Tag Archives: Jefferson County

Joseph Lonsway: Jefferson County Civil War Hero


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Joseph LonswayPershingNYH02Civil War veteran/hero Joseph Lonsway, long accustomed to hard work, continued serving as a river guide (and remained hooked on fishing) well into old age. On two occasions, he nearly lost his life in fire-related incidents. In 1911, when he was 67, Joseph, with fellow guide and friend Joseph Calhoun, rushed to help fight a blaze that ultimately destroyed the Hotel Frontenac. They were together on an upper floor when the electricity failed, forcing them to leave the building. Calhoun urged Lonsway to depart first because he was older, but something went terribly wrong. In the end, Lonsway escaped, but Calhoun perished. Continue reading

Joseph Lonsway, Jefferson County Civil War Hero


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Joseph LonswayNYH01In “The Road Not Taken,” poet Robert Frost wrote of encountering two roads diverging in a wood: “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

That’s life in a nutshell: it’s all about decisions. When confronted with options, we make a choice. Sometimes even the first few moments that follow can change our lives forever. Such was the case with a North Country soldier, Private Joseph Lonsway of Clayton, New York (in Jefferson County, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River). Continue reading

Nettie Fowler McCormick, Jefferson County Philanthropist


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Nettie Fowler McCormickIn 1835, in the small community of Brownville, a few miles west of Watertown, was born a young girl who would one day impact the lives of countless thousands. Nancy “Nettie” Fowler, the daughter of store owners Melzar and Clarissa (Spicer) Fowler, was the victim of tragic circumstances at an early age. In the year of Nettie’s birth, the family moved 13 miles northwest to Depauville. On a trip from there to Watertown, Melzar died after being kicked in the head by an unruly horse.

Nettie was less than a year old (her brother, Eldridge, was two). Clarissa ran the family business while raising two small children, but seven years later, she died as well. Nettie was raised in the home of her grandmother and uncle in Clayton, on the St. Lawrence River. The household’s strong Christian bent would have a lasting effect on her future. Continue reading

Media History: The Homeliest Man in Watertown


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02NY Mi-o-na tabsWhen modern media is used to brand a product, it routinely addresses the subject matter directly, trying to draw attention immediately to the product. The advertisements found in old newspapers sometimes achieved the same goal in quite different fashion, using unusual or outrageous lines in large print to trick the reader. The blaring lead demands attention, and is followed quickly with odd or unexpected segues to information on a product.

Archived North Country newspapers contain plenty of examples of the old bait-and-switch, often executed with subtle humor. A number of stores advertised wallpaper by simply stating what was available, but a Watertown firm used the catch-line “Odd Things for Walls”. Continue reading

NY Political History: The 1863 U.S. Senate election


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200px-Preston_King_-_Brady-HandyBefore 1913, when the Seventeenth Amendment requiring the direct election of U.S. Senators went into effect, the state legislature elected them. In the pre-Seventeenth Amendment era, 150 years ago, one of the most tangled and acrimonious U.S. Senate elections took place.

The term of the incumbent Republican U.S. Senator, Preston King of Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, was set to expire on March 3, 1863. King sought reelection but powerful forces within the Republican Party led by the aging party boss Thurlow Weed and former U.S. Senator William H. Seward opposed King, as did the Democratic Party. King’s political fate would be decided by the newly elected 1863 legislature after it organized itself for business on January 6, 1863. Continue reading

North Country Oddity: Dr. Dunlap of Watertown


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Out of Europe in 1872 came a cable from Doctor John L.Dunlap of Watertown, informing his hometown friends that Louis Thiers, president of France, had welcomed and befriended the North Country’s most prominent physician and statesman. So impressed was Thiers with Dunlap’s support of the common man that, according to the doctor’s telegram, a statue was to be erected in his honor.

 A detailed description of the sculpture was provided, to be done in the finest Carrara marble and placed in the Capitoline Museum in Paris or “beside that of the Apollo of the Belvidere in the Vatican at Rome.” In keeping with Dunlap’s politics, the sculpture’s inscription was to read, “The will of the people is the supreme law.”
The cost of commissioning Cordier was placed at nearly $70,000 for the five-year job, and the unveiling was scheduled for March 4, 1877the day John Dunlap planned to be sworn in as America’s 19th president. Now that’s advertising.
Yes, it was all starting to sound a bit bizarre. On the other hand, it may have been a clear-minded effort aimed at self-promotion, truly the doctor’s forte.
Raising the bar a bit, Dunlap had begun claiming that he was engaged to Queen Victoria. In July 1873 was held the grand opening of the Thousand Island House, a spectacular hotel at Alexandria Bay. Since it was the social highlight of the summer season, Dunlap informed the media that he would be in attendanceand planned to meet Queen Victoria there.
The event was huge, with an estimated 10,000 visitors. Dignitaries from across New York State and Quebec were invited to the gala, and some did attend. Newspaper coverage humored readers with a report on Dr. Dunlap’s appearance.
“The doctor came down from the city for the purpose of meeting Queen Victoria, who, from some unexplained cause, did not arrive. Several scions of English nobility were introduced to the Doctor and were much pleased with his scholarly attainments, his commanding figure, and splendid personal appearance, as well as the extempore remarks made by him on that occasion. The Doctor wears next to his heart a beautiful likeness of the Queen, presented by her at the time of their betrothal.”
Did this behavior suggest a mental problem, as some have claimed, or was this just an old man (he was 74) having a lot of fun and enjoying the attention?
In early 1874, Dunlap was taken ill, but managed to recover and mount another run for governor. The Watertown Times offered its support, noting that “The Doctor was swindled out of his matrimonial engagement with the British Queen and cheated out of the Presidency, and yet it is said he will accept the office of Governor of the Empire State.”
At the July 4 celebration at Sackets Harbor, General Grant was expected to speak (he had served two stints there). Dr. Dunlap was invited to give another of his stirring talks, this time on Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s famous debate opponent.
In August of that year, the newspapers had more fun with this report: “We are informed that Alexander, Emperor of Russia, has abdicated in favor of Hon. John L. Dunlap of this city, who will henceforth be known as Emperor John the First.”
At the time, it may have been all in good fun. Dunlap was a likable guy and unabashedly open, providing great copy for newspapermen. After all, his medicinal claims, political forays, decades of seeking the presidency, and supposed connections to foreign leaders were very entertaining.
Viewed 150 years later, they suggest an oddball character, and maybe someone not playing with a full deck. But perhaps the truth lay in his love of attention, his devotion to politics, and his great talent for promotion. What seemed eccentric or erratic may well have been a carefully contrived personal marketing plan.
Whatever the case, it worked. Throughout his life, John Dunlap was prominent in the media, a successful physician, and financially well-off from the sale of his medicines. In December 1875, he died at the home of his son and daughter in Parish (Oswego County). His estate was valued at about $30,000, equal to approximately a half million dollars today. He apparently was doing something right all those years.
Four days after his death, the Jefferson County vote totals from the most recent elections were published. True to form right to the end, Dunlap had received a single vote for Poorhouse Physician, tied for last with “Blank” (representing a blank ballot) behind four other doctors.
There’s no doubt that John Dunlap was an unusual man. His contemporaries referred to his “harmless idiosyncrasy” and his fervent love for and involvement in politics. They smiled at his loquaciousness, his many love letters to the queen, and his insistence that the people truly wanted him as president, but that political parties had constantly foiled his efforts.
Even at his death, there were those who suspected he was perhaps crazy like a fox, as indicated in one writer’s eulogy. “And yet, despite these singular mental aberrations, the doctor was a moneymaker. He would never pay anything to advance his political or marital schemes. Herein was ground for the belief of many that the doctor only feigned his peculiarities, the better to be able to sell his medicines, for no matter with whom he talked on the subject of politics or the like, he was sure before the end of the conversation to pull out a bottle of his medicine, urge its efficacy, and try to make a sale.”

John L. Dunlaptireless salesman, dyed-in-the-wool patriot, presidential aspirant, and Watertown legendtruly a man of the people.
Photo: Notice of Dunlap’s appearance at Alexandria Bay (1873).

Lawrence Gooley has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing

John L. Dunlap: A Jefferson County Eccentric


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Eccentricsthey’re part of virtually every community, and, in fact, are usually the people we remember best. The definition of eccentricbehavior that is odd, or non-customarycertainly fit Watertown’s John L. Dunlap. 

Historians noted his “peculiar kinks of mind,” and referred to him as “a person of comic interest,” but they knew little of the man before he reached the age of 50. His peculiarities overshadowed an entertaining life filled with plenty of substance. And he just may have been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

Dunlap’s story began more than 200 years ago, rooted in the American Revolution. In 1774, his father (John) and grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Washington County, N.Y. In 177778 they fought in the War of Independence and saw plenty of action. According to a payroll attachment from his regiment, Dunlap served at Ticonderoga.
 Years later, he became a Presbyterian pastor in Cambridge, New York, and in 1791 married Catherine Courtenius. It took time for the reverend to see the light about the rights of manrecords indicate that he freed Nell, his slave, in September 1814, not long after several of his parishioners had liberated their own slaves.
Among the children born to John and Catherine Dunlap was John L., who arrived in the late 1790s. He was reared on stories of his dad and grand-dad battling for America’s freedom. While his father ministered to the spiritual needs of several Washington County communities for many decades, John L. became a doctor in 1826 and likewise tended to their physical needs for more than 20 years, serving in Cambridge, Salem, and Shushan.
Dunlap focused on two passions in life: his line of self-developed remedies for all sorts of illnesses, and a consuming interest in politics on both the state and national level.  He pursued both with great vigor and developed a reputation as an orator in the Albany-Troy area.
On July 4, 1848, John delivered a stirring oration at the courthouse in Troy, an event so popular that reportedly “thousands were unable to find admission.” Repeat performances were so in demand that for the next two years he gave the same speech in Troy, Utica, and elsewhere, at the same time marketing and selling his various medicines. Dunlap’s Syrup was claimed to cure Consumption, Dyspepsia, Scrofula, Liver Complaints, and other ills.
Just as his father had left Washington County decades earlier to help establish churches in several central New York towns, Dunlap took his speech on the road to Schenectady, Utica, and other locales. Crowds gathered to hear his famous lecture and purchase his line of medicines.
He had sought public office in the past, but his increasingly high profile and passion for politics presented new opportunities. At the 1850 state Democratic Convention in Syracuse, Dunlap’s name was among those submitted as the party candidate for governor. Horatio Seymour eventually won the nomination.
Shortly after, Dunlap settled in Watertown and announced his Independent candidacy as a Jefferson County representative. He was as outspoken as alwayssome viewed him as eccentric, while others saw in him a free thinker. Fearless in taking a stand, he called for the annexation of Cuba and Canada, and was a proponent of women’s rights.
Viewed from more recent times, those stances might sound a little off-the-wall, but there was actually nothing eccentric about the annexation issues. The Cuban idea was a prominent topic in 1850, and the annexation of Canada was based in America’s Articles of Confederation, which contained a specific clause allowing Canada to join the United States. And as far as women’s rights are concerned, he proved to be a man far ahead of his time.

In late 1851, Dunlap went on a speaking tour, including stops in Syracuse and Rochester, and announced his candidacy for President. The Syracuse Star said, “We suspect he is just as fit a man for president as Zachary Taylor was.”
From that point on, Dunlap was a perennial candidate for office, always running but never winning. In 185556, he announced for the US Senate; not gaining the nomination, he announced for the Presidency (he was promoted as the “Second Old Hickory of America”); and not winning that nomination, he announced for the governorship of New York. And he did all of that within a 12-month span.
All the while, Dunlap continued selling his medicines and seeing patients in his office at Watertown’s Hungerford Block. An 1856 advertisement noted: “His justly celebrated Cough and Lung Syrup, to cure asthma and bleeding of the lungs, surpasses all the preparations now in use in the United States.”
Another of his concoctions was advertised in verse:
“Let me advise you ’ere it be too late,
And the grim foe, Consumption, seals your fate,
To get that remedy most sure and calm,
A bottle of Dr. Dunlap’s Healing Balm.”
His vegetable compounds were claimed as cures for dozens of ailments ranging from general weakness to eruptions of the skin to heart palpitations. There was no restraint in his advertisements, one of which placed him in particularly high company.
It read: “Christopher Columbus was raised up to discover a new world. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, captivated by her charms two Roman Generals, Julius Caesar, and Marc Antony. Napoleon Bonaparte was raised up to conquer nearly all of Europe and put down the Inquisition in Spain. George Washington was raised up to be the deliverer of his country. Dr. John L. Dunlap of Watertown, N.Y. was raised up to make great and important discoveries in medicine, and to alleviate the sufferings and prolong the lives of thousands of human beings.”
Next week: Part 2Dunlap gains a national reputation.
Photo: Official handbill of the People’s Convention promoting the candidacy of Dunlap and Grant (1864).
Lawrence Gooley has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 23 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Civil War of 1812: A Sackets Harbor Perspective


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In this first-year observance of the War of 1812 Bicentennial, the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site will host noted author and historian Alan Taylor. In a presentation of his current work, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels & Indian Allies, Taylor will offer his perspective on Sackets Harbor’s role in the War of 1812 as it evolved along the northern frontier.

Alan Taylor is the author of six books, including Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier; The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution; and William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic for which he was awarded both a Pulitzer Prize in History and the Bancroft Prize. Continue reading

Sackets Harbor War of 1812 Bicentennial Kick-Off


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Sackets Harbor will kick-off the commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 with two great events on Saturday, June 16, 2012. The commemoration will begin at 1:00 P.M. with the dedication of the War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden in Market Square Park on West Main Street in Sackets Harbor.

The dedication of the Peace Garden is one of many such dedications that will occur throughout the Great Lakes Region in Canada and the United States to celebrate two hundred years of peace and longstanding friendship between two countries that share the world’s longest undefended border.

Following the Peace Garden dedication ceremony, everyone is encouraged to proceed to Harold W. Townsend American Legion Post 1757 on Ambrose Street in Sackets Harbor for a traditional pork barbeque, starting at 2:00pm. The barbeque is being hosted by the Sons of the American Legion, in conjunction with the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance.

The program at the Legion will include tributes to those who sacrificed their lives during the War of 1812 from both sides of the conflict.

The cost of the meal is $5.00 per person. Seating is limited and tickets can be purchased in advance by contacting the American Legion at (315) 646-3530.

For more information about the events, call Dave Altieri at (315) 489-3642.

War of 1812 Naval Bases at Sackets Harbor and Kingston


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The Annual Meeting of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, Sackets Harbor Historical Society, and the Sackets Harbor Area Cultural Preservation Foundation will feature a talk by John R. Grodzinski entitled “A Tale of Two Dockyards: The Naval Bases at Sackets Harbor and Kingston in the War of 1812.”

The War of 1812 witnessed the unprecedented employment of naval power on Lake Ontario. From their humble pre-war beginnings, the dockyards at Sackets Harbor and Kingston grew in scale and by the end of the conflict, were producing ships of a scale intended more for the open ocean than inland seas. This presentation will examine the naval commitment made by Great Britain and the United States on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812 and the legacy of those efforts.

This free event will be held on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site’s Barn on Hill Street, off Washington Street in Sackets Harbor. The annual meeting begins at 6 pm; the program at 7 pm. Light refreshments will be served.

John R. Grodzinski teaches military history at the Royal Military College of Canada at Kingston, Ontario. He is author of  Sir George Prevost: Defender of Canada in the War of 1812 (forthcoming, University of Oklahoma Press) and several articles examining various topics related to the War of 1812. Grodzinski is also the editor of the on-line War of 1812 Magazine and conducts staff rides and battlefield tours that consider the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, the War of 1812 and the development of fortifications in Canada from 1608 to 1871.

Illustration: The Kingston (now Ontario) naval yard at Point Fredrick in 1815 by E. E. Vidal (watercolor)  now hanging in the Massey Library at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Honors Awarded at Great Lakes Trail Quilt Event


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A regiment of Canadian quilters and a Pennsylvania woman have won Viewer’s Choice honors from the Great Lakes Seaway Trail War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show. The show featured 1812 period-correct and pictorial quilts from 18 U.S. states and from across Canada.

The favorite quilt of the more than 1,000 visitors to the show hosted by three early 19th century historic sites in Sackets Harbor, a New York State 1812 Heritage Community, was made by nine of the living history interpreters at Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, Ontario.


Janice Toonders, who demonstrates spinning and weaving at the Village, designed the quilt using an Irish chain pattern. Toonders, Martina Bols, Linda Brown, Mary Casselman, Christine Christie, Ivah Malkin, Marjorie Munroe, Judy Neville, and Sharon Shaver used wool cloth, silk thread and cotton fabrics to fashion symbols from the 1812 time period for the colorful pictorial. Sharon Shaver, the quilting demonstrator at Upper Canada Village, added the binding and quilting.

“British Major Sir Isaac Brock is front and center. Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost is aside as he navigates his horse home in shame for not advancing his troops at Plattsburgh. We have the First Nation’s Confederacy leader Tecumseh and Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Chief who was working with the British to create a nation in the west,” Toonders explains.

The Upper Canada Village quilters also included the sloop “Wolf” that fought in one of the Battles of Sackett’s Harbour. A bear, a moose, a First Nation’s symbol, a British sailor and Laura Secord who notified the British of a U.S. attack are also among the quilt’s storytelling images.

Quilts from four Canadian provinces made up approximately 30 percent of the show’s quilts.

The show’s second Viewer’s Choice winner is the “Underhill Tree of Life Whole-Cloth Quilt” made by Jill C. Meszaros of Cambridge Springs, PA, 25 miles south of Erie and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Pennsylvania. The all-blue quilt is intricately quilted by hand with a dark blue thread.

Meszaros says, “I chose to create a whole-cloth quilt to honor my family heritage and the history of quilting and our nation. My fourth great-grandfather, Major David Underhill traveled to Huron County, Ohio, in 1810. In 1812 he reacted to the news that the British and Indians were landing only to learn they were really soldiers in Hull’s army. As I quilted, my husband was away and I imagined what it would have been like in 1812 to wait for him to come home.”

Meszaros, a stay-at-home mother of six, fashioned her design after the Clarke Family Quilt in the book “Massachusetts Quilts” and used fruit, floral and foliate motifs inspired by “Quilts-Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum.” The quilt’s batting is wool, typical of the 1812 time. She says, “The last stitch went in the I day I shipped the quilt to the show.”

Show manager Lynette Lundy-Beck notes, “This show inspired people to learn more about the War of 1812, its battles, the soldiers and their loved ones, and about the quilters’ own families. This show is indeed a storytelling event that interprets the travel themes for the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in many interesting and personal ways, and that is what makes this quilt show unique among quilt shows and tourism showcases.”

Much of the war was fought along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, a National Scenic Byway in the U.S. The 518-mile leisure driving route parallels the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River, and Lake Erie. Quilting is just one of many travel themes for the byway.

Watch www.seawaytrail.com/quilting for details on the impact of the 2012 show and for guidelines on the Beauty of the Byways theme for the 2013 show.

1812 Reenactor to Exhibit Period Sewing Implements


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Living history reenactor Ted Schofield of Chaumont, NY, makes his own War of 1812 and Civil War uniforms by hand using period reproduction sewing implements. He says, “I do all hand work now to be more authentic in my interpretation of the 1812 period.”

On March 17 and 18 as part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show event, Schofeild will display his collection of tools, iron needles; scissors; buttons; binding; threads; fabric swatches, including linsey-woolsey; and a rose blanket and homespun blanket common to the early 19th century time.


At the show, Schofeild will be dressed in period costume, selecting from his interpretations of a New York State militiaman, a US naval enlistee or an 1812 civilian. He will be joined by living history interpreters from the Fort La Presentation Association of Ogdensburg, NY; Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY; the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance and quilters in early 19th century American and English Regency period dress.

The “cot-to-coffin-sized” quilts coming from 18 U.S. states and Canada will be displayed in three 1812-period historic buildings in Sackets Harbor, NY.

The $5 admission benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation. The show is co-sponsored by Orleans County Tourism and the 22-mile Country Barn Quilt Trail loop off the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to barns painted with quilt block patterns.

Quilting is a cultural heritage tourism theme for traveling the 518-mile-long Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway in New York and Pennsylvania. For itineraries and more information, contact Show Manager Lynette Lundy-Beck at 315-646-1000 x203 or visit the web at www.seawaytrail.com/quilting.

Photo: 1812-appropriate sewing implements from reenactor Ted Schofield’s collection.

International War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show Set


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The Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show on March 17 and 18, 2012. The event includes an exhibit of 1812 period-true quilts newly-made made by individuals, quilting guilds, historical societies, and reenactors from 18 US states and from Canada. Three historic sites and living history interpreters and quilters in period dress will lend an historic ambiance to the event.

The former Union Hotel, a three-story limestone structure built in 1817-18 and now the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center; the Sackett Mansion built in 1801; and the Samuel F. Hooker House Arts Center, c.1808, will open 10am to 5pm each day with displays of “cot-to-coffin-sized” quilts.


Lynette Lundy-Beck is a project manager with the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, the not-for-profit organization promoting tourism opportunities along the 518 miles of St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes shoreline in New York and Pennsylvania.

The show guidelines for size, fabrics – linsey-woolsey, silk, and fancy cottons, etc., colors, quilt patterns, and embellishments such as broderie perse (Persian embroidery) were developed by Seaway Trail in concert with American quilt historian Barbara Brackman of Lawrence, Kansas.

1812 and English Regency period living history interpreters lending atmosphere in the exhibit buildings and on the village streets will include “President James Madison,” and members of Forsyth’s Rifles with the Fort La Presentation Association of Ogdensburg, NY; MacKay’s Militia from Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY; and the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance.

Quilters have been invited to also attend in period dress. 1812 period reenactor Ted Schofield will exhibit his early 19th century reproduction sewing implements. The event’s youngest quiltmaker is a 12-year-old girl from Himrod, NY.

The living history ladies of Upper Canada Village researched and designed a pictorial quilt with embroidery and appliqué depicting soldiers, Natives, moose, and a sailing ship bordered by a traditional Irish Chain pattern.

DeAnne Rosen of Lawrence, Kansas, has dedicated her quilt to her two great-great-great grandfathers and two great-great-great uncles who fought in the war. Her floral work is based on quilts she saw in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

A special memorial exhibit of quilts will pay tribute to the late Seaway Trail President and CEO Teresa Mitchell, who developed the concept for the Seaway Trail scenic byway and for quilting as a cultural heritage travel theme along that byway.

The event also features quilting demonstrations and vendors. The $5 show admission benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation. The show is co-sponsored by Orleans County Tourism and the 22-mile Country Barn Quilt Trail loop off the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to barns painted with quilt block patterns.

For more information, call 315-646-1000 x203 or visit the Seaway Trail website.

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.

Wind Power Has A Long History in America


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Scores of gigantic wind turbines in the Adirondacks’ northeastern and southwestern foothills are a startling site amidst historically bucolic scenery. The landscape appears “citified,” with structures nearly 40 stories high where the largest buildings rarely top 3 stories. It is a dramatic change, and a far cry from simpler days when family farms were prevalent. Few realize that in those “simpler days” of dairy farms, windmills were actually quite common across the region.

Of course, the windmills once dotting the North Country’s landscape were nothing like today’s behemoths, which stand nearly 400 feet high from the ground to the tip of a skyward-pointing blade. And, the windmills of old weren’t always efficient machines.

Wind technology took a tremendous leap forward in the 1850s thanks to Daniel Halladay, a Connecticut machinist. Halladay’s windmill not only pumped water, but automatically turned to face into the wind as it changed directions. Almost as important, he devised a way to control the speed of the blades (windmills are prone to destruction from within when operating at high rpm levels). Halladay established the US Wind Engine & Pump Company, setting up shop in Illinois. From the start, the business flourished.

Though his sales were focused on the country’s expansion westward, New York State was also experiencing dramatic growth, particularly in the remote northern Adirondack foothills, where pioneers faced a harsh climate and difficult living conditions. Halladay’s invention eventually helped turn some of those weather negatives into positives by taking advantage of wind patterns across upper New York State.

In 1874, the railroad was expanding north from Whitehall towards Plattsburgh. Since steam engines require water, the line generally followed the shore of Lake Champlain. Tanks were constructed along the route where the rails approached the lakeshore. Steam pumps or windmills were used to fill the feeder tanks, which had a capacity of 33,000 gallons each.

As settlers moved north on both sides of the Adirondacks, windmill technology crept northward with them. Farming was necessary for survival, and the enormous workload was eased by mechanical devices like windmills. The description of one man’s operation about 18 miles south of Lowville was typical of the times: “… a beautiful farm of 280 acres, milks 35 cows, and is a model farm. House, barns, windmill pump, all systematically arranged.”

In situations like that, windmills often filled tanks placed on the upper floor of a barn. The water was then gravity-fed to the livestock below and piped to other locations as needed. The machine was also used to grind various grains. Early models were mounted on wooden frames, but many fell victim to the very power they were trying to harness, toppling before raging windstorms. Eventually, steel frames supported most windmills.

Wind power wasn’t just for individual homes and farms. In July 1879, H. H. Babcock & Sons of Watertown was hired to install a windmill at 1000 Islands State Park. Water was drawn from the St. Lawrence River to large tanks near the dining hall, and from there was conducted to the various cottages by galvanized iron pipe.

And at Hermon, a contract for $6,595 was signed with Daniel Halladay’s company to install a new waterworks system. Included were a wooden tank of 50,000-gallon capacity, a windmill with a wheel diameter of 20 feet, and more than a mile of piping. The frost-proof tank was 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet high, and 3 inches thick. It sat on a trestle 20 feet high, while the windmill stood on a trestle 80 feet high.

Many hotels, including the Whitney House in Norwood and the Turin House in Turin, used windmills to power their water systems. At Chazy, windmills pumped water from the quarries; at Port Henry, they filled water tanks for the trains; and at Saranac Lake, they fed the water supply of the Adirondack Sanitarium.

In 1889, George Baltz of Watertown handled the Halladay display at the Jefferson County Fair, demonstrating that windmills furnished cheaper power than steam engines and could run a feed mill, a circular saw for cutting wood, or pump water.

Though Halladay’s products were widely known, he did have competitors. Some added their own modifications, and some were “copycats.” And they weren’t all products from afar. In 1882, an advertisement touted a windmill “warranted to take care of itself in high winds, equal to the best western mills, and is sold for half the money. It is manufactured at Potsdam.” It featured a self-regulator, and appeared to be based on Halladay’s own successful model.

In the late 1890s, most of the windmills in the Ticonderoga and Lake George area were products of the Perkins Windmill Company, which had already installed more than 50 units across the lake in Vermont. Though windmills in the Midwest were primarily for irrigation, most of those in the North Country supplied water to homes, businesses, and farm animals.

Wind power did face competition from other sources. Gasoline engines became more and more common, offering a reliable alternative. However, they were expensive, noisy, and costly to run. An operator had to be present to start and stop a gas engine, while windmills employed a system of floats to start and stop filling the tanks automatically. A once-a-week oiling was the only required maintenance. The biggest problem at the time was that gas engines ran when you wanted them to, but windmills depended on the weather.

The giant turbines we see in northern New York today are not a new idea. In a peek at the future, Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio demonstrated in 1888 the first use of a large windmill to generate electricity. As early as 1895, observers noted that windmills were “destined to be much used for storing electricity. We predict an immense future for the windmill industry.”

In 1910, a farm in America’s Midwest employed windmills to charge a bank of batteries. Wind power provided electricity to light the farm and operate the equipment. When the wind didn’t blow, the farm ran on battery power for a few days.

By 1925, wind turbines had been used to run refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and power tools. And in 1926, the NYS Fair urged farmers to purchase windmills, using a 12-foot-high model to show the benefits they might enjoy. It was an enticing glimpse at the potential of electricity. Ironically, the popularity of windmills soon became their undoing.

Though they were a wonderful source of cheap power, the main problem was intermittent operation. When the wind didn’t blow, the tools didn’t go. Battery storage systems were only good for brief periods, and people wanted power WHEN they wanted it. Soon, another overriding factor arose—the growing need for huge amounts of electricity.

By the late 1930s and 1940s, constantly flowing electricity was the goal, relegating wind power to the background of the energy battle. It was still used, and advancements were pursued, but success was limited. One notable effort was the huge Smith-Putnam windmill installed atop Grandpa’s Knob near Castleton and Rutland, Vermont, in 1941.

Though less than half the size of today’s models, it was still large, featuring a 16-ton, 175-foot steel rotor that turned at 28 RPM. Occasional use ended abruptly in 1945 when metal fatigue caused the blade to snap, hurling a huge section 1000 feet down the mountain.

In the North Country, windmills have returned after a long hiatus. They stand ten times taller than their predecessors (in 2012, the new ones will be 492 feet high), and now pump electricity instead of water. Where potato, hop, and dairy farms once dominated, the wind farms of today stand above all others.

Photos: Above, windmills 400 feet tall at Churubusco (and another under construction in the foreground). Middle Right: Typical use of windmill to fill railroad water tanks. Middle Left: Halladay windmills were offered by George Baltz of Watertown. Below, advertisement for Halladay’s company.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

New York’s Historic Military Maps Event


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On Friday, May 6, 2011, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, NY, opens for the spring season with a special exhibit of New York’s Historic Military Maps from 1750 to 1820. At 6:30 pm that evening living history re-enactor Randy Patten will share his collection of historic maps, accouterments and artifacts from the French and Indian War.

Patten says, “These maps provide a fascinating look into America’s history as it occurred in New York State. Several show the local Northern New York area as well as all of New York state and parts of Canada and Pennsylvania, plus the waterways that people traveled to establish settlements and forts in such places as Oswego and Youngstown.”


Over the past 30 years, Patten has traveled to the Library of Congress and as far as Great Britain to obtain color copies of original maps, including some from the collection of King George III. Patten describes the hand-drawn maps as “works of art.”

The presentation by the retired New York State Trooper will include a look at French and Indian War artifacts, a British broadsword from a man-of-war used in the War of 1812, and a lesson on historic musket safety.

The exhibit of more than 50 historic maps will be on display Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5 pm at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center through June 26, 2011. The Center is located at 401 W. Main Street. Day admission is $4. Evening program admission is $5.

For more information on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.

Walking Guide Features Sackets Harbor History


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With sponsorship from Watertown Savings Bank, the Sackets Harbor Historical Society has published an updated edition of its Harbor Walk: A Guide to the History & Architecture of Sackets Harbor, NY. The book is available from the Sackets Harbor Historical Society and at several venues in the village that was a shipbuilding center during the War of 1812.

The 44-page illustrated guide celebrates the historic architecture as seen at homes, businesses and buildings in the waterfront village, at Madison Barracks, and on a 17-point Town of Hounsfield Driving Tour in western Jefferson County, NY.


Sackets Harbor Historical Society President Jan Maas says, “This guidebook interprets more than 200 years of our cultural, economic and military history by showcasing the architectural quality of our built environment and serves the Historical Society mission to educate the public about the unique heritage of our community.”

The book’s front cover features the Sackets Harbor Bank Building at the corner of West Main and Broad Streets. Watertown Savings Bank operates a branch in the building that dates to c.1836 and includes the Sackets Harbor Historical Society. The Sackets Harbor Bank housed here in 1836 was the county’s second bank.

The book’s back cover highlights the Union Hotel, at West Main and Ray Streets, now owned by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and housing the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center. Frederick White, reputedly the wealthiest man in Jefferson County, built the hotel in 1817-18 to take advantage of the post-War of 1812 hotel trade. The guidebook notes that the building’s “well-preserved interiors are counted among the finest of any Federal-era public buildings in New York State.”

The guide includes a short history of Sackets Harbor, a guide to 13 architectural styles, a glossary of architectural terms, and a bibliography.

The original text was prepared by Michael D. Sullivan and updated by Sackets Harbor Historical Society President Jan Maas. Local historians Bob and Jeannie Brennan, Sackets Harbor State Historic Battlefield Manager Connie Barone, the staff at the Pickering-Beach Historical Museum, Flower Memorial Library and Olin Library at Cornell University contributed to the Harbor Walk guide’s development. Sackets Harbor artist Lawrence Barone provided the new cover design and updated several maps.

The Northern New York Community Foundation and the Heritage Area Program of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation provided funding for the first edition of the guide. Sackets Harbor is a New York State Heritage Area Community.

Sales benefit the Historical Society’s interpretive projects. Call 315-646-1708 for more information.

War of 1812 Bicentennial Plans Announced


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From Sackets Harbor, NY, site of two big War of 1812 battles that are cause still today for gatherings of troops – of living history reenactors for festivals and educational events in the Lake Ontario shoreline village, Seaway Trail, Inc. has announced a full complement of War of 1812 Bicentennial plans to promote travel along the 518-mile National Scenic Byway that runs alongside New York’s and Pennsylvania’s freshwater coast.


“This project has federal funding to accomplish many planned tasks, so we are seeking both financial and historical knowledge partners in U.S. and Canada. Based on our success with the French & Indian War Bicentennial commemoration, we expect the War of 1812 plans to result in immediate and long-term tourism and economic benefit,” said Seaway Trail, Inc. President and CEO Teresa Mitchell.

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail 2011-2014 War of 1812 Bicentennial Plan includes provisions for:

· Adding 20 40 inch x 30 inch War of 1812 themed panels to the Great Lakes Seaway Trail “outdoor storyteller” signage system

· A short-term tourism impact brochure guide to War of 1812 sites along the byway in NY and Pennsylvania and in Plattsburgh, NY

· A new Seaway Trail War of 1812 guidebook to replace the 1987 edition that was among the Seaway Trail travel guides that received “Best of the Byways” honors from the American Recreation Coalition

· Incorporation of War of 1812 historic site into the Great Lakes Seaway Trail GeoTrail high tech treasure-hunting travel adventure

· A War of 1812 reproduction theme quilt show and challenge competition at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, NY, in March 2012

· War of 1812 public programming at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, NY

· A marketing campaign in historic and heritage travel publications

· War of 1812 themed travel itineraries for families and groups

· A series of War of 1812 feature stories in the annual Great Lakes Seaway Trail Travel Guide over next four years

· Great Lakes Seaway Trail War of 1812 travel focus at the US Travel Association annual international travel trade show.

Seaway Trail, Inc.’s current War of 1812 projects funding partners include the New York State Department of Transportation, Empire State Development, the Erie County (PA) Department of Planning (Seaway Trail Pennsylvania), the Plattsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau, Key Bank, and the Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byways Program.

Seaway Trail, Inc. plans to hold two spring 2011 meetings to provide 1812 Bicentennial promoters throughout the War’s northern theatre, including Canada, to share information and discuss opportunities for collaboration and the creation of War of 1812 “Signature Events” similar to those recognizing the 250th French and Indian War anniversary commemoration.

More information on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail — also a National Recreation Trail — is online.

Quilters to be Featured at Seaway Trail Quilt Show


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Quilters who live in the Great Lakes Seaway Trail region of New York and Pennsylvania and have published their own patterns, books or designs, or been showcased in quilting publications, will be featured at the March 19-20, 2011 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Quilt Show held at the Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, NY.

The Seaway Trail Foundation has announced that the works of following featured quilters will be on exhibit at the 2011 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Quilt Show:

Betty Alderman of Betty Alderman Designs, Palmyra, NY, is known for her appliqué quilts influenced by 19th century folk art designs. Betty is author of Precious Sunbonnet Quilts.

Judy Allen of Watertown, NY, is the author of The Art of Feather Quilting with more than 100 pattern choices using graceful curved crosshatching.

Linda Glantz, of Holley, NY, is co-owner of Peace Quilts, Inc., Rochester, NY, and co-founder of the International Sister Guild Partnership Program. Her latest book is Flowercolor Inspirations.

Holly Knott of Finger Lakes, NY, is a contemporary art quilter creating designs based on her mother Diane Knott’s watercolor paintings. The pair has co-authored Quilted Garden Delights. Holly publishes quilt and accessory patterns.

Mary Knapp of Watertown, NY, is the designer of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Lighthouse patterns and has had her award-winning quilts featured in Quilters Newsletter Magazine.

Nancy Murty of Bee Creative Studio in Palmyra, NY, is a quilter-artist-author and fabric designer blending the contemporary with the traditional. Her quilt of her grandfather is on the cover of 500 Art Quilts.

Three of the featured quilters will also speak at the March 19-20, 2011 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Quilt Show that includes demonstrators, and vendors in the nine rooms of the three-story historic former Union Hotel (1817) that now houses the Seaway Trail Discovery Center. The building is accessible and has an elevator.

Show admission is $5 for the two days and includes speakers’ presentations on both days; those with active or retired military ID receive $1 off admission.

The show is co-sponsored by Orleans County Tourism and the Country Barn Quilt Trail, a 22-mile loop tour off the Seaway Trail to more than 40 barns and buildings adorned with painted quilt block patterns. Learn more about the Great Lakes Seaway Trail and the Country Barn Quilt Trail online at http://www.seawaytrail.com/quilting.

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.”