Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Competing Memories Turn Lafayette’s Rochester Visit From History To Mystery

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Previous: Remembering Silvius Hoard

1832 Map of Rochester from a correct survey, Gill, Valentine; Child, Jonathan;
Morin, John F., KEY: FB (green) Fitzhugh St. Basin; AQDT (yellow) Aquaduct; GB (purple) Gilbert’s Basin; HT (Blue) Hoard’s Tavern (marker location); CMH (red) Christopher’s Mansion House. Source, Library of Congress, LOC Control No. 2003623826

You’ve heard the expression “the sands of time,” right? Well, sometimes the expression reads better as “the sandblaster of time.” The march of time has a way of eroding all in its past, leaving no trace behind. Spoiler Alert: Nearly every single landmark you are about to read of here no longer exists.

Worse, those same sands often erode memories as well. We often remember what we think is true, even if it’s not. That’s why if you ask two people who witnessed the same event, you’ll often get two different descriptions of what happened. At least two. Because if you ask the same person a week later to describe what happened, there’s no guarantee the story will remain the same.

These are the challenges when recounting history. That’s why it’s better to rely on primary witnesses (the people who were actually there). It’s even better to rely on multiple primary witnesses, because you can “average” their stories to get a more reliable understanding of what really happened. Finally, it’s best you hear from these primary witnesses immediately after the event occurs. That way the memory is freshest and less prone to error.

Such are the issues with retelling the tale of Lafayette’s visit to Rochester on Tuesday, June 7, 1825. Everything is gone and even firsthand witnesses, years later, tell conflicting Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Competing Memories Turn Lafayette’s Rochester Visit From History To Mystery”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Natural Wonder Of Niagara Falls, Goat Island, And Lewiston

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Previous: Augustus Porter Could Have Danced All Night

Judge Porter’s Second Bridge To Goat Island source: Robinson, Charles M., “Life of Judge Augustus Porter,” Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society Vol VII, Buffalo, 1904, p.276

Another day, another carriage. Another carriage, another bumpy ride. And the road from Tonnewanta to Manchester took a slow, lazy curve following the east fork of the Niagara River as it arcs around Grand Island. Today, driving from Tonawanda to Niagara Falls—the names that have since replaced those 1825 names—would take about twenty-five minutes. But during the time of Lafayette’s tour, it took much longer. And the ride was definitely not as smooth.

The fleet of canal boats arrived in Tonnewanta (today, Tonawanda) at noon on Friday, June 5, 1825. As he had now become accustomed to, the French guest was greeted by far more Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: The Natural Wonder Of Niagara Falls, Goat Island, And Lewiston”

Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Breakfast At Black Rock Then On To Tonawanda

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Previous: Peter B. Porter’s Home Sweet Home

Black Rock in 1925, drawn by Mildred C. Green from the original sketch made by George Catlin. Source: The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo, Frank Severeace, ed., Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Volume Six, p.252

The gates of the grand lock at the foot of the harbor opened for the first time on Thursday evening, June 2, 1825. Water from Lake Erie came gushing in. Slowly, but steadily, water flowed into the newly opened portion of the Erie Canal from Black Rock to “Tonnewanta” (present day Tonawanda). By nine o’clock Friday morning, the water filled the nine-mile length to a depth of three and a half feet. The celebratory committee launched the inaugural fleet of five elaborately decorated packet boats.1

Upon their return to Black Rock at three o’clock, a procession of 150 people led by Marshall of the day J.L. Marshall, Esq. marched to the Steam Boat Hotel. As the news reported of Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Breakfast At Black Rock Then On To Tonawanda”

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

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Previous: Overview Of His 1824-1825 American Visit (Part II)

The sun rose the morning of Friday, June 3, 1825, at 4:05am local time in Waterford, Pennsylvania.1 Lafayette had two weeks—14 days—to travel 550 miles and visit almost two dozen towns and villages before the June 17th dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. He was determined to meet every community he promised to visit. Speed was of the essence.

But he couldn’t show it. At least not in a too obvious way.

Roughly three hours after the break of dawn, at about 7 o’clock, Lafayette’s party left Waterford for the seat of the County, Erie, Pennsylvania.2 Though technically still in the Continue Reading “Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Lafayette Prepares To Enter The Greater Western New York Region”

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