Pictorial Guide to Niagara Falls, 1842
Part III of J.W.Orr’s Pictorial Guide to Niagara Falls published in 1842 at Buffalo, is entitled
HISTORICAL SKETCH WITH ACCIDENTS AND ADVENTURES and in Chapter VI he describes the massacre of a wagon train at
Devil’s Hole on the portage trail which by-passed the Falls. It took place on September 14th 1763, John
Stedman of Bosbury was in charge and the train had a military escort. The chapter summary says it all - MASSACRE
AT THE DEVIL’S HOLE — BRITISH CONVOY — INDIAN AMBUSCADE — ATTACK, SURPRISE, DEFEAT,
CATASTROPHE — ESCAPE OF STEADMAN AND ONE OTHER — RELICS, ETC. There is more to this story, given on
John Stedman’s Personal History page.
But two persons escaped. One, a Mr. Steadman, striking spurs into his horse, a fine and fleet steed,
and dashing forward at the first moment of alarm, succeeded in breaking through the Indian
line, and making good his retreat. He reached Fort Schlosser in safety, and without a wound,
though his clothes and saddle, were pierced with balls. The other, a soldier, who was forced down
the precipice, in the general fall, was providentially caught by the belt, on the pointed limb of a
tree, where he hung, concealed by the foliage, from the lynx-eyed search of the Indians, who
despatched every thing they could find, that had life — until the return of night and stillness,
convinced him the foe had retired, when he cautiously descended, and groped his toilsome way to
Fort Niagara, which place he reached, with the first intelligence of the fate of his party.
It is but a few years since, bones, bits of broken wagons, and many other relics of this fearful
catastrophe, were to be seen at the bottom of the gulf; but they are now concealed beneath the
rubbish, swept away by the stream, or returned to dust.
The Indians held Mr. Steadman in great respect, ever after his so narrow and fortunate escape,
believing that he was a “Great Medicine,” and gifted with magical powers. They gave him,
it was said, all the land he had encompassed in his flight, which would include all between the river
and a line from the Devil’s Hole to Fort Schlosser. His heirs set up a claim to this tract in after
years, but as they could prove no formal grant, and of course establish no title, it was denied.