The U.S. Board of Geographic Names has approved a local historian’s request to rename Slip Mountain as MacDonough Mountain in honor of a War of 1812 hero.

James Bailey, who retired after 28 years as City of Plattsburgh historian, petitioned the Board of Geographic Names for the name change, which was also endorsed by the Lewis Town Council.

The mountain in Lewis had carried the name in the past, he said.

“I’m guessing it was over a year ago that I saw MacDonough on a Verplanck Colvin map of the Adirondacks, just north of Saddle Mountain, which is today’s Saddleback Mountain, in the Town of Lewis,” Bailey said by email. 

“And then, curious, I looked and found it on other late 1800s, such as Stoddard’s, maps.”

He discovered the USGS had changed the name to Slip Mountain in 1953 but could find no historical context for doing so.

FALSE INTELLIGENCE

In the Jay Mountain Range, the peak is the closest to Lake Champlain. Bailey said that encouraged him to try to change it back to MacDonough, in honor of Commodore Thomas MacDonough, commander of the victorious American fleet in the Battle on Plattsburgh Bay in Lake Champlain on Sunday, Sept. 11, 1814.

“This action determined the outcome — a draw — of the War of 1812, signed by treaty on Christmas Eve in Ghent, Belgium,” Bailey said.

“We are restoring a name that was properly and honorably given 140 years ago. It is fitting, too, that the mountain is in Lewis, which has elements of the War of 1812.”

The hero’s name has been spelled both Macdonough and MacDonough according to historical documents, he said.

Bailey said that going north from Elizabethtown on Route 9, just after the “Welcome to Lewis” sign, is Barber’s Pond on the left, with a historical marker noting it was the birthplace of Roman Catholic Bishop Edgar Wadhams.

“Here is where Gen. (George) Izard spent the first night with the U.S. Army units that he was ordered to take south out of Plattsburgh on Sept. 1, 1814, and march elsewhere — a British false intelligence that U.S. headquarters swallowed. 

“And past here, Lewis militia volunteers marched north to Plattsburgh just a week later.

“Looking west over the pond, you see Saddleback’s distinctive summit, and north of it is the hulk of Slip/MacDonough Mountain.”

‘GALLANT OFFICER’

Bailey said that in early 2013 he found the “smoking gun” for the name in the narrative part of Colvin’s 1873-74 report, page 135.

“He (Colvin) specifically states, ‘to the loftiest peak of the Jay range in Essex County I have given the name of Mount MacDonough, after the gallant officer whose victory upon Lake Champlain was witnessed by this mountain.’”

Bailey said that was enough for him, and he got to work on changing the name back to MacDonough Mountain.

He said U.S. Geological Survey maps didn’t show any name for the peak until 1953, when it mysteriously showed up as Slip Mountain.

“My complaint with USGS is that they failed to consult historic maps during their field research for the 1953 maps. In short, they changed the name, and I’m told they cannot find written record of where the name Slip came from.”

CHANGED ONLINE

MacDonough Mountain is a 3,320-foot mountain peak, which, based on peakery data, ranks as the 160th highest mountain in New York state.

Lewis Town Supervisor David Blades said he and the Lewis Town Council were in favor of the renaming.

“We supported the change. It was MacDonough Mountain, then it got changed to Slip Mountain and now back to MacDonough.”

Bailey said the appropriate agencies have already been notified of the change.

“USGS has already changed the name on its online map, based on the Dec. 12, 2013, decision of the Board of Geographic Names, and as the Lewis quadrangle current edition is reprinted, the change will appear wherever topo maps are sold.”

One source for such maps is The Mountaineer store in Keene Valley, he said.

‘FITTING’

Bailey was Essex County historian from 1971 to 1976 and City of Plattsburgh historian from 1982 to 2010.

“In this bicentennial year of the battles, on lake and on land, of Plattsburgh, it is fitting that the name of its primary hero be restored by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to the map of Lewis, whose 1814 volunteers marched with the Essex County militia north to Plattsburgh that fateful week 200 years ago,” he said.

Email Lohr McKinstry: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com.

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