1. Any of a variety of flat-bottomed boats that were pointed at both ends and used in the eighteenth century on the inland
waterways. A French word meaning "boat." The plural is "batteaux."
2. A place where one has to carry the boat overland to pass an obstacle in the river or to get from one river to another.
3. A Durham boat needed at most only 2 feet of water to navigate. A batteau could navigate on only half that amount.
4. Structures that raised or lowered boats by controlling the water level in a chamber with gates.
5. A lock that prevented flood water from entering the upstream end of a canal while allowing boats to pass in and out of
6. Narrow areas of land where a stream comes back around near itself to form a loop.
7. Most of the military shipments supporting the War of 1812 along the Great Lakes were sent by large boats through the
system Schuyler completed in 1803. If these shipments had to depend on small batteaux and the old waterways, our
military operations might have been jeopardized.
8. Schuyler, Philip. The Report of A Committee Appointed to Explore the Western Waters. Albany, 1792.
9. Simms, Jeptha. The History of Schoharie County... Albany, 1845. p. 138.
10. The Mohawk-Oneida route was the best route to the Great Lakes anywhere in North America, except for the St.
Lawrence, which was under "enemy" control.
11. Green, Nelson. The Old Mohawk Turnpike Book. Fort Plain, 1924. Page 7. Green, Nelson. History of the Mohawk
Valley. Chicago, 1925. Vol. II. Page 1032.
12. Simms, Jeptha. The Frontiersmen of New York. Albany, 1882. Page 351.
13. The Castorland Journal 1793-94. French manuscript - Massachusetts Historical Society. [Translation to be published in
1993 for WILNC Bicentennial.]
14. Campbell, William W. The Life and Writings of DeWitt Clinton. New York, 1849. Page 38.
15. Simms, Jeptha. The Frontiersmen of New York. Albany, 1882. Page 351.
16. Editor's note in the original: "Keator's rift, the most formidable on the route."
17. Batteaux were laboriously pushed up through the rapids with poles, sometimes barely holding the boat in place against
the water rushing by. At the top of the rapid was a pool of calm water. Once you reached this, you were safely "over."
18. A boat that got out of alignment with the flow of water was quickly turned sideways and could not be controlled.
19. These were items for sale, such as cloth, tea, etc.
20. The "ribs" of these boats were cut from curved pieces of oak, usually taken from the natural crooks of trees. They held
the sides of the boat to the bottom and in ships were called "knees." In small river boats they were usually called "frames."
21. Most items shipped in boats were packed in barrels, which were the strongest containers available for dry goods as
well as liquids. While barrels for dry goods were reasonably water-tight, apparently they did have small leaks and would
fill after a long period of being submerged.
22. Durant, Samuel W. History of St. Lawrence County, New York. Interlaken, 1982 [reprint of 1878]. Page 147.
23. New York State Museum. "Site 3-21, Upland Dredge Spoil Area, Town of Root, Montgomery County. Albany, 1982.
This study was done by the State Museum for the Department of Transportation to determine the impacts associated with
the proposed dumping dredging debris on and behind the island at Keator's Rift. When the historic significance of the site
was revealed, the project was halted and the site preserved.
24. This term, not used in this way much today, meant "business patronage." From this comes the modern term "customer."
25. The boatmen usually made camp right on the riverbank, often sleeping in small tents. When they carried passengers
who required lodging in an inn, or whenever they felt like it, these boatmen would camp near a tavern, but basically took
care of their own provisions.
26. Simms, Jeptha. The Frontiersmen. Albany, 1882. Page 351.
27. These were usually flat-bottomed scows on which people, horses, or even a wagon and team, could be floated across a
river. Often a rope was strung from shore to shore along which the ferry could be pulled. During the riverboat days [prior to
1825], this rope may have interfered with traffic and the ferry might have been poled across.
28. The Castorland Journal 1793-94. French manuscript - Massachusetts Historical Society. [Translation to be published in
1993 for WILNC Bicentennial.]
29. The Castorland Journal 1793-94. French manuscript - Massachusetts Historical Society.
30. Cochrane, John. Untitled Manuscript [19th century]. Massachusetts Historical Society. Pages 16-18. Typescript
provided by Steve Wright of Rome.
31. A fully loaded Durham boat could carry ten or twelve tons. A fully loaded three-handed batteau could carry only one
and a half tons.
32. These were the iron tipped poles by which the boatmen pushed their boats upstream. They were 10 or 12 feet long on a
batteau but up to 18 feet long on a Durham boat. The tips of these poles are sometime found in excavations along the river.
33. The boat was swept downstream "below" him so that he could not reach it to grab on.
34. A boat that is "stove in" is one where the sides are broken such that water rushes in and the boat starts to sink.
35. Simms, Jeptha. The Frontiersmen of New York. Albany, 1882. Page 352.
36. Another account of this accident, as recollected from Meyer's home town, is given here: "Andrew Meyers, [who settled
on Meyer's Point on Cayuga Lake about 1791] having finished building a cabin for his family, devoted himself to the
building of batteaux, 'each capable of carrying six or eight tons of freight.' These he loaded with potash and piloted them
down the lake and thru the small waters to the Mohawk River, Albany and sometimes beyond... It was on one of these
expeditions to Albany, Miss Bristol recalls, that Andrew Meyers was wrecked in the Mohawk River, lost his cargo, and,
after mending the pontoon ["a wooden flat-bottomed boat" - Webster's Dictionary], turned back toward home. At Union
Springs [on the north end of Cayuga Lake] he stopped for plaster [gypsum - used for fertilizer] and, while it was being
loaded, one of Cayuga's quick and treacherous winds came up and was blowing hard as he was ready to start. He was
advised not to venture forth, but his uncompromising determination asserted itself as usual and he replied, 'I'll run my
boat home or run it to hell.' As neither he nor the boat ever were seen again, Miss Bristol says, the inference is plain."
Taken from an unidentified clipping, circa 1938, Dewitt Historical Society of Tompkins County.
37. Simms, Jeptha. The Frontiersmen of New York. Albany, 1882. Vol. I. Page 352.
38. The run-off of water produced in the Spring by melting snow and rain. With a warm day or heavy rain. this flow can
sometimes come up rapidly and unexpectedly.
39. According to a manuscript Meyers genealogy, Andrew Meyers, the Captain of the "Butterfly," died on "March 6,
1813." This is probably meant to be "March 6, 1823," which would fit the chronology of the Erie Canal construction
through the Mohawk Valley as well as the Simms comment that the river was swollen at the time of the accident at
Canajoharie. His downriver trip was, therefore, made in late February.
40. Before the turnpike era, roads were often nothing but tracks cut through the forest. They were plagued with roots, rocks
and soft soil that turned to deep mud with every rain. Roads like these were not competition for the river boat trade.
However, the improved roadbed of the new turnpikes eliminated many of these drawbacks of land travel. As boats got
bigger and the rivers became less dependable, turnpikes began to show a definite advantage.
41. Jones, Pomeroy. Annals and Recollections of Oneida County. Rome, 1851. Page 506.
42. Tax Assessment Rolls, Town of Canajoharie, New York State Archives.
43. This refers to the district to the west, generally encompassed by Herkimer County.
44. Beers, F.W. History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties. New York, 1878. Page 59.
45. Simms, Jeptha. The Frontiersmen of New York, Albany, 1882. Vol. II. Page 289.
46. Greene, Nelson. History of the Mohawk Valley. Chicago, 1925. Vol. I. Pages 922-932. Some accounts suggest the
landing used in 1779 was a mile west of the Village.
47. As rivers change the alignment over centuries, they leave behind old channels, or "meander scars," that are often low,
depressions, cut off at one end as the river builds its new banks. In times of high water, the river may flow into these old
channels, forming protected, slack water routes for navigating.
48. The author, compiling data connected with canal building in the 1790s as part of the Durham Project, discovered the
site during field survey in 1989.
49. Grider's volumes of drawings and notes are preserved in the rare books collections of the State Library, but are
available there for reference in color microfilm.
50. Simms, Jeptha. The History of Schoharie County and the Border Wars of New York. Albany, 1845. Page 143.
51. Beers, F.W. History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties. New York, 1878. Page 59.
52. This is an angle in the sloping sides of a roof. Some accounts suggest Round Top had this shape initially, while others
suggest it was the result of the beginning collapse of the roof brought on by removal of the lead covering.
53. Montgomery County History 1878 [reprinted--] Page 97.
54. Simms, Jeptha. The Frontiersmen of New York, Albany, 1882. Page 290.
55. Simms, Jeptha. The Frontiersmen of New York. Albany, 1882. Page 291-2.
56. Simms, Jeptha, The Frontiersmen of New York. Albany, 1882. Page 292.
57. Simms, Jeptha. The Frontiersmen of New York. Albany, 1882. Page 351.
Illustration Credits: New York State Library - Front cover, pages 1, 3, 6, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, & 21.
New York State Museum - Pages 1, 4, & 12. Oneida County Historical Society - Pages 7 & 14. Vermont Division
for Historic Preservation - Page 8. The Canal Museum, Syracuse - Page 9. The Bucks County Historical Society -
From an eyewitness to boats
on the Mohawk River in 1807.