Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Donald A. Windsor

Black ash are growing in Pharsalia within a half-mile of Deer Pond.

On Tuesday morning 23 August 2011, four of us Bullthistle Hikers found a grove of at least 7 black ash trees in a small swamp east of Camp Pharsalia.  The swamp was about a furlong south of Center Road, about a half-mile east of its intersection with State Route 23, at an elevation of about 1850 feet.

Joining me on this excursion were: Stan Benedict, Sue Berkeley, and Ted Robinson.  Sue was the first to spot a black ash.  Here are some photos.

Identification was based on the corky bark, the compound leaves with 9 leaflets (8 sessile), and samaras.  The samaras were viewed through a telescope, because we could find none on the ground.  Samaras were hanging on 3 of the trees but were too high to reach.  The largest tree was about 4 1/2 inches diameter at breast hight and about 20 feet tall. 

The habitat was a nice swamp.  These trees were growing among sphagnum, spice bush (with fruits), cinnamon fern, sensitive fern, and deep black muck criss-crossed by mossy fallen trees.

Some of these trees were gnarled and exhibited the signs of struggle, with dead limbs and heroic attempts to grasp as much light as they could. 

This was an important discovery because it shows that black ash are still growing near Deer Pond, where our 1720-25 AD dugout canoe was found by Dave Walker in 1946. 


Monday, August 22, 2011


A. Gail Merian

Dave Moyer and I staffed our chapter exhibit at the Guilford FunFest on Saturday 20 August 2011.

I tried to get a photo with people visiting but there were not a lot of people at one time and when I got the camera out they would evaporate.  It was nice weather but not a big crowd, maybe because of the Blues Fest and Bouckville.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Donald A. Windsor

This article is reprinted from Chenango Archaeologist 2009 Winter; 2(7): 1-2,  in order to make it more widely available and to position it in this blog along with the other canoe related postings.

   So now we know!  For many years that big dugout log canoe has been with us while we met in the Indian Room of the Chenango County Historical Society Museum in Norwich.  Like the 800 pound gorilla in the room, it sat there, largely unheeded.  A plaque hanging on the wall tells a story about it.  Dan Noble often told me the story was false, because David R. "Dave" Walker discovered it in 1946 and Dave is not mentioned in the plaque. 

   But now, finally, we have the true story of this dugout canoe.  Dave Walker addressed our Thursday 3 September 2009 meeting and revealed everything.  To record his testimony, Josh Sheldon videotaped Dave's narration on the spot, right at Deer Pond, on State Route 23, across from Camp Pharsalia.  A copy of the video will be donated to the Museum.

   One July evening in 1946, Dave went to Deer Pond to get some frog legs.  The water had been recently lowered by the bursting of a beaver dam.  He noticed a log protruding from the mud at the edge of the pond.  Upon examination he observed that it was hollowed out.  Suspecting that it might be a dugout canoe, he told the owner, Lester Small, who said he could have it.  Dave got some of his buddies: Howard Welton, Bill Walker, and Joe Walker.  After some frustrating attempts, they were able to extract the canoe from the mud.

   They managed to load it onto a truck and haul it down to the City of Norwich.  This was a harrowing experience because the canoe was so long and heavy that it raised the front end of the truck off the road.  To force it down, Howard rode on the hood.  Deer Pond sits at an elevation of 1780 feet; Norwich is 1015, an overall drop of 765 feet, with many steep ups and downs along the way.  Dave drove about 5 miles per hour.

   They unloaded the canoe in Mae Lewis's yard on Front Street.  Mae's father, Willard Alpheus Lewis, was the owner of the truck they used.  He was a historian and stored antiques and boxes of historical material in his house and barn.  Dave and his crew propped the canoe upside down on sawhorses, and covered it with metal roofing sheets.  A year and a half later it was still wet, but lighter.  Mae married Harold Smith and went on to be the County Historian, serving from 1965 through 1997.   She had the canoe installed when the Museum opened in 1962.
The canoe is 17 feet 8 inches long and 2 feet broad.  It has a depth of 9 inches.  Its hollow is 5 inches deep.  Its hull is at least 3 inches thick.  The bottom has been flattened.

   A persistent question throughout the years has been what was such a big boat doing in such a small pond?  The 1943 topographical map (East Pharsalia 7.5 minute) has the pond as oval shaped with diameters of about 700 and 400 feet.  Deer Pond was dredged in 1980 and is now much larger. 
(Continued on page 2) (Continued from page 1)
   Dave says that Lyle Perkins, a DEC forester, told him that two more, much shorter, dugout canoes were found while dredging and were placed atop a pile of mud.  Unfortunately, they disappeared and no one knows where they went.  This dredging led to the erroneous notion that Dave's canoe came to the Museum two decades after Dave's discovery.

   I often wondered if it was indeed a canoe because it looks so unseaworthy.  It has a very shallow hull and no keel.  I used to canoe and I would never take this thing in a river because it could easily tip to the side and the current would capsize it.  So what good was it?

   Dave said the canoe was not used for river travel but for harvesting wild rice.  Which begs the question, is wild rice native here?  Sure enough.  See the following article.

   Dan Noble says that the rice harvesters did not ride in the canoe, but rather walked in the water beside it, pushing it along as if it were a floating basket.  With no riders, the canoe would probably have floated high enough to not take in water.  Dan stressed that three questions remain about this canoe.  What kind of wood is it?  How old is it?  Was it built by Native or Euro-Americans?

   Dave pointed out that the area around Deer Pond is still quite wet and probably was much wetter in the past.  History certainly bears that out, because roadbeds, draining, and confinement of streams to channels have drastically changed the hydraulics of our landscape.  Dave pointed to Perkins Pond, which is two miles to the north.  Several other ponds, named and unnamed are  within two miles of Deer Pond.  Among them are Jackson Pond on John Smith Road, and the CCC plus the former CCC/YMCA ponds on Elmer Jackson Road.  These ponds are dammed up streams.  But before the settlers changed the landscape, they were broad, multibraided streams dammed by beavers.  Perkins Pond is not depicted on the 1855 map but appears on the 1863 map.

   In spite of its high elevation, the area around Deer Pond is full of streams, most of them unnamed.  The area south and southeast of Camp Pharsalia is a huge wetland, called Barlow Swamp on the 1863 map.  We snowshoed through it last winter.  It consists of balsam and hemlock swamps interspersed with marshes.  Travel is difficult when these wetlands are not frozen.  If the water level were just a foot or so higher, the trees would drown and the whole area would be a massive marsh, suitable for wild rice.

   Dave emphasized that the Deer Pond area is a watershed that feeds into the Otselic River, the Brakel Creek, the Canasawacta Creek, and the Genegantslet Creek.  A glance at the topographical map confirms this.  Chenango County has 6 peaks above 2000 feet, 3 in Afton, 2 in Pharsalia, and 1 in Otselic.  The latter 3 are the high points of Dave's watershed.

   Then, as he was concluding his talk, Dave dropped a real bombshell.  He believes that somewhere in the Deer Pond area was an Indian village.  I am very familiar with that area and Dave's statement took me by surprise, because it is so wet and at such a high elevation.  But it does have plenty of dry spots.  I am now very excited about trying to find that village.  Dave has a remarkable record of finding old things, so I have learned to rely on his guidance.  Rumor has it that someone may have already found it, but never got around to publishing anything.  We shall see.  But for now, I want to thank Dave Walker for giving us a very interesting presentation, one that will certainly keep me intrigued for a long time.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chenango Chapter Picnic

Donald A. Windsor

The Chenango Chapter held its annual picnic at the Rogers Center in Sherburne on Thursday evening 4 August 2011.  It started around 6:00 and ended around 7:45.

Here is a group photo.  The group is not in alphabetical order and does not contain the entire group.

We had 18 participants; they were, in alphabetic order:  John Antonowicz, Barbara De Angelo, Marin Bennett, Monte Bennent, Rentha Bennett, Anne Dyjak, Jerry Hayes, Judy Hayes, Vicky Jane, Bob Mason, Dave Moyer, Dan Noble, Bob O'Keefe, Martha O'Keefe, Helen Tanner, Tyree Tanner, Don Windsor, and Susan Young.

Tyree told us about some music written by Gordon De Angelo and performed by the Chittenango Music Group.  Tyree brought sheet music and CDs for sale at $10.00.

Bob Mason presented a personalized brick to Dave Moyer, in appreciation for all that Dave has done for our Chapter.  The brick is embossed with "MOYER".  Dave has an extensive collection of bricks.  However, he did not have this one.

Here are some more photos of the group inaction.

The weather was warm, but not hot, in fact, a perfect summer evening.  The Rogers Center was as nice as ever, especially the huge trumpet vine in front of the restrooms.  Snapping turtles and carp lurked under the bridge over the pond.   A pleasant time seemed to have been had by all.

Instead of our September meeting, we plan to go to the Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave, Schoharie County, on Saturday 3 September.  Dave Moyer will coordinate the trip.  Details to be announced

On the way home the sun was setting. 


Monday, August 1, 2011

Indian Burials Within The City Of Norwich

Donald A. Windsor

Two Indian burial sites within the City of Norwich are documented by an 1868 newspaper:  one on Sylvan Lane and another on York Hill.  Both sites are in the southeastern quadrant of the City and are about a quarter-mile apart.

Tom Knapp found this anonymous item.

The Chenango Telegraph and Chronicle (Norwich, NY) 1868 July 29 Wednesday; 40(21): 3.

"Indian Remains. -- Mr. Joseph Schorn while digging in his door yard on Sylvan Lane on Saturday last came upon what he supposed to be a large stone, and commenced digging around it for the purpose of removing it.  Upon trying to turn it over it cracked and fell in pieces.  It proved to be a huge bowl of Indian pottery.  Upon further investigation it proved to have been placed over the body of an Indian who had been buried there.  Subsequent digging developed the fact that the body had been buried in a sitting posture.  This adds another evidence to those already found that the York hill was without doubt an Indian burying ground."
 Sylvan Lane no longer exists.  It once ran east-west between Grove and Taylor avenues.  It was situated south of Maydole Street and north of Marconi Avenue, before there was a Marconi Avenue.  It has had no buildings and was used as a vegetable garden for at least 40 years.  For the past few years it has been merely a mowed field.  Here is a photo of Sylvan Lane on the 1872 Village of Norwich Toudy map.

 Here is a photo of Sylvan Lane taken on 26 July 2011.  All photos in this blog posting were taken the same day.  These two lots are for sale.

 York Hill rises above Midland Drive across from the High School and in back of that small brick shed (which houses a gas meter).

 York Hill is, I assume, the high spot through which runs York Avenue, the physical extension of Brown Avenue.  Here is a photo looking east from Birdsall Street.

York Hill looks like a good place for a cemetery, high and dry.  Sylvan Lane, by sharp contrast, looks like a poor place.  It is a flat area within the flood plain.  Even when it is not flooded, it is wet.  The sewers do not adequately drain Grove Avenue here.

This documentation is indeed paltry, but at least it is something to go on.  It makes me wonder how many other Indian sites are within the City of Norwich.  We reported on our interpretation of a passage from Hiram C. Clark's History of Chenango County 1850, page 14, in our article cited below.

Windsor, Donald A. ; Storms, Dale C.  Indian mound in Norwich.  Chenango County Historian's Journal 2001 July-December; 2(3-4): 13.