Tag Archives: Oswego County

North Country Teacher Taught Southern Freedmen


By on

0 Comments

coitphoto2Back-to-school time perhaps brings back, for adults, the memory of a favorite teacher. But of those who are so warmly remembered, how many can elicit this wish by a former student of a 19th century teacher?

“If I could be permitted, how gladly would I again fill up the wood-box in your room and kindle the fire on your hearth…”

Those words came from the prestigious African American preacher, Rev. Daniel Webster Shaw (who, interestingly, was the son of a former slave, Harriet Shaw, with whom Solomon Northup was acquainted in Louisiana). “If I have done anything, or come to anything worth while, it is all mainly due to your timely helpfulness and godly admonition,” Shaw wrote. “I think of the school days on the Tache [Teche, a bayou in Louisiana], and all the kind ways in which you helped me to start out in life.” Continue reading

Chester Sanders Lord of the New York Sun


By on

1 Comment

Chester Lord 3 x 4 BModern media includes television, radio, newspapers, and Internet sources, together bringing us news from local to international. But until about a century ago, newspapers did the job. By the mid-1800s, the process of delivering timely news to the nation’s dailies was achieved, courtesy of the telegraph. It wasn’t until the 1920s when other forms of media (radio and newsreels) began carving their own niche in reporting the news.

When newspapers ruled, editors wielded great power and thus bore great responsibility. Ethics were critical but weren’t always adhered to. It took men of courage to do what was right, and among the best of them was Chester Sanders Lord, a man with roots firmly embedded in northern New York State. Continue reading

John Donovan: Buried Twice in a Month


By on

0 Comments

John Donovan gravestoneIn a tragic story compounded further by a shocking turn of events, a North Country woman once buried her husband twice in less than thirty days. Admittedly, that seems impossible without some sort of extramarital shenanigans going on, but that wasn’t the case.  In fact, there were actually three burials in the story within that short span of time, capping a series of highly unlikely occurrences. To complicate matters even further, the woman actually had only one husband.

Before reading further, if you like solving puzzles, read that paragraph again and try playing detective. How could all that be true? At this point, everyone should be sufficiently confused and anxious for an explanation. And here it is. Continue reading

North Country Oddity: Dr. Dunlap of Watertown


By on

0 Comments


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

Fort Ticonderoga Acquires 1759 Powder Horn


By on

0 Comments

Fort Ticonderoga’s collection is strengthened by a recent donation of an engraved powder horn made in 1759. The horn is inscribed “JOSEPH STAB HIS POWDER HORNE 1759.” Joseph Stab’s identity thus far remains silent. A search of available records for the military campaigns of 1759 has not yet revealed who he was.

Stab’s powder horn is nicely engraved with a variety of scenes and images. Directly above his name is a hunting scene depicting a horseman and three hounds chasing a deer. Another part of the horn is engraved with what appears to be Indians in trees shooting at game. A variety of birds, trees and deer are depicted over much of the remainder of the horn along with depictions of sailing ships one of which is identified as “Sloop Oswego.” The British Navy sloop Oswego was constructed on Lake Ontario in 1755 and captured (burned) by the French on August 14, 1756 at the end of the siege of Fort Oswego. Was the sloop depicted on Stab’s horn as a memory of service in a previous military campaign? Further research may reveal the answer.

Powder horns were regularly issued to American provincial and British regular soldiers in the French & Indian War for carrying bulk gunpowder. Unlike what is commonly seen in the movies, soldiers generally did not load their muskets directly from a horn. The horn was a container in which to carry bulk gunpowder to later be used in making paper cartridges. Many soldiers had their horns engraved perhaps as a way of commemorating their military service. Although there is little direct information that survives regarding the process of engraving a powder horn, it appears from scant evidence that most horns were engraved by a only a handful of men, perhaps individuals with known artistic or engraving skills, serving as fellow soldiers in the army. Some powder horns have poetic phrases reflecting upon specific events and military campaigns; others are inscribed with only the owner’s name and date. Many powder horns have maps or floral or naturalistic scenes engraved on their surfaces. Each horn, however it is decorated is a unique record of a person’s military experience.

Fort Ticonderoga’s collection of 18th-century military objects is celebrated as one of the best of its type in the world. The collection of engraved powder horns numbers about seventy-five pieces spanning the French & Indian War and American Revolution. According to Chris Fox, Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections, “Each powder horn is unique and has a story to tell.”

Dozens of engraved powder horns are exhibited in the museum each season and many will be featured in the museum’s newest exhibit Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution opening May 2012.

War of 1812: Carrying the Great Rope


By on

0 Comments

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.

Hear Tales of Hauntings at The Farmers’ Museum


By on

0 Comments

During the most haunting time of the fall season, The Farmers’ Museum invites visitors to experience “Things That Go Bump In The Night.” Join museum interpreters as they lead you about the shadowy grounds and recount the many mysteries and ghostly happenings that have occurred within the buildings making up the Museum’s historic village. These tours will be held on three nights only: Saturday, October 23; Friday, October 29; and Saturday, October 30, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Museum guides will lead visitors through the darkened 19th-century village by lantern, stopping at various buildings throughout, including the Blacksmith’s Shop and Bump Tavern, weaving ghostly tales adapted from the Louis C. Jones’ classic, Things That Go Bump In the Night, a timeless record of haunted history and restless spirits in New York State. Participants will hear stories associated with the museum’s buildings as in the tale of a young ghost sighted by staff and guests in Bump Tavern and the mysterious early morning strikes on the blacksmith’s anvil.

These hour-long tours will be held every half-hour between 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Reservations are required. Admission is $10 per person (ages 3 and up). Please call Meg Preston at (607) 547-1452.

53rd Annual October Conference for Teachers


By on

0 Comments

The 2010 October Conference for Teachers will present an evening performance by historical balladeer Linda Russell on Thursday, October 21 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. She will perform From Parlor and Porch: Music of 19th Century New York at The Farmers’ Museum. This event is free and open to the public.

Ms. Russell’s performance kicks off the 53rd Annual October Conference for Teachers being held October 21 & 22. The Conference is an annual professional development opportunity focused on current issues, topics, concerns, and practices in social studies education. Each year the Conference, a program sponsored by the New York State Historical Association, attracts several hundred educators to the campuses of Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum during the fall season. This year, the Conference begins on Thursday evening, October 21, with a reception and Ms. Russell’s performance, and continues on Friday, October 22, with a series or workshops and presentations offered by teachers and museum professionals.

Balladeer Linda Russell explores the music of 19th century New York through canal songs, lumberjack ballads, parlor tunes, minstrel melodies and hymns. With hammered and mountain dulcimers, guitar, pennywhistle and lumberjack, Ms. Russell illuminates the lives of the folks of the 1800’s as seen in the popular songs that they sang.

Linda Russell is a historian, singer and actor who explores America’s past through music. Having served for many years as a balladeer for the National Park Service at Federal Hall on Wall Street, the site of George Washington’s inauguration, Ms. Russell takes her performances to historic sites, schools and festivals around the country. Appearances have included Lincoln Center-Out of Doors, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Carnegie Hall Folk Festival. She has recorded 8 albums of traditional American music.

The concert is free and open to the general public. For more information on the Conference or the evening performance, please call Tobi Voigt at (607) 547 1534. To see the full schedule of Conference events visit nysha.org.

Photo: Historical balladeer Linda Russell.

Farmers’ Museum Annual Harvest Fest


By on

0 Comments

The bounty of the harvest will be celebrated at The Farmers’ Museum’s 32nd annual Harvest Festival, taking place Saturday and Sunday, September 18 and 19 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. with live music Saturday evening from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. This year, the Museum again welcomes members of the Southern Tier Alpaca Association. Owners and breeders will display their animals and participate in numerous activities throughout the weekend.

This popular event brings a wide array of performers, exhibitors, and farm animals to the Museum’s alluring 19th-century setting. Guests will enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides; historic games and craft activities for the family; artisan demonstrations; and delicious foods from the season’s harvest including samples of McCadam/Cabot cheese, roasted corn, ice cream, and much more.

Over 20 vendors and artisans will supply everything the season has to offer including beeswax candles, cedar hand carved decoys and birds, Early American tinware, quilts, stained glass, Windsor chairs, and more.

Activities include an alpaca obstacle course, a pie-eating contest with pies supplied by the Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard (Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Sign up until noon in the Main Barn), a canine agility course, and a free family concert with live bluegrass music by the band “Gravel Yard” on Saturday evening from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. To view a full listing of all the event’s activities, see our schedule online at FarmersMuseum.org/harvestfestival.

Admission to the event: $12 adults (13+), $10.50 seniors (65+), $6 children (7-12), children 6 and under and members of the New York State Historical Association are free.

Last Chance to See Inportant Photo Exhibit


By on

0 Comments

The Fenimore Art Museum’s popular summer exhibition In Our Time: The World as Seen by Magnum Photographers will come to a close on Monday, September 6. In Our Time was organized to celebrate 50 years of photography at Magnum Photos Inc. and the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography.

This exhibition of 150 black-and-white photographs is from a comprehensive survey of Magnum Photos, Inc., which is considered to be one of the world’s most renowned photographic agencies. These images are a result of the extraordinary vision of the many talented photographers who have been associated with Magnum since its founding in 1947.

The broad events captured in these Magnum photographs include the D-Day landing in Normandy, France (1944); James Dean in Times Square (1955); Castro delivering a speech in Havanna (1959); Martin Luther King receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (1963); Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy at Arlington (1963); women supporters of Ayatollah Khomeni in Iran (1979); and a crack den in New York City (1988).

In Our Time: The World as Seen by Magnum Photographers is toured by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

Other exhibitions currently on view at Fenimore Art Museum include John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women (through December 31, 2010), Empire Waists, Bustles and Lace: A Century of New York Fashion (through December 31, 2010), Watermark: Michele Harvey & Glimmerglass (through December 31, 2010), Virtual Folk: A Blog Readers’ Choice (through December 31, 2010). Ongoing Exhibitions include Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art, The Coopers of Cooperstown, Genre Paintings from the Permanent Collection, and American Memory: Recalling the Past in Folk Art.

Museum hours: through October 11 (10 am – 5 pm), October 12 – December 31 (10 am – 4 pm) Adult admission (13-64) is $12.00 and senior admission (65 and up) is $10.50. Children 12 and under are free as well as NYSHA members, active military, and retired career military. Visit our website for more information at www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.

History Groups Among Recipients of Canal Grants


By on

0 Comments

The New York State Canal Corporation has announced the recipients of the 2010 Canal Corporation Tourism Matching Grant Awards Program and the list includes several public history organizations. A total of $30,000 is being awarded to a total of 16 projects for local and regional initiatives to promote the New York State Canal System and Canalway Trail as a year-round recreational resource and tourism destination. A full list of the 2010 grant recipients is below, but it includes the Niagara County Historical Society, Schenectady Heritage Area, and Historic Palmyra among other groups whose goals include historical tourism.

The grant program was open to designated Tourism Promotion Agencies (TPAs), Chambers of Commerce, Nonprofit organizations and canal communities in New York State for the development of Canal System promotional material consistent with regional themes set forth in the Canal Recreationway Plan and recommendations contained in the state’s “A Report on the Future of New York State Canals”.

The grants provide up to $2,500 for the development of promotional materials that promote the Canal System and/or Canalway Trail, or specific Canal-related events, festivals or attractions.

Special consideration was given this year to applications that involved collaborative partnerships among several TPAs and/or private industry to create multi-county, regional thematic canal destinations and self-guided tours consistent with historical, cultural, urban and environmental assets and attractions contained along or within the Canal System and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Additionally, all awarded projects incorporated Canal Corporation logos and the New York Canal System’s promotional theme: “Cruise the Past, Unlock the Adventure”. Materials will be made available to the public at no charge.

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. For more information regarding events, recreational and vacation opportunities along the Canal System, visit www.nyscanals.gov or call 1-800-4CANAL4.

The New York State Canal Corporation is a subsidiary of the New York State Thruway Authority (Authority). Since 1992, following State legislation transferring the Canal System from the New York State Department of Transportation to the Authority, Canal operating and maintenance activities have been supported by Thruway toll revenue.

2010 CANAL CORPORATION TOURISM MATCHING GRANTS (listed by Canal)

Agency Name – Contact – Grant Award

Canal System-wide

• Canal New York Marketing and Business Alliance, Inc., Victoria Daly, $2,500.00

Erie Canal

• Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition, Inc., Eric Hamilton, $2,500.00

• Schenectady Heritage Area, Maureen Gebert, $2,500.00

• Stockade Association, Lyn Gordon, $800.00

• U.S. Water Ski Show Team, Kara Pangburn, $2,000.00

• Town of Niskayuna, Lori Peretti, $500.00

• Historic Palmyra, Bonnie Hays, $1,050.00

• Fairport Village Partnership, Scott Winner, $2,500.00

• Niagara County Historical Society, Douglas Farley, $1,117.50

• Lockport Main Street, Inc., Heather Peck, $2,400.00

• Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, Joyce Santiago, $2,500.00

Champlain Canal

• Lakes to Locks Passage, Inc., Janet Kennedy, $2,500.00

• Hudson Crossing Park, Inc., Marlene Bissell, $2,500.00

• Rensselaer County, Christine Golden, $1,427.84

Oswego Canal

• Oswego County Dept. of Community Development, Tourism and Planning, Janet Clerkin, $2,500.00

Cayuga Seneca Canal

• Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, Sarah Osterling, $700.00

Great Lakes Underwater Event Adds Speakers


By on

0 Comments

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


By on

0 Comments

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.

Presentation: Fort Ontario: 250 Years of History


By on

2 Comments

George A. Reed, the author of Fort Ontario: 250 Years of History, 1755-2005 will offer a presentation on the truth and legends of Fort Ontario at 2 P.M. Oct. 17 at the Busy Corner Café, 234 Ford Street (at the intersection of Ford and State streets) in Ogdensburg. Reed’s informal talk, hosted by the Fort La Présentation Association, will focus on Fort Ontario’s rich history at the time of the French and Indian War.

The old fort Ontario was first constructed in 1755 overlooking the Oswego River, the main route west in colonial times, to protect the fur trading settlement at Oswego. Following the American Revolution, the fort remained in British hands until the Jay Treaty in 1796. 

The Fort saw action twice during the War of 1812 and received and trained troops during the Civil War. Troops from Fort Ontario fought in the Philippines during the Spanish American War and the fort was enlarged in 1909 and became the Flower Medical Unit, training Army doctors, nurses, and medics, and treating wounded troops from the battlefields of France. Between World Wars, Fort Ontario s mission changed to training National Guard troops and Artillery. Its currently serves as a historic site.

The Fort La Présentation Association is hosting New York State’s final 250th anniversary commemoration of the French and Indian War, July 16-18, 2010.

A Program On America’s Only World War II Refugee Camp


By on

0 Comments

Sixty-five years ago 982 people arrived at Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY. They would stay the next 18 months at the only World War II refugee camp on American soil. On August 20th at 6 pm in Sackets Harbor, Safe Haven President Elizabeth A. Kahl will share the story of those 982 “guests” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt from August 1944 to February 1946. The program is part of the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center.

Kahl, who has served on the board of the nonprofit that administers the Safe Haven Museum and Education Center in Oswego since 1999, said in a press release that “The maelstrom that was World War II had millions of fugitives fleeing for their lives in Europe. A continent away, Oswego, New York on the shores of Lake Ontario was to play a unique role in history as the small community who gave 982 people shelter and hope.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is among those who visited the refugees at the fort.

The $5 admission to the August 20th program benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation and its educational programming.