of its tangled underbrush, with its new monument and paths, the
memorial park island was highly touted by the D & H Railroad
Company in its guides of the era.
The monument is pictured in the 1909 Champlain Tercentenary
Report (before the plaques were mounted or the iron fence erected)
and on postcards.
Unfortunately, it was all downhill from that time.
can only guess that the frequent changes in command at the
Barracks, with no written records of purpose or maintenance
authority from the government, led to the neglect of
"Macdonough National Military Park." Budgets must have
been tight and priorities elsewhere during war years.
The C. C. C. Camp at the Barracks did do some clearing of
the overgrown paths on the island in the 1930s, one Plattsburgh
World War II the entire 723-acre U. S. Military Reservation at
Plattsburgh, including Crab Island, was deeded to New York.
The state planned to operate Champlain College on the
former reservation, a two-year institution especially for returned
war veterans. But the
deed contained a reversion clause, and in Sept. 1954, after local
and congressional support was mustered for the locating here of an
Air Force Base, the reversion clause was invoked and all property
returned to federal ownership.
The newly created P.A.F.B. was not in the memorial
park business, they decided, and sometime in 1965 the U. S.
General Services Administration was so informed.
But by this time in government bureaucratic history, there
existed a National Park Service and a New York State Park system.
Strangely, G. S. A. contacted neither.
The inventory report, which the writer obtained a
year after his request, and only then after intervention by
Congressman Martin and Senator Moynihan, omits any mention of the
burials. G. S. A.
files claim an inspection was made of the property by Mr. James
Feenan, Realty Specialist, and Mr. James Kafes, Appraiser, on Jan.
Weather records of that date in Plattsburgh indicate
complete overcast, a high temperature of 19, and winds of 20
mph--hardly ideal conditions for methodical investigation of the
surface of a 40-acre island in Lake Champlain.
is hard to believe that any appraiser would dare fail to note such
common knowledge as the sailors' burial on the property.
But of course it would have been awkward to advertise a U. S.
veterans' burial ground as surplus, unwanted property.
It is not illegal to sell burial grounds, but there are
lengthy procedures to follow, which G. S. A. definitely did not.
Feenan and Kafes' bare-bones inventory was quickly
transformed into an official Notice of Surplus Determination.
This document, dated Jan. 28, 1966, which went out to
potential buyers, even omitted mention of the granite obelisk.
Local governments and agencies were offered first
choice, but they had to provide a plan and budget for maintenance of
the property. This
haughty mandate from a government which had totally neglected the
place for more than fifty years is ironic.
The City of Plattsburgh, to its credit, at this time did
accept title to the remains of Fort Brown on the bank of the Saranac
River in the city. But
Crab Island is not within city limits, another fact misrepresented
in G. S. A. files.
to the recent campaign, the press was practically silent in 1966. There were the required small-print legal ads, but the
uninformed public made no outcry.
Public bodies having declined to take title, daunted by the
maintenance budget mandate of G. S. A., bidding was opened to the
were opened in the New York City office of G. S. A. on July 17,
1967. From the
occasional Press Republican stories
commencing July 19, one deduces the Administration's bid-processing
was on a par with its inventory-taking.
First there were 45 bids reported, then it was 55.
The high bid was reported to be $17,265 from a plumbing firm
in Burlington, Vermont. The fact is that on Dec. 5, 1967 Edward Kline, Administrator
of G.S.A., issued a quitclaim deed to Edward Troise of Glenside, Pa.
for Crab Island for his high bid of $40,200.
This amount did not even cover the half-century costs of
acquisition and park creation.
much happened for the next 18 years.
One of the four plaques of the monument was spotted under
water near the island's shore, was rescued by scuba divers and
delivered to the P.A.F.B. museum, where it is now on exhibit.
A July 1975 Press-Republican
feature story lamented the sad condition of the so-called