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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)

Whitehall, NY (aka - Skeensborough)

Whitehall, NY (aka – Skeensborough

Extent. — Lake Champlain is usually regarded as extending from Whitehall to St. John’s being 120 miles in a right line from south to north.  Sometimes it is regarded as terminating, towards the north, at Ash Island, four miles beyond the United States Line, and the early French writers have marked its termination towards the south at Ticonderoga.  The width of the lake varies from one fourth of a mile, to about 13 miles, with a mean width of perhaps 4 miles, and covering an area of about 500 square miles.  It receives these waters drained from about 7000 square mile.  Its depth is, in general, sufficient for the navigation of large vessels.  This lake is now connected by canals with the navigable waters of the Hudson and the St. Lawrence, and by railroads, with New York, Boston, Montreal and Ogdensburg.

Navigation. – The first steamboat built on this lake commenced running in 1809.  The line boats have always been favorably known to travelers either for business or pleasure, for the manner in which they have been managed — their neat and ordely appearance – obliging and attentive officers, and efficient crews.  At present there are two daily lines to and from Whitehall and Rouse’s Point, stopping at intermediate places and connecting with the various Railroads – also numerous Ferry Boats, Propellers and Tow Boats, besides more than 300 Sloops, Canal Boats, Barges, &c, &c.

Champlain Canal connects the navigable waters of the Hudson with Lake Champlain. It is 64 miles long, 40 feet wide at the top and 28 at the bottom, with a navigable feeder at Sandy Hill (Fort Edward) 11 miles long.  It has 21 locks, 14 by 90 feet.  Rise from the Hudson , 134 feet; fall to the lake, 54; was begun in 1816, finished in 1819, and it cost $1,079,872.  The route of this canal is interesting on account of its passes in part along the line of (General John) Burgoyne’s advance from Lake Champlain; near the scenes of his principal battles, and of his final surrender.  It passes near Fort Miller, Fort Edward, Fort Anne, the spot where Miss (Jane) McCrea was murdered and the tree to which Genl. Putnam was bound in 1757, &c.

Whitehall is situated at the junction of the Champlain Canal with the lake,  it contains about 2500 inhabitants; a Presbyterian, and Episcopal and a Methodist Church; a Bank, &c.  It is a great thoroughfare of travel and merchandise, is a place of considerable business, and is fast improving in appearance and comfort.  Before the revolution Major Skeen resided here, and the place was for sometime known by the name of Skeenesborough.   The Indian name of this place is said to be Kah-sha-quah-na or place where dip fish.  At this place steamboats arrive and depart daily, during the continuance of the navigation, forming a connected line by the Whitehall and Saratoga Railroad to Troy or Albany, also by the Rutland and Whitehall Railroad to Rutland, Boston, &c.  From here to Ticonderoga the lake is very narrow, averaging  less than a mile.  The widest place is about two miles, against the south part of Orwell.  At Shole’s landing, on mile south of Mount Independence, the width is only 40 rods.  Half a mile from Whitehall is what is called the Elbow, a short turn in the lake occasioned by the projection of a rocky point from the west.  It is with considerable difficulty that large boats pass it on account of the narrowness of the channel.  To avoid delay, the Railroad is continued to the north end of the village to a Steamboat landing north of the Elbow, where boat passengers take or leave the cars.  Half a mile further north South Bay opens to the southwest.

Fort Ticonderoga (NY) with Larrabee's Point (VT) in distance

Fort Ticonderoga (NY) with Larrabee’s Point (VT) in distance

Ticonderoga – This an Indian word signifying noisy; and was applied, by the natives to the falls in the outlet of Lake Horican. It was afterwards applied to the fortifications on the peninsula at the outlet, and now to a village two miles up the outlet and to the township in which they are situated.  Fort Ticonderoga occupied a conspicuous place in the military operations in this neighborhood.  Very little can now be seen but a few crumbling walls and the bold rocky point on which it stood.  Mount Defiance is at the southwest across the outlet of Lake Horicon, and Mount Independence on the east side of the lake.

The French first established themselves here in (1755), and in the course of two or three years has erected works, which they named Fort Carillon and which, with its natural advantages, rendered  is a place of considerable strength.

Abercrombies’ Defeat – In 1758, the English had collected an army of 16,000 men at the head of Lake Horicon, for the purpose of reducing the French works on Lake Champlain.  At the head of these Gen. Abercrombie embarked at Fort Wm. Henry on the 5th of July, and proceeded down the Lake in 900 bateaux and 136 whaleboats.  He landed at the lower end without difficulty.  As they advanced towards the French  works they had frequent skirmishes with the enemy, by which their progress was retarded, and in one of which the gallant Lord Howe killed.  The English columns at length became to much embarrassed and broken on account of the thickness of the woods, that Abercrombie deemed prudent to march back to the place where he had landed in the morning, and there encamped for  the night.

The French works were protected on the only assailable ground, by a line of breastworks and garrisoned by 6000 men, and as a reinforcement of 3000 men was on its way to join them, Abercrombie was anxious to get possession of the works before it should arrive. He, therefore, the next morning led forward his men in regular order and with undaunted firmeness, and commenced an immediate assault upon  the French lines.  The enemy opened upon them a well directed fire from their artillery, but the English contined to advance undismayed, till they became completely entangled and stopped by the trees and bushes which had been felled to impeded their approach.  For four hours they strove to cut theiry way thorough these with their swords, but without success.  All this time they were exposed to the deadly fire of the enemy, who were completely sheltered by their breastworks. The numbers of the assailants continualluy diminishing, and no prospect of success appearing, Abbercrombie thought it most prudent to retreat, and accordingly led back his shartered army to their former encampement, without being pursued or molestd by the enemy.  The English lost in this encounter in killed and wounded, nearly 2000 mend and 2500 stand of arms.  The next year this post was abonadoned by the French and was taken possession of by the English, under Gen. (Jeffrey) Amherst, without any fighting, by whom the works were repaired and strengthen.

Fort Ticonderoga & Mt. Independence

Fort Ticonderoga & Mt. Independence

Ticonderoga during the Revolution.  Ticonderoga was our first trophy in the war for Independence.  It was taken by surprise by Ethan Allen, (& Benedict Arnold), at the head of 83 men, mostly Green Mountain Boys, in the morning of the 10th of May, 1775, who demanded its surrender “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.” (references vary with his pronouncement) It remained in possession of the Americans till the advance of Burgoyne through the lake in 1777.  The Americans at this time occupied Ticonderoga, and Mount Independence, on the opposite side of the Lake , where they had some small batteries.  These posts were connected by a floating bridge 80 rods long and 12 feet wide.  Burgoyne first took possession of Mount Hope, situated about a mile to the northwest of Ticonderoga.  Mount Defiance situated at the southwest, completely commanded the American works, being 89 (sic) (under 800 feet from the waters of Lake Champlain)  above them, but was supposed to be of so difficult access, as to prevent any attempt of the British to plant cannon up it.  But in this they were mistaken, for on the 5th of July the British had taken possession of this mountain, and had commenced the erecting of a battery.  The American General, (Arthur) St. Clair, immediately called a council of officers, by whom it was agreed to abandon the post at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, and retreat to the South, which was carried into effect before the next morning.  The British then took possession and held it till the close of the war.

From Ticonderoga to Crown Point the width of the lake varies from 1 to 2 miles.  In this distance are two or three landing places, all on the east side. (Vermont)

Chimney Point, the landing opposite to Crown Point is in he south western corner of the town of Addison.  Here the French commenced their first settlement upon the lake in 1731.  When Crown Point fell into the hands of the English in 1759, this settlement was abandoned, and the remains of the chimneys, which they had erected in their houses, probably suggested tot he first of the English settlers the name of Chimney Point.  The stone wind-mill, mentioned by (Peter)  Kalm (A Swedish botanist and agriculturalist and writer of “Travels into North America” )  as being one or two musket shots to the east of Fort Frederick, and as having 5 or 6 small cannon mounted in it in 1749, and which has been supposed to have given name to this point was, most probably at the place opposite, marked by the ruins of what is called Grenadier’s Battery.

Crown Point – The French first established themselves here in 1731, and erected a fort which they called Fort St. Frederick, from Frederick which they called Fort St. Frederick, from Frederick Maurepas, the French Secretary of State.  At this place the French kept a garrison, and from it, during the colonial wars, sent out their parties of French and Indians to destroy the frontier English settlements and massacre the inhabitants.  When Kalm visited this place in 1749, there was considerable settlement around the fort with well cultivated gardens.  Within the fort was a neat little church.  The fort was built upon the brow of a steep bank of the lake, but a short distance from the water, and the remains of its bomb-proof covered way, ovens &c., are still to be seen, though in a very dilapidated state.

On the approach of the British army under Gen. (Jeffrey)  Amherst, in 1759, the French abandoned this fort and retired to the north end of the lake.  Amherst took immediate possession, but instead of repairing the old works, began a new fort, which was called Crown Point, about 200 yards to the southwest on higher and more commanding ground.  This fort was never completed, as is evident from an examination of the ditch, glacis, &c., at the present day; although it has been said that, the British government expended here no less than 2,000,000 sterling.

The ramparts are about 25 feet thick, and from 15 to 25 in height, and are riveted with solid masonry.  The curtains vary in length from 52 yards to 101 yards, and the whole circuit, measuring along the top of the rampart, including the bastions, is 853 yards, or 27 yards less than half a mile.  Within the fort were four large stone buildings, designed for barracks, and other uses, one of which is now wholly removed, and another, 287 feet long and two stories high, is nearly entire.  These were used as barracks, were built of solid masonry with chimneys, and the stones for their construction appear to have been taken from the ditch, and the chips used for levelling up the slope of the glacis.  In the north-eastern bastion is a large well, said to be 90 feet deep, and from this bastion was the descent to the covered way or underground communication with the lake.  The walls of this covered  way have fallen in, so as to render it impassable, but it may be traced through its whole length by a depression along the surface of the ground.  This fort was taken by surprise by a party of Green Mountain boys, under Seth Warner, on the same day that Ticonderoga surrender to Ethan Allen.

The width of the peninsula, upon which these works stand, is one mile, and is in no part much elevated above the site of the principal fort, but there is a considerable mountain on the west side of Bulwagga Bay, the nearest summit of which is, only 1 3/4 miles from the fort, and elevated 400 feet above it. The highest is distance 2 3/4 miles, and elevated 900 feet.  The whole peninsula is made up on dark lime-stone, covered in most parts with only a slight depth of earth, so that works upon it cannot be assailed by regular advances.  The width between Crown Point and Chimney Point is only about half a mile.  From Crown Point to Split Rock the average width of the lake is about  3 1/2 miles.

Port Henry is 1 1/2 miles from Crown Point Fort and a little north of Cedar Point.  Here is a good landing place, and here are the works of the Port Henry Iron Company.  There is a ferry between this place and Chimney Point.

Cedar Point Furnance Circa 1908 Port Henry, NY

Cedar Point Furnance Circa 1908 Port Henry, NY

Westport, the next land place on the N.Y. side, is situated on Northwest  Bay.  It is a thriving village of about 600 inhabitants.  A horse ferry boat plies between this place and Basin Harbor.

Basin Harbor, one of the best on the lake, is in the town of Ferrisburgh, Vt.,  and is five miles west from the city of Vergennes, and is the landing for it.

Fort Cassin, 3 miles north of Basin Harbor, and on the north side of the mouth of Otter Creek, was formerly a landing place of passengers for Vergennes.  It is 8 miles from the city of Vergennes, where (Thomas) Macdonough’s fleet was fitted out, with which he gained his victory.  Fort Cassin takes its name from Lieut. (Stephen) Cassin of the navy, who, with a small breast work at this place, and less than 200 men, commanded by himself and Capt. Thorton, of the artillery, on the 14 of May, 1814, repulsed a large British force in an attempt to enter the creek for the purpose of destroying the American flotilla before it should be ready for service.

Split Rock has been regarded as one of the greatest natural curiosities on the lake, and is one which did not escape the notice of the earliest French explores.  Rocher Fendu occupies a conspicuous place on Charlevoix’s map, of 1744. (Charlevoix’s  “Histoire generalle des Voyages” maps drawn by Jean Nicolas Bellin)  The part detached contains about half an acre, rises about 30 feet above the water, is covered with bushes and is separated about 12 feet from the main rock.  Some have supposed the chasm to have been produced by the breaking off of the promontory, in  consequence of being undermined by the lake, or by some great convulsion of nature.  But the slightest examination shows that the rocky point was here originally crossed by what geologists call a dike, the materials of which have been washed out, forming a chasm in the more solid rock through which the lake flows when high.  The chasm, instead of being unfathomable, as some have represented, is so hallow that no water flows through when the lake is low.  A few rods south of Split Rock stands a light house.  The width of the lake between Split rock and Thompson’s Point is only about a mile.  From this place the width of the lake increases towards the north, and at McNeil’s Ferry, between Charlotte landing and the village of Essex, it wants 20 rods of 3 miles.  This one of the oldest and best ferries across the lake,  The passage is by a small steamboat called the Boquet.  Just north of Charlotte landing the delightful residence of Charles McNeil, Esq.

Essex is a pleasant village, containing about 600 inhabitants.  from this pace the width of the lake increases as it follows north, and at Burlington it amounts to about 10 miles; and there is the greatest expanse of water, uninterrupted by islands.  On the way from Essex to Burlington, are passed the Four Brothers, (lying at some distance, ) Juniper Island and Rock Dunder on the left, and Pottier’s Point and mouth of Shelburne Bay on the right.

Spilt Rock Lighthouse Lake Champlain

Spilt Rock Lighthouse Lake Champlain

Four Brothers are four small islands lying about seven miles south-west from Burlington, and being out of the usual line of navigation, they are resorted to by gulls and other water-fowl for he purpose of raising their young.  On Charlevoix’s map of 1744, they are called Isle de quatre Vents.

Juniper Island lies about three miles south-west from Burlington – is composed of slate-rock, with precipitous banks about thirty feet high, and covered with about a dozen acres of  good soil.  A light-house was erected here in 1826.

Rock Dunder is a solitary rock rising out of the water between Juniper Island and Pottier’s Point, to the height of about thirty feet.

Pottier’s Point is two and half miles nearly south from the landing at Burlington, and at the mouth of Shelburne Bay.  On the east side of this point, just within the bay is a ship-yard, called the Harbor.  It is three miles from the steam boat landing in Burlington, and although situated in the township of Shelburne, may be regarded s the Burlington ship-yard.  Here several of the large steamboats have been built, and they are usually laid up here during the winter.

Through the greater part of the passage from Ticonderoga to Burlington, the traveler has a fine view of the Green Mountains in Vermont, stretching along at the east, particularly of the Camel’s Hump, and the Nose and Chin of the Mansfield Mountains, lying further north.

To be continued.

This article is presented to our readers to inform and promote the interest in local history of the Adirondacks and the Lakes Champlain and George. 

As we enter the Holiday Season, please visit our Olde Post Office Book and Gift Shop for books and photographs of this region. Looking for a special gift?  We have decorative china ware, jewelry and other items.

11/25/16 wgd

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