Old Fort Niagara

Historic Religious Site Tour of Lewiston & Youngstown NY

Old Fort Niagara

Youngstown, New York 14174, United States

Created By: Nazareth College


Address: 102 Morrow Plaza, Youngstown, NY 14174

The History of Old Fort Niagara

The French and Indian war spanning from 1754 to 1763, also known as the ‘7 Years War” was a battle between the North American French and British colonies, with both receiving support from various Native American Tribes. Since this part of this war was fought around the Great Lakes, the Niagara River was for many reasons an incredibly vital part of the Northeastern landscape to have control over since it controlled access to the Great Lakes and the westward route to the heartland of the continent. The French understood the River’s importance way before any wars had begun and established the first official post here in 1679, called “Fort Conti”. There was then another fort constructed here called Fort Denonville which only lasted from 1687-1688, and by the time of 1726, France had finally constructed the first permanent fortification aptly named the “French Castle”. Unfortunately for the French, the British succeeded in capturing the fort in 1759 during the aforementioned war in a 19 day siege, and then held the fort until the war 1796 when the British were forced by treaty to give up the fort to the United States due to the Revolutionary War. Once again, the ownership of the French Castle was flipped once again as it was captured by the British again in 1813 during the War of 1812, and was once again given up to the United States in 1815 by the end of the War. From that point and beyond, this location will now be known as Old Fort Niagara and served as a border post in peacetime, and during wartime for both World Wars it served as an infantry training camp. After it was restored and repaired for 5 years starting in 1929, and all military personnel minus the Coast Guard left, the site became a non-profit organization and became an official New York State Park.

During its militaristic existence for its 300 year long existence as a fort, it has had quite a large impact on the Native American communities surrounding the fort as it forced all that were near to be involved in one way or another, whether it was for battle purposes, trading, or peaceful negotiations. Early on in its lifespan French Officials realized that in order for healthy trade to be set up between the current French Settlers and the Natives they would need to be liked by such, and become what is known as a “Dutch Bushrunner”, or alternatively a “White Indian” (Howard, 1968), which essentially was a Frenchman who interacted with the Natives in a trade-centric friendly manner. Unfortunately that's where the positive parts of the interactions end as these Bushrunners would transfer measles, chicken pox, yellow fever, and other “White Man’s” diseases along with the Goods the French colonies were trading (Howard, 1968). Among the goods traded, strong alcohol was especially damning for the Native Americans as the Women who vowed to remain in chastity, relaxed to promiscuity as a side effect of the alcohol which resulted in the “Half-Breed” (White European and Native American) children to become common (Howard, 1968). As a result, the entrance of the Europeans mixing with Native Americans impacted them greatly as they interfered with their culture, the people, and the Natives safety as the Europeans introduced new goods in which they meshed into their lives, new diseases which killed many, and brought guns, and new politics around to what would be an otherwise a European-Free culture.

Works Cited:

Fission, Content Management System. (2020). History and collections. Old Fort Niagara. Retrieved December 10, 2022, from https://www.oldfortniagara.org/history

Howard, R. W. (1968). Chapter 5, The White Indians. In Thundergate: The Forts of Niagara (pp. 34–35). essay, Prentice-Hall.

Written by: Jack Hughes

Fort Niagara Website

This point of interest is part of the tour: Historic Religious Site Tour of Lewiston & Youngstown NY


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