Friday, January 27, 2012

The Caroline plunges over Niagara Falls

In the blog previous I mentioned that I would recount the tale of Niagara Falls that appears in the 1844 book entitled THE WORLD AND ITS WONDERS.   The book belonged to my wife's great-grandmother Elizabeth Glass who lived on a farm at Strange, in King Township, in the 19th and 20th centuries.   The 11th chapter of the old book is entitled The Falls of Niagara.   It starts by describing in inspiring terms, the upper Great Lakes of the early 1800s and their funnelling into the eastern end of Lake Erie and thunderous plunge over Niagara Falls, then regarded as one of the great wonders of the world.   It quickly turns to a major issue of the day: the turmoil in Upper Canada surrounding the oppressive British government.   The insurgents, headed by William Lyon Mackenzie, obtained possession of Nancy Island, which was situated about five miles above Niagara Falls.   They fortified it and stockpiled it with weaponry provided by American sympathizers.   The arms were destined for a rebellion against the government.   The steamboat Caroline was an important supply vessel for the plan.   However, forces loyal to the Upper Canada government made a surprise, night-time raid on the Caroline, at Buffalo.   She was cast adrift, fully loaded, in the Niagara River and made her fateful journey downstream.   It is described, in part, in the book thusly: 
"Now broadside to the stream, she glided on, distinct in the still moonlight - then, whirled round by some eddy, her course was stayed, as if in a convulsive struggle to escape - then, on again, faster and faster yet.....she rushed madly into the rapids that precede the fatal she neared Goat Island, midway in the stream, at the very verge of the cataract, she glided into the fearful torrent's smoothness ere it leap moment more, and the fatal plunge is taken into the dark abyss; and then struggling and whirling from the chaos of waters - planks and beams splintered, and torn, and broke, are all that remain of the Caroline.
The wonderful etching above dramatically captures the Caroline's helpless plunge.   It has probably not been seen by anyone in King Township for a very long time, save for those few who might, like my wife, have inherited copy of the ancient book.   Below is another depiction which is readily available on the internet.   While it wasn't regarded as such at the time, the end of the Caroline was a foreshadowing of the failed Mackenzie Rebellion, which sealed the sad fate of Mackenzie's main supporters, such as Jesse Lloyd of Lloydtown, in King Township, who died  as an exile, far from home, in Pennsylvania, a year after the failed rebellion.

Please comment if you wish.
Barry Wallace

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