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War of 1812 Heritage Talks Planned in Ogdensburg


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Glengarry 4For the sixth year, the Fort La Présentation Association offers a varied set of lectures April 25-26, 2014 for those with broad interests in the War of 1812. As in past years, this event will utilize the banquet hall and rooms of the Freight House Restaurant, 20 Market Street, in Ogdensburg, adjacent to part of the February 22, 1813 battlefield.

The event begins Friday evening with a family friendly concert of period music by Don Woodcock, the Grand Champion Fiddler of New York State, who is recognized for having one of the greatest repertoires of traditional fiddle tunes. Saturday there are seven seminars by speakers from Maryland, Connecticut, Ontario, Quebec and New York. A dozen tabletop exhibits with a regional theme will look at archaeology, battlefields, local authors, museums, the sailing navy, re-enactment photography and an active demonstration of Regency quilting. Continue reading

Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation Formed


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A new organization, Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation, is partnering with the Fort La Presentation Association in Ogdensburg, New York to advance the education of Canadians in general and students in particular in shared Canadian and American colonial history.

Through seven decades – 1749 to 1813 – encompassing the Seven Years War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812, Canadian and American history intertwined at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River in what is now Ogdensburg, New York.


“The Canadian Friends will develop educational programs and resources, undertake research to advance historical knowledge and widely share these assets through media, local projects and other services,” said Michael Whittaker, president of the Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation. “The forts which once stood on Ogdensburg’s Lighthouse Point, La Présentation from 1740 to 1759, Oswegatchie from 1760 to 1796 and Presentation until 1813, are rooted in Canadian history from the last years of New France through the first 50 years of British colonial rule.”

With recognition as a non-profit corporation by the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation is undertaking a campaign to attract members and donations for which charitable tax receipts will be issued. All communications from the Canadian Friends will be in English and French.

They are already working actively with the Fort La Presentation Association to plan the fourth annual War of 1812 Symposium in Ogdensburg April 27 and 28, 2012. The symposium, featuring four speakers from each country, will attract an audience drawn equally from Canada and the USA .

“We hope to fund the Canadian speakers at the War of 1812 symposium,” said Mr. Whittaker. “I live in Bishop’s Mills and know those of us on the Ontario side of the St. Lawrence River look forward to expanding our co-operation with our friends in New York .”

Two of the historians featured in the recent PBS production, “The War of 1812,” are giving seminars at the 2012 symposium. Four other historians who appeared in the production have presented at previous symposia.

St. Lawrence Valley Primitive Snowshoe Biathlon


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The St. Lawrence Valley Primitive Snowshoe Biathlon, organized by the Fort La Présentation Association and Forsyth’s Rifles and hosted by the Massena Rod & Gun Club, will be held March 3-4, 2012.

“In our primitive biathlon, competitors on snowshoes run or walk a measured course,” said Fred Hanss, an event organizer. “They must load and fire two shots from a muzzle-loading firearm at five targets set at well-spaced stations and throw an axe at the sixth station.”

Two of the three classes reflect the organizers’ mission to educate the public about the colonial and early American history of the St. Lawrence River Valley. In the first two classes, competitors using smoothbore muskets or rifles (flintlock or caplock) must cover the course on wooden snowshoes. In the third category, participants with in-line rifles may wear wooden or modern snowshoes.

The advance registration fee is $20. Registration on the day of the event is $25. After paying the initial registration fee, a re-entry fee of $5.00 will be charged each time that a participant runs the course.

Within the competitive classes, there are men’s, ladies’, and youth divisions. Awards will be presented to the top three participants in each division at a ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

“To add to the fun, a blanket shoot will be held and door prizes will be available Saturday and Sunday,” Mr. Hanss said. “Net proceeds from the primitive biathlon will go to the Fort La Présentation Association for the construction of an Interpretive Center and the reconstruction of historic Fort de la Présentation on Ogdensburg’s Lighthouse Point.”

Participants are encouraged to wear historic clothes covering 1750 to 1812. Fort de la Présentation was one of a handful of French colonial forts in New York State. Forsyth’s Rifles from Ogdensburg re-enacts a U.S. Army regiment posted in Northern New York during the War of 1812. From the French and Indian War period, they portray a unit of French marines.
Registration form and rules are at www.fort1749.org.

Photo courtesy The Dalton gang Shooting Club of NH.

Ogdensburg Founder’s Day Weekend July 23-24


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Ogdensburg, in St. Lawrence County, will play host to it’s annual Founder’s Day celebration, French and Indian War reenactment, and colonial trade fair on Saturday, July 23 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday, July 24 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

More than 250 years ago the roar of cannon fire echoed over the St. Lawrence River on the now peaceful stretch between Ogdensburg, New York and Prescott, Ontario. The final battle of the French and Indian War – the battle that truly led to the French losing Canada to the English – was fought here in August 1760.

Founder’s Day Weekend is the annual commemoration of Ogdensburg’s French colonial history and the Battle of the Thousand Islands. Lighthouse Point features a military re-enactment and colonial trade fair. As many as 500 participants from the U.S. and Canada, dressed in 18th-century clothes, will establish an encampment of white canvass tents.

French and English naval contingents will moor their historically accurate small boats along the shore and bivouac there. The crews will race on Saturday morning, but Saturday and Sunday afternoon the boats with bow guns and muskets in battle on the river. The skirmishing on the water leads into the land battle. Across the width of Lighthouse Point, the opposing forces and their Native allies will maneuver.

Civilian life of the colonies will also be represented as women and children, pipers, dancers, artisans, traditional tradesmen and women, and sutlers, the merchants that followed the armies, set up their shops to furnish just about anything a re-enactor, or 21st-century tourist, could want.

The re-enactment of the Battle of the Thousand Islands and the colonial trade fair are adjacent to the archaeological remains of Fort de la Présentation, built by the French in 1749. When the tide of war turned in favor of the English, the French vacated the fort in early 1759 and continued the construction of Fort Lévis downriver on Île Royal, now Chimney Island. La Présentation was a wooden stockade; Lévis was a substantial fortification.

The 1760 Battle of the Thousand Islands began with the capture of the French corvette L’Outauaise by a swarm of English row galleys off abandoned Fort de la Présentation. The battle continued with the successful, weeklong siege of Fort Lévis. The English pressed on to accept the capitulation of Montreal.

For more than a decade, the annual Founder’s Day Weekend has honored the shared history of Canada and the United States. Here, where the Oswegatchie River flows into the St. Lawrence, the Fort La Présentation Association plans to rebuild the historic fort as a high-quality, tourist attraction.

Admission: Adults $8; Children 7 to 12 $2; children 6 and under free.

More information is available online or by calling the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-228-7810.

Photo courtesy Sandy Goss, Eagle Bay Media.

Fort La Présentation to Develop Schools Project


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A grant of $10,000 has been awarded to the Fort La Présentation Association by the telecom giant AT&T to develop and implement a five-year educational outreach project to elementary schools in the St. Lawrence Valley region.

The curriculum-based Hands-On-History project will provide reproduction 18th- and 19th- century heritage items, interpretive materials and lesson plans which will intrigue students and help teachers meet state and national standards for history and social studies.

Hands-On-History will run as the name suggests. Students will be able to handle, hold or try on the clothes, tools and other gear which will help them explore the history of Fort de la Présentation under the flags of France, Great Britain and the United States from 1749 to 1813.

“We are very grateful to AT&T for the generous funding,” said Barbara O’Keefe, President of the Fort La Présentation Association. “The donation significantly maximizes the Fort Association’s modest financial and in-kind resources to allow us to reach a major goal of our educational strategy.”

“Our thanks also go to our long-time supporter, former State Senator Darrel Aubertine,” O’Keefe continued, “who drew the attention of AT&T to our plans to enrich our children’s learning.”

To ensure the project continues beyond the first year, the Fort Association’s contribution is $4,700. Fort Association board is committing $300 annually in year’s two to five. The $1,200 investment is to maintain printed materials and replace lost or damaged items.

In-kind services worth $3,500 – volunteered by museum, history and education professionals affiliated with the Fort Association – will help develop evaluation criteria, meet curricular goals and promote the new education opportunity to schools across the region.

“By autumn 2011, Hands-on-History should be available to teachers,” said O’Keefe. “We look forward to students experiencing their local history and discovering a first-hand connection to early days in the St. Lawrence Valley region.”

Ogdensburg’s Lighthouse Point Makes Historic Register


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The Fort La Présentation Association’s historic Fort de la Présentation property on Lighthouse Point, already listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places, will soon join the seven Ogdensburg sites recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office has helped move the Fort Association’s application forward, and her office reports the Fort historic site on Lighthouse Point should be on the Federal Register soon.

“Fort de la Présentation, one of the historic jewels in New York State, once played a vital role in the formation of our nation. Once fully restored, the Fort has the potential to attract thousands of tourists, which will help stimulate the region’s economy through new development and job creation,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “As New York’s first Senator from Upstate in nearly 40 years, I am proud to support the restoration of this beautiful, historic site. Thanks to the work of the Fort La Présentation Association, New Yorkers will soon be able to enjoy this landmark restored to its former glory.”

“The Fort Association is grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her staunch backing of the Fort Project and the assistance of her office to have the Fort’s location listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with Ogdensburg’s registered heritage sites,” said Barbara O’Keefe, President of the Fort La Présentation Association. “Becoming an acknowledged member of this distinguished group will positively impact our work toward building our Interpretive Center. The recognized historical importance of our property gives us credibility among potential donors as we continue planning to build Fort de la Présentation.”

From the mid-18th century to the early 19th century the fort at the mouth of Oswegatchie River, under French, British and American flags, influenced the development of Ogdensburg and its role in the history of the United States.

“In addition to honoring the City’s place in American, Canadian, and Native histories, placement of these lands on the National Register of Historic Places positions the Fort La Présentation Association to use the site to continue to play an important role contributing to the development of historic tourism and local hospitality businesses, as well as the overall growth of our local economy,” said Ogdensburg City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra.

The Acker and Evans Law Office, New York State Armory, Ogdensburg Armory, Oswegatchie Pumping Station, U.S. Customs House, U.S. Post Office, and Library Park Historic District have met the criteria to be worthy of federal recognition and preservation because of their links to American history.

Until the building of the Interpretive Center and Fort de la Présentation, the interpreted site on Lighthouse Point will attract tourists who would not usually venture this way and indicate to residents the significance of their community’s history.

Study: Ogdensburg History Event Offers Local Boost


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Between $250,000 and $500,000 was injected into the regional economy by the Fort La Présentation Association’s Founder’s Day Weekend, July 16-18, 2010, according to Association President Barbara O’Keefe. The financial impact was made by the 3,000 visitors and 700 re-enactors who came to Ogdensburg to commemorate the last Battle of the French and Indian War.

In an exit survey conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday, visitors were asked to estimate their expenditures related to the event in terms of transportation, meals and beverages, accommodation, and all other expenses.

Harold G. Needham, a consultant to the Fort La Présentation Association, designed the survey, analyzed the data and wrote the report. He took a very conservative approach. Needham disregarded the high-end estimates of the dollar value in each expenditure range selected by respondents; he also disregarded estimates exceeding 50 percent of the dollar range selected by respondents in each expenditure category.

“I deliberately undervalued event organizers’ estimates of numbers of visitors and gave a zero value to the estimates of people who didn’t respond to the economic impact questions in the survey,” Needham said. “I believe my estimated range of total expenditures errs, if at all, in underestimating the economic impact of the event.”

As to the infusion of visitors’ cash Needham wrote, “While most of this would have been spent in the immediate area, some of it impacted on the economy elsewhere in the state and nation, and a very small part in adjacent areas of Canada.”

The survey did not ask about money spent on groceries, but found from $75,000 to $150,000 was spent on meals and beverages and $31,000 to $63,000 on accommodation. Visitors’ transportation expenses infused between $68,000 and $136,000 and from $77,000 to $154,000 flowed into all other expenses.

“As the Founder’s Day Weekend re-enactment and colonial trade fair has grown over the years, we have assumed a significant amount of money is spent locally by the visitors and re-enactors,” said Barbara O’Keefe, President of the Fort La Présentation Association. “We decided this year, when we hosted New York State’s final 250th anniversary commemoration of the French and Indian War, would be a good opportunity to gauge the potential economic impact of this tourist-focused event, and we have been pleasantly surprised.”

This is the second survey conducted for the Fort Association to get a profile of the visitors and their responses to Founder’s Day Weekend activities. However, this is the first look at what the weekend can pump into the economy.

“We know people spent money getting here. Some traveled lengthy distances to get to our re-enactment and colonial trade fair, and some who were here to visit family took in the event,” said O’Keefe. “Regardless, local motels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and other business saw trade directly linked to Founder’s Day Weekend, and we are very pleased to have helped contribute to their bottom lines.”

Re-enactors and others who brought the mid-18th century to life put their dollars into the local economy. They arrived in Ogdensburg one, two or more days before the Friday opening and some did not leave until Monday.

In addition, St. Lawrence County and the City of Ogdensburg benefit from their share of the sales tax collected by local merchants.

As of the end of September 2010, the financial statements of the Fort La Présentation Association indicate almost $59,000 had been spent in the local economy on the event. When bills yet to be received are paid, the total will rise to at least $60,000, giving the event a total economic impact of between $300,000 and $550,000

“The major events hosted by the Fort translate into enough additional business for our restaurant that we can do improvements that we otherwise could not afford,” said Deb Janson, owner of the Freight House Restaurant. “The Fort brings in the additional customer base that establishments like ours really need to move ahead.”

Of the visitors to Founder’s Day Weekend, 61.7 percent live in St. Lawrence County and another 18.9 percent elsewhere in New York State; 11.7 percent came from other U.S. states and 7.6 percent from Canada.

Battle of the Thousand Islands: Final 250th French and Indian War Event


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The Fort La Présentation Association’s annual Founder’s Day Weekend will host the 250th anniversary commemoration on Lighthouse Point, July 16-18, 2010. Dressed in 18th-century clothes, military re-enactors (army & navy) and heritage interpreters from Canada and the US will camp under canvas and cook over fires. Each afternoon, they will battle on land and water to bring the Battle of the Thousand Islands to life.

The Battle of the Thousand Islands, the last significant clash of French and British forces of that distant war, was fought in two parts in August 1760. The capture of the French corvette L’Outaouaise and the siege of Fort Lévis opened the upper St. Lawrence River to Montreal. In September 1760, Montreal capitulated, and the hostilities ended.

Founder’s Day Weekend is more than a military camp. Children’s games and military musters, more than 30 18th-century merchants and artisans, and period dancing are some of the activities that also include a deck tour of a schooner typical of the 1700s. There will be fur traders, a blacksmith, a tinsmith, and displays of other trades and early medical equipment.

Ogdensburg native and Hollywood actor Mark Valley (Boston Legal and Human Target) plans to dress the part and join the re-enactors. A number of military attachés posted in Ottawa, along with other special guests, will review the troops. Special visitors are expected from France.

Founder’s Day Weekend, on Lighthouse Point, is adjacent to the site of the original Fort de La Présentation (1749-1759).

Admission of $8 per adult and $1 per child opens the door to a colorful colonial world.

For information, visit www.fortlapresentation.net or call the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce at 1 877-228-7810.

The Fort La Présentation Association is facing a financial challenge by hosting this 250th anniversary commemoration. Ironically, the Fort Association was invited by New York State to host the final Signature Event for which it is unlikely to be reimbursed in the foreseeable future.

Ogdensburg, Fort La Présentation’s Founder’s Day Weekend


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Stepping into the past at Founder’s Day Weekend in Ogdensburg, NY July 18-19 is an opportunity for visitors to witness the crafts and trades of our ancestors beyond the activities of the French and Indian War re-enactment. To kick off the weekend, there will be a free concert of colonial music Friday evening in Library Park. Linda Russell, an 18th-century balladeer, will perform courtesy of the St. Lawrence County Arts Council. Ms. Russell will also perform Saturday and Sunday on Lighthouse Point.

After an absence of many years, lace making is returning. In the 1700s, lace was an essential fashion statement on the clothes of well-to-do men and women. Girls learned at an early age to make lace that brought extra income to a family.

New this year is a demonstration bakery. The homey smell of fresh-baked bread usually brings a flood of good memories. A unique part of New France will come to life in the scent and sight of crusty loaves and buns.

The blacksmith and tinsmith are basic to Founder’s Day Weekend. As the blacksmith describes his trade, he will no doubt be hammering, riveting or welding some traditional piece of equipment ordered by a re-enactor. The tinsmith displays lanterns, candlesticks, and tinderboxes once indispensable in a colonial household, and now found in the camps of re-enactors or the homes of collectors.

Collectors, too, may take a fancy to the pottery to be made and sold on site. Jugs, mugs, bowls and other essentials will be turned on the potter’s wheel with an eye to tradition and practicality.

Re-enactors add to their kits and replace lost items by purchasing items at Founder’s Day Weekend. They patronize the sutlers, the canvas-covered vendors that spring up at re-enactments selling just about everything a person from the 18th century or the 21st century may need or fancy.

Vital to the weekend are the re-enactors portraying the French, British and Native troops of the mid 1700s. Their uniforms, arms, camps, drills and battle tactics give substance and color to our history. Re-enactors also spend money in the community, so expect to see them in their colonial garb in the stores and restaurants of Ogdensburg.

The display of antique naval arms and equipment that debuted last year is coming back to round out the riverside aspect of Founder’s Day Weekend. Traditional boats in the navy camp are expected from Quebec, Ontario and New York. The historically accurate bateaux will race Saturday morning and engage in battles on the river Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The armed boats are likely to join in a cannonade at 8:30 P.M. Saturday evening. The guns of Fort Wellington in Prescott, Ontario will duel with the re-enactors’ artillery on Lighthouse Point. The larger Canadian guns will fire slowly, but there will be rapid fire from the smaller guns on the point. The public will be able to watch from Riverside Park and the marina.

Following the artillery pyrotechnics, a free-admission ball featuring English country dance will be held at the Freight House Restaurant in walking distance of Lighthouse Point. “No dancing experience is required,” said the organizer George Cherepon. “Easy-going dance instructors will teach the steps before playing the music, and they then call the steps as the music plays.”

Founder’s Day Weekend is larger this year as the Fort La Présentation Association prepares to host the final New York State 250th anniversary commemoration of the end of the French and Indian War in 2010. Information about Founder’s Day Weekend can be found at www.fortlapresentation.net.

Photo: French boats armed with swivel guns drive away a British boat while skirmishing off Lighthouse Point during a battle re-enacted on the St. Lawrence River at Founder’s Day Weekend in Ogdensburg.