Saturday, November 23, 2013

Standing in History's Footprints

Have you ever felt the thrill of standing in the footprints of history? Knowing that some famous person stood in the exact same spot? I'm sure world travellers get that feeling all the time as they visit historic sites around the globe.

Since I began writing biography I've found it helpful to visit some of the settings that my subject frequented during her lifetime. It's as if by breathing the same air I come closer to the spirit of my subject. I can imagine being with her in that place.

When I was writing Laura Secord I visited Port Oswego, the place where a young Laura Ingersoll embarked for Canada with her parents and siblings. I saw her home in Queenston and the town of Chippawa where she spent her later years, the forts of Niagara, and the battlefields of the War of 1812, a war that was so much a part of her story.

And now for Molly Brant I've twice visited the Mohawk Valley, toured Canajoharie named for the village where she was born, and the city of Johnstown, built by her influential, white husband Sir William Johnson, initially as a place where the staff at his manor house would live, and I saw two of Johnson's stately homes. My first glimpse of the Mohawk River brought tears to my eyes.

Sir William built Fort William Henry in 1755 after the Battle of Lake George that took place near the southern end of the lake. There is an interesting marker on the pier there with the pictures of many famous people who have stood in that place. They would have looked out over the lake, north toward Lake Champlain and the surrounding mountains. I was seeing the same lake, the same Adirondack Mountains, the same sun setting in the west and painting the clouds with fire.

Several people who appear in Molly Brant's story are among those pictured on the marker.

Centre, coloured picture of Sir William Johnson

They include the Mohawk sachem King Hendrick and leader of the French forces, Baron Dieskau. as well as many others.

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