Friday, May 22, 2009

Chautauqua Lake Portage Tour

Until the advent of the railroad in Chautauqua county in the 1850's, the Portage Trail was an important link between the Great Lakes, Western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley. It ceased to be a line of communication for transporting of merchandise as the railroads pushed westward, after which it became an important highway for travelers between communities from Westfield to Jamestown. Today it is the western terminus of New York Route 394.

A re-enactment of the 1700s will be taking place this weekend throughout the county for the Chautauqua Lake Portage Tour.

From Barcelona to Chautauqua Lake, the portage trail has hundreds of different trees, plants, flowers, birds, animals, fish, fossil rocks, geological formations and waterfalls that can be seen along the several historic sites and beautiful views. It also follows within 500 feet of the original Portage Trail all the way. The elevation at Lake Erie is 570 feet, with the highest point along the trail being at 1,400 feet. The elevation at Lake Chautauqua is 1,310 feet.

Today, a group will start the re-enactment by walking from Lake Erie to Mayville, starting off at 11 a.m. from Barcelona to McClurg Mansion Museum in Westfield where the county's Historical Society is located. From there, the group will go to the Portage Hill Gallery, which showcase the artwork of Audrey Kay Dowling and several other artists from the Chautauqua region. Then the final stop for the group today will be Mayville Park where participants will spend the night camping.

On Saturday, the group will start its 18-mile canoe trip, with their first stop being in Stow. From Stow, the group will then go on to Celoron's Lucille Ball Memorial Park, where camp will be set up for the night. The Moose Club will also be holding a chicken barbecue dinner that evening as well at the park.

On Sunday, starting at 1 p.m., participants will present a living history program to the public on the French and Indian War, which occurred from 1754 to 1763. The group will also present colonial life presentations including clothing, gear, cooking, trades and weapons.

History of the Portage Trail
Chautauqua County, NY

The old Portage Trail is one of the most historic ten miles in American History and it played a large part in the settlement of western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley. It was roughly nine miles long, running from Barcelona Harbor to Mayville. Originally it was an Indian portage between Lake Erie and Lake Chautauqua long before the white man came to this country.

The first known white man to travel over the Old Indian portage was Etienne Brule, a French voyager, who in 1615 reported to the French rulers in Canada that this was the best route to establishing an Empire westward over the continent. In 1630 the French explorer La Salle passed over the trail and on down to the Ohio River. Chaussegras De Lery, who was a member of the French Expedition of Baron De Longueuil, which was sent in the spring of 1739 to find the best, short route to the Ohio Valleu from Lake Erie, mapped and measured the trail and was largely responsible for the later building of "The Old French Road" over the Indian Portage. The trail is definitely associated with the French and Indian War which enlarged eventually into the Seven Year War involving several European nations and led to the determination of the extent of the British Empire in America. It also decided in Britains favor the issue of whether America should be French or English.

The Longueuil expedition traveled over the portage to Lake Chautauqua to a point which is now Mayville and paddled down the lake to a spot which is now Jamestown and then portaged past some rapids thru Jamestown to Conewango Creek. At this point, we should probably note that Barcelona was called "Camp Chatakoin", Lake Chautauqua was "Lake Chatakoin" and the Conewango was called "Kanavangon." An old French map of 1740 by Sieur de Mandeville shows the portage to "Hiatackoun" (Lake Chautauqua).

In a letter from Marquis de Beaucharnois, the French ruler of Canada, to the minister of the Colonies in France he describes the Longueuil expedition from LaChine (Montreal) to Lake Erie, then along the south shore to a portage, four leagues long to Lake St. Croix (Chautauqua) to explore the possibility of a short water route to the Oyo River (Ohio). So we see that Lake Chautauqua has had many names including a Seneca Indian name of "Ga-Jah-da-quah" meaning "place where big fish were taken out." This word was later smoothed out by the French explorers to "Tchadakoin." We find here and there several meanings of the word including "The Lake High Up" and "Bag of Water Tied in the Middle" any of which would adequately describe the lake but we like the one about "Lake where big fish (muskellunge) were taken out." As far back as any records go, Lake Chautauqua has been known world wide for Muskalunge.


Anonymous said...

Are you taking part in this Beth?

Gimmer said...

No I did not learn of it in time but I hope they do this again.

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