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Guest speaker gives overview of potential errors in local history

PLATTSBURGH - While much of the region's focus is on Samuel de Champlain's exploration of North America, one man's focus is on the first settlers in Clinton County.

David Glenn, who was recently a featured speaker at a meeting of the Algonquin Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, gave a presentation, titled "Clinton County's First Settlers: An Issue in Debate." During his discussion, Glenn presented evidence that refuted what has been written in local history books - that the first settlement was established in 1763 by French immigrant Jean LaFramboise.

Glenn, who lives in the town of Plattsburgh, said his home was built by the son of the man who he believes created the first formal settlement in the county - William Gilliland. Glenn said he came about the information after his retirement as a civil engineer eight years ago, when he began researching the history of his home.

"All I wanted to do is find out how old my house was," said Glenn. "I did that and I started getting involved in the history of the Gilliland family."

When examining William Gilliland's journal, Glenn found Gilliland - who was later the founder of Willsboro and Elizabethtown - wrote extensively about having built a possession house at the mouth of the Salmon River in what later became the town of Peru, in September 1766. In that time, a possession house was built to stake one's claim on the land, explained Glenn.

While his research could have ended there, Glenn said he became interested in learning more about local history.

He eventually came upon a book written by a man named Peter Palmer, who published his work in 1853. In his book, Palmer quoted the writing of Swedish professor Peter Kalm, who came to Champlain Valley in 1749.

It was from Palmer's interpretation of Kalm's writing that the basis of local history as it is known today was written, Glenn said. However, he feels an error was made.

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