On September 18, 1669, a small French expedition led by Robert Cavalier, Seigneur de la Salle, landed somewhere at the western end of Lake Ontario en route to the Indian village of Tinawatawa. It was believed that they would there be able to obtain guides to lead them westwards in their search for a route to the Orient.
Until the 1960s, the expedition’s recognized landing place was identified as on the north shoreline of Burlington Bay, near the present day location of La Salle Park in Aldershot. The site of Tinawatawa was believed to be on the eastern bank of the Spencer Creek, north east of the village of Westover (Lot 35, Concession 6, Beverly Township). During this decade, the location became known as the Christianson Site when McMaster University archaeologists carried out excavations in 1968, 1969 and 1979, determining that the site was indeed an historic Neutral Iroquois village, occupied c.1615-1630, well before La Salle’s expedition arrived.
Research in the 1970s by McMaster University professor Dr. William Noble, a former Waterdown resident, seriously questioned the previously accepted La Salle route through East Flamborough to Tinawatawa as identified by historians James Coyne and Roy T. Woodhouse. Dr. Noble suggested that the expedition did not land on the shoreline of Burlington Bay, but traveled further inland, along a creek which emptied into Cootes Paradise and that the party landed somewhere near present day Dundas, possibly near the Transfer Station, just off Olympic Drive.
Dr. Noble believed the historians identified the Aldershot landing based on James Coyne’s 1903 translation of Galinee’s Journal of La Salle’s expedition, and his comment that the “little lake” where the journey ended was Burlington Bay. Noble suggested this is incorrect, for the “little lake” is more probably Cootes Paradise and from here the party took the recognized Indian trail up the escarpment to Greensville and then westwards to Tinawatawa. This route is much more likely than those advanced by previous historians because not only does Noble believe they erred in their identification of the landing, but the suggestions of Westover or even Lake Medad as Tinawatawa were also incorrect. Archaeological evidence confirms that both these Neutral villages were abandoned by the time La Salle entered Flamborough.
The probable location of Tinawatawa is now recognized as being on the main Indian trail, about halfway to Brantford and the Grand River; this supports La Salle’s reason for going to the village in the first instance – namely to obtain guides in an attempt to reach Lake Erie, the Ohio River and eventually the Orient.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 17 November 2006.