CHAMPLAIN - The lives of soldiers who died fighting in the Revolutionary War were among those honored as the town of Champlain hosted a special Memorial Day ceremony.
The eyes of many were on historic Point au Fer last Monday as the town hosted a ceremony at a new memorial site on Point au Fer Road. The main focus of the event was the rededication of a bronze plaque originally donated by the Saranac chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
According to master of ceremonies Christopher Trombley, the history of the plaque dates back to 1929, when local farmer John Arnold Scales worked with the local DAR chapter to see the unmarked graves of fallen soldiers at Point au Fer were given proper recognition.
The plaque was dedicated in an impressive ceremony attended by several hundred people the following year, though eventually was displaced.
"Over the years, changes occurred at Point au Fer and the bronze tablet was removed from its boulder and brought to the town of Champlain offices where it was stored and eventually restored," Trombley explained. "As part of the town of Champlain's Quadricentennial activities, it was decided this year we would work to replace the boulder and relocate this plaque."
Through the generosity of Dan and Anne Rochester, who donated the land, the town was able to acquire the site where the official memorial to the Battle of Point au Fer stands today.
Trombley credited the hard work of town highway superintendent Allen Racine and his crew along with the efforts of the town's Quadricentennial committee for the development of the site. He further thanked Woodmen of the World Lodge 462 for donating a new flagpole and flag which were installed at the site.
Soldier's final resting place
During the ceremony, the bones of an unknown soldier were laid to rest at the base of the new Point au Fer Monument in a burial overseen by representatives from both American and Canadian military service organizations. The remains were discovered by Scales who found them while digging on his property.
Scales' daughter-in-law, Wanda Langley, who lives in his former home on Point au Fer today, said little was known about the remains other than they belonged to a soldier.
"Back then, they knew they were remains, but they didn't know if it was an American soldier or a British soldier," said Langley.
Scales kept the bones safely in the basement of his home, where they remained for 70 years. As planning for this year's celebration of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial progressed, the town's Quadricentennial planning committee decided it would be fitting to hold an official burial of the remains during this year's Memorial Day ceremonies.
However, the first order of business was to learn more about them.
An examination of the bones was conducted by Clinton County Coroner David Dona and local pathologist Michael Ludwig, who determined the bones were of a young soldier, approximately 5 feet to 5 feet, 3 inches tall. It is still unknown if the soldier was American or British.
Once the examination was complete, Charles Langley, Wanda Langley's son, crafted a small wooden box for the remains to be buried in, said Trombley. Cory Ross, owner of Ross Funeral Home in Mooers, donated a small vault to house the box for the burial.
White House recognition
The site of Point au Fer's White House was also recognized during the ceremony as a new marker was unveiled commemorating the fortification's historical significance.
Historian David Patrick had the honor of unveiling the marker donated by a group known as Friends of Champlain and giving a brief history of the site.
The White House was a two-story stone garrison built by the British in 1774, surrounded by a 12-foot high stockade. The house was overtaken by American forces in 1775 though was taken back by the British and was one of six sites held by British after the Revolutionary War, said Patrick.
Throughout the White House's history, Benjamin Franklin, Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen and Gen. John Burgoyne were among those believed to have visited the site.
Though the house no longer stands there today, the importance of the White House in local history remains, said Patrick.
"The site right here is probably one of the most historic sites in all of Clinton County," he said.