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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).

The first roads other than the Indian trails were , of course, those built by the French to connect their forts and saw mill. The road connecting (Fort) Carillon (Ticonderoga) with the saw mill ( south side of Lower Falls) skirted the marshy basin at the foot of the lower falls on it’s north side and crossed a bridge built across the stream just above the lower falls (area near Frazier Bridge).  Instructions of Samuel Deall (land speculator/developer) to his agent, Huntington, here in 1769 mentions this bridge.

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.

Champlain Ave (aka - S. Main Street) Circa 1871

Champlain Ave (aka – S. Main Street) Circa 1871

By Civil War days, the roads that we still travel were all laid out.  In fact there were then more roads than we presently use.  Kirby Point was reached by an extension of the road now ending at the John Porter farm on Widow Deall cove.  The present private way from the Lake Road did not exist.  Ticonderoga Street as “Streetroad” was then known had direct connection with Lake Champlain by way of a road long forgotten.  The farm road leaving Rt 9N on the northern edge of the Streetroad Cemetery follows this old road for nearly a mile.  It crossed the middle road on the high ground north of the valley home of the Mortons’ (Mike Connery) and proceeded to the lake across the northern end of the airport, then south on the Lake Road for one-half mile to the ferry road.  A sail ferry to Vermont operated from this point.  We may suspect that the discontinuance of this ferry led to the abandonment of this two mile road.

Another road shown on the 1876 map that has long ago gone into the discard followed the course of the brook that drains Worcester Pond from its crossing of the Warner Hill road up the steep grade down which the brook there tumbles to the plateau above.  There it left the brook and bearing first east and then north passed close to Buck Mountain Pond and thence thru a valley into the Buck Hollow region of Crown Point.  Further up the Warner Hill Road another forgotten highway left the present road some half-mile above Worcester Pond proceeding west across the ridges to what we know as the Corduroy Road.

The longest forgotten road in our town is one that now exists as fragments and in the memories of the old families.  If one came into our township from the town of Hague and on the highway  we now know as the New Hague Road.   It was possible to go straight thru to the Crown Point line by a long somewhat devious road winding along the slope of the mountains on the western barrier of the Trout Brook Valley, across the Chilson Hill Road and on north to make a junction with the Warner Hill Road and thus to Crown Point.  This road left the New Hague Road at the present Hayford farm.  About a half-mile of the old road there still remains to serve a few homes.  Originally it extended on and included the back road where the old Sheldon Shattuck place is.  From the Barnum place on the south to the Burns  (Lower Bull Road) placed on the north the old road is still very much in use.  The farms of William and Stephen Catlin are situated on this portion.  From the Burns place north the road is now impassable although it has been usable in the last generation having been repaired under the W.P. A. (Works Progess Adminstration) in the 1930s.  Not serving any important need it soon fell into disrepair and is now reverting to the forest from which it was cut so many years ago.  This stretch of the old road between the Burns placed and Chilson Hill bears a name that intrigues many and whose origin yet baffles all who study it.  Bull Rock must have once meant something specific.  On the Chilson end of the Bull Rock Road a short distance remains to serve a couple of small homes.

By traveling west on the Chilson Road some half-mile one comes upon another north and south road that led thru a pass and over to the Warner Hill Road somewhere near the old Mason place (near Joyce Cruickshank).  Of this portion the only hint remaining is the often puzzling stone walls and stone foundations of buildings encountered in what is now deep forest.  Once the farmsteads now hinted at by these imperishable stones were on the highway.  From this long north and south highway extended two branches now forgotten.  The high plateau lying south of Old Fort Mountain which forms the highest rampart of the range shutting in Trout Brook Valley on the west once supported three farms.  Many can remember the Hobart Richmond Farm which was the last survivor of these.  These farms with their incomparable view of valley and lake were served by a short steep spur of this road.  To the north of the old Chilson Road some half-mile from the summit another road took off to the Streetroad past what is now Ledgever Farm.  For what reason, I know not, but this connection of Streetroad with Chilson was known as the Blair Hill Road.  It is now an excellent highway and densely populated on its lower, fairly level end.  Its upper steep end has long since been taken over by the forest and can be traced in only a few places.  I cannot find that this road directly served the cluster of small homes that once existed on the side of Lead Peak about the graphite mine there but a still used branch proceeds in that direction and gives access to the home built for the Superintendent of the mine and still bearing his name as the Parsons Place.

International Paper Co. Ti Mill North Ti on Lake Champlain Kirby Point just to the left side of photo

International Paper Co. Ti Mill North Ti on Lake Champlain Kirby Point just to the left side of photo

Chilson Flats Looking East toward Ticonderoga

Chilson Flats Looking East toward Ticonderoga

The first few miles of broad smooth highway leading from Ticonderoga south thru the lovely Trout Brook Valley follows an old road but probably not the first to serve the valley.  Without any confirmation discovered to date from old maps or otherwise, oral tradition has it that the road leading south from Ticonderoga originally traversed the opposite side of the valley and joined the long Hague-Crown Point Road near the present farm of William Catlin.  Credence is given this tradition by remains of farm homes now seemingly located in impossible spots which were very early on the ruted, narrow way that then served as a  road.

Hunters report traces of a road evidencing much labor and passing several old stone foundations in the area north of Rt 73 and between the summit of Chilson Hill and Chilson Corner.  No maps that I have access to show such.

Roads are made to serve.  When they cease to serve they cease to exist.  Changing transportation, changing needs, changing population centers, all these and other factors keep the locations of roads shifting to meet our needs.  Now come the new, wide smooth motor highways cutting, filling, blasting their way direct and level.  Beside these the rutted, narrow tracks that served our ox drawn ancestors seem primitive indeed.  In the glamour of the new, let us not forget these first paths that meant contact with the world to those who were the first called Ticonderogians.

This paper was researched and written by Arthur Carr.  It was read at a meeting of the Ticonderoga Historical Society on February 5, 1962.  At this meeting the following additions were made by persons there present:

  1. Joseph Cook constructed a carriage road from near Cliff Seat to the summit of Rogers Slide where he had a summer home or observation shelter made.

  2. The road shirting Lake George above Black Point once extended past Richert’s Landing over high ground known still as Flat Rock country to connect with the roads of Putnam.

  3. The Stoney Lonesome Road leading west from the Corduroy Road once went straight thru past Fleming Pond to the Paradox Road.

  4. Two additional roads left the long New Hague-Crown Point Road.  Once branched from the road serving the high farms south of Old Fort Mt.  This served a few mountain homes south of the hill farms and leading westerly past Berry Mill Pond carried over thru to Chilson.  The other left the Bull Rock section, climbed the range and circled about to meet the Chilson road just past its high point of the hill.  This served the old, now abandoned, farms of Mechan, Moore and Letchfield.

Montcalm St. AKA - East Exchange Street White House on right - site of today's Community Bldg. Circa 1880

Montcalm St. AKA – East Exchange Street White House on right – site of today’s Community Bldg. Circa 1880

Addendum:  Joseph Cook in his 1858 published book “Home Sketches of Essex County – Ticonderoga” he writes:

It is exceedingly inconvenient that the streets of Ticonderoga village have no names so that it is impossible to designate accurately the location of public buildings.  For purposes of convenience in these Home Sketches we are compelled to take the liberty of originating names for streets, as follows:

The street running a little west of north from the Fair Grounds (approximately – easterly of the junction of Treadway and The Portage) past the Brick (Baptist)  church,  lawyers offices, Hotel, and other principal buildings, across the creek, (Frazier Bridge)  and ending at the foot of mount Hope, we shall call Main Street.  The one beginning at the storehouses and boat-yards on the creek (River St) rising past the lower grist mill and machine shop (Bi-centennial Park) crossing Main Street at right angles, and extending trough Weedsville into Trout Brook Valley, we shall name, from its principal bulding and the mercantile and boating business done on it, Exchange Street.  (Montcalm)  On the North Side of he creek (old Mt. Hope and Roger St.) running from the hotel of James Tefft (across from Champlain Legacy Park) past C. Bugbee’s Store to the Village School House, (about the entrance into the Police Station) on account of  the trees that fringe the foot of Mt. Hope we have Elm StreetWater Street (NOT the Alexandria Section) if you please, is the road along the shore of the Creek (north side of the Lower Falls – roughly the Little League field – and as mentioned in Carr’s article the “dugway”) from J. Tefft’s to the foot of Cottage Hill;( near the old quarry, just north east of 4 way red flashing light )  and from there, past the Cold Spring through Gallows Gate (Mc Caughin property), to the old French Lines (Fort Ticonderoga) we ought to find Battle Street, on account of the military engagements that have made every foot of that road historic ground.  As indicating the direction of the lumber woods towards Schroon, and of the black lead mines (graphite), and as being the entrance thence to the Village, we shall name the North and South road at Weedsville corners, Forest Street (Wicker).

He further broke out Exchange Street into three “natural” sections:  upper or Weedsville (Stewart’s), the central, from the bridge (Country Floralist)along the centre of business to the Machine Shop hill, and the lower section from the foot of this hill to the docks.  Upper, central and lower, correspond to the height of the ground.

Annotations by William Dolback, President Ticonderoga Historical Society

As always, to help us preserve this community and the greater region that we live in history,  we would like to hear from our readers your remembrances and bits of local history.  If you have research that you would like to share, please contact us.

As noted this article was prepared for a presentation to the Ticonderoga Historical Society in 1962.  Through out our long existence (1897) we have striven to preserve and share the history of our people and place here in Ticonderoga and region.  We just completed our first 2016 presentation with Jeremy Davis in “Lost Ski Centers in Northern New York, we now invite you to one of the Society’s signature presentations for this year:

Irish Smiling Faces - with guns!

Irish Smiling Faces – with guns!

“A Terrible Beauty” — A look how the Irish Americans in Ticonderoga, the Adirondack region and New York State provided support for Irish independence.  Diane O’Connor will begin with a talk, same title, on Friday, March 18th. at 7 PM.  Just before her presentation we will open with a major exhibit in the Harmon Gallery at 6 PM.  To extent the program we will be offering four movie nights with Irish themed movies:  “The Quiet Man”, Michael Collins”, “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” and “The Secret of Roan Irish.”   

We have expanded our programing for 2016 and invite you to attend these programs throughout the year.  Haven’t visited us in awhile?  2016 would be a great time for a visit and to become a member if not already.  

Ticonderoga Historical Society was founded in 1897 and chartered by the NYS Regents in 1909.  It is a private, not for profit (501c) and relies mainly on membership and donations to maintain the Hancock House and carry on its mission:  “advancing the preservation and interpretation of history through our collections, programs and community outreach, preserving our past for our future. The Historical Society makes area history an integral part of community life by connecting past and present.”

2/21/16 wgd

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