As seen in the February 2001 edition of W&ET Magazine
Twice Told Tales
By: Ed Fedory
There exist in our lives certain experiences whose memories are long savored, either for hours or years, and sometimes for a lifetime. They are remembered for any number of reasons. They may have been pivotal points in our lives- or the times when we opened a new door, just to see what was in the room beyond. By the same token, for the writer there are certain stories which will never be forgotten... old stories that retain their freshness long after the hunts are over. And while the recovered relics might, over the years, acquire a growing layer of dust, still the thrill of the hunts, the excitement of the finds, the sense of history, and the warmth of friends afield never fades. They are the stories for which a single telling is never justice, for they are destined to be Twice Told Tales...
Dozens of Colonial buttons and King George coppers were found in the barracks area and "parade ground" of the fort.
As we stood on the edge of the newly harvested field of corn, there was the ever-present feeling of being surrounded by history. It wasn't only the cut and dressed stones, sticking from soil which had been dragged to the surface by the plow- stones which had once formed the foundations of several blockhouses- nor was it the long line of recoveries we had made during previous successful hunts. I guess it was just the knowledge that a great struggle had once taken place on the acres before us, and a fluid far thicker than water had once drenched the soil.
"Following each search at the site of the forts," Ed recalls, "we would range out farther afield in an attempt to locate the area where an ambush had occurred nearly two and a half centuries earlier." Obviously, they found it!
Only the day before, I had made the discovery of several pieces of grapeshot some distance from where the fort had once stood, and I recalled an old journal entry about the small stockaded fort "responding to the attack with grape and ball" when it had been assaulted by a large force of French and Indians.
British coppers were fairly common on the site, but it was a real thrill when the dark earth revealed the glint of Spanish silver!
To be honest, it was more like a half signal, because I didn't have my discrimination turned all the way down, and I actually walked 10' past the target before turning around and digging it. I had quietly vowed that this would be my last dig of the day. As my entrenching tool turned over the soil, my mind turned over the possibilities as to what the target might be... an old twisted spike... perhaps a rusty piece of farm equipment that had fallen off a tractor years ago... or maybe the unavoidable half horseshoe.
Acres of cornfields now covered ground once occupied by King George's War era forts. Beneath the stubble lay the remains of six blockhouse foundations and a wealth of Colonial relics.
Any thoughts of hurriedly quitting the field were now abandoned, and I began to search the rows of corn stubble surrounding me. In the next half hour, I was able to recover over a dozen rounds of grapeshot. I knew that the hunt for that day was quickly coming to an end, but I made another quiet vow to myself: I would return tomorrow and concentrate my hunt in the area of the original find.
Pieces of uncleaned grapeshot, here flanking a .75 caliber musketball, had the appearance of rough chunks of mud.
The following day my brother, Dennis, and I set about running tight patterns up and down the rows of stalks where the first recoveries had been made. Within minutes, another crop of grapeshot began coming to the surface. Since I had switched to a larger coil for additional depth, we decided that I would do the detecting, while my brother dug and marked each spot where a round of grape was recovered.
Buckles and buckle fragments, musketballs, clay pipe stems, broken pieces of early pottery, and the remains of colonial rum bottles fairly littered the site of the early forts.
We ended the day with a couple of cans of beef stew, cooked on a small Sterno stove on the banks of the Hudson River. As we ate, we attempted to picture the violent scene as it had been played out so long ago on those quiet fields. The sound of the cannons and musketry had faded with time, the gentle waves lapping against the shore now the only sound that remained the same.
* * *
It was difficult to walk more than 3' in any direction without having to stoop down and pick up a fragment of our Colonial past. The field was literally and liberally strewn with pieces of old clay pipes, pottery and rum bottle shards, and rusted rose-head nails. From the great number of surface indicators, we knew the old fort site would provide us with a wealth of Colonial artifacts and weeks of relic hunting.
Evidence that the fort site had been occupied both before and after the Colonial era came in the form of flint arrowheads, and coins from the 19th century.
Built in the mid-1740s, the fort had been burned to the ground the year after it was built and manned, but another and far larger fort had been built on its ashes the following year.
Searching the high ground of another cornfield, relic hunters discovered artifacts from a later stockaded fort, constructed in 1780 to protect the small farming community against roving British and Indian bands from the Niagara frontier.
With the coming of spring, every weekend was devoted to the site. From French records, I was able to determine the exact size of the second fort, and using steel probes I was able to establish the positions of each blockhouse foundation hidden beneath the surface of the field.
Typical finds during a day of hunting usually included clay pipe fragments, gunflints, buttons, musketballs, and coins.
Once the fields had been harvested, there was a new "crop" of relics both on the surface and within the range of my detector, and I once again started the routine of collecting and cataloging the recoveries.