CAPE VINCENT Somewhere on Carleton Island rest those who stood there centuries before us.
A local history buff, Dennis R. McCarthy, co-founder of the St. Lawrence River Historical Foundation, Cape Vincent, said he believes he has uncovered significant ancestry on the island through independent research.
What I found out is the burial grounds are not lost and a lot of information is available in history books and survey maps to locate them, Mr. McCarthy said in an email. Most notable is Capt. George McDougall, an officer of the 84th Regiment, who died on Carleton on April 8, 1780. Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. secretary of state and ex-first lady/senator, is his descendant on her mothers side.
At the head of Carleton Island are ruins of 18th-century Fort Haldimand on a 7-acre Revolutionary War site owned by the Thousand Islands Land Trust, Clayton but the surrounding lands are private property. A few of those parcels are up for sale, yet have never been surveyed for archaeological purposes.
The site known as the Indian burial ground is identified on maps and in several accounts in the 19th century, Mr. McCarthy said, adding that a military burial ground also is described in several documents.
Based on accounts by a Canadian organization called the United Empire Loyalist, dedicated to preserving the history of British loyalists in the U.S. and Canada and their descendants, there should be at least 25 soldiers buried there, Mr. McCarthy said.
So far, Mr. McCarthy has found information on 13 people who died on the island a Mohawk chief, six officers and solders; four children of soldiers and two loyalists.
Carleton Island from the 1770s up to the War of 1812 was not only an operational fort and naval yard but it acted at times as a refugee camp for displaced loyalists that were coming primarily from the Mohawk Valley to be resettled in lands along the north side of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, he said.
From 1778 to 1783 at times there may have been upwards of 1,000 people on the island consisting of British and Hessian soldiers, Indians, loyalist regiments and civilian women and children.
Some records indicate both slaves and freed slaves were on the island, he said.
Mr. McCarthy has started contacting descendants for verification in the hope of putting together a list and history of the burial grounds on the island.
The owner of the Carleton Island property on the market is seeking public funds to conduct a study to identify burial grounds and properly develop those areas as historic properties.
Michael R. Franklin, a real estate agent based in Syracuse and a specialist in historical properties with Select Sothebys International Realty, said his client, RH Monks LLC, hopes that the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will provide a grant to study the 90 acres around the fort.
We need to identify where the burial grounds are and place historical monuments to mark the spot, and maybe build trails around it, Mr. Franklin said. Its not going to impact development if somebody finds an Indian burial ground. Theres plenty of space. You can just move the development a few hundred feet away.
A stakeholder meeting is scheduled for later this month, and Mr. Franklin is reaching out to local representatives to attend the invitation-only meeting and perhaps assist in the effort.
If all goes as planned, Douglas J. Pippin, an archaeologist and professor at SUNY Oswego, and Benjamin Ford, a historical and underwater archaeologist who has conducted research on Lake Ontario, will be conducting the survey in 2013.