Maritime History of the Great Lakes
(Shipwreck), burnt, 1759
Full Text

RELICS OF THE OLDEN TIME. - It is well known among those cinversant with the early history of our country, that the borders of the Niagara river near the Falls were the theatre of deep and absorbing interest in the old French war of 1760. During or about the year 1753, the French, who were then masters of Canada, built four or five war vessels at or near Navy Island in the Niagara, about two miles above the Falls. These were probably the first vessels ever built on the waters of the Upper Lakes. Fearful that they would fall into the hands of the British, two of the vessels, two or three years after they were built, during a hard press of the hostile troops, were taken by the French into Burntship Bay, now a small cove lying on the west side of the lower end of Grand Island, and there abandoned and burnt. There they have since laid, sunk on the bottom in about twelve feet water, occasionally exposing, in low water, their timber heads, to the present day. They have attracted little notice, having been nearly forgotten in the antiquity of their history. But the antiquarian curiosity of a gentleman in our vicinity has within a few days rescued a portion of them from their place of deposit, and brought them once more to the light of heaven. The Hon. Stehen White of Boston, who has made his summer residence on Grand Island, proceeded in his yacht a few days since with a gang of ship carpenters from White-Haven, and with crowbars, saws, and axes, succeeded in detaching several pieces of plank and timbers from one of them, which are now carefully [fold] having had great difficulty in prying off the pieces even after being seperated by the saw. They are built of white oak, the planks sawed by hand, and trunnelled into the timbers in the strongest manner.
      Mr. W. supposes the vessels to have been about 90 tuns burden. He has had some 20 walking canes made from the planks thus obtained, one of which is to be deposited in the Navy Department at Washington, and the others will probably be distributed among his friends. We bespeak in our turn, a piece of the hulk for our city Museum.
      We confess the possession of one of these ancient relics of past times, the wood of an enemy's ship conquered by our forefathers, and sunk seventy five years beneath the waters of the roaring Niagara, would be a treasure of which any American might by proud.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Tuesday, September 8, 1835 p.2, c.3

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      Unless the weather should prove very boisterous, our citizens will tomorrow have an opportunity of witnessing Mr. Taylor's experiment with his submarine armor. The steamboat WISCONSIN, which, by the way, has been admirably refitted for this season, has been chartered for the purpose, and will leave the dock at 2:00 P.M. It has not been determined to proceed up the lake, or down the river to the foot of Grand Island where lie the two French vessels burned and sunk in 1755.
Mr. Taylor proposes to conclude his experiment by a grand explosion of his submarine rockets; and to show their destructive effects the steamer will take along an old canal boat in tow.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      May 3, 1842

NOTE :- the experiments were made at Point Abino

      . . . . .

FORT NIAGARA SURRENDERS.--- In 1759, in order to prevent little Fort Niagara from falling into the hands of the English, the garrison destroyed it. This was by order of Joncaire, in command of the French. It was in this year that the English commander, General Prideaux, demanded the surrender of Fort Niagara from the French, and, being refused, he laid seige to it, and was killed in the attempt to capture it. He was succeeded by Sir William Johnson, who pushed the war forward with vigor, capturing Fort Niagara before re-inforcement could reach it from Venango on Lake Erie. When these re-inforcements reached Navy Island, they heard of the fall of Fort Niagara, and, believing the two vessels that had brought them down would certainly fall into the hands of the English, they took them, together with some smaller ones that had been built on Navy Island, to the northern end of Grand Island, and there set them on fire. As late as 1850 the remains of these vessels could be seen at the bottom of the river, and it was from this circumstance that the arm of the river where they lay was named " Burnt Ship Bay."
      'History of the Great Lakes'
      by J.B. Mansfield Chapter 8 p.106

      . . . . .

" In connection with this expedition of Ligneris to help Pouchot at Niagara, a few historians have made it appear that the troops proceded down Lake Erie in two vessels which were burned at Navy Island, above Niagara falls, on learning of the British victory. As to the truth of these statements little can be said except that in no contempory records, either French or English, can any reference be found about the building of any French ships above the cataract other than the GRIFFIN."
      'Freshwater' by
      George A. Cuthbertson p.99

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Item Type
Reason: burnt
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.03311 Longitude: -78.96254
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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(Shipwreck), burnt, 1759