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 Did Spanish Hill have Fortifications?

One of the defining clues of the site at Carantouan where Brule visited is that he notes that they are "well fortified."  The "fortifications" issue is therefore important as it relates to Spanish Hill, if we are to make the case that it was indeed the meeting place of Brule and the leaders of the Carantouans. Although the fortifications are not there to be seen today on the top of Spanish Hill, they have been noted since the 17 hundreds in historical references.





I have included some actual historical documetation below as well for your review:



The earliest description known is that of Duke Rochefoucault de Liancourt, a French Traveler in 1795, who enroute to Niagara, saw the hill and thus wrote of it:


"Near the confines of Pennsylvania a mountain rises from the bank of the river Tioga (Chemung) in the shape of a sugar loaf upon which are seen the remains of some entrenchments. These the inhabitants call the Spanish Ramparts, but I rather judge them to have been thrown up against the Indians in the time of M. de Nonville. One perpendicular breastwork is yet remaining which, though covered with grass and bushes, plainly indicates that a parapet and a ditch have been constructed here." (La Rochefoucald-Liancourt 1795:76-7)

  • The next record known is that of Alexander Wilson, celebrated ornithologist from Philadelphia who wrote in 1804: (Murray 1908:53)


    "Now to the left the ranging mountains bend,

    And level plains before us wide extend;

    Where rising lone, old Spanish Hill appears, The post of war in ancient unknown years.

    It's steep and rounding sides with woods embrowned,

    It's level top with old entrenchments crowned;

    Five hundred paces thrices we measured o'er,

    Now overgrown with woods alone it stands,

    And looks abroad o'er open fertile lands."


  • In April 1878, before General Clark drew his survey of the fortifications on Spanish Hill, Mr. I.P  Shepard of Waverly, NY, presented a paper for the Tioga Point Historical Society. Mrs. Murray in the "Old Tioga Point and Early Athens" goes on to tell us that he created the following illustration with the help of Charles Henry Shepard, whose residence, throughout a long life of eighty seven years, was close to the hill and who remembered "distinctly" the "Spanish Ramparts" before the plow of an overzealous farmer nearly leveled them to the ground. Drawing by Mr. I.P Shepard to illustrate fortifications on Spanish Hill. (Murray 1908:58) "Mr. C.H.Shepard described these fortifications as consisting of an embankment with a trench behind, giving a height of four or five feet inside. When he was a boy and first visited them, about 1820 or 1825, large trees were growing in the trenches, showing that a long time had elapsed since they were used.


The double lines in the diagram indicate portions still clearly defined, and were evidently made much higher to protect those portions of the hill that were easily assailable? The dotted line inside this angle, Mr. Shepard thinks indicated a palisade for greater security?" (Murray 1908:58)

  • Ellsworth Cowles also noted that in the "American Anthropologist" Volume 23, No.2, April-June1921 there was an article titled "Aboriginal Sites in and Near Teaoga, Athens PA" in which there was a map of Spanish Hill showing palisade lines, as depicted by early visitors.


  • Mr. Warren Moorhead even made reference to these fortifications in the Susquehanna River Expedition when he visited the Sugar Creek site further south of Spanish Hill. Even Barry Kent's (1984:300) work tells us that the Moorehead expedition also made "brief tests and/or surface inspections" at Oscalui (BR44), Clark's Sugar Creek village location. But again, Barry Kent didn't read far enough to find the evidence he claims in his "Susquehanna's Indians" is not there: "traces of a fortified hilltop, there being distinct traces of embankments. This being smaller than Spanish Hill, but it resembled same. It contained Iroquoian pottery and triangular flint points, probably Andaste." (Moorehead 1938:70)

Clearly Moorehead then is stating that he also saw the "distinct traces of embankments" on Spanish Hill, only larger than that found at Sugar Creek.

  • General John S. Clark visited Spanish Hill in May of 1878, and described what he saw in his notes: "Rises abruptly from the surrounding plain about 200 feet with a nearly level platform top of about 10 acres enclosed by the palisades which appear to have been banked up on the outside and in." (Murray, ed. 1931:32)

General John S. Clark also painstakingly surveyed and mapped out the location and layout of the entire palisades atop Spanish Hill during his visit, which again resembles the earlier drawing of the same entrenchments by Mr. Shephard. I think it is important to state that while I am well aware of the belief by some that General Clark tended to exaggerate at times, to claim that he staged the following survey is to claim that he was much more than an exaggerator. It would instead make the claim that he was a liar. Since I have found no evidence that he was indeed a liar, and truthfully instead was a man who had the respect of both the white man and the whole Iroquois League at the time, I cannot find any possible reason for discounting this survey as untrue. I would be interested to know of any other instances where he did misrepresent such a survey.


However, in 1931, there was a study conducted on top of Spanish Hill by James Griffin, that seemed to erase all of these other reports of the fortifications, even though it was never published...


Barry Kent published his book entitled "Susquehanna's Indians," which was a ground breaking work in 1984 for anyone studying the Susquehannocks. His work is a standard to day for many archeologists in the field.  And while his work was "groundbreaking" on many topics concerning the Susquehannocks, I believe he fell short in his understanding of the  Carantouans and Spanish Hill, as well as all of Bradford County. To read more on this topic go to :


As for the fortifications, Barry Kent referred to the "unpublished report"  I spoke of earlier when he stated: 


"Griffin's work confirmed the presence of a few Indian artifacts on top of Spanish Hill(36BR27), but had his report been published, it would have put to rest any further concerns about its being the site of Carantouan, or it?s having Indian earthworks around it's top margins" (Kent 1984:301)


I was able to locate the Griffin Report from 1931 titled The Tioga Point Museum Expedition. Mr. Griffin clearly states one of the reasons for his excavations on the hill was to "clear up some of the unanswered questions" concerning "the exact nature of the earth rim around the top of the hill." He was hired by the Tioga Point Museum in Athens, PA. Having very few funds, the museum could not afford a well known or experienced anthropologist; but Mr. Griffin's price was most probably acceptable. You see in 1931, James Griffin had just graduated from college, having not even begun his graduate studies. In basic terms, the "Griffin Report" referred to by Barry Kent was written during Griffin's first field season out of college. This does not mean that lack of experience in this area could not warrant respect for a respectable report that had been well researched. On the other hand, thorough research should be expected.


To read more on the Griffin Report go to:


The truth is that Spanish Hill was only covered on pages 31-37 in Griffin's report a total of five typed pages to be exact with a few pictures and diagrams added.


I hardly see how this five page report should be worthy of rewriting history, or of rewriting the works of those that claim to have seen the trenches many years before. My personal opinion is that the fact that the report was not published makes it seem more influential than if it had been. On the other hand, the Griffin Report is the only report that I believe exists claiming the fortifications did not exist. Therefore, it was the only one Kent could have used to make the claim that there were no fortifications, even though his source was never published.


I apologize if it appears that I have little respect for the work of Mr. Griffin. I do not question that Mr. Griffin was well respected in his trade by his peers for achievements throughout his career. However, I need to remind you that James B. Griffin was at the very most a new graduate from college in 1931. In fact he did not get his graduate fellowship until February 1933 (two years later), and received his PHD in 1936 (five years later.) In my humble opinion, the short "Griffin Report" on Spanish Hill seems to have too little research to make Clark's, Moorehead's, and so many others abilities to tell a man-made embankment from a natural one faulty. I just find this to be a little hard to believe.


As stated earlier, while I am sure Mr. Griffin was very excited to have had the opportunity to conduct this study for the Tioga Point Museum which was directed at that time by Jessie Murray, he was very disappointed that it was never published. There were rumors around that time that Jessie Murray didn't like the results about Spanish Hill and therefore did not publish any of the report. While I have no way of knowing what had happened to cause it not to be published, after reading the report, I have to believe that this report by this young man simply did not meet Ms. Murray's standards. 


One obvious example is that Griffin starts out his report by describing Spanish Hill, "According to some old measurements, it is 100? high, 900? long, and 173? wide." (Griffin 1931:31) In fact, the hill actually rises about twice the height at two hundred feet above the plain and encloses roughly ten acres. He also states that the hill is situated about one half mile from the Chemung River, when it is actually no more than one quarter mile. He also used General Clark's map from 53 years prior to his visit, and does not note it as such. For these reasons alone, most would have to agree that this report fell short of being outstanding, or one of the reports Griffin would have most wanted to be remembered by.


In the end, Mr. Griffin circulated this report to enough people that it seemed to have been published anyway, and Mr. Griffin certainly found a way to get a copy to Mr. Kent many years later. Kent's words, "it would have put to rest any further concerns about its being the site of Carantouan, or it's having Indian earthworks around its top margins," are disturbing to me; and I am sure have disturbed those who have studied this subject in more depth. What is most disturbing is that the words used concerning Spanish Hill were stated as fact, when quite possibly they were merely his opinions on the subject.


To be sure, it did not take this researcher much effort to find quite a bit of information suggesting these claims that no fortifications existed on Spanish Hill to be without the proper research or backing; and therefore, undeserving of the merit that it received. One only needs to go back through the vast number of historical accounts of those that witnessed those embankments when they were still able to be seen (only some of which I have included here) to realize that at one time fortifications did indeed exist on top of Spanish Hill.



Use the following links to proceed:


To learn more, use the links below:


~ Where was Carantouan located?

~ Samuel Champlain/Etienne Brule

~ The Champlain Map

~ Fortifications?

~ Chesapeake Bay?

~ Read My Booklet on this Topic



See what these noted historians have said:


~ Samuel Champlain/Etienne Brule

~ General John S. Clark

~ Warren King Moorehead

~ L.D. Shoemaker

~ Reverend Donehoo

~ Barry Kent

~ James Griffin

Why do we care about the location of Carantouan?

This information about the location of Carantouan is just part of the whole story for Spanish Hill, but it does lend credence to the Andaste (Susquehannocks) being here - and thereby also gives more credit to the stories of the Giant Skeletons being found here.

As General John S. Clark so wisely stated that where the historical documentation and archeological results can "sing in harmony" - is where you will be able to find the truth.  Hopefully - if you read the following areas of this site, Giant Skeletons , Carantouan (this page), and the Susquehannocks, you will begin to hear the opening notes of our distant past being played out.

"The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth should be its basis, presented without fear or favor, conscientiously and in good faith," and again: "If I succeed in exciting a more earnest determination to investigate the rich historical mines that reexamine almost unknown and untouched in our libraries, and awaken the wise men of the day to realize the importance of securing while it is yet possible the vast stores of antiquarian wealth in fields yet untrodden, then I will feel that I am more amply repaid for my labors." - from the Selected Manuscripts of General John S. Clark, Relating to the Aboriginal History of the Susquehanna, 1931.

"After very careful study of all accessible facts, I unhesitatingly commit myself to the conclusion that Spanish Hill is nothing more or less than this ancient fortified town, the stronghold of the Carantouans" ~ General John S. Clark