Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Regal Reception In Buffalo’s Blossoming Queen City

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Previous: Rebuilt Buffalo

Our County and Its People, Volume I, edited by Truman C. White, The Boston History Company, 1898, p. 282

Thousands crowded the shore near Buffalo’s new harbor. Oliver Forward couldn’t help but gloat. It had been a slugfest. Whether Joseph Ellicott or Peter B. Porter, it seemed like those who could help his struggling village didn’t. But he and his friends succeeded. And now, just as the clock struck noon, the Nation’s Guest – General Lafayette – appeared on Lake Erie’s horizon.

The big show was about to begin.

But the impetus for it almost didn’t. There almost wasn’t a harbor. And without a harbor, there would be no canal. And without a canal, well, Peter Porter would have been the one Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Regal Reception In Buffalo’s Blossoming Queen City”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Rebuilt Buffalo

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Previous: To The Dunkirk Dinghy By The Dawn’s Early Light

Taylor, C.B., A Centennial History of the United States, 1876, p305

Cyrenius Chapin stood where no sane man dare stand. He knew exactly what he was doing. He also knew it was all McClure’s fault.

Nonetheless, there he was. He measured his pace as he approached the British line. Despite the noise and excitement about him, he could hear his feet crunch through the snow. Or maybe he imagined his cold ears picking up the sound.

Certainly, he could feel his feet crush the white blanket as he made his way up Schimmelpenninck Avenue (it didn’t get the name Niagara Street until July 12, 18261). The excitement of the night and now early morning kept his blood flowing to his extremities. His medical training taught him that would help prevent the onset of frostbite.

Cyrenius fully understood the consequences of his actions. With the cannon behind him Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Rebuilt Buffalo”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: To The Dunkirk Dinghy By The Dawn’s Early Light

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Previous: Dunkirk, The Last Frontier

Walter Smith, from The Centennial History of Chautauqua County Vol I, p.355

Walter Smith was there, no doubt in front of the crowd of people riding along with Lafayette. Unlike the fawning civilians eager to not let go of the Nation’s Guest, Smith wore the uniform of a Colonel, confidently in command of the militia regiment that received Lafayette. He even had an elegant sword draped from his belt.1

Major General Elijah Risley, Jr., father of nine-year-old Hiram (and future grandfather of Olive) strode with his military staff alongside Smith. With little notice, Smith was tabbed as marshal of the day.2 Both were businessmen, not full-time soldiers. Today, or rather this night turning into early morning, they faithfully presented all the martial pomp and circumstance proper in honoring the last surviving general of the American Revolution.

But there may have been more on the mind of Walter Smith. He wasn’t just a Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: To The Dunkirk Dinghy By The Dawn’s Early Light”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Dunkirk, The Last Frontier

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Previous: Fast Fredonia Frenzy

It was three o’clock in the morning when Lafayette and his travel partners left Fredonia. They weren’t alone. A horde of enthusiastic citizens accompanied the nation’s guest to the Superior, the famous Great Lakes steamer that had been waiting offshore in the Dunkirk harbor from the previous day.

The late (or early) hour had no impact on the escort. They gladly trudged through the dew and mud. It would be something they would remember for the rest of their lives. There they were. Side by side with the Revolutionary War hero, the friend of George Washington, an icon they could only dream of meeting.

After all, who were they, these pioneers of Western New York? Sure, a few were surviving Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Dunkirk, The Last Frontier”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Fast Fredonia Frenzy

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Previous: Gaslighting The General 

The trot to Fredonia was anything but quick. The Buffalo and Erie Road turned out to be less “finished” than Joseph Ellicott had hoped. André-Nicolas Levasseur, one of Lafayette’s traveling party who would eventually publish an extensive journal of the General’s American Farewell Tour, went out of his way to point out the poor condition of the Main road between “Portland” (a.k.a. “Westfield”) and Fredonia.

“On leaving Portland,” wrote Levasseur, “yielding to the fatigue of the preceding days, we were sleeping in the carriage notwithstanding the violent jolting occasioned by the trunks of the trees forming the road over which we were rapidly passing.”1

Ellicott had rather strict guidelines for those he hired to clear roads, especially when it Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Fast Fredonia Frenzy”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Gaslighting The General

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Previous: Special Delivery To Westfield, A Fitting First

The first week of June in 1925 saw unusually warm temperatures across the northeast.1 Nearby Jamestown had record-breaking highs in the low 90s.2 You can imagine the temperature on Main Street in Fredonia at 2:45 in the afternoon on Thursday, June 4. Still, the crowds came. So many, in fact, that the village had to redirect traffic away from the primary road running through its downtown.3

The ceremony was spear-headed and organized by the Benjamin Prescott chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Citizens marched down the flag-decorated streets and assembled to see the unveiling of a new marker dedicated to memorializing two major events in this small rural community.4 One hundred years to the day earlier, General Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Gaslighting The General”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Special Delivery To Westfield, A Fitting First

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Previous: The Making Of The Buffalo And Erie Road

Was Lafayette supposed to depart Erie by land or by sea? As late as May 31, 1825, organizers in Erie, Pennsylvania tried to arrange steamboat accommodations for the General. The ship was to convey the Nation’s Guest from Erie directly to Buffalo.1

Confusion reigned over Lafayette’s exact itinerary. You see, he had promised to attend the dedication ceremonies for the Bunker Hill Monument on the anniversary date of that battle. That meant he had to be in Boston by June 17th. Initial reports said he would not visit Western New York until after laying the cornerstone on the Bunker Hill Monument.2 The newspaper corrected this misinformation the following week, just a day before Lafayette would cross the state line into Chautauqua County.3

What firmed Lafayette’s travel plans? Olive Risley Seward’s grandfather commanded the militia for the Lafayette reception in Fredonia. In addition, her then eleven-year-old father and nine-year-old mother also attended—and remembered—Lafayette’s 1825 visit to Fredonia. Based on the stories from her family, she wrote the following in 1904: “An Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Special Delivery To Westfield, A Fitting First”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Making Of The Buffalo And Erie Road

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Previous: Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The State Of Greater Western New York In 1825

At the turn of the 19th century, a dense forest covered the southwest corner of New York State—what is now Chautauqua County. A rough trail that followed the Lake Erie shore represented the only visible evidence of human occupation. Except for what appeared to be remnants of a chimney right on the lake.1 The trail was brutal. Settlers journeying to Connecticut’s lands in the future state of Ohio preferred to take the water route over Lake Erie from Black Rock, just off Buffalo Creek.2

That chimney might well have been the ruins of what Sir William Johnson described as a Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Making Of The Buffalo And Erie Road”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The State Of Greater Western New York In 1825

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Previous: Lafayette Prepares To Enter The Greater Western New York Region

WNY portion of 1825 map published by H.S. Tanner, 177 Chestnut St. Philadelphia.

Remember how excited you were when you began a new school year, started a new job, or moved to a new place? Life fills you with promise and anticipation. You can’t wait to wake up and start the next day. Everything is sunshine and roses.

Then reality inevitably interrupts. Things get overwhelming. Despair and sometimes desperation set in. It seems as if you’re trapped. You can’t see a way out.

But, somehow, you find a way. You get over that hump. (Because, when you get over things, what once seemed like an overbearing mountain now appears as nothing more than a mere bothersome bump.)

Again, you look forward to tomorrow with an enthusiasm you thought you’d never again have.

Such was the state of Greater Western New York. It began as an enthusiastic rush into the Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The State Of Greater Western New York In 1825”

Lafayette On The Folly Of Tolerance

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James Madison served as the fourth President of the United States from 1809 to 1817, immediately preceding James Monroe. History textbooks refer to him as the “Father of the Constitution” as he acted as the driving force in drafting both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A short three years prior to that seminal event, Madison traveled from Baltimore to Fort Stanwix to negotiate with the Iroquois Confederacy. Accompanying him was a young French general and a protégé of George Washington. That would be the Marquis de Lafayette.

This chance meeting formed what would become a lifelong bond between the two men. Very early on, Madison recognized Lafayette’s affinity with the American Indians, as well as Continue Reading “Lafayette On The Folly Of Tolerance”

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