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     This presentation is intended to shed some light on the locations of previously undocumented segments of colonial roadway that provided passage between the Mohawk Valley and the headwaters of the Susquehanna watershed.
     I will draw on recent research that I have conducted as part of my work at the New York State Museum, studying the historical geography of inland navigation in the Early Republic with a particular focus on the canals and waterway improvements created by the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company between the years 1792 and 1820.
     It is the discovery of new information embedded in my research into transportation systems in the 1790s that unlocked the “secrets”about transportation in the 1750s that I will be revealing here.


     It is no secret that New York State has within its geography some very significant confluences of early transport corridors.
     Not only is the state crossed by an eighteenth century international waterway connecting the Hudson River with the Great Lakes at Oswego, but it also has within its borders a region of what might be called “portage” between the Mohawk and Susquehanna watersheds, the majority of  the latter falling outside the southern limits of the state.
     Two-hundred years ago,  waterways served as the primary corridors of transportation, both military and civilian. The land routes that did exist were poor at best, and miserable the rest of the time.
     But land routes, and land routes of vital importance, did exist in the mid-18th century, and this presentation will take a very close look at some of these in the eastern part of what would become New York State.


     Depending on what map you examine, there were anywhere from three to eight major (for that time) roadways traversing the highlands between the Mohawk and Susquehanna. The most prominent was the one which departs the river at Fort Plain and runs southwesterly to the head of Otsego Lake, some 18 miles overland.
     Although this road clearly existed as early as 1756, as evidenced by this map, it achieved its fame by being the portage route taken by the forces of the Clinton-Sullivan campaign of 1779 against the Iroquois in Pennsylvania and southern New York.
     A fleet of over 200  batteaux and over 1,600 men had pushed up through the rapids of the Mohawk to the landing in the mouth of the Otsquago Creek at Fort Plain. A convoy of “500 waggons going steady” dragged the 200 boats overland to the top of Otsego Lake, where the expedition was once again launched, entering the waterway network of the Susquehanna, which it would then follow south into Pennsylvania.


     Perhaps the best general map on which to trace early roadways in New York State is the one prepared in 1779 by Claude Sauthier (above).
     Looking at the region in question, we see that this map reveals in some detail the general topography between the two watersheds and the routes of several roadways that  cross the area.
     Because the map is relatively late, place names and secondary features appear that make the matching of this map to the modern terrain easier than with maps drawn earlier in the 18th century, which are often abstract and over-simplified.
     While such earlier maps may have served the military commanders of the time, they do not provide us the ability to connect the historic map to the modern landscape.



     In case the geography shown on this map is mysterious, the place names of modern communities in the region are indicated here.
     In addition, there are a number of salient features, or what we might call 18th century “landmarks” that provide anchor points for understanding and interpreting the road networks shown on this map.
     We will now examine some of these landmarks, linking them from this map to the modern landscape.


     The first and perhaps most significant feature is the Otsquago Creek valley, already mentioned. It is a major waterway that drains the uplands into the Mohawk, rivaled only by the Canajoharie Creek to the southeast. By following upstream to its headwaters, one reaches virtually the edge of the Upper Susquehanna watershed above Otsego Lake.
     Through this valley runs a road, along the northwesterly side of the stream. It was along this road that the Clinton expedition ran its 500 wagon shuttle dragging 200 boats and provisions in the summer of 1779.
     Certainly if this was not a major road before the expedition, it had been turned into one by the end of June, 1779. At that time, this was probably the biggest road in service west of Schenectady.


     The valley of the Otsquago forms a dramatic cleft in the otherwise insurmountable escarpment that runs along much of the southern edge of the Mohawk valley.
     Passage by water up the Otsquago is impossible. Passage by land is possible, but still difficult.
     However, in the 1750s options for land passage across these highlands were limited and within that context, this route was one of the best.


     Another prominent landmark, and one which makes a very nice anchor point for the road system we are looking at, is Lake Otsego - considered the head of Susquehanna navigation during the 18th century.
     The destination of the Sullivan march across the highlands, this lake provided an opportune entry point, although passage out of the foot of the lake, at present day Cooperstown, still required a dam to raise a head of water, the release of which permitted the expedition batteaux to enter the Susquehanna River proper.


     Another entry point into the Upper Susquehanna, though one not apparently as favorably looked upon, was Canadarago Lake,  just south of the modern Village of Richfield Springs.
     One branch of the roadway network descending into the Susquehanna valley from the north terminates at the head of this lake in the 18th century.


     Between these two major routes to headwater lakes can be seen a middle road, ending at a brook that passes between two smaller lakes or ponds.
     While it is not altogether clear why a branch road was created here, or whether this road existed prior to 1779, when this map was drawn, these lakes represent yet another southern anchor point for the roadway network of the 18th century.


     As can be seen on these maps, we can extend our view of this feature back in time, to 1757 and 1756, and bring it forward in time to the present, with singular continuity.
     Of interest is the fact that the road seen in 1779 striking between the two lakes still runs as it did over 200 years ago, connecting today to Route 20 - a major east-west thoroughfare - at the hamlet of Warren.



     If you keep a sharp eye out today, driving along Route 20, you can still see these ponds, and now can appreciate them as landmarks of New York State history.



     Another landscape feature recorded on the 1779 map is a mountain or height of hills that today would lie along the south side of Route 20, further east, and which is labeled “Brimstone Hill”.



    The “Brimstone Hill” appears on the earliest maps of the region, showing up as a ridge or range of hills on the 1756 and 1757 British maps with some consistency, lying just north of the settlement of Cherry Valley.



     The significance of this rather large-scale feature in the geography of the region is that it is the divide between the two watersheds - the Mohawk on the north and the Susquehanna on the south.
     That the manner in which this feature is mapped on mid-18th century maps, like this one from 1757, is overly simplified is obvious to anyone who takes the time to examine the modern topography of the area. There is, in fact, no continuous and uniform ridge of land separating the two drainages.


     The 1779 Sauthier Map is much more realistic in its portrayal of the Brimstone Hills, and one can drive along the roads to the north and look up to see something which resembles what the map-makers drew (above) - an elevation of rolling, broken hills.
     But one is prompted to ask - “Why Brimstone?”


     The most plausible explanation is supported by a visit to Richfield Springs, a few miles to the west.
     Here in the center of the town is an enclosed spring at the edge of a park, and if you could get close enough to it to look into it, you would understand immediately, for it reeks of sulfur.
     The association of sulfur (AKA "brimstone") and this area is longstanding.



     As attested to by these two historic markers, there was an interest in potential sulfur deposits here in the mid-18th century. And evidence of an attraction to this feature of the region goes back into Native American history, and probably even pre-history.
     Such springs undoubtedly sprang forth at numerous places along the range of hills that were later called the “Brimstone Hills”.


     But of equal interest in this immediate area is a feature embedded in the northern slope of the Brimstone Hill - namely a place labeled “Falls 300 feet High”.
     Here a waterfall seems to issue from a sharp cleft in the hillside and from there flows northward toward the Mohawk.

     While earlier maps don’t always portray this feature, at least one mid-18th century manuscript shows it distinctly, labeled merely as "High Falls".


     There is only one place where such a dramatic feature can be found today, and that is at a place immediately beside Route 20 north of the village of Cherry Valley mapped as “Judds Falls”.
     While the main road today runs up out of the Mohawk toward the village along the east side of the feature, the remnant of the original 18th century road shown on early maps still exists as a narrow woods lane running down along the west side of the cleft.


     For the uninitiated, a visit to Judds Falls is an amazing - and somewhat frightening - experience.
     Once you have reached the site, which cannot be seen from any of the approaching roads, there is no hint of what lies ahead. But as you step into the grove of trees where the maps suggest the falls once stood, you are suddenly looking straight down a sheer cliff into a canyon of staggering proportions.
     While water is rarely seen going over the falls except in the early spring, it still remains one of the most dramatic, and least visited, historic landscape features in New York.



     Anyone who has examined the maps of the 18th century for this area begins to recognize the same patterns of natural features and roadways repeated over and over.
     But the map which first caught my attention, drawn in about 1757, revealed a road alignment I had not seen before. Rising from the head of Lake Otsego and breaching the Brimstone Hills running northerly, it turns to head due north and end at a place on the south side of the Mohawk called “Indian Castle”.



     That place, which one can see was a site of some significance by the way it is mapped in the late 1750s, was the Upper Castle - or principal village - of the Mohawks. The Lower Castle being at Fort Hunter at the mouth of the Schoharie Creek.
     But embedded within that Indian village was a British fort - Fort Hendrick - named for the Chief of the village who was killed in the Battle of Lake George in 1755.
     This site is a critical anchoring point for everything that will come later in this presentation, but the research and analysis that confirmed its location cannot be recapped here to any extent. So I have shown you the web address for the complete documentation, at http://www.newyorkcanals.org/resources_batteau/history/hendrick/index.html.
    What I am about to give you is just an appetizer.



     What is clear from the earlier maps, and crystal clear on the Sauthier map of 1779 (above), is that this road, one of the major routes between the Susquehanna and the Mohawk watersheds, terminates at a T-intersect on the old river road - precisely at the gate of Fort Hendrick.


     One is tempted, of course, to assume that the “Indian Castle” and its associated fort, stood on the ground where the hamlet of “Indian Castle” stands today, and most historians and archeologists took this for granted.
     Most of you who travel the Thruway will recognize this church, in Indian Castle, originally built by Sir William Johnson for the Mohawks of the Upper Castle.
     It stands on the east side of the Nowadaga Creek a few miles east of Little Falls.



     And to complete the impression, a historic marker (above, left) proclaiming the site of Fort Hendrick stands on Route 5S just opposite this church and in the hamlet of Indian Castle.
     But a clue is to be found in a neglected and rusting marker two miles east (above, right), down the old river road, which speaks of a “Fort Canajoharie” in service about the same time, during the French and Indian War.



     But the real eye-opener, as far as I was concerned, came as I was sifting through travelers’ accounts of boating on the Mohawk River in the 1790s - which is the time period I am researching. I came across this journal entry for the summer of 1796 written by someone travelling near this section of the river.


     Because of my research into the 1790s and the geography of inland navigation before the Erie Canal, I was able to connect the floating reference to “Hudson’s Tavern” to a place in the real world. On an 1803 map of the valley, on a height of land along the south bank of the river, nearly opposite the mouth of East Canada Creek, the site of the tavern is clearly shown.
     Of note is that on a map of the Erie Canal drawn many years later, in 1851, the apple orchard mentioned in the 1796 account is still seen to exist on lands just west of the Hudson’s Tavern site.



     What this research, here greatly simplified, establishes is that while a settlement of Mohawks existed on the banks of the Nowadaga Creek where the hamlet of Indian Castle is today, the earlier Upper Castle, and the associated British “Fort Hendrick”, stood some two miles to the east, opposite the mouth of East Canada Creek.
     And it was to this spot - now a piece of otherwise undistinguished land on the eastern edge of Herkimer County, marked only by an ambiguous rusting historic sign - that the road which ran across the Mohawk-Susquehanna divide ended.


     So at this point we have firmly established all the anchor points for this particular road segment:
     Fort Hendrick at the north end and the three lakes at the south ends.



     But along this roadway, at the very top of the divide between the watersheds, we observe an unusual feature, which is noted on the maps as follows:
                                                                 “This rivulet runs under Ground here”
     I am sure for many people who have used this map, this notation has escaped notice, and the stream to which it is applied appears merely to be a poorly engraved section of the upper Otsquago Creek channel. The interruption in the stream line only becomes interesting when taken with the notation beside it.

     But once our attention is drawn to this feature, we find, on re-examining other earlier maps, that it has also been captured there, though not always identified as such.

     The issue, with me in my work, has always been to take features recorded on early maps or in early texts and try and attach them to features in the real world and on the modern landscape. And in this case it was no different.
     I first matched roadways on the modern USGS topographic maps to those shown on the 1779 Sauthier Map, and determined the approximate location of the Y-intersect shown near the feature.
    And there was, on the map, a swamp into which drained some tiny streams - a type of feature seen all over this section of the map.
    Then I took this map into the field.



     Somewhat on blind faith, with the map in one hand and steering with the other, I arrived at what my documentary research said was the right spot.
     Looking westward I noted what I took as the 18th century road intersection, and to its right the swamp that the USGS map had indicated would be found here.


     I grabbed my camera to snap a few record shots of the place, and as I walked toward the swamp, I wondered at why the British, over 200 years ago in this isolated high country, would have known that this swamp drained underground.
     Nothing in all my years of field research prepared me for the surprise that lay ahead!

     As I reached the edge of what I had taken to be a swamp, I found myself staring down into a deep abyss - a vast pit in the ground big enough to hide several trucks inside.
     The flow of the three united streams entered the sinkhole from the west, drizzled down into the bottom of the pit, and disappeared into a dark hole at the bottom which obviously connected to some underground chamber of unknown depth.
  Here truly I could sense the wonder of those British map makers - perhaps military scouts or engineers - who first wrote the words - “This rivulet runs under Ground here.”



    But the revelations of what one might call “ground truth” in this project were not over.
    At the north end of this mystery road, a little place called “Davys Corners” held clues yet to be deciphered.
    Although the place seems of little note on more recently produced topographic maps, on earlier versions one can see the road that crosses Route 5S from the south continuing on in a straight line as the driveway of a small farm complexlabeled "Davy Rd.".
    While driveways are not in themselves unusual, driveways that have the
precisely identical alignment as roads on the opposite side of the highway are not common.



     And so a field visit was suggested by the map evidence, particularly as the road that crossed Route 5S to become this driveway appeared to be a good candidate for the road I was researching.
     Looking back southward along that road from Davys Corners one sees something that just “feels” like an 18th century road. This road goes a very long way south before it makes any turns or bends, and matches the one shown on historic maps.



     And looking north, across Route 5S, one sees the lane extended as the driveway to the farm.



     Walking down the driveway to its end, you look on through the barnyard to see a tractor lane continue on the same line, and if you walk down the slope and look back, you can see this line projected as a low swale between two rising fields.
     Swales between fields are not uncommon. But this one draws our attention because of its location.
     To apply a phrase - “Location, location, location.”

     The deeper into the woods one goes, and the further down the slope, the more intact this roadway appears.
     At first the modern tractor lane or woods road runs on the same alignment projected from above, and it appears to be like the woods roads that are  commonly found throughout the forests in agricultural lands in the area.
     But then the tractor lane departs the line, and runs some 30 feet east of it. And there, on the original alignment, now isolated from the more modern road, is found the intact and unmistakable remains of a colonial roadway, dating at least from 1756.


     Walking down this wooded road is nearly a spiritual experience - to imagine all the people who have trodden this rutted passageway before; people who were heading southward out of the Mohawk Valley heading for the headwaters of the Susquehanna, or coming north out of the heartland of the state to descend into the Mohawk Valley and strike the river road at the site of the Mohawk Upper Castle and Fort Hendrick.
     As one emerges from the woods today, a vast plowed field stands between the remnant roadway and the now known site of Fort Hendrick. But on very old aerial photographs, the road continued and points directly at the site of the fort, as seen below:


Although the southern portion of this mid-18th century road has been paved over as part of the modern highway system and the last few hundred feet of it at the north end was erased by cultivation in the later 20th century, there remains a significant, if easily overlooked, section in its original condition within the woods north of Davies Corners where one can become lost in the 1750s and imagine history unchanged.


     And so, we have reached the end of the road - figuratively and in point of archeological fact.
     We have located and documented all the major landmarks that anchor the colonial roadway network that once crossed the Mohawk/Susquehanna divide, and in so doing have provided a modern guide to some of the most exciting and under documented heritage resource sites in New York State.
THE END