earth under foot after months
of heaving seaway; 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 carrying stone for road-building; and
thus began five years of unmitigated suffering for Robert Marsh in that
detestable land. There were about 43,000 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 autocrats in their own domain. The
whipping-post, the triangle--a refinement of cruelty--and the gallows
were familiar sights. The slightest failure at his daily task sent the
convict to the whipping-post or to solitary confinement.

Official iniquity flourished under Sir George Arthur's reign of eleven
years. He was Franklin's predecessor, and his minions were still in
control when Marsh came under their power. He was shifted from station
to station; fed like a dog, lodged in the meanest huts and worked well
nigh to death. The worst characters 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
measure 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 second England; in its settled portions it
is a land of pleasant vales and gentle rivers, rich in harvests of the
temperate 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 interest the erection of a gallows. "Yes," he said, "I
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 captured, 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 man. This relieved him from the overseers, and gave him
permission to work, for whatever wages he could get, in an assigned

And now again, of this new phase of his misadventures, 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 plantation, and in many cases became the boldest of
outlaws. 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 difficulty, 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 describing
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 companions, 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. They 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 ship, and five years in a convict colony, he went on board the
American whaler Steiglitz of Sag Harbor, Selah Young, master, a free

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 convict 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 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 their
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
subsequent 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.

Underground Trails.


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. Armies came, cutting
military roads. Settlers followed to banish forests, drain swamps, and
make new highways. And yet the horseman, the military train, the wagon
of the pioneer, the early stage-coach, the railroad, each in its day,
along many of the most direct and important thoroughfares, has but
followed the ancient ways. The 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-building. 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 filled it full of trails in history. Again, as the gateway of
the West, the paths of immigration and of commerce for a century have
here converged. The early settlers of Michigan and Wisconsin 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 Niagara frontier has been peculiarly a region
of passing, 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, gaining
after infinite hardships these shores of the lake or river, have looked
across the smiling expanse to such an elysium as only a slave can dream
of. Once the passage made, no matter how poor the passenger, freedom
became his possession and the heritage of his children. The chattel
became a man. I can 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 waterway 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 parties, for more than thirty years preceding the
Civil War. Indeed, runaway slaves passed this way to Canada soon after
the War of 1812. The tales of soldiers returning to Kentucky from the
Niagara frontier 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.
In many secret ways the refugees were passed on from one friend to
another. Hiding-places were established, and routes which were found
advantageous were regularly 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
voluminous length, by careful students. My aim in this paper is to
bring together a number of incidents and narratives, 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 passage 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 Philadelphia, 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 Lake 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 Collingwood 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 Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, to points on the south shore of
Lake Erie and the Detroit and Niagara 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 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 across New York State,
the chief one being up the Hudson and Mohawk valleys to Lake Ontario
ports. There was some crossing to Kingston, and some from Rochester to
Port Dalhousie or Toronto. Another 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
western 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 number of refugee
negroes who crossed by these routes to Upper Canada, now Ontario. In
1844 the number was estimated at 40,000;[50] in 1852 the Anti-Slavery
Society of Canada stated in its annual report that there were about
30,000 blacks in Canada West; in 1858 the number was estimated as high
as 75,000.[51] This figure is probably excessive; but since the negroes
continued to come, up to the hour of the Emancipation Proclamation, 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 Western Reserve
were brought to the house in the night-time; and Mr. Frederick Nicholson
of Warsaw, N. Y., states that the Underground work in his vicinity began
in 1840. From this time on there was apparently no cessation of
migrations of fugitives into Canada at Black Rock, Buffalo and other
points."[52] 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
Lake Erie to Canada."[53] 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 upon the friendliness
of the captains for concealment or other assistance.

There are chronicled, too, many little histories of flights which
brought the fugitive to Buffalo. I pass over those which are readily
accessible elsewhere to the student of this phase of our home
history.[54] 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 1836 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
quickly 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 made their way from the
South, that more than 400 occupied a quarter known as Negro Town. The
newcomer, 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
Governor of Canada West, and before him the case was laid. Sir Francis
regarded the charge as lawful, notwithstanding 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 never be carried back South. The Governor, Sir Francis, was
petitioned not to surrender Moseby; he replied that his duty was to give
him up as a felon, "although he 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. Under 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 contemporary writer avers, they were
unarmed, showed "good sense, forbearance and resolution," and declared
their intention not to commit any violence against the English 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
delivery 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 curiously-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; another, 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
unutterable 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."[55]

Soon after, in the same year, the Governor of Kentucky made requisition
on the Governor of the province of Canada West for the surrender of
Jesse Happy, another runaway slave, also on a charge of horse-stealing.
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. 8, 1837, he asked for instructions "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
horse is a vicious struggle between two guilty parties, of which the
slave-owner is not only the aggressor, but the blackest criminal 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 Government 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 argued,
was in fact giving him back to his former master; and he held that,
until the State authorities could separate trial from unjust punishment,
however willing the Government 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 right, under the
     pretext of any human treaty, to claim from the British Government,
     which does not recognize slavery, beings who by slave-law are not
     recognized as _men_ and who actually existed as brute beasts 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 they cannot be
     held responsible for conduct prior to their existence.[56]

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 permitted 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 Abolitionists has been
without judgment."[57] Another particularly unamiable critic, W. Howard
Russell, a much-exploited English war correspondent who wrote
voluminously 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
unpleasant impressions wrote: "There are too many free negroes and too
many Irish located in the immediate neighborhood of the American town,
to cause the doctrines 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 Americans
monopolizing the higher branches of labor and money-making, including
the guide business."[58] 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
multiplied. One rarely will find any opinion at all favorable to the
refugee black, and never any expression of sympathy 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 Underground, one would look to
Buffalo for a wealth of reminiscence on this subject. On the contrary,
comparatively little seems to have been gathered up regarding Buffalo
stations and workers. The Buffalo of _ante-bellum_ days was not a large
place, and many "personally-escorted" refugees were taken direct from
country stations to the river ferries, without having 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 disappeared. 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 only from the
cellar. Old residents then recalled that Mr. Butler was reputed to keep
the last station on the Underground route to Canada.[59]

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, 1899, in the Kent County House of Refuge, Chatham,
Ont., of "Mammy" Chadwick, 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 Underground to Buffalo in 1837. She always fixed her arrival at Fort
Erie as "in de year dat de Queen was crowned." She married in Fort
Erie, but after a few years went to Chatham, 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 interesting woman is Mrs. Betsy Robinson, known
throughout the neighborhood as "Aunt Betsy." She lately told her story
to me at length. Robbed of all the picturesque 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 ownership, 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 playin' on jewsharps, lettin'
on to be that careless an' happy." But not so Baker. He made ready to
escape. For 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,
probably the north fork of the Shenandoah, and pushed northward. The
father had procured three "passes," which commended them for assistance
to friends 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 remember's we got any
wagon-rides. You see, we was so many, nine in all. I 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

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 very early in the morning. It was, he has 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

"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 comfortable homes, either in the Northern States or in Canada.
They paid him well for his work, and he rarely failed to accomplish his

"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. When 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 was almost dead. He
lay for a time insensible in a pool of his own blood. Finally regaining
consciousness, he made his way back into Buffalo and as soon as he was
able complained to the city authorities. His assailants were identified,
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

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 masters they had run away from. It
is recorded that when 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

Henry Clay visited Buffalo in September, 1849. When he left for
Cleveland his black servant Levi was missing, but whether he had gone
voluntarily or against his wishes Mr. Clay was uncertain. "There are
circumstances 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."[61] The absentee had
merely been left in Buffalo--probably he missed the boat--and reported
in due time to his master at Ashland. The incident, however, suggests
the hazards of Northern travel which in those years awaited wealthy
Southerners, who were fond of making long sojourns at Niagara Falls,
accompanied by many servants.

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

"I 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 for him. The
slave was a muscular fellow, and fought desperately for his liberty; but
his captors began beating him over the head with their whips, and he
would have been overpowered and carried 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 last, 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
threatening prosecutions and vengeance, but I presume nothing came of

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.[63] 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 Underground.[64] From him I had the facts of the following
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 episodes in the history of Underground trails at the
eastern end of Lake Erie.

In the year 1841 Capt. David Porter Dobbins, afterwards Superintendent
of Life Saving Stations in the Ninth U. S. District, including Lakes
Erie and Ontario, 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 before he came into the 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 quietly 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 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 unfaithful 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, intelligent 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 recapturing 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 unscrupulous 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 aroused.

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

"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 magistrate 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 employer. 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.[65] To this house Mason was
hurried, and Mrs. Kellogg comprehended 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 door, when the two slave-hunters came
back with the sheriff and demanded Mason.

"Search the premises at your pleasure," was the response.

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 quietly 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
Pleasant roads. Just beyond Marvintown, at Davison's, the Lake Pleasant
road forks off from the Wattsburg road to the right. The travelers took
the Lake road. When Mr. Russell's house was reached, the Captain slipped
a half-eagle into the hand of his grinning companion, with the needless
advice that it would be well to make tracks for home as fast as
possible. Mr. Russell was told of the clever ruse, and then Capt.
Dobbins 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.

"Find out," was the Captain's only answer, as he drove quietly along,
chuckling to himself over the success 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 morning.

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 _protégé_ to the vessel. At
last, late at night, a little, leaky old skiff was 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 crashing 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, however, 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 ruin 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 Bay in the wild darkness and storm of midnight. The vessel
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 impossible (there were no steam tugs on the bay
in those days), Capt. Dobbins 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 notified 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

"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 Capt. Dobbins[66] 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 proffered 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 passengers." 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.

The next night just about dusk a wagon was driven into my yard. The
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 years old. He
was a loose-jointed fellow, with a head like a pumpkin, and a mouth like
a cavern, its vast circumference always stretched 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 windmill. 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 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 companions were an intelligent-looking negro about twenty-five
years old, named Martin, and his wife, a pretty quadroon girl, with thin
lips and a pleasant voice, for all the world like _Eliza_ in "Uncle
Tom's Cabin." She carried a plump 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 I had any say in the matter.

The only persons besides myself who knew of their arrival were William
P. Trimble and Maj. F. L. Fitch. The party 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 case of unexpected intruders, the
fugitives could crawl up into the attic and remain as safe as if in

It was my plan to take the "passengers" 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, 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 off, 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 expressive slam.

"What in ---- does all this mean?" was his pious ejaculation.

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 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. The 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
runaway 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. Bones of niggers danglin' in the trees. Crows pickin'
their eyes out. _You_ better go back, d'ye _hear_?" 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 appeal upon his companions. The young woman, however,
with her keener insight, had seen through the sham brusqueness 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; and not having a stone in his broad bosom, but a big, warm,
thumping old heart, was moved to pity and to aid. He set about getting a
basket of provisions. Then he skirmished around and found a blanket and
hood for the woman; all the time declaring that _he_ never would help
runaway niggers, no sir! and drawing (for Sam's especial delectation)
the most horrible pictures of Canadian hospitality that he could conjure
up. "You'll find 'em on shore waitin' for ye," said he; "they'll catch
ye and kill ye and string ye up for a scare-crow." Seeing that Sam was
coatless, he stripped off his 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 'God
Save the Queen' out of ye every day in the year."

All being in readiness, our benefactor plunged his hand into his pocket,
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. At the door Sam
turned back and spoke for the first time:

"Look 'e hyar, Massa, you's good to we uns an' 'fo' de Lo'd I tank yer.
Ef enny No'then gemmen hankah fur my chances in de Souf, I' zign in dair
favo'. 'Fo' de good Lo'd I tank ye, Massa, I does, _shuah_!"

Here Sam's feelings got the better of him, and we were hurrying off,
when our entertainer said:

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

"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

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 crash like the
breaking of fence-boards was heard on the bank near by, and to the
westward of us. We looked up quickly and saw the form of a man climb
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 upwards 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 direction 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 I reached the Lake road the moon had come
up, and a fresh carriage-track could be plainly seen. I followed it down
the road a short distance, when it turned, ran across the sod, and ended
at the fence, 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.

The fugitives reached the promised land in safety, and I heard from them
several times thereafter. The man Sam subsequently made two or three
successful trips back to the old home, once for a wife and afterwards
for other friends. He made some money in the Canada oil fields, and some
time after sent me $100, $50 for myself to invest in books, and $50 for
the fishermen who carried them safely across to Long Point and liberty.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of all the places which have sheltered the fugitive slave there is none
better known, along the southeastern shore of Lake Erie, than the old
Methodist church at Wesleyville, Erie Co., Pennsylvania. It stands today
much as it stood a half century since; though repairs have been made
from time to time, and of late years modern coal stoves have replaced
the capacious but fervid old wood-eaters known as box-stoves. Dedicated
to God, it has been doubly hallowed by being devoted to the cause of
humanity. 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 1856 there lived in Caldwell County, in western Kentucky, a
well-to-do farmer named Wilson. He owned a large and well-stocked farm,
which he had inherited, with several slaves, from his father. Mr. Wilson
was an easy-going and indulgent master, and reaped a greater reward of
affection from his "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 the 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 Watson. The housekeeper
dying, Nannie was taken from the field to fill her place. Nothing could
have been worse for the poor girl. She was handsome, her young master a
brute. Because she defended her honor she was cruelly 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, quiet for a
time, but with a growing resolve in his heart. One night his master came
home from a debauch, and ordered Jack to perform some unreasonable and
impossible task. Because the poor boy failed, the master flew at him
with an open 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 blow that killed
him. The blood of his sister was avenged.

Once more Jack fled. The murder of the master had aroused the
neighborhood. Blood-hounds, both brute and human, scoured the woods and
swamps; flaming handbills offered great rewards for Jack Watson, dead or
alive. With incredible cunning, and grown wary as a wild animal, Jack
lurked in the vicinity a long time. When the excitement had somewhat
abated, he found his way to Salem, Ohio, and was for a time in the
employ of a worthy Quaker named Bonsell, 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 read and write, and
became in heart and conduct a changed man. His life, however, was
haunted by two ghastly forms; and as often as the image of his murdered
master rose before him, that of Nan came also to justify the deed. These
apparitions wore upon 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 coming toward him in the street. He
turned and fled in abject terror, much to the astonishment of all
passers-by. Long afterward he learned that the supposed apparition was a
half-brother of his former master.

Jack now determined to devote his life to freeing his countrymen from
bondage. In due time he found his way to the house of Mr. John Young, a
noted Abolitionist of Wilmington township, in Mercer County,
Pennsylvania. Mr. Young was one of the first men in Mercer County to
proclaim his political convictions to the world, and to stand by them,
bravely and consistently, and through many a dangerous hour, until
slavery was a thing of the past. No man ever asked brave John Young for
help and was refused. His house was known among Abolitionists far and
wide as a safe station for the Underground Road.

While Jack was at Mr. Young's he fell in with a young minister, himself
a former fugitive from Kentucky, and who was at the time an earnest
Baptist preacher in Syracuse, N. Y. This friend, named Jarm W. Loguen,
promised Jack shelter if he could but reach Syracuse, and so Jack was
"forwarded" along the road.

When he reached Erie, the late Mr. Thomas Elliott, of Harborcreek,
carried him to Wesleyville. His pursuers were incidentally heard of as
being in the vicinity of Meadville, and it was necessary to proceed with
great caution; so Jack was hidden away for a few days beneath the
shelter of the old church roof.

It so happened that at this time a protracted meeting was in progress in
the church. It was a great awakening, well remembered yet in the
neighborhood. There were meetings every night, though the church was
shut up during the day. During the evening meetings Jack would stay
quietly concealed in the garret; but after the congregation dispersed
and the key was turned in the door, he would descend, stir up a rousing
fire, and make himself as comfortable as possible until the meeting-hour
came round again. It is related that Mr. David Chambers generously kept
the house supplied with fuel; and his boys, to whose lot fell the
manipulation of the wood-pile, were in constant wonder 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 black Jack
toasted his shins by the revival fire, and found, no doubt, a deal of
comfort in the sacred atmosphere of the sheltering church.

The meetings grew in interest with every night. Scores were gathered
into the fold of the church, and the whole community, young and old,
were touched by the mysterious power. The meetings were conducted by the
Rev. John McLean, afterwards a venerable superannuate of the East Ohio
Conference, yet living (at least a few years ago) in Canfield, Mahoning
County, Ohio; by the Rev. B. Marsteller, and others. The interest came
to a climax one Sunday night. A most thrilling sermon had been preached.
Every heart was on fire with the sacred excitement, and it seemed as if
the Holy Spirit were almost tangible in their very midst. The church was
full, even to the gallery that surrounds three sides of the interior.
Methodists are not--at least were not in those days--afraid to shout;
and Jack, hidden above the ceiling, had long been a rapt listener to the
earnest exhortations. His murder, his people in bondage, all the sorrows
and sins of his eventful life, rose before his eyes. Overcome with
contrition, he knelt upon the rickety old boards, and poured out his
troubles in prayer. Meanwhile, down below, the excitement grew. The Rev.
James Sullivan made an impassioned exhortation, and when he finished,
the altar was crowded with penitents. The service resolved itself into a
general prayer-meeting. Men embraced each other in the aisles, or knelt
in tearful prayer together; while shouts of victory and groans of
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 throbbing
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
passing away! The whispers of the Devil too often drown the modulations
of modern prayer, and instead of glorified visions of angels and the
saints, the eyes of modern worshipers rest weariedly upon the things of
the world.

As the tide of excitement swelled higher and wilder that night, it
caught poor Jack, 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 worshipers.

"Come up, sinners, come up to the Throne of Grace 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."

"Glory, glory, amen!" rose from all parts of the church.

"Glory, glory, amen!" came back a voice from the unknown above.

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

"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 garret.

The people in the gallery were in holy fear. "It is Gabriel," they said.

"We come to Thee, Lord! We come, we come!" cried the repentent sinners
down stairs.

"I come, I come, glory to God, hallelujah, amen!" shouted back the
Gabriel in the garret, clapping his hands in the fervor of his ecstacy.

All at once 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 quiet 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
Underground Railroad traveler; he should take with gratitude 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 fortunate that there is always a way out of a
dilemma!--that the old stove-pipe, which connected with the chimney in
the attic, frequently became disconnected; and on more than one occasion
incipient fires had started among the dry boards of the garret floor.
The people were used to seeing the boys go aloft to look after the
safety of the house; so, when Dempster M. Chambers, a son of Mr.
Stewart Chambers, inspired by a happy thought, scrambled up the ladder
and crawled through the trap-door into the gloom, those who noticed it
thought only that the old stove-pipe 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
quieted, and the meeting, having consumed itself with its own fervor,
broke up without further incident. There is no doubt, however, 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 memorable night.[67]

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 preëmpted 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. Glezen Fillmore, a famous pioneer of the
Methodist Episcopal Church in Buffalo, and for more than half a century
an honored member of the Genesee 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 conversation the venerable preacher related the story of
Watson's escape, as Watson himself had told it while at Fillmore's
Underground Railroad depot. The former President was strongly touched by
the story, and at its close 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 paper, it aims to be chiefly anecdotal, can neglect
recognition of the fact that it was a Buffalo man in the Presidential
chair who, by signing the Fugitive Slave act of 1850, brought upon his
head the maledictions of the Abolitionists, who were so stimulated
thereby in their humanitarian law-breaking, that the most active period
in Underground Railroad work dates from the stroke of Millard Fillmore's
pen which sought to put a stop to it. No passage in American history
displays more acrimony than this. Wherever the friends of the negro were
at work on Underground lines, Mr. Fillmore was denounced in the most
intemperate terms. In his home city of Buffalo, some who had hitherto
prided themselves upon his distinguished acquaintance, estranged
themselves from him, and on his return to Buffalo he 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
townsmen showed itself even in the church which he attended. Certain
ardent souls there were who refused any longer to worship where he
did.[68] Mr. Fillmore met all these hostile demonstrations, as he
sustained the angry protests and denunciations of the Abolitionists 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 for 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 sympathizers, 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."[69] 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 carried out the provision of the
Constitution."[70] 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 communities 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
communities 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 Railroad.

Niagara and the Poets.


On a day in July, 1804, a ruddy-faced, handsome young Irishman, whose
appearance must have commanded unusual attention in wild frontier
surroundings, came out of the woods that overlooked Lake Erie, picking
his way among the still-standing stumps, and trudged down the Indian
trail, which had not long been made passable for wagons. Presently he
came into the better part of the road, named Willink Avenue, passed a
dozen scattered houses, and finally stopped at John Crow's log tavern,
the principal inn of the infant Buffalo. He was dusty, tired, and
disgusted with the fortune that had brought an accident some distance
back in the woods, compelling him to finish this stage of his journey,
not merely on foot, but disabled. Here, surrounded by more Indians than
whites, he lodged for a day or so before continuing his journey to
Niagara Falls; and here, according to his own testimony, he wrote a long
poem, which was not only, in all probability, the first poem ever
composed in Buffalo, and one of the bitterest tirades against America
and American institutions to be found in literature; but which
contained, so far as I have been able to discover, the first allusion to
Niagara Falls, written by one who actually traveled thither, in the
poetry of any language.

The poetry of Niagara Falls is contemporary with the first knowledge of
the cataract among civilized men. One may make this statement with
positiveness, inasmuch as the first book printed in Europe which
mentions Niagara Falls contains a poem in which allusion is made to that
wonder. This work is the excessively rare "Des Sauvages" of Champlain
(Paris, 1604),[71] in which, after the dedication, is a sonnet,
inscribed "Le Sievr de la Franchise av discovrs Dv Sievr Champlain." It
seems proper, in quoting 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, vrayment ie vous conseille
    Que vous louëz Champlain, pour estre courageux:
  Sans crainte des hasards, il a veu tant de lieux,
    Que ses relations nous contentent l'oreille.
  Il a veu le Perou,[72] Mexique & la Merueille
    Du Vulcan infernal qui vomit tant de feux,
  Et les saults Mocosans,[73] qui offensent les yeux
    De ceux qui osent voir leur cheute nonpareille.
  Il nous promet encor de passer plus auant,
    Reduire les Gentils, & trouuer le Leuant,
  Par le Nort, ou le Su, pour aller à la Chine.
    C'est charitablement tout pour l'amour de Dieu.
  Fy des lasches poltrons qui ne bougent d'vn lieu!
    Leur vie, sans mentir, me paroist trop mesquine.

I regret that some research has failed to discover any further
information regarding the poet De la Franchise. Obviously, he took
rather more than the permissible measure of poet's license in saying
that Champlain had seen Peru, a country far beyond the known range of
Champlain's travels. But in the phrase "_les saults 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. Lawrence as far as the neighborhood of Virginia."[74] 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 Franchise and Lescarbot, a Frenchman who really saw the
falls introduced them to the muse, though only by a quotation. This was
Father Charlevoix, who, writing "From the Fall of Niagara, May 14,
1721," to the Duchess of Lesdiguieres, 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
Niagara is as fine as that, though I believe its cataract much the
noblest of the two," and he thereupon quotes these lines from the

  Est nemus Hæmoniæ, prærupta quod undique claudit
  Sylva; vocant Tempe, per quæ 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 impressionable 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
first claim to our cataract. In 1764 appeared that ever-delightful work,
"The Traveller, or, a Prospect of Society," wherein we read:

  Have we not seen at pleasure's lordly call
  The smiling long-frequented village fall?
  Behold the duteous son, the sire decayed,
  The modest matron or the blushing maid,
  Forced from their homes, a melancholy train,
  To traverse climes beyond the western main;
  Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around
  And Niagara[75] stuns with thundering sound.
  Even now, perhaps, as there some pilgrim strays
  Through tangled forests and through dangerous ways,
  Where beasts with man divided empire claim,
  And the brown Indian marks with murderous aim;
  There, while 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 glories shine,
  And bids his bosom sympathize with mine.[76]

Obviously, Oliver Goldsmith's "Traveller," in its American allusions,
reflected the current literature of those years when Englishmen heard
more of Oswego than they ever have since. Niagara and Oswego were
uttermost points told of in the dispatches, during that long war,
reached and held by England's "far-flung battle line"; but if Britain's
poets found any inspiration in Niagara's mighty fount for a half century
after Goldsmith, I know it not.

And this brings us again to our first visiting poet, Tom 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 warranted 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 Erie's shore
  I hear Niagara's distant cataract roar,[77]
  I sigh for 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 beginning 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, published for the first time in his
"Memoirs, Journal and Correspondence," edited by Earl Russell and issued
in London and Boston in 1853-'56. The letters narrating his adventures
in the region are dated "Geneva, Genessee County, July 17, 1804";
"Chippewa, Upper Canada, July 22d"; "Niagara, July 24th";--in which he
copies a description of the falls from his journal, not elsewhere
published--and "Chippewa, July 25th," signed "Tom." There is no mention
in these letters of Buffalo, but in the prefatory 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 diminishes the feeling of
     reverence they ought to inspire. Of this fault, however, the route
     to Niagara, at this period--at least the portion of it which led
     through the Genesee country--could not justly be 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 laid 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 heart of democracy. His friend, he lamented,
had often told him of happy hours passed amid the classic 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
  Hath left the visionary light behind,
  That lingering 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 surroundings in the pioneer village
by Lake Erie, but the general character 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;
  But 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 Columbia and "the mob mania
that imbrutes her now," our disapproving poet turned in to make the
best, let us hope, of Landlord Crow's poor quarters, and to prepare for
Niagara. Years afterwards he admitted that there was some soul for song
among the men of the Far West of that day. Very complacently he tells us
that "Even then, on the shores of those far lakes, the title of
'Poet'--however in that instance unworthily bestowed--bespoke a kind and
distinguished welcome for its wearer. The captain who commanded the
packet in which I crossed Lake Ontario, in addition to other marks of
courtesy, begged, on parting with me, to be allowed to decline payment
for my passage." I cannot do better than to quote further from his
account of the visit to the falls:

     When we arrived at length at the inn, in the neighborhood of the
     Falls, it was too late to think of visiting them that evening; and
     I lay awake almost the whole night with the sound of the cataract
     in my ears. The day following I consider as a sort of era in my
     life; and the first glimpse I caught of that wonderful cataract
     gave me a feeling which nothing in this world can ever awaken
     again. It was through an opening among the trees, as we approached
     the spot where the full view of the Falls was to burst upon us,
     that I caught this glimpse of the mighty mass of waters falling
     smoothly over the edge of the precipice; and so overwhelming was
     the notion it gave me of the awful spectacle I was approaching,
     that during the short interval that followed, imagination had far
     outrun the reality--and vast and wonderful as was the scene that
     then opened upon me, my first feeling was that of disappointment.
     It would have been impossible, indeed, for anything real to come up
     to the vision I had, in these few seconds, formed of it, and those
     awful scriptural words, 'The fountains of the great deep were
     broken up,' can alone give any notion of the vague wonders for
     which I was prepared.

     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. I 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

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,[78] ...

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
outshines 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 Philadelphia. For eight years he taught school, or
botanized, 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 accomplished. 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 Foresters." Its first edition, it is
believed, is a quaint little volume of 106 pages, published at Newtown,
Penn., in 1818.[79] The route led through Bucks and Northumberland
counties, over the mountains and up the valley of the Susquehanna; past
Newtown, N. Y., now Elmira, and so on to the Indian village of
Catherine, 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 Montour
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

--and equally long descents, from Seneca Lake to Cayuga. 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 Wilson 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,
  Is 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,
  Begs 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 destination, although the
temptation to linger with him in this part of the journey is great.
Indeed, "The Foresters" is a historic chronicle of no slight value.
There is no doubting the fidelity of its pictures of the state of nature
and of man along this storied route as seen by its author at the
beginning of the century; while his poetic philosophizing is now shrewd,
now absurd, but always ardently American in tone.

Our foresters undertook to coast along the Ontario shore in their frail
"Niagara"; narrowly escaped swamping, and were picked up by

  A friendly sloop for Queenstown Harbor bound,

where they arrived safely, after being gloriously seasick. It was the
season of autumn gales. A few days before a British packet called the
Speedy, with some twenty or thirty persons on board, including a judge
advocate, other judges, witnesses and an Indian prisoner, had foundered
and every soul perished. No part of the Speedy was afterwards found but
the pump, which Wilson says his captain picked up and carried to

Wilson had moralized, philosophized and rhapsodized all the way from the
Schuylkill. His verse, as he approaches the Mecca of his wanderings,
fairly palpitates with expectation and excitement. He was not a bard to
sing in a majestic strain, but his description of the falls and their
environment is vivid and of historic value. As they tramped through the

  Heavy and slow, increasing on the ear,
  Deep through the woods a rising storm we hear.
  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 "crashing roar," he says,

  ---- bade us kneel and Time's great God 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 instance, 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 the gorge below the falls in quest 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 overcame his
self-importance; but we must remember his youth, the flatteries 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 admitted to Washington Irving and to others that his writings
on America were the greatest sin of his early life.[80]

Like Moore, Alexander Wilson felt America's lack of a poet; and, like
Barlow and Humphreys and Freneau and others of forgotten fame, he
undertook--like them again, unsuccessfully--to supply the lack. There is
something pathetic--or grotesque, 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,
  Unhailed 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.

This solicitude by the early American writers, lest the poetic themes of
their country should go unsung, contrasts amusingly, as does Moore's
ill-natured complaining, with the prophetic assurance of Bishop
Berkeley'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 undertakes 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 pæan 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 Goldau, 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 must be very different from the
"Battle of Niagara," or it belies its name. The fiery Jehu O' Cataract
was John Neal.[81]

The "Battle of Niagara," he informs the reader, was written when he was
a prisoner; when he "felt the victories of his countrymen." "I have
attempted," he says, "to do justice to American scenery and American
character, not to versify minutiæ 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,
scintillation of stars and breaking of rainbows, that no brief quotation
can do it justice. In style it is now Miltonic, 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 Indian. 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 American poetry which was just bad enough to
escape being good.

A brief passage or two will sufficiently illustrate the author's trait
of painting in high colors. He is a word-impressionist whose brush, with
indiscreet dashes, mars the composition. I select two passages
descriptive of the battle:

  The drum is rolled again. The bugle sings
  And far upon the wind the cross flag flings
  A radiant challenge to its starry foe,
  That floats--a sheet of light!--away below,
  Where troops are forming--slowly in the night
  Of mighty waters; where an angry light
  Bounds from the cataract, and fills the skies
  With visions--rainbows--and the foamy dyes
  That one may see at morn in youthful poets' eyes.

  Niagara! Niagara! I hear
  Thy tumbling waters. And I see thee rear
  Thy thundering sceptre to the clouded skies:
  I see it wave--I hear the ocean rise,
  And roll obedient to thy call. I hear
  The tempest-hymning of thy floods in fear;
  The quaking mountains and the nodding trees--
  The reeling birds and the careering breeze--
  The tottering hills, unsteadied in thy roar;
  Niagara! as thy dark waters pour
  One everlasting earthquake rocks thy lofty shore!
  .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
  The cavalcade went by. The day hath gone;
  And yet the soldier lives; his cheerful tone
  Rises in boisterous song; while slowly calls
  The monarch spirit of the mighty falls:
  Soldier, be firm! and mind your watchfires well;
  Sleep not to-night!

The following picture of the camp at sunset, as the reveille rings over
the field, and Niagara's muffled 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 afar 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,
  Lions and Eagles met. That hill was bought
  And sold in desperate combat. Wrapped in flame,
  Died these idolaters of bannered fame.
  Three times that meteor hill was bravely lost--
  Three times 'twas bravely won, while madly tost,
  Encountering red plumes in the dusky air;
  While Slaughter shouted in her bloody lair,
  And spectres blew their horns and shook their whistling hair.
  .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

There are allusions to Niagara in some of the ballads of the War 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 1815, and was a great favorite half a
century or more ago. So far, however, as the last War with Great Britain
has added to our store of poetry by turning the attention of the poets
to the Niagara region as a strikingly picturesque scene of war, there is
little worthy of attention. One ambitious work is remembered, when
remembered at all, as a curio of literature. This is "The Fredoniad, or
Independence Preserved," an epic poem by Richard Emmons, a Kentuckian,
afterwards a physician of Philadelphia. He worked on it for ten years,
finally printed it in 1826, and in 1830 got it through a second edition,
ostentatiously dedicated to Lafayette. "The Fredoniad" is a history in
verse of the War of 1812; it was published in four volumes; it has forty
cantos, filling 1,404 duodecimo pages, or a total length of about 42,000
lines. The first and second cantos are devoted to Hell, the third to
Heaven, and the fourth to Detroit. About one-third of the 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

       *       *       *       *       *

No sooner was the frontier at peace, and the pathways of travel
multiplied and smoothed, than there set in the first 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 visitors
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 "Wonders 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. It 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-brained individual who mourns the
supposed death of a lady-love, _Eleanor St. Fleur_. Other characters are
introduced; all French except a remarkable driver named _Wogee_, who
tells legends and historic incidents in as good verse, apparently, as
the author was able to produce. _St. Julian_ is twice on the point of
committing suicide; once on Queenston Heights, and again at the falls.
Just as he is about to throw himself into the river he hears his
_Ellen's_ voice--the lady, it seems, had come from France by a different
route--all the mysteries are cleared up, and the reunited lovers and
their friends decide to "hasten hence,"

  Again to our dear native France,
  Where we shall talk of all we saw,
  At thy dread falls, Niagara.[82]

From about this date the personal adventures of individuals bound for
Niagara cease to be told in verse, and if they were they would cease to
be of much historic interest. The relation of the poets to Niagara no
longer concerns us because of its historic aspect.

       *       *       *       *       *

There remains, however, an even more important division of the subject.
The review must be less narrative than critical, to satisfy the natural
inquiry, What impress upon the poetry of our literature has this
greatest of cataracts made during the three-quarters 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
examples 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
  Who dwelt in Patmos for his Savior's sake,
  "The sound of many waters"; and bade
  Thy flood to chronicle the ages back,
  And notch his centuries in the eternal rocks.

Measured by the strength of an Emerson or a Lowell, this is but feeble
blank verse, approaching the bombastic; but as compared with what had
gone before, and much that was to follow, on the Niagara theme, it is a
not unwelcome variation.

The soul's vision, through imagination's magic glass, receives more of
Poesy's divine light than is shed upon all the rapt gazers at the
veritable cliff and falling flood.

During the formative years of what we now regard as an established
literary taste, but which later generations will modify in turn, most
American poetry was imitative of English models. Later, as has been
shown, there was an assertively patriotic era; and later still, one of
great laudation of America's newly-discovered wonders, which in the case
of Niagara took the form of apostrophe and devotion. To the patriotic
literature of Niagara, besides examples already cited, belongs Joseph
Rodman Drake's "Niagara," printed with "The Culprit Fay, and Other
Poems" in 1835.[83] It is 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 freedom which distinguishes the
Swiss mountaineer; of the sailor's daring and bravery; of the soldier's
heroism, even to death. Niagara, 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
herself standing in rapt attitude on the edge of Table Rock, with
note-book in hand and pencil uplifted to catch the purest inspiration
from the scene before her. She is the type of a considerable train of
writers whose Niagara effusions leave on the reader's mind little
impression beyond an iterated "Oh, thou great Niagara, Oh!" Such a one
was Richard Kelsey, whose "Niagara and Other Poems," printed in London
in 1848, is likely to be encountered in old London bookshops. I have
read Mr. Kelsey's "Niagara" several times. Once when I first secured the
handsome gilt-edged volume; again, later on, to discover why I failed to
remember any word or thought of it; and again, in the preparation of
this paper, that I might justly characterize it. But I am free to
confess that beyond a general impression of Parnassian attitudinizing
and extravagant apostrophe I get nothing out of its pages. Decidedly
better are the lines "On Visiting the Falls of Niagara," by Lord
Morpeth, the Earl of Carlisle, who visited Niagara in 1841.[84] He, too,
begins with the inevitable apostrophe:

  There's nothing great or bright, thou glorious fall!
  Thou mayst not to the fancy's sense recall--

but he saves himself with a fairly creditable sentiment:

  Oh! may the wars that madden in thy deeps
  There spend their rage nor climb the encircling steeps,
  And till the conflict of thy surges cease
  The nations on thy bank repose in peace.

A British poet who should perhaps have mention in this connection is
Thomas Campbell, whose poem, "The Emigrant," contains an allusion to
Niagara. It was published anonymously in 1823 in the _New Monthly
Magazine_, which Campbell then edited.[85]

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 cataract 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 greatness of the subject and the obscurity of the bard; but his
countrymen are called upon to judge it with impartiality, 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 wonderful cataract is to give utterance to those feelings
and thoughts that crowd within and often, because thus pent up, produce
what may be termed the pain of delight."

Of a poem which fills 132 duodecimo pages it is difficult to give a fair
idea in a few words. There is an introductory apostrophe, followed by a
specific apostrophe 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 tireless laborer. There are many passages
descriptive of the islands, the gorge, the whirlpool, etc. Then come
more apostrophes to the fall respecting its origin and early life. It is
viewed as the presence-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 sustained and
noble in its diction. Only a true poet takes such cognizance of initial
impulses and relations in nature 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!

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 identity 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 unavailing 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 say, these albums filled up with rubbish. To
bad taste was added the iniquity of publication, so that future
generations may be acquainted with one of the 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
perpetrated composition in the volumes of manuscript now before us,
should have added so little to the general 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, however improbable it may seem, precaution
has been by no means unnecessary." What a commentary on the sublime in
nature, as reflected on man in the mass!

These Table-Rock Albums contain some true poetry; much would-be fine
verse which falls below mediocre; much of horse-play or puerility; and
now and then a gleam of 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 was 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,
  "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;
  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-replenished larder,
  And hackmen drive their horses hard, but drive a bargain harder,
  And screaming locomotives rush in anger to and fro;
  But the waters fall as once they fell two hundred years ago.

  And brides of every age and clime frequent the islands' bower,
  And gaze from off the stone-built perch--hence called the Bridal
  And many a lunar belle goes forth to meet a lunar beau,
  By the waters falling as they fell two hundred years ago.

Towards the close of the long poem the author takes a more serious tone,
but throughout he keeps up a happy cleverness, agreeably in contrast to
the prevailing high gush on one hand and balderdash on the other.

Among the writers of serious and sometimes creditable verse whose names
appear in the Table-Rock Albums were Henry D. O'Reilly, C. R. Rowland,
Sarah Pratt, Maria del Occidente, George Menzies, Henry Lindsay, the
Rev. John Dowling, J. S. Buckingham, the Hon. C. N. Vivian, Douglas
Stuart, A. S. Ridgely of Baltimore, H. W. Parker, and Josef Leopold
Stiger. Several of these names are not unknown in literature. Prof.
Buckingham is remembered as an earlier Bryce, whose elaborate
three-volume work on America is still of value. Vivian was a
distinguished traveler who wrote books; and Josef Leopold Stiger's
stanzas beginning

  Sei mir gegrüsst, des jungen Weltreichs Stolz und Zierde!

are by no means the worst of Niagara poems.

I cannot conceive of Niagara Falls as a scene promotive of humor, or
suggestive of wit. Others may see both in John G. Saxe's verses, of
which the first stanza will suffice to quote:

  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 stamp.

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 accessories
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 improvement,
in taste if not in native wit, as compared 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 publication,
which shows that the making of these American _genre_ sketches, with
Niagara in the background, is not yet a lost art:

  Before Niagara Falls they stood,
    He raised aloft his head,
  For he was in poetic mood,
    And this is what he said:

  "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
    Thy 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."

       *       *       *       *       *

From about 1850 down to the present hour there is a striking dearth
of verse, worthy to be called poetry, with Niagara for its theme.
Newspapers and magazines would no doubt yield a store if they could be
gleaned; perchance the one Niagara pearl of poetry is thus overlooked;
but it is reasonably safe to assume that few really great poems sink
utterly from sight. There is, or was, a self-styled Bard of Niagara,
whose verses, printed at Montreal in 1872, need not detain us. The only
long work on the subject of real merit that I know of, which has
appeared in recent years, is George Houghton's "Niagara," published in
1882. Like Mr. Bulkley, he has a true poet's grasp of the material
aspect of his subject:

  Formed when the oceans were fashioned, when all the world was
        a workshop;
  Loud roared the furnace fires and tall leapt the smoke from
  Scooped were round bowls for lakes and grooves for the sliding
        of rivers,
  Whilst with a cunning hand, the mountains were linked together.
  Then through 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
  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
exquisite fancy he listens to the incantation of the siren rapids:

  Thus, in some midnight obscure, bent down by the storm of temptation
  (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, in the beechen wood, confided the story),
  Faltering, they stagger brinkward--clutch at the roots of the grasses,
  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 gladness.

The master-stroke of the poem is in two lines:

  That alone is august which is gazed upon by the noble,
  That alone is gladsome which eyes full of gladness discover.

Herein lies the rebuking judgment upon Niagara's detractors, not all of
whom have perpetrated album rhymes.

Mr. Houghton, as the reader will note, recognizes the tragic aspect of
Niagara. Considering the insistence with which accident and suicide
attend, making here an unappeased altar to the weaknesses and woes of
mankind, this aspect of Niagara has been singularly neglected by the
poets. We have it, however, exquisitely expressed, in the best of all
recent Niagara verse--a sonnet entitled "At Niagara," by Richard Watson
Gilder.[86] The following lines illustrate our point:

  There at the chasm's edge behold her lean
  Trembling, as, 'neath the charm,
  A wild bird lifts no wing to 'scape from harm;
  Her very soul drawn to the glittering, green,
  Smooth, lustrous, awful, lovely curve of peril;
  While far below the bending sea of beryl
  Thunder and tumult--whence a billowy spray
  Enclouds the day.
  .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a considerable amount of recent verse commonly called
"fugitive" that has Niagara for its theme, but I find little that calls
for special attention. A few Buffalo writers, the Rev. John C. Lord,
Judge Jesse Walker, David Gray, Jas. W. Ward, Henry Chandler, and the
Rev. Benjamin Copeland among them, have 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
Niagara 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,
  Love watching Madness with unalterable mien.

Byron did not write of Niagara, but these stanzas beginning

  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

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 "Teuchsa Grondie" ("Whip-poor-will"), the
Niagara portion dedicated to the Hon. Augustus S. Porter. Ever since
Chateaubriand wrote "Atala," authors have been prompted to associate
Indian legends with Niagara, but none has done this more happily than
William Trumbull, whose poem, "The Legend of the White Canoe,"
illustrated by F. V. Du Mond, is one of the most artistic works in all
the literature of Niagara.

The Rev. William Ellery Channing, the Rev. Joseph H. Clinch, the Rev.
Joseph Cook, Christopher P. Cranch, Oliver I. Taylor, Grenville Mellen,
Prof. Moffat, John Savage, Augustus N. Lowry, Claude James Baxley of
Virginia, Abraham Coles, M. D., Henry Howard Brownell, the Rev. Roswell
Park, Willis Gaylord Clark, Mary J. Wines, M. E. Wood, E. H. Dewart, G.
W. Cutter, J. N. McJilton, and the Chicago writer, Harriet Monroe, are,
most of them, minor poets (some, perhaps, but poets by courtesy), whose
tributes to our cataract are contained in their collected volumes of
verse. In E. G. Holland's "Niagara and Other Poems" (1861), is a poem on
Niagara thirty-one pages long, with several pages of notes, "composed
for the most part by the Drachenfels, one of the Seven Mountains of the
Rhine, in the vicinity of Bonn, September, 1856, and delivered as a part
of an address on American Scenery the day following." Among the Canadian
poets who have attempted the theme, besides several already named, may
be recorded John Breakenridge, a volume of whose verse was printed at
Kingston in 1846; Charles Sangster, James Breckenridge, John Imrie, and
William Rice, the last three of Toronto. The French-Canadian poet, Louis
Fréchette, has written an excellent poem, "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":

  Niagara, national emblem! Cataract
    Born of the maddened rapids, sweeping down
    Direct, resistless from the abyss's crown
  Into the deep, fierce pool with vast impact
  Scarce broken by the giant boulders, stacked
    To meet thine onslaught, 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.[87]

Friedrich Bodenstedt and Wilhelm Meister of Germany, J. B. Scandella and
the Rev. Santo Santelli of Italy ("Cascada di Niagara," 1841), have
place among our Niagara poets. So, conspicuously, has Juan Antonio
Perez Bonalde, whose illustrated volume, "El Poema del Niagara,"
dedicated to Emilio Castelar, with a prose introduction of twenty-five
pages by the Cuban martyr José Martí, was published in New York,
reaching at least a second edition, in 1883. Several Mexican poets have
addressed themselves to Niagara. "Á la Catarata del Niágara" is a sonnet
by 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
Niágara," a three-act drama in verse; the first two acts occur in
Mexico, in the house of _Dona Rosa_, the third act is at Niagara Falls,
the time being 1847.[88] The Spanish poet Antonio Vinageras, nearly
fifty years ago, wrote a long ode on Niagara, dedicating it to "la
célebre poetisa, Doña Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda." In no language is
there a nobler poem on Niagara than the familiar work by Maria José
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 is 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.
  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 written a meritorious poem
on Niagara Falls, an adaptation of which, in English, was published some
years since by Dr. 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 poems 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 comparison, we perpetually hear the voice of
the falls, the myriad voices of nature, the awful voice of God.

  "Minstrel of the Floods,"

he cries:

  What pæans 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.

Of this class, too, is the "Apostrophe to Niagara," by one B. Frank
Palmer, in 1855. 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 1855, 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 pæan as it rolls supernal--
  Anon, I hear, at one majestic sweep
    The diapason of the keys eternal!

  Standing beneath Niagara's angry flood--
    The thundering cataract above me bounding--
  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,
  Let not the jarring of the spray-washed strand
    Disturb the orisons of pure devotion.

  Roll on, Niagara! great River King!
    Beneath thy sceptre all earth's rulers, mortal,
  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."[89] Indeed, many of the prose writers, as well as the
versifiers, 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 McGuire, a
blind man.[90] Here was one whose only impressions 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 of Him, who let it on its course
  Commence, with the green earth's first creation;

  And I was where the atmosphere shed tears,
  As giving back the drops the waters wept,
  On reaching that great sepulchre of floods,--
  Or bringing from above the bow of God,
  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 commonplace, develops a pathetic
prayer for sight; and employs much exalted imagery attuned 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
literature 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, I 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 Niagara 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
America," finds a touch of color for his continental cosmorama by
letting his sweeping glance fall for a moment,

  To where, 'twixt Erie and Ontario,
  Leaps green Niagara with a giant roar.

But in such a symphony as his, Niagara is a subservient element, not the
dominating theme. Most of the Niagara poets have been of local repute,
unknown to fame.

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 sublime about Niagara? The many poetic and impassioned
passages in prose descriptions are against such a view. If 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 of the sea and
sky, excepted, have been made the specific subject of verse, with a high
degree of success. The reason is not far to seek, and lies in the
inherent nature of poetry. It is a chief essential of poetry that it
express, 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.

The 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. True poetry must be self-expression, as well as interpretive
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 flow unsung.

       *       *       *       *       *


[1] Often spelled "Daillon" or "d'Allion," the latter form suggesting
origin from the name of a place, as is common in the French. Charlevoix
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
"Tonachain [Toanchain], Huron village, this 18th July, 1627," and signed
"Joseph De La Roche Dallion." The student 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 different
ways--Shakespeare, it is said, achieving thirty-nine variations. The
matter bears on our present study because the diversity of spelling may
involve the young student in perplexity. Thus, the name of the priests
Lalemant (there were three of them) is given by Le Clercq as
"Lallemant," by Charlevoix (a much later historian) as "Lallemant" or
"Lalemant," but in the contemporary "Relations" of 1641-'42 as
"Lallemant," "Lalemant" or "L'allemant." Many other names are equally
variable, changes due to elision being sometimes, but not always,
indicated by accents, as "Bruslé," "Brûlé." Thus we have "Jolliet" or
"Joliet," "De Gallinée" or "De Galinée," "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 all the names into English, without
accents. Parkman, or his publishers, have been guilty of many
inconsistencies, now speaking of "Brébeuf," now of "Brebeuf," and
changing "Le Clercq" to "Le Clerc." The "Historical Writings" of
Buffalo's pre-eminent student in this field, Orsamus H. Marshall, share
with many less valuable works--the present, no doubt, among them--these
inconsistencies of style in the use of proper names.

[2] Mr. Consul W. Butterfield, whose "History of Brûlé's Discoveries and
Explorations, 1610-1626," has appeared since the above was written, is
of opinion that Brûlé did not visit the falls, nor gain any particular
knowledge of Lake Erie, 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," and that "the journey was doubtless pursued through what are
now the counties of Erie, Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston, Steuben and
Chemung into Tioga," and thence down the Susquehanna. It is probable
that Brûlé's party would follow existing trails, and one of the best
defined trails, at a later period when the Senecas occupied the country
as far west as the Niagara, followed this easterly course; but there
were other trails, one of which lay along the east bank of the Niagara.
So long as we have no other original source of information except
Champlain, Sagard and Le Caron, none of whom has left any explicit
record of Brûlé's journeyings hereabouts, so long must his exact path in
the Niagara region remain untraced.

[3] "Brehan de Gallinée," in Margry. Shea has it "Brehaut de Galinée."

[4] 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
Abbé Galinée, 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 Iroquois, the Andastes, although the habitat of that
people is usually given as from about the site of 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 Grand River
and kept him away from the Niagara. The paragraph in de Galinée bearing
on the matter is as follows:

"Ce fut cet Iroquois qui montra à M. Jolliet un nouveau chemin que les
François n'avoient point sceu jusques alors pour revenir des Outaouacs
dans le pays des Iroquois. Cependant la crainte que ce sauvage eut de
retomber entre les mains des Antastoes luy fit dire à M. Jolliet qu'il
falloit qu'il quittast son canot et marchast par terre plustost qu'il
n'eust fallu, et mesme sans cette terreur du sauvage, M. Jolliet eust pu
venir par eau jusques dans le lac Ontario, en faisant un portage de
demi-lieue pour éviter le grand sault dont j'ay déjà parlé, mais entin
il fut obligé par son guide de faire cinquante lieues par terre, et
abandonner son canot sur lebord du lac Erié."

It is singular that so important a relation in the history of our region
has never been published in English. De Galinée's original MS. Journal
is preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale, in Paris. It was first
printed 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 English in
1874. These were only a small portion of the Abbé's valuable record. The
Ontario Historical Society has for some time contemplated the
translation and publication of the complete Journal--a work which
students of the early history of the lake region will hope soon to see

[5] Probably that now known as Patterson's Creek.

[6] A minot is an old French measure; about three bushels.

[7] Evidently at Four or Six Mile Creek.

[8] Probably what the English call scurvy-grass.

[9] Otherwise Fort Frontenac, now Kingston, Ont.

[10] Sullivan to Jay, Teaogo (Tioga), Sept. 30, 1779.

[11] I first struck the trail in London, among the Colonial Papers
preserved in the Public Records Office. Subsequently, in the Archives
Department at Ottawa, I found that trail broaden into a fair highway.
Something 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 Revolution, and its history is chiefly to be sought in
British archives. Especially 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; especially the correspondence,
during all that term of years, between the commandants at Fort Niagara
and other upper lake posts, and the Commander in Chief of the British
forces in America; between that general and the Ministry 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 exclusively, on these unpublished sources.

[12] A snow is a three-masted craft, the smallest mast abaft the
mainmast being rigged with a try-sail. 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.

[13] See "What Befel David Ogden," in this volume.

[14] "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.
Philadelphia: Printed and sold by Joseph Crukshank, in Market-street,
between Second and Third-streets. M DCC LXXXIV." 12mo, pp. iv-96. It was
reprinted in London (12mo, pp. 123) in 1785, and again (12mo, pp. 124,
"Reprinted and sold by James Phillips, George-Yard, Lombard street") in
1790. A "third edition, revised and enlarged," 16mo, pp. 240, bears date
Philadelphia, 1848. Of a later edition (8vo, pp. 38, Lancaster, Pa.,
1890) privately printed, only 150 copies were issued. The work was
written by William Walton, to whom the facts were told by the Gilberts
after their return. (Field.) Ketchum made some use of the "Narrative" 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 reader."

[15] Ketchum says he could not have done so. ("History of Buffalo," Vol.
I., p. 328.) But Ketchum was misled, as many writers have been in
ascribing the leadership to Brant. My assertion rests on the evidence of
contemporary documents in the Archives at Ottawa, especially the MS.
"Anecdotes of Capt. Joseph Brant, Niagara, 1778," 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._

[16] 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 youthful heads or
those 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

[17] 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 1st. [Nov.,
1780.] A very fine snow [schooner] carrying 16 guns, which was built
last winter, sailed the 31st ultimo from Niagara and was seen several
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 Regiment, 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 not 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 are sent off to repair this evil."

[18] "The Falls of Niagara, or Tourist's Guide," etc., by S. De Veaux.
Buffalo, 1839.

[19] 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 the west side of Main Street, midway between Swan and
Erie streets, and on the common opposite, then known as Ellicott
Square."--MS. narrative of Capt. Jones's captivity, by Orlando Allen, in
possession of William L. 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 above quoted is Orlando Allen's chronicle of facts given
to him by Capts. Jones and Parrish, and is of exceptional value.

[20] Brig. Powell to Col. van Schaick, Feb. 13, 1780; Haldimand Papers,
"Correspondence relating to exchange of prisoners," etc., B. 175.

[21] 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. 106, p. 123, _et seq._] I do not know
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 100 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 meetings ought to
have been and he presumes were a mere Trifle when compared with what
must attend their situation when all [were] driven to Niagara, exposed
to every want, to every temptation and with every claim which their
distinguished sacrifices and the tenor of Soloman [solemn] Treaties had
entitled them to from Government. The years 1777 & 1778 exhibited only a
larger number occasionally employed and for their fidelity and
attachment to Government they were invaded in 1779 by a rebel army
reported to be from 5 to 600 men with a train of Artillery who forced
them to retire to Niagara leaving behind them very fine plantations of
corn and vegetables, with their cloathing, arms, silver works, Wampum
Kettles and Implements of Husbandry, the collection of ages of which
were distroyed in a deliberate manner and march of the rebels. Two
villages only escaped that were out of their route.

The Indians having always apprehended that their distinguished Loyalty
might draw some such calamity towards them had stipulated that under
such circumstances they effected [expected] to have their losses made up
as well as a liberal continuation of favors and to be supported at the
expence of Government till they could be reinstated in their former
possessions. They were accordingly advised to form camps around Niagara
which they were beginning to do at the time of Colonel Johnson's arrival
who found them much chagrined and prepared to reconcile them to their
disaster which he foresaw would be a work of time requiring great
judgement 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 Johnson'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 less capable of learning them, and the whole
number inadequate to that of the Indians, and the then requisite calls
of the service, and that it was necessary after refusing the present
wants of the Indians to keep their minds occupied by constant military
employment, all which he laid before the Commander in Chief who
frequently honoured his conduct with particular approbation.

By His Instructions he was to apply to Lieut. Colonel Bolton, more
especially regarding the modes of this place and the public accounts &c
from whom he received no further information, than that they were kept,
and made up by the established house at that post, and consider of
goods, orders and all contingencies and disbursements for Indians,
ranging parties, Prisoners, &c. That they were generally arranged half
yearly as well as the nature of them and of the changeable people they
had to deal with would permit; that he believed many demands were
therefore outstanding 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 discharge to give them much attention. At which
Colonel Johnson expressed his concern but was told that the house was
established in the business and thro' the impossibility of having proper
circulating cash in another channell they advanced all monies and
settled all accounts and that that mode had been found most eligable.
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 his duty, he, accordingly to a plan long since proposed,
formed the Indians into Companies and by degrees taught them to feel the
convenience of having officers set apart to each, which they were soon
not 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
arrangement of his officers those who were before uninformed became in a
little time some of the most approved and usefull 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 from Fort Stanwix to Fort Pitt he so harrassed the
back settlements, as finally to drive numbers of them from their
plantation destroying their houses, mills, graneries, &c, frequently
defeating their scouting parties killing and captivating many of their
people amounting in the whole to near 900 and all this with few or no
instances of savage cruelty exclusive of what they performed when
assisted by His Majesty's Troops as will appear from his returns. By
these means he presented [? preserved] the spirit of the Indians and
kept their minds so occupied as to prevent their being disgusted at the
want of Military aid, which had been long their Topic and which could
then be afforded according to their requisitions; neither did he admit
any point of negociation during this period of peculiar hurry, 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
Friendship 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 distinguished themselves, and after defeating the rebel
Invitation to the Indians he by the renewal of the great covenant chain
and war Belt which he sent thro' all the nations animation to the most
western Indians.

Soon after with intention to reduce the vast consumption of provisions,
he with much difficulty prevailed on part of the Indians to begin some
new plantation, that they might supply themselves with grain, &c; 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 Indulgence
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
expence 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
Expenses, as will appear from the reduced accounts since these
settlements were made. The peculiar circumstances above mentioned and
the constant 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
required it and often they were charged and others substituted of equal
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 finds that many articles undoubtedly
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 his 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 calling 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
[expected], but is become more necessary among them than ever. This
brief summary is candidly prepared and is capable of sufficient proof
and Illustration.

[22] Site of Rome, N. Y.

[23] Perhaps more correctly, according to eminent 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.
Sullivan destroyed it in September, 1779, and no attempt was ever made
to rebuild it.

[24] Except perhaps in the case of Capt. Alexander Harper and his party,
for whom the ordeal was made light, most of the Indians having been
enticed away from the vicinity of the fort; but this was apparently due
to Brant, rather than to the British.--_See_ Ketchum's "History of
Buffalo," Vol. I., pp. 374, 375.

[25] I have followed the old narrative in the spelling 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.

[26] 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
administer to their necessities, and to procure their release; which was
ultimately accomplished, mainly through his efforts, assisted by other
officers at the fort, which [_sic_] the example and interest of Jane
Moore, the Cherry Valley captive had influenced to coöperate in this
work of mercy." ["History of Buffalo," Vol. I., p. 376.] I have adhered
to the spirit and in part, to the language, of Ogden's own narrative.

[27] Address delivered at Fort Niagara, N. Y., at the celebration of the
centennial of British evacuation, August 11, 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.

[28] 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.

[29] The first official step towards such fortification was taken by
Frontenac. On Nov. 14, 1674, he wrote to the Minister, Colbert: "Sieur
Joliet ... has returned three months ago, and discovered some very fine
Countries, and a navigation so easy through the beautiful rivers he has
found, that a person can go from Lake Ontario and Fort Frontenac in a
bark to the Gulf of Mexico, there being only one carrying place, half a
league in length, where Lake Ontario communicates with Lake Erie. A
settlement would be 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 firmly established, and whenever it will please the King to
prosecute these discoveries." [Paris Docs. I., N. Y. Colonial MSS.]
Joliet, it must be remembered, was never on the Niagara; whatever
representations he made to Frontenac regarding it were based on hearsay,
very likely on reports made to him by La Salle at their meeting in 1669;
so that priority in promoting the Niagara route reverts after all to
that gallant adventurer.

[30] In 1896.

[31] In the palisaded cabin on the site of Lewiston.

[32] 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 his mission." (Le Clercq, Shea's
translation, Vol. I., p. 112.) "Father Melithon remained in the house at
Niagara with some laborers and clerks." (_Ib._, 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.

[33] This statement, which I have elsewhere accepted (_See_ "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 America. (_See_ "The Catholic Church in Colonial Days," p. 322.) I
find, however, 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
Découverte," 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 build forts, under
certain restrictions.

[34] This would seem to fix the date of the northeast blockhouse at
1790; but on examination of other sources of information I discover
strong evidence that the original construction was earlier. The Duke de
la Rochefoucault 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.,
1799, Vol. I., p. 257.) This would make them antedate July, 1759, which
is not true of the bakehouse. The Duke may therefore have erred
regarding other buildings, the northeast blockhouse among them; yet had
it been but four or five years old, he would not be likely to attribute
it to the French. Pouchot's plan of the fort (1759) 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

[35] 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 find in the details of that affair
what I regard as abundant warrant for the designation of "massacre."

[36] Haldimand to T. Townshend, October 25, 1782.

[37] Haldimand to Lord North, June 2, 1782. In the same letter he wrote
"I have lately received a letter from Brig.-Gen. Maclean who commands at
Niagara.... Affairs with the Indians are in a very critical state. I
have ordered and insisted upon Sir John Johnson's immediate departure
for Niagara in hopes that his influence may be of use in preventing the
bad consequences which may be apprehended. 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."

[38] 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 12,
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; "but
if this cannot be done," wrote Washington, "you will endeavor to procure
from him positive and definite assurances, that he will as soon as
possible give information 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 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 arrangements with Haldimand, Steuben was
to go to Oswego, thence to Niagara, and after viewing the situation, and
noting the strength and all the military and strategic conditions, was
to pass on to Detroit. Armed with these instructions 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 Army met his match. His report to Washington indicates an
uncommonly positive reception.

"To the first 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 had strictly
complied with, not only by restraining the British troops, but also the
savages, from committing the least hostile act; but that, until he
should receive positive orders for that purpose, he would not evacuate
an inch of ground. I informed him that I was not instructed to insist on
an immediate evacuation of the posts in question, but that I was ordered
to demand a safe conduct to, and a liberty of visiting the posts on our
frontiers, and now occupied by the British, that I might judge of the
arrangements necessary to be made for securing the interests of the
United States. 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 negotiation should take place between the United
States and the Indians, 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."

[39] The inability of the New York State Government to accomplish
anything in the matter at this time is illustrated by the following
extract from Gov. Clinton's speech to the Senate and Assembly, January
21, 1784: "You 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 and frontier settlements, and
it was with concern I learnt 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 refused us even to visit these posts. It is
necessary for me to add that it will now be impracticable to take
possession of them until spring, 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
communication. It would be in vain. Convinced that our frontier
settlements, slowly emerging from the utter ruin with which they were so
lately overwhelmed, 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 reëstablishment."

[40] "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 different 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."

[41] "Lt.-Col. Hull in the American service, arrived here on the 10th
inst. with a letter from Major Gen. Knox, dated New York the 13th
June.... I did not think myself, from the tenor of Yr Lordship's letter
of the 8th of April, authorized to give publicly, any reason for
delaying the evacuation of the Posts, tho' perhaps it might have had
some effect in quickening 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 16,

[42] Haldimand to Thos. Steile, Esq., of the Treasury; Quebec, Sept. 1,

[43] At the risk of overloading my pages with citations from this old
correspondence, I venture to give the following letter from Lord
Dorchester to Lt.-Gov. Simcoe, so admirably does it illustrate the
British apprehensions at the time. It is dated Quebec, Apr. 3, 1796:

"Circumstances have arisen, which will probably, for a time, delay the
evacuation of the Upper Posts, among which some relating to the
interests of the Indians do not appear the least important. By the 8th
article of the treaty entered into the 3d August last, between Mr. Wayne
and them, it is stipulated that no person shall be allowed to reside
among or to trade with these Indian tribes, unless they be furnished
with a license from the Government of the United States, and that every
person so trading shall be delivered up by the Indians to an American
Superintendent, to be dealt with according to law, which is inconsistent
with the third article of the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation,
previously concluded between His Majesty and the United States by which
it is agreed that 'it shall at all times be free to His Majesty's
subjects and to the citizens of the United States and also to the
Indians, dwelling on either side of the Boundary Line, freely to _pass
and repass_, by land or inland navigation, into the respective
territories and countries of the two parties on the Continent of America
(the country within the limits of the Hudson Bay Co. only excepted), and
to navigate the lakes, rivers and waters thereof, and freely to carry on
trade and commerce _with each other_.'

"Previously therefore to the actual execution of the treaty on our part,
it is requisite that we should be convinced that the stipulations
entered into by the United States will also be fulfilled by them; and on
a point so interesting to His Majesty's subjects and more especially to
the Indians, it is indispensably necessary that all doubts and
misconceptions should be removed. His Majesty's Minister at Philadelphia
is accordingly instructed to require an explanation on this subject.
Till therefore the same shall be satisfactorily terminated I shall delay
the surrender of the Posts. These matters you will be pleased to explain
to the Indians, pointing out to them at the same time the benevolent
care and regard always manifested towards them by the King their Father,
and particularly the attention that has been shown to their interests on
the present occasion."

[44] Dorchester to Robert Liston (British Minister at Philadelphia),
June 6, 1796.

[45] Under date of Niagara, August 6, 1796, Peter Russell wrote to the
Duke of Portland: "All the posts 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 yet taken possession of Michillimackinac from the want of
provisions. 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 24th Regiments, and of their
distribution." On August 20th he wrote: "The Fort of Niagara was
delivered up to a detachment of troops belonging to the United States of
America on the 11th inst. and the guard left in it by the 5th 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.

[46] 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.

[47] In one Canadian work, John Charles Dent's "Story of the Upper
Canadian 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.

[48] By the end of December, 1837, about 600 men had resorted to Navy
Island in the guise of "Patriots." Although this number was later
somewhat increased, the entire "army" at that point probably never
numbered 1,000.

[49] 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
living. I have seen no list of Americans captured during the outbreak in
Lower Canada.

[50] _See_ "Reminiscences of Levi Coffin," p. 253.

[51] _See_ "John Brown and His Men," p. 171.

[52] _See_ Siebert's "The Underground Railroad," pp. 35, 36.

[53] "Narrative of William W. Brown," 1848, pp. 107, 108. Quoted by

[54] There is a considerable literature on the specific subject of the
Underground Railroad, and a great deal more relating to it is to be
found in works dealing more broadly with slavery, and the political
history of our country. Of especial local interest is Eber M. Pettit's
"Sketches in the History of the Underground Railroad," etc., Fredonia,
1879. The author, "for many years a conductor on the Underground
Railroad line from slavery to freedom," has recorded many episodes in
which the fugitives were brought to Buffalo, Black Rock, or Niagara
Falls, and gives valuable and interesting data regarding the routes and
men who operated them in Western New York and Western Pennsylvania.

[55] I have drawn these facts from Mrs. Jameson's "Winter Studies and
Summer Rambles in Canada," published in London in 1838. Mrs. Jameson was
at Niagara in 1837, apparently during or soon after the riot. She called
on one of the negro women who had been foremost in the fray. This woman
was "apparently about five-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 _mêlée_--the schoolmaster
Holmes--and adds that "Moseby lived quietly the rest of his life in St.
Catharines and Niagara." Sir Francis Bond Head's official communication
to the Home Government regarding the matter reports two as killed.

[56] _See_ "A Narrative," by Sir Francis Bond Head, Bart., 2d ed.,
London, 1839, pp. 200-204.

[57] "Letters from the United States, Cuba and Canada," London, 1856, p.

[58] "Canada, Its Defences, Condition and Resources," by W. Howard
Russell, LL. D., London, 1865, pp. 33, 34.

[59] Mr. Butler's name does not appear in Siebert's history, "The
Underground 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 Williams. For Niagara County he
names Thomas Binmore, W. H. Childs, M. C. Richardson, Lyman Spaulding.
Chautauqua and Wyoming counties present longer lists, and thirty-six are
named for Monroe County. As appears from my text, the Erie County list
could be extended.

[60] No doubt an investigator could 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
living 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 are
many survivors on the Canada side of the Niagara, of another class; men
or women who were born 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
Virginia to go "down the river"; got his freedom at Natchez, joined the
102d 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.

[61] H. Clay to Lewis L. Hodges; original letter in possession of the
Buffalo Historical Society.

[62] Anonymous reminiscences published in the Buffalo Courier, about

[63] 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 find the following entry in 1841:
"Nov. 1.--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 Buffalo."

[64] When I knew Frank Henry, he was light-house keeper at Erie. He died
in October, 1889, 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 Wesleyville, 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 city and the country round about, following in
procession on foot. The little church could not hold the assemblage, but
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 historic 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 Underground Railroad from Slavery to
Freedom"; but nowhere else, I believe, is as much recorded of the work
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 for a good many years.

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

[66] 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 1892.

[67] I had the facts of this experience from Mr. Frank Henry, and first
wrote them out and printed them in the Erie Gazette in 1880. (Ah, Time,
why hasten so!) In 1894 H. U. Johnson of Orwell, O., published a book
entitled "From Dixie to Canada, Romances and Realities of the
Underground 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.

[68] Such an one was the anti-slavery worker, Sallie Holley, who had
formerly taken great pleasure in the sermons of Mr. Fillmore's pastor,
the Rev. Dr. Hosmer of the Unitarian Church. When Mr. Fillmore returned
to Buffalo 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.

[69] _See_ Seward's "Works," Vol. I., p. 65, _et seq._

[70] _See_ Chamberlain's "Biography of Millard Fillmore," p. 136.

[71] For the knowledge that the first mention of Niagara Falls is in
Champlain's "Des Sauvages," we are indebted to the Hon. Peter A. Porter
of Niagara Falls, who recently discovered, by comparison of early texts,
that the allusions to the falls in Marc Lescarbot's "Histoire de la
Nouvelle France" (1609), heretofore attributed to Jacques Cartier, are
really quotations 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 world its first knowledge of the great cataract.--_See_ "Champlain
not Cartier," by Peter A. Porter, Niagara Falls, N. Y., 1899.

[72] Champlain a bien été jusqu'à Mexico, comme on peut le voir dans son
voyage aux Indes Occidentales; mais il ne s'est pas rendu au Pérou, que
nous sachions.--_Note in Quebec reprint, 1870._ Nor had he been to

[73] Mocosa est le nom ancien de la Virginie. Cette expression, _saults
Mocosans_, semble donner à entendre que, dès 1603 au moins, l'on avait
quelque connaissance de la grande chute de Niagara.--_Note in Quebec
reprint, 1870._

[74] "Lescarbot écrit, en 1610, une pièce de vers dans laquelle il parle
des grands sauts que les sauvages disent rencontrer en remontant le
Saint-Laurent jusqu'au voisinage de la Virginie."--_Benj. Sulte,
"Mélanges D'Histoire et de Litterature" p. 425._

[75] The pronunciation of "Niagara" here, the reader will remark, is
necessarily with the primary accent on the third syllable; the correct
pronunciation, as eminent authorities maintain; and, as I hold, the more
musical. "Ni-ag'-a-ra" gives us one hard syllable; "Ni [or better,
-nee]-a-ga'-ra" makes each syllable end in a vowel, and softens the word
to the ear. "Ni-ag'-a-ra" would have been impossible to the Iroquois
tongue. But the word is now too fixed in its perverted usage to make
reform likely, and we may expect to hear the harsh "Ni-ag'-a-ra" to the
end of the chapter.

[76] Dr. Samuel Johnson, as is well known, was responsible for a number
of lines in "The Traveller." In the verses above quoted the line

  "To stop too fearful and too faint to go"

is attributed to him. Thus near does the mighty Johnson, the "Great Cham
of Literature," come to legitimate inclusion among the poets of Niagara!

[77] This is not necessarily hyperbole, by any means. Before the Niagara
region was much settled, filled with the din 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 time, seated on the
veranda of his house on Niagara Street near Ferry, in the calm of a
summer evening, he has heard the roar of Niagara Falls.

[78] 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.

[79] It had prior publication, serially, with illustrations, in the
"Portfolio" of Philadelphia, 1809-'10.

[80] Tom Moore's infantile criticisms of American institutions have
often been quoted with approbation by persons sharing his supposed
hostile views. What his maturer judgment was may be gathered from the
following extract from a letter which he wrote, July 12, 1818, to J. E.
Hall, editor of the "Portfolio," Philadelphia. I am not aware that it
ever has been published. I quote from the original manuscript, in my

"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: _Cynthia prima fuit, Cynthia finis
erit_. The only thing that has ever made them _librate_ in their _orbit_
was that foolish disgust I took at what I thought the _consequences_ of
democratic principles in America--but I judged by the _abuse_, not the
_use_--and the little information I took the trouble of seeking came to
me through twisted 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 reproach myself with. I mean to take some opportunity
(most probably in the Life of Sheridan I am preparing) of telling the
few to whom 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

"Always faithfully & cordially Yours,

                                                     "THOMAS MOORE."

[81] 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
paying a militia fine 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 picturesque. 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
Fourth-of-July oration, the right of woman suffrage. His writings are
many, varied, and for the most part hard to find nowadays.

[82] Those interested in scarce Americana may care to know that this
"Wonders of the West" is said by some authorities to be the second
book--certain almanacs and small prints excluded--that was published in
Canada West, now Ontario. Of its only predecessor, "St. Ursula's
Convent, or the Nuns of Canada," Kingston, 1824, no copy is believed to
exist. Of the York school-master's Niagara poem, I know of but two
copies, one owned by M. Phileas Gagnon, the Quebec bibliophile; the
other in my own possession. It is at least of interest to observe that
Ontario's native poetry began with a tribute to her greatest natural
wonder, though it could be wished with a more creditable example.

[83] It is a striking fact that "The Culprit Fay," which appeared in
1819, was the outgrowth of a conversation between Drake, Halleck and
Cooper, concerning the unsung poetry of American rivers.--_See_
Richardson's "American Literature," Vol. II., p. 24.

[84] Lord Morpeth made three visits to Niagara. He was the friend and
guest, during his American travels, of Mr. Wadsworth at the Geneseo
Homestead; and was also entertained by ex-President Van Buren and other
distinguished men. His writings reveal a poetic, reflective temperament,
but rarely rise above the commonplace in thought or expression.

[85] The lines are not included in ordinary editions of Campbell's
poems. The original MS. is in the possession of the Buffalo Public

[86] _See_ "Five Books of Song," by R. W. Gilder, 1894.

[87] Dedicatory sonnet in "Younger American Poets, 1830-1890," edited by
Douglas Sladen and G. B. Roberts.

[88] The only edition I have seen was printed in the City of Mexico in

[89] _See_ Scribner's Monthly, Feb., 1881.

[90] _See_ "Beauties and Achievements of the Blind," by Wm. Artman and
L. V. Hall, Dansville, N. Y., 1854.

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