Title: A multi‐method examination of an American Revolutionary War era house fort in New York State's Mohawk Valley Authors: Michael Rogers and Scott Stull
New York State’s Mohawk River Valley runs 240 kilometers starting just east of Lake Ontario and connecting with the Hudson River near Albany, New York. During the eighteenth century the Mohawk Valley was a frontier region with significant economic, military, and political importance in the emerging United States of America. Dutch, French, German, Irish, and Scottish immigrants settled the valley with the establishment of several fortified houses. These houses vary in appearance and spatial organization that created cultural identity for each owner. Fort Johnson was built by Sir William Johnson, an immigrant from Ireland who commanded Iroquois and colonial militia during the French and Indian War. Sir William Johnson learned the Mohawk Indian language and customs and was eventually appointed as the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern Region.
Fort Johnson was the embodiment of Sir Johnson’s elite status. The structure is a central passage house with two rooms on either side of the passage, a full second floor with attic, and a working cellar. The attic contained gun swivel mounts in the window frames that were used to defend the house if attacked. Outbuildings provided space for industrial activities, with the house displaying a symmetrical front façade to all who passed by along the King’s Road.
Archaeogeophysics, archaeological excavation, architectural examination, and historic documentation were combined to obtain a better understanding of how Sir Johnson expressed his cultural identity with Fort Johnson. Ground-penetrating radar, magnetometry, and resistivity surveys of the property surrounding Fort Johnson identified intentional modification of the landscape to include changes over time to access routes to the front door. Excavation identified several layers of varying material to include cobbles, limestone pavers, sand, coal ash, and shale.