This Place in History: Fort Saint-Frédéric


At 'This Place in History' we are not in Vermont, but we're still with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

"So we're in New York. We are right across the lake in Crown Point. Of course, this area has such a broad influence on our history in Vermont, New England, New York, you name it but we're here. And we're going to talk about the French. Of course, we've learned that this area has a great history with Native Americans and with the British, and of course the new United States. But the French were also here and I think we don't talk about that a lot," said Perkins.

Standing on the bastion of a fort, the Crown Point Historic Site Manager Michael Roets joined us to tell us more.

"Samuel Champlain, we know that's the name of this Lake here, in 1609 made a journey down south. We know he stopped at a point on land. He may have made it this far, he may have gone to a point farther south. And in his journals, he actually draws a sketch of this point and a battle that he actually had against the Mohawk Indians," said Roets.

"After that, the British and the French were sort of competing for control of this leg. The French were of course north in Canada. The British were down at New York City and Albany. This water route between the two was contested ground between the two large European nations. Eventually, the French got wind that the British were here trading just across the way in Vermont, over on the other point, which we call Chimney Point," explained Roets.

"The French decided that they needed to build a fort there. They needed to protect this area and they needed to stop that trading from going on. So they built a wooden fort just across the way. The wooden fort stood for about four years until the French decided they needed to build something a little bigger and better. I think they were going to initially build this French fort on that side. But when they tried to build it, they realized the bedrock was too shallow. It would cost them way too much money to actually try to erect this fortification area, so they moved across this way. At that point in time, they decided they were going to expand the fort and build what we ended up getting here at Fort Saint-Frédéric."

"I think initially we probably didn't have a really enormous occupation here. I mean it's pretty harsh out here in the winter. Initially you had probably a couple hundred French troops trading with Native Americans and trying to encourage farmers to come. We understand that there was a settlement. We've got accounts in 1749 that talk about anywhere between 12 and 30 farms that settled in and around here."

"This fort was really an impressive stone fort. We think that it was built with high stone walls to be really impressive from the water; from the Native Americans who were coming up and down here trading, to really mark this location. It looks small and it possibly looks small because we've got an enormous British fort that was built right behind us, but it was actually quite large. There would have been two barracks buildings in here,  a number of store houses. This large tower citadel structure that we talk about, this would have had at least 20 or 30 cannons mounted in all the walls. East bastion would have been fortified with cannon. You had a chapel outside the structure. So you have soldiers living outside of the fort basically. If it was attacked you had enough room and space to bring them all inside. You can get a couple hundred soldiers in here to protect it."

"In 1759, when the British finally amassed enormous troops down south and they were making their way north, the French decided that they better abandon this. They only had about 2,500 soldiers down at Fort Ticonderoga and up here at Fort Saint-Frédéric. So they burned Fort Ticonderoga. They came here and they lit fire to the citadel and their structure; they blew that up. So that was the biggest event here, them blowing up their own fort and then retreating north," said Roets.

"The grounds to the site are open every day all year round from sunrise to sunset. We have in the winter cross country skiing and in the summer, we have a museum that can also be visited. That's open from Thursday to Monday from 9:30 AM to 5 PM.

At 'This Place in History'!

For more from our 'This Place in History' series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont's roadside historic markers, click here.

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