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The White House and Steele's Garden at
Point au Fer on Lake Champlain

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The following is an excerpt from "The History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York"
by Duane Hamilton Hurd, published in 1880 by J.W. Lewis & Company, Philadelphia.

 

In 1774 Point au Fer became a military post, and by order of Gen. Sullivan a strong garrison-house was thereupon erected. It was constructed of stones surrounded by a stockade and manned. Ethan Allen appeared before it with several armed vessels, and from that time the point became an important post. For twenty-two years the building was known in military journals as the "White House."

It was the site of stirring adventure, of imprisonment of captives, rendezvous of passing armies, and the resort of the most celebrated men of the Revolution. The place was visited by Gen. Burgoyne, Armstrong, Sullivan, Schuyler,  Benedict Arnold, Col. Ethan Allen, Col. Ebenezer Allen, Seth Warner,  Remember Baker, Governor Clinton,  Benjamin Franklin, Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and others less noted whose names are lost in the mists of years.

The war ended in 1783, but it was not until 1796 that Great Britain relinquished its claim to these waters. The English commodore Steel [Capt. John Steel, aka Steele], with his armed brig "Maria," guarded the outlet to Lake Champlain and covered its shores. Every American vessel lowered its "peak" and paid obeisance to the royal ensign. Steel made a garden on the shore, and for more than ninety years [this was written in1880] it has been known as "Steel's [or Steele's] Garden." Every month Steel sent a corporal's guard to Judge Moore and warned him off the soil, notifying him that his claim under the State would not be recognized, but no attention was paid to those repeated warnings.

Lord Dorchester ordered the people for ten miles this side of the line to be enrolled with the militia of Canada. But the treaty of peace came, and Steel and De Rochameau evacuated the "White House," and left the soil of the States no more to return. Capt. Steel subsequently became a commodore on the great lakes, and died at the age of eighty-nine years.

Eighty-two years have now elapsed [till 1880] since the British left Point au Fer. Early in the present century [the nineteenth century] the old garrison-house went to ruin. It was located on the north end of the point.


Sources/Notes:

Duane Hamilton Hurd. History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York. 1880. Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Co. Reprinted by the Clinton County American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, Plattsburgh, New York, 1978.

For much more detailed information (and a truly fascinating account) see:
Taylor, Daniel T. 1892. The Shores of Champlain. 1979. Champlain, NY: Moorsfield Press. Originally appeared in the Champlain Counselor [1892]. Reprinted c. 1937 in the North Countryman.

 


 

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