What we learn from 1751/1752 Fort Map

By Ted Como

Some early maps that show Fort LaPresentation at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River are wildly inaccurate; you may find several here: http://ogdensburg.info/maps/maps.html . Most correct is a map called the 1751 Anonymous Plan and Elevation of Fort de la Presentation (the full title is: “Fort de la Presentation et anvirons au confluent des Rivieres Chouekatly et Katarakoui. Ministere de la France d’Outre-Mer Atlas Colonies, vol. III, no. 94. Courtest National Archives of France, Paris.) You may open it in a large formet here: https//collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:hx11z098t – keep clicking on it to enlarge. Later in this article we refer to this map as “Map 3.”

We can learn some new facts about the fort and surrounding area from this map of which there are at least three versions. This article includes links to what we refer to as Maps 1, 2 and 3.

The rendering of the fort is identical in all three versions and for the most part so are the geographic features except that in Map 1, the Oswegatchie River is portrayed to the length of its second bend, which may be seen in a Google satellite image opposite the end of the runway at the Ogdensburg International Airport. Maps 2 and 3 abbreviate the length of the river as presented in Map 1, and, Map 1 also has a legend which is missing from Maps 2 and 3. This leads us to believe that Map 1 is the original from which Maps 2 and 3 were copied.

Map 1 has a legend box at upper left and shows 12 longhouses next to the fort in four rows of three. It has no written information elsewhere on the map. It spells the St. Lawrence River as Riviere de Catarakouy. The St. Lawrence County Historical Association in its publication of January, 1990 ( http://www.slcha.org/quarterly/issues/v035no1.pdf ) refers to this version as “The 1752 map and elevation of Fort de la Presentation by Paul de la Brosse. Courtesy of the National Archives of Paris, France, Paris.” It may be found here: http://ogdensburg.info/webphotos/1752map.jpg

Map 2. This version removes the legend box. It shows 10 longhouses next to the fort in four rows of two, with two more standing alone to the south. It has written text throughout and spells the St. Lawrence River as Riviere Katarakoui. (There were some 20 spellings of the St. Lawrence including Katarakoui, Catarakouy, Cataraky, Cataraguq, Cataracto, Catarocoui, Calaraque, Catarachqui, Kadaraghke, Kadaraghkie, Kodakagkie, Catarockque, Cadaacocrochque, Catgarocoui, Cuadaraghque, and Crediroqua.)

This map is offered by the Library and Archives of Canada as a “Map of the confluence of the Katarakoui and Choeuketfy rivers” without attribution or date. It is referenced by the St. Lawrence County Historical Assoc. as “The 1751 Anonymous Plan and Elevation of Fort de la Presentation” with the full title of: “Fort de la Presentation et anvirons au confluent des Rivieres Chouekatly et Katarakoui. Ministere de la France d’Outre-Mer Atlas Colonies, vol. III, no. 94. Courtest National Archives of Paris, France, Paris.” It may be seen here: https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/exploration-settlement/new-france-new-horizons/PublishingImages/0602.jpg

Map 3 also has no title box and shows 10 longhouses in five rows of two. As with Map 2 it has written text throughout which differs in placement from Map 2 and is written in a different hand. It also spells the St. Lawrence as Riviere de Katarakoui but at bottom right, it shows: “Paul . Labrosser . Fecit.”

We have added a feature to Map 3. With the assistance of Michael Whittaker of Bishops Mills, Ontario, we have translated much of the handwriting from French to English. Whittaker is an avid historian who has written extensively on the fort and local history. He came to Ogdensburg as an 1812 reenactor and heritage interpreter and was one of the organizers of the War of 1812 Symposium here. Map 3 with the translations is hosted by the Fort La Presentation Association and may be found here: https://fort1749.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/mapenhancedwithtext-1.jpg

So who is Paul Labrosser as shown at bottom right on Map 3? His actual name was Paul Raymond Jourdain dit Labrosse (1697-1769) and he is identified in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography as an organ builder, wood carver and master carpenter ( http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jourdain_paul_raymond_3E.html ) but also as a cartographer in this reference. We found another map with his name on it, a “map of the river of Katarakoui taking from the clear point to the fort of the Presantation dedicated to the Marquis de La Galissoniere by Paul Raymond Jourdain, 1697-1769, cartographer: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b5968920n/f1.item In a larger but more simplified format we find the same map here: https://collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:hx11z1425
Curiously, the first map of the St. Lawrence shows at LaPresentation 16 longhouses, four rows of four each. It also shows the Oswegatchie River to Black Lake. The legend says it was presented to the governor by his very humble and obedient servant Paul LaBrosse.

But back to Map 3, there are things we can learn from it. (You should have it open on your screen to better understand these points (Right click on the link to open it in a new tab): https://fort1749.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/mapenhancedwithtext-1.jpg

  • The 3-foot drop in elevation of the Oswegatchie between Points F and G explains why Picquet located his dam there. Over the years, the city expanded on it until the concrete dam was constructed just several feet in front of it.
  • The park along the east side of the Oswegatchie was created with fill, from the area of the pumping station, north to the area of the former Ford Street Bridge. After the turn of the century there were a number of boat houses in this area near the former Ford Street Bridge but as the map indicates, originally the water lapped the bottom of the hill along Crescent Street with stronger rapids than today, driven by that large drop in elevation.
  • It is interesting that the Thomas Davies watercolor shown on the home page of https://fort1749.org/ and illustrating the Aug. 17, 1760 British attack on L’Outaouaise which actually occurred a mile or so upriver from La Presentation, shows with but one exception structures adjacent to the fort, some number of which were certainly longhouses, running north to south, while this map and all others shows them running east to west. No doubt there were at least 10 longhouses since each would house typically 20 or more families and Picquet had some 400 native families at La Presentation.
  • Originally, you could walk from the point at the east side of the Oswegatchie out to the islet where the map shows the water depth at no more than four feet. And,
  • The map shows the rise in elevation at both sides of the mouth of the Oswegatchie, no doubt a feature created during the last glacial period as ice melting from the north unleashed huge torrents which had to find their way south.

Ted Como is a journalist, historian, genealogist and a member of the board of the Fort La Presentation Association.

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