Fort Niagara stands at the mouth of the Niagara River where it flows into the last great lake, Lake Ontario. Nowadays, that’s Youngstown, New York, USA, and across the river is Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada—land once known only to First People tribes and fur traders. In 1678, the French Explorer LaSalle crossed the lake to begin a small fort. It is said he was given permission to build a ship, and when the ‘Griffon’ was complete, the French sailed away. Almost a decade later, the French Commander, Marquis de Denonville, returned to begin work on a larger fort. Despite some success, the next winter’s harsh conditions found them without food and sympathy from the Seneca, so with only a handful of survivors, the fort was once again abandoned.
Finally, in 1723, the current Fort began to take shape. The impressive stone quarters called The Castle was built to look more like a French Chateau than a fort. But it was a fortress nonetheless with massive walls and a gun deck concealed behind third floor windows. The fort flourished as a trading post until the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War) when French and British animosity filled the Niagara Frontier. It was captured by the British in 1759. My story, A Heart So Tender, is set in 1764 at the time of Sir William Johnson’s “Great Gathering”. As Indian Agent for the Crown, Johnson sought peace between the settlers in the area and the many tribes along the frontier. He could no longer ignore Pontiac’s Rebellion to the west, and the Massacre at Devil’s Hole a few months prior.
The British held Ft. Niagara during the Revolutionary War and only gave it up by treaty in the 1790s but fought for it again during the War of 1812. Again American forces captured Fort Niagara from the British. Until… December of 1813 when the British won it back.
Unfortunately, no one was interested in spending a winter along the lakeshore, and the British abandoned the fort. In 1814 it was officially handed over (once again) to the Americans and eventually saw some new reinforcement during the American Civil War when there were concerns that the British (fearful of the impact of war on their much-needed source of cotton and tobacco) would work on behalf of the South.
Today Fort Niagara is a beautiful step back into history, and the oldest continually occupied military fort in North America. A history of war, yes, but a history of perseverance too. Please keep it in mind if you visit the Niagara River area. And for a taste of its history, read A Heart So Tender, one of the eight frontier stories found in The Backcountry Brides collection.
Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and serves on the board of Bridges Ministry in Seneca Falls, NY. She is published with WhiteFire Publishing, Forget Me Not Romances, Journey Fiction, and Barbour Publishing…and a judge for the Grace Awards for many years. Debra works as a program assistant at Cornell University, and enjoys her family and grandchildren, obsessively buying fabric, watching British programming and traveling with her childhood friends.
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