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Portage Road — possible prominent role in French & Indian War (Part 3)
July 9, 2017

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At the end of Part II, H.C. Taylor's "The Old Portage Road" described the observations of an early pioneer, Samuel Shattuck, of the building of the Portage by the French in 1753, decades before his residency in Portland New York in 1823. Taylor documented several other writers who describe or mention the old portage road, including Pouchet, a French officer at Fort Niagara, who wrote a history of the French & Indian War in North America, and Sir William Johnson, a British officer who wrote a journal about his journey in 1761 to establish treaties and trading posts with Western Indians from Detroit.

Johnson describes a "baking place" at the mouth of Jadaghqua creek (Chautauqua), which was a circular piece of masonry of stone laid in strong mortar, three feet in height and three or four feet in diameter, on the west side of the creek. Another similar oven was discovered near the boat landing at Mayville, and was still in good state of preservation in 1810, described by Judge Peacock. In 1802, Col. Bell saw the one at Barcelona.

A description of the old French road route is given in Taylor's booklet, identifying many landmarks and names of pioneer owners of the lands across which the road passed. Taylor himself arrived at age 13 with his father and family, and recalls the use of the road by the early settlers for their arrival, as well as transportation of salts and merchandise from Portland Harbor (now Barcelona) to Mayville and along Chautauqua Lake, and the Allegany and Ohio rivers to Pittsburgh and beyond.

The Westfield Republican of July 23, 1902 contains a lengthy and well-documented article, "Old Portage Road" by D.A.A. Nichols, written on June 24 and 25 of that year. In it he provides a history of the different plans for colonization of the "new world" by the French and English and their competition for occupation and control of North America. Nichols begins with the assumption that the 1753 expedition of Duquesne, was the first entry of white men into Chautauqua County (the journals of De Lery were not discovered and translated until about four decades later). He comments, "The avowed object of this expedition was to establish and build a chain of forts between Niagara and the Ohio rivers, to prevent English settlements from being planted west of the Alleghanies." Also noted were that the grants of the kings of both nations covered the same territory.

One of the differences between the English and French was that the French colonies were more strongly based on the Jesuits efforts to "civilize and convert the savages (Indians)" which made the French plan of settlement half military and half religious. "Wherever the soldiers went, the priests followed." So, interestingly, although beginning about the same time, but by about 150 years later, the English population of the new world was 15 times the population of the French colonies. By the time of the 1753 expedition, it was really too late for the French to dominate North America, and this action precipitated the conflict known in this country as the French & Indian War, while in Europe it was known as Queen Anne's war. At the conclusion in 1763, the French claims north of the Ohio River were ceded to Great Britain. And Napoleon later on sold the Mississippi Valley and westward to the United States - the Louisiana Purchase.

Nichols describes the story of the burying of the lead plates, and the quarrel regarding where to build the portage - mouth of Chautauqua Creek or Presque Isle - and adds another interesting tidbit about when Marin found it too difficult to build the portage from Erie to French Creek, and sent his men back to Canada, he (Marin) was sick and left behind at the fort of Aux Boeufs (Waterford, Pennsylvania), and he died the following day and was buried there by a Franciscan friar or Ricolet chaplain in the fort. The building of the Chautauqua portage road is described in essentially identical detail to what was written in Part II of this BeeLines series, and Nichols also recounts the writings of M. Pouchet and Sir William Johnson, Taylor's booklet, and the letters and affidavits described earlier.

Nichols then interjects another interesting discussion, writing, "Portage street, in the village of Westfield, is likely to keep permanently on record the fact that the first evidence of white men's entrance into this county was by the way of the portage from Barcelona to Mayville before Washington had become identified with the political history of this country. In 1754, he started to come hither, by order of Gov. Dinwiddie of Virginia, but on his arrival at Franklin, Pa., he learned that Marin was dead, that Duquesne was in Montreal, and only the wily Joncaire was in charge, and no treaty could be made with him that would be binding on the French. The next summer Braddock's defeat left the French in control for a time, but Queen Anne's war ended the dispute, and the 'carrying place' was left for the English-speaking people ever after."

In January 1924, another Westfield Republican article was published on "Ancient Westfield" that was written in 1923 by Miss Elizabeth Webster Stone, a respected local historian, for the Patterson Chapter, D.A.R., which repeats most of the information previously described. Later in 1924, the D.A.R. Chapter placed bronze markers on the Sherman and the Mayville roads showing where de Celeron's Portage Trail crossed the present roads.

Part IV of the Portage Road and French & Indian War History will describe some additional historic documents that include maps and more Washington stories.

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