The Vaughan Survey

The cartographer's hand.

Without doubt the most brilliant light cast on this vanished nineteenth century hamlet, originating at the late eighteenth century river landing at Hudson's, is a map of the proposed enlargement of the Erie Canal, executed in a highly illustrative style by David Vaughan in 1851 (MAP 1851)55K. This map, the most critical link between the eighteenth century and the present at this locale, was brought to my attention by canal historian Craig Williams. The large format and scale of this map, combined with the graphic style of its author, permit us to see in three-dimensional detail the scope and complexity of this emerging settlement.

The old river road ("road to Little Falls") is shown dropping off the elevated lands from the southwest (the map is drawn with south at the top), with a direct south-to-north road ("Rd") forming an intersection . This intersecting road, which since has completely vanished from the immediate landscape, was built along the line that separated Lots 20 and 21 on Cockburn's 1789 survey, and would, therefore, have bisected the ruins of Fort Hendrick.

The purpose of this road appears to be to connect traffic from the south, through the intersection, with a lane to the ferry landing shown on the map. The ferry lane cuts across part of an escarpment of "Lime Rock" on its way down to the river.

Detail of the Vaughan map.

Immediately southwest of the ferry lane, and on an adjacent elevation, Vaughan indicates a plantation of trees bearing the label "Orchard." Its location is consistent with the orchard cited on the 1789 Cockburn survey and fits well the 1796 account of an orchard close by Hudson's. This tavern is assumed to be one of the houses shown on the Vaughan map.

By fortunate coincidence, one of the Barge Canal construction photographs, now in the collections of the State Archives, captured this since vanished settlement as it looked in the first decade of the twentieth century. No doubt one of the older, dilapidated houses that appear as ghostly shadows along the river road represents the remains of Hudson's Tavern.

Although the impacts of canal, rail, and highway construction since 1851 have altered the landscape here dramatically, it was relatively easy to locate and traverse the remnant of this ferry lane, after first seeing its shadow on aerial photographs. Its passage across the eastern end of the limestone escarpment is still discernable. This limestone outcrop, illustrated by Vaughan as a low cliff labeled "Lime Rock", is of interest in itself, as on Wright's map of 1803 an "Excellent Lime Stone Quarry" is indicated in this same location.

Good building stone, and especially limestone, was a commodity as rare as gold, and infinitely more useful for the canal builders of the 1793-1803 period, and potentially for those to follow.

William Weston, the British engineer assisting Schuyler's canals and navigation company, advised use of such quarries as early as 1795:

The dam, guard, and river locks may be built with stone, to be obtained on the south side of the Mohawk, at the little falls - the land carriage will not exceed one mile, and it may then be conveyed in boats to the desired spot - the quality is well adapted for these or other works, where strength and duration are required - the stones rising in lamina, of different thickness - the beds perfectly parallel , and the dimensions as large as may be required... (Weston 1795:15)

Laminated limestone deposits near Little Falls.

It was to such deposits of laminated limestone and shale that these builders, with their primitive mining technologies, were drawn. One can readily see why if one looks at the exposed cuts through this type of deposit along the Thruway near Little Falls. Relatively flat limestone of a variety of useful thicknesses can easily be broken out of such an exposure by merely prying apart the laminae, which are separated with very friable shale layers. If you are quick enough to note the location as you pass along the New York State Thruway just east of Indian Castle, you can see the laminated limestone deposits of this very hill, bisected and exposed in 1953.

Given ready access to exposures of this stone, it may be wondered why the early canal engineers built initially in timber. DeWitt Clinton, touring the inland waterways in 1810, cited the later (1803) use of stone in rebuilding these timber locks, but continued to be dismayed at the failure to use it in the first instance: "There is a fine stone quarry a mile and a half from the Little Falls, of which the locks were made; and they were first built of wood from ignorance that the country contained the stone. This quarry is no less curious than valuable. The stones divide naturally as if done by tools." (Campbell 1849:44)

The position mapped for the "Orchard" in 1851 relative to this outcrop and ferry lane is identical to the location on which a few remnant apple trees were observed during field survey early in 1994.

It is cautiously suggested, therefore, that there is evidence of an orchard here stretching back from the present to 1851, from 1851 to 1796, and from 1796 to 1789. We have no earlier reference to this orchard, either in text or on maps. But, if we accept Belnap's estimation in 1796 of an evident age for this planting in excess of 50 years, we may safely assume in situ continuity of use approaching 250 years.

The significance of the orchard site location, in concert with the newly confirmed position of Fort Hendrick, underscores the need to re-evaluate traditional ideas about the location of the Upper Castle settlement associated with "King Hendrick" in the mid-eighteenth century. There is a need to moderate our prevailing focus on Indian Castle as the core area for the Upper Mohawk occupation in this period, and to look to this location opposite East Canada Creek with new interest.

NYS Museum Home