top of page

Lake Horicon & Lake Champlain, Part II

Lake Horicon and Lake Champlain was originally published in 1858 and written as a travelogue.  Quaint in its writing it does provide the reader of today with an insight to the state of development and commerce of those communities along its shores; and,  how this water base transit systems provided the means to deliver their economic products through this north-south “corridor of commerce” during the mid-nineteenth century between the great cities of Canada and New York.

As a Holiday Season special gift from us to our readers we are offering from our “Olde Post Office Book & Gift Shop” another book published in 1858 – “Home Sketches of Essex County – Ticonderoga” written by Flavius (Joseph) Cook.  An in depth review of our town’s earliest history to 1857.   Mentioned that you read this on the Ticonderoga Historical Society’s web page or our “Facebook” page and get it for the discounted price of $10.*

*No other discount apply

Burlington – Mr. Charles Lanman, in his Sketches of Adventure, says:  “Of all the towns I have seen, Burlington, in Vermont, its decidedly one of the most beautiful.  It stands on the shore of Lake Champlain, and from the water to its eastern extremity is a regular elevation which rises to the height of some three hundred feet.”  It is the most important town on Lake Champlain; is a port of entry, and by recent arrangements between our government and Great Britain, is made one of the two ports (Plattsburgh being the other,) on Lake Champlain, at which merchandise sent from England through the United States into Canada, is entered for inspection and exportation.  The principal streets running east and west are one mile in length and these are crossed nearly at right angles by others running north and south, cutting the whole village into regular squares.  The village contains about 7000 inhabitants, and is steadily advancing in wealth and population.  It is the seat of the University of Vermont, which is a flourishing institution, having a large and increasing Medical College occupying a separate building connected with it, a well selected library of about 8000 volumes, a good chemical and philosophical apparatus, and a respectable cabinet of natural history.  Besides the university buildings, the village contains eight Churches; a large Town Hall, which cost $30,000; a Custom House; a Public High School; a Female Seminary; four Banks; four Printing Offices – two daily and three weekly newspapers; seven Hotels and Taverns; about sixty Stores – four of which are Book-Stores.  There are three lines of Railroads, by each of which trains arrive and depart twice or more, daily, excepting Sundays.  During the continuance of navigation, there are regular lines of steamboats to Whitehall and Rouse’s Point, a Steam Ferry to Port Kent and Plattsburgh, besides numerous arrivals and departures of irregular boats, sloops, &c.  There are four extensive wharves with storehouses, and two extensive freight depots on the lake shore, with passenger depots near the lake, and one near the center of the village.  A Breakwater has been built in front of the wharves, for the protection of shipping.  Opposite to Burlington the width of the lake is 9 ¾ miles, and the soundings taken at eight different places along the line, vary from 50 to about 300 feet.

The buildings of the University of Vermont are delightfully situated at the eastern extremity of the village, at an elevation of 277 feet above the level of the lake.  The prospect from the dome of the principal edifice is, at some season of the year, one of unrivaled beauty, and well repays the toil of ascent.  Here is spread out, as upon a map before the eye, the busy village; the lake, stretching from south to north, with its bays and islands, its steamboats and other water craft; the Winooski river, dashing through dark and frightful chasms and then winding gently through the meadows at the north; and, more remote, the forests and farms and smiling villages; and, to complete the picture, varied outline of mountains, many of whose summits mingle with clouds.  Population of the town about 8000.


At the lake shore, adjoining the Vermont central Railroad wharves and freight depots about 15 to 20 acres of land has been made by extensive wharves and filling the lake from the adjoining banks.  A large building 400 feet long and four stories high filled with Machinery of various kinds driven by steam and fully occupied was burned about the first of April (1858).  Three large buildings are now (May) being erected on the same grounds for various mechanical purposes, and will be completed next month.  There are Iron Foundries, with steam saw and planning mills which are fully occupied in manufacturing lumber, for which this is the principal market between Troy and Montreal, from which much of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are supplied with Pine lumber from Canada.

Winooski Village is situated at the Lower Falls in the Winooski River, and 2 miles from the steamboat landing in Burlington.  Here is abundant and excellent water power, which has, hitherto, been only partially improved.  At this place is on extensive Woolen Manufactory, a Cotton Manufactory, Flouring Mill, and several other manufactories and mills.  A large Block Manufactory, Satinet Manufactory, and several mills have been destroyed by fire, which have not yet been rebuilt.  Population about 2000.

From Burlington to Port Kent, (10 miles) the course is a little north of west.  Juniper Island and the Four Brothers lie at the left, and on the right, first Lone-rock or Sharpshin Point, near which is site of the Vermont Episcopal Institute (now in progress of erection), and a little north Appletree Point, and still farther and more remote, Colchester PointWinooski River enters the lake between the last two. Just before reaching Port Kent, a considerable Island is passed lying on the left, called Schuylers Island.  The French called it Isle au Chapon.  The point of the main land lying between this island and Port Kent, is called Point Trembleau.

Port Kent is a pleasant little village, which owes its origin to the late Elkanah Watson, Esq., and has grown up within a few years.  It has a convenient dock from which is shipped the greater part of the immense quantity of iron manufactured in this section of the country.  On the Ausable River, which runs through a region abounding in iron ore and empties into the lake a little north of this port, are the flourishing manufacturing villages of Ausable Forks, Clintonville and Keeseville. On this river are many interesting falls. Those at Birmingham, (2miles from Port Kent) and the Ausable Chasm below through which the river passes, are well worth the notice of the curious traveler.  From port Kent to the Ausable Forks, there is a plank road about 20 miles in length.


“Running the Rapids” of the Ausable Chasm

From Port Kent to Plattsburgh, the course of navigation of the regular passenger vessels is, usually, along the western shore of the lake.

Port Jackson, the only intermediate landing place, is nearly west of the south end of Valcour Island, noted for a severe naval conflict, on the 11th of October, 1776, between the American flotilla under Gen. Arnold, and the British under Capt. Prindle.  The battle was fought a little north of Port Jackson.  Five or six miles nearly east from Port Jackson, was the scene of the conflagration of the steamer Phoenix, on the morning of the 5th of September, 1819.  Previous to the settlement of Port Kent, the steamboats proceeded directly from Burlington to Plattsburgh, along the west shore of Grand Island, as a part of them do at present.  On the morning of the occurrence the Phoenix left Burlington about one o’clock, against a strong north wind – About 3 o’clock, while off nearly west of the south end of Grand Isle, the boat was discovered to be on fire, and all efforts to extinguish it were unavailing.  There were at this time, 44 persons on board, 31 of whom entered the small boats, and succeeded with difficulty, in reaching a small island about a mile to the windward, called Providence Island.  The remaining 143 were soon obliged to commit themselves to the water upon bits of plank and such other things as were within their reach.  The small boats retuned just after day-light and succeeded in saving 5 of those who had managed to keep themselves afloat.  The remaining 7 were drowned. The wreck drifted southward and lodged on a reef extending from Colchester Point.  This is the only accident worthy of notice which has occurred during nearly 50 years of steam navigation on this lake.


Colchester Reef Lighthouse Lake Champlain

Plattsburgh is flourishing village pleasantly situated on both sides of the river Saranac.  It has 5 churches and about 3000 inhabitants.  Fouquet’s Hotel, near the Landing and   Railroad Station, has been owned and occupied by father and son some fifty years.  It is a large, well arranged and well-furnished house – has a fine flower garden – is pleasantly situated on the shore of the bay and is not excelled by any House in the Valley of the Lake.  There are also other good public houses.  There are falls in the river here of about 40 feet, affording a large amount of water power. On these there are several manufacturing establishments, but they are only partially occupied.   Plattsburgh is connected by Railroad with Montreal and with the rouses’ Point and Ogdensburg road.  It is a military post of the United States; and a little south of the village, near the lake shore, the government has erected extensive stone Barracks, and a permanent Breakwate4r for the protection of the harbor.  During the last war with Great Britain, this place was the scene of an important engagement, both on land and water.

Plattsburgh & Montreal Railroad extends from this place to Caughnewaga, 9 miles above Montreal, on the south side of the river.  Here is the ancient village of the Caughnewaga Indians, where they still reside, having a church, &c.  Travelers by this route cross the river by steamboat, in a very picturesque place, just above the rapids, (where the river is never frozen,) landing at Lachine [thence by Railroad to Montreal.)

Battle of Plattsburgh - Sept. 1814

Battle of Plattsburgh – Sept. 1814

Battle of Plattsburgh – On the lst of September, 1814, Gen. (George) Prevost entered the United States at the head of 14,000 men, and advanced towards Plattsburgh, which was then garrisoned by only one brigade, commanded by Gen. Macomb.  Prevost’s advance was slow and cautious, and in the meantime every effort was made by Macomb to call in the neighboring militia.  On the 7th, Prevost appeared before Plattsburgh, and till the 11th awaited the arrival of the British flotilla, being employed in the meantime in erecting batteries.  The American flotilla, commanded by Commodore (Thomas) Macdonough, and consisting of the Saratoga of 26 guns the Eagle of 20 , the Ticonderoga of 17, the Preble of 7, and ten gun-boats carrying 16 guns, two sloops of 11 each, and 13 gun-boats, carrying 18 guns – with 1050 men, and commanded by Commodore (George) Downie.  The American ships were anchored in a line extending in a direction nearly north from Crab Island.  In the morning of the 11th of Sept, the British flotilla came around Cumberland Head, and about 9 o’clock anchored in a line parallel to the American, and about 300 yards distant.  In this situation, the whole force on both sides became engaged, and after a severe