The French Settlement in Niagara

In 1615, Samuel de Champlain arrived in Ontario. At this time the Huron Natives were at war with the Iroquois Natives. Champlain led a war party of Huron and Algonquin Natives into Iroquois territory and gave the Iroquois a taste of battle using muskets and bayonets.

The Iroquois retaliated by wiping out the Huron’s and opposing French expansionism. This played a key role in the French’s failure to establish a permanent link to the New World. In 1626, the first authenticated white man in Niagara was Father Joseph de la Roche-Dallion. Father Roche-Dallion preached to the Neutral Native Americans at various villages.

In 1666, the first French explorer, Rene-Robert Chevalier, Sieur de La Salle briefly visited the Niagara area along the East bank of the Niagara River.
On December 6th 1678, La Salle returned to Niagara a second time to establish a path between the rivers, to bypass the Niagara Falls at Fort Schlosser (a supply depot located opposite Chippawa).

On December 7th 1678, along with his Lieutenant Dominique La Motte de Luciere, Jesuit Preist, and Father Louis Hennepin, La Salle made his way southward from the shoreline near Queenston. La Salle’s party portaged (walked) across the peninsula to the shore of the Chippawa Creek (Welland River) at Chippawa. La Salle established an outpost at the mouth of the Chippawa Creek at the Niagara River. As La Salle’s group walked, they could hear the roar of the Falls and could see the column of mist rising high in the sky, but they did not stop. La Salle and his group continued to portage towards Chippawa.

On the morning of December 8th 1678, La Salle and his group retraced their path back towards the Falls. Here they spent the afternoon viewing the mighty waterfall. When Father Louis Hennepin viewed the Niagara Falls for the first time he made a sketch of them. This first sketch appears in a 1699 book entitled “New Discovery” (first French edition 1697).

In 1679, La Salle built the first ship to sail on Lake Erie. The ship named the “Griffin” set sail in the spring of 1679, but sank during a storm on its maiden (inaugural) voyage while returning to Niagara.

To ensure the security of the portage that La Salle had developed, he attempted to build a fort called “Fort Conde” where Fort Niagara now stands. La Salle’s attempt failed when the fort accidentally burned to the ground before its completion.

In 1687, the French made another attempt to protect their fur trade. Led by Jacques-Rene de Brisay, Marquis de Denonville, the French attacked the Seneca Native Americans, which ended in terrible fashion.

De Brisay built a fort called Fort Denonville (where Fort Niagara stands) to further establish roots in the region, as well as to offer better protection for themselves. During the winter, the Seneca Native Americans surrounded the fort. This forced the French to starve to death without supplies. Only 12 of the original 100 French soldiers survived and they abandoned Fort Denonville.

In 1720, Chabert Joncaire, a Frenchman and an adopted Seneca Native American, built a trading post (presently known as Lewiston). This 30 by 40 foot cabin called “Magazin Royal” was enclosed within a stockade. A Native American settlement was established around this supply post.

In 1726, the French tried to re-establish friendly relations with the Seneca Native Americans. Through the marriage of Chabert Joncaire and a Seneca woman, this attempt was successful. Joncaire, acting as a mediator, asked the Seneca Native Americans to allow the French to establish a trading post but not a fort.

When the Seneca agreed, the French deceived the Seneca by building a large stone building called the “House of Peace”. This building was a castle which today is part of Fort Niagara. The French called the building “Fort de Niagara”. It was located 7 miles north of “Magazin Royal” at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.
From “Fort de Niagara”, the French were able to control the portage and all trade into the Great Lakes.

Joncair became the portage master and employed hundreds of Native Americans to help carry cargo up the escarpment at Lewiston.

In 1750, Chabert Joncaire built and established Little Fort Niagara.
In 1750, the lower landing at Lewis Town (Lewiston) was a hub activity in the Niagara area as supplies destined to other settlements in the south were distributed. At least 200 Seneca Native Americans were employed as porters.

By 1750, the French were taking 200,000 livres of furs each year through Niagara.
In 1755, among British threats of war, the French reinforced Fort Niagara.
In 1755, Queenston was known as Le Platon.

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