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materials necessary for shipbuilding. Tonty was at the head of this party, accompanied by La Motte and Hennepin. To screen their slender craft from the northwest winds by the protection of a lee shore, they laid their course along the northern coast of the lake, making slow progress, and running aground two or three times in attempting to sail up a river. They stopped at an Indian village near the present town of Toronto, where they procured from the natives a supply of
Steering thence across the upper end of the lake, they encountered head winds and bad weather, and anchored on one occasion five leagues from the land ; but they had the good fortune, on the 6th of December, to furl their sails in the mouth of the Niagara River. Here they found a cluster of Indian cabins, the tenants of which were not destitute of the virtue of hospitality, for they regaled their unexpected visiters with a repast of excellent white-fish, which were caught in great abundance at that place.
The next day, a party went up the river, in a canoe, as far as the hills near the present site of Queenstown; but, the current being too rapid to permit them to ascend higher, they left their canoe, and proceeded by land around the falls to the Chippeway River, where they encamped for the night. The snow was now a foot deep. They were searching for a place above the falls in which a vessel might be built and launched, and taken thence into Lake Erie. Returning to the mouth of the river, they found their brigantine in danger from the floating ice, and with infinite labor they brought it up to the foot of the cliffs, and dragged it ashore. This position was selected as suitable for a fort, and they began to set up palisades and cabins necessary for their immediate protection, as well against the Indians as the severity of the weather. The frozen ground, covered with snow, rendered this task tedious and difficult.
To prosecute with any hope of success the design of building a fort and a ship on the waters of the Niagara, it was essential to have the approbation and good will of the surrounding Indians. The powerful nation of the Senecas resided in the vicinity. La Motte had orders from the Sieur de la Salle to go on an embassy to this nation, hold a council with the chiefs, explain his objects, and gain their consent. Accompanied by Father Hennepin and seven men well armed, he travelled about thirty leagues through the woods, and came to the great village of the Senecas. A council-fire was kindled, around which the Indians assembled with their accustomed gravity, speeches were delivered on both sides, and the French, by a profusion of presents and a promise to establish a blacksmith at Niagara, who should repair the Indians' guns, at last gained their point. La Motte and his companions went back well satisfied to Niagara ; and here he disappears from the scene. The hardships which thronged around him in the path of new discoveries were more than he had resolution to encounter, and he returned to a life of repose in Quebec.
Tonty remained firm at his post, and on the 20th of January, the whole party, who still lingered within their encampment of palisades, were cheered by the voice of La Salle himself, who had come from Fort Frontenac in one of his small vessels, laden with provisions, merchandise, and materials for rigging the new ship, which was destined to be the first to plough the waves of the great western lakes. The clouds of misfortune, however, began already to hang over his prospects, and to cast a gloom upon the future, that might have disheartened any man of a less ardent temperament and resolute spirit. By the dissension of two pilots the brigantine was cast away on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, and it was with difficulty that the anchors and rigging were saved. Several bark canoes, with the goods and provisions on board, were wrecked and lost.
On his passage, La Salle had made a visit in person to the Seneca Indians, and he flattered himself that he had so far won their favor, that they would not embarrass his operations. It is to be considered, that it was not the suspicious temper alone of the Indians with which he had to contend. The monopoly which he had gained from the government, the many advantages which this monopoly gave him, and the large scale upon which he conducted his affairs, raised up against him a host of enemies among the traders and merchants of Canada. These men endeavored to thwart his designs, and the easiest way of effecting this end was to stir up the jealousy of the savages, by representing that his plan of building forts and ships on their borders was intended only to command their trade, by dictating the terms and curbing their power. Agents were sent among the Indians to scatter reports of this nature, and to sow the seeds of hostility.
These artifices were well known to La Salle. He was on his guard, but was not deterred for a moment in pursuing his objects. He did not, however, press the point of constructing a permanent fort at Niagara. This was not necessary to his immediate purpose. His present aim was to push forward with all speed to the west, and he lost no time in making preparation for his voyage. The place for a dock-yard was selected about two leagues above the falls, at the outlet of a creek on the western side of Niagara River. Here the keel of a vessel was laid, six days after his arrival, and he drove the first bolt with his own hand.
Having made the arrangements for prosecuting the work, he hastened back to Fort Frontenac, leaving Tonty. in command. His affairs required his presence at the fort, for it must be kept in mind that the expedition was to be carried on wholly at his own expense ; and the funds were to be raised by his credit, and by such thrift in traffic as his skill and means would allow. Setting off with two men, he performed the journey by land, a distance of nearly three hundred miles, through the country of the Five Nations. A sack of parched corn constituted his stock of provisions. The two men and a dog dragged his baggage over the frozen snow and ice.
It should be mentioned that, some weeks previously, he had despatched fifteen men in canoes, with orders to proceed through the lakes to Mackinac and other islands in that vicinity, and thence to the Illinois country at the south end of Lake Michigan. These men were supplied with merchandise, to trade with the natives for furs and skins. It was also expected that they would collect provisions at different posts; and they were to await the arrival of the Sieur de la Salle with his exploring company.
Meantime the shipbuilders applied themselves with diligence to their task, under the direction of Tonty. The savages excited alarm now and then by hovering around and sometimes entering the