I was doing some work up in Canada last week and thought that I would come back and visit my old hometown of Niagara Falls, NY on the way back to New Jersey. I have many fond memories of my growing up in this city and my home was less than a mile from the Canadian border. I attended one of the city's high school named LaSalle Senior, our mascot was called Explorers and our school's newspaper was called the Griffon. Little did I know about the historic legacy that Niagara Falls had with the French Explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle and the vessel named Griffon.
In 1678, LaSalle was introduced to Father Louis Hennepin who is best remembered for the earliest writings about Niagara Falls. Hennepin would accompany LaSalle on his explorations and would keep copious accounts of their travels and adventures. If it was not for Hennepin, much of the details of LaSalle's work would be lost today. In January of 1679, the Griffon's building party arrived at the mouth of Cayuga Creek on the Niagara River (about a mile from my high school) where the ship would be built. The exact place where the Griffon was constructed is marked by a boulder and historical plaque at 9317 Buffalo Avenue, just north of the city marina. The Plaque reads:
Hereabout, in May, 1679
Robert Cavelier De La Salle
Built the GRIFFON of Sixty
Tons burthen. The first Vessel
To Sail the Upper Lakes
The Keel was laid on January 26th and by August 7th, the ship was launched into Cayuga Creek and moved to Lake Erie and immediately began its long journey toward Green Bay, Wisconsin. The voyage to Wisconsin was very arduous and LaSalle realized that he needed another ship. Once in Green Bay and in the face of mounting pressures, LaSalle ordered six of his men to sail back to Niagara on Sept 18th and then return with the iron works needed for the second ship. By December the Griffon had not returned and runners brought LaSalle a message that the ship had never reached Niagara Falls. LaSalle must now accept the fact that the Griffon was lost.
This series of weblogs are dedicated to LaSalle Senior High School Class of 1965. Happy 40th Anniversary!