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The Roadway Network

While impacts to the landscape on which the early nineteenth century settlement at Hudson's was situated make archeological confirmation difficult, it may be hypothesized that Hendrick's Castle stood at the site of Hudson's initial settlement, not above it on the elevated ridge above the orchard. One recalls that Anne Grant observed, in 1760, that Hendrick's house "stood at a little distance, on a rising ground, surrounded by palisades..." (Grant II 1848:357). The locale of Hudson's Tavern fits that description of topography and proximity to the river. There is no evidence in the primary sources that the native cabins at Canajoharie were ever stockaded around, as requested in 1755. The only stockade Grant could have seen, therefore, was that of Fort Hendrick. Since Johnson mentions that a garrison was still located there in 1761 (JP 10:228), it is likely that Grant confused the Fort with Hendrick's house in recollections stretched over sixty years, due to their proximity.

But the most compelling data regarding this is contained on a British map (MAP c.1757), estimated to have been compiled in 1757. Of particular interest here is the road shown on this map running virtually due north from some distance south of the Mohawk, and intersecting the river road in a "T" junction immediately on the east face of Fort Hendrick (below).

Detail of c.1757 map.

In an area with few identifying cultural landmarks in the mid-eighteenth century, this road provides a dramatic baseline against which to plot settlement pattern evidence on contemporary cartography. One can only conclude, from this image, that Fort Hendrick stood on relatively low ground immediately in the southwest corner of this intersection, and that the Upper Castle of the Mohawks occupied, in the time of King Hendrick, the hollow through which the aforementioned road entered the valley.

With passage out of the valley restricted by steep terrain, only three roadways in this area traversed the plateau which separated the Mohawk floodplain from the fringes of the Upper Susquehanna watershed some 32 kilometers to the south. These roads are recorded on several of the mid-eighteenth century British maps we have been examining, but are most accurately portrayed on the 1779 map of New York executed by Claude Sauthier (MAP 1779)76K. The first of these early passageways arose in the present village of Canajoharie and followed the "Canajohari Creek" valley (MAPs 1756 & 1757) across the highland to the settlement at Cherry Valley. The second ran from Fort Plain, up the Otsquago Creek on the line of State Route 80 to the present hamlet of Van Hornesville, and then divided; the major course going on to the head of Otsego Lake. It was along this route that the Sullivan-Clinton campaign dragged its fleet of batteaux from the Mohawk to the Susquehanna headwaters in 1779.

Sauthier map, detail.

The third road, which began in the T-intersection at Fort Hendrick, ran southerly some distance until it intersected the Fort Plain road near VanHornesville. Although the least well represented today by traceable modern highways, this roadway is anchored in the south at the head of Caniaderage (Canaderago) Lake, with branchings terminating at Otesaga (Otsego) Lake and the neck between the ponds at Waiontha (now lakes Weaver and Young), where State Route 20 enters the Village of Richfield Springs.

Its alignment running northerly toward the Mohawk Valley and Fort Hendrick is confirmed by its passing a curious feature shown on the Sauthier map (below). Here is what appears to be an interrupted branch of the upper Otsquago Creek labeled "This Rivulet runs under Ground here". The same feature appears as a "Fall" on a map 20 years earlier (MAP 1756) and unlabeled on maps dated 1757 and 1772 (MAP 1757 & MAP 1772).

Detail from Sauthier map, 1779.

Field survey quickly discovered a modest but dramatic sinkhole, entered by three tiny brooks that disappeared into a rocky gap at the bottom, precisely where a matching of 18th century road patterns and modern rural byways suggested this feature would be found. Projecting the line of this roadway northward, avoiding the watersheds of both the Otsquago and Nowadaga creeks as suggested by the Sauthier image, one soon strikes Bellinger Road, a straight and narrow lane that crosses Route 5S at Davys Corners to become the long driveway of a cluster of 19th century farm buildings on the very brink of the Mohawk Valley.

Additional survey discovered a well hidden continuation of this alignment down through the woods; clearly a long abandoned eightenth century road and on a direct line to the site of Hudson's Tavern. Although the final 150 meters of this alignment appeared only on early aerial photographs, having been plowed away decades ago, there can be no doubt that this thoroughfare would have originally ended at the T-intersect with the old river road shown in 1851; the site of Hudson's Tavern.


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