Tag Archives: Andrew Alberti

Pre-European Agriculture in the Champlain Valley

When I set out to write From Forest to Fields: A History of Agriculture in New York’s Champlain Valley, I became discouraged by the mixed information coming from various authors.

While there is archeological evidence of Native settlements in Plattsburgh at Cumberland Bay, across Lake Champlain in Vermont and along the Hudson River and its tributaries, little information exists for the rest of the Adirondack Coast.

In the following, I will present the information from resource materials so that readers may better understand the conclusions presented in our short history.

The obvious starting place for understanding pre-European life in the Champlain Valley was to explore the journal of Samuel de Champlain, who recorded what he observed of Native life. In “Voyages,” he states:

“I made inquiry of the savages whether these localities were inhabited, when they told me that the Iroquois dwelt there, and that there were beautiful valleys in these places with plains productive in grain, such as I had eaten in this country, together with many kinds of fruit without limit.”

In this context, it is hard to determine what “localities” the Natives are referring to, but if we explore deeper, Champlain states the following after the conflict at Ticonderoga artfully depicted in the image at the top of the page:

“…the raiding party amused themselves plundering Indian corn and meal, which had been raised on the clear ground.”

Therefore, we can determine the Champlain did in fact see native agricultural development in New York’s Champlain Valley. However, if we move forward to 1858, Flavius J. Cook, author of Home Sketches of Essex County, has a very different perspective.

“…Few sounds, save of the warwhoop and of the wild bird and beast- few movements, save of the human or brute forms, crouching, contending, retreating or simply passing by, disturbed the western shore of Champlain in its earliest ruggedness and beauty.”
 

Cook concludes that prior to the European exploration, that the area between Horicon and Lake Champlain was an uninhabited no-man’s land between warring tribes, despite Champlain’s contrary observations. This conclusion was even shared in the 20th century in the Ticonderoga Historical Society’s Patches and Patterns from Its Past (1969).

“For many generations, perhaps centuries, it [Ticonderoga] had been an in-between land, the rich hunting ground of and often the battle ground of the primitive people to the north and south of us. Archeologists hint at very ancient cultures that occupied the Champlain Valley after the last glacier withdrew some twelve to fourteen thousand years ago. The small study that has been made in the field does not seem to point to any particularly heavy population at any time in our ancient past. Here the grinding mass of ice that scooped out or valleys and in its melting heaped up our useful deposits of sand and gravel seem to have been found in slow procession  by mosses, grasses, shrubs and forest, with very little disturbance by homo sapiens except as he came to feast upon the plenitude of fish and game that were to be found here.”

What we can ascertain is the knowledge of agriculture of tribes in the surrounding area. This information is best presented in Peter S. Palmer’s History of Lake Champlain 1609-1814(1886)

The Iroquois were powerful, plitic, warlike and courageous … They lived in villages, around which they had extensive cultivated fields … The Algonquians were a warlike nation and a migratory people, disdaining the cultivation of the soil and depending altogether on the produce of the chase. The Hurons had some slight knowledge of husbandry, but were more effeminate and luxurious than the other tribes, and inferior in savage virtue and independence. They lived in villages, of which the nation possessed twenty, but were inferior in construction and strength to those of the Iroquois.

The conclusion that we draw in From Forest to Fields is that it would be shortsighted to overlook Champlain’s observation of corn and meal grown at Ticonderoga, particularly with the knowledge we have of the Algonquin, Iroquois and Huron tribes living in the surrounding areas. It is much more likely that migratory tribes lived in this area, depending primarily on cultivated wild foods, fish and game. To a much lesser extent, they would grow corn, beans and squash (the Three Sisters) as part of a companion planting system that left them free to pursue their seasonal migration from winter villages to summer camps near the Lake.  Since this is a more “mobile” culture, it would be easy for a tribe to retreat into the forest in instances of impending danger, and for observers to conclude that no Native settlements existed in this area.

Lakes to Locks Passage Summer Travel Suggestions

Over 600 local travel suggestions have been submitted to the Lakes to Locks Passage website, just in time for the summer travel season. The site, which is co-branded with National Geographic, emphasizes travel and tourism opportunities that are submitted by local residents and locally-owned business owners.

A national advertising and marketing campaign is currently underway to promote the Lakes to Locks Passage, which stretches from Albany to Quebec, along the interconnected waterway of the Hudson River, Champlain Canal, Lake George and Lake Champlain and includes Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington, Warren, Essex and Clinton Counties. The site is built on the principles of Geotourism, which is defined as tourism that contributes to the economic health of communities by enhancing the geographical character of a place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and well-being of its residents.

The site is as appealing to visitors as it is to people that live within the Lakes to Locks Passage according to Executive Director Janet Kennedy, who says “This website shines a spotlight on the region’s hidden gems, those places that provide local character to a destination. It is exciting to see the local commitment to delivering a distinctive travel experience.”

Lakes to Locks Passage is a New York and Federally designated byway, dedicated to stewardship of the natural, cultural, recreational and historic resources along the waterway. The collaboration with National Geographic unifies the region as a single destination, where users can pinpoint places of interest on a map and then learn about what the region offers in terms of nature, history, special events and outdoor experiences.

Digital Storytelling: Using Interactive Maps

Local historical societies and municipal historians fill an important role of building awareness and appreciation of their community’s resources, which they often achieve by producing unguided walking and driving tours of local points of interest. By recognizing these points of interest and inviting others to share their appreciation, we can often encourage local historical homeowners to keep a neat garden or persuade local cemetery managers to tidy up.
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William Kennedy’s Prohibition Story:An Interview with Exec Producer Dan Swinton

The passage of the Volstead Act and prohibition against intoxicating liquor caused a profound change in American culture by breaking the traditional mold of heroes and anti-heroes. Popular media has romanticized the anti-hero “gangster” role, and some of the greatest actors of the movie-making era have portrayed names like Al Capone, “Bugs” Moran, “Bugsy” Siegal and “Machine Gun” Kelly on the silver screen. In many instances, thugs, authorities and officials become the puppets of the crime boss, or the authorities become as violent as the criminals do.
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Albany’s Unique Architecture: H.H. Richardson

Any visitor to Albany has to consider the unique architecture styles that define the city. New York History had the recent opportunity to talk with Andrew Alberti, the program manager for Lakes to Locks Passage, about Albany’s architecture. Alberti studied the history of Albany’s architecture when he was a Masters student at the University at Albany’s public history program. Continue reading

Digital Storytelling: QR Codes Explained

One would not have to look far to identify one of these funky looking square bar codes. In the past two years, these QR Codes have started popping everywhere from newspapers and magazines, to real estate signage and billboards. What is a QR Code, and how can you use it to help tell the story of your community? Continue reading

New Contributor: Drew Alberti of Lakes to Locks

Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor, Andrew (Drew) Alberti of Lakes to Locks Passage. Drew is a graduate of the University at Albany with a BA in European History, and a MA in Public History. His previous experience includes Collections Management at the New York State Museum, and Park Ranger at Martin Van Buren National Historic Site. Drew has been Program Manager for Lakes to Locks Passage since 2008 where he focuses on 21st century technology applications and local and regional interpretation and planning. Drew is co-author of From Forest to Fields: A History of Agriculture in New York’s Champlain Valley, and is editor for the Lakes to Locks Passage and National Geographic Geotourism website.