Hidden History: Trenton Falls

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During the Civil War, the Union and the Confederacy both made overtures to other countries for support. This was especially true of the Confederates, as they used their great commodity, cotton, as a lure.

In the mid-19th century, relations between the U.S. and Britain were not warm and, often, not cordial. In November 1861, the Union nearly went to war with Britain for a third time.

The Union Navy intercepted a British ship, the Trent, and illegally captured two Confederate diplomats from it that were heading for Britain and France. President Lincoln defused the situation by releasing the Confederate envoys.

In order to prevent foreign interference on behalf of the South, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, invited the foreign ministers of seven world powers on a tour of the North in 1863. Those world powers were Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Sweden and Nicaragua.

On August 18th, 1863, the delegation visited Trenton Falls, which at that time was a tourist destination rivaling Niagara Falls. Seward held a summit meeting at the luxurious Trenton Falls Hotel, adjacent to West Canada Creek.

His effort succeeded — none of the seven foreign governments ever did throw in with the Confederacy.

The power of Trenton Falls to generate electricity eventually led to a decision to limit access to the area. The hotel was abandoned, and it collapsed in disrepair in 1945. Today, the falls are accessible to the public only at certain times of year.

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