The British Settlement in Niagara

In 1759, the British attacked the French at Fort Niagara. After 19 days, the French finally surrendered to the British. The French also withdrew from the Niagara Peninsula. As they withdrew, the French destroyed “Magazin Royal” and development at the lower landing at Lewiston.

The British immediately took over the portage and replaced many of the Seneca Native Americans. Road grading along the portage took place, in order to allow supply wagons to be pulled up the escarpment.

The replacement of Seneca Natives along the portage by the British resulted in hostilities between the British and Seneca Native Americans.

In 1762, due to increasing hostilities, the British built Fort Demler at Lewiston. Fort Demler was built as an auxiliary outpost between Fort Niagara and Fort Schlosser at Niagara Falls. It provided safe refuge for British soldiers and citizens in an increasingly hostile environment.

Fort Demler consisted of a log storehouse and a blockhouse built within a stockade at the edge of the gorge overlooking the Niagara River.

On the morning of September 14th 1763, a British wagon train was attacked by 500 Seneca Native Americans along the top of the Niagara Gorge above the Devils Hole Cave. The outnumbered soldiers were killed, as well as the 80 reinforcement soldiers sent to aid the British. This became known as “the Massacre at Devils Hole”.

In November of 1763, Fort Demler was unsuccessfully attacked by the Seneca Native Americans. This was one of a series of Native American attacks along the Great Lakes against the British which became known as the “Pontiac Rebellion”.

In 1764, Lewiston became a staging center for British soldiers. A series of military redoubts (a square or polygonal building without flanking defenses) were built along the length of the portage to provide some measure of safety.

Captain John Montresor, a British engineer, had been sent to Niagara in the aftermath of the Native American uprising. He was sent in order to strengthen British fortifications. Montresor selected the sites and plans for the building of eleven two storey log blockhouses. All of which were strategically located along the length of the Portage Trail.

In 1764, the British built a mechanized tramway which was known as “the cradles” to further assist movements of boats, supplies and arms to the top of the escarpment. Captain Montresor had devised this new way of hauling goods up the steep bank of the Niagara Escarpment which was known as “Crawl On All Fours”. It would become the first elevator built in North America. It consisted of two wooden tramways leading from the dock along the Niagara River at the base of the escarpment to the top of the cliff. Two cradles were linked by rope over a pulley at the top so that when one cradle moved down one tramway, the other cradle moved upward. Each cradle was capable of carrying 12 – 14 barrels of supplies at a time. This cradle tramway was still in operation 46 years later. During Captain Montresor’s four month stay in Niagara during 1764, he also designed and built a British fort, “Fort Erie”, where Lake Erie and the Niagara River meet.

In 1765, the British built Navy Hall along the shore of the Niagara River in Newark. Navy Hall would become a military complex and supply stores, as well as a naval base. The British occupied much of eastern and central North America.

On April 19th 1775, the British attempted to disarm the Massachusetts militia near Boston. The British were fired upon and defeated at battles in Concorde and Lexington.

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