Did You Know? – History

Enjoy a collection of a variety of fascinating historical facts and informational tidbits on the Lake George Region, including famous presidents that visited Lake George, French and Indian War events, underwater historic shipwrecks, and more!

Did You Know?…

…that Lake George was formed about 10,000 years ago when a melting glacier blocked an ancient river bed which headed south from the Northwest Bay Brook to Bolton to the Hudson River and another river flowing north from the Narrows area into Lake Champlain. With no escape, the waters from the two rivers rose & created the “Queen of American Lakes.” Lake George has no rival in this country for beauty and historical associations and commands a distinct absence of commerce and manufacturing on its shores. To learn more about the geological formation and facts on Lake George and the Adirondacks, click here.

..that Lake George was named in 1755 by Major General William Johnson to honor the King of England. For more than century, however, the lake was previously known as Lac Du St. Sacrement, the name given by father Isaac Jogues, a French missionary who wished to acknowledge the religious festival (Holy Sacrement) of Corpus Christi.

…that the Lake George Association (LGA), a non-profit membership organization created in 1885 to protect and preserve Lake George and its surrounding environment, celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2010, making it the oldest lake association in the nation.

…that 2003 was the Centennial Anniversary (1903-2003) of the Village of Lake George. In celebration, an Adirondack style fountain was built and dedicated in Shepard Park to commemorate the 100th anniversary.

… that Lake George Village was originally named Caldwell, after its founder, James Caldwell, who also provided lodging at this log tavern located on land that is now Shepard Park.

…that the Caldwell Presbyterian Church, turns 200 this year. The congregation for Caldwell Presbyterian Church was the first church building in Lake George when it was founded in 1810 at what is now the site of TD Bank on Canada Street. The heirs of its founder, James Caldwell, donated the land on Montcalm Street in 1855 for the current location of the white wooden church. It hosted the town’s first library and first kindergarten. www.caldwellpres.org

…that the Lake George Region was the vacation destination for several past U.S. Presidents. George Washington in 1783 and Thomas Jefferson & James Madison in 1791, were among the earliest tourists in Lake George who came to enjoy the pure, sparkling waters of the lake and the natural and majestic beauty of the surrounding mountains. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, long-time friends, took a month off from their political and governmental duties in the early summer of 1791 for an excursion to the area. They spent much of their holidays visiting local forts & war memorials, sailing Lake George, and hunting and fishing. They chronicled their adventures and their enchantment with the pristine surroundings in their letters home. Theodore Roosevelt climbed Mount Marcy in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks and learned he became President while in North Creek. In 1909, President Taft visited Fort Ticonderoga’s re-opening celebration after a major restoration project.

…that in 1877, Dr. James Ferguson purchased Prospect Mountain, renamed it Mt. Ferguson, and built a hotel high above the lake. This was destroyed by fire in 1880; however, it was soon rebuilt. It was purchased by William Peck, who had Otis build a cable railway to the top in order to avoid the tedious trip by horse and buggy. The railway opened in 1895, but the operation was forced to close in 1903 due to lack of business. In 1925, George Foster Peabody, who had acquired the property, donated it to the State. Today, the 100 mile scenic view is a must on a clear day.

…that the 16 foot Adirondack “guide boat” used by trappers and guides in the early 1700’s in upstate New York combined the qualities of Indian bark canoe with the features of the dory. It was made of pine or cedar wood and contained 4000 tacks and 1600 screws weighing 60-70 pounds in all, including the oars.

…that of the nearly 250 bateaux (French for a wooden, flat-bottomed boat) sunk in the Lake George by British for storage and safety from the French troops during the French and Indian War (1755-1763), about 50 are still there resting in clusters, weighted with rocks, and serving as an underwater museum.

…that The New York Independence Trail, founded and spearheaded by local resident, Frank Garofalo designates 43 key historical sites from Manhattan to Canada which establishes New York as the birthplace of our nation. Key battles during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars were fought here.

…that under General William Johnson’s command, the first road connecting the Hudson River at Fort Edward to the south end of Lake George was built in only three days. A crew of men wielding axes forged through the dense forest and uneven terrain to create 15 miles of crude road in the summer of 1755. Over the next five years, some 50,000 soldiers passed over what was known as Johnson’s Road and what was most likely a precursor to today’s Route 9.

…that the midnight ride of Paul Revere over 200 years ago etched his place in history, but is only a brief example of his dedicated service to a young country under battle. Early in his career, it is believed he spent time at Fort William Henry in Lake George. Revere was an artilleryman, part of an elite group of officers charged with difficult and dangerous task of loading and firing cannon. In Boston, he soon evolved into a courier and patriot games. He once served as a county coroner and established the first Board of Health in Boston. Even in his later years, he never lost his patriotic passion.

…that Lake George has its own underwater park. The Submerged Heritage Preserves is a series of submerged shipwrecks and archeological finds which lie at the bottom of the lake. During the French & Indian War (1755-1763), the British deliberately sank hundreds of their boats in Lake George in order to avoid their capture. Today, this underwater museum is a popular site for divers. The Bateau Below, a group dedicated to documenting & researching these shipwrecks, has attained recognition for the site as a national landmark. To find out more, click here.

…that scattered about the depths of Lake George are gunboats and sloops from the French and Indian War; Colonel John Brown’s entire fleet of Colonial ships and scows, cannon balls, and muskets from the 1777 Revolutionary War; steamboats from the 1800 era; and coal barges from the 1920’s and 1930’s.

…that the local underwater archaeological & Lake George historic shipwreck preservation team, Bateaux Below, made an award-winning documentary called “The Lost Radeau: North America’s Oldest Intact Warship” – based on the historic shipwreck “Land Tortoise,” a 52 foot French & Indian War gunboat found on the bottom of Lake George in 1990. This documentary is shown on PBS stations in NY State and is now available on dvd. Visit www.thelostradeau.com for more info.



For more interesting facts and informational tidbits on Lake George and its surrounding region, click here.