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 Exploring... The Historic
 Lake Champlain and Lake George Region
Part II

By James P. Millard

"...without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw..."
Thomas Jefferson on Lake George, May 1791*


A small island in Lake George that legend has attributed a fascinating history to. Some say a Jesuit missionary- Père St. Bernard, spent a year on the island hiding from Indians who were formerly his captors. Supposedly, there are signs of fortifications built by Abercromby still visible on the islands north and west sides.1


Situated between Essex and Westport, NY is  Split Rock or Split Rock Mountain. This Click the thumbnail to see an aerial photo of the Split Rock vicinity of Lake Champlainenormous rocky outcropping has stood as a silent sentinel while the vessels of humans traversed the narrow passage between the rock and the eastern shore. Given various names by native tribes, it was called Roche Regio and known to the Abenaki as Tobapsqua or "the pass through the rock,3" the rock was often recognized in treaties as a dividing line between warring factions. Russell Bellico quotes Seneca Ray Stoddard as writing "...this rock marked the boundry [sic] line between the tribes of the St. Lawrence and those of Historic site marker at Split Rock.the Mohawk Valley.4" The Treaty of Utrecht, ending Queen Anne's War in 1713, established Split Rock as the boundary between New France and New England. Unfortunately, this border was never fully accepted by the French.5 It was in the vicinity of Split Rock that the mighty British fleet finally caught up to Arnold's navy as they fled to Crown Point after the Battle of Valcour. Here started the "running battle" that culminated at Ferris' Bay.


Lakes Champlain and George are separated by a large mountain ridge, the northern end of which (Mt. Defiance) drops off sharply onto Grand Carry monument at the sitea short river valley traversed by the LaChute River. Unfortunately for early travelers upon the waterways "the Chute" is not navigable for most of its distance, dropping several hundred feet as it winds through the present day village of Ticonderoga with a series of cascades and waterfalls. This necessitated a Portage or Carry across the land bridge from the northern reaches of Lake George, under the base of Mt. Defiance to the base of the lower falls on the LaChute. The Portage was to figure prominently in the many military expeditions upon the lakes. For the full story of the portage, complete with many photos, click HERE.

VALCOUR ISLAND  (Isle Valeur on the earliest maps), LAKE CHAMPLAIN, NEW YORK

On October 11, 1776, a small naval force under the command of Benedict Arnold (yes, the same one), waited for the arrival of a far superior British fleet. Shortly after 8:00 a.m. they were discovered by the British fleet- drawn up in battle line between the island and the mainland. The furious naval battle that followed, fought at very close quarters by a force Click the thumbnail to see an aerial photo of the Valcour Island Battlefield by AHL Guest Contributors Roger and Doug Harwooddescribed by Arnold himself as a "wretched motley crew" -was to change the course of the war. For more information about the Battle of Lake Champlain at Valcour Island, click HERE . For more information about the island itself, along with its beautiful and historic lighthouse, click HERE.


Otter Creek runs some 7 miles from Lake Champlain to Vergennes as shown in this map from 1898.Though not directly situated upon Lake Champlain, we include Vergennes because it is the only inland city situated on a navigable river on the lake. Located some 7 miles up Otter Creek (la rivière aux Loutres to the French, also known as The Indian Road), it played a vital role in the history of Lake Champlain, particularly during the War of 1812. Here Thomas Macdonough built the fleet that met and defeated the British at Plattsburg in September 1814. The British sent a force to block the mouth of the river, effectively sealing in the American fleet, but they were repulsed by the American battery at Fort Cassin. Otter Creek, because of its unusual character and navigability was an important travel route for natives, warriors and settlers through the surrounding wilderness. A prosperous and important settlement was established at the falls here. For more information about Vergennes and the shipyard there, click HERE.


On the morning of July 22, 1759, one of the largest military forces ever to sail Lake George went ashore here in this bay just south of Black Point. The mighty army of General Jeffrey Amherst, some 12,000 strong, first came ashore here before traversing The Portage to Lake Champlain and Fort Carillon.


Click the thumbnail to see a stunning aerial photo of Windmill Point by AHL Guest Contributors Roger and Doug HarwoodWe know of three locations on Lake Champlain that have been referred to as Windmill Point. The main one, and the one that still carries the name, is a small peninsula jutting south into the lake on the western shore of present-day Alburgh, Vermont. First settled by the French in the 1740's as part of the seigniory of François Foucault, Peter Kalm made note of the settlement during his trip up the lake in July 1749. The point takes its name from an impressive stone windmill built by the French. Benedict Arnold anchored his fleet off the point prior to the Battle of Valcour, and it was off Windmill Point that the Radeau Thunderer sunk in 1777, while carrying wounded from the defeat at Saratoga.

There is a lighthouse on Windmill Point that is privately owned.

Lt. James Hadden writes of Windmill Point in his 1777 Journals of the Burgoyne campaign. He refers to Wind-Mill Point on at least two occasions, once referring to a "rebel work" there6, and later writing of "the Germans, now encamped on Windmill Point7". In both instances he was referring to the point of land immediately south of the old French works at Crown Point. Here at one time stood an old windmill. The Champlain memorial lighthouse now stands on this location.

At least one very early English map refers to Colchester Point as Windmill Point also.8


Located deep in an intervale close to the mouth of the Onion river, called Winooskeek by the native peoples, this important village had been inhabited for generations by the Abenaki people. A rich and fertile place, the native people prospered here, farming and enjoying the phenomenal Salmon runs that would occur yearly. As happened everywhere in the land to become known as America, these native people would have their lives forever changed by the arrival of the white man. For more information about the Abenaki people click HERE.

Back to Exploring the historic lakes Part I


1 Frank Leonbruno, "LAKE GEORGE REFLECTIONS- ISLAND HISTORY AND LORE." (Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1998) 59,60
Leonbruno, 41
Ralph Nading Hill, "Lake Champlain, Key to Liberty." (Countryman Press, Woodstock, Vermont, 1976, 1995) 16
Russell P. Bellico, "Chronicles of Lake Champlain, Journeys in War and Peace." (Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1999) 418
Russell P. Bellico, "SAILS AND STEAM IN THE MOUNTAINS- A Maritime and Military History of Lake George and Lake Champlain." (Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1992) 18
James Hadden. Hadden's Journal and Orderly Books: A Journal Kept in Canada and Upon Burgoyne's Campaign in 1776 and 1777, by Lieut. James M. Hadden, Roy. Art. Edited by Horatio Rogers. (Albany: Joel Munsell's Sons, 1884) 33
Ibid., 79
Guy Omeron Coolidge. The French Occupation of the Champlain Valley from 1609 to 1759. Reprint of second edition (1989), with biographical indexes. Fleischmanns, New York: Purple Mountain Press, Ltd. 169
* Sarah N. Randolph, "The Domestic Life of Thomas Jefferson" (Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1871) 201

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