Tag Archives: Jefferson County

Fort Ontario: Cannibalism, Battles & Sieges, and Rum


By on

0 Comments

Cannibalism? Daring battles and sieges? Rum becoming river water? All a part of Fort Ontario history? Yes, says author Rev. George A. Reed, who will share his enthusiasm for the history of Fort Ontario at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, NY, this Thursday, August 6, at 6pm. Reed is the author of Fort Ontario: 250 Years of History. His program is part of the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series.

“My research includes an overview of all the eras at Fort Ontario from the French and Indian War through World War II. There are tales of cannibalism that always make 4th graders eyes get big. Descriptions of daring battles and sieges at the fort, and stories of how rum turned into river water,” Reed says. According to the author cannibalism is indeed part of the Fort’s history, but he has debunked a bit of other folklore associated with the historic, star-shaped fort that overlooks Oswego Harbor and Lake Ontario.

A lifelong historian, Reed worked with the National Park Service at the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials in Washington, DC. He managed the North Creek Depot historic site near Gore Mountain where Vice-President Teddy Roosevelt learned that U.S. President McKinley had been shot, and served as executive director of the Pratt House Museum in Fulton, NY.

While volunteering with the Fort Ontario Guard at the State Historic Site in Oswego, NY, Reed realized that no one had ever written a comprehensive text on the history of the fort. Reed will sign copies of his new book Fort Ontario: 250 Years of History as part of the August 6 program at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center. Program admission benefits the nonprofit Great Lakes Seaway Trail Foundation. Discount applies to active and retired members of the military.

Saint Lawrence Seaway Celebrates 50 years


By on

0 Comments

July 9-12, 2009 marked the 50th anniversary of the engineering feat that created the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The best way to see the seaway is to take the 518-mile Great Lakes Seaway Trail which parallels the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania. A journey along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail offers an authentic American experience of the fresh waters and shoreline landscapes that has shaped much of America’s history.

Fifty years ago Queen Elizabeth II and Dwight D. Eisenhower opened the manmade waterway route into the North American interior. Since then, rhe Saint Lawrence Seaway has been called “the Gateway to North America” and the 120-mile east-to-west start of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail is its road-based parallel. The byway then continues another 398 miles to the Pennsylvania-Ohio border along Lake Erie.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Locks Visitor Center, from which you can watch the world’s oceangoing vessels rise and lower the equivalent of a six-story building in the locks at Massena, NY, is one of many iconic destinations on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. Other popular destinations include the 1000 Islands, small harbors along the Lake Ontario and Lake Erie shorelines, Niagara Falls, and the Seaway Trail Pennsylvania Erie Bayfront. Learn more online at www.seawaytrail.com.

Experience War of 1812 Sinking of Hamilton & Scourge


By on

0 Comments

Thursday, July 16, 2009, at 6 pm, War of 1812 sailor Ned Myers will be telling his lively tale of the sinking of the Hamilton & the Scourge at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, N.Y. To be completely accurate, an authentically costumed James H. Fischer will relate the story of the famous shipwrecks’ survivor in this presentation for the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series. Fischer’s presentation will also include a series of Jacques Cousteau slides of lake bottom vessels.


Seaman Myers lived to tell his story to noted American author James Fenimore Cooper. Fischer, a marine consultant who has studied the underwater history of Lake Ontario for 22 years, draws on Myers’ narrative as told to Cooper for A Life Before the Mast. Fischer shares fascinating details of the moments before a squall surprised captain and crew.

The wrecks of the two merchant ships – Hamilton, built as Diana in Oswego, NY, and the Scourge, originally Lord Nelson, were discovered in 1973 and are considered to have national historic significance to both the U.S. and Canada.

The $5 program fee benefits educational programming at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center, Ray and West Main Streets, Sackets Harbor, NY. For more information, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.

Photo: James H. Fischer in 19th century sailor’s dress is seen below the bust of U.S. merchant ship Diana purchased in Oswego and converted in Sacketts Harbour in 1812 as the US naval warship Hamilton.

2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series


By on

0 Comments

A presentation by acclaimed French & Indian War reenactor Major George A. Bray III will present “Struggle for an Empire, The French and Indian War along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, 1755-1760” at 6 pm at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield this Thursday, May 21, 2009. Bray will relate tales of the 250-year-old conflict to open the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series. Bray will appear in period costume, portraying an officer of Rogers’ Rangers, an elite rapid response light infantry unit known for its bold military tactics. Rogers’ Rangers became the chief scouting unit of the British Crown forces during the war fought from 1754 to 1760.

In addition to being a respected French & Indian War historian, Bray is a Fellow of the Company of Military Historians, and an author writing for such publications as Early America Review. He has written about various aspects of the war from the use of poisoned bullets by the French to scalping. Bray’s historic collection includes original newspapers, documents, books, prints and weaponry.

As event commander at historic Fort Niagara in Youngstown, NY, Bray will welcome hundreds of reenactors for the July 3-5 New York State Signature Event for the 250th French & Indian War Anniversary Commemoration. Bray says, “My mission is to portray 18th century military life for the education of visitors to historic sites and to perpetuate the significant history of the French and Indian War and Rogers’ Rangers.”

Bray serves with Seaway Trail Foundation President Teresa Mitchell on the New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemorative Commission. The $5 admission for May 21st presentation will benefit the nonprofit Seaway Trail Foundation that promotes learning experience tourism along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, one of America’s Byways noted for authentic American experiences. Learn more at www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.

Rare World War II Relief Quilts Make First NY Stop


By on

1 Comment

For the first time in New York state, a rare collection of quilts and comforters used by children, Jewish fugitives, Nazi Resistance workers, and Mennonite refugees fleeing the post-war Soviet Union who were given shelter by a Dutch Mennonite woman will be seen Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays April 24-June 28 at the Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County, NY.

The New York Council for the Humanities, Mennonite Heritage Association, Seaway Trail Foundation, Town of Hounsfield, National Grid and Key Bank are sponsoring “Passing on the Comfort: World War II, Quilts & The Women Who Made a Difference” that tells the story of a young Mennonite minister and his newlywed wife who participated with the Resistance movement in the Netherlands.

The professionally designed interpretive and interactive exhibit that features a rare collection of quilts and comforters made by Mennonite women in the United States and Canada; interpretive panels with historic images of wartime life in the Netherlands, and a DVD sharing the story of An and Herman Keuning-Tichelaar who sheltered people in their parsonage. In the DVD, Keuning-Tichelaar herself says, “I sorted my memories as I folded and unfolded the (few, worn) quilts telling my unspoken tales.”

Phyllis Lyndecker, president of the Mennonite Heritage Association, says, “We are always making quilts for relief efforts and this exhibit is a special opportunity to see quilts that reached their destinations and actually provided comfort and security to those in need.”

Great Lakes Seaway Trail Foundation President Teresa Mitchell says, “The Great Lakes Seaway Trail pleased to host this rare exhibit illustrating the intertwining of global history, philosophy, ethics, and religion.”

Mitchell says she expects the exhibit to attract quiltmakers, family, school and church groups, veterans, tourists and senior citizens. The quilting tradition is a popular cultural and arts heritage travel theme for the 518-mile-long byway that has clusters of Mennonite and Amish quilters in its 11 counties along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania. A 22-mile loop tour off the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in Orleans County, NY, features more than 40 traditional quilt block patterns painted on barns.

The Seaway Trail Foundation has won Upstate History Alliance and New York State Governor’s Tourism awards for its heritage programming related to historic shipwrecks. In August, the three-story, limestone Seaway Trail Discovery Center (built in 1817 as the Union Hotel) will host a presentation on the World War II refugees who found “safe haven” in Oswego, NY from 1944-1946 in Oswego, NY.

For more information on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call Seaway Trail Foundation, 315-646-1000.

Fort Drum WWII Barracks to be Demolished


By on

0 Comments

The Watertown Daily Times is reporting that 87 World War Two era barracks at Fort Drum are going to be torn down in the next month:

Those buildings, built in 1941, are being torn down to make way for more construction to accommodate units of the 10th Mountain Division. South post will become the new home for the 91st Military Police Battalion, 7th Engineer Battalion and 63rd Explosive Ordnance Device Battalion — which is currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq.


We want to tear them all down eventually,” said James W. Corriveau, the public works director for Fort Drum. “We are building new facilities on that space and falling in on the old infrastructure.”

The demolition of old motor pools along Gasoline Alley has been ongoing this summer.

Here’s a gem from someone with a [ahem] sense of history:

“The nostalgic value of this World War II world isn’t too much,” Mr. Corriveau said. “The Army has lots of stuff from that time period — these buildings weren’t supposed to last forever.”

Here is a little history from the Fort Drum website:

With the outbreak of World War Two, the area now known as Pine Camp was selected for a major expansion and an additional 75,000 acres of land was purchased. With that purchase, 525 local families were displaced. Five entire villages were eliminated, while others were reduced from one-third to one-half their size.

By Labor Day 1941, 100 tracts of land were taken over. Three thousand buildings, including 24 schools, 6 churches and a post office were abandoned. Contractors then went to work, and in a period of 10 months at a cost of $20 million, an entire city was built to house the divisions scheduled to train here.

Eight hundred buildings were constructed; 240 barracks, 84 mess halls, 86 storehouses, 58 warehouses, 27 officers’ quarters, 22 headquarters buildings, and 99 recreational buildings as well as guardhouses and a hospital. Construction workers paid the price, as the winter of 1941-42 was one of the coldest in North Country history.

The three divisions to train at Pine Camp were General George S. Patton’s 4th Armored Division (Gen. Creighton Abrams was a battalion commander here at the time), the 45th Infantry Division and the 5th Armored Division.

The post also served as a prisoner of war camp. Of those prisoners who died here, one Italian and six Germans are still buried in the Sheepfold Cemetery near Remington Pond