Contributed by Nancy Piper
[Source: Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day, Philadelphia, 1843, Page Page 308-327]
Erie County was separated from Allegheny by the act of 12th March, 1800, but for several years, for all county purposes, Crawford, Erie, Mercer, Venango, and Warren, formed but one county, under the name of Crawford. On the 2d of April, 1803, Erie co. was fully organized for judicial purposes. The length of that part originally within the bounds of the province is 45 ms. by 10 in breadth: the triangle is 30 ms. long by 18 wide: area of the whole co. 720 sq. ms.
The low ridge which divides the short tributaries of the lake from those of the Allegheny, lies in a line nearly parallel with the lake shore, and about 8 or 10 ms. from it. It is remarkable that the soil on the southeastern slope of this ridge is peculiarly adapted for grass, while that on the northwestern is very productive in wheat. This results no doubt from the fact that the northwestern slope is formed by the out-cropping edges of a variety of strata, (formations VIII, X, and XI, of the State Geologists,) principally of the Olive Slates, and argillaceous sandstones of formation VIII, and some thin seams of limestone more or less pure; while the southeastern slope is formed by the uppermost bed or roof of only one or two strata of sandstone and shales. From the mouth of Beaver river on the Ohio to the surface of Conneaut lake, the summit level of the canal, the ascent is only 418 feet. The surface of Lake Erie is 80 feet lower than that of the Ohio at the mouth of Beaver. Erie co. lies entirely beyond the coal measures, the northwestern limit of that formation being the hills of conglomerate passing near Meadville. The principal streams in the co. tributary to Lake Erie are Conneaut cr., Elk cr., Walnut cr., Mill cr., and several smaller streams east of Erie, named 4 mile cr., 6 mile cr., &c., according to their distance from that place. The southern part of the co. is drained by Conneauttee cr., Cussawauga, Le Boeuf, and other branches of French cr. There are three beautiful lakes on the sources of these streams, called Conneauttee, Le Boeuf, and Pleasant lakes. The streams furnish an abundance of water-power, especially those which fall into the lake.
A turnpike road runs from Erie to Waterford, and thence to Pittsburg: good common roads cross the county in all directions. The canal from Beaver enters the county by the valley of Conneaut cr., and thence continues along the table land that borders the lake, to Erie. This canal lacks only three miles of being completed; provision has been made for the purpose, and within a year probably this very important communication will be opened.
The population of this co. is composed chiefly of settlers from New England and New York, and from the lower parts of Pennsylvania. The former predominate, and the trade and manners of the county generally have taken their tone rather from New York than from Pennsylvania. The reason is obvious, from the peculiar geographical position of the county.
|The southern shore of Lake Erie is said to have been once occupied by
the Eries or Irrironnons, a fierce and powerful tribe, of whom no trace now
remains but their name. Although supposed originally to have been of the
same family as the Iroquois or Five Nations, yet they waged with them long
and bloody wars, and were at length utterly extirpated by them, about the
years 1653 to '57, after the Iroquois had learned the use of firearms from
the Dutch.* The name of the Eries was said to signify Wild-cats, indicating
the character of the tribe.
History sheds but a dim light on the transactions in the region contiguous to Presqu'isle previous to the year 1750. Jacques Cartier, an enterprising fisherman of France, had passed up the St. Lawrence to Montreal in 1535, and from that time forth, for more than two centuries, the efforts of the fearless adventurers, and the devoted missionaries of France were unremitted to extend the French dominion and the Catholic faith over the region around the great lakes, and down the valley of the Mississippi.
The usual route, however, which their enterprises took, was from Montreal up the valley of the Ottawa river, and thence across to the head of Lake Huron. Having at an early date allied themselves with the Indian tribes of that region, and in consequence incurred the hostility of the Five Nations, who held sway over the territory around Lakes Ontario and Erie, they were prevented for more than a century from penetrating even to the northern shore of Lake Erie, and no distinct mention is made of their having touched the southern shore until after the year 1700. As early indeed as 1657, the Jesuit missions had been cautiously extended among the Senecas on the Genesee; but it was nearly at the same time that the war of extermination was going on between the Iroquois and the Eries. In 1679, Robert Cavalier de la Salle, better known as La Salle, first launched upon Lake Erie the Griffin, a bark of about 60 tons, and crossed over to the Mississippi by the Miami of the Lakes; but there is no mention of his having touched the southern shore. By the treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, Louisiana was confirmed to France, and she still held the northern shores of the lakes by right of discovery; while by the same treaty it was stipulated "that France should never molest the Five Nations subject to the dominion of Great Britain." But no exact limits were defined by the treaty, and each nation was guided by its own construction. France claimed that the mouth of a river governed its sources, and on this sweeping principle the bounds of Louisiana would include the whole basin of the Mississippi. The sources of the Allegheny, of the Yough'ogheny, and Monongahela would have been within the French dominions. Both the governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia protested loudly against this doctrine, but while the British ministry slumbered over their complaints, France was actively but covertly endeavoring to seduce the Six Nations from their allegiance to the British, and to establish a chain of fortifications from Lake Erie to the head-waters of the Allegheny, and thence down the Ohio to the Gulf of Mexico. Fort Niagara was built by France in 1726.
"Among the public officers of the French," says Mr. Bancroft, "who gained influence over the red men by adapting themselves, with happy facility, to life in the wilderness, was the Indian agent, Joncaire. For 20 years he had been successfully negotiating with the Senecas. He was become by adoption one of their own citizens and sons, and to the culture of a Frenchman added the fluent eloquence of an Iroquois warrior." "I have no happiness," said he in council, "like that of living with my brothers,"-and he asked leave to build himself a dwelling. "He is one of our children," it was said in reply, " he may build where he will." Tribes of the Delawares and of the Shawanees soon afterwards (1724 to '28) migrated to the Allegheny, and Joncaire soon found his way among them, and won them over to the French interest. By the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in Oct. 1748, a long and general war was smothered in Europe, only to break out with renewed force in America. The French took advantage of the apparent cessation of hostilities, quietly to push their favorite line of fortifications across from Presqu'isle to the mouth of Venango river or French creek. The fort erected at Erie was known as Fort de la Presqu'isle. It was probably erected early in 1749, but the precise time does not appear. It was during that year that the French sent emissaries and armed men throughout the Ohio valley to drive off or arrest the English traders who had ventured into that region from the eastern colonies. The following extracts from the records of Pennsylvania, exhibit the alarm caused by these movements of the French, in the British provinces:
|June 30, 1749.-A letter, with some papers, received by express from Gen.
Clinton, purporting that two New-England men, on their return from Canada,
where they had been to solicit the release of some prisoners, reported that
they saw an army of 1,000 French ready to go on some expedition, and they
were informed it was to prevent any settlements being made by the English
on Belle-riviere, (Ohio;) whereupon it was determined to dispatch a messenger
to Mr. George Croghan, with a request that he would go immediately to Allegheny,
and on his arrival, send away a trader, or some person he could confide in,
to the lakes, or to the eastward, to discover whether any French were coming
in those parts, and if any, in what numbers, and what appearance they made,
that the Indians might be apprised, and put upon their guard.
Jan. 17, 1749-50.-The governor informed the council that three several letters of an extraordinary nature in French, signed " Celeron," were delivered to him by the Indian traders who came from Allegheny, informing him that this Capl. Celeron was a French officer and had the command of 300 French and some Indians, sent this summer to Ohio and the Wabash from Canada to reprove the Indians there for their friendship to the English, and for suffering the English to trade with them. The governor sent one of the letters to the proprietaries in London, and another to the governor of New-York, that the same might be laid before the ministry.
Letter from George Croghan, Logstown, in Ohio, Dec. 16, 1750.-He arrived there the 15th, was told by Indians they saw Jean Coeur [Joncaire] 150 miles up the river, where he intends building a fort. The Indians he had seen were of opinion the English should have a fort or forts on this river, to secure the trade. They expect a war with the French next spring.
Feb. 6. Letter from Gov. Clinton, Fort George, Jan. 29, 1750.-" I send you a copy of an inscription on a leaden plate stolen from Jean Coeur in the Senecas' country, as he was going to the Ohio."
Jan. 1749. DV REGNE DE LOVI8 XV ROY DE FRANCE NOV8 CELERON COMMANDANT DVN DETACHMENT EWOIE PAR MONSIEUR LE M'IS DE LA OALISSONIERE COMMANDANT OENERAL DE LA NOUVELLE FRANCE POVR RETABLIR LA TRANO.UILLITE DANS QVELQVE8 VILLAGES SALVAGES DE CE8 CANTONS AVONS ENTERRE CE PLAQVE All CONFLVENT DE L'OHYO ET DE TCPADAKOJN* CE 29 JUILLET PRES DE LA RIVIERE OTO AUTREMENT BELLE RIVIERE POUR MONUMENT DE REKOUVELLEMENT DE POSSESSION CUE NOUS AVONS PRIS DE LA DITTE RIVIERE OYO ET DE TOVTES CELLES QUI Y TOMBENT ET DE TOVTES LES TERRES DES DEUX COTES JUBO.UE AVX SOVRCES DES DITTES RIVIERES AINSI QVE'N ONT JOVY OV DV JOVIR LES PRECEDENTS ROIS DE FRANCE ET QUILS BY SONT MAINTENUS PAR LES ARMES ET PAR LES TRAITES SPECIALMENT PAR CEVX DE RISWICK D' VTRECHT ET D' AIX-LA-CHAPELLE.
Literal Translation.-In the year 1749-reign of Louis XV., king of France, we, Celeron, commandant of a detachment sent by Monsieur the Marquis of Gahssoniere, commander-in-chief of New France, to establish tranquility in certain Indian villages of these cantons, have buried this plate at the confluence of the Ohio and of TO-RA-DA-KOIN, this 29th July-near the river Ohio, otherwise Beautiful river, as a monument of renewal of possession which we have taken of the said river, and of all its tributaries, and of all the land on both sides, as far as to the sources of said rivers,-inasmuch as the preceding kings of France have enjoyed [this possession,] and have maintained it by their arms and by treaties, especially by those of Riswick, Utrecht, and Aix-la-Chapelle.
* There is evidently some typographical or copyist's error in this word. It is reprinted here as found in Hazard's Register, iv. 225, and in the translation we have supplied what we suppose was intended-probably some Indian name for French creek. This opinion is confirmed by a passage in an historical lecture delivered by Mr. Harvey of Erie. He says: The Iroquois, after attacking the Algonquins, commenced upon "the nation of the Eries or Irrironons, a powerful and warlike race inhabiting the south side of the beautiful lake which still bears their name-almost the only memento that such a nation ever existed-a name signifying cats-which they had adopted as characteristic of their tribe. After a somewhat severe contest, the assailants succeeded. Seven hundred of them attacked and carried the main fortress, though it was defended by two thousand; and the survivors were either incorporated with the victors or fled to remote regions." It has been supposed by some that they went to the Lower Mississippi, where they organized under a new name. This opinion, however, rests upon nothing more than probabilities and vague conjecture, arising from a similarity of character in certain tribes there." Mr. Harvey had it from a Seneca chief, and from other sources, that the fort was situated somewhere about the mouth of Toran-a-da-kon, or French cr. This is probably the same name as that intended in the inscription.
|In a manuscript historical lecture delivered at Erie by Henry L. Harvey,
Esq., kindly loaned us by the author, we find the following particulars
respecting the French fort at Presqu'isle:
"The first of this chain of forts was erected on the same eminence of land where Erie now stands, and took its name from the adjoining peninsula-Presqu'isle being the French word for peninsula. This peninsula did not at that tune extend as far down the lake by several hundred yards as at present. The point upon the shore, therefore, which could best command the then entrance, was the present eastern limit of the incorporated town. Over this point a thoughtless individual might now pass without observing anything peculiar except a roughness of surface, and, as he begins to descend the eastern bank, a number of unwrought native stones, apparently marking some ancient burial-place. A little in the rear of this may be discovered the traces of the old fortress. Though a good portion has recently been leveled off for the convenience of a brick-maker, yet two of the bastions and the wall and ditch upon one side, remain sufficiently distinct to show for what purpose they were originally intended. This fort was made the headquarters and depot of stores for the line of posts between this and the Allegheny river. Prior to 1754 these posts were limited to Fort de la Presqu'isle, Fort de la Riviere aux Boeufs, [at Waterford,] and Fort Venango. The name of Riviere aux Boeufs was assigned to that stream on account of the great number of Buffaloes found upon its meadows."
In 1753, Gov. Dinwiddie of Virginia dispatched Maj. George Washington, then a young man of twenty-one years, on a mission to Monsieur De St. Pierre, the commander at Fort Le Boeuf, to inquire into the designs of the French in thus occupying the dominions of his Britannic majesty. His companions were Mr. Gest, an early pioneer of Fayette co., John Davidson, an Indian interpreter, and Jacob Vanbraam, a Dutchman, acting as interpreter in French. At Logstown on the Ohio, Tanacharison, the Indian half-king, Jeskakake, White Thunder, and the Hunter, Indian chiefs, joined him and accompanied through the forest to Venango. Joncaire commanded a small outpost at Venango. He treated Washington courteously, but labored hard to seduce the Indian chiefs to his interest. Against his arts, however, Washington was on the alert, and as far as possible kept the Indians beyond his reach. (See Venango co.) The following passages in Washington's journal relate to his visit at Fort Le Boeuf:
|7th. Monsieur la Force, commissary of the French stores, and three other
soldiers, came over to accompany us up. We found it extremely difficult to
get the Indians off to-day, as every stratagem had been used to prevent their
going up with me. I had last night left John Davidson (the Indian interpreter)
whom I brought with me from town, and strictly charged him not to be out
of their company, as I could not get them over to my tent; for they had some
business with Kustaloga, chiefly to know why he did not deliver up the French
belt which he had in keeping; but I was obliged to send Mr. Gest over to-day
to fetch them; which he did with great persuasion.
At twelve o'clock we set out for the fort, and were prevented from arriving there until the 11th by excessive rains, snows, and bad travelling, through many mires and swamps ; these we were obliged to pass to avoid crossing the creek, which was impossible, cither by fording or rafting, the water was so high and rapid.
We passed over much good land since we left Venango, and through several extensive and very rich meadows, one of which I believe was nearly four miles in length, and considerably wide in some places.
12th. I prepared early to wait upon the commander, and was received and conducted to him by the second officer in command. I acquainted him with my business, and offered my commission and letter, both of which he desired me to keep until the arrival of Mons. Reparti, captain at the next fort, who was sent for, and expected every hour.
This commander is a knight of the military order of St. Lewis, and named Legardeur de St Pierre. He is an elderly gentleman, and has much the air of a soldier. He was sent over to take the command immediately upon the death of the late general, and arrived here about seven days before me.
At two o'clock, the gentleman who was sent for arrived, when I offered the letter, &c. again, which they received, and adjourned into a private apartment for the captain to translate, who understood a little English. After he had done it, the commander desired I would walk in and bring my interpreter to peruse and correct it-which I did.
13th. The chief officers retired to hold a council of war; which gave me an opportunity of taking the dimensions of the fort, and making what observations I could.
It is situated on the south or west fork of French creek, near the water, and is almost surrounded by the creek and a small branch of it, which forms a kind of island. Four houses compose the sides. The bastions are made of piles driven into the ground, standing more than 12 feet above it, and sharp at top; with port-holes cut for cannon, and loop-holes for the small arms to fire through. There are eight six-pound pieces mounted in each bastion, and one piece of four pound before the gate. In the bastions are a guard-house, chapel, doctor's lodging, and the commander's private store-round which are laid platforms for the cannon and men to stand on. There are several barracks without the fort for the soldiers' dwelling, covered, some with bark, and some with boards, made chiefly of logs. There are also several other houses, such as stables, smith's shop, &c.
I could get no certain account of the number of men here; but according to the best judgment I could form, there are an hundred, exclusive of officers, of which there are many. I also gave orders to the people who were with me, to take an exact account of the canoes which were hauled up to convey their forces down in the spring. This they did, and told fifty of birch bark, and an hundred and seventy of pine; besides many others which were blocked out, in readiness for being made.
14th. As the snow increased very fast, and our horses daily became weaker, I sent them off unloaded, under the care of Barnaby Currin and two others, to make all convenient dispatch to Venango, and there to wait our arrival, if there was a prospect of the river's freezing ; if not, then to continue down to Shanapin's town, at the forks of Ohio, and there to wait until we came to cross the Allegheny; intending myself to go down by water, as I had the offer of a canoe or two.
As I found many plots concerted to retard the Indians' business, and prevent their returning with me, I endeavored all that lay in my power to frustrate their schemes, and hurried them on to execute their intended design. They accordingly pressed for admittance this evening, which at length was granted them, privately, to the commander and one or two other officers. The half, king told me that he offered the wampum to the commander, who evaded taking it, and made many fair promises of love and friendship ; said he wanted to live in peace and trade amicably with them, as a proof of which, he would send some goods immediately down to the Loggstown for them. But I rather think the design of that is, to bring away all our straggling traders they meet with, as I privately understood they intended to carry an officer, &c., with them. And what rather confirms this opinion, I was inquiring of the commander by what authority he had made prisoners of several of our English subjects. He told me that the country belonged to them; that no Englishman had a right to trade upon those waters; and that he had orders to make every person prisoner who attempted it on the Ohio, or the waters of it.
I inquired of Capt. Reparti about the boy that was carried by this place, as it was done while the command devolved on him, between the death of the late general and the arrival of the present. He acknowledged that a boy had been carried past: and that the Indians had two or three white men's scalps, (I was told by some of the Indians at Venango, eight,) but pretended to have forgotten the name of the place where the boy came from, and all the particular facts, though he had questioned him for some hours as they were carrying past. I likewise inquired what they had done with John Trotter and James M'Clocklan, two Pennsylvania traders, whom they had taken with all their goods. They told me that they had been sent to Canada, but were now returned home. This evening I received an answer to his honor the governor's letter, from the commandant.
15th. The commandant ordered a plentiful store of liquor, provisions, &.C., to be put on board our canoes, and appeared to be extremely complaisant, though he was exerting every artifice which he could invent to set our Indians at variance with us, to prevent their going until after our departure-presents, rewards, and everything which could be suggested by him or his officers. I cannot say that ever in my life I suffered so much anxiety as I did in this affair; I saw that every stratagem which the most fruitful brain could invent was practised to win the half-king to their interest; and that leaving him there was giving them the opportunity they aimed at. I went to the half-king and pressed him in the strongest terms to go; he told me that the commandant would not discharge him until the morning. I then went to the commandant and desired him to do their business, and complained of ill-treatment; for keeping them, as they were part of my company, was detaining me. This he promised not to do, but to forward my journey as much as he could. He protested he did not keep them, but was ignorant of the cause of their stay; though I soon found it out. He had promised them a present of guns, &c., if they would wait until the morning. As I was very much pressed by the Indians to wait this day for them, I consented, on a promise that nothing should hinder them in the morning.
16th. The French were not slack in their inventions to keep the Indians this day also. But as they were obliged, according to promise, to give the present, they then endeavored to try the power of liquor, which I doubt not would have prevailed at any other time than this; but I urged and insisted with the king so closely upon his word, that he refrained, and set off with us as ho had engaged.
We had a tedious and very fatiguing passage down the creek. Several times we had like to have been staved against rocks; and many times were obliged all hands to get out and remain in the water half an hour or more, getting over the shoals. At one place the ice had lodged, and made it impassable by water; we were, therefore, obliged to carry our canoe across the neck of land, a quarter of a mile over. We did not reach Venango until the 22d, where we met with our horses.
|Fort Duquesne was built the following year, and only a small force was
probably retained at Presqu'isle and Le Boeuf to guard the portage.
The French abandoned Fort Duquesne late in 1758. In 1759, Sir Wm. Johnson attacked their fort at Niagara, and the French garrison at that post was reinforced by about 1,200 men, drawn from Presqu'isle and the adjacent posts, and with provisions and cattle raised along the meadows of Le Boeuf.
"In 1760, the French yielded to the English power in Canada and on the western waters. Major Rogers was dispatched with forces to take possession of the posts along the southern shore of Lake Erie and at Detroit. At the latter post he became acquainted with Pontiac, the great and wily master-spirit of the northwestern tribes, who at first received him favorably; but subsequently Pontiac saw reason to be jealous of the encroachments of the British power, and he devised a bold and deep scheme for the extermination of all the English posts in one day by a treacherous and simultaneous attack. This was to be made at each post under some friendly disguise to suit the circumstances of each place, and the day selected for the enterprise was the 4th June, 1763, the 25th anniversary of George III.'s reign."
The war belt was dispatched to all the surrounding tribes, the details of the scheme were arranged, and the wily prophet appealed to their superstition under the pretence of a revelation to him in a dream, in which the Great Spirit had said to him, "Drive them from the land ! drive them from it! and when you are in distress I will help you." Mr. Harvey, in the lecture above alluded to, gives the following account of the attack on the fort at Presqu'isle.
The troops had retired to their quarters to procure their morning repast; some had already finished, and were sauntering about the fortress or the shores of the lake. All were joyous, in holiday attire, and dreaming of nought but the pleasures of the occasion. A knocking was heard at the gate; and three Indians were announced, in hunting garb, desiring an interview with the commander. Their tale was soon told: they said they belonged to a hunting party who had started for Niagara with a lot of furs ; that their canoes were bad, and they would prefer disposing of them here, if they could do so to advantage, and return rather than go further; that their party were encamped by a small stream west of the fort, about a mile, where they had landed the previous night, and where they wished the commander to go and examine their peltries, as it was difficult to bring them, and they wished to embark from where they were, if they did not trade. The commander, accompanied by a clerk, left the fort with the Indians, charging his lieutenant that none should leave the fort, and none but its inmates be admitted until his return. Well would it probably have been had this order been obeyed.
After the lapse of sufficient time for the captain to have visited the encampment of the Indians and return, a party of the latter-variously estimated, but probably about 150^-advanced towards the fort, bearing upon their backs what appeared to be large packs of furs, which they informed the lieutenant that the captain had purchased and ordered to be deposited in the fort. The strata, gem succeeded; and when the party were all within the fort, the work of an instant threw off the packs, and the short cloaks which covered their weapons-the whole being fastened by one loop and button at the neck. Resistance, at this time, was useless, or ineffectual, and the work of death was as rapid as savage strength and weapons could make it. The shortened rifles, which had been sawed off for the purpose of concealing them under their cloaks, and in the packs of furs, were once discharged, and of what remained the tomahawk and knife were made to do the execution. The history of savage war presents not a scene of more heartless or bloodthirsty vengeance than was exhibited on this occasion, and few its equal in horror. The few who were taken prisoners in the fort, were doomed to the various tortures devised by savage ingenuity, until, save two individuals, all who awoke to celebrate that day at this fort had passed to the eternal world. Of these two, one was a soldier who had gone into the woods near the fort, and on his return, observing a party of Indians dragging away some prisoners; he escaped, and immediately proceeded to Niagara. The other was a female, who had taken shelter in a small building below the hill, near the mouth of the creek. Here she had remained undiscerned until near night of the fatal day,-when she was drawn forth, but her life, for some reason, was spared, and she was made prisoner, and ultimately ransomed, and restored to civilized life. She was subsequently married, and settled in Canada, where she was living since the commencement of the present century. From her statement and the information she obtained during her captivity, corroborated by other sources, this account of the massacre is gathered.
Others have varied it so far as relates to the result, particularly Mr. Thatcher, who, in his Life of Pontiac, says, " The officer who commanded at Presqu'isle defended himself two days, daring which time the savages are said to have fired his blockhouse about fifty times, but the soldiers extinguished the flames as often. It was then undermined, and a train laid for an explosion, when a capitulation was proposed and agreed upon, under which a part of the garrison was carried captive to the northwest. The officer was afterwards given up at Detroit." He does not, however, give any authority for his statements, while most writers concur that all were destroyed. The number who escaped from Le Boeuf is variously estimated, from 3 to 7. Their escape was effected through a secret or underground passage, having its outlet in the direction of the swamp adjoining Le Boeuf lake. Tradition, however, says that of these only one survived to reach a civilized settlement.
So adroitly was the whole campaign managed, that nine of the garrisons received no notice of the design in time to guard against it, and fell an easy conquest to the assailants. These were, besides the three already named, Sandusky, Washtenaw, upon the Wabash river, St. Joseph's on Lake Huron, Mackinaw, Greenbay, and Miami on Lake Michigan. Niagara, Pittsburg, Ligonier, and Bedford, were strongly invested, but withstood the attacks until relief arrived from the eastern settlements. The scattered settlers in their vicinity were generally murdered, or forced to repair to the forts. Depredations and murders were committed as far east as Carlisle and Reading, and the whole country was generally alarmed.
Gen. Bradstreet, in 1764, went up the lake with 3,000 men to the relief of Detroit, passing Presqu'isle with his barges on the 5th day from Niagara, and dragging their barges across the peninsula. After relieving Detroit, on his return, in Aug. 1764, he entered into a treaty of peace at Presqu'isle with the Delawares and Shawnese; but it was soon broken by the Indians, and even one of Col. Bouquet's messengers to Gen. Bradstreet, from Pittsburg, was murdered on his way, and his head stuck on a pole beside the path. The frontier enjoyed no tranquillity until Wayne's expedition, in 1794.
|The treaty of peace with Great Britain, in 1783, was followed by a treaty
with the Six Nations, at Fort Stanwix, in Oct. 1784. At the latter, the
commissioners of Pennsylvania secured from the Six Nations the relinquishment
of all the territory within the state northwest of the boundary of 1768,
(for which see Lycoming co.) This purchase was confirmed by the Delawares
and Wyandots, in Jan. 1785, at Fort M'Intosh. The boundary between the state
and New York was run out in 1785, 1786, and 1787, partly by David Rittenhouse,
and afterwards by Andrew Ellicott and other commissioners on the part of
New York. Gen. William Irvine, who had been much engaged in examining the
donation lands, had perceived at an early day that the northern boundary
would so strike Lake Erie as to leave to Pennsylvania not more than four
or five miles of coast on the lake, and that without a harbor. His exertions
were at once united with those of other intelligent men of the state to secure
from the U. S., and the aboriginal proprietors of the soil, the tract since
known as the triangle. The preemptive right is believed to have been originally
in the state of Massachusetts, from which it passed through various hands
to the state of Pennsylvania. By a treaty, (probably made at Fort Harmar,
near Marietta,) Jan. 9, 1789, with only a part of the Six Nations-
"The signing chiefs do acknowledge the right of soil and jurisdiction to and over that tract of country bounded on the south by the north line of Pennsylvania, on the east by the west boundary of New York, agreeable to the cession of that state and Massachusetts to the U. S.; and on the north by the margin of Lake Erie, including Presqu'isle, and all the bays and harbors along the margin of said Lake Erie, from the west boundary of Pennsylvania to where the west boundary of New York may intersect the south margin of the said Lake Erie, to be vested in the said state of Pennsylvania, agreeable to an act of congress dated 6th June last," (1788.) "The said chiefs agree that the said state of Pennsylvania shall and may, at any time they may think proper, survey, dispose of, and settle all that part of the aforesaid country lying and being west of a line running along the middle of the Conewago river, from its confluence with the Allegheny river into the Chadochque lake; thence along the middle of said lake to the north end of the same; thence a meridian line from the north end of the said lake to the margin or shore of Lake On the 3d March, 1792, the governor purchased the tract from the U. S. for $151,640 25, continental money; and a deed of that date confirmed it to the state. The area of the triangle is 202,187 acres.
Notwithstanding the treaty of Fort Stanwix and that of Fort Harmar, the cession of the Presqu'isle lands was a sore subject to many chiefs of the Six Nations, and especially to their master-spirit, Brant, the Mohawk chieftain. It was claimed that the treaty was invalid, Cornplanter having sold their lands without authority. Brant's favorite design was to restrict the Americans to the country east of the Allegheny and Ohio; and he not only strenuously opposed and denounced every treaty that interfered with his plan, but was active in his endeavors to unite all the northern and western nations in one great confederacy, and, if necessary, to protect his favorite boundary by a general war. To this scheme he hoped, no doubt, to secure the cooperation of Great Britain, whose agents still held the Canadian posts, arid covertly fostered the war carried on by the northwestern tribes. The settlement of the lands northwest of the Allegheny, and especially of the Presqu'isle lands, was never cordially acquiesced in by the Six Nations, not even by the Senecas; and Cornplanter, who had assented to the treaty, became very unpopular among his own people. It was charged upon him, at the council of Canandaigua, in Oct. 1794, that he and Little Billy had received, at Fort Harmar, $2,000, and at Philadelphia $2,000 more, as the price of Presqu'isle.* Nevertheless, Cornplanter himself is found protesting to the U. S., at Buffalo cr., in June, 1794, against the garrison established by Gen. Wayne at Presqu'isle, when he went out against the Miamis.
*Stone's Red Jacket, p. 138.
Soon after the cession of the triangle, the settlement law of 1792 was passed, and these lands were included in its provisions, with those south of the old provincial boundary. The first settlements in Erie co. were made by pioneers under that law, and the same scenes of litigation occurred which have been alluded to under the head of Crawford co., (p. 260.) Many instances of personal violence occurred between contending claimants. Lynch law was the favorite code. The squatters would league together to prevent the legal claimants from depriving them of their improvements. This region suffered, in common with all that west of the Allegheny, from hostile incursions of savages. It was some recompense, however, to such as were driven off in this way, that they thereby secured a title to their lands without being compelled to perform a five years' actual residence, in compliance with the law. Tradition even states that some land-jobbers, when no actual invasion took place, were in the habit of getting themselves alarmed, attacked, and driven off by parties of white men disguised as Indians; and on these fictitious attacks they procured preventive certificates. (See p. 261.) Such an arrangement would hardly seem to have been necessary; for the frontier was, beyond all question, in a dangerous and deplorable state, and sufferings were endured by the daring pioneers, the relation of which chills one's blood. Their titles at one time had like to have been disturbed by a claimant whose lien was much older than the law of 1792, and who could enforce it by a process more to be dreaded than that of Judge Lynch. The following extracts are from a letter, dated 19th July, written by the Mohawk chieftain, Joseph Brant-Thayendanegea-to Col. Smith, " for Gov. Simcoe," of Upper Canada. The letter is contained in Col. Wm. L. Stone's Life of Brant.
*' In regard to the Presqu'isle business, should we not get an answer at the time limited, it is our business to push those fellows hard, and therefore it is my intention to form my camp at Pointe Appineau; and I would esteem it a favor if his excellency, the lieutenant-governor, would lend me four or five batteaux. Should it so turn out, and should those fellows not go off, and O'Bail [Cornplanter] continue in the same opinion, an expedition against those Yankees must of consequence take place. His excellency has been so good as to furnish us with a cwt. of powder, and ball in proportion, which is now at Fort Erie; but in the event of an attack upon Le Boeuf people, I could wish, if consistent, that his excellency would order a like quantity in addition to be at Fort Erie in order to be in readiness: likewise I would hope for a little assistance in provisions.
"I understand some new regiments are raising or to be raised. In that case I would consider myself much favored should some of my relations, young men, have an equal chance of being provided for. A few days ago I sent seven men to Cadaragara, to remind O'Bail that he should watch any movement of those people [the settlers at Presqu'isle] very narrowly; and that he should be ready to march immediately after the expiration of the time, should they not then evacuate that place."
This letter exhibits in a strong light the slender thread by which depended the peace between the United States and the Six Nations, as well as with Great Britain. Indeed, in all the wars of the northwestern frontier, Brant and other individual chiefs were conspicuous on the war-path. Gen. Wayne's treaty with the northwestern tribes put an end to Brant's ambitious designs, and the wave of civilization rolled on across the Ohio and Allegheny.
|Among the earlier settlers of this county were Mr. Wm. Miles, Robert
King, Martin King, Gen. Charles Martin, Mr. Wm. Connolly, now of Venango
co., Col. John Reed, father of Rufus S. Reed, Esq., Thomas Reese, an early
surveyor, who is still living, John Cochran, Thomas Foster, Robert Brown,
Daniel Dobbins, Mr. Kelso, Thomas Wilson, James Duncan, Gen. Callender Irvine,
and others whose names have not come to our knowledge.
Mr. Wm. Miles, who is still living at a very advanced age at Girard, was at Fort Freeland, on the W. branch of Susquehanna, when it was prisoner to Canada, where he remained until after the close of the revolution, when he crossed the lake, and settled in the Presqu'isle country. He was one of the corps of surveyors for laying off the donation lands, in 1785. He related the following anecdote to a friend, who communicated it to the compiler.
"When the surveyors all started from Pittsburg, in a body, they placed their instruments, baggage, &c., in two canoes, and took several Indians along as guides and boatmen. These Indians had been recommended to the party by the fur traders. The latter, however, were jealous of the new surveys, as a settlement of the country would destroy their trade, and they exaggerated to the surveyors the dangers of their undertaking, and the hostile dispositions of the Indians Mr. Miles had suspected these Indians, who had been recommended by the traders, and remonstrated against taking them, but was overruled. On the route the surveyors stopped at the last white man's cabin on the river, some 15 miles above Pittsburg, to refresh themselves, leaving the Indians to take care of the canoes. On returning the the river after an hour or two, Indians, canoes, instruments, and baggage, were all gone! What was to be done? Miles asked if anyone had in his pocket a map of the river. One was fortunately found. He readily discovered that the Indians, on the presumption that they had ascended the river, must necessarily pass a very circuitous bend, and might be easily overtaken by taking a straight path through the woods. The compass was gone, but Miles was enabled to steer the straight course by his knowledge of the moss on the trees, and other Indian signs. They came out above the bend, secreted themselves in the bushes, and waited the approach of the Indians, who soon hove in sight When the old chief found he had been detected, he very coolly and cunningly determined to pretend ignorance and innocence, and stepping out of the canoe with a smile, greeted the surveyors with, How do ? How do?"
|Erie, the seat of justice, is situated upon a bluff affording a prospect
of Presqu'isle bay, the peninsula which forms it, and the lake beyond. The
borough is regularly laid out with spacious streets; the site is level, the
soil dry and porous; the buildings generally are well-constructed, the public
edifices, except the courthouse, are splendid, and in short, the town is
one of the pleasantest in Pennsylvania. Its commercial advantages too, are,
or soon will be, in accordance with its external appearance. The harbor,
four miles and a half long by half a mile wide, is one of the best on the
lake. It has been recently much improved, and steamboats enter without
difficulty. The eastern entrance has a channel from 11 to 20 feet deep, and
the U. States is engaged in improving the western. The harbor is generally
free from ice at least a month sooner than that of Buffalo. The peninsula
was, within remembrance, a sand-bank, but is now covered with a growth of
young timber. The state canal from here to the mouth of Beaver is nearly
completed, (three miles only unfinished,) and as soon as it is opened a
considerable increase of business may be anticipated. The canal basin connected
with the harbor is 2,000 feet long by 1,000 wide. The town contains the usual
county buildings, and 7 churches, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist,
Associate Reformed, German Lutheran, and Roman Catholic ; a female seminary;
the Erie bank; a splendid Doric temple of marble, formerly used by a branch
of the U. S. Bank of Pa.; the Reed House, which is a magnificent hotel on
the plan of the Astor House ; several other good hotels; an academy, 2
flouring-mills, 2 iron foundries, and many stores and forwarding houses.
Mill creek, near the town, furnishes an ample water-power, and still more
will be obtained from the locks of the canal. Population in 1820, 617; in
1830, 1,451; in 1840, 3,412. Erie is 120 miles from Pittsburg, 90 from Buffalo,
and 100 from Cleveland.
The town of Erie was laid out by Gen. Wm. Irvine and Andrew Ellicott, in 1795, in conformity with the act passed 18th April, of that year. Suitable reservations were made of certain lots for the use of the United States to build " forts, magazines, arsenals, and dock-yards thereon." Mr. Ellicott had charge of the corps of surveyors, and Gen. Irvine commanded a small detachment of troops for the protection of the surveys. A monument, similar to an ordinary grave-stone, is standing at the northeast corner of the town, on the brow of the bluff, inscribed ERIE, 1795. N. lat, 42° 8' 14". The first section of the town was incorporated as a borough 29th March, 1805. The place at that time contained about 100 houses. The academy was incorporated in 1811; and the land for the lighthouse was granted the same year to the U. States.
Gen. Wayne, when he went out to the Maumee hi 1794, established a small garrison here; and on his return in December, 1796, he died at the garrison, in a small log-cabin, and was buried, at his own request, at the foot of the flag-staff. A rude paling, and a rough stone with the initials A. W., long marked his resting-place, until, in 1809, his remains were transferred by his son to the churchyard of his ancient place of worship in Delaware co.
In the large view here inserted, may be seen on the right side of the square the splendid mansion of Rufus S. Reed, Esq., and, beyond it the Erie bank, of which he is president. On the left of the square, beyond the courthouse, is seen the magnificent Reed House, a lasting monument of the enterprise of the gentleman whose name it bears. Such is the appearance of the square in 1843.-Let us look back about fifty years. Mr. Wm. Connolly, now of Franklin, says he came out to Erie in the spring of 1795 with his cousin Thomas Reese, surveyor of the district, who is still living. In June of the same year he saw land there Col. John Reed, father of Rufus S. Reed, in a bark boat, with a quantity of groceries, liquors, and Indian goods. Col. Reed was the first white settler of the place. He proceeded to erect a log-cabin, and soon after made it a double cabin, and called it-not the Reed House-but the Presqu'isle Hotel; where he entertained the traders and travellers of the lake shore. Col. Reed was from Rhode Island. The jovial scenes that may have been enacted around those primitive firesides by Indians, soldiers, traders, surveyors, speculators, and casual adventurers, may be more easily conceived than described.
While the region around Pittsburg was dependent upon Northern New York for its supplies of salt, Erie and Waterford, though not large, were busy towns, (see p. 86.) During the last war, too, there was much heavy transportation of military stores across the Le Boeuf portage, for the use of the squadron on the lake. Navigation by steam was commenced on Lake Erie in 1818, when the first steamboat was built at Black Rock: she bore the significant name of Walk-in-the-Water. The novelty of the sight as she made her first trip through the lake excited great curiosity, especially among the aborigines. She was lost in 1822. The Superior immediately succeeded her. The most important impetus, however, was given to the growth of Erie by the great projects of internal improvement which originated between 1830 and 1836. Heavy expenditures were made by the U. S. on the harbor; the canal to Beaver was surveyed and located; a great railroad was projected through Warren, McKean, Lycoming, and Columbia counties, to connect with the Danville and Pottsville road; another to join the New York and Erie railroad; and a branch of the U. S. Bank of Pa. was located here. The spark of speculation being lighted, speculators from Buffalo and Rochester and New York city came in with the most modern inventions for making money without industry, and the town shot ahead with dangerous rapidity.
The following extracts from successive newspapers of that day, will serve to show the rapid progress of the speculation.
Jane 12th, 1830.-The spirit of speculation which has wrought such wonders upon the line of the Erie canal has never visited this borough. No extensive business is done on fictitious capital. The soil is owned by its occupants, and no part of it is covered by foreign mortgages. No branch of business is overdone, if we except, perhaps, one or two of the professions. The growth of Erie has at no time exceeded that of the surrounding country. Its increase has been commensurate only with the increase of business. It has consequently never felt those reverses which always attend villages of mushroom growth. Many men with small capitals have become independent, and some opulent Erie possesses advantages which must forever secure to it important and lucrative business. Its harbor is decidedly the safest and best on the lake. Our water privileges are equal to our present wants, and an increase may be expected from the construction of the Pennsylvania canal.
That Erie will be a successful rival of her sister villages on the borders of the lake, we have not a shadow of doubt. But let not her growth be forced. Every doubtful or chimerical speculation should be discountenanced, and, above all, let not our village lots fall into the hands of those who calculate great speculations on their rise. This is the bane which is most to be dreaded in all our growing pillages.-We must construct a wharf out to Mr. C. M. Reed's pier, where there is deep water.
Feb. 27th, 1836.-Erie Bank. We are informed that the entire stock of $200,000 has been subscribed, and we believe paid in. [News at the same time of probable passage of appropriation in Congress for improvement of harbor.]
Feb. 27th, 1836.-The receipt of positive news of the final passage of the canal and (U. S.) bank bill at this place, on Monday evening, gave a new impetus to the rise of real estate. It advanced immediately about 100 per cent., and has since continued rising at the rate of from ten to twenty per cent, a day. Sales have been made this week amounting to near half a million of dollars. The sales too are none of your sham sales got up for effect. They arc bona fide, and liberal, almost invariably made by the purchasers, who are mostly men of heavy capital from the cast-Buffalo, Rochester, and New York-and persons able to sustain prices, so far as they bay for speculation, and to improve what they buy for use. There is no danger of retrograde. The tide of prosperity has set in favor of Erie, and it mutt go ahead. The Fates cannot make it otherwise. Real estate will continue to rise, and we would sincerely recommend any friend of ours who wishes to purchase, to do so as soon as possible.
March 1.-Real estate. Sales increase in briskness, and prices still rising. The amount of tales on Saturday and yesterday (Monday) amounted to over $300,000. Good bargains are yet offered to anyone who bus cash to invest for first payments, and at prices which cannot fail of advancing, in as great a ratio, as they have done for several weeks back.
It is estimated that the sales in our borough last week amounted to a million and a half of dollars ; they are still going on and daily advancing in prices.
A company has bought land at the mouth of Twenty-mile cr., to construct a harbor there.
A lot of ground sold in Erie in Feb. for $10,000-was sold in March, in Buffalo, to a company for $50,000.
April 3d, 1836.-For the sake of our numerous correspondents, who look with distrust upon all excitement in the grave business of laying out bona fide capital, we will briefly and generally re. ply that there is no sham nor get-up to the land transactions here-away; and that neither collapse nor the ordinary fever and ague stages need be apprehended for this place; it has grown steadily and slowly thus into public favor, and its present towering prospects have a foundation, in the nature of things, not only permanent and enduring, but natural and everlasting. Look at the position of Erie on the map, read the reports of the U. S. engineers as to the harbor; above all, at this crisis, observe the enlightened legislation of the commonwealth in anticipating the demand for commercial facilities at this favored spot.
June 11th.-Twelve water lots of 32 feet front sold, notwithstanding the severe pressure in the money market, at an aggregate price of over $40,000.
|The most important event that has occurred at Erie was the building and
equipment of Perry's victorious fleet.
Capt. Perry, then only 26 years of age, arrived at Erie on the 27th Feb. 1813, and immediately urged on the work which had been already commenced. The northern frontier of Pennsylvania and Ohio was at that time little better than a wilderness; supplies and artisans had to be brought from the Atlantic coast, and the timber for the larger vessels was to be cut fresh from the forest. In the face of a thousand obstacles, Perry succeeded in getting his vessels ready to leave the harbor in the early part of August; though he was still greatly in want of officers and of men, particularly seamen. He was soon after joined by a party of seamen under the orders of Capt. Elliot, then just promoted to the rank of master and commander. Leaving Erie, the fleet went up towards the head of the lake, where various maneuvers took place for some days between the two squadrons, before a meeting took place. Perry had gone into Put-in bay, on the 6th Sept., and on the 9th determined to go out the next day and attack the enemy. The following able and spirited sketch of the battle is extracted from the biography of Com. Perry, by James Fennimore Cooper, Esq., published in Graham's Magazine, for May, 1843.
The force of the British has been variously stated, as to the metal, though all the accounts agree as to the vessels and the number of the guns.
On the morning of the 10th Sept., the British squadron was seen in the offing, and the American vessels got under way, and went out to meet it. The wind, at first, was unfavorable, but so determined was Perry to engage, that he decided to give the enemy the weather-gage, a very important advantage with the armament he possessed, should it become necessary. A shift of wind, however, brought him out into the lake to windward, and left him every prospect of engaging in a manner more desirable to himself.
The enemy had hove-to, on the larboard tack, in a compact line ahead, with the wind at southeast. This brought his vessels' heads nearly, or quite, as high as south-southwest. He had placed the Chippewa in his van, with the Detroit, Barclay's own vessel, next to her. Then followed the Hunter, Queen Charlotte, Lady Prevost, and Little Belt, in the manner named. Perry had issued his order of battle some time previously, but finding that the enemy did not form his line as he had anticipated, he determined to make a corresponding change in his own plan. Originally it had been intended that the Niagara should lead the American line, in the expectation that the Queen Charlotte would lead that of the English; but finding the Detroit ahead of the latter vessel, it became necessary to place the Lawrence ahead of the Niagara, in order to bring the two commanding vessels fairly alongside of each other. As there was an essential difference of force between the two English ships, the Detroit being a vessel at least a fourth larger and every way heavier than the Queen Charlotte, this prompt decision to stick to his own chosen adversary is strongly indicative of the chivalry of Perry's character; for many an officer would not have thought this accidental change on the part of his enemy a sufficient reason for changing his own order of battle, on the eve of engaging. Calling the leading vessels near him, however, and learning from Capt. Brevoort, of the army, and late of the brig Adams, who was then serving on board the Niagara as a marine officer, the names of the different British vessels, Capt. Perry communicated his orders for the Lawrence and Niagara to change places in the contemplated line-a departure from his former plan, which would bring him more fairly abreast of the Detroit.
At this moment, the Lawrence, Niagara, Caledonia, Ariel, and Scorpion were all up, and near each other; but the Trippe, Tigress, Somers, and Porcupine were still a considerable distance astern. AU of these small craft but the Porcupine had been merchant vessels, purchased into the service and strengthened; alterations that were necessary to enable them to bear their metal, out which were not likely to improve whatever sailing qualities they might possess.
It was now past ten, and the leading vessels maneuvered to get into their stations, in obedience to the orders just received. This brought the Scorpion a short distance ahead, and to windward of the Lawrence, and the Ariel a little more on that brig's weather-bow, but in advance. Then came the Lawrence herself, leading the main line, the two schooners just mentioned being directed to keep to windward of her-the Caledonia, the Niagara, the Tigress, the Somers, the Porcupine, and the Trippe. The prescribed distance that was to be maintained between the different vessels was half a cable's length.
The Americans were now astern and to windward of their enemies, the latter still lying gallantly with their topsails aback, in waiting for them to come down. Perry brought the wind abeam, in the Lawrence, and edged away for a position abreast of the Detroit; the Caledonia and Niagara following in their stations. The two schooners ahead were also well placed, though the Ariel appears to have soon got more on the Lawrence's beam than the order of battle had directed.
All these vessels, however, were in as good order as circumstances allowed; and Perry determined to close, without waiting for the four gun-vessels astern to come up.
The wind had been light and variable throughout the early part of the morning, and it still continued light, though sufficiently steady. It is stated to have been about a two-knot breeze when the American van bore up to engage. As they must have been fully two miles from the enemy at this time, it would of course have required an hour to have brought them up fairly alongside of the British vessels, most of the way under fire. The Lawrence was yet a long distance from the English when the Detroit threw a twenty-four pound shot at her. When this gun was fired, the weight of the direct testimony that bus appeared in the case, and the attendant circumstances, would show that the interval between the heads of the two lines was nearer two than one mile. Perry now showed his signal to engage, as the vessels came up, each against her designated opponent, in the prescribed order of battle. The object of this signal was to direct the different commanders to engage as soon as they could do so with effect; to preserve their stations in the line; and to direct their fire at such particular vessels of the British as had been pointed out to them severally in previous orders. Soon after an order was passed astern, by trumpet, for the different vessels to close up to the prescribed distance of half a cable's length from each other. This was the last order that Perry issued that day from the Lawrence to any vessel of the fleet, his own brig excepted. It was intended principally for the schooners in the rear, most of which were still a considerable distance astern. The Caledonia and Niagara were accurately in their stations, and at long gun-shot from the enemy. A deliberate fire now opened on the part of the enemy, which was returned from the long-gun of the Scorpion, and soon after from the long-guns of the other leading American vessels, though not with much apparent effect on either side. The first gun is stated to have been fired at a quarter before twelve. About noon, finding that the Lawrence was beginning to suffer, Ferry ordered her carronades to be tried; but it was found that the brig was still too distant for the shot to tell. He now set his top gallant sail and edged away more for the enemy, suffering considerably from the fire of the long guns of the Detroit in particular.
The Caledonia, the Lawrence's second astern, was a prize-brig, that had been built for burden rather than for sailing, having originally been in the employment of the Northwest Co. Although her gallant commander, Lieut. Turner, pressed down with her as fast as he could, the Lawrence reached ahead of her some distance, and consequently became the principal object of the British fire; which she was, as yet, unable to return with more than her two long-twelves, the larboard bow gun having been shifted over for that purpose. The Scorpion, Ariel, Caledonia, and Niagara, however, were now firing with their long-guns, also, carronades being still next to useless. The latter brig, though under short canvass, was kept in her station astern of the Caledonia only by watching her sails, occasionally bracing her main-topsail sharp aback, in order to prevent running into her second ahead. As the incidents of this battle have led to a painful and protracted controversy, which no biographical notice of Perry can altogether overlook, it may be well to add here that the facts just stated are proved by testimony that has never been questioned, and that they appear to us to relate to the only circumstance in the management of the Niagara, on the 10th of Sept, that is at all worthy of the consideration of an intelligent critic. At the proper moment, this circumstance shall receive our comments.
It will be remembered that each of the American vessels had received an order to direct her fire at a particular adversary in the British line. This was done to prevent confusion, and was the more necessary as the Americans had nine vessels to the enemy's six. On the other hand, the English, waiting the attack, had to take such opponents as offered. In consequence of these orders, the Niagara, which brig had also shifted over a long-twelve, directed the fire of her two chase-guns at the Queen Charlotte, and the Caledonia engaged the Hunter, the vessel pointed out to her for that purpose; leaving the Lawrence, supported by the Ariel and Scorpion, to sustain the cannonading of the Detroit, supported by the Chippewa, as well as to bear the available fire of all the vessels in the stern of the English line, as, in leading down, she passed ahead to her station abreast of her proper adversary. Making a comparison of the aggregate batteries of the five vessels thus engaged at long-shot, or before carronades were fully available, we get, on the part of the Americans, one 24 and 6 12s, or seven guns in all, to oppose to one 24, one 18, three 12s, and five 9 pounders-all long-guns. This is estimating all the known available long guns of the Ariel, Scorpion, and Lawrence, and the batteries of the Chippewa and the Detroit, as given by Capt. Barclay in his published official letter, which, as respects these vessels, is probably minutely accurate; though it is proper to add that an American officer, who subsequently had good opportunities for knowing the fact, thinks that the Chippewa's gun was a 12 pounder. Although the disparity between 7 and 10 guns is material, as is the difference between 96 and 123 pounds of metal, they do not seem sufficient to account for the great disparity of the injury that was sustained by the Lawrence, more especially in the commencement of the action. We are left then to look for the explanation in some additional causes.
It is known that one of the Ariel's twelves burst early in the day. This would at once bring the comparison of the guns and metal, as between the five leading vessels, down to 6 to 10 of the first, and 84 to 123 of the last. But we have seen that both the Lawrence and Niagara shifted each a larboard-bow gun over to the starboard side-a course that almost any commander would be likely to adopt under the circumstances of the action. It is not probable that the Detroit, commencing her fire at so great a distance, with the certainty that it must be some time before her enemy could get within reach of his short-guns, neglected to bring her most available pieces into battery also. Admitting this to have been done, there would be a very different result in the figures. The Detroit fought 10 guns in broadside, and she had an armament that would permit her to bring to bear on the Lawrence, at one time, two 24s, one 18, six 12s, and one 9 pounder. This would leave the comparison between the guns as 6 are to 11, and between the metal as 84 are to 147. Nor is this all. The Hunter lay close to the Detroit, and as the vessel which assailed her was still at long-shot, it is probable that she also brought the heaviest of her guns into broadside, and used them against the nearest vessel; more particularly as her guns were light, and would be much the most useful in such a mode of firing.
But other circumstances conspired to sacrifice the Lawrence. Finding that he was suffering heavily, and that he had got nearly abreast of the Detroit, Perry furled his topgallant-sail, hauled up h. - foresail and rounded to, opening with his carronades. The distance from the enemy at which this was done, as well as the length of time after the commencement of the fire, have given rise to contradictory statements. The distance, Perry himself, in his official letter, says was "within canister shot," a term too vague, to give any accurate notion that can be used in a critical analysis of the facts of the engagement. A canister shot, thrown from a heavy gun, would probably kill at a mile; though seamen are not apt to apply the term to so great a range. Still they use all such phrases as " yard-arm and yard-arm," " musket-shot," " canister-shot," and " pistol-shot" very vaguely; one applying a term to a distance twice as great as would be understood by another. The distance from the English line, at which the Lawrence backed her topsail, has been placed by some as far as half a mile, and by others as near as 300 yards. It was probably between the two, nearer to the last than to the first; though the brig, as she became crippled aloft, and so long as there was any wind, must have been slowly drifting nearer her enemies. On the supposition that there was a two-knot breeze the whole time, that the action commenced when the Lawrence was a mile and a half from the enemy, and that she went within a quarter of a mile of the British line, she could not have backed her topsail until after she had been under fire considerably more than half an hour. This was a period quite sufficient to cause her to suffer heavily, under the peculiar circumstances of the case.
The effect of a cannonade is always to deaden, or even " to kill," as it is technically termed by seamen, a light wind. Counteracting forces neutralize each other, and the constant explosions from guns, repel the currents of the atmosphere. This difficulty came to increase the critical nature of the Lawrence's situation, the wind falling to something very near, if not absolutely to a flat calm. This fact, which is material to a right understanding of the events of the day, is unanswerably shown in the following manner.
The fact that the gun-boats had been kept astern by the lightness of the wind, is mentioned by Perry, himself, in his official account of the battle. He also says, " at half past two, the wind springing up, Capt. Elliot was enabled to bring his vessel, the Niagara, gallantly into close action," leaving the unavoidable inference that a want of wind prevailed at an earlier period of the engagement. Several officers testify that it fell nearly calm, while no one denies it. One officer says it became " perfectly calm," and others go near to substantiate this statement. There is a physical fact, however, that disposes of this point more satisfactorily than can ever be done by the power of memories, or the value of opinions. Both Perry and his sailing master say that the Lawrence was perfectly unmanageable for a considerable time. This period, a rigid construction of Perry's language would make two hours ; and by the most liberal that can be given to that of the master, must have been considerably more than one hour. It is physically impossible that a vessel, with her sails loose, should not drift a quarter of a mile, in an hour, had there been even a two-knot breeze. The want of this drift, which would have carried the Lawrence directly down into the English line had it existed, effectually shows, then, that there must have been a considerable period of the action, in which there was little or no wind, and corroborates the direct testimony that has been given on this point.
Previously, however, to its falling calm, or nearly so, and about the time the Lawrence backed her topsail, a change occurred in the British line. The Queen Charlotte had an armament of three long-guns, the heaviest of which is stated by Capt. Barclay to have been a 12 pounder, on a pivot, and fourteen 24 lb. carronades. The latter guns were shorter than common, and, of course, were useless when the ordinary American 32lb. guns of this class could not be served. For some reason which has not been quite satisfactorily explained, this ship shifted her berth, after the engagement had lasted some time, filling her topsail, passing the Hunter, and closing with the Detroit, under her lee. Shortly after, however, she regained the line, directly astern of the commanding British vessel. The enemy's line being in very compact order, and the distance but trifling, the Queen Charlotte was enabled tn effect this in a few minutes, there still being a little wind. The Detroit probably drew ahead to enable her to regain a proper position.
This evolution on the part of the Queen Charlotte has been differently accounted for. At the time it was made the Niagara was engaging her sufficiently near to do execution with her long twelves, and, at the moment, it was the opinion on board that brig, that she had driven her opponent out of the line. As the Queen Charlotte opened on the Lawrence with her carronades, as soon as she got into her new position, a more plausible motive was that she had shifted her berth, in order to bring her short-guns into efficient use. The letter of Capt. Barclay, however, gives a more probable solution to this manoeuvre, than either of the foregoing conjectures. He says that Capt. Finnis, of the Queen Charlotte, was killed soon after the commencement of the action, and that her first lieutenant was shortly after struck senseless by a splinter. These two casualties threw the command of the vessel on a provincial officer of the name of Irvine. This part of Capt. Barclay's letter is not English, and has doubtless been altered a little in printing. Enough remains, however, to show, that he attaches to the loss of the two officers mentioned, serious con. sequences; and in a connection that alludes to this change of position, since he speaks of the prospect of its leaving him the Niagara also to engage. From the fact that the Queen Charlotte first went under the lee of the Detroit, so close as to induce the Americans to think she was foul of the quarter of that ship, a position into which she never would have been carried had the motive been merely to get nearer to the Lawrence, or further from the Niagara, we infer that the provincial officer, finding himself unexpectedly in his novel situation, went so near to the Detroit to report his casualties and to ask for orders, and that he regained the line in obedience to instructions from Capt. Barclay in person.
Whatever was the motive for changing the Queen Charlotte's position in the British line, the effect on the Lawrence was the same. Her fire was added to that of the Detroit, which ship appeared to direct all her guns at the leading American brig, alone. Indeed, there was a period in this part of the action, during which most, if not all of the guns of the Detroit, the Queen Charlotte, and Hunter, were aimed at this one vessel. Perry appears to have been of opinion that it was a premeditated plan, on the part of the enemy, to destroy the commanding American vessel. It is true, that the Ariel, Scorpion, Caledonia, and Niagara, from a few minutes after the commencement of the action, were firing at the English ships, but that the latter disregarded them, in the main, would appear from the little loss the three small American vessels sustained, in particular. The Caledonia and Niagara, moreover, were still too distant to render their assistance of much effect. About this time, however, the gun-boats astern got near enough to use their heavy guns, though most of them were yet a long way off. The Somers would seem to have engaged a short time before the others.
At length, Capt. Elliot finding himself kept astern by the bad sailing of the Caledonia, and his own brig so near as again to be under the necessity of bracing her topsail aback, to prevent going into her, determined to assume the responsibility of changing the line of battle, and to pass the Caledonia. He accordingly hailed the latter, and directed that brig to put her helm up and let the Niagara pass ahead. As this order was obeyed, the Niagara filled and drew slowly ahead, continuing to approach the Lawrence as fast as the air would allow. This change did not take place, however, until the Lawrence had suffered so heavily as to render her substantially a beaten ship.
The evidence that has been given on the details is so contradictory and confused, as to render it exceedingly difficult to say whether the comparative calm of which we have spoken occurred before or after this change in the relative positions of the Lawrence and Caledonia. Some wind there must have been, at this time, or the Niagara could not have passed. As the wind had been light and baffling most of the day, it is even probable that there may have been intervals in it, to reconcile in some measure these apparent contradictions, and which will explain the inconsistencies. After the Niagara had passed her second ahead, to do which she had made sail, she continued to approach the Lawrence in a greater or less degree of movement, as there may have been more or less wind, until she had got near enough to the heavier vessels of the enemy to open on them with her carronades ; always keeping in the Lawrence's wake. The Caledonia, having pivot guns, and being now nearly or quite abeam of the Hunter, the vessel she had been directed to engage, kept off more, and was slowly drawing nearer to the enemy's line. The gun-vessels astern were closing, too, though not in any order, using their sweeps, and throwing the shot of their long heavy guns, principally 32 pounders, quite to the head of the British line; beginning to tell effectually in the combat.
As the wind was so light, and the movements of all the vessels had been so slow, much time was consumed in these several changes. The Lawrence had now been under fire more than two hours, and, being almost the sole aim of the headmost English ships, she was dismantled. Her decks were covered with killed and wounded, and every gun but one in her starboard battery was dismounted, either by shot or its own recoil. At this moment, or at about half past two, agreeably to Ferry's official letter, the wind sprung up and produced a general change among the vessels. One of its first effects was to set the Lawrence, perfectly unmanageable as she was, astern and to leeward, or to cause her to drop, as it has been described by Capt. Barclay, while the enemy appear to have filled, and to commence drawing ahead. The Lady Prevost, which had been in the rear of the British line, passed to leeward and ahead, under the published plea of having had her rudder injured, but probably suffering from the heavy metal of the American gun. vessels as they came nearer. An intention existed on the part of Capt. Barclay to get his vessel round, in order to bring fresh broadsides to hear. The larboard battery of the Detroit by this time was nearly useless, many of the guns having lost even their trucks, and, as usually happens in a long cannonade, the pieces that had been used were getting to be unserviceable, front one cause or another.
At this moment the Niagara passed the Lawrence to windward, and then kept off towards the head of the enemy's line, which was slowly drawing more towards the southward and westward, In order to do this, she set topgallant-sails and brought the wind abaft the beam. The Caledonia also followed the enemy, passing inside the Lawrence, having got nearer to the enemy, at that moment, than any other American vessel. As soon as Perry perceived that his own brig was dropping, and that the battle was passing ahead of him, he got into a boat, taking with him a young brother, a midshipman of the Lawrence, and pulled after the Niagara, then a short distance ahead of him. When he reached the latter brig, he found her from three to five hundred yards to windward of the principal force of the enemy, and nearly abreast of the Detroit, that ship, the Queen Charlotte, and the Lady Prevost being now quite near each other, and probably two cables' length to the southward and westward; or that distance nearly ahead of the Lawrence, and about as far from the enemy's line as the latter brig had been lying for the last hour.
Perry now had a few words of explanation with Capt. Elliot, when the latter officer volunteered to go in the boat, and bring down the gun-vessels, which were still astern, and a good deal scattered. As this was doing precisely what Perry wished to have done, Capt. Elliot proceeded on this duty immediately, leaving his own brig, to which he did not return until after the engagement had terminated. Perry now backed the main-topsail of the Niagara, being fairly abeam of his enemy, and showed the signal for close action. After waiting a few minutes for the different vessels to answer and to close, the latter of which they were now doing fast as the wind continued to increase, he bore up, bringing the wind on the starboard quarter of the Niagara, and stood down upon the enemy, passing directly through his line. Capt. Barclay, with a view of getting his fresh broadsides to bear, was in the act of attempting to ware, as the Niagara approached, but his vessel being much crippled aloft, and the Queen Charlotte being badly handled, the latter ship got foul of the Detroit, on her starboard quarter. At this critical instant, the Niagara had passed the commanding British vessel's bow, and coming to the wind on the starboard tack, lay raking the two ships of the enemy, at close quarters, and with fatal effect By this time, the gun-vessels under Capt. Elliot had closed to windward of the enemy, the Caledonia in company, and the raking cross-fire soon compelled the enemy to haul down their colors. The Detroit, Queen Charlotte, Lady Prevost, and Hunter, struck under this fire, being in the melee of vessels ; but the Chippewa and Little Belt made sail and endeavored to escape to leeward. They were followed by the Scorpion and Trippe, which vessels came up with them in about an hour, and firing a shot or two into them, they both submitted. The Lawrence had struck her flag also, Boon after Perry quitted her.
Such, in its outline, appears to have been the picture presented by a battle that has given rue to more controversy than all the other naval combats of the republic united. We are quite aware that by rejecting all the testimony that has been given on one side of the disputed points, and by exaggerating and mutilating that which has been given on the other, a different representation might be made of some of the incidents; but, on comparing one portion of the evidence with another, selecting in all instances that which in the nature of things should be best, and bringing the whole within the laws of physics and probabilities, we believe that no other result, in the main, can be reached, than the one which has been given. To return more particularly to our subject.
Perry had manifested the best spirit, and the most indomitable resolution not to be overcome, throughout the trying scenes of this eventful day. Just before the action commenced, he coolly prepared his public letters, to be thrown overboard in the event of misfortune, glanced his eyes over those which he had received from his wife, and then tore them. He appeared fully sensible of the magnitude of the stake which was at issue, remarking to one of his officers, who possessed his confidence, that this day was the most important of his life. In a word, it was not possible for a commander to go into action in a better frame of mind, and his conduct in this particular might well serve for an example to all who find themselves similarly circumstanced. The possibility of defeat appears not to have been lost sight of, but in no degree impaired the determination to contend for victory. The situation of the Lawrence was most critical, the slaughter on board her being terrible, and yet no man read discouragement in his countenance. The survivors all unite in saying that he did not manifest even the anxiety he must have felt at the ominous appearance of things. The Lawrence was effectually a beaten ship an hour before she struck; but Perry felt the vast importance of keeping the colors of the commanding vessel fly"1? to the last moment; and the instant an opportunity presented itself to redeem the seemingly waning fortunes of the day, he seized it with promptitude, carrying off the victory not only in triumph, but apparently against all the accidents and chances which for a time menaced him with defeat
His victory at once raised Perry from comparative obscurity to a high degree of renown before the nation. With the navy he had always stood well, but neither his rank nor his age had given him an opportunity of becoming known to the world. The government granted gold medals to
Perry and his second in command, and the former was promoted to be a captain, his commission being dated on the 10th Sept. 1813. As he returned to the older parts of the country, his journey was a species of triumph, in which warm spontaneous feeling, however, rather than studied exhibition, predominated.
After several years of useful and honorable service in the navy, Com. Perry died at Trinidad, on the 23d Aug. 1819, at the age of 34. Several of the victorious vessels, with their prizes, lay sunk for many years in the harbor at Erie. The Queen Charlotte, and perhaps others of them, were recently raised and put into use on the lake.
|Waterford, a pleasant borough, is situated at Le Boeuf lake, on the turnpike between Erie and Pittsburg, 13 miles southeast of Erie. The town contains an academy, a flouring-mill, one or more churches, &c. Population in 1840, 403. This place was laid out by Andrew Ellicott, in 1794, and the survey was confirmed by the act of 1795. It had been set- * tied as early as 1792-93. The state had a garrison here about that time for the protection of the surveyors on the donation and state lands. A part of the old blockhouse still remains, attached to the large hotel where the stages stop. Among the first settlers here were Robert King, Martin Strong, Gen. Charles Martin, and others. The place was then known as Le Boeuf, the name of Waterford having been given by the law of 1795. The early French history of this place is given above, in the history of the county. Waterford was a busy point while the transportation of salt was carried on across the portage from Presqu'isle, and down the waters of Le Boeuf and French crs. to Pittsburg. This trade ceased with the opening of the salt-wells on the Kiskiminetas, about the year 1820.|
|Northeast is situated near the lake, on the Buffalo road, 16 miles northeast
from Erie. It is a very neat and pleasant borough, containing, by the census
of 1840,339 inhabitants. Sixteen-mile cr. enters the lake near this place,
and affords water-power for several manufacturing establishments. This place
was formerly called Burgettstown.
A curious case of partial insanity, resulting, we understand, from belief in Rev. Mr. Miller's theory respecting the end of the world, has lately occurred at Northeast, Pa., the statements relative to which are furnished by a friend. The subject is a young man named Putnam, who imbibed the notion that he should die on the last day of the year just expired. For some length of time he had been laboring under this delusion, which he strenuously declared was made known to him by revelation. So infatuated was he with the idea, that he gave up his business, employed his time in drawing devices on the tomb-stones in the grave-yard, and occupied nine days in hewing oat a sepulchre in which to die-a grave six feet deep in a rock ! Accordingly, having made all the preparations, he proceeded to his tomb, which was situated in a secluded spot, accompanied by some two hundred persons, present by invite, and unflinchingly laid himself down in his grave to die. He remained there for the space of an hour and a half, the assembled multitude, no doubt, waiting with anxious suspense to see him give up the ghost; but, to use a vulgar phrase, "he couldn't come it." The miserable man crept out of his hole and departed thence, strongly impressed that he should not die that day.-Fredonia Center.
|Wattsburg is at the forks of French cr., 18 miles southeast from Erie. There is a fine water-power here. Population in 1840, 131. A railroad was once projected from Erie, through this place, to Jamestown, and thence to connect with the New York and Erie road.|
|Girard is a flourishing village, on the road to Cleveland, 16 miles west
of Erie. The canal is located through this place; and it enjoys also the
advantage of the water-power of Elk cr.
Fairview is about 9 miles west of Erie, near the confluence of Walnnt cr. with the lake. It contains several grist, paper, and fulling mills.
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