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Henry Marshall ’17 researches history of Hamilton, Nichols Pond

By Upstate Institute on July 26, 2015
This post written by Henry Marshall ’17

The area of Madison County is incredibly rich in history, and this summer’s work with the Upstate Institute delved into the local research on two major historical occurrences. John Vincent Atanasoff, recognized as the inventor of the first digital computer, was in fact born in Hamilton, behind the campus on Purdy Hill road. His birth in Hamilton, and eventual graduation from Colgate, place the area as a major location in the development of early computers. Much earlier in local history, Madison County, is rich in Native American and French interaction. Much so that the site of Nichols Pond, located in the town of Fenner just half an hour from Colgate, is the alleged site of Samuel de Champlain’s famous siege with the Algonquin against the Iroquois. The significance of this battle lies heavily in colonial French and Native American local history of this area.

My earliest work came in the weeks between the end of May and mid August. I began with Matt Urtz on research for the celebration of John Vincent Atanasoff, involving his son J.A. Atanasoff returning to Hamilton to speak on the matter. I was assigned to research local historical deeds and documents that affirm Purdy Hill Road was the precise location of Atanasoff’s birth. This involved informational work with local historian Jack Loop, and several visits to the Madison County Clerk’s office to explore deeds and property indexes. The projected culminated in the presentation of John Vincent Atanasoff in June 6th, where I presented my research and a summary of the Atanasoff’s historical impact.

My next stage of work came with the Town of Hamilton Clerk’s office with Ms. Sue Reymers. I primarily worked with town council member Chris Rossi on the Town of Hamilton Comprehensive Plan. This plan is a community vision by the Comprehensive Plan Committee that is designed to set and implement municipal goals to improve local business and preserve the rural and historical character of the area. I familiarized myself with the Comprehensive Plan, attended meetings with the Comprehensive Plan Committee, and developed a Power Point presentation to be used in town meetings open to the public.



While I was working on the Town of Hamilton Comprehensive Plan, I began the second stage of research with Matt Urtz. I started my research on the Battle of Nichols with materials provided by Matt. I researched and documented primary and secondary sources on the Nichols Pond site, and Colgate’s involvement in archaeological investigations. This involved a trip and tour of the actual site in the town of Fenner, as well as a special visit to the Madison County Historical Society. The visit to the site allowed me unique visual perspective in my research and comparison to historical accounts of the site’s topography. At the Madison County Historical society I was allowed special access to primary sources, particularly archaeological reports and articles, as well actual artifacts uncovered at the site. My research will culminate with a presentation of my findings at the 400th Anniversary of Champlain’s Battle in October.

Meanwhile, I continued on with the second stage with the Town of Hamilton Clerk’s office, with the production of press releases, newsletters, and posters. It began with the development of informative materials on the deer issue in Hamilton. I released a newsletter, poster, and several press releases on hunting licenses. I also released similar documents on building permits, dog licenses, and fishing licenses. My work required me to develop article-writing style skills, and comprehensively review and annotate research reports. My work culminated with an informative poster on the deer issue in Hamilton that sits in the Town Clerk’s front window today.


Note: Henry’s presentation was discussed in a recent article in the Syracuse New Times.

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