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Cockburn's Survey

The Cartographer's Hand.

Are these maps somehow in error, or is there reason to doubt the location of Fort Hendrick and Hendrick's village at the eastern locus, near the "Ft. Canajoharie" marker?

Shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War and the restoration of peace to the Mohawk Valley (1783), the lands formerly occupied by the Mohawks at the Upper Castle were surveyed into lots (Cockburn 1789) to facilitate their purchase by white settlers. Although no map of this survey exists, detailed descriptions of the bounds and contents of each lot are preserved, and a precise map of this allotment could be reconstructed. This reconstruction reveals some very interesting data. Two tiers of lots were laid out running eastward from Nowadaga Creek. The first (Lots 3-10) encompassed the floodplain along the southern margins of the Mohawk River, beginning on the east bank of Nowadaga Creek and terminating in a point where the flood plain is pinched between the river, which trends southward, and an elevated ground which trends northward. This point is roughly opposite the mouth of East Canada Creek. To anyone with an eye for military engineering, this height presents an obvious defensive advantage in an otherwise low and undulating terrain.

A second tier of lots (Lots 12-21) were laid out on the terrace immediately to the south and extended from Nowadaga Creek on the west to a line that approximates the present east line of Herkimer County.

This reconstructed map (MAP 1994), which reveals elements of the abandoned Mohawk occupation in its record of internal features for each lot, indicates a cluster of buildings in the vicinity of Nowadaga Creek, i.e., in proximity to the "Ft. Hendrick" marker at Indian Castle, and it is noted on Lot 12, in that location, that "the church built by the King of Great Britain for the Mohawk Indians is upon this lot..."

Reconstructed Cockburn map, detail.

But at the extreme easterly portion of this allotment (Lots 20 & 21), in the vicinity of the "Ft. Canajoharie" marker, the location of Fort Hendrick is clearly indicated. The river bank stake at the north end of the line separating Lots 20 and 21 is described as standing on the "N side of Fort Henrick & standing on the Sly bank of Mohawk River." The internal descriptions for both Lot 20 and Lot 21 each indicate that "part of Fort Henrick" is located in each lot, suggesting the separating line between the lots divides the fort ruins in half.

These precise data, coupled with a matching of 1789 lot lines to remnant field boundaries preserved on aerial photographs, allow us to confirm the correct location of Fort Hendrick. Unfortunately, we also confirm by these data that, during the past 170 years, the construction through the area of the Erie Canal, with its various enlargements, the Barge Canal, and the West Shore railroad destroyed much of the flatlands where Fort Hendrick probably stood.

It is generally believed (Snow:1994) that the site of Fort Hendrick was destroyed by the excavation of the Barge Canal in the early twentieth century. Johnson clearly stated his intent (DHNY 2:658) to build the fort "on the flat land," which in this vicinity is limited to a narrow strip of floodplain along the river margin, bounded on the south by a limestone escarpment. Virtually all of the floodplain in this location is now occupied by the modern canal, and the southern periphery by the abandoned alignment of the West Shore Railroad.

However, there is reason to believe that Fort Hendrick was not actually built on the floodplain. Cockburn's survey places the fort on the south bank of the river straddling a lot line anchored at the riverbank by "a stake and stones at the Ely point of the Flatt..." (Cockburn:1789) Placing the terminating point of the floodplain at the north and center point of the fort virtually excludes any part of it from the construction site. This suggests that Fort Hendrick may have stood on a portion of the elevated lands immediately south of the canal.

Unfortunately the original topography in this area has been significantly altered by twentieth century highway construction, culminating with the realignment of the river road to accommodate the passage of the New York State Thruway in the 1950s, making precise relocation of the site difficult at best.

However, based on documentary analysis alone, it is safe to say that the "Ft. Hendrick" marker at Indian Castle would clearly appear to be in the wrong location. The marker in the correct location, indicating "Ft. Canajoharie", would still appear to need some revision to be completely correct.

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