Niagara Gazette

Columns

March 5, 2013

BRADBERRY: Niagara's complex culinary history: stirring the pot, cooking the books

Niagara Gazette — Talk to almost any senior Niagara Falls, New York resident with a good memory, or any expatriate, anyone who has moved away but who still harbors grand memories of their beloved, albeit forsaken hometown, inevitably the subject of fine cuisine arises.

Niagarans of every nationality from Asia, Europe, and Africa, or from New England to the Deep South, have fond memories of the good food that Niagara Falls was once, and will forever be famous for.

Stories about the recipes, the neighborhood aromas, the restaurants, the vegetable and spice gardens, the old City Market, the delicious fresh fish caught right out of the Niagara River or either of the Great Lakes and local streams here could fill a library.

One of the most fascinating stories that Oakwood Cemetery Board member, historian Michelle Kratts has uncovered so far about Niagara Falls’ culinary connection to history was revealed last month when, in a tribute to Black History Month, she wrote about the Hamilton Family and their connection to William Bell Fossett and his connection to Thomas Jefferson’s clearly contradictory and therefore, controversial multicultural, cross racial family ties.

Come on, how could he in good conscience claim that, “all men are created equal”, and at the same time, own slaves, and father at least six children by his African Mistress, Sally Hemings?

As Michelle Kratts might say, “That’s a story for another day!”

Anyway, apparently Mrs. Hamilton’s sister, Dorothy Condol was married to William Bell Fossett who, according to Kratts, “by 1860 the Fossett’s were in Niagara Falls—and William, like L.H.F. Hamilton, was a waiter at the Cataract Hotel.

Though, as Kratts admits, “connections have not been substantiated at this point in time” there may be other family connections between William Bell Fossett and L.H.F. Hamilton as Hamilton’s mother’s surname was “Bell” and Fossett’s middle name was also “Bell.” Another similarity involves the fact that they both resided in Washington, D.C., in their early years.

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