Fieldwork and Survey

Since the documentary sources did not provide conclusive evidence of the actual location of "the Neck", except to be between the Oriskany and Sauquoit creeks, it is necessary to examine each of the three suspect meanders identified in that stretch of the valley in the hope that the geologic characteristics of each will eliminate two of them while supporting the third as the site of the 1730 canal excavation.

We have narrowed our search area to less than 8,000 feet of valley floor, that being the space lying west of the Sauquoit Creek, but still east of the east line of the Oriskany Patent . It has been determined above that neither of the two broad, open, southward trending meanders situated at the extreme eastern end of the Oriskany Patent could ever have been closed, and no geomorphological patterns are evident in the stereo aerial photographs to suggest there were ever any neck-like meanders adjacent to the major stream channel there. Since both of these large meanders stand in the midpoint between the Sauquoit and Oriskany creeks they are unlikely candidates in terms of position as well, given that the 1756 and 1757 British manuscripts indicate the "the Neck" was located well within the eastern one half of the stretch of river between the two creeks.

Significantly, it is within that section of river, and immediately west of the Sauquoit Creek, that the three narrow meanders previously mentioned exist , the central one (B) being open and part of the pre-1953 main river channel, and the two flanking ones (A and C) being closed and cut-off. These latter are, in essence, tiny ox-bow ponds by-passed by the main river channel at some point prior to 1803, as they do not appear on either of Wright's Mohawk valley surveys.

The twisting courses of rivers such as the Mohawk often produce classic patterns of meandering, where cut-off loops of the abandoned riverbed lie alongside the active channel. Cut-offs of meander loops occur from a variety of natural causes, which we will explore shortly, and one should not be tempted to favor the cut-offs at A and C, nor to prematurely reject the open neck at B. Each area must be thoroughly examined in turn.

Initially one may be tempted to eliminate Area C from consideration as being too close to the mouth of Sauquoit Creek to fit the proportions indicated on the mid-eighteenth century maps. To correctly interpret these British maps, however, we need to divorce ourselves from the overhead view to which we are accustomed, as seen on maps drawn from an aerial perspective. We need instead to place ourselves in the position of mid-eighteenth century boatmen traveling on the Upper Mohawk, set low to the ground and with often limited visibility beyond the tree-lined banks of the river itself. Christian Schultz, traveling this same route in 1807, appears to substantiate this assumption:

" You will please to observe. . . in all my references with respect to the rivers and water- courses, I shall use the terms right and left, as the frequent windings and sudden turns of the rivers render it almost impossible to give true bearings without a constant reference to the compass."25

A boater's view of the bank of the Mohawk River, Benjamin Wright, 1803. Courtesy Oneida Historical Society.

We need to represent this configuration of meanders in terms of on-the-ground (or more correctly on-the-river) perceptions of distance and relationship. When we plot the positions of these three meanders in terms of time on the river, we see a significantly different proportional picture, and one not at all unlike that given us by the British surveyors.

In the following section of this report, each of the three meanders will be discussed in detail.