Last fall a rusted old military bayonet was unearthed on private property just east of Loon Lake in Warren County. It was taken to David Starbuck, a noted local historical and industrial archeologist who has written extensively on Fort William Henry on Lake George.
Coincidentally, on that day Jesse Zuccaro, a student who has focused his studies on early bayonets, happened to be visiting Starbuck. Together they inspected this new find. After careful examination they concluded it was French in design and probably dated between 1728 and the 1740s. Twenty thousand of these bayonets were made and sent to New France prior to the American Revolution.
Arthur Pound in his book Johnson of the Mohawks (1930) features a map of just such a route from 1750-1780. The route is labeled “Sir John Johnsons’ Trail” and indicates the warpath ran from Fort Johnson in Johnstown north to just west of Crane Mountain, then crossed the Hudson River, continuing northward to the Schroon River, ultimately ending at Bulwagga Bay on Lake Champlain.
That route would have had to pass through the area of Loon Lake. At the time it was probably no more than a swamp or wetland. According to H.P. Smith’s History of Warren County, the first impoundment of the waters – the beginning of what would become Loon Lake was likely a dam at the outlet built around 1805 by Titus and Levi Mead.
Sir John Johnson was the loyalist son of Sir William Johnson, Colonel in the NYS Militia during the French & Indian War. During King George’s War in the 1740s, Colonial Governor George Clinton ordered William Johnson and his men north to “harass and alarm” French settlements along Lake Champlain to Montreal.
I asserted in my book Echoes in These Mountains (2008) that it was likely Sir William Johnson used the same trail, in reverse direction, that his son Sir John Johnson used in May of 1780 to rescue 143 loyalists and then burn 120 barns, mills and houses, and destroy the wheat crop of his former hometown of Johnstown. I discussed several routes that trail may have taken through northwest Warren County.
One route would have been north up along the Sacandaga River from Fish Creek/Northampton , through today’s villages of Hope and Wells, then through today’s Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area along “the Military Trail” on Eleventh Mountain. Another possibility would have been to come north from the area of Fish House/Northampton through the wilderness to “Baldwins Spring” in Stoney Creek. Baldwins Spring was known for its dependable drinkable water as early as the mid-1700s. The trail would have then likely headed northeast through the woods along what is today’s Bartman Road, Coulter Road, Garnet Lake Road and then through Johnsburg (not to be confused with Johnstown, NY), crossing the Hudson River near today’s Riparius, NY, then along the area of Loon Lake to the Schroon River, then north to Bulwagga Bay on Lake Champlain. An alternative route from the area of Eleventh Mountain would have traversed Kibby Pond, Lixard Pond, and then to today’s Garnet Lake and Garnet Lake Road.
A few decades ago a gun of the type that could have been at the Battle of Valcour Island in the American Revolution was found in Johnsburg Township. Vincent Schaefer, in his unpublished work Field Guide to the Landmarks of the Long Path of New York: Northern Section, writes that he had it carbon dated it to the mid-1700s at the Watervliet Arsenal and it measured eighteen inches long, 4 inches in diameter at the large end of the taper, was made of cast iron and had a bore of one inch.” It was said to have rolled out of a sandy bank when the road was being widened and was found to be in excellent condition, despite its age.
Schaefer states that it was found in a “dog-leg” of Garnet Lake Road when that road was straightened out in the 1960s, likely about two miles downriver from the Garnet Lake Dam. A member of the town highway crew that unearthed it has stated that it was found along the old route of the Bartman Road about 1/10 mile from NYS Route 8. Unfortunately, no one thought to have the exact location documented when it was found. Years ago Tom Aksten found “cannonballs” in his garden when preparing the soil for planting a few years back.
That is not to say that they were not enjoined in some way. In 1754 Militia Colonel George Washington lead his American-English troops into the wilds of southwestern Pennsylvania. South of Pittsburgh they built a fort they called Fort Necessity. Washington’s presence there, almost single-handily, started the French & Indian War.
When setting up the fort it was discovered that the swivel cannon and cannon balls they had lugged all the way from Williamsburg, through the wilderness 306 miles to Fort Necessity, did not match; the cannon balls were of the wrong diameter and would not work in the cannon they had brought. Perhaps near today’s Bakers Mills, NY the soldiers made a similar discovery and abandoned the swivel gun by burying it in a sandy hill, perhaps with the hope of recovering it at a later date, and tossed the ammunition into the woods.
What the old swivel gun, the ball shot, and now the bayonet seem to make increasingly clear is that there was indeed a warpath through the southeastern Adirondacks used during the French & Indian War as well as the American Revolution.
Photos from above: Loon Lake – Johnsburg Area in 1805, courtesy Adirondack Atlas; French and Indian War Bayonet Found Near Loon Lake in 2017; Trails, Military Roads and Forts from Albany to Crown Point 1750-1780; Swivel Gun; and Musket Balls. More bayonet photos are available here.
A version of this article was first published on the Adirondack Almanack.