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Lake Horicon & Lake Champlain

In preparing for one of next year’s themed programs here at the Ticonderoga Historical Society ~ “Two-Hundred Years of Steam boating” ~ this writer located a small publication in our library, “Lake Horicon and Lake Champlain.”  It was published in 1858 and written as a travelogue.  Although quaint in its writing it provides the reader of today with an insight to the state of development and commerce of the mid-nineteenth century about these two lakes.  It also provides a sense of how this area in history and place  was marketed to a growing traveling public.  Note:  Edited for printer errors, clarity and documentation.)


Map of Lake George (Horicon)

Map of Lake George (Horicon)

(Lake George*)

Eighteen miles from Saratoga Springs, on the way to Lake Horicon, are Glens Falls.  These are a considerable curiosity.  The fall in the Hudson (River) is about fifty five feet, which affords a vast amount of water power.  The Plank Road from Moreau to Lake Horicon and the Saratoga and Whitehall Railroad, crosses the Hudson at these falls.  The Glens Falls Feeder, 11 miles long, connects the river above the falls with the Champlain Canal near Sandy Hill. (Fort Edward)  The road from Glens Falls to Caldwell, (Lake George Village) at the Head of Lake Horicon, passes near Bloody Pond.  This is near the place of action between Col. (Ephraim) Williams and Gen. (Baron de) Dieskau, in (1757) and into this pond were thrown the bodies of those killed in the battle.  Hence its name.

Caldwell is delightfully situated at the south west end of the lake, and contains about two hundred inhabitants.

This place is much resorted to in summer, by travelers and parties of pleasure.  A fine new boat was built here in 1857, (Minnie Ha Ha) which runs regularly to and from the outlet of the lake at Ticonderoga, connecting with the steamboats on Lake Champlain.  Every lover of fine and picturesque scenery should not fail during a northern tour, of passing over this lake, the most beautiful of any on this continent.  Near Caldwell village, at the south end of the lake, are ruins of Fort Wm. Henry, and about a mile further to the south-east are those of Fort George.

Bloody Pond

Bloody Pond

Lake Horicon is so nearly connected with Lake Champlain, both locally and historically, as to be as a part of it.  It was visited by (Samuel de)  Champlain in 1609, and it might appear doubtful, from his own statement, whether it was not this lake that he gave his own name.  Succeeding French writers, however, confined the name of Champlain to the larger of these lakes, and called this Lake St. Sacrament, on account of the purity of it(s) waters.  The Indian name was Horicon.  Mr. (Horatio Gates) Spafford, in his (A) Gazetteer of (the State) N.Y. (1813) says that, the natives called it Canideri-oit, or the tail of the lake, on account, probably, of its connection with Lake Champlain.

Lake Horicon is 36 miles long, and from 2 to 3 miles wide, and is elevated 243 feet above the tide waters of the Hudson.  The scenery around this lake is very much admired.  The most interesting points of view are at Fort George, at a place north of Shelving Rock, 14 miles and at Sabbath Day Point, 24 miles from the head of the lake.  The last view is taken southward; the others towards the north.  This lake abounds with small and beautiful islands, among the most important of which are Diamond Island, Tea Island and Long IslandRoger’s Rock or Slide, and Anthony’s Nose, the former on the west and the latter on the east side, are two precipices worthy of note.  Howe’s Landing, (Baldwin Road, Ticondeorga)  just behind an island (Prisoners) at the outlet of the lake, denotes the spot where the unfortunate expedition of (Gen. James) Abercrombie landed, and derives its name from Lord Howe, (George Augustus, 3rd Viscount) who accompanied and fell in that expedition, in 1758.


The Narrows Lake George

This lake has been the scene of several important battles. One, which has been generally known as the “Battle of Lake George,” was fought at the head of the lake in 1755, between the French under the Baron Dieskau, and the English under Sir W(m). Johnson. Dieskau attacked the English in their encampment, but was defeated and slain.  The loss of the English was 130 slain, and that of the French about 700. (various references reported different numbers)

The most shocking transaction in the vicinity of this lake, was the massacre at Fort Wm. Henry in 1757.  A British and provincial army having been collected at Fort Edward  and Fort Wm. Henry under Gen. (Daniel) Webb, for the reduction of the French works on Lake Champlain, the French sent a large army up the lake under Gen. (Louis-Joseph de) Montcalm, for their defense.  Gen. Webb, then at Fort Wm. Henry, learning from Maj.(Israel) Putnam that this force had entered Lake Horicon, returned immediately to Fort Edward, and the day following he sent Col. Monroe,(sic)  (Monro)

With his regiment, to reinforce the garrison at the Lake.  The day after Monroe’s arrival, the French appeared  at the fort, laid siege to it and demanded its surrender.  The garrison, consisting of 2500 men, defended themselves with much bravery for several days, with the expectation of succor from Fort Edward.  But as none came, Monroe was obliged, on the 9th of August, to capitulate.  By the articles of capitulation, all the public property was to be delivered to Montcalm, and the garrison were to march out with their arms and baggage, and to be escorted to Fort Edward on condition of not serving against the French within the period of eighteen months.

The garrison had no sooner marched out of the fort than a scene of perfidy and barbarity commenced, which it is imposible for language to describe.  Regardless of the articles of capitulation, the Indians attached to the French army, fell upon the defenseless soldiers, plundering and murdering all that fell in their way.  The French officers were idle spectators of this bloody scene; nor could all the entreaties of Monroe, persuade them to furnished the promised escort.  On that fatal day about 1500 of the English were either murdered by the savages or carried by them into captivity never to return.

The day following these horrid transactions, Major Putnam was despatched from Fort Edward with his rangers, to watch the motions of the enemy.  He reached Lake Horicon just after the rear of the enemy had left the shore, and the scene which was presented, he describes as awful indeed.  “The fort was entirely destroyed; the barracks, out-houses and buildings were a heap of ruins; the cannon, stores, boats and vessels were all carried away; the fires were still burning; the smoke and stench offensive and suffocating; innumerable fragments of human skulls, and bones and carcasses half consumed, were still frying and boiling in the decaying fires; dead bodies, mangled with scalping knives and tomahawks, in all the wantonness of Indian barbarity, were every where to be seen; more than 100 women, butchered and shockingly managed, lay upon the ground, still weltering in their gore.  Devastation, barbarity and horror every where appeared, and the spectacle presented, was too diabolical and awful, either to be endured or described.”

*The Publishers see no good reason why the original Indian name (Horicon,) of this beautiful lake should be changed.  … Names are the only mementos we have of a departed race.”


Map of Lake Champlain

Map of Lake Champlain

This Lake, on account of the beauty and variety of its scenery and its historical incidents, is one of the most interesting bodies of water in North America.  It was discovered by Samuel (de) Champlain, on the 4th of July, 1609.  Having founded the colony of Quebec in 1608, in June, 1609, he, with a number of French and Indians, proceeded in a shallop up the St. Lawrence and River Iroquois, (now Richlieu,) till stopped by the Chambly rapids.  From this place he determined to proceed in Indian canoes, but the Frenchmen manifested great reluctance, and only two could be persuaded to accompany him.  With these and about 60 of the natives (having transported their canoes by the rapids, ) he embarked on the 2d of July, and proceeding southward, on the 4th of July entered the lake.  Champlain and his party proceeded along the west shore, (NYS)  advancing by water during the night and retiring into the forests by day, to avoid being discovered by the Iroquois, between whom and the Canada Indians a war was then carried on.  As they drew near the enemy’s country they proceeded with great caution, but, on the 9th of July, in the evening, they fell in with a large war party of the Iroquois.  Both parties drew up to the shore, and the night was spent in preparation for battle, and in signing and taunting each other.  In the morning an engagement took place, but the Frenchmen being armed with muskets, it was decided in favor of Champlain and his party, a large number of the Iroquois being slain and several taken prisoners.  With these they returned immediately to their shallop.  Champlain  says the battle was fought in Lat. 43 degree and some minutes, and the place is supposed to have been on the west shore of Lake Horicon.  The present name of Lake Champlain was given by its discoverer during his first visit, as he informs us in his journal.  He was not drowned  in its waters, as has been sometimes said, but died at Quebec in 1635.  One of the Indian names of this lake was Petawa bouque, signifying alternate land and water, in allusion to the numerous islands and projecting points of land.  Another is said the mouth or door of the country.  If so, it was very appropriate, as it forms the gate-way between the country on the St. Lawrence and that on the Hudson.  In more recent times the Indians called it Corlear, (Arendt van) in honor of a Dutchman, who saved a war party of Canada Indians from being destroyed by the Mohawks, in 1665. (Considered a friend of the natives.  He founded Schenectady, NY in 1662)