In my book Echoes in These Mountains, I suggested two possible routes for the old military road used by Sir William Johnson during the French and Indian War, and later used by his son Sir John Johnson in his raids on the Mohawk Valley. In recent years however, I’ve given this historical problem more thought as new evidence has come forward.
For example, I’ve seen the swivel cannon said to have been left by Sir John Johnson’s raiders near Bartman Road in Bakers Mills. Also, Tom Askens has shared with me that he has found small “cannon balls” in his garden at the intersection of Bartman Road and Coulter/Armstrong Road.
In Echoes I suggested the old military route may have run along the East Branch of the Sacandaga River (along today’s Route 8), possibly using what is today called “The Old Military Trail”. It turned easterly down Bartman Road southwest of Bakers Mills, to Armstrong Road, then along Garnet Lake Road to Johnsburg, and on to Weverown and Riparius.
Another possible route I considered was north from “Baldwin’s Spring”, said to be the spot where Sir John Johnson stopped after his raid in Johnstown. The road then went by Lixard Pond to Garnet Lake (originally called Mill Creek Pond), and down Garnet Lake Road to Johnsburg, Wevertown and Riparius.
I now believe however, that the warpath through the Southern Adirondacks ran from Johnstown, north to “Baldwin’s Spring”, then northeast to Armstrong Road extension (now a snowmobile trail) to the “Old Military Trail”, thence along today’s Bartman Road to Coulter Road, then to Beaver Brook, today’s Mill Creek. Then along Mill Creek (travelers tended to follow waterways for easy access to drinking water and such streams usually coursed through fairly level terrain), either down Garnet Lake Road or down Hudson Street (the course of “Hodgson Street” was different back then and connected with Garnet Lake Road further south near Armstrong Road) and north up South Johnsburg Road to Johnsburg. From there it’s pretty clear that the old path followed Mill Creek to Wevertown and crossed the Hudson River at Riparius. After crossing the river it went north to the west shore of Schroon Lake and then ultimately to Bulwagga Bay on Lake Champlain.
There is another mystery as to the location of the road to John Thurman’s residence at “Elm Hill” (c. 1790 ). It is clear that settlers arrived from the south; Thurman gives directions by referencing the route from Sandy Hill (today’s Hudson Falls) and Caldwell (today’s Lake George). Unfortunately, his instructions do not indicate where the road crossed the Hudson River.
There are two possibilities. Alongside Thurman’s “Elm Hill” Compound is an old abandoned town road, once called Stratton Hill Road. It travels east through a beaver meadow and after about three miles, connects with the old Glen-Wevertown Road, just a hundred yards or so west of today’s Route 28. Along the old Glen – Wevertown Road, about a mile north of the Glen, is where famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady was born in about 1823 (the tannery at the Glen wasn’t built until 1838). It’s unlikely that early travelers crossed the Hudson River at today’s bridge at the Glen; the river there is narrow and the current fast. A mile or two downstream however, the river widens, the current slows, and the rocky riverbed would not have been difficult to cross.
Another option for early travelers might have been north from Caldwell to Warrensburg and then along the south shore of the Schroon River (originally known as East Branch of the Hudson River) to what is now Thurman Station. Just south of Thurman Station the river is wide and slow and relatively easy to cross.
That appears to have been a common crossing place for many years although it was not without its dangers; on April 28, 1812 James Warren, for whom the original Warren Inn and Warrensburg appear to be named, drowned there while returning from Nathaniel Griffing’s farm with a ballot box (national elections were held in April then).
Adding to the evidence that the Hudson River crossing to Thurman’s “Elm Hill” was located there is the fact that John Thurman’s agent, James Cameron, lived on the west shore of the Hudson there, as did Thurman’s nephew Richardson Thurman, who settled there after the war American Revolution.
Of course, there is also the possibility that both roads were in use before 1820.
Maps from Beer’s Atlas of Warren County (1876).