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Ticonderoga’s Old Roads

Here in Ticonderoga we may say with truth that we are still using one of America’s oldest roads.  The carry from Lake George to the navigable water below the lower falls was used from a time to which the memory of man runneth not as a highway for the north and south travel thru the wilderness.  Much of our village street known as The Portage follows this ancient path.  Early maps show also a trail leaving Lake George at Cook’s Bay and traveling Trout Brook Valley to Ticonderoga.

When (General) Burgoyne (British) brought his army down the valley, (1777)  he disembarked the column that proceeded from Crown Point by water at Kirby Point (current site of International Paper Co.‘s Ti Mill) and following an ancient trail, came across the flats to the rocky outcrop extending from the Delano to the McCaughin Road just north of the crossing of the new cut-off.  Portions of his forces were encamped there and at Mt. Hope.  By this we are led to conjecture that this must have been an old Indian trail providing an alternate to paddling down the stream and around the Fort promontory or the reverse. This is borne out by an account that has come down to us thru Mr. Thomas J. Cook.  Tom’s grandfather was born in 1813 thus having had personal contact with those that were contemporary with Burgoyne and his invasion.  His testimony  passed on by Mr. Cook is that Burgoyne’s Indians were encamped beside this trail some three fourths of a mile from Kirby Point.  This places them on the south side of the woods that shelters the Forest Theater (Leerkes Farm).

Rds - burgoyne ti map

After the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen in 1775, the colonists built a bridge approximately where the present one stands (near the wastewater plant) .  A map prepared by the U.S. Engineers and thought to be of a date about 1810 shows the stream bridged just to the north of the present structure with no highway to the north of the bay which is now filled with refuse from the mill.  Joseph Cook in 1858 (Home Sketches)  speaks of the ruins of this old “Long Bridge“.

In 1876 this bridge had disappeared and what was known by many of us past fifty as the “dugway road” had been constructed.  This followed the old French road and circled around the northern  verge of the bay and was for many years the only way of passage to the fort and Addison Junction (near ferry landing).  In 1931 the present bridge was built and the road returned to approximately its original position (of) 1776.

The location of the road built to connect the forts of Carillon and St. Frederick remains a mystery to me.  Tradition has it proceeding more or less directly from Carillon to the pass we know as the Vineyard Road (Streetroad) and thru this to the flat country leading to (Fort) St. Frederick. This seems logical as in those early days the water of Lake Champlain washed the sheer cliffs at what has come to be known as the “spar mine“(Crown Point).  Joseph Cook mentions in his “Home Sketches” the military road from Crown Point and Ticonderoga as crossing the bridge mentioned above.  He mentions in this connection that the ruins of the bridge were still visible.  This was in 1857-58.  A map prepared for Burgoyne has an extension of the road past the old John Porter farm  marked “road to Crown Point”.

Streetroad, Ticonderoga Looking South toward Ticonderoga 1888

Streetroad, Ticonderoga Looking South toward Ticonderoga 1888

By the second decade of the 1800’s a considerable number of settlers had carved homes from the wilderness that surrounded the military clearings of fifty years previous.  Roads were a prime necessity.  The earliest map available shows most of the main highways of the time.  The largest early settlement was about the old French landing (rapids/Snug Harbor Marina – Black Pt Rd) at the Upper Falls. (Alexandria)  There the roads were much as they are now.  The settlement at the Upper Falls was connected with the smaller cluster of homes at the Lower Falls only by the ageless portage which by labor of  (General) Amherst’s (British) army had been made a graded highway.  Lord Howe Street led north but none of the present Weedville streets existed.  The bridge across the stream in the lower Village which was abandoned when the huge addition was made to the paper mill in 1959-60 (No 7 Paper Machine Building) is shown on early maps as the road to Crown Point.  This seems to have been the location of the very early crossing of the stream.