Archive for the ‘Niagara Falls’ Category

“the grandest sight imaginable”

Elizabeth Posthuma Guillim, an English heiress, married John Graves Simcoe when she was sixteen and he was thirty. When Simcoe, who had served the British in the American Revolution, was named lieutenant governor of Upper, or western, Canada in 1790, he sailed to take up his post, accompanied by his wife and two of the youngest of their six children. Adventurous and curious about people, places, and things, Mrs. Simcoe relished the strangeness of her new environment. In her diary, she recorded details of the flora and fauna she encountered. A gifted artist, never without her watercolors and pens, she also produced drawings and paintings of scenes she wanted to remember.
The Simcoes crossed Lake Ontario and arrived at the garrison of Niagara on July 26th, 1792. Because Navy Hall, the building being renovated for them, was not finished, tents called Marquees or Canvas Houses were pitched to accommodate them.

One of the first sights the Simcoes went to see was Niagara Falls.

M. 30th—At 8 this morning we set off in Calashes [a kind of carriage] to go to the Falls, 16 miles from hence. … We had a delightful drive thro the woods on the bank of the River which is excessively high the whole way. … we ascended an exceeding steep road to the top of the Mountain, which commands a fine view of the Country, as far as the Garrison of Niagara & across the lake. From hence the road is entirely flat to the Falls, of which I did not hear the sound until within a mile of them. … The fall is said to be but 170 feet in height. The River previously rushes in the most rapid manner on a declivity for 3 miles, & those rapids are a fine sight. The fall itself is the grandest sight imaginable from the immense width of waters & the circular form of the grand fall; to the left of which is an Island. … A few Rocks separate this from Ft. Schlosser Fall, on the American side of the river, which, passing over a straight ledge of rock, has not the beauty of the circular form or its green colour, the whole centre of the circular fall being of the brightest green, & below it is frequently seen a Rainbow.
I descended an exceeding steep hill to get to the table Rock, from whence the view of the falls is tremendously fine. Men sometimes descend the Rocks below this projecting point, but it is attended with great danger & perhaps little picturesque advantage.

The prodigious Spray which arises from the foam at the bottom of the fall adds grandeur to the scene, which is wonderfully fine & after the eye becomes more familiar to the objects I think the pleasure will be greater in dwelling upon them.

“In Camp near Queenstown, 1793” is from a drawing by Mrs. Simcoe. The watercolor rendering of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, 1792, is also by her. The excerpt and illustrations are from The Diary of Mrs. John Graves Simcoe, wife of the First Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Upper Canada, 1792-96, with Notes and a Biography by J. Ross Robertson (Toronto: William Briggs, 1911), pages 76-77.

posted September 24th, 2012 by Janet, comments (1), CATEGORIES: Canada,Niagara Falls

“the greatest effort of Nature”

Hannah Lawrence Schieffelin kept a diary when she and her husband traveled to Quebec and Detroit in 1780–1781. Here is her account of a visit to Niagara Falls which she thought lived up to its reputation as “the greatest effort of Nature.”

I proceeded … by slow and intricate windings up that rugged mountain, and contemplated the native wilderness of the scene through which we passed, till my ears were struck with the approaching sound of the falling torrent, and a sudden shower gave us to know that it could not be far distant, while innumberable isicles shook from the trees, on our heads, at every breath of wind, and were as quickly replaced by the constant succession of vapours condensing on the branches.

A considerable River first appeared, rolling down a gradual descent, and forming with the rapidity of its motion over the broken rocks, as we approached nearer the bank which had been worn away to an amazing depth, we were struck with motionless astonishment at the stupendous object that met our veiw, neither our surprize nor the deafening noise we heard, would admit of exclamation, we therefore stood gazing in silent awe and admiration. The whole River rushing abruptly down a terrific precipice, and rebounding in shattered particles, from the violence of its fall on said rocks, to nearly the height from whence it had precipitated itself. The earth seemed to tremble at the shock, and our sinking hearts corresponded with the idea. …

We prepared to descend [the path] to a level with the River … this with great difficulty, caution and the assistance of poles to prevent slipping we effected. … one of the gentlemen … then led me to a point of the rock that projected out in front of the Fall, from whence I could see the River descend as it were from the clouds, and with my eye follow its course, from its first rushing over the top, till it reached the margin of the stream below. … I grew giddy at the veiw. …

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women Chapter 9, page 263. The image above dates from 1774, a few years before the Schieffelins’ visit. It is an engraving published in London by the artist Richard Wilson, based on a sketch made at the falls by a British artilleryman, Lt. Pierie, in 1768. It is part of the Charles Rand Penney Collection of images of Niagara Falls.

posted January 12th, 2012 by Janet, comments (1), CATEGORIES: Niagara Falls,Schieffelin, Hannah Lawrence,Travel

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