“Town of Champlain in 1798”


            In 1798, Pliny Moore wrote a letter to a publisher that was preparing a description of various towns.  Pliny provided a description of Champlain that was very detailed.  One detail was particularly interesting.  People had found mussel shells forty feet deep in Champlain.  Pliny had thought that Lake Champlain at one time had covered Champlain and had drained near Quebec.  Of course, these mussel shells are much older than the lake and were fossilized.  Indeed, they are probably millions of years old.  At this time, the theory of plate tectonics and fossilization had not been advanced.


            Hugh McLellan published this letter in 1922 using his Moorsfield Press.  The original style of the manuscript has been preserved as much as is possible.  The letter “s” had been changed to “f” in the original manuscript.  It was changed back to “s” here to make the paper more readable. 






The Papers of Pliny Moore




in 1798







Privately Printed at the Moorsfield Press






Town of Champlain in 1798







            It is probable you will have more accurate Descriptions of the Towns in this County[1] to the Southward of this from the post masters at Plattsburgh & Willsborough from their contiguous & central situation than it will be in my power to give who am situated at the extreme north part of the State    Also of the Counties from post masters Still further to the Southward — I shall therefore confine myself to a Description of the Town in which I live.   This Town is one of the five[2] which Compose the County of Clinton is Bounded North on the province of Lower Canada East by the Lake Champlain South by Plattsburgh & West by the County of Herkimer is about twelve miles in breadth from North to South the west line not being ascertained the length from East to west is uncertain though supposed to exceed forty miles.  There is no Mountain of any magnitude in the Town & the hills or ridges which universally lie north & south & comport with the Lake Shore Rise gradually to about thirty feet above the General surface the principal Rivers which water this Town are the Great Chazy River the Little Chazy which Run a NorthEastwardly direction & empty into Lake Champlain the former about five & latter about seven miles from the province line the River Curbo[3] is between the great & little Chazy & discharges into the former about two Miles from its mouth   These Rivers the Largest of which admits Boats of several Tons Burthern Six or seven Miles & has Grist & Saw Mills erected are composed of Innumerable smaller streams which plentifully water the Country & afford many valuable & commodious Mill seats & a great abundance & variety of fish which come from a Never failing Source   The Salmon are taken here in great abundance & a fish little inferior in flavour called the Maskenonge from 20 to 30 lb W't   The Land produces excellent Wheat Rye Indian Corn Oats peas Flax & almost every kind of Vegitable which has been cultivated in great perfection & abundance & is peculiarly suited to the production of Grass — Wheat from Twenty to forty five Bus'ls Γ acre Corn from Twenty to Sixty Eight Bushels Γ acre Grass one & two Tons Γ acre — The Number of Families are about one hundred & Twenty five[4] — The Western part of this Town which is now settling is watered by several branches of a Considerable River Called Chatuge[5] which after forming a junction Run northward & discharge into the River St. Lawrence above Montreal & is said to be navigable for small boats with but trifleing obstruction from Montreal into this town — There are the Strongest reason for an opinion that the whole of this Country & Lower Canada have been at no very remote period covered by the Lake which by gradual wearing at some confine at or below Quebec has drained & left the Country bare — the reason for this opinion is that mussle shells & other marine productions are found in the earth whenever dug from the surface to forty feet in depth in great plenty[6] — Religious houses none — Distance from N York 360 miles.


            Wishing you success in so laudable an undertaking

                        I am Respectfully Sir Your Most Hm'ble Serv't

                                                            P. Moor

                                                Champlain 26th Febr'y 1798

Mr Joseph Scott


[1]  When this letter was written Clinton County embraced the present counties of Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence.

[2]  Champlain, Plattsburgh, Peru, Willsborough and Crown Point.

[3]  Corbeau Creek, which enters the Big Chazy River at Coopersville.

[4]  Dr. George F. Bixby published in the Plattsburgh Republican, Sept. 3, 1898 and April 1, 8, and 15, 1899, the enumeration of lands and dwellings in the Town of Champlain required by the Federal Act of July 9, 1798.  This Assessment Roll is dated 0ctober 1, 1798 and 105 houses are listed; 87 being log-houses, 15 of wood, a single stone house on Point au Fer and the character of two not specified.

[5]  Chateaugay.

[6]  An interesting and concise paper on the geology of the Champlain Valley, by Dr. John M. Clarke, is printed in the Report of the New York Lake Champlain Tercentenary Commission, 1911, pp 371-382.



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