Nearest And Dearest Podcast - Bridging Family Dynamics

Carleton Island Past & Present - The Old Fort

May 12, 2023 Julie Rogers Season 2 Episode 7
Nearest And Dearest Podcast - Bridging Family Dynamics
Carleton Island Past & Present - The Old Fort
Show Notes Transcript

Carleton Island has some mystery about it. ๐Ÿ”ฎ When James H. Durham decided to take on uncovering the true origin of The Old Fort in 1889, he was diving into a not so clear path of discovering the easy answer.
The island had several names, Buck, Deere, Isle aux Chevreuils and Carleton Island. I purchased the book titled,
The Old Fort Carleton Island In The Revolution, written by James H. Durham in 1889. It was reintroduced and reprinted by the St. Lawrence River Historical Foundation in 2010.
The Golden Age ๐ŸŒ‰of the Thousand Islands was just beginning during this time period. Cape Vincent was a booming village with a train station and the first port  on the western edge of Thousand Islands.
The entire area was becoming a summer โ˜€๏ธโ›ฑ๐ŸŠโ€โ™€๏ธ playground for some of the major industrialists and social elite of the late 19th century. โ˜•๏ธ๐Ÿฅฎ
Many excursions and tourist vessels ๐Ÿšข streamed in and out of Cape Vincent. Major Durham found the markings of a fort that was so massive in construction that it would have required thousands of people to construct it! ๐Ÿ˜ณ
I would like to credit the nature sound effects titled waves hitting the rocks - (Cagan Celik)   birds singing/calm river - (Sounds For You)  small waves onto the sand (DennisH18)  all via Pixabay  Thank you! ๐Ÿคฉ

No one ever said life is easy. But I believe by giving yourself                                    
permission, you will find you have more control over your life than you realize. I'm Julie. I hope you will join me by taking responsibility for yourself by only controlling the things you can and letting go of the things that you can't. By doing this, you will have discovered the secret to having happy, healthy, and more fulfilling relationships.

 This is Nearest And Dearest Podcast. I'm Julie Rogers, and you are listening to season two, episode seven, Carleton Island, Past and Present, The Old Fort. Carleton Island has some mystery about it. When James H. Durham decided to take on uncovering the true origin of the Old Fort in 1889, he was diving into a not so clear path of discovering the easy answer. The island had several names, Buck, Deere, Isle Aux Chevreuils, and Carleton Island. I purchased the book, The Old Fort Carleton Island in the Revolution, written by James H. Durham in 1889. It was reintroduced and reprinted by the St. Lawrence River Historical Foundation in 2010.
 Kathi McCarthy wrote an introduction to guide and give knowledge about Major Durham, along with added facts and sources for the modern reader. Kathi and her husband Dennis McCarthy are both historians and authors about shipwrecks in the Thousand Islands and are active with several local historical museums. Dennis co-founded the St. Lawrence Historical Foundation in 1994, which has documented several shipwrecks in the Thousand Islands and registered them with a New York State Historic Preservation. Both Kathi and Dennis are current directors of the St. Lawrence River Historical Foundation. I want to take a moment and say thank you to both Kathy and Dennis. Corresponding with them while I was researching the book, The Old Fort, and asking them to read through my notes to make sure I interpreted the facts correctly was greatly appreciated. I respect the opportunity to continue and share the history of Carlton Island along with their own commitment.
 Who was James H. Durham? He was born in 1821 near Syracuse, New York. He graduated from West Point and served as a major on the Western Plains in campaigns against the Indians. During the Civil War, he was wounded four times and was among the Northern soldiers incarcerated in Libby Prison and the Andersonville Stockade. After the Civil War, he lived in Utica, Carthage and Watertown, New York. After the death of his first wife, he remarried and around 1875, they moved to Cape Vincent, New York. He lived there until he passed in 1916. He was well known for being a valued speaker and a writer. He became interested in the ruins of Carleton Island.
 The island is located downstream and in the center of the American Channel. It consists of almost 2,000 acres and has two protected bays at its head. On the bluff above the North Bay were a group of stone chimneys. They were enclosed in a massive earthwork that provided an outline of a large military fort with its barracks and magazines. When he spoke to various people, they all had different ideas about when and who actually built the fort and the original name of the island. He wanted to write the Old Fort to clarify the island's names and to identify the fort's builders and its history.
 The Golden Age of the Thousand Islands was just beginning during this time period. Cape Vincent was a booming village with a train station and the first port on the western edge of the Thousand Islands. The entire area was becoming a summer playground for some of the major industrialists and social elite of the late 19th century. Many excursions and tourist vessels streamed in and out of Cape Vincent. Major Durham found the markings of a fort that was so massive in construction that it would have required thousands of people to construct it. He began to seek the answers. He couldn't comprehend that there was no documentation or any real knowledge about the fort.
 The French and English were not talking about it. No archives from either nation or from the United States had anything to contribute about the subject. Most people at this time believed it was an established fact that it was erected sometime during the 18th century. Numerous relics have been found in the vicinity of the fort. Buttons, brooches, belt plates have been plowed up, coins have been found. It was mostly the numbers and devices on the buttons which seemed to answer the question as to the nationality of the troops who once occupied the grounds. What was found was unmistakably English.
 According to Bouchette, who wrote History of Canada, published in 1815, he states that Carleton Island was converted into a large magazine or depot for military supplies and a general rendezvous in 1774 - 1775, by the British government in anticipation of trouble with her American colonies. Bouchette also states that Canada fell into the hands of the English with trading posts that were established along the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. The Indians would meet up on the island who were friendly to the  English and received presents and put on their war paint and set forth on their raid expeditions against the defenseless outlying settlements of New York.
 We can come to a conclusion based on that suggestion along with various letters written between August and October in 1778, to support that the name of the island was changed to Carleton in honor of Major General Sir Guy Carleton, who was then in command and was governor of the Providence of Quebec. Before this, the island seemed to be known as Deere Island.
 Guy Carleton was born in Ireland. He began his military career at an early age. In 1758, he was assigned to duty with the 72th Regiment as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. His promotion to the rank of Colonel was in  " America" only. He was promoted to the rank of Major General in 1772. In 1775, the Americans captured Montreal, General Carleton escaped in a canoe and reached Quebec accompanied only by his boatman and an aide-decamp, which is a military officer acting as a confidential assistant to a senior officer.
According to the research done by James Durham, he believes, quote, "it was no doubt owing Carleton's untiring energy and unceasing watchfulness that Quebec was saved from capture. General Carleton's humane treatment of American prisoners did much to mitigate or simply put, lesson the horrors of war." End quote.
 He was appointed Knight of the Bath on July 6, 1776. He was well aware that he did not stand in high favor with Lord George Germain, who was His Majesty's Secretary of State. The appointment of Burgoyne to the command of the army to invade New York, Carleton asked to be relieved of his command in Canada. He did not sail for England until 1778 until he was relieved by General Haldimand. He became Baron Dorchester of Dorchester, Oxfordshire. He died in Berkshire in 1808.
 General Sir Frederick Haldimand was born in Switzerland. His first military service was in the Prussian Army and eventually entered the British service with General Bouquet. He was promoted to be Lieutenant Colonel of the 60th Royal Americans and came to America in 1757. He was in England in 1775, giving the ministry information regarding the colonies. He came back to America in 1776 with the rank of Lieutenant General. It was then when he succeeded Sir Guy Carleton as Governor General of Canada. He held that office until 1784 and returned to Switzerland and died in 1791. Full disclosure, I did some research in an attempt to correctly pronounce the names of some of these historic officials and other names with whom I have not officially met in person. My full apologies if I didn't get it right.
A letter dated October 14th, 1778  by Sir Guy Carleton and sent to Lord George Germaine, His Majesty's Secretary of State, provided testimony to the happenings concerning Carleton Island. He writes about how he sent orders to Twiss of the Engineers with Captain Aubrey and three company's  remaining of the 47th Regiment in Canada, a detachment from Sir John Johnson's Corps, the Royal Greens, together with a body of skilled craftsmen to establish a post at the entrance of Lake Ontario to serve the purpose of a safe place for the traders to send their goods, which go from Montreal in boats until transferred to the King's vessels. Secure a harbor for these vessels and a defense against the rebels.  He also writes that he sent up Lieutenant Schank of the Navy, who is the commissioner of the Dock Yards for the benefit of his judgment with regard to the best places for a harbor and to construct as soon as possible for that lake a number of gun boats which are so useful in many respects. He continues with stating, quote, "The place pitched upon by these gentlemen, after having been carefully examined, is an island about 12 miles below the entrance of Lake Ontario, having Grand Island, (which in present day it is now called Wolfe Island) on one side from which is divided by a channel of something less than a mile and the South Continent on the other, at a distance of one mile and a quarter from it." End quote.
 He finishes his letter with this quote, "This island had gone for some time by the name of Deere Island, having been mistaken for that called by the French, Isle Aux Chevrueils, which is found to be higher up, and then the name of Carleton Island is now given to this in question. Very favorable ground for fortifying, commanding a sizable and safe harbor which this island possesses at the upper end of it looking toward the lake, induced the gentlemen sent on this service to fix upon this spot, where a fort is begun and barracks are building for the troops, and the place will be in a tolerable state of defense, and habitation by the winter. A plans of which shall be transmitted as soon as possible." End quote.
 A letter dated March 24, 1779 was sent from Carleton Island from John Clunes, who was a clerk and foreman for the British military. He writes about how he was able to escape being a prisoner during the battle at Ticonderoga. He also writes how the rebels sent in a flag of truce, but General Powell would not see it and ordered them to fire on them, which they did, and out of five they killed three. Eventually the rebels were beat, and afterward, Clunes got news of General Burgoyne's army being prisoners. About three weeks after, General Carleton sent orders up to General Powell to burn Ticonderoga to the ground and returned to Canada with his men, which he did. Clunes states that he came to Carlton Island along with the commanding engineer, Lt. William Twiss. He writes that this garrison is very near finished and he believes it is the strongest place in North America.
 General Henry Watson Powell, who at that time commanded the British troops at Ticonderoga, was charged with having violated the utilization of civilized warfare by ordering his men to fire upon a flag of truce. This charge was strongly denied by General Powell. According to Mr. Durham's account of this through the letters he shares, he writes, quote, "Mr. Clunes, innocently and honestly, because he evidently saw no breach of custom in firing upon a rebel flag." End quote.
 Colonel Claus wrote a letter to Chief Thayendanegea. or was better known as Joseph Brant on March 3, 1781 quote, "The general, (who would be Haldimand), has for some time intended sending a party of about 60 chosen loyalists, under the command of Major Jessup, toward Fort Edward, this party might join you against Palmerstown. (which is now known as Saratoga Springs NY) could you ascertain the time and place which might be nearly done by calculating the time your express would take to come from Carlton Island?" End quote. He also writes, quote, "should you upon this adopt the General's offer and opinion, and proceed from Carleton Island to Palmerstown, which place I am sure several of Major Ross's men and others at the island are all well acquainted with, I wish you the aid of Providence with all the success imaginable, in which case it will be one of the most essential services you have rendered your King this war, and cannot but by him be noticed and rewarded. Your return to Canada will be the shortest and most eligible, and we shall be most happy to see you here." End quote.
 Because of this letter, Mr. Durham concludes that Carleton Island was once the headquarters of that noted chief of the Six Nations, Thayendanegea. Colonel Daniel Claus was a native of the Mohawk Valley and in early life acquired a knowledge of the Iroquois language. He was attached to the department of Sir William Johnson as an interpreter and accompanied him as a Lieutenant of Rangers. He eventually was in Montreal with the Army, at which place he was stationed as Deputy Superintendent of Indians.
 Joseph Brant, Chief Thayendanegea, was a pure-blooded Onondaga Indian, son of a chief, and was educated by Sir William Johnson at Moor School. He was a suitable scholar, and in a short time, he became an interpreter for Dr. Charles Jeffrey Smith, who was a young missionary. It was said of him, by Reverend Samuel Kirkland, quote, "He conducted himself so much like a Christian and a soldier that he gained great esteem." End quote. When he became Chief of the Six Nations, he showed great authority and cooperated at all times with Sir William Johnson. He was always an able vindicator of what he deemed the rights of his people, both by voice and pen. It was also known that he adhered to the British government during the war and the Treaty of Peace in which no provision was made for his people. He struggled hard to retain what they had formerly possessed. At the close of the war, he retired to Canada and spent his later years under the protection of those with whom he made a common cause.
 During 1774 to 1775, it is discovered that there were two small vessels built on Carleton Island, Charity and Caldwell, each carrying a small firearms but employed mainly in conveying goods and military stores from the island to Niagara. Both these vessels were made use of by St. Leger in transporting his troops and supplies from the island to Oswego, during his advance on Fort  Stanwix. Later, the Ontario, the Limnade, and smaller gunboats, were built at Carleton Island. The purpose of these vessels were for war as well as commercial craft. 
The Ontario was the most famous ship built at Carleton Island. She was built and sunk in 1780. It was in the early evening of October 31st when the British ship sank with over 120 men, women, children and prisoners on board during a sudden and violent gale. Everyone. including Durham, was looking for this wreck. Kathi McCarthy shared this piece of history with me, along with the fact that in May of 2008, Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville, who are divers, and also through relentless years of searching, found the ship in Rochester, New York, in deep water off the southern shore of Lake Ontario. If you want to learn more about this discovery, look for the links at the end of my show notes that will take you to this and other shipwreck stories from Jim and Dan.
 There are wrecks of two moderately sized hulks that could be seen in 1889 in North Bay, Carleton Island, when the water is still. Kathi McCarthy, in her notes from her introduction to the Old Fort, makes clear that, quote, "Many historians, including Major Durham, have mentioned the remains of two vessels in North Bay. One vessel is not in doubt, as it was first documented on an 1810 chart drawn by a Lieutenant A. Gray of the British Army. The second hull, or wreck, is more problematic. Scuba divers from neither of the two underwater surveys have ever located a second wreck. The best evidence for its existence is a stereo- view by A.C. McIntyre that dates from the 1890's. The frames of a small vessel can be seen positioned where several historians have located it. The wreck in the stereo - view picture is small. If it does date from the time of Fort Haldimand, it would most likely be a gun boat and not one of the major vessels." End quote. 
The first step towards the acquirement of any property on Carleton Island started with a class right for military services to William Richardson, a sergeant in the New York line during the Revolution. Two men, Matthew Watson and William Guilland became the buyers of this right and located it on Carleton Island on October 2, 1786. The properties went through a few more names before it ended up with Charles Smyth, who finally applied to the legislature to have his claim located and also applied for the purchase of the remainder of the island. Smyth sold to Abijah Mann, and on March 2, 1821, an act was passed directing a patent to be issued for 500 acres from the west end of the island. Some more transactions occurred by changing hands, landed joint owners, Colonel S.B. Hance of Cape Vincent and a half interest  in the lands to Henry Folger of Kingston, making them joint owners in the tract by May 22, 1848.
 There were squatters early on the island, and when Colonel Hassler surveyed it in 1823, many persons had become residents and a large amount of business was done. There was a plot of land on the East Shore containing about 30 acres of old improved soil known as King's Garden. In 1821, Avery Smith, a Canadian, began lumbering here and business grew rapidly, that in a short time the population had increased to almost 200 people. In 1823, there was a school, post office, and a tavern. In the fort, dwellings had been built to the old chimney stacks from where the barracks had been burned prior from the British at the very beginning of the War of 1812. For a while, it appeared that Carleton Island sustained a busy, and flourishing settlement, but started to decline with the growing importance of the village of Cape Vincent.
 During this period, the remains of the Old Fort suffered their greatest devastation. The outwork of fortifications were demolished to make room for cottage doors and yards. Loads of stone were taken away for various purposes, and a great well became a receptacle for all manner of rubbish. One by one, the chimneys have crumbled and fallen or have been overthrown due to reckless or intentional disregard of the property until just a few remain standing.
 Side note that I want to share. On June 26th, 1812, an American innkeeper, Abner Hubbard, along with two men and a boy row out from Millens Bay in New York, which is about two miles from my residence towards Carleton Island on the St. Lawrence River. The British have Fort Haldimand on the island. The island was supposed to have been surrendered to the Americans under Jay's treaty. Abner Hubbard takes matters into his own hands. He leads his small force onto the island, captures the fort and takes the inhabitants as prisoners. No one was hurt in his invasion. This assault was the first action that occurred in the War of 1812. The island will be retained by the Americans after the war. In 1817, it is added by the state of New York after objections from the British. Carleton Island is conceivably the only territory acquired by any of the soldiers in the War of 1812.
 Major Durham concludes by stating his admiration for the Thousand Islands. But I can't help but notice his abundance of love and his hope for the reader to also be captivated by the history of Carleton Island as he gathered evidence to how those old chimney stacks stood so stoic on a beautiful island surrounded by the mighty St. Lawrence River.
 I will leave you with a couple of quotes from Durham that shows his pride and love for Cape Vincent and why he chose to reside there until he died. Quote, "It is not hard to predict the future of Carleton Island. In a short time, an elegant hotel will grace one of the most delightful sights on the river, and cottages will spring up everywhere. The great passenger streamers will make daily trips to its wharfs, and where now is but a succession of grove and field will stand a succession of summer residences." He also goes on and finishes with this quote. "The island cottager will look at the ruins of old Fort Haldimand and think perchance, of the wonderful contrast which the years have brought about. The Indian warrior encamps here no more. No longer are the groves of the island made hideous by the war- whoop as the war songs are chanted and the scalp- dance indulged in. No longer do they prepare for a raid on Stanwix or Wyoming, Cherry Valley, or Fort Edward. Some of those who once graced this island with their presence, gained high places of honor and distinction in army and navy, and their names live after them. But they never once dreamed of the Thousand Islands of today, much less of the Carleton Island as it is before long to be." End quote.
 My next episode about Carleton Island Past and Present series will be about the Carleton Island Villa, a 15,000 square foot historic mansion that sits on the southwestern head of Carleton Island. This historic villa was built in 1895 for William O. Wyckoff, who was a former Union Captain during the Civil War. He built a fortune selling the newly invented typewriters for the Remington Arms Company. He eventually opened his own company and bought them out. William and his wife, Frances, searched for the perfect location to build their dream summer home. 
The Villa has been long abandoned. It is in ruins and has been deteriorating for almost 100 years. Recently, new owners, Ron Clapp, a property developer, with a history of flipping houses and building vacation rental properties in Florida and Hawaii, and his partner, Janaina Leite, who is a real estate agent, have begun to take on bringing the Villa back to its former glory, or quote, "or something even beyond that." End quote.
 I'm looking forward to meeting both Ron and Janaina and learn more about their commitment and challenges they are both taking on. They shared on their Facebook page, Carleton Villa, a couple of virtual tours. The shares are views from inside the first floor and the basement.
 I spoke with Janaina and she shared with me how her and Ron first saw the listing for the villa through around Halloween time. They were very intrigued by the appearance of the once glorious Villa and the caption under had it listed as a possible haunted house. They decided to come to New York from Florida to take a look at it. She told me the moment they got off the boat and walked onto the property, they both had very positive and emotional connection to it.
 When they approached the Villa and looked up at one of the broken upper windows inside on the wall, Ron noticed his name, Ron, that was graffiti from a previous visitor, from 1984. He took it as a sign. He has never been known to back down from a challenge. They both have a strong faith, along with a solid foundation, and will keep moving forward to renovate and save the Carleton Villa for a possible bed and breakfast and restaurant.
 I'll share links in my show notes for the Old Fort, the St. Lawrence River Historical Foundation website, Fort Haldimand's website, Shipwreck Stories website, the Thousand Islands Museum website, and Carleton Villa Facebook's page.
 I am traveling to Italy with Woody for a once in a lifetime trip for most of this month. My next episode will be about this trip. So look for it by the end of May. Thank you for listening. 
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