Tag Archives: Lake Ontario

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.