L ake George History
"Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw ..."
Lake George is one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the world, and is known as “The Queen of American Lakes.” The 32 mile long lake, which is fed by mammoth underground springs, includes 109 miles of shoreline, about 300 islands, and covers an approximate area of 44 square miles. The lake, 320 feet above sea level, varies in depth from 1 foot to 195 feet and in width from one to three miles.
People are amazed to learn that the mouth of the lake is located at Lake George Village and that the outlet is to the north at Ticonderoga. Lake George is in fact, 210 feet higher by sea level than Lake Champlain located farther north in the Adirondacks. This is a natural wonder, since the water from Lake George empties through Ticonderoga Creek into Lake Champlain at a total fall which surpasses that of Niagara Falls.
The Lake George and Adirondack area had a prominent role in famous battles of the French and Indian Wars as well as the American Revolution, but prior to that it was an important artery of travel for the American Indian. For them, it formed the connecting link in the main water route between the Hudson River and Lake Champlain. The Iroquois, who were continually at war with the Algonquins of the north, appropriately call it An-di-a-ta-roc-te, “There Where the Lake Is Shut In.”
In August of 1642, Father Isaac Joques and two others, paddled over Lake George and were the first white men to set eyes on its beauty. They were attacked and captured by the Mohawks but Father Joques escaped and returned home to France. In 1646 he was sent by the French Governor on a political embassy to the Iroquois in relation to a treaty of peace. He reached the foot of Lake George on the Festival of Corpus Christi and renamed the lake “Lac du Saint Sacrement.” Father Joques died a martyr at the hands of the Mohawks. A statue was erected and dedicated to him in July of 1939 and may be seen in Battleground Park.
Along Lake George’s shores were made military decisions which had a far reaching effect on our country’s early history. In 1755, an expedition against the French was planned to extinguish French rights in America. Albany was selected as the rendezvous and troops from all the colonies gathered there. Major General William Johnson advanced from Albany to Fort Edward to Lake Saint Sacrement with a force of 2200 colonial troops and 300 Indians, encamped at the head of the lake and rechristened it Lake George, in honor of King George.
It was at this time that the Battle of Lake George took place with its three engagements: Bloody Morning Scout, Battle at Lake George and Battle at Bloody Pond. There is a monument in the Battleground Park of General William Johnson and King Hendrick of the Mohawks commemorating this battle. Following the Battle of Lake George, General Johnson hurried to strengthen defenses at the head of Lake George. He erected a fort which he named Fort William Henry in honor of the Duke of Cumberland, brother of King George. In 1757 the first real attempt was made by the French against this fortress. In August of that year a large force of French and Indians, led by Marquis de Montcalm, secured the surrender of the fort after a six day siege. The defenders were promised safe convoy to Fort Edward, however, a bloody massacre ensued sparked by the long history of war between the Adirondack Indian tribes involved. The fort was then torn down and the logs set on fire.
This campaign was used by James Fenimore Cooper as the background for his famous novel, “The Last of the Mohicans.” The fort was reconstructed and opened to the public as a museum in 1953. Battles in this area continued during the French and Indian Wars and were followed by a short period of peace.
However, ill-feelings between the colonists and the British continued to mount and the war for American Independence finally began on April 9, 1775. One month later Fort Ticonderoga was seized from the English by Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys, “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.” The fort fell without loss of a single life and was the first American victory during the Revolution. In November, General George Washington sent General Henry Knox to bring cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. They were dragged to Fort George by scow and then over the snow by sled to Boston.
Today there are markers at six mile intervals tracing the route which General Knox followed that winter. Fort Ticonderoga was restored by the Pell family and is now open to the public. "Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin thirty-five miles long and from two to four miles broad, finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal and the mountainsides covered with rich groves of silver fir, white pine, aspen and paper birch down to the water, here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony. An abundance of speckled trout, salmon trout, bass, and other fish with which it is stored, have added to our other amusements the sport of taking them." —Thomas Jefferson