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.