Mohawk or Iroquois Trail
Albany, New York was founded by the Dutch in 1614 and quickly became New York's premier fur trading center and second largest town. In 1664 England conquered the former Dutch colony and renamed it New York.
In 1722 the British built a fur trading post near the mouth of the Oswego River on the southeast side of Lake Ontario. In 1727 they constructed log palisades, the first of a series of fortifications in the area. This was the first British military outpost on Lake Ontario. More nearby forts were also added in 1741 and 1755. These forts around the trading post helped establish the British as a power on the Great Lakes, and were sometimes collectively were called Fort Oswego.
Indian trails through the forests existed for hunting, for trading, and for making war. To reach what became Fort Oswego and build it up, the British most likely improved an already existing Indian path between Albany and Fort Oswego. The route for carrying furs and skins to Albany, for communication, and for military troop and supply movements became known as the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail.
In 1726, after a period of absence, the French re-settled and fortified the Fort Niagara area on the southwest side of Lake Ontario and guarding the Niagara River.
The French and Indian War (1754-1763) led to improvement of Indian pathways into roads for the military and for settlers. In 1758 the British built Fort Schuyler (now Utica, New York) to guard the central Mohawk Trail to Fort Oswego and the junction with the Mohawk Trail to Fort Niagara at a Mohawk River ford.
In 1759 British troops from Fort Oswego were shipped along Lake Ontario to Fort Niagara. The British besieged Fort Niagara for 19 days and captured it. This made the Mohawk Trail an important supply route from Albany to Fort Schuyler to Fort Niagara. The west fork of the Mohawk Trail from Utica to Fort Niagara was about 212 miles (341 km) long. From Albany to Fort Niagara it was about 306 miles (492 km).
As settlers moved west these two branches of the Mohawk Trail were used heavily. New York invested in road improvements to from Albany to Utica in 1793. Further, in 1794 New York authorized work on the Great Genesee Road from Utica to Caledonia and after 1798 to Buffalo. The Genesee Road partially overlapped the west Fork of the Mohawk Trail as far as Oneida and Madison counties on its way to Fort Niagara. However, near Syracuse the original Mohawk Trail took a more northerly route. In 1797 a weekly stagecoach began service between Utica and Geneva on the Seneca/Ontario county line. Each leg of the round trip took three days. In 1798 the Great Genesee Road was became a turnpike, a high quality toll road under private control.
But New York toll roads had competition. Water travel on canals was less expensive than road tolls. The Erie Canal was completed in sections: Rome to Utica 1819, Utica to Syracuse 1820, Brockport to Albany 1823, and the entire canal Albany to Buffalo opened 1825. Moreover, several railroads charging about the same as the canal began offering passenger service farther and farther west. Railroad service from Albany to Schenectady began 1831, to Utica 1836, to Auburn 1839, to Rochester in 1841, and to Buffalo in 1842. In 1853 the several railroads were merged into a mainline from Albany to Buffalo. The decrease in toll revenues made the road company unprofitable. By 1852 it was dissolved and the former toll roads from Utica to Buffalo became public roads again.
The counties along the Mohawk Trail route (southeast to northwest) were as follows:
Settlers and Records
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 851. WorldCat entry. FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
- Wikipedia contributors, "Fort Oswego" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Oswego (accessed 30 June 2011).
- Wikipedia contributors, "New York State Route 5" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_State_Route_5 (accessed 28 June 2011).
- "The Way West Through Northern Seneca County," http://www.co.seneca.ny.us/history/The%20Way%20West%20Through%20Northern%20Seneca%20County.pdf (accessed 29 June 2011).
- Wikipedia contributors, "Erie Canal" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Central_Railroad (accessed 2 July 2011).
- Wikipedia contributors, "New York Central Railroad" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erie_Canal (accessed 2 July 2011).
- "Great Genesee Road" in Handybook, 849.