From 1626 forward, missionaries, adventurers and military detachments occasionally passed the future site of Fort LaPresentation, using the St. Lawrence River as the great highway to the west. “Doubtless, many of them stopped a few days for rest and repairs” at what was known as La Gallette, writes Gates Currtis in his “Our County And Its People: a Memorial Record of St. Lawrence County, NY,” published in 1894.
“One of these noteworthy expeditions was that of Father Raymbault, who left Quebec in the spring of 1641, and, after stopping at La Galette, continued on westward and established missions north of the lakes in what is now Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Another was that of Father Le Moyne, who started in July, 1654, with another Frenchman and three converted Indians, and made his way to the country of the Onondaga Indians, where the salt springs were then discovered to him. This party also stopped at La Galette. Records of these expeditions and others are matters of published history.
“Evidences that prospecting parties also visited the point at La Galette at an early date are unmistakable,” Curtis says. “The Oswegatchie River was the highway by which the natives of this section reached their hunting grounds and the Mohawk River. The Oswegatchie, turning to the left a short distance above its mouth, was termed the East Branch, and turning to the right, including Black Lake and Indian River, was called the West Branch.
“The two branches near by the Oxbow run close to each other, and the Indians had there a carrying place from one to the other. On the West Branch, above Black Lake, are found lead, iron, and pyrites. In some of the ravines little water courses issue from the iron ore hills, carrying off oxide of iron or red ochre, which has been gathered for ages by the Indians and used for war paint.
“In this locality the early settlers found holes dug or blasted in the hills, which had the appearance of age and the workmanship of intelligent people. On a farm now owned by Lyman Merriman, in the southerly part of Gouverneur, near the Indian portage, is a high rocky bluff. On its westerly slope there crops out a large smooth surface of the limestone rock, on which is cut the date — 1671.
“The figures are well formed, about five inches long, properly spread, and the grooves are sunk about an inch in depth. The bottom and sides of the grooves were as weather beaten as any part of the rock surface around them, when first discovered by the pioneers seventy-five or eighty years ago.
“This landmark, having endured the storms and frosts without any apparent change for upwards of two hundred years, will stand for centuries to come if no violence is used to deface it. In the woodland which has never been cleared, about a quarter of a mile north of this historic rock, is a large hole excavated some twelve feet deep and a ditch leading from it, which partially drains off the water coming into it.
“The mound, which was formed by the earth thrown out of the pit, has large trees growing on its surface. It is said that the pioneers, shortly after the discovery of the hole, pumped out the water, expecting to find treasure, but found only fresh cut blocks of wood at the bottom, beneath stone and debris tiiat had accumulated above them.
“The supposition is that the same party who engraved the date on the rock was prospecting for gold or silver but found only pyrites, which crops out at that point. This date engraved on the rock corresponds with the date when the fort at Frontenac (now Kingston) was commenced, and the engineers who built the fort may have been connected with this exploring party.”
Ted Como, email@example.com