Wednesday, February 7, 2024

When The Ghost Whispers “Dig”

This story is my salute to Black History Month. Written as historical fiction, this tale actually represents an intensive, one might even say possessed, multi-year endeavor of excavation, research, analysis and discovery.

I have long been fascinated by the fact that my land and home here in Jefferson County, on a long, low plateau nestled between Watertown and the War of 1812 stronghold at Sackets Harbor, has direct links to the home I grew up in in Saranac Lake.

Not only were both part and parcel of “Macomb’s Purchase”, but the “Military Road” that runs past my current home’s property was originally planned as a military supply route linking Sacket’s Harbor to Plattsburgh, which would have taken it directly past my boyhood home in Saranac Lake.

As I slowly unearthed the deeds, documents, maps, building foundations and artifacts that inspired this story, those historical/geographical linkages, intertwined with my lifelong awareness of the history of John Brown’s Farm & the Underground Railroad, led me to wonder.

Was I uncovering an unwritten chapter in an untold story? Was there a post-war linkage between John Brown’s Farm, The Underground Railroad, and the forgotten black sailors who bravely manned Sackets Harbor’s battleship guns?

I cannot say definitely that I know that questions answer. What I CAN say with certainty is this:

I have the deeds. I have the surveys. I have the old wells, building foundations and artifacts, all painstakingly uncovered under the guiding hand of ghosts. When they whispered, I dug. I shall go to my grave believing that this is their story.

Folks are certainly free to draw their own conclusions. All I can say in response is,

“When Ghosts Whispered, I Dug.”

For the full story, click the link and read on:

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A veteran north country writer & story teller raised in Saranac Lake, Dick enjoys “Living in the Day I Am In”, and then writing about it. A severely speech impaired 3x cancer survivor, his pen is his voice. He shares many of his Adirondack Outlaw adventures & tales here. Read the rest on his blog @

3 Responses

    • Thank you, Mr. Girard. There were over 400 African American naval seamen serving at Sackets Harbor during the War of 1812. They (and their families & loved ones) did not simply disappear after the war. They landed somewhere. That “somewhere” most likely being here in northern New York. The last major battle of the War of 1812 was fought on Lake Champlain. Were there black seamen & sailors on those warships too? Where did they land after the war? What are their stories? All of this paralleling the post war rise of John Brown’s Farm and the Underground Railroad. What are the historical linkages there? I can but speculate. I would welcome any insight, information or input. There may well be a forgotten piece of America’s Black history, and an untold piece of that story buried along that “Old Military Road” route, vestiges of which are still visible through the course of the Adirondacks & North Country.

  1. Pat Boomhower says:

    What wonderful revelation. I do believe you are spot on in “digging” out your property’s history.

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