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Cultural Resources

Public Works

Cultural Resources Branch


(315) 772-4165


Go to the Cultural Resources Branch Frequently Asked Questions

The Fort Drum Cultural Resources Program is charged with identifying and protecting all of the ancestral places and historic archeological sites potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places that occur on Fort Drum. The program sponsors an active archeological survey and site evaluation program in addition to managing the LeRay Mansion Historic District.

Cultural Resources also coordinates consultation between Fort Drum and federally recognized tribes with ancestral ties to Fort Drum properties. Archeologists working for the Fort Drum program provide public programming for all ages to teach about the history of the area, beginning with the Native Americans who first came to Fort Drum over 12,000 years ago.


For more information about the Cultural Resources Branch management initiatives please click on the following links:



Over the past twenty-five years Fort Drum archeologists have discovered over 900 historic archeological sites and ancestral places. Members of the Cultural Resources team have presented over two dozen scientific papers on topics ranging from how to predict prehistoric site locations using glacial lake landforms to identification of maple sugar bush sites in northeast forests.

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There are thirteen cemeteries within the boundaries of Fort Drum. Fort Drum Public Works and Fort Drum Range Control maintain these cemeteries. Every Memorial Day all training stops, and all of the cemeteries are accessible to the public. The cemeteries may also be visited at other times. Please contact the Fort Drum Public Affairs Office at (315) 772-5461 to arrange a visit.

The Cemetery inventory database is now available online for you to research. Check it out here.

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The LeRay Mansion Historic District

James LeRay de Chaumont purchased over 600,000 acres in northern New York in the late eighteenth century. His father, Jacques Donatien LeRay de Chaumont was a friend of Benjamin Franklin and key financial and political supporter of the American Revolution. It was LeRay's plan to subdivide and sell the land to new immigrants with the hope of rebuilding his family's fortune. The original house was destroyed by fire, and the current mansion was built from 1826-1827.

The LeRay property was designed as a combination of a formal estate with a model farm. The estate portion featured the Mansion, formal French gardens and park, household servants quarters, a chapel, and a land office. The model farm included quarters for the farm manager and a series of farm buildings including a substantial barn. Five of the original structures remain standing in the Mansion district including the Mansion, servant's quarters, farm manager's house, land office, and possible ice house.

Archeological features include foundation remains of at least five additional structures, remains of formal landscape features including laid stone walls for the brook and pond, an original wooden water pipe system, and the LeRay's wine bottle dump. James LeRay's grand-daughter, Clotilde is buried near the formal pond. Daughter of Therese de Gouvello, the baby died at the age of fifteen months on the estate.

The Mansion, servant's quarters, and farm manager's house are used for visiting Officer's Quarters and are managed by Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR). The Mansion is also used by protocol for formal military events and celebrations. The Mansion contains period appropriate furnishings. FMWR and Cultural Resources work together for the preservation and appreciation of Fort Drum's most valued historic resource.

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Native American Ancestral Places

Over two hundred ancestral places have been found on Fort Drum. The smallest site would be a place where one person stopped to sharpen a stone tool and the larges is a fortified village with six longhouses. Stone tools on Fort Drum have been sourced to lithic quarries in the Hudson Valley, Otsego Lake, Diver’s Lake, West Virginia, and Ohio. Other discoveries include fired clay hearths or storage pits dating back at least 2000 years, a metate or grinding stone, as well as numerous examples of pottery, and post molds that outline ancient dwellings.

The Fort Drum Cultural Resources program works closely with archeologists from Syracuse University, St. Lawrence University, Colgate University, Colorado State University, SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Oswego, and the New York State Museum to provide sophisticated analysis that includes archeomagnetic dating, Carbon 14 dating, electron microscopy, artifact identification, blood residue analysis, and evaluation of ceramics.

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Native American Consultation

It is the policy of the Army and Fort Drum to identify and protect important Native American cultural places throughout the installation.

Should Native American burials be discovered on Fort Drum the Army consults immediately with Native Americans. It is our policy to leave them undisturbed and protected in perpetuity.

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Outreach and Scientific Presentations

Keeping in mind installation security requirements, the Cultural Resources Program tries to accommodate requests for visits, field trips, tours, and outside presentations. The program is also currently developing a publication series, educational brochures, and archeology school curriculum materials.

During the summer field season, it is often possible for visitors to see archeological excavations underway. The Cultural Resources staff also shares the results of its work with the academic and Department of Defense community through scientific papers and posters.

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Supporting the Mission

It is the goal of the Fort Drum Cultural Resources program to protect significant cultural properties while minimizing the negative effects of putting valuable training acres off limits to Soldiers. The archeologists work side by side with engineers to provide design alternatives for new projects that include site protection. The program is always looking for creative new ways to meet site protection challenges.

Partnership with the Fort Drum's Integrated Training Area Management Program (ITAM) has enabled the Cultural Resources Program to harden a valuable mound for use in communications training and is stabilizing foundations in the training areas to prevent vehicular accidents. In addition, several foundations in a historic village crossroads have been hardened and made available for training. More than 10,000 Soldiers train their each year. Future plans include burying site warning banners so that the surfaces of deeply buried sites can be made available for training.

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Villages and Farms

In 1941, Fort Drum acquired additional property to meet the mobilization needs of World War II. During the course of this expansion over 360 farms and five villages were added to the training lands. The footprints and foundations of the five villages have been preserved, and the farms are now archeological sites across the installation.

The Fort Drum Cultural Resources program has created a walking tour of foundations from the protected village area of Leraysville. Three of the lost villages were associated with the late nineteenth century rural iron industry of northern New York. One of the original iron furnaces still stands near the impact area. In addition, Quarry Pond, site of the discovery of the largest calcite crystals in the world and source of the New York State Museum's Crystal Cave is a protected historic site.

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Cultural Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

The following list contains answers to questions that the Cultural Resources Branch has received. You may click on any of the questions listed below to go directly to the answer. If you do not find an answer to your question please call the Cultural Resources Branch Manager at (315) 772-4165.

Q: What is archeology?

A: The word archeology stems from the Latin words archaeos, meaning ancient and logos, meaning word, discussion or reason. Archeology is the science by which the material remains of humanity can be recovered and analyzed in order to obtain as complete a picture as possible of ancient human life.

Archeology is the systematic study of prehistoric and historic cultures by recovery and scientific analysis of their artifacts, monuments and remains in context. These tangible items, artifacts, monuments and remains, include such things as projectile points, knives, scrapers, stone debitage, remains of houses and trash pits as well as the remains of food, such as charred bone or nuts.


Q: What do you look for when you dig?

A: Archeologists look for signs of human activity. You may discover stone tools such as projectile points (including arrowheads) for hunting, tools like stone axes, drills, and gouges for woodworking, or hide-scrapers, and stone knives for leather-working. You may find a scatter of stone flakes where someone made or sharpened a stone tool. Even stains in the soil can indicate human occupation. A circle of brown post-molds can show where a house stood or an area of broken, fire-reddened rocks with charcoal could be where people made a fire.


Q: What is an artifact?

A: Any object shaped or modified by people, or as a result of human activity.




Q: What is the most exciting thing you have ever found on Fort Drum?

A: Many exciting sites, artifacts and features have been found on Fort Drum. Each archeologist has a specific area of focus; therefore every artifact is exciting to some archeologist.




Q: Why do you dig in squares? Use a trowel?

A: The archaeologist digs in squares as part of an effort to control the progress of an excavation. Digging a site destroys it, so archaeologists are careful to keep good records of where they dig. The squares follow the reference grid for a site, allowing good horizontal and vertical control. It would also be possible to work in triangles, circles, or hexagons, but squares are the easiest to keep track of and map. A trowel allows archaeologists to dig very carefully and to be close to the artifacts they are finding.




Q: What is a feature?

A: A feature is any part of the site that is made by humans but because it is in the soil layers cannot be moved. Prehistoric features may include hearths, postholes, ditches, and middens. Historic features may include cellar holes, wells, privies, foundation stones, or other evidence of structures.



Q: What is chert?

A:Chert is a crude type of siliceous rock (a form of flint), which was the primary raw material used by the aboriginal inhabitants of Fort Drum for the manufacture of a wide variety of tools including projectile points (spear and arrowheads), drills, knives and scrapers. Chert occurs naturally under specific geological conditions in bedrock formations, where it can be "mined" or extracted in chunks or nodules. Chert nodules were hammered and flaked into the rough outline of a "biface" or preform, and then finely flaked into a finished tool such as an arrowhead. In the process of making a biface or a finished tool, hundreds of small waste flakes are removed and discarded. Archeologists frequently find a scatter of these chert flakes (debitage), an important clue towards documenting a site. These flakes themselves sometimes have razor-sharp edges, which were simply an expedient tool for cutting or scraping, so it is important for the archaeologist to carefully examine the edges of each and every flake.



Q: What is a projectile point, or why aren't they all arrowheads?

A: The term arrowhead is often inappropriate since the bow and arrow was not a tool in use until sometime after 1500 BP. The term projectile point means simply the point of any propelled weapon.




Q: How do you find sites?

A: Sites are often found by walking over the land and examining the surface for the presence of artifacts. Other traces include modifications to the land, i.e. stones laid in circles or lines, mounds, or other anomalies to the landscape. We also often find sites during a Phase I investigation, which includes shovel testing on a predetermined grid. Shovel testing, or digging holes is a way for archeologists to take a statistically valid sample of an area in order to determine if a site is present. Archeologists often use predictive modeling. Settlements were often based around resources such as fresh water, food availability, and seasonal factors. Archeologists also use remote sensing equipment like GPR and magnetometers.




Q: Why do archeology?

A: America's cultural resources can never be regained once they are lost. The understanding and appreciation for current and past culture is rooted in humanity's history. Archeology helps fill in the gaps of history that are not written or documented.




Q: Why does Fort Drum have a cultural resources program?

A: The United States Department of Defense acts as a steward in protecting its cultural resources while carrying out its military mission. The central mission of the U.S. military forces is the defense of the United States - its people, its land, and its heritage. America's cultural resources are an integral part of the nation's heritage. It is essential that we conserve and defend the places, objects, and records associated with our national heritage, and the ideas they embody for future generations. Protecting these resources is a fundamental part of the Department of Defense's primary mission.

Today the Department of Defense (DoD) manages approximately 25 million acres of land in the United States and its territories and possessions. These lands contain places that are tangible reminders of people, events, and ideas that shaped America's character.




Q: How many sites are there on Fort Drum?

A: There are 797 Historic Sites and 295 Prehistoric Sites located on Fort Drum.




Q: What is the distinction between "prehistoric" and "historic"?

A: Prehistoric archaeology covers the study of human occupation between the Paleo-Indian periods circa 12,000 B.C. to the Saint Lawrence Iroquoian period circa A.D. 1550. For the northeast section of North America the prehistoric era is any cultural development before European arrival. The "historic" era begins in the late sixteenth century when the first European-made artifacts were traded into northern New York, followed shortly thereafter by contact between the indigenous Native population and European explorers and missionaries, who left written accounts of their travels and contacts (i.e. the writings of Samuel de Champlain, edited by H.P. Biggar and published in 1926; and The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, edited by R.G. Thwaites and published between 1896 and 1901). A main distinction between historic and prehistoric is the existence of written records as opposed to an oral history tradition.




Q: How old is the oldest site on Fort Drum?

A: The oldest site on Fort Drum we have discovered is 10800 BP. This site rests on a relic shoreline of Glacial Lake Iroquois. Diagnostic artifacts from this site include a fluted point, an abrading stone, primary and secondary chert flakes and a Morehouse Onondaga triangular end scraper.

Note that this is the oldest site we know of now. We do not really know when the first people came to the Americas. Until recently, it had been commonly believed by many North American archeologists that people could not have arrived via the Bering Straits before about 12,000 years ago, when the great ice-age glaciers retreated. Current discovery sites in North America are dating back more than 12,000 years ago; archaeologists suspect that people may have lived in the New World much earlier.




Q: How can you tell how old it is?

A: Radiocarbon dating is perhaps the most common way to date sites. This measures the proportion of carbon isotopes in a charcoal sample to provide an estimate of time since the carbon was part of a living being. Other methods for dating sites involve comparing the stratigraphy or layers at various sites and archaeometric dating (measuring the orientation of magnetic particles). Archaeologists can also date sites by the style of the stone, bone, and pottery artifacts found at them. Many artifact forms, such as spear/arrow points and pottery, underwent styles changes over time.




Q: Who used to live on Fort Drum?

A: Approximately fifteen thousand years ago, Canada and the northern half of the United States was covered in sheets of ice. By 10000 BP, the ice was melting. The retreat of the ice sheets releases millions of gallons of melt-water, changing the landscape forever. Icebergs and glacial debris dammed valleys and formed large glacial lakes.

Many forms of wildlife including, mastodon, caribou, wolf, moose, bear, and mammoth came to this changed land. With the reemerging wildlife came the hunters and gathers, commonly referred to as Paleoindians. Paleoindian culture in the Northeast United States is characteristically recognized as spanning from approximately 10800 BP until 9000BP, except in the St. Lawrence Valley where Paleoindian occupation continued until approximately 8000 BP. Several sites on Fort Drum show evidence of Paleoindian occupation.

With environmental changes came a dramatic decrease in the very large game animals. With these and many more changes, humans had to further adapt to survive. Part of this adaptation is exhibited in the changing stone tools. This changing time period is commonly referred to as the Archaic, and is further broken down into the early, middle and late periods. The Archaic period, dating from approximately 8000 BP to 3400 BP is represented on Fort Drum. Fort Drum preserves significant Middle and Late Archaic sites, demonstrating this area's importance to archaic subsistence.

Transitional Archaic sites (3700 BP-2100 BP) are largely undefined in New York State. Recently, a more complete representation of these cultures has begun to emerge. Ongoing research at a site on Fort Drum exhibits great potential to expand the current archeological record.

At Fort Drum we have an expansive variety of the Early and Middle Woodland sites compared to the scarcity of similar sites in the northeast. Exceedingly complex hunting and gathering cultures inhabited the Great Lakes Region and the river valleys of the Northeast and Midwest from approximately 1500 BC to 600 AD. Innovations such as the wide emergence and use of pottery and the development of the bow and arrow made prolonged food storage and easier and safer hunting a cultural norm. These innovations developed a changing culture, which was in transition from being hunter and gatherer groups to sedimentary agriculturally based societies. Meadowood lithic points are common on Fort Drum, an indication that suggests that Early Woodland populations in this area were increasing.

Following the Woodland period is a period in prehistory unique to the Northeast. The groups known as the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, who are distinct from but related to, the Haudenosaunee people, inhabited at different times a large number of villages in the Jefferson County area, including the current area of Fort Drum. Placement of these village sites also changes from where villages were previously located. Defensibility in times of war appears to have been a major consideration, as evidenced by trenches, palisades and earthenworks. A striking cultural development of the late prehistoric was the intensive cultivation of maize (Indian corn), squash and beans. The rise in agriculture was accompanied by the 'slash and burn' system, where forested land was burnt and cleared away in order to make room for crops and to fertilize soils. Hunting, fishing and gathering wild plants continued to be important.

The first encounters in the Fort Drum region between Native American governments, societies and residents and European explorers, missionaries and settlers are grouped under the context of the contact period or proto-historic. This period ranges from the mid-16th century (c. 1540), following the abandonment of the St. Lawrence Iroquois fortified settlement at Camp Drum 1, until the treaty of Fort Stanwix opened the area for Euro-American land speculation and settlement after 1797. To date, direct evidence of one contact period site has been found on Fort Drum, following examination of significant artifacts, namely a French gunflint and trade beads. Little is known about French contact in the North Country between the years 1534 to 1603, making the site on Fort Drum an important finding in the archeology of New York State and the history of the nation.

Fort Drum was part of the northeast land development after the War of Independence. Several tracts of land were sold to wealthy French emigrants by 1800 and James LeRay de Chaumont purchased the acreage that included Fort Drum. By 1807, James LeRay de Chaumont and his family moved to the site of the LeRay Mansion. The mansion estate was sold to Jules Payen in 1840 and inhabited by Payen and his descendents through 1919.

Encouraged by James Le Ray de Chaumont, at the turn of the nineteenth century settlers began forming small communities in Jefferson County. Quickly northern New York began to be settled, road and rail systems were constructed and early industries developed. Fort Drum has the remains of several industries including two ironworks furnaces.

By the 1850s the current Fort Drum region had a network of villages, roads, railroads, rivers, mills, dams, farms, homes, schoolhouses, churches and post offices.

At the commencement of WWII, Pine Camp as Fort Drum was then called, underwent a huge expansion in which 75,000 acres of land was purchased by the federal government. That land acquisition displaced approximately 525 families. Five villages were abandoned, while other villages were significantly reduced in size.




Q: Are there any important historic buildings here on Fort Drum?

A: Yes, the LeRay Mansion Historic District currently encompasses 5 preserved buildings and features that reflect the history of the Fort Drum region. The current Mansion district includes the Mansion, slave quarters, a tenant house, a chapel, a land office and a gravesite. The Mansion district at one time included barns, a model farm, and extensive formal gardens. The LeRay Mansion Historic District is a National Register Property. Currently, the mansion is used to house VIP's. Current management of the district includes the long-term conservation and preservation of buildings, features and archeological remains.




Q: Can I visit Cultural Resources and archeological sites on Fort Drum?

A: Yes, visitors are always welcome. Summer is the best time for visiting as more excavations are underway. Remember that many archeological sites appear to be simply a field on the surface and it is upon excavating in the soil that the sites are discovered. All visitors are subject to the security procedures present at this army installation. Visits can be arranged by calling (315) 772-4165.