The Early History of Ontario County , New York
Kindly transcribed by Deborah Spencer
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From the History of Ontario County, NY
Published 1893 Pg 17 - 23
Discoveries and Early Occupations---Scandinavians Discover Iceland and
Greenland---Columbus's Tropical Discoveries---Early Voyages of John and
Sebastian Cabot--Jacques Cartier Sails up the St. Lawrence--Champlain
Founds the Colony in New France---Visits the Iroquois Country--Henry
Hudson at New York and Albany---English Colonies founded in Virginia and
Massachusetts---Each Power Claims the Territory.
hundred years ago the first Spanish adventurers landed on the American
1492 the Genoese, Christopher Columbus, set out on a voyage of
exploration under the patronage of the Spanish power, and in that and
the two succeeding years made his tropical discoveries.
However, the first Europeans to visit America were Scandinavians,
who colonized Iceland in 875, Greenland 983, and about the year 1000 had
pushed their explorations as far south as the present State of
Massachusetts; but under their discoveries there was not made any
attempt at colonization on the continent.
In 1497, five years after COLUMBUS made his first American
discoveries, the Venetian sailor, John CABOT, was commissioned by Henry
VII of England to voyage to the new territory and take possession of it
in the name of the crown.
He discovered Newfoundland and portions adjacent.
In 1500 the coast of Labrador and the entrance to the Gulf of St.
Lawrence were explored by two Portuguese brothers named Cortereal.
Eight years later
Thomas AUBERT discovered the St. Lawrence, and in 1512 Ponce DE LEON
MAGELLAN, the Portuguese navigator, passed through the straits
which now bear his name in 1519, and was the first to circumnavigate the
1534 Jacques CARTIER explored the St. Lawrence as far as Montreal, and
five years later DE SOTO explored Florida.
In 1578 an English navigator named DRAKE discovered Upper
we observe that not a century had passed after the discovery by COLUMBUS
before the different maritime powers of Europe were in active
competition for the rich prizes supposed to exist in the new world.
events fully demonstrated the accuracy of the conclusions of foreign
powers, for no grander country in all respects ever awaited the advance
of civilization and enlightenment.
With climate diversified between the widest extremes; with many
of the longest rivers of the globe intersecting and draining its
territory and forming natural commercial highways; with a system of
lakes so grand as to entitle them to the name of inland seas; with
mountains, hills and valleys laden with the richest minerals and almost
exhaustless fuel; and with scenery unsurpassed for grandeur, it needed
only the coming of the Caucasian to transform a continent of wilderness,
inhabited by savages, into the tree, enlightened republic which is to
day the wonder and admiration of the civilized world.
Spaniards were pushing their acquisitions in the south, the French had
gained a foothold in the northern part of the continent.
Here the cod-fisheries of Newfoundland and the prospect of a more
valuable trade in furs opened as early as the beginning of the sixteenth
1518 Baron LIVY settled in Newfoundland, and in 1524 Francis I. of
France sent thither Jean VERRAZZANI, a noted Florentine mariner, on a
voyage of exploration.
He sailed along the coast more than two thousand miles and is
supposed to have entered the harbor of New York, where he remained
fifteen days. It
is believed that his crew were the first Europeans to land on the soil
of the State of New York.
This navigator proceeded north as far as Labrador and gave to the
whole region the name of "New France," thus opening the way
for future contests between France and England.
In 1534 the same French king sent Jacques CARTIER, a St. Malo
pilot, to the new county.
He made two
voyages and ascended the St. Lawrence River as far as Montreal (Hochelaga).
As he sailed up the river on St. Lawrence Day (August 10) he
applied to the river the name of the saint whose name is perpetuated by
that day. In
the following year Cartier again sailed from France with a fleet which
bore many of the nobility, and who departed for the new country filled
with high hopes and bearing the blessings of the church; they were to
begin the colonization of New France.
They ascended the river as far as the Isle of Orleans, from
whence CARTIER visited the Indian town of Hochelaga, and to which he
gave the name of Mont Royal, the beautiful and opulent Montreal of
modern times. The
explorer was warmly greeted by the Indians, who tendered him the utmost
homage and hospitality.
The Frenchmen passed the following winter at the Isle of Orleans,
suffering much from the rigors of the climate, and, having taken formal
possession of the country, they abandoned their colonization scheme
early in the following season and returned to France.
As a beginning of the long list of needless and disgraceful
betrayals, treacheries and other abuses to which the too confiding
natives were subjected by the different European nations, CARTIER
inveigled into his vessel the Indian chieftain DONNEGANA, who had been
his generous host, and bore him with several others into hopeless
captivity and final death.
of this colonization movement and the severity of the northern winters
prevented further attempts in the same direction for several years, but
in 1540 CARTIER was sent back with Jean Francis de Robarval, a gentleman
of Picardy, who was appointed lieutenant-general over the "New
countries of Canada, Hochelaga and Saguenay."
His commission conferred power over a vast territory with plenary
powers of vice-royalty.
Robarval made a second visit in 1543, and in company with the
pilot, Jean ALPHONSE, took possession of Cape Breton, and afterward
began a settlement at Quebec.
However, in colonization Robarval was no more successful than had
been his predecessor, and for half a century afterward nothing was
accomplished in that direction.
In 1598 another unsuccessful attempt was made to colonize New
France, by pouring out upon the country convicts from the French
prisons; but it was finally left to private enterprise, stimulated by
the hope of gain from the fur trade, to make the first successful effort
toward the permanent
occupation of the country.
About the year 1600 Chauvin obtained a broad patent for lands in
America, which formed the basis of a trade monopoly, and repeated and
prosperous voyages were made, the success of which stimulated others to
enter the same field.
In 1603 Aylmer de Chastes and a party of Rouen merchants
organized a company, the existence of which becomes of historic
importance to this work, as it introduces into the field Samuel de
Champlain, discoverer of the lake which bears his name, and the real
founder of New France, which included within its asserted limits all
that now comprises Ontario county.
In 1608 Champlain made a permanent settlement at Quebec, and
afterward founded Montreal, from which points the French fur traders and
missionaries found easy access to Lake Ontario and even up Lake Erie
many years before the occupation of this region by the whites.
Champlain, accompanied by a party of faithful Canadian Indians, made a
voyage up Lake Champlain for the purpose of exploration and to extend
the dominion of France, and as well to learn something of the
characteristics of the Iroquois Indians, whose power as a nation and
whose valor as warriors were made known to him by his attendants.
The exploring party encountered a few Mohawk Indians near the
present site of Ticonderoga, and there was signalized the first hostile
meeting between the civilized white man and the untutored Indian.
Champlain with his arquebus, which he had loaded with four balls,
fired upon the unsuspecting Mohawks, killing two and wounding a third.
A few weeks
after the battle between Champlain and the Indians, Henry HUDSON, an
intrepid English navigator, then in the employ of the Dutch East India
Company, moored his vessel (Half Moon) in the waters of the great
river that now bears his name; this was on the 3d of September, 1609.
He met and entertained the natives, and was hospitably received
by them, but before his departure he conferred up-on them knowledge of
the effects of intoxicating liquor, an experience perhaps more
disastrous in its results than that conferred by Champlain with his new
and murderous fire-arm.
Hudson ascended the river to a point within a hundred miles of
that reached by Champlain on the St. Lawrence and the lake, returned to
Europe and, through the information he had gained, afterward established
a Dutch colony for which a charter
was granted in 1614, naming the region "New Netherland."
In 1623 it was made a province or county of Holland.
In 1614 the Dutch built a fort on Manhattan Island, and one in
the following year on or near the site of Albany, but the territory
included within the Dutch patent extended indefinitely westward over the
territory of this part of the present State which was then occupied and
controlled exclusively by the Indians, and to which was given the name
In 1621 the Dutch West India Company was formed and took
possession of "New Amsterdam" under the charter granted.
For fifteen years they remained at peace with the natives, but
the harsh and unwise administration of William KIEFT, who was appointed
director-general in September, 1637, provoked the Indians to hostilities
and opened a war which continued with but little interruption during the
remainder of the Dutch occupancy, and often endangered the very
existence of the colony.
Under the discoveries by Hudson the Dutch laid claim to the
territory of the present State of New York and extending westward
in 1607, the English had made their first permanent settlement at
Jamestown, Va., and in 1610 planted a second colony at Plymouth, Mass.
These two colonies were destined to become the successful rivals
of all others, of whatever nationality, in the strife that finally left
them masters of the country.
discoveries and colonization efforts we have briefly noted it will be
seen that three great European powers laid claim to the territory of the
State of New York.
England, by reason of the discovery of Cabot, who sailed under
letters patent from Henry VII, and on the 24th of June struck the
sterile coast of Labrador, and that made in the following year by his
son Sebastian, who explored the coast from New Foundland to Florida,
claiming a territory eleven degrees in width and extending westward
claimed the territory by reason of the discoveries of Verrazzani, and
Holland by reason of the discoveries of Hudson, the latter claiming the
country from Cape Cod to the southern shores of Delaware Bay.
As we have stated the Dutch became for the time being the
possessors of the region of which we write.
Thus, during the early years of the seventeenth century, there
were three distinct streams of emigration, with three attendant claims
of sovereignty, converging toward the original Ontario county.
For the time being the French had the best opportunity, the Dutch
the next, while the English, the ultimate masters of the soil, were
apparently third in the race.
permanent Dutch emigration, as distinguished from mere fur-trading
expeditions, first began upon the Hudson, and the first governor was
sent thither by the Batavian Republic.
In 1625 a few Jesuits arrived on the banks of the St. Lawrence,
the advance guard of a host of representatives of that remarkable order,
which was in time to crowd out almost all Catholic missionaries from
Canada and the whole lake region, and substantially monopolize the
ground to themselves.
In 1626 Father De La Roche DAILLON, a Recollect missionary,
visited the Indians of the Neuter Nation, and passed the winter
preaching the Gospel among them, but did not venture into the territory
of the Iroquois, who were then at deadly enmity with the French on
account of Champlain's murderous attack upon the Mohawks several years
1627 Cardinal RICHELIEU organized the company of New France, otherwise
known as the Company of a Hundred Partners.
The three chief objects of this association were to extend the
fur trade, to convert the Indians to Christianity, and to discover a new
route to China by way of the great lakes of North America.
The company succeeded in extending the fur trade, but not to any
extent in converting the Indians, nor in going to China by way of the
was governor of the province and colony, and the first two years of his
rule were unfortunate in the extreme.
British men-of-war captured his supplies by sea; the Iroquois
warriors invaded Canada and tomahawked his hunters; and in 1629 an
English fleet sailed up the St. Lawrence and captured Quebec.
However, peace was soon after concluded between England and
France, and Champlain resumed his gubernatorial powers.
Following this the Jesuit missionaries, fired with zeal and
valor, traversed the wilderness, holding up the cross before the
They met with much better success among the Huron, Eries and
Neuter Nation Indians than with the Iroquois, and soon had flourishing
stations as far west as Lake Huron.
They next visited the Kahquahs, whom they reported as possessing
eighteen villages, but met with very little encouragement among them.
were a tribe of Indians residing on the shores of Lake Erie in part in
the present county of Erie.
The Eries inhabited the borders of the lake which still bears
their name, while the Neuter Nation was between them and the fierce
warriors of the Iroquois Confederacy.
frequently referred to the Indian occupants of the region, the first
inhabitants of the soil of the present State of New York of which we
have any reliable record, we may now briefly turn from the subject of
European discovery and occupation and furnish an account of the savages
who played so prominent a part in the early history of our county and
Created by Dianne Thomas
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