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By Bob Kostoff

The impressive falls has inspired glowing reports in personal diaries and journals of hundreds of visitors over the years, all of them pretty much the same, but one 18th-century English military officer had a different slant on the area.

Common Ground
Mt. Views
Local History

He was impressed by the size and virility of Lewiston's mosquitoes.

Many suburban dwellers today, with the recent state of wet mosquito-breeding weather, would agree.

In 1786, soldier Thomas Hughes passed through this area with his regiment en route to Detroit.

He kept a personal journal which, he wrote, was "for my amusement and designed only for my perusal by the time I attain the age of 50, if I live so long."

However, a copy of it was published in England after his death in 1790.

Hughes does not dwell on the mosquitoes, but he does make one rather strong statement: "Of all the places I ever was at for mosquitoes, the Landing (Lewiston) near Niagara is the first, not only for number but size."

The wild Niagara Frontier, with its abundant water, rainfall and thick forests, was noted not only for hordes of mosquitoes, but for all types of insects. It must have been nearly intolerable without Deet handy.

Hughes writes of the fickle winds of Lake Ontario and about his boat trip to Fort Niagara. He made note of the difficulty in making shore and wrote on Aug. 5, 1786, "With great good luck, just made the mouth of Niagara River but it was late before we got over the bar. We were 30 hours within sight of the fort and were much afraid we should have been drove back, a very common thing; vessels are sometimes drove even from the bar and obliged to return to Fort Carleton, there being no port or anchorage between, but on the other hand it is an open lake free of shoals."

Hughes also wrote of the loss of the ship Ontario in 1781, when it ran into a squall and was never found. He said it is believed the ship overturned near 30-Mile Point off the shore of Somerset and 84 men were lost. Nothing was ever found except a hat and a drum case.

But Hughes' ship finally made it into the Niagara River and sailed up to the Lewiston Landing rather than unloading at Fort Niagara, "which is the usual way." He described the fort with the stone-block buildings and a nearby settlement: "The few houses that constitute the town lay in the low grounds toward the river and are chiefly inhabited by merchants."

He said the Lewiston Landing was "a romantic place and as the banks are extremely high they have a contrivance to drag goods up with a windlass and large machine that goes on skids." He noted ships could not go but 100 yards farther because of the violent rapids.

Hughes said the ship was unloaded and goods placed on wagons to traverse the portage to Fort Schlosser above the falls.

He wrote, "The portage of Niagara is farmed by a John Stedman who charges four shillings per hundredweight for carrying it eight miles. Government allows so much to every officer, all above he pays for himself."

Hughes started out at 2 p.m., leading three companies. He wrote, "We marched up a high hill that gave a fine view of the country we had gone through, and of Lake Ontario, which really looked like the sea." The view over the escarpment today is as impressive.

But he was not impressed with Fort Schlosser. He called it "a miserable place, no defense but a few pickets."

Stedman's spread, though, was a different story.

"Stedman's house to which we went is large, with a good orchard and fine farm yard." Lewiston mosquitoes aside, the disappointment provided by Fort Schlosser was more than offset by the grandeur of the falls. Hughes' impressions of the view will be detailed next week.

Bob Kostoff has been reporting on the Niagara Frontier for four decades. He is a recognized authority on local history and is the author of several books. E-mail him at RKost1@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Nov. 9 2004