Tag Archives: Lake Ontario

All Hands: The Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial


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Battle of Lake ErieAs the second summer of the War of 1812 was drawing to a close, the sea war with Britain that had enjoyed such notable success in its early months, had shifted from the open ocean to the Great Lakes.  There were two reasons for this. Stunning victories by USS Constitution over HMS Guerriere, the United States over the Macedonian and Constitution against Java had shocked the British.

The Admiralty’s response to the American frigate victories was to use overwhelming numbers to control the seas. Orders were issued forbidding any more single ship engagements, and the British established blockade squadrons off the coast all the way to New Orleans. The British blockade on America had tightened, with 100 ships on station off the coast.

And, while it was possible for an American ship to run the blockade, especially during foul weather, naval supplies were being diverted to a different theater of war – the Great Lakes. Continue reading

New Leadership for Great Lakes Seaway Trail


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Seaway Trail, Inc. has named Michael “Mike” Bristol as its new President and CEO. The Great Lakes Seaway Trail is a 518-mile, two-state National Scenic Byway, a New York State Scenic Byway, and a state-designated Bicycle Route in New York and Pennsylvania. Bristol becomes only the second President and CEO in the Great Lakes Seaway Trail’s 34-year history.

The Seaway Trail scenic driving route was designated in 1978. The Seaway Trail, Inc. nonprofit organization formed in 1986 with Teresa Mitchell as its first director. Mitchell passed away in January and Charles “Chuck” Krupke served as Interim Executive Director.

Mike Bristol began his new leadership role July 2, 2012. He brings nearly 30 years’ experience in tourism, athletics and nonprofit management to the tourism and economic development organization based in Sackets Harbor, NY.

A Florida State University graduate, Bristol was the Associate Director of his alma mater’s Seminole Boosters, Inc., a national-level fundraising corporation. He served as President and CEO of the Tallahassee Area Convention and Visitors Bureau from 2002 to 2005.

Upon returning to his native northern New York, Bristol served as Director of Marketing and Outreach for The Antique Boat Museum on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in Clayton, NY. Bristol is a member of the Clayton Local Development Corporation Redevelopment Committee that is overseeing a new dock and hotel development.

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail organization is known for diverse travel theme marketing, a “Best of the Byways” guidebooks series, Great Lakes Seaway Trail “Outdoor Storyteller” signage, and innovative programming that includes a American Volkssport Association-approved series of War of 1812-theme walks.

Popular travel themes include scenic driving road trips, maritime and military history, four seasons’ outdoor recreation, birdwatching, lighthouses and shipwrecks, bicycling, quilting and cultural heritage.

To learn more about the Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway that runs alongside the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania, go online to www.seawaytrail.com.

Photo provided.

NY Harness Racing History: Eddie ‘Peg Leg’ Jones


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Inspiring stories of success are often rooted in the lives of people widely perceived as being handicapped, yet somehow managing to overcome daunting obstacles. A fine North Country example is Eddie “Peg Leg” Jones, who narrowly escaped death as a young boy but lost a leg in the process.

For most people, the loss of a limb might well be the focus of the remainder of their lives. But Eddie’s story is one where outstanding achievements offered no hint on the surface that great physical impairment had been overcome.

Edward Jones was born in January, 1890, in New Haven, New York, southwest of Pulaski and just a few miles from the shores of Lake Ontario. Life on the family farm included hunting, and just a few weeks before his thirteenth birthday, Eddie suffered a terrible accident. While crossing a stone wall, he was struck by the accidental discharge of his shotgun. The injuries were severe, and amputation above the knee was necessary.
When he entered adulthood, Eddie engaged in the horse trade, buying and selling farm stock along the western foothills of the Adirondacks. Harness racing had long been a mainstay of North Country life, and dozens of communities hosted half-mile tracks. Through his love of working with horses, Eddie was drawn to the sport, so he jumped in with one foot.
The physical activity involved in training horses was challenging, but Eddie had no intentions of stopping there. He wanted to drive. Granted, it could be rough and rigorous, but it seemed a plus that this was a sport where the participant sat while competing.
That was true, of course, but without a second leg to provide balance and body control while racing, Eddie would have to improvise. A thick leather pad between his body and the sulky frame was all he used for support. He learned to balance by trial and error.
By the time he was 22, Eddie had proven he could drive. Using three main horses and racing at venues from Watertown to Batavia, he gained experience and earned several wins. Three years later (1915), behind five main mounts, Jones’ skills as both trainer and driver were unquestioned.
At Gouverneur, Canton, Watertown, Fulton, Rome, and Cortland, he was a multiple winner. More success came at Batavia, Elmira, and De Ruyter, and at Brockport, Ontario, Canada, as well. Other forays outside of New York to Mount Holly, New Jersey, and Hagerstown, Maryland, led to more wins. In 120 heats, races, and free-for-alls, Eddie took first place 64 times, finishing outside of the top three on only 26 occasions.
While training and racing horses could be lucrative, it was also expensive. Eddie was married by then and needed a steady income, some of which was earned from bootlegging during Prohibition.  He routinely smuggled booze in the Thousand Islands area until he and several others were arrested shortly before Prohibition was repealed.
After that, Eddie assumed a more legitimate lifestyle, managing hotels and other establishments while continuing on the racing circuit from Buffalo to Ogdensburg. In the winter he competed in ice races, which were often as well-attended as the summer races. Heuvelton, one of the smaller venues, once drew more than 600 for an event held in February.
Through the 1930s, Jones continued to win regularly on tracks from Ormstown, Quebec, to Syracuse, Elmira, and Buffalo, and many stops in between. The nickname “Easy Pickins” followed him, based on two things—his initials (for Edward Parkington Jones), and his uncanny use of pre-race strategies that helped him rise to the occasion at the end of a race.
In 1936, Jones took over as manager of the Edwards Hotel in Edwards, midway between Ogdensburg and Watertown. While working there, Eddie dominated the regional racing circuit and increased his stable of horses to 16.
He also began competing in Maine, but in the late 1930s, like so many others during the Depression, Jones fell on hard times. Though he was winning regularly, Eddie was forced to auction his horses, and in 1939, he filed bankruptcy. Life had taken another tough turn, and it looked like Jones, now 49, would end his career on a low note.
But “Peg Leg” Jones, as he was widely known in the media, was far from average. If losing a leg at age 12 hadn’t stopped him, why would he give up now?
And he didn’t. Eddie frequented the same tracks where he had raced over the years, now driving for other horse owners who were happy to have him.  Eventually, Syracuse horseman Charles Terpening hired Jones to train and drive for him. Relieved of day-to-day money worries, Eddie flourished. In the early 1940s, despite his age, he began winning more and more races, particularly behind a famous horse, The Widower.
Soon Eddie was a big name in harness racing across the state, winning at Saratoga and many other venues, and competing on the Maine circuit as well. But the best was yet to come.
At the end of the1944 season, Peg Leg Jones was the winningest racer in the US Trotting Association (covering the US and the eastern Canadian provinces). No one else was even close to Eddie’s total of 152 victories (86 with pacers and 65 with trotters).
Such a heavy schedule surely took a toll, and in the following year, Eddie (what did you expect?) took on even more work. Driving in 437 races across the Northeast, Jones, now 55, once again led the nation in wins with 118. His blue and red-trimmed silks became famous at northern tracks as he finished in the money in 78 percent of his races.
Jones had another excellent year in 1946, and continued racing and winning for several more years. In 1948, at the age of 58, Eddie set the track record at Booneville, just as he had done at Gouverneur in 1934 and Sandy Creek in 1942.
In the early 1950s, Jones began entering horses at Dufferin Park in Toronto. After an illness for which he was treated in the hospital at Oswego in fall 1952, he went once again to Toronto in January. It was there that Eddie’s journey came to a sudden, tragic end.
On January 7, his lifeless body was found in the tack room. Eddie’s throat had been cut, and a razor lay nearby. More than $2500 was found on him, and with no apparent motive for murder (like robbery), his death was officially ruled a suicide.
 No one knew for sure the reason, and the truth will be clouded forever. As one report said, “The ‘backstretch telegraph’ laid it to a jealous husband or a money deal gone bad.” On the other hand, the suicide angle was supported by the money found on his person, and the fact that he had recently been ill. It was suspected that he may have had a serious disease or was in a lot of pain.
The tall, slim form of Eddie “Peg Leg” Jones would be missed by many. He won hundreds of races and thrilled thousands of spectators, and for more than four decades, the man with one leg had stood tall in the world of harness racing.
Photos: Top―Saratoga Trotting Track. Bottom―Trotting scene from 1915.

The Eddie “Peg Leg” Jones story is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in Adirondack Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

War of 1812: Carrying the Great Rope


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During the War of 1812, control of Lake Ontario was one of many issues considered critical by both sides. A key position for the British was Kingston, Ontario, about thirty miles north of the vital American base at Sackets Harbor. In an effort to establish domination of the lake, the two sites engaged in a shipbuilding race.

The British finished first and gained control, but American builders quickly completed three new ships (two brigs and the huge frigate Superior, larger than its British counterpart). Their launch required only weapons and rigging, which were en route from Brooklyn via Albany. In 1814, hoping to keep those vessels in port, the British sought to disrupt American supply routes. A prime target was Fort Ontario, located at Oswego on the mouth of the Oswego River.


On May 5, the British fleet launched an attack that was repelled by the Americans. On the following day, an intensified assault featured heavy cannon fire from the British. Eventually, the Americans lost the fort and some important armaments, but most of the valuable supplies had been taken upriver to Oswego Falls (now Fulton) for safe storage. The preservation tactic worked, and shortly after the Battle of Oswego, a plan was in place to resume moving war supplies northward to the waiting ships at Sackets Harbor.

Following the attack, the British withdrew to Kingston, but a few weeks later, they were at the Galloo Islands near Sackets Harbor, blockading any marine attempts at supplying this strategic site. Should the materials slip through, it would dramatically tip the scales in favor of the American forces. By monitoring the harbor, the Brits were preventing that from happening, ensuring their superiority on the lake.

A British attempt to destroy the Superior was foiled, and on May 2, the ship was launched. But it was hardly battle-ready, still lacking guns and rigging. Less than three weeks after the attack on Oswego, the critical supplies hidden at Oswego Falls were once again on the move. They had already traveled from Brooklyn to Albany, and then to Oneida Lake. Now, from Oswego Falls, it was time for the final, dangerous leg of the journey.

A land contingent paralleled the 19 American boats as they fairly sneaked up the eastern shoreline of Lake Ontario. At Sandy Creek, the boats were taken inland as far as possible while scouts checked ahead for the presence of British ships. It was a wise move, for the enemy was indeed lurking nearby. Shortly after, the British launched an attack, but in less than a half hour, the Americans had won a resounding victory known as the Battle of Big Sandy Creek.

Despite the win, it was deemed unsafe to risk sending the valued supplies any farther by water, lest they again fall under attack and be captured or destroyed by the British. Wagons, oxen, horses, and manpower were summoned, both from the military and from local residents. The plan was to move the important supplies the remaining distance by land.

The bateaux (boats) were unloaded, and soon a lengthy caravan laden with guns, ship cables, and other supplies was on its way to Sackets Harbor, about 20 miles north. Only one item was yet to be moved—a length of rope, albeit an important one—and it presented a real problem.

This wasn’t just any length of rope. It was intended as the anchor line and/or rigging for the USS Superior, the huge new frigate that could alter the balance of power on the lake. That meant this was a BIG rope. Most descriptions portrayed it as 6 inches thick and 600 feet long, weighing in at just under 5 tons.

No cart was big enough to handle its tremendous size and weight, but if it wasn’t delivered, the Superior would remain port-bound, and the Brits would own the lake. Ingenuity often yields solutions at such critical moments, but sometimes good ol’ elbow grease is the answer. In this case, it was a combination of the two, but the emphasis was clearly on the physical.

A section of the rope (referred to as a cable) was piled on a cart, and the remaining cable was strung out along the trail. Militiamen heaved it to their shoulders, and like one gigantic, ponderous snake, the cable began moving slowly northward behind the cart.

There are various accounts of the trip, and claims as to the number of cable-carriers range from 84 to more than 200. Some say that discouraged men skipped out of the nasty job after a few hours, and that locals stepped in, literally shouldering the burden. None of the stories differed on one count, though: participants were left badly bruised from the incredibly difficult ordeal.

But, they did it! The cable arrived at Sackets Harbor on the afternoon of the second day. The tired men wore abrasions, cuts, and huge, deep-purple bruises as hard-earned badges of valor. At the close of their incredible 20-mile journey, “there was loud cheering the whole length of the cable,” as the men were greeted with music, drumming, flag-waving, and drink—and the princely sum of $2 each for their efforts.

They should have celebrated with a tug-of-war!

As soon as it was deemed seaworthy, the Superior turned the tables on the British, blockading their main shipyard at Kingston and helping establish American dominance of the lake. It was thanks in no small part to the “can-do” attitude exemplified by North Country pioneer folks.

Top Photo: Fort Ontario at Oswego.

Middle Photo: One of several plaques honoring the cable carriers.

Bottom Photo: Map of Lake Ontario sites.

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.

2011 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Travel Mag Available


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The 2011 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Travel Magazine is now available with stories on wineries, the War of 1812, and enjoying a scenic drive on the 518-mile National Scenic Byway that parallels the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River, and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania.

Photographs; a calendar of 110-plus events; a directory of attractions, accommodations and services; and the GPS coordinates for more than 100 Great Lakes Seaway Trail “outdoor storyteller” interpretive signs are also included in the 64-page, full-color magazine.

The front cover of the 2011 edition of the annual glossy travel magazine features a tour boat approaching Boldt Castle in the 1000 Islands region of the byway.

The back cover invites travelers to go geocaching on the byway to collect five elegant Great Lakes Seaway Trail collectible geocoins.

Great Lake Seaway Trail Director of Business Relations Kurt Schumacher says the travel magazine is now reaching new markets.

“In addition to finding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Travel Magazine at our member sites along the byway, distribution for the guide now includes high-traffic information and welcome centers on interstate routes in New York and Pennsylvania; locations in Kingston, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and AAA offices in Ohio,” Schumacher says.

The Great Lake Seaway Trail Travel Magazine is also included in Relocation Readiness packets for soldiers arriving at Fort Drum, NY, and in physician recruiting packets developed by Oswego Health, which operates Oswego Hospital, a skilled nursing facility, and a retirement living site in Oswego, NY.

A digital version of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Travel Magazine is online at www.seawaytrail.com/travelmagazine.

War of 1812, Border, Focus of Ontario Genealogical Conference


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The Ontario Genealogical Society‘s Region VIII (Kingston, Leeds & Grenville, and Ottawa Branches) will host the Society’s annual conference on June 1-3, 2012 at St. Lawrence College, Kingston Campus.

The conference theme is “Borders and Bridges: 1812 to 2012″ – chosen because the War of 1812 was a border dispute between England and the United States.

Issues such as border crossings; land settlement and pension records (on both sides of the border) of participants in the war of 1812 and other wars; immigration and migration; and genealogical resources in areas bordering eastern Ontario as well as in Ontario will be among the topics covered by speakers at the Conference. Also, genealogy is about making connections between people and families, including bridging gaps using DNA and other modern technologies.

The subject of lectures should preferably fall within one of the following categories:

1. Borders and Bridges (immigration/emigration, “Old Country” records, research trips)
2. Location (land records, directories, census)
3. Military records (not limited to War of 1812)
4. Technology (software, internet, DNA, etc.)
5. Eastern Ontario and Vicinity (New York state, Quebec)

Those wishing to be considered as a presenter, should submit a brief outline of your proposed talk(s) via e-mail to conference2012@ogs.on.ca no later than 15 January 2011.

Saturday and Sunday lectures will be one hour long, including time for questions. Friday workshops offering a more in-depth exploration should be 2.5-3 hours in length, including time for questions.

Speakers should bear in mind that PowerPoint presentations must be clearly readable from a minimum distance of 20 metres / 65 feet and should employ fonts no smaller than 32 points.

Each proposal should include on one page:

* a presentation title
* an abstract of 200 words
* a one- or two-sentence description of your talk for the seminar brochure
* your full name, postal address, telephone number, e-mail address, and website
* a brief biography
* whether your lecture would be aimed at genealogists working at the beginner, intermediate or advanced level, and suitable for a general or specialist audience (Multiple proposals are encouraged)

If your proposal is accepted, you will be requested to provide a 4-page summary of your talk or workshop for our Syllabus. This may include references and web addresses mentioned, sample screen shots, etc. It will be submitted electronically (in Word, RTF, WordPerfect, text or PDF format) approximately three months prior to the Conference.

Please include your approximate travel costs, economy class, to Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Remuneration will normally include reimbursement of transportation expenses, free registration, free accommodation and meals on the day(s) of your talk(s), free Saturday banquet, plus honorarium. Workshop fees may be negotiated.

Registration for 5th Canal Splash! Now Open


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The New York State Canal Corporation, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and Parks & Trails New York have announced that the Fifth Annual Canal Splash! will take place during the weekend of August 13-15, 2010. This year’s Canal Splash! will offer a series of locally organized events designed to highlight the history, beauty, culture and recreational appeal of the New York State Canal System and Canalway Trail.

Any Canal Corridor community, business, club or non-profit organization may participate in the Canal Splash! and may register its event at www.nyscanals.gov/exvac/special-events/splash/index.html. Examples of local events include, but are not limited to, nature or history walks along the Canal or Canalway Trail; museum gallery features or exhibits; group bicycle rides on the Canalway Trail; rowing regattas; Canalside business or restaurant specials; kayak or canoe tours; cruise boat tours; Canal festivals, concerts and more.

The Canal Corporation encourages those along the Canal to help create awareness and generate additional exposure for their communities, businesses or events by participating in this year’s Canal Splash!. Last year’s Canal Splash! featured more than 120 events and attracted tens of thousands of visitors during the three day, multi-location celebration.

Canal Splash! will be promoted through a printed guide that will be distributed widely during July and August and will drive people to the online listing. In order to gain maximum exposure, it is encouraged that events be registered no later than June 3, 2010 to be included in the printed guide.

For more information about the Fifth Annual Canal Splash! or to register an event, please refer to www.nyscanals.gov/exvac/special-events/splash/index.html or contact the New York State Canal Corporation at (518) 436-3055.

The New York State Canal System is comprised of four historic waterways, the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Spanning 524 miles across New York State, the waterway links the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River with communities rich in history and culture.

Great Lakes Underwater Event Adds Speakers


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New York Sea Grant, the Oswego Maritime Foundation, and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail have added to the March 6 Great Lakes Underwater conference program at SUNY Oswego. The added presentations for the 9am to 3pm event at the SUNY Oswego Campus Center in Oswego, NY, include:

· Dr. Henry Spang and “Building the OMF Ontario – “a floating maritime classroom”
· Skip Couch and the “Lost Fleet of the 1000 Islands,”
· James Sears and four New York State Divers Association “Two-Tank Tips,” and
· Brian Prince of S.O.S. – the Save Ontario Shipwrecks program preserving Ontario Canada’s maritime heritage.

Oswego Maritime Foundation (OMF) Director of Education through Involvement Dr. Henry Spang will talk about the volunteer effort that is completing the construction of the OMF Ontario. Spang says, “The OMF Ontario will be dedicated to public service and is designed to educate the public about our Great Lakes maritime history, heritage, resources and ecology by hands-on involvement in the experience of sailing this fabulous re-creation from our sailing era.”

Spang says the 85-foot-long schooner will be the only ship of its kind of US registry on Lake Ontario when shipboard classes begin in two years. The last schooner built in Oswego, NY, launched 131 years ago.

Raymond I. “Skip” Couch’s ancestors include Connecticut shipbuilders that settled in Clayton, NY, and a Great Lakes Seaway Trail Rock Island Lighthouse keeper. A Clayton Diving Club founding member, Couch participated in an underwater survey for iron cannons believed abandoned by the British before the War of 1812 near Carleton Island in 2009. Couch, co-author of the Diver’s Guide to the Upper St. Lawrence River, says, “At Great Lakes Underwater, divers and maritime history buffs will hear fascinating details about the more than three dozen ships stranded or lost to natural disaster or human error in the Narrows of the Thousand Islands.”

James Sears of the New York State Divers Association will share four destinations where divers can easily dive on two different shipwrecks. Two of the sites are in the St. Lawrence River with one each in Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain.

The keynote presentation of the 2010 Great Lakes Underwater is deep wreck explorer Jim Kennard’s presentation on the “Discovery of the HMS Ontario,” a British warship that sank in Lake Ontario in 1780 during the American Revolution. Kennard, who might easily be called the “Great Lakes Seaway Trail’s Jacques Cousteau,” will share a video and the exciting story of how he and diving partner Dan Scoville located this “Holy Grail” of diving. Kennard’s 200-plus discoveries have been featured in such publications as National Geographic and Sea Technology.

Brian Prince, president of S.O.S. – Save Ontario Shipwrecks, will highlight Canadian efforts to preserve Ontario’s shipwrecks and maritime heritage. The nonprofit organization conduct underwater archaeology and side scan surveys, collects oral histories, maintains an historical archives, offers diver training, and installs maritime-theme interpretive signage.

New York Sea Grant Coastal Recreation and Tourism Specialist and conference co-organizer Dave White, says, “Great Lakes Underwater provides divers and non-divers who enjoy maritime heritage with a fabulous day of discoveries with speakers who offer an inside look at our history and fascinating details of shipwrecks, the underwater landscape, and the technology now used to explore the underwater landscape.”

Great Lakes Underwater 2010 will be held in the high-tech SUNY Oswego Campus Center Auditorium. Registration for Great Lakes Underwater is $25 ($20 for students) payable to Cornell University and includes the program, buffet lunch, and refreshments. For more information, contact New York Sea Grant, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126, 315-312-3042, www.oswegomaritime.org/glu.html.

Photo: Oswego Maritime Foundation’s Ontario undertest sail.

Oldest Shipwreck Highlight of Great Lakes Underwater Event


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The discovery of the Great Lakes’ oldest confirmed shipwreck – a British warship used in the American Revolution – is the keynote presentation for the March 6, 2010 Great Lakes Underwater conference at SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY. Underwater explorer Jim Kennard, who might be called the “Great Lakes Jacques Cousteau,” will share the story of how he and diving partner Dan Scoville located the HMS Ontario.

Kennard and Scoville found the sloop-of-war in 500 feet of water May 2008. She was on her way from Fort Niagara in Youngstown, NY, to Oswego and Fort Haldimand on Carleton Island in the St. Lawrence during the Revolutionary War when she sunk in a gale on October 31, 1780. The ship is considered property of the British Admiralty and is to be left undisturbed as a war grave site.

Those attending the Great Lakes Underwater event hosted by New York Sea Grant and the Oswego Maritime Foundation will see a video of the fascinating 229-year-old, 80-foot-long, 22-gun ship and hear the details of her discovery using deep-water sonar scanning. The video images will reveal how well the deep, cool Great Lakes’ water of Lake Ontario preserved her two crow’s nests, carved bow, quarter galleries, anchors and upright masts.

Conference co-organizer David G. White, a coastal recreation and tourism specialist with New York Sea Grant, Oswego, says, “With Jim Kennard as keynote speaker, the 2010 Great Lakes Underwater promises to be a fascinating day of the tales of shipwreck discovery. We are pleased to add our name alongside National Geographic, Sea Technology and others who have recognized the depth and scope of his exploration into the waters of New York.”

In just the past six years, Kennard has discovered 12 historic and rare shipwrecks in Lake Ontario. In his 40-year career, he counts more than 200 discoveries total exploring in Lake Champlain, the Finger Lakes, and the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

Great Lakes Underwater 2010 will be held in the high-tech SUNY Oswego Campus Center Auditorium. Registration for Great Lakes Underwater is $25 ($20 for students) payable to Cornell University and includes the program, buffet lunch, and refreshments.

For more information, contact New York Sea Grant, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126, 315-312-3042, www.oswegomaritime.org/glu.html.

Photo: One of two crow’s nests on the HMS Ontario; courtesy Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville.

Fort Ontario: Cannibalism, Battles & Sieges, and Rum


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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


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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.

Underwater Explorer Presents Lake Ontario Shipwrecks


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Noted shipwreck explorer Jim Kennard will present an all-day program on the “Shipwrecks of Lake Ontario” on Saturday, June 13 as part of the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series. Kennard’s discoveries have received worldwide attention and have been featured in National Geographic Magazine. The program at the “Red Barn” at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site on Hill Street in Sackets Harbor benefits the nonprofit Great Lakes Seaway Trail Foundation that promotes tourism-based learning experiences along the 518-mile-long freshwater shoreline of New York and Pennsylvania. The program fee for the day-long shipwrecks program on June 13th is $15 or $5/program payable at the door.

The waters of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail hold many of the more than 200 wrecks Kennard has discovered in more than 35 years of diving. Each of his four presentations on May 21st will focus on a different wreck that Kennard and exploration partner Dan Scoville have discovered over the past six years in Lake Ontario. The program begins at 10 am and will include presentations on:

“Discovery of the Steamer Homer Warren,”

“The Last Voyage of the Schooner Etta Belle,”

“Discovery of an Early 19th Century Lake Ontario Schooner,” and

“The Deep Water Shipwrecks of Lake Ontario.”

During each program Kennard will present a brief update & short video on HMS Ontario, a British sloop-of-war that sank in Lake Ontario on October 31, 1780, during the Revolutionary War. Kennard also be signing copies of the recently-published book “Legend of the Lake,” the story of the HMS Ontario.

Since 1970, Kennard has discovered shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain, NY Finger Lakes, and Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Using his background as an electrical engineer, Kennard built the side scan sonar system that located the shipwrecks.

For more information on the Great Lake Seaway Trail and the Dive the Seaway Trail Project, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.

HMS Ontario: 1780 Intact British Warship Found


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Big news last week with the discovery of the “practically intact” HMS Ontario in nearly 500 feet waters of Lake Ontario. The Revolution War era 80-foot British sloop of war went down during gale in 1780 with a compliment of Canadian crew, British Soldiers, and possibly American POWs.

It’s considered one of the earliest discovered shipwrecks in America. New York is also home to the a 1758 Land Tortoise fully intact in Lake George’s south basin.

The Associated Press carried the story of the HMS Ontario – “the oldest shipwreck and the only fully intact British warship ever found in the Great Lakes.”

The finders of the wreck said they regard it as a war grave and have no plans to raise it or remove any of its artifacts. They said the ship is still considered the property of the British Admiralty.

The sloop was discovered resting partially on its side, with two masts extending more than 70 feet above the lake bottom…

The Ontario went down on Oct. 31, 1780, with a garrison of 60 British soldiers, a crew of about 40, mostly Canadians, and possibly about 30 American war prisoners.

The warship had been launched only five months earlier and was used to ferry troops and supplies along upstate New York’s frontier. Although it was the biggest British ship on the Great Lakes at the time, it never saw battle, Smith said.

After the ship disappeared, the British conducted a sweeping search but tried to keep the sinking secret from Gen. George Washington’s troops because of the blow to the British defenses.

Hatchway gratings, the binnacle, compasses and several hats and blankets drifted ashore the next day. A few days later the ship’s sails were found adrift in the lake. In 1781, six bodies from the Ontario were found near Wilson, N.Y. For the next two centuries, there were no other traces of the ship.