PLATTSBURGH — John Rock is 73 years old. He might as well be 273 with all of the knowledge of local history he has stored in his head.
“People don’t realize all of the history we have right here,” Rock said.
“We have 50 American vets off the ships that fought in the Bay that are buried on Crab Island.”
Rock, who has been supporting local history projects for decades, was instrumental in convincing the Town of Plattsburgh to come up with a major project to acknowledge, honor and promote the history of the region.
Town Supervisor Michael Cashman said Rock approached him the day he took office in 2016 and asked to get something going. Cashman said he asked Rock for some grace time to get settled in before he could undertake such a project.
A year to the day later, Rock came back into Cashman’s office full of vigor.
LEARN ABOUT HISTORY
Eventually, plans for the Battlefield Memorial Gateway were hatched and the project is now in full swing.
The plans call for an educational and interactive setting where people can come and learn about the history of the region, and take a look out over Lake Champlain where some of the nation’s most pivotal battles occurred.
Benedict Arnold led an American fleet past the British in the Battle of Valcour in the fall of 1776, and the main piece of local history occurred on Sept. 11, 1814 in the Battle of Plattsburgh.
An undersized American fleet on Plattsburgh Bay, and band of soldiers on the land held off the mighty British in a battle that ultimately sealed victory for the Americans in the War of 1812.
CRAB, VALCOUR ISLANDS
The veterans Rock was referring to that are buried on Crab Island were killed during the Battle of Plattsburgh. They lay in peace next to sailors they fought against on the British side.
Crab Island, as well as Valcour Island, will be key components of the Battlefield Memorial Gateway as visitors will get to see firsthand the role they played in history.
Rock said the names of the 50 veterans buried on Crab Island had never been displayed publicly until a flag was planted on the island last year and their names etched in a memorial, which was long overdue.
“They deserve it,” he said.
HONOR THAT IT DESERVES
Cashman said the plan is for the Battlefield Memorial Gateway to be ready for the nation’s 250th birthday in 2026.
Rock believes the project will attract people from far and wide and serve as an appropriate tribute to the region’s rich history, and will be a catalyst for visitors to discover the rest of the North Country’s history.
“This will be a destination point for people all across the country because this is one of the most historic sites in the nation that has not been publicized,” Rock said.
“It has not been shown the honor that it deserves, and it should because it was a very important place for the birth of our country.”
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