Sharon Springs, home of Beekman 1802, is of course famous for its various mineral springs – containing sulphur, magnesia and chalybeate – and Native Americans frequented them for centuries for their healing properties. Other such springs exist throughout upstate New York, and other municipalities are named for them, such as the city of Saratoga Springs and the village of Richfield Springs. The latter lies some 22 miles west of Sharon Springs along Route 20. Canadarago Lake (also known as Schuyler Lake) extends southward from the village. In the early 1800s, there were reportedly two islands on Canadarago Lake. One island still exits, but the second island supposedly sank one night. A Native American legend is associated with the island’s disappearance.

A medicine man is said to have lived on the island that is no more. He became known to the Mohawk and other tribes of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy as a great healer, and individuals with various ailments visited the island for his cures derived from magic water. His secret: Every night at midnight, he would sneak off the island by canoe, paddle to the top of the lake, walk through the forest, fill containers at the sulfur springs, then return to the island with his fresh supply. As the medicine’s man reputation grew so did his sense of self. He would brag about his powers and even claimed to be the Twin of the Great Spirit. (A name for the Iroquoian concept of the Great Spirit is Orenda.) One morning, when a bridal party set out to visit the island to receive the medicine man’s blessing, they were shocked to discover that not a trace of it remained on the lake’s surface. The legend holds that, because of the medicine man’s blasphemy toward Orenda and his hording the curative water for his own advancement, the island had been thrust deep into the earth below the lake, carrying him to his death.

Take what lessons you will from this legend. One might be to avoid hubris; another, to value the healing power of the mineral springs!

 

 

The History Boys are

Chris Campbell has made his permanent home in Cherry Valley, NY. The Campbell family dates back to 1739 in this town, situated about eight miles from Sharon Springs. Some family members were captured by Tories and Iroquois allies in the Cherry Valley Massacre of 1778 during the American Revolution and taken to Canada, released two years later in Albany as part of a prisoner exchange. Chris is a rare book and map collector and has had a lifelong interest in history, especially relating to upstate New York and colonial land patents. He was the founder and first chairman of the Cherry Valley Planning Board and has worked as a surveyor and realtor as well as a researcher for the Otsego County map department. His hobbies include Ham radio.

 

Carl Waldman, also living in Cherry Valley, is a former archivist for the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown. He is he author of a number of reference books published by Facts On File, including Atlas of the North American Indian and Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, both originally published in the 1980s and both in their third editions. He is the co-author of Encyclopedia of Exploration (2005) and Encyclopedia of European Peoples (2006). Carl has also done screenwriting about Native Americans, including an episode of Miami Vice entitled “Indian Wars” and the Legend of Two-Path, a drama about the Native American side of Raleigh’s Lost Colony, shown at Festival Park on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. His hobbies include music and he works with young people in the Performance and Production Workshops at the Cherry Valley Old School.

by History Boys

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Kelly Baron

This is a great story!! We have a lake house on Canadarago and are HUGE fans if you ever want to come for a day on the lake!!!

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Pam Landy

I have been wondering if the sulfur springs are still considered to be beneficial to one's health or was that just an old wives tale from "back in the day"?

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Terry Corigliano

Thanks for the article. I always enjoy them and the history that you dig up. Keep up the good work. We were very lucky when you two young men make that fateful trip through Sharon Springs.

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