Saturday, April 16, 2011

Establishing Buffalo in 1758, Joncaire or Indian, or Both?

   Some histories tell us that the first white settler to build within what is now the city of Buffalo was Chabert Joncaire, who established a settlement on Buffalo Creek in 1758 under the orders of the Governor of French Canada. Chabert Joncaire was neither white nor  Indian. He was the son of the famed Louis Thomas de Chabert, a Frenchman of illustrious lineage, and a Seneca Indian woman.  
  The Sieur de Chabert was called Joncaire, and to distinguish himself from his son, the son was known as Chabert Joncaire. Because the Senecas only inherited from the mother, the younger Chabert was regarded by the Senecas as an Indian, and not as a Frenchman. The Sieur de Chabert, who came to the Niagara region in the early days of the French, had great influence with the Indians--an influence that played a most important part in establishing French control of the Niagara.  His son, Chabert Joncaire, had even greater control over the Indians, and through his relationship with the Seneca's he made it possible for the French to build Fort Niagara when permission to do so had previously been refused both the French and the English. With Fort Niagara being completed in 1726 and dominating the mouth of the Niagara, the French had plans for another fort at the Lake Erie entrance to the river, and that is why Chabert Joncaire was sent to Buffalo Creek to establish a settlement in 1758.  

  Chabert reported that he had built “a shed 100 feet long, of pine; a barn, 100 feet, with cedar timbers… a stable, a dwelling, 45 feet; a shop, 20 feet, for the blacksmith; a storehouse 25 feet long; a second barn nearly finished.”  Horses were used to plow and till the fields.  Corn, tobacco and hay were cultivated within an area of one half mile by three fourths of a mile. A year later Fort Niagara fell to the British, and Joncaire's project at Buffalo was abandoned until the Holland Land Company opened up this region for settlement in 1799.

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