Wilderness in Upstate New York in 1750s

Stories that Take You for the Ride of Your Life

September, 2015

Wilderness in Upstate New York in 1750s

Stunning Catskill Mountains, the dome-shaped mesmerizing Adirondacks, and the Lake George, Queen of American lakes, are witness to fantastic tales of history and development of the state of New York. The wilderness surrounding the area during the 1750’s shaped the ambition and aspirations of settlers in the front line colony and provided the backdrop for legends, movies, and historical tales.

A fertile ground for free-roaming native tribes, the wild woodland hosted many trade routes, a factor in influencing Anglo-French and British-Iroquois relations. It is in this magnificent frontier wilderness that the events in The Rule of Ranging trilogy takes place.

The Historical Significance

In 1664, a British expeditionary force under Richard Nicolls captured New Amsterdam and rechristened it as New York. The English found the strategic city’s geographical area wild and hostile for almost a century. Surrounded by native tribes inhabiting the land valley and forest areas, they found the location inhospitable. However, with the French advance in the Great Lake’s region, the natural wilderness soon turned to be a boon for the frontier state.

The British settlers found wild Hudson River and Mohawk valleys of the Appalachian range an important trading path used by native tribes for centuries. Soon it was developed as secure economic and military way to counter the French dominance in the sea. The Catskill Mountains, now spread over 1,100 square miles, not only acted as a natural defense of the frontier settlements but also contributed to the economic development of New York. Animal skin, timber, forest products, and meat collected from the wild surrounding soon began to be exported to other colonies. The forest land was cleared and settlers began manufacturing activities making the settlement a major hub of economic activity when iron deposits were found in the Champlain Valley.

Mohicans and other native Iroquois tribes living in and around the wilderness offered an excellent opportunity for traders, missionaries, and colonists. A new culture was born out of their interactions. The Adirondacks, a hunting ground for Algonquian and Mohawk tribesmen, saw the intense Anglo-French war in the 1750s. Its edges extending to the shores of Lake George, a vital part of the New York-Montreal waterway, saw some of the great military acts when the Seven Year War against the French broke out. The French established Fort Carillon on the northern shore to counter British troops at Fort William Henry. Both forts constructed in 1755 changed hands several times and each ferocious battle gave birth to legends and folk stories that stir many even today.

In The Popular Culture

The 1750s wilderness and its historical significance has inspired many literary and movie scripts. Many of the Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, such as The Patriot and The Last of Mohicans, link the American colonial history into these surrounding mountainous regions. The Patriot’s main protagonist and some portrayed heroes of independence war were depicted to have gained military experience in the wilderness extending from New York to Virginia while fighting the French.

The historical novel The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper is one of the most famous literary work brings the much vaunted New York wilderness and life of Native Americans during the 1750s into the spotlight. Written in 1826 and adapted into a dozen of movies, it tells the story of the bloody fighting around Lake George. Mohicans and Iroquois people, who were born and brought up in the wild surrounding, came to the help of both military and civilians. This happened at the time of their worst danger and saving their lives at the dispense of their own.

The Leatherstocking Tales, an anthology of five books, including The Last of the Mohicans, tells the story of Natty Bumppo, a white boy brought up by Mohicans living in the woods. Also known as Hawkeye, he along with other Mohican friends roamed freely in the wild and received an education at a Moravian mission. A fearless warrior, he was loved by Cora Munro, daughter of the English commander at Fort William Henry, for his chivalry in saving the British from the French and Huron massacre.

(Image credits: Caution Indian Warrior Bushy Run by Randy Steele)

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