1679 – The brigantine Le Griffon, commissioned by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, is towed to the south-eastern end of the Niagara River, to become the first ship to sail the upper Great Lakes of North America.
Le Griffon (French pronunciation: [lə ɡʁifɔ̃], The Griffin) was a 17th-century barque built by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in his quest to find the Northwest Passage to China and Japan.
Le Griffon was constructed and launched at or near Cayuga Creek on the Niagara River as a seven-cannon, 45-ton barque. La Salle and Father Louis Hennepin set out on Le Griffon’ maiden voyage on August 7, 1679 with a crew of 32, sailing across Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan through uncharted waters that only canoes had previously explored. The ship landed at a location on an island in Lake Michigan where the local tribes had gathered with animal pelts to trade with the French. La Salle disembarked and on September 18 sent the ship back toward Niagara. On its return trip from the island said to be located in the mouth of the body of water which is now known as Green Bay (Lake Michigan), it vanished with all six crew members and its load of furs.
In late December 2014, treasure hunting divers Kevin Dykstra and Frederick Monroe alerted media outlets that they found indisputable proof of Le Griffon’s location. They happened upon the wreckage while searching the floor of Lake Michigan for Confederate gold. Evidently, they spotted the wreck in 2011, but waited until 2014 to reveal the discovery of what some call the “holy grail” of Great Lakes shipwrecks while they consulted experts. There are “no cables, no cabin, and no smokestacks,” no mechanical devices of any kind, and a carving on the front of the ship strongly resembles 17th-century French carvings of griffins, Dykstra says. On January 2, 2015, Frederick Monroe told an interviewer for public radio that he believed Le Griffon was built in Canada, below Niagara Falls, and brought to the upper Great Lakes. He went on to say that the wreck is “the one that got in the way.” Their claim was quickly debunked when Michigan authorities dove down on June 9, 2015 after receiving the coordinates to verify its authenticity. Michigan state maritime archaeologist Wayne R. Lusardi presented evidence that the wreck was, in fact, a tugboat due to its 90-foot (27 m) length and presence of a steam boiler.
Prior to this, wreckage from Le Griffon was thought to have possibly been located near Fairport, Michigan by US wreck diver Steve Libert in 2004. Since then, ownership of the potential remains has been the subject of lawsuits involving the discoverers, the state of Michigan, the U.S. federal government and the government of France. Some scientists concluded it was a bowsprit detached from a ship dating hundreds of years old, while others believe it is a 19th-century pound net (fishing) stake.
Le Griffon was the first full-sized sailing ship on the upper Great Lakes of North America and she led the way to modern commercial shipping in that part of the world. Historian J. B. Mansfield reported that this “excited the deepest emotions of the Indian tribes, then occupying the shores of these inland waters”.
French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, sought a Northwest Passage to China and Japan to extend France’s trade. Creating a fur trade monopoly with the Native Americans would finance his quest and building Le Griffon was an “essential link in the scheme”. While work continued on Le Griffon in the spring of 1679 as soon as the ice began to break up along the shores of Lake Erie, La Salle sent out men from Fort Frontenac in 15 canoes laden with supplies and merchandise to trade with the Illinois for furs at the trading posts of the upper Huron and Michigan Lakes.
1928 – Betsy Byars, American author and academic
Betsy Cromer Byars (born August 7, 1928) is an American author of children’s books. Her novel Summer of the Swans won the 1971 Newbery Medal. She has also received a National Book Award in category Children’s Fiction for The Night Swimmers (1980) and an Edgar Award for Wanted … Mud Blossom (1991).
Byars has been called “one of the ten best writers for children in the world” by Nancy Chambers, editor of the British literary journal Signal, and in 1987 Byars received the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement from the Catholic Library Association. Due to the popularity of her books with children, she has also been listed as one of the Educational Paperback Association’s top 100 authors.
Byars was born Betsy Cromer August 7, 1928, in Charlotte, North Carolina to George Guy, a cotton mill executive, and Nan (née Rugheimer) Cromer, a homemaker. Her early childhood was spent during the Great Depression. She attended Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, from 1946 to 1948, before transferring to Queens College in Charlotte, where she graduated in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in English.
After graduating, Cromer met Edward Ford Byars, a graduate student in engineering at Clemson University, and they married on June 24, 1950. They had three daughters and a son between 1951 and 1958: Laurie, Betsy Ann, Nan, and Guy. In 1956, the family moved from Clemson, South Carolina to Urbana, Illinois where Edward pursued further graduate work at the University of Illinois, eventually becoming a professor of engineering. While her husband was busy during the day with his studies, Betsy began writing for magazines. Her work was eventually featured in The Saturday Evening Post, Look, Everywoman’s Magazine, and TV Guide. Her first novel, Clementine, was published in 1962.
Betsy and Ed Byars are both licensed aircraft pilots and live on an airstrip in Seneca, South Carolina, the bottom floor of their house being a hangar.
Daughters Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers are also children’s writers, and the three of them are currently (as of February 2009) working on their fourth book together.
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This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (November 2013)
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