Sitting on the edge of Niagara Falls’ Table Rock back in 1860


Published March 7, 2023 at 9:32 am

No fence? No problem.

Apparently, people were born without fear back in 1860 as this photo shows a group taking a family portrait mere feet from the edge of Table Rock at Niagara Falls over 160 years ago.

The photo, supplied by the Niagara Falls Public Library, landed on the “Niagara Region Historical Sites, Museums, Memorials and Monuments” page on Facebook and begs the question: “Back in those days, could entire families simply plunk down in a potentially dangerous area and take photos at their leisure?”

Yes and no. Yes, they could obviously but also no, it took a great deal of patience. It was not the instantaneous process that it is these days when it takes milliseconds to snap a shot.

Though early daguerreotype images required an exposure of around 20 minutes, by the early 1860s it had been reduced to about 20 seconds. The first known picture of Niagara Falls in 1840 took 20 minutes.

Even so, photography subjects needed to remain completely still for that period of time for the image to come out crisp and not blurred by their movement.

But one poster, Phil Wilson, added a fascinating bit of family history to this location – his great great great great grandfather once owned it.

“Francis Ellsworth, 1745-1833, my 4th great-grandfather, received this property at the brink of the falls, as part of his original Loyalist land grant. He later sold the property to the government and relocated in Bertie Township (Fort Erie),” noted Wilson.

“There is a story about Francis Ellsworth guiding a French Diplomat, friend of George Washington, down the cliffs and under the falls. This story is in the book, “Niagara: A History of the Falls,” by Pierre Berton, first published January 1, 1992.”

It begs yet another question – what did his great great great great grandfather get paid for this piece of land back in the late 1700s?

That family from 1860 was posing somewhere just inside the fence line in this present-day photo.



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