Plantation Island and the German Flatts Canal of 1798


1834 map of lock siteSince virtually all of the 1798 German Flatts Canal not built over by the later Erie Canal had survived relatively intact, at least east of the old Erie Lock 41, the survey crew had high hopes of finding archeological remains of the lift lock, which was known to be a masonry structure at least ten feet in height.

The fact that it was clearly mapped on the Holmes Hutchinson Erie Canal Map of 1834 (above) suggested it had not been dismantled by that construction, and the fact that it stood isolated on an artificial island meant it was somewhat immune to development impact.

However, we had found one bit of disappointing evidence even before going into the field. Rufus Grider, an artist who spent much of his time recording historic sites in the Mohawk Valley in the 1890s, had already visited the lock site.

An 1897 view of the lock siteIn a painting done of the site in 1897, he captures a view of the area as it looked 100 years after the canal was in operation, and 100 years before we came to examine the same spot. The caption for this image reads:

"Site of the INLAND NAVIGATION Cos Lock at GERMAN FLATTS as it appears in 1897, the stones have been removed & the plough has nearly levelled the soil. The large elm on the right, now bruised & battered by ice flows, probably existed when boats passed through that lock. Sketched in May 1897 by Rufus A. Grider. The direction is looking N. Eastward, down & across the Mohawk."

The lift lock site in 1982During the survey of 1982, we found virtually the same spot where Grider had stood and recorded virtually the same scene. There was no evidence of the lock, of any depression where the lock chamber would have stood, nor even any continuation of the earthen bermes that we had traced almost to the brink of the river.

After some examination of historic aerial photographs, maps of the canal, and other data, we concluded that the lock site had been overrun by the meandering river, which had alternately filled and cut through the site, perhaps removing all archeological remains of it. While the possibility that it survives deeply buried in the area remains, it would be a substantial undertaking to professionally investigate that, as the water table is very high in this location.

Look at a view of the field map for this area. [Image is 63 KB.]

In the meantime, it remains preserved, if indeed it does exist, on legally protected state lands.


German Flatts Canal Start
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