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This is a heavily edited and abbreviated likeness of a page 9 article from the 9 Sep 1915 issue of the Simcoe Reformer. [Compiler's Comment:  The wintering site referred to in the following article concludes our Port Dover video. More comments at the end of this article.]

Our First European Explorers

The first discoverers known to have charted Lake Erie were two French missionary priests, Casson and Galinee, based at the French colonial village Montreal. Having learned of a chain of great connected lakes to the west  from visiting natives they set out from Montreal in July 1669 to explore the great western unknown.

They were accompanied by Sieur de la Salle, a representative of Louis XIV, King of France, who was armed with a commission to formally take possession of any new lands which might be discovered.

Taking with them several Frenchmen, a fellow from Holland, and an Algonquin native who could speak the Iroquois tongue, they set out in a flotilla of seven canoes on 6 Jul 1669, under the guidance of Seneca natives who had gone to Montreal the previous autumn to trade.

The missionaries both mapped the shore lines of their course as they journeyed, and wrote a diary or Relation (as they called it), of their adventures and experiences. (Although who's diary and when it was written is argued among scholars today.)

At the head of Lake Ontario (now the site of Hamilton, Ontario) at an Indian village called Tinawatawa, they met famous French freelance explorer Jolliet, on his adventurous way from the "Soo" to Montreal. While the Montreal expedition had been working its uncertain way west from Montreal toward the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie), Jolliet had been working his equally uncertain way east from the Soo to Montreal.

La Salle unexpectedly deserted his expeditionary companions and turned back toward Montreal with his old friend Jolliet, but Casson and Galinee, with seven other Frenchmen, resolutely plodded on their westward course.

Making a portage of some 30 miles from the west end of Lake Ontario, the missionary expedition finally reached a considerable river (the Grand River), down which they paddled to its junction with Lake Erie (at Dunnville in Haldimand County).

Turning westward along the lake shore, they arrived on 17 Oct 1889, at the mouth of a stream (River Lynn aka Patterson's Creek at Port Dover), and a little distance up this river they [established] winter quarters, as here they saw an abundance of game and wild fruits, and feared that, with winter fast approaching, they might "go farther and fare worse."

Having settled comfortably for the winter in two log houses they erected (which, by the way, were the first houses erected in Southern Ontario, the foundations being yet plainly visible in 1915, they laid in a supply of foodstuffs.

We killed a considerable number of stags, hinds and roebucks, so that we began to have no longer any fear of suffering during the winter. We smoked the meat of nine large animals in such a manner that it could have kept for two or three years, and with this provision we awaited the winter with tranquility whilst hunting and making good provision of walnuts and chestnuts, which were there in great quantities.

The five months of winter passed happily and their narrative reads that on 23 Mar 1670: We all went to the lake shore to make and plant a cross in memory of so long a sojourn of Frenchmen as ours had been. We offered prayers there and resolved to set out on the 26th of March, the day of Annunciation.

Kneeling before their cross the missionaries took formal possession of this then pagan country in the name of God and civilization, affixing to the foot of the cross a metal plate upon which were the following words:

We, the undersigned, certify that we have seen, on the land of the lake named Erie, the arms of the King of France attached (to the foot of a cross) with this inscription: 
'The year of salvation, 1669, Clement IX being seated on the chair of St. Peter, Louis XIV reigning in France, Monsieur de Courcelles being governor of New France, and Monsieur Talon being intendant therein for the king, there arrived in this place two missionaries of the Seminary of Montreal, accompanied by seven other Frenchmen who, the first of all European people, have wintered on this lake, of which they have taken possession in the name of their king as of an unoccupied territory, by affixing his arms which they have attached here to the foot of the cross.'
 In testimony whereof we have signed the present certificate.
(Signed) Francois Dollier, priest of the Diocese of Nantes, in Brittany; De Gallinee, deacon of the Diocese of Rennes, in Brittany.

[Compiler's Comment: Historians are forever rewriting history as new evidence and fresh perspectives emerge. The foregoing article represents 1915 perceptions and evidence. Modern scholars might well quibble with some of its expression.]