Background and Introduction
Throughout the eighteenth century, Wood Creek served as a fragile link
connecting the eastward flowing waters of the Mohawk River with a series of westward
flowing waterways leading to Oswego.
Its shallow, twisting channel ran 28 miles across a mosquito infested marshy
lowland that lay west of Fort Stanwix; between what is now the City of Rome and
The margins of Wood Creek remained uninhabited, even by Native Americans,
to the closing years of the 1700s, and the region through which it passed could rightly
be described, until relatively recent times, as a "wilderness."
|"We spent the night in scratching rather
than in sleep for mosquitoes and small
gnats are more numerous and
troublesome along the banks of Wood
Creek than any other part of the
wilderness. We were obliged to send
for water to a spring, which was known
to the people on board our vessel,
which was three miles away. This
water, though bad in itself, was
excellent in comparison with the
muddy and stagnant water of Wood
Creek, and with rum was drinkable."1 (1799)
But this tiny creek, wending its way sluggishly westward to Oneida Lake,
remained a significant component of the inland waterway network that was the
"Thruway" of its time; until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825.
In the decades after the Revolution and before the turnpikes reached westward
from the lower Mohawk Valley [c.1800], virtually all transport of any consequence
through this region was conducted in small, flat-bottomed boats called "batteaux".
Based in the harbor at Schenectady, the eastern port for all inland shipping and
commerce, such boats would be poled, rowed and sailed to the head of Mohawk River
navigation at Fort Stanwix, interrupted by a one mile portage at Little Falls. On reaching
the Fort, boats and cargo were again portaged over the Great Carrying Place [now
Rome] which divided the eastern and western watersheds.
Having passed over the Carry, one faced hours of poling and dragging down
Wood Creek to Oneida Lake, then a long row across that lake, at last entering the
Oneida River and on to the Oswego River, which, after passage of the Oswego Falls
[Fulton], one had reached the Great Lakes at Oswego.