Preserving the history of Blind Rock
The rock is about 11 feet long, 7 feet in wide and 4 feet high and split in half. The gap between its two halves is about a foot wide. It is located behind and southeast of Pizzera Uno on Upper Glen Street, but is best approached from Montray Road - it is located about 100 feet north of the road. In History of the Town of Queensbury, published in 1874, A.W. Holden wrote that Blind Rock was located 25 rods (about 400 feet) from the plank road. Therefore, our present Route 9, at least at this location, is in the same approximate location as the plank road was.
Blind Rock is referenced in our old town records. The commissioners of highways and fencers (an old name for those who determined the placement of property lines) referred to Blind Rock as a common and well-known point - used to orient surveys for roads and property alignments.
Blind Rock was also mentioned by Lord Jeffrey Amherst, who passed through this area in 1758, while fulfilling his part in a three-pronged strategy against the French in the French and Indian War. His task was to push northward along the Great Warpath. In his journal, he revealed that the rock was once the piece of geography that demarked the French controlled territory to the north from the southern British controlled region.
In the History of the Town of Queensbury, Holden wrote. “Blind Rock is associated with scenes and tales of diabolical and inventive torture, suffered by unfortunate victims.”
Our new historical marker on the northeast corner of Route 9 and Montray Roads reads, “LEGENDARY PLACE OF NATIVE AMERICAN RENDEVOUS AND AMBUSHES. ENGLISH-FRENCH FRONTIER BOUNDARY COLONIAL LANDMARK AND CROSSROADS.”
Why Blind Rock was a favored, possibly sacred place to the natives is not known. Perhaps it was a halfway point along the Great Carry, between the Hudson and Lake George. Perhaps it was favored because of its anomalous nature, a lone glacial deposit, adjacent to an artesian stream. Possibly its location adjacent to a crossroad, the north/south Military Road and an east/west road (referred by one old map as Blind Rock Road) gave it favored status. Possibly it was favored because of some combination of the above.
Lore has it that Blind Rock was a well-known place of ambush, always approached with fear and apprehension. Thus, one possible origin of its name is that the bush adjacent to this crossroad acted as a blind for those wishing to ambush unsuspecting travelers.
However, the more popular accounts ascribing the name to this rock of granite originate from the grisly tales of the type of torture experienced here - the victims were blinded by stakes, then set aflame using a fire located in the rock’s crevice. Another account states that a blind man was burnt in a fire positioned atop of the rock. Still another version is that a captive’s eyes were tossed in a fire sited in the rock’s split.
Another account suggested a possible additional reason for blinding their captives. Once blinded, the victim would be set free and be allowed to scamper wildly into the forest. After a full day, the native boys would be released with instruction to find the recently liberated injured party, and after he was recaptured, not to harm him further, but to return to camp, allowing the blinded victim to go free for that evening. The blinded victim would leave an obvious trail to follow - for example, plenty of freshly overturned leaves and recently broken twigs. This would be basic scouting practice 101 and class would last for two or even three days before the victim would succumb to dehydration and die.
Two stories reference Blind Rock. The first records a tradition handed down by Holden, parts of which are quoted in the story below.
Two Englishmen, destined for Fort Edward, were traveling south from Lake George when ambushed by natives near Blind Rock. As Holden wrote, “The captives were divested of their clothing, and one of them firmly lashed with thongs of bark to one of the neighboring trees.” The natives then built a roaring torture fire upon the rock. Desiring to prolong the torture, the natives did not immediately resort to the customary cremation. Instead they formed a circle around the fire, within which the other captive was placed, “and to avoid the fierce blaze of the crackling fire, he was obliged to shrink to the verge of the armed circle.” When the hapless Englishman came within their reach, the natives “struck at him with their keen edged tomahawks and glittering knives… [thrusted] at him with their spears …[and] formidable war clubs” driving him to return toward the fire of death. “At length, when nearly exhausted, he caught sight of a [unattended] papoose, or an [Native American] child [who] worked [his] way among the feet of the warriors. With the impulse of desperation, the prisoner dashed forward, seized the child, and flung (the child) on the fire. For an instant the [warriors] were appalled and paralyzed, and then, regardless of their victims, with loud clamors and shouts rushed forward to rescue the little scion of their tribe. In this moment of confusion, the captive snatched a hatchet, and liberated his companion from his bonds. They immediately took to the woods, and making a long detour, succeeded in escaping from their enemies, and finally reached Fort Edward, their flesh lacerated with the briers and underbrush, through which they forced their way, on their frightful and perilous journey.”
“The Blind Rock Gold Rush” by John Strough.
In the early 19th century a farmer tilling the soil near Blind Rock unearthed some gold coins. When word of this find spread, the locals grabbed their shovels and sped for the top of the hill, which we now call Miller’s Hill, because it was part of the Miller family farm. They dug and dug, but no more coins were found. Disappointed, they retired to their own homes. The mini gold rush was over. But the question lingered. How did those gold coins get there, in that field next to Blind Rock?
I have a possible explanation. In the 18th century, many Europeans had no chance of owning property. It was still in feudal hands and for those not of noble birth, owning property was simply not possible. However, owning land in the New World was achievable. To solidify and justify their claims of territory, many European nations would offer free land to those who would settle there. Filled with hope, many from the Old World sold their assets and came to the New World. Most carried just the clothes on their backs, a leather bag of gold coins, and a map directing them to their claim of land. Some of those claims were in the Adirondacks. The English made their trek up the Hudson to Fort Edward, then on foot north. After the fort, the next and perhaps last outpost of civilization they encountered would be Geoffrey (or Jeffrey) Cowper’s trading post, located at the intersection of the Halfway Brook and the Military Road. After selling the northern traveler a few vital provisions, I am sure Geoffrey Cowper would offer his customary warning, “Beware near the top of the hill just yonder, at the cross trails, near Blind Rock, it is a known place of ambush, frequented by thieves and others.” Thanking him, the traveler proceeded northward. Past the swamp and nearing the crest of the hill, the now wary traveler, heard a rustling sound up ahead. “Was it the wind or the ambushers?” the traveler pondered. Just to be safe, the traveler decided to bury his bag of gold coins aside the Military Road. If the sound was just the wind, he would return to retrieve his money. Cautiously, he proceeded closer to the crest of the hill. It was not the wind that made that rustling sound. He would never return to retrieve his coins!