Saturday, September 14, 2019

The French Cannon: An Adirondack Legend

Mt Defiance cannon demonstrationThe subject of cannons in the woods came up while I was sharing a cup of coffee with retired DEC Forest Ranger Terry Perkins at our camp on Stillwater Reservoir. In the middle of our discussion of the old roads and trails of the area Terry paused. “Did you ever hear the story of how a lost hunter once found an old cannon back there in the woods?”

“Yes,” I said, “I’ve heard that story before connected to the old Albany Road.”

“I can tell you about that,” Terry continued, “Back maybe in the 1970s or 80s I was part of a search for a hunter lost north of the reservoir. We found him wandering around a few miles in. After we got him out I talked to him a bit. He said he spent the night near a little pond with cliffs on the north side. He claimed he found a partly buried old cannon back there with French writing on it.”

“Was he able to remember its location?”

“Yes, he had headed north from the reservoir on the Red Horse Trail to Salmon Lake then followed an old logging road off to the west. He was able to describe the spot pretty well. You know me. I couldn’t let that rest. As soon as I got the chance I went back in there to see if I could find that cannon.”

“Did you find it?”

“Well, yes, sort of. I located the pond he described pretty easily. It’s got no name on the survey maps. In an open area near the shore I found a big rusted metal cylinder sticking out of the duff. It didn’t take much to see that it was one of those old round wood stoves. There must have been a hunting camp back there at one time.”

“Did it really have French writing on it?”

“Well, no. It had writing on it all right, but it was just some cursive letters in English.”

It all fell into place. It wasn’t a cannon but it looked a little like one. It didn’t have French letters on it but the letters looked a little foreign. It wasn’t very near the old Albany Road but it was near an old woods road in that general vicinity. That’s how Adirondack legends are born.

Before we returned to our main topic Terry wryly noted, “I still call that pretty spot Cannon Pond. Maybe someday that name will show up on maps, who knows?”

A few days after this conversation I spoke with Kristy Rubyor, assistant to the director of the Goodsell Museum in Old Forge. I told her Terry’s story. She chuckled and responded, “Did you ever hear the story of how there is an old cannon filled with gold lost some where back in the woods?”

Photo courtesy Fort Ticonderoga.

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Ed Pitts is a retired attorney and Administrative Law Judge who lives in Syracuse, NY. He is a past president of the Rap-Shaw Club, an Adirondack sportsman’s club founded in 1896, now located on an island in the Stillwater Reservoir. He has a life-long interest in local history especially of the Adirondacks and Central New York.

4 Responses

  1. Tom Kligerman says:

    Thanks for the “tall tale” and Good to hear Terry Perkins name, the legendary ranger of Stillwater. Back in October 1984 my friend John and I made an attempt to pond hop with my Mad River canoe from Stillwater to the Oswegatchie, following parts of the Red Horse trail . We got mixed up north of Crooked Lake and long story short, ended up leaving my canoe at the lake walking back to the reservoir and having no boat, walking completely around the north west end back to our vehicle. Weeks later, after finding my canoe, looking it up by the Mad River serial number which I had registered (!), Terry called me! He and his assistant Ranger found our packs at a beaver pond near Pettis Pond (unnamed on most maps), and brought the packs back to Crooked Lake. Finally, in early November Terry gave us a motorboat ride across the reservoir, we walked to Crooked Lake retrieved the canoe and packs and sheepishly headed home. To this day, I still want to go back and complete that canoe carry! In part because its a great trip and in part to honor my old friend, author Paul Jamieson, who regretted not having done that trip as a younger man (he lived to 103).

  2. Meredith Leonard says:

    John, Love the cannon!

  3. Harv Sibley says:

    Great story,….thanks!

  4. Bill Hutchens says:

    Another great Adirondack tale!

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