Count Frontenac’s Expedition of 1673

The following is an extract from the oflicial report of Count Frontenac’s 1673 expedition up the St. Lawrence to strengthen the fortification on Lake Ontario at Kingston, and to form an alliance with the several Indian tribes in that vicinity
It’s translated from the second volume of the collection of Paris Documents, by Dr. E. B. O’Callaghan of New York. The minute description of Frontenac’s voyage up the rapids and his building on Indian Point (at Ogdensburg) as well as his mention of La Galette, the future site of Ogdensburg, NY, give an authentic starting point for the history of Ogdensburg and in a measure, confirm the previous accounts.
The information comes from “Our County And Its People: a Memorial Record of St. Lawrence County, NY,” published in 1894 and edited by Gates Curtis.
The expedition left Montreal on the 28th of June, 1673, with two flat bateaux mounted with small cannon, and 120 bark canoes. On the 3d of July it reached the island at the head of Lake St. Francis, where they found it necessary to repair boats injured in passing the rapids.
The writer states, “It is impossible to conceive the danger without witnessing the fatigue of those who dragged the bateaux, as most of the time they, were in the water up to the arm pits, walking on rocks so sharp that many had their feet and legs cut and covered with blood, yet their gaiety never failed them.” When it was necessary they would throw themselves into the stream with incredible promptness and bravery to save a drowning companion or to secure a boat from loss.
On the 8th, having encountered a severe storm, a portion of the squadron rested for the night on the north side of Ogden’s Island. In the morning Frontenac received orders to proceed above the rapids to a certain point which had been designated as a depot, and return the boats to Montreal for more provisions. The rest of the squadron proceeded up the Rapid du Plat and arrived at what they designated Indian Point, as they usually found the place occupied by Indians, where they built a storehouse for their accoutrements and provisions, on the 9th day of July, 1673 — the first building erected in the immediate vicinity by white men.
The writer further states that from this time forward the St. Lawrence was frequently traversed by French “voyageurs,” and a port was soon afterward established at La Galette, future site of Fort LaPresentation. The writer had a vague idea as to the location of this place, as he supposed that La Galette was near the site of Johnstown below Prescott, or Chimney Island; but from the account given and the familiarity with which the facts are mentioned, it may be inferred that this place was known as La Galette for many years previous to this date.
In the celebrated expeditions of De la Barre, then governor of Canada, against the Iroquois in 1684, he mentioned La Galette as one of the stopping places,and indicated the necessity of placing troops in Frontenac and at La Galette in order to escort provisions and keep the head of the country well guarded and furnished. This unfortunate expedition left Quebec on the 9th of July, 1684, and arrived at Lake St. Francis on the 1st of August, with about 200 canoes and 15 bateaux, where they were joined by Fathers Lamber ville and Millet, from Onondaga and the Oneidas.
They met with the usual difificulty in ascending the rapids, but for a few presents of brandy, tobacco, etc., the Christian Iroquois of the Saut St. Louis and of Montreal undertook to pass up the bateaux and the large canoes, which was successfully accomplished in two days. On the morning of the 5th of August the governor and his forces reached La Galette, where the provisions were transferred from the canoes to a storehouse on what is now called Lighthouse Point, and a portion of the boats were sent back to Lachine for another load of provisions. The main body of the forces proceeded on their way to Fort Frontenac, when the larger canoes returned for 10,000 pounds of flour which had been left at La Galette. This expedition against the Indians failed, as did also one later in 1687.
We find further allusions to La Galette in an extract from a letter written by Father Charlevoix, dated at Cataraqoui (Indian name of what is now Kingston), May 14, 1721, which was published in Paris in 1744, fifth volume of Military Expeditions in America. Referring to the river at this point, he says : ” It is only a mile wide and the lands on both sides are very good and well wooded, besides they have begun to clear on the north shore.”
He says further : ” It would be very easy to make a road from the point which is over against the Island of Montreal, to the bay which they call La Galette [below the O. & L. C. depot site]. This route would shun forty leagues of impracticable navigation. A fort would be much better situated and more necessary at La Galette than at Cataraqoui, because a single canoe cannot pass that point with- out being seen, besides a bark can sail from the place with a good wind to Niagara in two days.”
Charlevoix’s description of the rapids and journey up the river agrees with others. He states that on the 8th of May, 1721, when below Rapid du Plat, a little snow fell and at night it froze as it does in France in the month of January. On the 9th he passed up the last rapid, which is a league and a half below La Galette ; he says he could not sufificiently admire the beauty of the country between the Galoup and La Galette. It is impossible to see finer forests, and he especially noticed some oaks of extraordinary size and height.
Sufficient evidence is furnished in the foregoing accounts to satisfy the most skeptical that this place received its French name at an early date, and the beauty of the scenery in its proper season of the year would naturally lead the enthusiastic Frenchman to exclaim, in their terms, and according to our late current expression, ” It takes the cake.”

Ted Como,

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