Clues sought in search for Fort Bull

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This week, a team of archaeologists are sifting and careful digging through soil at a spot in Rome off Route 46 near the former Erie Canal Village that may shed more light on area history leading up to the Revolutionary War.

It’s a continuation of an ongoing battlefield survey project looking for clues to activities related to the area that include Fort Bull and Fort Wood Creek, Arthur Simmons III, executive director of the Rome Historical Society said on Thursday.

“The idea is to find Fort Bull,” Simmons said. “...We’re looking for any evidence.”

Fort Bull was one of two British forts that secured the portage between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek.

In 1756, French troops aided by Native Americans, marched overland from Fort La Presentation (in present day Ogdensburg) and attacked the British fort on the Oneida Carry, according to historical accounts.

The French destroyed Fort Bull and killed or captured nearly 60 people from the British garrison. Soon after the destruction of Fort Bull, the British returned and built Fort Wood Creek.

Some say the new fort was built over the remains of Fort Bull, while others think that traces of Fort Bull are buried outside the footprint of Fort Wood Creek, according to reports.

So, work is being conducted with the hopes of one day sorting that out.

Since Monday, a team from the Public Archaeology Facility at Binghamton University have been conducting digs.

A full report will be generated on their findings by the end of the year as they will seek more grant funding for additional work, said Brian Grills, project director for the university team which has been working at the site periodically for the last couple of years.

On Thursday, Grills and Simmons noted the layers of artifacts being located and cataloged at the site since digging began in 2019 - chert arrowheads from times before European presence in the region; musket and cannonballs, glass and timbers believed to be from the 18th century; and later farming remnants from the 19th and 20th century as land in the area was used for other purposes.

“It really speaks to the use of the Carry,” Simmons said, referring to the strategic placement of early forts in the Rome area as it was once referred to as the Oneida Carry- a centralized area with easy access to waterways.

In its day, Fort Bull would have housed about 60 individuals and been star shaped lined by a 16 to 18 foot high picket, Grill said. Fort Wood Creek would have housed approximately 120 people.

This week, the team has found wood beams with evidence of charring. Grills said samples will be sent to a laboratory for more definitive information.

It is finds like the beams that tell them they might be in the right place.

“We key in on these defining features when looking for Fort Bull,” Grills said.

Said Simmons: “We are super excited. This is a continuation of last years work, and an opportunity for history education and appreciation.”

He added that activities such as this are an educational enrichment for the Rome area. Guided tours of the site are available by calling the Rome Historical Society at 315-336-5870.

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