Friday, August 31, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

Black Ash Bog is in Otsego County, Town of Butternuts, north of Ideuma Road (which is in the Town of Unadilla) and west of County Road 3.  It is on private land.

The name Black Ash Bog appears on the US Geological Service topographical map Gilbertsville, NY, 1943, 7.5 minutes.  A road sign on Ideuma Road proclaims a dead-end road as Black Ash Swamp.

On a visit, with landowner permission, on Thursday morning 30 August 2012, 5 of us hiked through the northern portion of the wetland.  It is indeed a swamp, a forested wetland, with no evidence of being a bog, that is, no bog plants.  Among the vegetation were these notables:  Hemlock, Black Ash, Spice Bush, Creeping Snowberry, Cinnamon Fern, and Royal Fern.  Sphagnum covers everything except dark areas of mud, but no floating mat was seen.

On adjacent higher ground are Red Oak, White Oak, Chestnut Oak, and American Chestnut, in with White Ash, Sugar Maple, Red Maple, American Beech, and White Pine.

We encountered at least two dozen Black Ash.  The smallest had a diameter of about 2 inches and the largest about 8 inches.  We found one large dead Black Ash that had a diameter of about 17 inches (from circumference = 54 inches).  We did not find any samaras on the ground, nor did we see any in the trees.  Most surprising to me was the absence of Black Ash seedlings.  However, we hiked for 3.5 hours.  Perhaps a longer search would have revealed some seedlings.  The ferns were waist to chest high, so visibility was obstructed.

This was the first visit for all of us, so we did not know exactly what to expect.  Prior to the visit, I suspected that we would not find a bog because this area is a valley perched between two ridges.  It sits at 1720 feet elevation with its western ridge reaching 1860 feet and its eastern counterpart topping at 2020.  The "bog" area has two streams draining it, one flowing south and the other flowing north.  A typical bog has no inlet, no outlet, and is a nutrient-poor (1).  Sandwiched between two steep watersheds, this peaty wetland gets plenty of nutrients.

Therefore, unless we find evidence to the contrary, I conclude that Black Ash Bog is really Black Ash Swamp.

Reference cited:
Johnson, Charles W.  Basic terms and definitions.  In: Bogs of the Northeast.  Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. 1985. Pages 7-18.


Monday, August 6, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

Was Fort Hill in Oxford merely a fort?  Or was it a sacred site?

Fort Hill is the hill east of the Chenango River where the bridge crosses in the Village.  This is where the library, fire station, Behe Funeral Home, and the United Church stand today on the aptly named Fort Hill Park. 

The first Euro-Americans in this area called things using their European vocabulary.  A stockade was called a "fort" or a "castle".  Fort Hill had no stockade (a perimeter of closely spaced vertical logs).  Nevertheless, it looked as if it should have, so it was called a fort.

The earliest description is by DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828) in an 1817 letter to Doctor Samuel L. Mitchell.  Part of this letter is quoted in Clark's 1850 History of Chenango County (1) on page 6. It is too long to reproduce here, its essence follows.

Clinton called it a "fort" and said it was on the east side of the Chenango River in the Village of Oxford.  About 2 or 3 acres of land was about 30 feet higher than the flat land around it.  This land stretched for about 50 rods (825 feet) along the riverbank.  The fort was situated at the southwesterly end, covering about 3 rods (49.5 feet) of a straight, almost perpendicular riverbank.  Clinton included a drawing, which resembles a capital D.  The straight vertical line is the riverbank and the curve is a ditch, 4 feet deep; at both corners are entrances which he called "gateways".  This area is now where the library is located.

A large, dead pine tree trunk stood 50 or 60 feet tall.  When cut, it had 195 annual rings.  Because the tree was dead, Clinton estimated that the tree much was much older, perhaps 300 or 400 years old.  Its roots were shaped to the ditch, indicating that the ditch was older.  Decorated potsherds were found.

Clinton did not say when this tree was first found, but the first settler was General Benjamin Hovey who built a cabin on Fort Hill in 1790(2).  That would place the fort in 1400-1500 AD.  He mentions that no wood structures were found and he does not mention stone structures.

Smith's History of Chenango County 1880 also describes Fort Hill (3, page 254) but he merely repeats some of Clark.

I write about Fort Hill because it has some similarities with the Sacred Site I described on this blog in my post of 27 June 2012.  Fort Hill is about 4.2 direct miles from that site.  It is about 6.6 direct miles from the Castle, also described by Clark on pages 6, 8, 17 (1).  Perhaps these sites are somehow related.  Remarkably, they are on an almost straight line!

1.  Clark, Hiram C.  History of Chenango County.  1850.  122 pages.
2.  Stafford, Charlotte.  A Chronology of Oxford Happenings 1788-1950.
3.  Smith, James H.  History of Chenango County.  1880.  488 pages.



Donald A. Windsor

Around mid July 2012, NYSEG put in a new gas line under the lawn on the north side of the Golden Age Apartments on Mechanic Street in the City of Norwich. 

On 25 July, I noticed a shiny black stone atop the back-filled ditch.  Here are 2 photos of it.

The upper photo is a top view and the lower is a side view.

The stone weighs 5 ounces.  It looks like obsidian, but I suspect that it is slag, because this is the site of the former Maydole Hammer factory (1845-1970) and is about 80 feet from the railroad tracks.

I showed this to David Moyer and he identified it as slag before I told him where I found it.  Gail Merian gave me a piece of real obsidian for comparison.


Saturday, August 4, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

The Chenango Chapter held its annual picnic at the Rogers Center in Sherburne on Thursday Evening 2 August 2012.  It started at 6:00 and ended around 7:45.  We all ate and talked; some of us threw atlatls.

We had 17 picnicers:  John Antonowicz, Barbara DeAngelo, Marin Bennett, Monte Bennett, Rentha Bennett, Sherry Howe, Ward Howe, Vicky Jane, Gail Merian, Bob Mason, Dave Moyer, Michael Raphael, Lucy Mae Sanders, Helen Tanner, Tyree Tanner, Don Windsor, and Susan Young.

 Here are some action shots.


Saturday, July 28, 2012


Donald A.Windsor

Inspired by our work on the Mastodon Matrix Project, 8 of us went to its home base, the Museum of the Earth, on Friday 27 July 2012.  The Museum is located on the northeast side of State Route 96, almost 2 miles from the Cayuga Inlet in western Ithaca.

From the left, Dave Moyer, John Antonowicz, Pat Evans, Gail Merian, Don Windsor, Vicky Jayne, Joanie Rupprecht, and Barbara DeAngelo. The skeleton of the Hyde Park Mastodon, whose matrix we examined at our 3 May meeting, looms behind us in the photo. 

Bob Mason was here on Wednesday with his youth group.

The exhibits were informative and well presented.  They were based on the geological time scale, with a special display for each period.  However, they were quite superficial and offered no incentive to return.  This is a problem that vexes all museums and is why our history museum in Norwich is now changing its exhibits every few months.

While the visit was certainly worth while, I was disappointed by the meager offering of books for sale.

Anyone wishing to express a different view of the Museum is encouraged to do so.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

Quite frankly, I do not know what this place was, so I call it a "sacred site" to give it a name.  It is located in the Town of Oxford, about 2 miles from Warn Pond (my posting of 2 June 2012).  I do not divulge its exact location for security reasons.

I have known about this site for at least three decades, but dismissed it as merely some historical stone foundations connected with a nearby quarry.  But recently, I have modified my attitude toward it, because it seems to be part of a series of stone piles running from the Brisben area, north up to Ludlow Lake. 

I suspect that more stone structures could be found in the hills surrounding Warn Pond.  However, almost all of this land is privately owned, so it is not easy to gain access. 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

At our Chenango Chapter meeting on Thursday evening, 7 June 2012, we examined soil taken from a mastodon excavation at Hyde Park.  President David Moyer divided a kilogram of soil among us and we carefully picked through it looking for the remains of plants, animals, stones, or unidentified objects.  Here are some candid photos of us in action.  Our results will be submitted to the Mastodon Matrix Project at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca.


Saturday, June 2, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

Warn Pond, in the Town of Oxford, lies between the Chenango River and State Route 12, about 1.9 straight-line miles south of the South Oxford Bridge.  It is also called Warn Lake.  It can be seen from Twin Bridges Road during the leafless seasons.


Warn Pond was the site where Thick Neck was caught and murdered by his fellow Indians.  The story is reported by Clark (1). 

Surface artifacts from this area were collected by Fred Stevens during the 1950s and were donated to the Oxford Historical Society in 2003.  They range from 3000 BC to 1000 AD (2).

The kettle-kame landscape around Warn Pond is a legacy of the glacier.  I suspect that Warn Pond was a kettlehole bog.  All this property is privately owned, so it is not readily accessible to exploration.

A site with four stone piles sits about three-quarter mile true north of Warn Pond, on a hill about 300 feet higher.  The photo below shows the view.  Warn Pond is behind those trees.


References cited:

1.  Clark, Hiram C.  History of Chenango County ...  Norwich, NY: Thompson & Pratt.  1850. Page 13.

2. Stevens, Fred.  The Warn Pond sites ...  Unpublished file.  2003.


Monday, May 21, 2012


A. Gail Merian

Anne Dyjak and I represented the Chenango Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association at the annual South Otselic Fishing Heritage Day, Saturday 19 May 2012.


Saturday, May 19, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

No evidence connecting Native Americans with stone piles in Chenango County has been found.  Until now.  Kathy Klopchin found a projectile point within a half-mile of the stone pile site in the Melondy Hill State Forest in the Town of Afton on Sunday 25 March 2012.  I described this site in my book cited below.

Our Bullthistle Hiking Club was plodding along a very muddy logging road that was sloshed by a large vehicle.  Kathy noticed the point on the side of the rut where it was splashed out.  She marked the location on her GPS.

The point seems to be made of rhyolite, according to several of my colleagues in our Chenango Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association.  Rhyolite is a volcanic rock.  Volcanic rocks range from the very hard glass-like obsidian to the fluffy pumice.  Rhyolite is gritty and does have a purple form.  The nearest natural source of rhyolite is a well-known site near Gettysburg in south central Pennsylvania.

The identity of the point remains elusive because it seems to match illustrations of several types.  I narrowed it down to being either a Lamoka or a Susquehanna Broad.

Lamoka points are found more often west of here in the Finger Lakes region and beyond.  Susquehanna points are more apt to be found here in the Susquehanna River watershed.  Although a Google search of {  Lamoka rhyolite } turns up several photos matching this point, Ritchie does not associate the two terms.  On the other hand, Googling { Susquehanna rhyolite } turns up many hits and Ritchie does associate those two terms.  In fact, on page 54 he states that, "In Pennsylvania, nearly all points of this type are said to be made of purplish rhyolite derived from outcrops of this metamorphosed volcanic rock in Franklin and Adams Counties, near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  This material also composes a large number of the New York specimens ..."  Both point types are from the Archaic Period, Susquehanna (1200BC - 700BC), pages 53-54, are from the Transitional and Late Archaic; whereas Lamoka (3500BC - 2500BC), pages 29-30, are from the Early Archaic, page 10.

Therefore, the evidence cited above seems to favor the identity of this Afton point to be a narrow version of a Susquehanna Broad point made of purplish rhyolite.

Of course, finding a single point a half-mile away does not actually connect the stone piles to the Native Americans.  However, it is our closest connection so far and does inspire us to keep searching.

References cited:

Ritchie, William A.  A Typology and Nomenclature for New York Projectile Points.  Albany, NY: State Museum Bulletin 384.  1961, revised 1971, reprinted 1989. 

Windsor, Donald A.  The mysterious stone piles.  In:  Souvenirs of Yesteryear.  Exploring Chenango County, New York.  Norwich, NY: Self-published.  2009.  Pages 12-14.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

McElligott, Corey C. ; McElligott, Darren, C. ; McElligott, Patrick R.
Water Man.  A Native People's History of the Northeast.
Guilford, NY: Waterfalls Press.  2011.  Unpaginated [354 pages]

This is truly a wonderful book and I thank the authors for publishing it.  Now this information resides in the public domain and is available to all who seek it.

Actually, I envy Pat -- and you will too, when you read it.  Why?  Because Pat had the privilege of carrying on all these fascinating conversations with Onondaga Chief Paul Water Man (=Waterman).  However, you can rejoice, because Pat's sons, Corey and Darren, described them for you.

Whereas this book provides interesting (hard to put down!) reading, it does have several pesky drawbacks which, unfortunately, will hinder its use as a reference.  It lacks the standard book features: verso, contents, cited references, and index.  The most distressing omission was the absence of page numbers.  Consequently, I recommend that readers do what I did, write in their own page numbers and construct their own index.  Admittedly, these are not tasks that someone paying $30.00 for a book should have to do.  But, for me, it was worth the trouble.

Over the years, I learned many concepts from Pat.  Now, I have a document to back them up.  For example, the use of  burial mounds is based on the idea that a person springs from the womb and should return to the womb when life is over.  Burial mounds resemble the bellies of pregnant women in the supine position.  Up to now, I have not been able to document that concept.  Now I can, on page 106.  I still remember when Pat first told me that, because it made me look at landscapes differently from then on.  Chenango County is richly endowed with possible burial mounds.

This book is full of remarkable information and I strongly urge you to read it.


Monday, April 23, 2012


Gail Merian

On Thursday April 19,2012 there was a presentation showing various types and styles of Native American dolls at the Chenango County Historical Society meeting.  We explored a bit of American history and we found that dolls were more than playthings and more than objects that collected dust.

Did you ever think about getting into a time capsule and going back through time?  Doll collecting can do this for you.  Whether you collect dolls from the Victorian age or action figures of the 20th and 21st century, one can glean information from a bygone era.   Investigate dolls and become involved not only in history but in geography, ethnology, anthropology, crafts, and interacting with other collectors.

People collect dolls for various reasons.  Reasons include souvenirs from vacation, dolls for investment, or because a particular doll struck their fancy.

Native American lore and culture have fascinated people for years, so collecting Native American dolls evolved from this.   Media has portrayed Native Americans as savages, a dying and noble race, romantic and in tune with the environment.  As such, when Disney promoted the film Pocahontas, Pocahontas dolls became popular.  Native American dolls also became popular after the movies Dances with Wolves, Windtalker, and The Last of the Mohicans.

Native American dolls can also be subdivided into categories such as souvenir dolls, handmade dolls, native crafted dolls, action figures and dolls by a particular company.

Each category has a story.  Some Native American dolls speak of religion and teaching, such as the Kachina dolls, some tell of tribal tradition and some tell of historical progression of a company.

All this and more were covered during the presentation.


Sunday, April 15, 2012


Samaras under the large black ash on the south east corner of Johnson Street and Elmer Jackson Road were found on Sunday 15 April 2012, during a Bullthistle Hike in the Pharsalia Wildlife Management Area.  For many years I have been looking for them and finally found some, confirming the identification of this tree.  I measured it with my arms at about 5.5 feet circumference (1.75 feet diameter).  It is the largest found so far but is dying on its north side.

Photo by Jonathan Bogardus.

The dugout canoe in the Chenango County Museum in Norwich was made of black ash and is about 2 feet in diameter and was dated at 1720-25 AD.  This canoe was found by Dave Walker in 1946 in Deer Pond, about 3 miles southwest. 

For more information, check posts on this blog for 11 July 2011 and 16 August 2011.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

The famous White Site (1) is on Johnson Creek, about 3.7 miles (as the creek flows) from the Chenango River (2).  Surely the residents of that site had traversed the entire stretch of the Johnson Creek.  In fact, the "Iroquois Trail" (now County Road 33 + White Store Road) ran between the Chenango River and the Unadilla (= Tianaderha) River.  Its western terminus was near this confluence (3). 

I have been trying to explore the confluence for several years.  However, it was always too wet.  Fortunately, this spring has been dry and so, on 3 April 2012, I ventured over and was able to walk around in it.

The confluence is not a single stream emptying into the river.  Johnson Creek forms a fan of small streams covering about a quarter mile of riverfront.  The entire riverside area is a wetland.  Some of the larger washouts indicate that several feet of mud covers whatever is under it.  It does not look like any place that I would pitch a tent. 

But lo, looking southeasterly a veritable peninsula stretches out perhaps a furlong from the higher spot the barn and house are on.  This would be the site for a dig.  It is very close to what I think is The Castle (4).

The Johnson Creek has been controlled in the historic past to try to confine it within artificial berms.  The futility of this approach is seen in the field adjacent to the creek.  Stones have repeatedly been sprawled over the field by the rushing waters.  One of these washouts stretches for about 300 feet.

References cited:

1.  Whitney, Theodore ; Gibson, Stanford.  The White Site, Nbn 2-3 [Bulletin]   Chenango Chapter NYSAA 1987 Aug; 22(2): x-21+plates 1-10.
2.  USGS Topographic 7.5 minute maps Norwich and Holmesville, 1943.
3.  Survey map of the Twenty Townships. 1789.
4.  Clark, Hiram C.  History of Chenango County ... Norwich, NY: Thompson & Pratt. 1850. Page 8

Friday, March 16, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

Anne Dyjak served as our Chapter Secretary from 2000 through 2010.  She has also been the driving force for the refreshments provided at our monthly meetings.

The award was presented by President David Moyer at our March 10, 2012, meeting.

Congratulations Anne!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

Cole, John R. ; Godfrey, Laurie R., Editors.
Archaeology and Geochronology of the Susquehanna and Schoharie Regions.
Proceedings of the Yager Conference at Hartwick College
November 6, 1976.

Oneonta, NY: Hartwick College. 1977. 146 pages.

Thirty-five years after a book is published is a long delay for a book review, but I just read this one.  It was hard to stop, because this book contains some very useful information, including drawings, of the geological features of the area just east and south of Chenango County.

The chapter on the deglacial chronology of the Oneonta area by P. Jay Fleisher is terrific.  Doctor Fleisher gave our chapter an eye-opening presentation on this subject about six or so years ago.

The archaeology is covered from the earliest Paleo times into our historical period.

Of special note is the chapter on the Otsiningo site by Dolores Elliott.  Drive to Binghamton and you go right by it.  Here is a good opportunity to read about its prehistoric inhabitants.

The highlights of the book are the spirited discussions after each chapter.  My favorite exchange occurs on page 137.  Joseph P. Timlin, defending his eponymous site, claims that "The stratigraphic records are right in front of you out there".  William A. Starna responds "No, they have to be on paper.  This is archaeology, not show and tell.  Archaeology is not simply what you see or what you get down on your hands and knees to look at.  That is antiquarianism; that is not archaeology.  Archaeology happens to be a very well structured discipline with a number of tenets and precepts and theoretical structures and formulae.  These claims have to be verified or falsified like any other claims in science."

Well said, Doctor Starna!

And thank you, David Moyer, for bringing this book to our February 11 meeting.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012


 Donald A.Windsor

 New officers were elected at our Chapter meeting on Saturday 14 January 2012.

President = David Moyer
Vice-President = John Antonowicz
Treasurer = Robert Mason
Secretary = Donald A. Windsor

 The vote was unanimous. Two members rose to the officer ranks, Dave and Bob.  John returns for his third term.  I shifted from President to Secretary.  Terms are 2-years.

I was surprised to be awarded an engraved,ceremonial gavel.  The photo below shows Dave on the right presenting it to me.

It was indeed an honor and a privilege to serve and I regret having to leave.

For some mysterious reason, we neglected to take a photo of all four of the new officers.  We will try to get one at our next meeting on Saturday 11 February 2012, 1:00 pm at the Museum Research Center.