The main river road of the 1790s on which the Kanes located is today a narrow lane south of Route 5S. Along its north margin the old Erie Canal, the West Shore Railroad (now abandoned), and modern Route 5S all sliced their rights-of-way through the Kane's Store complex.
That remnants of the Kanes' canal and their dwelling were still visible at the turn of the century led to the rediscovery of this previously unknown site in 1989.48 Using the works of Rufus Grider, a Canajoharie art teacher who, in the 1890s, captured scenes of historic significance throughout the Mohawk Valley in dozens of detailed drawings49, it was possible to relocate the exact position from which the artist sketched 100 years earlier. It was then possible to discover the archeological remnants of the sites he drew, already a century old when he saw them.
Archibald and James Kane, brothers, established themselves in the mercantile business on the Mohawk about the year 1795 locating between the Rosebooms and the present village of Canajoharie, where one of their buildings, having an arched roof, is still to be seen. The Kanes were, for a time, the heaviest dealers west of Albany.50
Construction of the Thruway in the 1950s filled in and built over the old river channel through which the Kanes brought their boats in the 1790s, but pre-construction maps for that highway clearly show its location. The suspected site of their warehouses still exists on a fragment of the old river terrace north of Route 5S, now preserved on state lands and protected for future archeological study. South of Route 5S, and cut into the side of the escarpment along the old river road, stands the ruin of old Round Top, the stone dwelling house that distinguished itself with a hipped roof sheathed in lead.
It also was distinguished as perhaps one of the first "casinos" in the valley, complete with all the flavor of the "Old West":
The "Round Top" came to be a favorite place to resort for card playing for the elite of this part of the valley at that time, and its night scenes of dissipation were of constant occurrence. Although rivals of the Kanes in trade, Roseboom and his partner were often inmates of the Kane dwelling on the occasions referred to. Petty quarrels at the gaming table were usually amicably adjusted, but one originating here would not down...55
In April of 1801, one of these card games erupted into an argument over a gambling debt. As the snow fell, a duel with pistols was fought in a pine grove just west of the house between Archibald Kane and his neighbor, Roseboom. Kane, who had previously lost his left hand to some unspecified accident, was shot through the right hand. But that did not prevent the combatants from returning to Round Top to resume their game of cards.56
Around 1800, as the centers of settlement shifted westward, the canals of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company opened up the Mohawk to the big Durham boats, and the newly completed turnpikes made Utica the hub for western transportation. Merchants that had begun establishing themselves there in the closing years of the 1790s started to compete successfully with the Kanes at Canajoharie. Intercepting produce coming down from the west to the Mohawk, these Utica merchants could reduce the distance to market just as newly established railheads diverted the cattle trade in that other "Old West" beyond the Mississippi a hundred years later. Happy not to have to draw their goods all the way to Canajoharie, farmers and rural producers quickly adopted Utica as the market center for shipment to Schenectady. The Utica merchants also began to run their own boatloads of imported merchandise up from Schenectady and to sell at cut rate prices, undermining the Kanes' monopoly on the valley trade. Thus in the early years of the 1800s, the Kanes shifted the bulk of their operations to Utica as the firm of Kane and Van Rensselaer. With another brother, John Kane, located strategically in New York City, the network of import and export held onto its share of the market until a monetary crisis after the War of 1812 caused the collapse of John Kane's firm in New York and with it the businesses in Canajoharie and Utica.
But for a decade, 200 years ago, the quiet solitude east of Canajoharie was transformed into one of the foremost commercial centers in the Northeast. Now all that is left of this once great enterprize is a forgotten ruin along the old road to Sprakers. Rarely has so much history, and so much of it unique, been embodied in so small and seemingly insignificant a foundation hole. Had it not been for the dedication of Canajoharie teacher Rufus Grider to the visual recording of local history a century ago, this site might never have been discovered. Now, through the cooperative efforts of local historians and the landowner, this site will be protected and preserved for generations to come.