The Sauthier Map

In the earlier discussion we left unresolved a small issue regarding late eighteenth century maps that appear to indicate "the Neck" on the Mohawk. You will recall we mentioned that both the original and the facsimile versions of the 1779 Map of New York by Claude Sauthier indicated "the Neck" at a location roughly approximating "the Neck"drawn on the earlier British maps. The facsimile version (below) appears to indicate this neck along the south side of the river within the small wedge of property lying between the the east edge of the Oriskany Patent and the west edge of a parcel attributed to Frederick Morris. From other maps we know that this parcel, unidentified on the Sauthier map, was set off to Donald McKay in 1770.

Sauthier 1849 re-engraving of 1779 map.

This would be significantly west of the site of Area C, and would appear to suggest Area A. Of course, as indicated before, the words "the Neck" are placed in the only available space on the map in that section of the river, and so our interpretation of what they are meant to indicate may be reading more into the engraving than the cartographer intended.

On examination, the twists and turns of the river as presented on this map only roughly approximate the actual alignment of the Mohawk. The original from which this facsimile was copied, however, is more accurate in that regard. We can confidently identify a number of points in the river on this 1779 map that match known points in the field.

Detail from original 1779 Sauthier map.

This is particularly evident when working westward through Cosby's Manor. Moving into the Morris tract, past the mouth of "Sidgh-queda Cr.", we see that characteristic boxy meander of the Mohawk, on the west arm of which is the jog that reveals the location of meander Area C. After that is an elongated loop of the river southward that can only be taken as meander Area B, and one can see, even in this tiny drawing, the contraction of the width of this meander to form the "toe" of the boot evident today. Then, continuing westward, the river loops up north and then down south, still within the Morris tract, which can only be the bend of the river south of Careys Corners at the eastern boundary of the Oriskany Patent, the line of which correctly cuts through the southwestern corner of that meander on the 1779 map. The river then makes another large loop northward near the apex of which is an intersecting creek from the north. We can take this to be the intersection of Crane Creek on the north side of the next broad meander of the river to the west, evident on modern maps. After that, on the Sauthier map, the channel loops southward again, rising back up into a gently arching course that runs to the mouth of Oriskany Creek, as it does today. The words"the Neck" appear, in this version, to refer to meander Area B, the spot we called the "boot", but again this may be only an approximate indication.

Certainly by 1779 the location of this neck was of little relevance, since it had long before become a through channel. If one were to look at the relative shapes of the several meanders in this section of the river, as they existed in the late 1770s, one could easily see the label "the Neck" attributed to the boot-like meander at Area B; an open, narrow, and sharply turned feature to be sure. Perhaps at this late date, almost a half century after the construction of the through channel at the original neck, the term had, intentionally or unintentionally, been transferred to meander B. But one could question why, then, an almost identical open meander opposite the mouth of Oriskany Creek was not also so designated, and this may lead us to conclude that Sauthier, basing his map in 1779 on "an actual survey and other manuscripts generously communicated by Governor Pownal,"44 merely brought forward the archaic designation of a regional landmark shown on earlier general maps of the Upper Mohawk region without any real understanding of its precise location, while refining the course of the river itself from more recent land grant surveys. We will probably never know if this is the case, but there is certainly no reason here to doubt our conclusion that Area C is "the Neck" cut through in 1730.