The Second Life: Conflict and Settlement

Fife and Drum Corps. Courtesy of Fort Ticonderoga.

Fife and Drum Corps. Courtesy of Fort Ticonderoga.

When Europeans came to these valleys intent on claiming the territory, the waterway now known as Lakes to Locks Passage provided the travel route. Samuel de Champlain explored and claimed Lake Champlain for France in 1609. When he joined his Huron and Montaignais Indian guides in a battle with a party of Iroquois, the stage was set for two centuries of conflict.

As the French traveled down from Quebec, they built forts to stake their claims to the new lands along the Richelieu River and northern Lake Champlain. Simultaneously, the English built forts as they moved north along the Upper Hudson River, Lake George and the southern reaches of Lake Champlain. Fur traders and settlers streamed into the new country and established communities along the river waterfalls and lakeshore harbors. The distinctive French and English influence of these communities is still evident today.

Lake Champlain became the battleground of the European super powers, and later between the Americans and British Canada. The final battle played out in Plattsburgh Bay on September 11, 1814. That American victory led to the treaty that established the boundary between the United States and Canada, and nearly two hundred years of peace and prosperity between the two countries.

Until the end of the 20th Century, military sites along this strategic interconnected waterway have played an important role in maintaining peace in North America.

Since the Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed in 1995, a new life for the base has been planned that will include museums and recreation areas full of historical exhibits. Plattsburgh offers a rich military and settlement history, but the story stretches from the Richelieu Valley of Quebec to the upper Hudson River Valley of New York.

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