story told of a visit to the island by a group from the Catholic
Summer School of America, located at Cliff Haven, exactly one mile
away by water. Only
after much searching in the dense underbrush did they find traces
of the burials. This is the last newspaper-recorded sighting of the Crab
would be five years before Congress acted, but this agitation did
have effect on the local Plattsburgh military command.
On Oct. 21, 1903 Colonel Adams of the Barracks supervised
the erection of a l00-foot metal flag staff on the island.
This still stands in 1988 at the south end, though in badly
rusted condition. No
trace of a date or any memorial plaque can be seen on its base.
Dec. 4, 1905 Congressman Flack of Malone introduced HR 320, a bill
to appropriate $20,000 to enable the Secretary of War to establish
Crab Island as "Macdonough National Memorial Park" with
the erection there of a monument. HR 320 did not pass both houses, but on June 12, 1906 the
59th Congress passed an Army appropriation "to enable the
Secretary of War to prepare the ground and suitably mark the
graves of soldiers and sailors buried on Isle Saint Michel,
commonly known as Crab Island (an appropriation of) the sum of
$20,000, or such portion thereof as may be necessary."
June 21, 1907 the Plattsburgh
reporting "the work of making a National
Park out of Crab Island ... is well underway, and J.
J. Fitzpatrick, the contractor, has finished clearing the
island and has nearly completed the caretaker's cottage." A
later paragraph about the planned monument is significant.
men are now attempting to locate the graves of the soldiers of the
War of 1812 who are buried on the island." No subsequent
newspaper story mentions finding the graves.
The dedication of the monument took place Aug. 25, 1909 on
the grounds of the Catholic Summer School.
In the concrete walk approaching the monument, under
years of encroached sod, the writer found an embedded "J.J.
Fitzpatrick" brass disc, indicating that this contractor
built at least the monument's base.
Recently acquired copies of documents dated 1908 show that
the U.S. Army Quartermaster awarded the contract for construction
of the obelisk to the Van Amringe Granite Company of Boston, Mass.
accounts indicate the hospital tents were on the north half of the
island, and that the burials were south of the tents. But no
account says how far south. In trips to the island over recent
years, the writer has come upon six stone piles in the dense
underbrush of the southeast quarter. They must be man-made and
there is no trace of mortar to suggest they were foundation pillars.
They line up in three north-south pairs, about l00 feet apart.
Could these have been heaped up to mark the ends of three trenches?
Someone else must have had the same idea, since the most
southeastern pile, closest to the shore, has been excavated in years
past. The 1877 Republican
reporter had noted in his article that "one of the burial
mounds has been opened as was shown by a large quantity of fresh
earth thrown up."
Crab Island's obelisk provides a backdrop for a photograph of the
Meserve family's outing. The
picture was probably taken soon after the
monument was unveiled. Clinton
County Historical Museum.
uncertainty as to the burial site is the compelling reason why the
entire island must be considered an integral historic site, rather
than just a quarter acre around the granite monument, as some have
With the $20,000 of taxpayers' money was built a
caretaker's cottage, a concrete wharf, graded paths all over the
island, as well as the 50-foot granite obelisk with its four bronze
plaques. A 1909 Barracks Quartermaster's map of "St.
Michel or Crab Island" survives at P.A.F.B. It shows these
improvements, but does not indicate a gravesite anywhere.