HISTORY OF

SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK.

by NATHANIEL BARTLETT SYLVESTER

1878

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CHAPTER VI.

EARLY EXPLORATIONS, 1535-1609.

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I. - JACQUES CARTIER.

The long series of hostile invasions from the north which, during the two hundred and seventy years of the colonial period, so often wore bloody pathways over the rugged surface of the county of Saratoga, all came from the valley of the St. Lawrence. The history of the river St. Lawrence is, therefore, so intimately connected with the history of Saratoga, that some account of its early discovery and explorations by Europeans seems necessary to an intelligible understanding of the subject.

The great river St. Lawrence, whose old Indian name was Ho-che-la-ga, and which serves to drain the larger part of the waters of northern New York into the ocean, was discovered and first explored by Jacques Cartier, who was an eminent mariner of St. Malo.

St. Malo is a quaint mediæval seaport town of the ancient province of Brittany, on the northern coast of France. The city is built on a huge rock that seems to rise like a wall out of the sea, it being separated from the mainland by a salt marsh, which is covered by the waters at high tide. In 1709 an earthquake turned it into an island. Many a superstition still flourishes among its simple people. Its quaint mediæval customs were carried into the New World by the old mariners, and once started found an echo among the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence, and along the mountain shores of Lake Champlain. Thus, too, in the wilds of the New World were introduced by these mariners the stories of the dwarfs and giants of the fairy mythology, which the Northmen of the tenth century brought from their ancient home when they invaded Brittany.

In the year 1535, Cartier was sent on a voyage to the New World by Francis I., King of France, at the instigation of Philippe de Chabot, his grand admiral, in quest of gold and empire. The little fleet with which Cartier sailed consisted of three ships only, ranging from forty to one hundred and twenty tons burden. This fleet was under the command of Cartier, who was styled the "Captain and Pilot of the King." In his ship's company were several of the young nobility of France, among whom were Claudius de Ponte Briand, cup-bearer to the Lord Dauphin, Charles de Pomerasces, John Powlet, and other gentlemen.

The daring but devout navigators of those days, before venturing upon their long and perilous voyages to the dreary, cheerless solitudes of an almost unknown and unexplored ocean, were accustomed to attend upon the solemn offices of religion, as if they were departing to
 
 

"Tho undiscovered country, from whose bourne

No traveler returns."


 

Therefore, just before setting sail on Whitsunday, this company of adventurers went in solemn procession to the cathedral church of the town, where each was absolved and received the sacrament. Then, all entering the choir of the church in a body, they were presented to the lord bishop and received his blessing.

They embarked from St. Malo on the 19th of May, and, after a stormy passage, arrived off the coast of Newfoundland on the 7th of July. On the 10th day of August, in that year, which day was the festival of Saint Lawrence, they discovered and entered the broad bay which forms the mouth of the great river, and named it in honor of the saint.

Proceeding on their voyage up the wild stream, they soon reached the dark gorge of the Saguenay, and arrived at the island of Orleans, which lies a short distance below the city of Quebec. On account of the abundance of wild grapes found upon this island, which hung in clusters from all the trees along its shores, Cartier named it the Isle of Bacchus. Continuing their voyage, they soon reached the narrows in the river opposite the rocky cliffs of Quebec. This stronghold, on which is now situated the city of Quebec, was then occupied by a little cluster of Indian wigwams, and was called by the savages Sta-da-go-ne. The chief of this little Indian town, whose name was Don-na-co-na, met these strange mariners at the landing, and made a speech to them, and gave them bread and some wine pressed from the wild grapes that grew so abundantly upon the shores of the island and on the banks of the stream.

These Indians told Cartier that many days' journey up the river there was another Indian town, that gave its name to the river and to the country around it. Taking on board some Indian guides, the mariners proceeded up the river in quest of this wonderful city of the Great Forest State. In a few days the Indians led Cartier to the spot where now stands the beautiful city of Montreal, on the island now known as the Island of Montreal, and which, as has been stated in a previous chapter, lies at the head of the great northern valley on whose borders the county of Saratoga is situated. Cartier found an old palisaded Indian town, containing many wigwams, built long and narrow after the fashion of the Iroquois. In this village at that time were more than a thousand savage inhabitants of Algonquin or Iroquois lineage. Cartier had discovered the famous Indian Ho-che-la-ga, which was the capital of the great forest State of the same name, that lay along on both aides of the St. Lawrence above the mouth of the Ottawa. Like Sta-da-co-ne, at rocky Quebec, this Indian town on the Island of Montreal was one of the centres of Indian population on the great river, Ho-che-la-ga.

On the second day of October, Cartier landed at Ho-che-la-ga amid the crimson and golden hues of the lovely Canadian autumn. So glorious, so fair, so wild, so savage a scene these wondering mariners of the old world had never seen before.

When these bearded white men, clad in glittering armor and gorgeous attire, landed at the Indian village Ho-che-la-ga, on the wild Island of Montreal, the half-nude savages crowded around them in speechless wonder, regarding them more as gods than men. They even brought their chief, whose name was Ag-ou-han-na, who "was full of palsy," says an old narrative, "and his members shrunk together," and who was clad in rich furs, and wore upon his head a wreath or crown of red feathers, and laid him upon a mat before the captain that he might give the limbs a healing touch, - such was their simple faith in the powers of the pale-faces, who for the first time stood before them. "Then did Ag-ou-han-na," continues the old chronicler, "take the wreath or crown he had about his head and gave it unto our captain. That done, they brought before divers diseased men, some blind, some crippled, some lame, and impotent, and some so old that the hair of their eyelids came down and covered their cheeks, and laid them all along before our captain, to the end that they might of him be touched, for it seemed unto them that God was descended and come down to heal them." {Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. xii. P. 653.}

Then the Indians led Cartier and his followers to the top of the mountain at whose foot their villages nestled. Cartier planted a large cross of cedar wood upon the summit of the mountain, and solemnly took possession of the great forest state of Ho-che-la-ga in the name of the French king, and then named the mountain on which he stood Mount Royal, from which comes the modern Montreal.

On the 5th of October, Cartier left the Ho-che-la-ga, and regaining his ships passed a long and gloomy winter in that part of the river St. Lawrence since called Lake St. Peters.

In the spring, Cartier returned to France. In 1541 he made another voyage to Ho-che-la-ga. After his return to his native city of St. Malo, from this last voyage to the new world, .the name of Cartier passes out of history. It is supposed that he lived in retirement and died at a good old age.

When Champlain, upon his first voyage to New France in 1603, sixty-eight years after Cartier's visit, landed upon the still wild and savage Island of Montreal, scarcely a vestage of Ho-che-la-ga, the ancient Indian metropolis on the great river, remained to be seen. All its savage glory had departed forever. Its race of Iroquois house-builders had been driven to their new hunting-grounds in the rich valleys of central New York. Champlain found the site of the village occupied only by a few families of a roving tribe of Algonquin lineage, who lived in some temporary huts built of the decaying remnants of the ancient village. Such was the fate of the old forest state of Ho-che-la-ga.

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II. - SAMUEL DE CHAMPLAIN.

Samuel de Champlain, the discoverer of the beautiful lake of northern New York that bears his name, was the founder of New France and its first governor-general. No name in Canadian annals is more illustrious than his. He was born in Brouage Saintonge, about the year 1570, of a noble family. In his youth he served in the French navy, and was pensioned and attached to the person of King Henry IV., of France.

In 1603, M. de Chastes, governor of Dieppe, obtained permission from the king to found a new settlement in North America. De Chastes appointed Champlain as his substitute, and the king gave him the title of general-lieutenant of Canada. On the 15th of March, Champlain set sail for America in a ship commanded by Pont-Grave, an enterprising mariner of St. Malo, like Cartier.

They sailed up the St. Lawrence and up the river as far as Jacques Cartier had proceeded with his ships in 1535, and, after carefully examining its banks, returned to France, having effected nothing by way of settlement. Upon his return, Champlain published his first book, entitled "Des Sauvages." In the mean time, De Chastes had died, and his concessions had been transferred to Sieur de Monts. De Monts was made vice-admiral and lieutenant-general of his majesty in that pert of Acadia called Norumbega. Armed with these plenary powers, De Monts and Champlain sailed for Acadia, and attempted a settlement at Port Royal, but returned to France in 1607.

Champlain's third voyage to America was undertaken at the solicitation of De Monts in the year 1608. In this year he founded his colony of Quebec, in the heart of the old savage wilderness, upon the site of the old Indian hamlet Sta-da-co-ne, found by Jacques Cartier seventy years before. In the beginning of the summer of the year 1609, months before Henry Hudson sailed up the North river, and eleven years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Champlain discovered the lake which still bears his name, and planted on its shores the cross and the lilies of France.

While at Quebec, during his hunting excursions with the Indians, they told him marvelous stories of a great inland sea, filled with wonderful islands, lying far to the southward of the St. Lawrence, in the land of the terrible Iroquois. His curiosity was excited, and as soon as the melting snows of the next spring would permit, he set out upon a voyage for its discovery.

He was accompanied by two companions only, besides his savage allies, who numbered sixty warriors, with twenty-four canoes. They were Hurons, Algonquins, and Montagnais. The Montagnais were a roving tribe of the Algonquin family who inhabited the country of the Saguenay, called by the French the paupers of the wilderness.

After a toilsome passage up the rapids of the Richelieu, Champlain entered the lake, - the far-famed "wilderness of the Iroquois." It was studded with islands that were clothed in the rich verdure of the early summer, its tranquil waters spreading southward beyond the horizon. From the thickly-wooded shores on either side rose ranges of mountains, the highest peaks still white with patches of snow. Over all was flung the soft blue haze, sometimes called mountain-smoke, that seemed to temper the sunlight and shade off the landscape into spectral-like forms of shadowy-like beauty. Who does not envy the stern old forest ranger his first view of the lake that was destined to bear his name to the latest posterity?

Champlain and his allies proceeded cautiously up the lake, traveling only by night and resting on the shore by day, for they were in the land of the much-dreaded Iroquois, the hereditary enemies of the Algonquin nations.

On the morning of the 29th of July, after peddling, as usual, all night, they retired to the western shore of the lake to take their daily rest. The savages were soon stretched along the ground in their slumbers, and Champlain, after a short walk in the woods, laid himself down to sleep upon his bed of fragrant hemlock boughs. He dreamed that he saw a band of Iroquois warriors drowning in the lake. Upon attempting to save them, his Algonquin friends told him that "they were good for nothing, and had better be left to die like dogs." Upon awakening, the Indians, as usual, beset him for his dreams. This was the first dream he had remembered since setting out upon the voyage, and it was considered by his superstitious allies as an auspicious vision. Its relation filled them with joy, and at early nightfall they re-embarked flushed with the hope of an easy victory. Their anticipations were soon to be realized. About ten o'clock in the evening, near what is now Crown Point, they saw dark moving objects upon the lake before them. It was a flotilla of Iroquois canoes. In a moment more each party of savages saw the other, and their hideous war-cries, mingling, pealed along the lonely shores.

The Iroquois landed at once and barricaded themselves upon the shore with fallen trees and brushwood. The Algonquins lashed their canoes together with long poles within a bow-shot of the Iroquois barricade, and danced in them all night their hideous war-dances. It was mutually agreed between the hostile bands that the battle should not come off till morning. At dawn of day the Algonquins landed, and the Iroquois marched in single file from their barricade to meet them, full two hundred strong. They were the boldest, fiercest warriors of the New World, and their tall, lithe forms and noble bearing elicited the warmest approbation of Champlain and his white companions. The chiefs were made conspicuous by their tall plumes. Champlain, who in the mean time had been concealed, now advanced to the front, with arquebuse in hand, clad in the metallic armor of the times. The Iroquois warriors, seeing for the first time such a warlike apparition in their path, halted and stood gazing upon Champlain in mute astonishment.

"The moment we landed," says Champlain, in his narrative, "they (the Algonquins and Hurons) began to run about two hundred paces towards their enemies, who stood firm, and had not yet perceived my companions, who went into the bush with some savages. Our Indians commenced calling me in a loud voice, and, opening their ranks, placed me about twenty paces in advance, in which order we marched until I was about in thirty paces of the enemy. The moment they saw me they halted, gazing at me and I at them. When I saw them preparing to shoot at us, I raised my arquebuse, and, aiming directly at one of the three chiefs, two of them fell to the ground by this shot, and one of their companions received a wound of which he afterwards died. I had put four balls in my arquebuse. Our party, on witnessing a shot so favorable for them, set up such tremendous shouts that thunder could not have been heard; and yet there was no lack of arrows on one side or the other. The Iroquois were greatly astonished at seeing two men killed so instantaneously, notwithstanding they were provided with arrow-proof armor woven of cotton-thread and wool. This frightened them very much. Whilst I was reloading, one of my companions in the bush fired a shot, which so astonished them anew, seeing their chiefs slain, that they lost courage, took to flight, and abandoned the field and their fort, hiding themselves in the depths of the forests, whither pursuing them I killed some others. Our savages also killed several of them and took ten or twelve prisoners. The rest carried off the wounded. Fifteen or sixteen of our party were wounded by arrows. They were promptly cured."

The Iroquois afterwards became the friends and allies of the English, and this first forest encounter was the forerunner of a long and bloody warfare between the French and the English and their respective Indian allies, of which the soil of Saratoga County often formed the battle-ground.

Four years afterwards Champlain made a long journey up the Ottawa river to the country of the Hurons. On his return he discovered Lake Ontario, the name meaning, in the Indian tongue, the "beautiful lake." He fought another battle with the Iroquois, to the south of the lake in western New York. He explored its shores along the western border of northern New York, in the vicinity of what was afterward known to the French as La Famine. On his return he passed near the head of the St. Lawrence, thus becoming the first explorer of the lake of the Thousand Isles.

In 1620, Champlain was made governor-general of Canada, and died at Quebec, in 1635. In 1620 his wife accompanied him to Quebec. Madame Champlain was Helen Boute, daughter of Nicholas Boute, secretary of the royal household at Paris. She remained four years in America, returned to France, founded a convent of Ursulines at Meaux, entered it as Sister Helen, of St. Augustine, and died there in 1654. Madame Champlain, as she was married to him when she was only twelve years of age, was still very young. The Indians, struck with her frail and gentle beauty, paid homage to her as a goddess. "Champlain," says Parkman, "was enamored of the New World, whose rugged charms had seized his fancy and his heart, and as explorers of the Arctic seas have pined in their repose for polar ice and snow, so did he, with restless longing, revert to the fog-wrapped coast, the piny odors of forests, the noise of waters, the sharp, piercing sunlight, so dear to his remembrance. Fain would he unveil the mystery of that boundless wilderness, and plant the Catholic faith and the power of France amid its ancient barbarism." {See Parkman's Pioneers of France, Palmer's History of Lake Champlain, Champlain's Voyages de la Nouvelle France, and Documentary History of New York.}

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Ill. - HENRY HUDSON.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the little republic of Holland had already become one of the first commercial and maritime powers of the world. In those days hardy navigators and bold explorers were flocking from every nation in Europe to sail under the Dutch standard in search of fame and fortune.

Among the most noted of these was Henry Hudson, a mariner of England, who was the discoverer and first explorer of the river that now bears his name. Henry Hudson was born about the middle of the sixteenth century, but of his early life little is known. His first voyage was in 1607, in the employ of a company of London merchants, to the east coast of Greenland, in the search of a northwest passage to India.

On April 6, 1609, he began a voyage, in the service of the Dutch East India Company, to the northern coast of Asia. For some reason or other he turned his ships toward North America, and on the 12th day of September, in that year, discovered and entered the mouth of the beautiful river, now called by his name, that serves to drain the waters of the mountain belt of the great wilderness of northern New York.

It is believed that Hudson explored the stream as far up as the old Indian hunting-ground, called Nach-te-nak, which lies around and upon the islands that cluster among the "sprouts" or mouths of the Mohawk.

In his voyage up the stream he had numerous adventures, and had two or three battles with the Indians, who were jealous of the strange intruders. The stanch little ship in which he sailed up the river was named the Half-Moon. The following is taken from his own narrative of the voyage, in the quaint language of the time:

"The thirteenth, faire weather, the wind northerly. At seuen of the clocke in the morning, as the floud came, we weighed, and turned foure miles into the riuer. The tide being done wee anchored. Then there came foure canoes aboard: but we suffered none of them to come into our ship. They brought great store of very good oysters aboord, which wee bought for trifles. In the night I set the variation of the compasse, and found it to be thirteen degrees. In the afternoone we weighed and turned in with the flood two leagues and a halfe further, and anchore all night, and had fiue fathoms of soft ozie ground, and had a high point of land, which showed out to us bearing north by east fiue leagues of us.

"The fovrteenth, in the morning being very faire weather, the wind southeast, we sayled vp the riuer twelue leagues, and had fiue fathoms and fiue fathoms and a quarter lesse; and came to a streight between two points, and had eight, nine, and ten fathoms; and it trended northeast by north one league, and we had twelue, thirteene, and fourteene fathoms. The riuer is a mile broad; there is very high land on both sides. Then wee went vp northwest a league and a halfe deepe water; then northeast by north fiue miles, then northwest by north two leagues, and anchored. The land grew very high and mountainous. The riuer is full of fish.

"The fifteenth; in the morning, was misty, vntil the sunne arose; then it cleered. So wee weighed with the wind at South, and ran vp the riuer twentie leagues, passing by high mountains. Wee had a very good depth, as six, seuen, eight, nine, twelue, and thirteen fathoms, and great store of salmons in the riuer. This morning our two sauages got out of a port and swam away. After we were under sayle they called to us in scorne. At night we came to other mountains, which lie from the riuer's side. There wee fovnd very louing people and very old men; where we were well vsed. Our boat went to fish, and caught great store of very good fish.

"The sixteenth, faire and very hot weather. In the morning ovr boat went againe to fishing, but could catch but few, by reason their canoes had beene there all night. This morning the people came aboord and brovght vs eares of Indian corne and pompions and tobacco, which wee bought for trifles. Wee rode still all day, and filled fresh water; at night wee weighed and went two leagues higher, and had shoaled water; so we anchored till day.

"The seuenteenth, faire, sun-shining weather, and very hot. In the morning as soon as the sun was vp, we set sayle, and run vp six leagues higher and found shoales in the middle of the channel, and small ilands but seuen fathoms water on both sides. Toward night we borrowed so neere the shoare that we grounded; so we layed out our small anchor, and heaued off againe. Then we borrowed on the banke in the channell and came agrounde againe. While the floud ran, we houed off againe, and anchored all night.

"The eighteenth, in the morning, was faire weather, and we rode still. In the afternoone our master's mate went on land with an old sauage, a gouernoer of the countrey, who carried him to his house and made him goode cheere.

"The nineteenth was faire and hot weather. At the floode, being neere eleuen of the clocke, wee weighed and ran higher vp two leagues aboue the shoalds, and had no lesse water than fiue fathoms. We anchored, and rode in eight fathoms. The people of the countrie came flocking aboord, and brought vs grapes and pompions, which wee bought for trifles. And many brought vs beuers' skinnes and otters' skinnes, which wee bought for beades, kniues, and hatchets So we rode there all night.

"The twentieth, in the morning, was faire weather. Our master's mate, with four men more, went vp with our boat to sound the riuer, and found, two leagues aboue vs, but two fathoms water and the channell very narrow, and aboue that place between seuen or eight fathoms. Toward night they returned, and we rode still all night.

"The one and twentieth was faire weather, and the wind all southerly. We determined yet once more to goe farther vp into the riuer, to trie what depth and breadth it did beare; but much people resorted aboord, so we went not this day. Our carpenter went on land and made a foreyard, and our master and his mate determined to trie some of the chiefe men of the countrie, whether they had any treacherie in them. So they took them down into the cabbin and gave them as much wine and aqua vitæ that they were all merrie; and one of them had his wife with him, who sat as modestly as any of our countrie-women would do in a strange place. In the end one of them was drunke which had been aboord of our ship all the time we had been there; and that was strange to them, for they could not tell how to take it. The canoes and folke went all on shore, but some of them caime againe and brought stropes of beades - some had six, seven, eight, nine, ten - and gaue him. So he slept all night quietly.

"The two and twentieth was faire weather. In the morning our master's mate and foure more of the companie went vp with our boat to sound the river higher vp. The people of the country came not aboord till noone; but when they came, and saw the sauages well, they were glad. So at three of the clocke in the afternoone they came aboord and brought tobacco and more beades, and gaue them to our master, and made an oration, and shewed him the countrey all around about. Then they sent one of their companie on land, who presently returned and brought a great platter full of venison, dressed by themselves, and they caused him to eat with them. Then they made him reverence and departed, - all saue the old man that lay aboord. This night, at ten of the clocke, our boate returned in a shower of raine from sounding of the riuer, and found it to be at an end for shipping to goe in. For they had beene vp eight or nine leagues, and found but seuen foot water and unconstant sounding.

"The three and twentieth, faire weather. At twelue of the clocke wee weighed and went downe two leagues to a shoald that had two channells, one on the one side, and another on the other, and had little wind, whereby the tide layed vs upon it. So there wee sate on the ground the space of an houre till the floud came. Then we had a little gale of wind at the west. So wee got our ship into deepe water and rode all night very well."

It is quite apparent from the above narrative that Hudson ascended the river to the shallow water near where the village of Waterford now is, and thus, in his explorations, probably reached the southern border of Saratoga County.

Hudson then named the stream the River of the Mountains, which is a literal translation of the Algonquin name of it, - Ca-ho-ta-te-a. It was reserved for his countrymen, who took the province from the Dutch in 1664, first to call it in honor of its immortal discoverer.

Hudson, a year or two afterwards, discovered the great northern bay, which was also named in his honor. His ship's crew then mutinied. He was sent adrift with eight men in a boat upon the wild northern ocean, and was never heard of more.

From these explorations and discoveries by navigators sailing in the interests of rival powers there sprang up conflicting claims to the territory of northern New York. Out of these claims arose a long series of bloody conflicts between the French and the English and their respective Indian allies, of which the soil of Saratoga County so often formed the battle-ground, until the brave Montcalm yielded to the chivalrous Wolfe, one hundred and fifty years afterwards, on the plains of Abraham.

Since these discoveries and explorations two centuries and a half have passed away, and how manifold and vast are now the human interests that lie stretched along the lakes and rivers which are still linked with the names of those kindred spirits of the olden time - "romance-loving explorers," - each immortalized by his discoveries - Jacques Cartier, Henry Hudson, and Samuel de Champlain.

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