FORT EDWARD — Sometimes we miss the magic that exists in our own backyards, but the magic of Rogers Island was not lost on visitors who came from all over the country last week.
Rogers Island — the birthplace of the U.S. Army Rangers and the one-time third largest city in America during the French and Indian War — was one of many stops for the Archaeological Conservancy, a national organization that preserves more than 500 sites across the country.
The group of about 30 took a tour of historic sites around the Northeast, including Rogers Island, Fort Stanwix and Fort Ticonderoga.
Many in the tour group were from the Western part of the country — Colorado, Arizona, Washington and Alaska. Touring places that were so instrumental to the shaping of our own history as a nation was what drew them to the forts of the Northeast.
“I think the difference between here and the West Coast is here, the history, we have an attachment to it,” said Denis Boon, of Colorado.
Felipe and Karen Jacome from Tucson, Arizona, said this was their first tour with the conservancy. Karen was particularly interested in seeing the birthplace of the U.S. Army Rangers.
“The rangers have been such a huge part of our military and our military success that it’s important to see the origins,” she added.
While it was the Jacome’s first time visiting, it was the conservancy’s third time, said Kelley Berliner, director of the conservancy’s eastern regional office.
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“What really catches people’s attention is the fact that Fort Edward was such a tremendous, massive settlement during the French and Indian War,” Berliner said. “The second big draw is the home of Rogers Rangers, of course. So this group, a lot of people are familiar with the movie with Spencer Tracy, “The Northwest Passage,” and trying to bring that to life by visiting the actual grounds.”
Their enthusiasm for the gem that sits undeveloped along the Hudson River was perhaps, in part, sparked by the enthusiasm archaeologist David Starbuck has for this corner of Fort Edward.
Starbuck has been tied to the island since 1986, and has unearthed a smallpox hospital, an officer’s hut, a merchant’s shop nearby, among many other archaeological treasures.
“Those hospital stories and the daily life stories are the stories I think that are going to be told here for many years to come,” Starbuck said. “We’re not just talking about officers and rich people. We’re talking about thousands of regular guys from a lot of colonies, coming from their homes and probably hoping to get back home, back to their farming as soon as they could. But they were all smooshed together, a very new experience for all of them.”
This summer, he has unearthed musket balls, coins, porcelain and the original floorboards of an officer’s hut.
Starbuck and his colleagues will continue digging this fall.