Wednesday, July 26, 2017

French & Indian War Bayonet Discovered Near Loon Lake

Loon Lake - Johnsburg Area in 1805Last fall a rusted old military bayonet was unearthed on private property just east of Loon Lake in Warren County. It was taken to David Starbuck, a noted local historical and industrial archeologist who has written extensively on Fort William Henry on Lake George.

Coincidentally, on that day Jesse Zuccaro, a student who has focused his studies on early bayonets, happened to be visiting Starbuck. Together they inspected this new find. After careful examination they concluded it was French in design and probably dated between 1728 and the 1740s. Twenty thousand of these bayonets were made and sent to New France prior to the American Revolution.

French and Indian War Bayonet Found Near Loon Lake 2017This discovery provides additional evidence that there was a French & Indian warpath through the area of southeastern Adirondacks.

Arthur Pound in his book Johnson of the Mohawks (1930) features a map of just such a route from 1750-1780.  The route is labeled “Sir John Johnsons’ Trail” and indicates the warpath ran from Fort Johnson in Johnstown north to just west of Crane Mountain, then crossed the Hudson River, continuing northward to the Schroon River, ultimately ending at Bulwagga Bay on Lake Champlain.

Trails, Military Roads and Forts from Albany to Crown Point 1750-1780That route would have had to pass through the area of Loon Lake. At the time it was probably no more than a swamp or wetland. According to H.P. Smith’s History of Warren County, the first impoundment of the waters – the beginning of what would become Loon Lake was likely a dam at the outlet built around 1805 by Titus and Levi Mead.

Sir John Johnson was the loyalist son of Sir William Johnson, Colonel in the NYS Militia during the French & Indian War. During King George’s War in the 1740s, Colonial Governor George Clinton ordered William Johnson and his men north to “harass and alarm” French settlements along Lake Champlain to Montreal.

I asserted in my book Echoes in These Mountains (2008) that it was likely Sir William Johnson used the same trail, in reverse direction, that his son Sir John Johnson used in May of 1780 to rescue 143 loyalists and then burn 120 barns, mills and houses, and destroy the wheat crop of his former hometown of Johnstown. I discussed several routes that trail may have taken through northwest Warren County.

One route would have been north up along the Sacandaga River from Fish Creek/Northampton , through today’s villages of Hope and Wells, then through today’s Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area along “the Military Trail” on Eleventh Mountain. Another possibility would have been to come north from the area of Fish House/Northampton through the wilderness to “Baldwins Spring” in Stoney Creek. Baldwins Spring was known for its dependable drinkable water as early as the mid-1700s. The trail would have then likely headed northeast through the woods along what is today’s Bartman Road, Coulter Road, Garnet Lake Road and then through Johnsburg (not to be confused with Johnstown, NY), crossing the Hudson River near today’s Riparius, NY, then along the area of Loon Lake to the Schroon River, then north to Bulwagga Bay on Lake Champlain. An alternative route from the area of Eleventh Mountain would have traversed Kibby Pond, Lixard Pond, and then to today’s Garnet Lake and Garnet Lake Road.

swivel gunA few decades ago a gun of the type that could have been at the Battle of Valcour Island in the American Revolution was found in Johnsburg Township. Vincent Schaefer, in his unpublished work Field Guide to the Landmarks of the Long Path of New York: Northern Section, writes that he had it carbon dated it to the mid-1700s at the Watervliet Arsenal and it measured eighteen inches long, 4 inches in diameter at the large end of the taper, was made of cast iron and had a bore of one inch.” It was said to have rolled out of a sandy bank when the road was being widened and was found to be in excellent condition, despite its age.

Schaefer states that it was found in a “dog-leg” of Garnet Lake Road when that road was straightened out in the 1960s, likely about two miles downriver from the Garnet Lake Dam. A member of the town highway crew that unearthed it has stated that it was found along the old route of the Bartman Road about 1/10 mile from NYS Route 8. Unfortunately, no one thought to have the exact location documented when it was found. Years ago Tom Aksten found “cannonballs” in his garden when preparing the soil for planting a few years back.

musket ballsThese were donated to the Johnsburg Historical Society in 2016. Although they seem to corroborate the story of the early swivel gun, they are of a different caliber.

That is not to say that they were not enjoined in some way. In 1754 Militia Colonel George Washington lead his American-English troops into the wilds of southwestern Pennsylvania. South of Pittsburgh they built a fort they called Fort Necessity. Washington’s presence there, almost single-handily, started the French & Indian War.

When setting up the fort it was discovered that the swivel cannon and cannon balls they had lugged all the way from Williamsburg, through the wilderness 306 miles to Fort Necessity, did not match; the cannon balls were of the wrong diameter and would not work in the cannon they had brought. Perhaps near today’s Bakers Mills, NY the soldiers made a similar discovery and abandoned the swivel gun by burying it in a sandy hill, perhaps with the hope of recovering it at a later date, and tossed the ammunition into the woods.

What the old swivel gun, the ball shot, and now the bayonet seem to make increasingly clear is that there was indeed a warpath through the southeastern Adirondacks used during the French & Indian War as well as the American Revolution.

Photos from above: Loon Lake – Johnsburg Area in 1805, courtesy Adirondack Atlas; French and Indian War Bayonet Found Near Loon Lake in 2017; Trails, Military Roads and Forts from Albany to Crown Point 1750-1780; Swivel Gun; and Musket Balls. More bayonet photos are available here.

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Adirondack historian Glenn Pearsall is the author of Echoes in these Mountains (2008), When Men and Mountains Meet (2013), and the Adirondack novel, Leaves Torn Asunder (2016).
In 2000, Glenn Pearsall and his wife Carol established and funded the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life of year round residents of the Adirondack Park.

When not pursuing a passion for history and philanthropy, Pearsall is a senior partner and Portfolio Manager for a wealth management team in Glens Falls, NY. He and his wife Carol live near the base of Crane Mountain in Johnsburg.

5 Responses

  1. John Barge says:

    Excellent story! Thanks for the research and drawing our attention to such an interesting time.

  2. Richard L. Daly says:

    Fascinating item about the bayonet-find on Loon Lake (Warren County).
    I just stayed at Conway’s on Rte 8, on the west shore.
    I shall share this with the proprietors.
    Thanks, Glenn for Carol’s and your support of things ADK!

  3. rc says:

    great article with cool map included from the Adirondack Atlas.
    Open the map and slide the opacity bar to see 1804 map and today’s map overlaid.

  4. Thx Glenn! Glad to hear yet another echo frossm these mountains. Very exciting to think Garnet Lake road was a military path for the fr. & indian war & the amer revolution. As I think there may not b “coincidences” it might have been destiny for the teacher & student to be there when the “find” was presented for study.
    Years ago ,?Don had found a canon ball near his home in Tuxedo park – he had it on display in his office. Most people don’t know who to call or be in touch with when a find is made, and/or as reported in the article, don’t mark the exact spot for researchers. Pop. increase, glob. warming etc are reasons for the unearthing of some gems – the public needs to be made aware of how to deal with the find, properly& respectfully. Thx for the info, the map and picture/ good reporting dear historian, I now know who to call when the next bayonet or canon ball rolls my way! Ya Neva know! ? See u soon -judy

  5. Justin Bacon says:

    Hello this all makes me very happy because I grew up in bakersmills and currently working on lake George I have found some Flint at work and hoped I could look closer to home so this assures me I should find something around where I live now and grew up. Thank you for your information!