Column

Pittsford celebrates history of Sleepy Whipple Hollow Road

By Julia Purdy

Sleepy Whipple Hollow Road in Pittsford was reduced to one lane as a crowd gathered for the rededication of a roadside monument on Sunday May 7, marking the place where the Crown Point military road of 1759 passed along a small valley on the way to Lake Champlain. 

Speakers included Barry Griffith, president of the Crown Point Road Association; Bill Powers, president of the Pittsford Historical Society; and Catherine Brodeur-Johnson, state regent of the Vermont Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The highlight of the afternoon was the placing of flags at the granite marker in its new location.

The Crown Point Road (CPR) is an important chapter in the opening of the future Vermont. The road was built by order of British Gen. Jeffrey Amherst to link Fort Number 4 in Charlestown, New Hampshire, to Chimney Point, now a Vermont historic site. It was critical to ending France’s control of Lake Champlain during the French and Indian War of 1754-1763.

The local saga of the marker begins when the stone, which originally stood on Depot Hill Road in Pittsford above Otter Creek, had to be removed to make room for work being done by the town. Fashioned of solid granite, it weighed 1,200 pounds and was affixed to a massive concrete base. The decision was made to take advantage of the situation to locate the marker in its historically accurate spot.

It had long been known that the 1759 military road did not pass directly through current Pittsford village, but from Clarendon, along the western floodplains of Otter Creek. Journals by the soldiers who built the road, as well as a 1771 surveyor’s map, describe the route.

The new location also agrees with the account by the authoritative Pittsford historian A.M. Caverly, who, as late as the 1860s, mined the recollections of local residents who were alive closer to the time. Their accounts can be read in the archives of the Pittsford Historical Society. From those descriptions, Caverly identified the location as “a little bit east of the Abel Morgan house,” now the home of Josh Towne and Liz Willis. There was a cavity in the ground, what was left of the Waters tavern, located conveniently at the crossroad.  

Bill Powers credited Josh Towne of the Pittsford Highway Department with transporting the stone to its new location on Towne’s and Willis’s own property. 

After the threat of war subsided, settlers started filtering into Vermont, and the military road offered a direct pathway into the wilderness. The old road was pressed into service again as American forces continued to use it during the American Revolution.

The Crown Point Road Association, together with the DAR and others, have devoted decades to charting its corridor. More than 80 CPR markers dot the landscape where modern roads cross the original route, beginning in 1912, when the first monument was placed by the Ann Story Chapter of the DAR in Proctor, Vermont. 

The Crown Point Road Association is a volunteer, stewardship organization of long standing that has published an atlas of the Crown Point Military Road and hosts hikes, trips and presentations throughout the summer. CPRA committees continue the research on various topics. All are welcome at outings; memberships are reasonable and vital to ongoing needs. 

For more information, visit crownpointroad.org.

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