Tag Archives: St Lawrence County

Lawrence Gooley: The Power of Wildlife


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While collecting materials about attacks by animals in the Adirondacks, I came across several stories involving birds of prey. Maintaining a healthy skepticism is important, especially when reading such accounts in old newspapers, where the tendency was to embellish. But I came to realize that bird attacks were not such a rare phenomenon. Nature films offer scenes of birds assailing creatures much larger than themselves and carrying off some impressive loads.

After all, odd things do happen. I once observed a hawk plummeting at amazing speed into the center of the village where I lived. Moments later, the hawk flew past me, a cat dangling from its talons. Decades ago, when ravens were a rarity in the northern Adirondacks, I was dive-bombed repeatedly by several of them as I bushwhacked across the Silver Lake Mountain Ridge. And on three occasions while canoeing, I’ve had very close encounters with eagles (I’ll admit that a couple of them were scary).

Taking all of that into consideration, I reviewed some interesting regional confrontations between humans and birds. In 1888, at Brier Hill (St. Lawrence County), a bald eagle was said to have attacked ten-year-old George Richards. George used a stick to defend himself until older brother Berton, 20, drove the eagle off. Bert later baited a steel trap with newborn calves that had died. He succeeded in capturing the bird, which was held by the Richards family for display.

In 1893, a Bellmont (Franklin County) farmhand working for Frank Winkley was on horseback, rounding up a herd of cows, when he was attacked by two eagles. He was knocked to the ground, where the birds continued the assault. The farm dog came to his aid, and he eventually managed to club one of the birds and capture it. According to the report, the golden eagle’s wingspan was seven feet. It was briefly kept in Winkley’s barn as a curiosity.

Predatory raids on farm fowl were once common. A dramatic case was reported in Chaumont (northwest of Watertown) in 1903 on the farm of Charles Graham. A hen hawk (any hawk that preys on poultry) grabbed a large Plymouth Rock hen, but about 20 feet above the ground, the hen broke free and landed at Graham’s feet. The hawk followed, knocking the farmer down, gashing his face and neck, and pecking at his eyes. Even as Graham stood to defend himself, the bird continued the attack, finally departing when the farmer grabbed a shovel.

Also in 1903, John Sullivan of Jay (Essex County) was set upon by an eagle, eventually driving it off after suffering lacerations to his face. In 1904 came a report from the Bowditch cottage on Upper Chateaugay Lake (Clinton County), where caretaker Frank Nicholson battled two eagles that attempted to make off with some chickens. One of the birds managed to sink its talons into Nicholson’s leg, but he eventually succeeded in “dispatching them.”

In 1909, a Pitcairn (St. Lawrence County, near Harrisville) farmer, Josiah Almtree, offered a dramatic tale of battling a powerful eagle that had lately been harassing his sheep. The victim this time was Almtree’s daughter, who was carried briefly but then dropped “unhurt on the roof of a little building near the barn.” Almtree managed a shot at the bird, which escaped. Of course, “unhurt” wasn’t possible, but I’ll beg the Fox News defense here: “We report, you decide.”

Most such stories are quite old, but a more recent one (though still over 50 years past) occurred in Ausable Forks in 1957. Young Jimmie Camire, while playing with friends, was attacked by a hawk. The bird grabbed his shoulder, but the boy broke free. Under renewed attack, Jimmie’s shouts brought his brother Butch and friend Jeff Hewston to the rescue. They had been cutting small trees nearby, and used an axe to kill the hawk, which they said had a wingspan of 43 inches.

Not all regional fowl attacks came from above. In 1908, Gouverneur’s Louis Boulet owned a particularly raucous Rhode Island Red, a breed that can be incredibly aggressive. (They’ve been known to kill snakes, cats, foxes, and small dogs.) The big rooster’s frequent attacks made it clear the farmer was not welcome in his own hen house. Egged on by frequent muggings and occasional blood loss, Boulet decided this chicken’s goose was cooked, so he had him for dinner.

Skepticism can be valuable, but before deciding how feasible some of those old stories might be, check out some “eagle attack” videos on YouTube. Be forewarned: several are graphic. Some are simply amazing, demonstrating the willingness of large birds to mix it up with creatures of all sizes, even striking a black bear in a tree.

Photos: Eagle in flight; 1957 headline from hawk attack in AuSable Forks.

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 20 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

St. Lawrence Valley Primitive Snowshoe Biathlon


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The St. Lawrence Valley Primitive Snowshoe Biathlon, organized by the Fort La Présentation Association and Forsyth’s Rifles and hosted by the Massena Rod & Gun Club, will be held March 3-4, 2012.

“In our primitive biathlon, competitors on snowshoes run or walk a measured course,” said Fred Hanss, an event organizer. “They must load and fire two shots from a muzzle-loading firearm at five targets set at well-spaced stations and throw an axe at the sixth station.”

Two of the three classes reflect the organizers’ mission to educate the public about the colonial and early American history of the St. Lawrence River Valley. In the first two classes, competitors using smoothbore muskets or rifles (flintlock or caplock) must cover the course on wooden snowshoes. In the third category, participants with in-line rifles may wear wooden or modern snowshoes.

The advance registration fee is $20. Registration on the day of the event is $25. After paying the initial registration fee, a re-entry fee of $5.00 will be charged each time that a participant runs the course.

Within the competitive classes, there are men’s, ladies’, and youth divisions. Awards will be presented to the top three participants in each division at a ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

“To add to the fun, a blanket shoot will be held and door prizes will be available Saturday and Sunday,” Mr. Hanss said. “Net proceeds from the primitive biathlon will go to the Fort La Présentation Association for the construction of an Interpretive Center and the reconstruction of historic Fort de la Présentation on Ogdensburg’s Lighthouse Point.”

Participants are encouraged to wear historic clothes covering 1750 to 1812. Fort de la Présentation was one of a handful of French colonial forts in New York State. Forsyth’s Rifles from Ogdensburg re-enacts a U.S. Army regiment posted in Northern New York during the War of 1812. From the French and Indian War period, they portray a unit of French marines.
Registration form and rules are at www.fort1749.org.

Photo courtesy The Dalton gang Shooting Club of NH.

The North Country’s Forgotten War of 1812 General


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Brigadier-General Thomas Brigdum Benedict of De Kalb, St. Lawrence County, NY commanded the northern frontier from Sackets Harbor to Salmon River from June to December 1812. Many people have heard of General Jacob Brown and Captain Benjamin Forsyth, but not Benedict. Who was this man who commanded at Ogdensburg before Forsyth arrived?

The public and re-enactors can learn about this forgotten general at the Ogdensburg Public Library, 3:00 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25. There is no charge for this Battle of Ogdensburg Weekend event, part of the River Shiver winter festival.

“We invited Bryan Thompson to speak about Benedict because Bryan knows more about the War of 1812 in the North Country than most people can imagine,” said Tim Cryderman, Vice President to Forsyth’s Rifles. “Brigadier-General Benedict, who dedicated his life to public service in St. Lawrence County, deserves to be remembered.”

Thompson, the municipal historian for the Town of De Kalb, is a retired teacher. Interestingly, as we enter into the bicentennial of the War of 1812, he is the descendant of at least four St. Lawrence County veterans of that long-ago conflict.

“Bryan Thompson received New York State Archives Hackman Research Fellowship to research General Benedict and other War of 1812 soldiers from De Kalb,” noted Mr. Cryderman. “For almost 20 years he has chronicled local history in 30 published articles and given many presentations.”

In 2009 Thompson received the Bruce W. Dearstyne Award for excellence in educational use of local government records (Dearstyne is a regular contributor here at New York History). The Battle of Ogdensburg Weekend includes re-enacted battles on Lighthouse Point at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 and Sunday Feb. 26. Saturday events include a 10:00 a.m. wreath ceremony at Sheriff York’s grave in Riverside Cemetery and the Winter Ball (English Country Dancing) at Centennial Towers at 7:30 p.m.

Sheriff York and his men faced the British alone on Feb. 22. 1813. They fired a brass six-pounder at the invaders. When his men fled, York remained alone serving his gun. A British officer said to his soldiers, “There stands too brave a man to shoot.” York was taken prisoner.

Illustration: Map of Ogdensburg during the War of 1812 from Benjamin Lossing’s Field Book of the War of 1812.

Wind Power Has A Long History in America


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teresa Mitchell, Seaway Trail Executive Director, Dies


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Teresa Hall Mitchell, 59, the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, passed away on January 24 at her home in Clayton with family at her side. She was an advocate for history and tourism along the 518 mile scenic driving route that follows the shores of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River in New York and Pennsylvania.

Mitchell had been been fighting a very aggressive cancer. She was determined to finish a quilt commemorating the War of 1812, which she did between hospice visits and pain medication. Just 11 days ago, she was sending out emails to colleagues sharing that plans for an 1812 guide book and wayside exhibits that were moving forward.


“Teresa was a hard and dedicated worker who made good things happen, and we were all privileged to have had the opportunity to have worked with her,” said Robert Weible State Historian and Chief Curator at the New York State Museum. “Her untimely passing is a loss for the state’s entire history community.”

“Teresa was always the one to push the envelope for America’s Byways, I am honored to call her a friend and greatly appreciate all of the support she has provided over the years — she will be greatly missed.” said Janet Kennedy, Executive Director of Lakes to Locks Passage, an All American Road.

“The best thing I got from being on the NYS French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commission was Teresa Mitchell, as a friend and mentor,” said Barbara O’Keefe, Executive Director of Fort La Présentation. “Our trips to Albany flew by with talk of quilting, knitting, children and grandchildren and marketing ideas. I have never met an individual who loved their job more or did it better. NYS has lost an amazing tireless advocate for cultural heritage tourism.”

I had the pleasure of working with Mitchell for 5 years as a member of the NYS French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. We shared a passion for marketing historic sites and events. She was relentless in her efforts to work with legislators and state agencies to promote unique historical locations and cultural heritage sites. Mitchell’s work with web sites, tour guides, wayside exhibits and the award winning Great Lakes Seaway Trail Travel Magazine made history exciting and accessible to visitors. The entire State has lost a special individual and a strong advocate for history in the North Country.

To learn more about Great Lakes Seaway Trail

To learn more about the success of the Seaway Trail visit the The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Heritage Tourism Program

A full obituary can be read at Newzjunky.com

Sean Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga and Village of Victory in the Upper Hudson Valley. He has a particular interest in colonial history, being active as a reenactor for 34 years and has served as a Commissioner on the New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission.

Lawrence Gooley: Lincoln’s Avengers


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There is a historical connection between a group of North Country men and the Abraham Lincoln story. On the downside, the men in question are linked to a dark subject, the aftermath of Lincoln’s death. On the upside, they played a positive role in the hunt for the president’s assassin. With admiration, they have been referred to as Lincoln’s Avengers.

Several men from Clinton, Essex, St. Lawrence, and Warren counties belonged to the Sixteenth New York Cavalry. Shortly after Lincoln’s death, the troop was among the military escort at the president’s funeral. An honor, surely, but not the event that would bring them a measure of fame.

In the days following the assassination, multiple search missions were conducted in Washington and elsewhere in the hopes of finding John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices. After several false alarms, important new information was uncovered, requiring a swift response.

On April 24, five days after Lincoln’s funeral, headquarters in Washington ordered Lieutenant Edward Doherty to gather 25 men of the Sixteenth New York Cavalry and report to Colonel L. C. (Lafayette) Baker, Special Agent for the War Department. Among those to step forward and answer the call were ten men from the Adirondack region.

Doherty met with his captain and later reported: “He informed me that he had reliable information that the assassin Booth and his accomplice were somewhere between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. He gave me several photographs of Booth and introduced me to Mr. Conger and Mr. Baker, and said they would accompany me.

“He directed me to scour the section of the country indicated thoroughly, to make my own disposition of the men in my command, and to forage upon the country, giving receipts for what was taken from loyal parties.” In other words, move now. There was no time to prepare. Food and other needs would have to be secured from sympathetic US citizens, who would later be reimbursed.

For two days the troop pursued leads almost without pause, finally ending up at the now infamous Garrett farm in Caroline County, Virginia. Inside the barn was perhaps the most wanted man in American history, Booth, and one of his conspirators, David Herold.

The men of the Sixteenth surrounded the barn while negotiations and threats were passed back and forth between Booth and Lieutenant Doherty. Booth refused to leave the barn despite warnings he would be burned out. He even offered to shoot it out with Doherty’s men if they would pull back a certain distance from the barn.

Realizing he faced almost certain death, David Herold decided to surrender. After leaving the barn, he was tied to a tree and questioned. He verified for Doherty that it was indeed Booth inside the barn. The original plan, he said, was to kidnap Lincoln, but Booth instead killed him, and then threatened to do the same to Herold if he didn’t help Booth escape.

Doherty again turned his attention to the barn and its lone desperate occupant, who refused to come out. Finally, Everton Conger, one of Lafayette Baker’s detectives who accompanied the troops, set fire to the barn around 3 am. The idea was to force their quarry out, but things didn’t go as planned.

Due to the rapidly spreading blaze, Booth could be seen moving about inside the barn, and one of the men, Boston Corbett, decided to act. Claiming he could see that Booth was about to shoot at Doherty, Corbett fired. His shot hit Booth in the neck, coincidentally only an inch or two from where Booth’s own bullet had struck Lincoln.

Their captive was dragged from the barn, still alive, but he died about three hours later. Shortly after, his body and the prisoner, Herold, were taken to Washington. The most famous manhunt in American history was over.

Within several months, the men of the Sixteenth were discharged, carrying with them the pride (and the attending glory) for delivering what many felt was justice. Most of them returned to humble lives, sharing their story with family and friends over the years.

Six of the ten North Country men who participated lived at one time or another in the Saranac area. They had connections to many regional communities, having been born, lived in, or died in: Bangor, Beekmantown, Brushton, Cadyville, Chester (Chestertown), Elizabethtown, Minerva, Norfolk, Olmstedville, Plattsburgh, and Schuyler Falls.

As often happens, the spelling of names varies widely in census records, military records, and newspapers. This admired group of North Country heroes included: David Baker, William Byrne, Godfrey Phillip Hoyt, Martin Kelly, Oliver Lonkey (or Lompay), Franklin McDaniels (or Frank McDonald), John Millington, Emory Parady, Lewis Savage, and Abram Snay (Abraham, Senay, Genay).

In 1865, Congress voted reward money to those involved in the capture of many individuals. Among those so honored were the men of the Sixteenth New York Cavalry, the envy of all others for killing the man who himself had murdered a legend.

Photo Top: Actor and assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Photo Middle: Conspirators at the ends of their ropes. Hanging, from left to right: Mary Surratt, David Herold, Lewis Powell, and George Atzerodt at Washington, DC, on July 7, 1865.

Photo Bottom: Congressional award list for Lincoln’s Avengers. The North Country men received the modern equivalent of $28,000 each.

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.

Ogdensburg Founder’s Day Weekend July 23-24


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Ogdensburg, in St. Lawrence County, will play host to it’s annual Founder’s Day celebration, French and Indian War reenactment, and colonial trade fair on Saturday, July 23 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday, July 24 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

More than 250 years ago the roar of cannon fire echoed over the St. Lawrence River on the now peaceful stretch between Ogdensburg, New York and Prescott, Ontario. The final battle of the French and Indian War – the battle that truly led to the French losing Canada to the English – was fought here in August 1760.

Founder’s Day Weekend is the annual commemoration of Ogdensburg’s French colonial history and the Battle of the Thousand Islands. Lighthouse Point features a military re-enactment and colonial trade fair. As many as 500 participants from the U.S. and Canada, dressed in 18th-century clothes, will establish an encampment of white canvass tents.

French and English naval contingents will moor their historically accurate small boats along the shore and bivouac there. The crews will race on Saturday morning, but Saturday and Sunday afternoon the boats with bow guns and muskets in battle on the river. The skirmishing on the water leads into the land battle. Across the width of Lighthouse Point, the opposing forces and their Native allies will maneuver.

Civilian life of the colonies will also be represented as women and children, pipers, dancers, artisans, traditional tradesmen and women, and sutlers, the merchants that followed the armies, set up their shops to furnish just about anything a re-enactor, or 21st-century tourist, could want.

The re-enactment of the Battle of the Thousand Islands and the colonial trade fair are adjacent to the archaeological remains of Fort de la Présentation, built by the French in 1749. When the tide of war turned in favor of the English, the French vacated the fort in early 1759 and continued the construction of Fort Lévis downriver on Île Royal, now Chimney Island. La Présentation was a wooden stockade; Lévis was a substantial fortification.

The 1760 Battle of the Thousand Islands began with the capture of the French corvette L’Outauaise by a swarm of English row galleys off abandoned Fort de la Présentation. The battle continued with the successful, weeklong siege of Fort Lévis. The English pressed on to accept the capitulation of Montreal.

For more than a decade, the annual Founder’s Day Weekend has honored the shared history of Canada and the United States. Here, where the Oswegatchie River flows into the St. Lawrence, the Fort La Présentation Association plans to rebuild the historic fort as a high-quality, tourist attraction.

Admission: Adults $8; Children 7 to 12 $2; children 6 and under free.

More information is available online or by calling the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-228-7810.

Photo courtesy Sandy Goss, Eagle Bay Media.

War of 1812 Bicentennial Plans Announced


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

· A marketing campaign in historic and heritage travel publications

· War of 1812 themed travel itineraries for families and groups

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

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

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

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

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

War Of 1812 Symposium Planned for Ogdensburg


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During the War of 1812 the dogs of war barked and bit along the U.S. northern frontier from Lake Ontario to Lake Champlain as American forces tangled with their British and Canadian counterparts for two-and-a-half years. The War of 1812 in this region, and its wider implications, will be topics at the third annual War of 1812 Symposium April 29-30 in Ogdensburg, NY, sponsored by the Fort La Présentation Association.

The five presentations by authoritative Canadians and Americans are: Ogdensburg and Prescott during the War of 1812, Paul Fortier; American supply efforts on Lake Ontario: “Cooper’s Ark,” Richard Palmer; “Colonel Louis” and the Native American role in the War of 1812, Darren Bonaparte; The war on the St. Lawrence River, Victor Suthren; and Excavation of American Graves at the 1812 Burlington Cantonment, Kate Kenny. The post-dinner address by Patrick Wilder is the Battle of Sackets Harbor


“We established the symposium in advance of the war’s 2012 bicentennial to help develop a broader public understanding of the War of 1812, so important to the evolution of the United States and Canada,” said Barbara O’Keefe, President of the Fort La Présentation Association. “The annual symposium is a vibrant forum of scholars from both sides of the boarder presenting informative seminars to an enthusiastic audience of academics, history buffs and re-enactors.”

The cost of the symposium is $100 for the Saturday seminars and after-dinner speaker, including a light continental breakfast, a buffet lunch and a sit-down dinner. The Friday evening meet-and-greet with period entertainment by Celtic harpist Sue Croft and hors d’oeuvres is $10.

The symposium and dinner fee for Fort La Présentation Association members is $90, and they will pay $10 for the meet-and-greet.

Other pricing options are available: $80 for the Saturday seminars without dinner; and $35 for the dinner with speaker.

Seminar details and registration instructions on the Fort La Présentation Association webpage.

The Freight House Restaurant in Ogdensburg will host the symposium, as it has in previous years.

The Fort La Présentation Association is a not-for-profit corporation based in Ogdensburg, New York. Its mission is to sponsor or benefit the historically accurate reconstruction of Fort de la Présentation (1749) in close proximity to the original site on Lighthouse Point.

Seminar Presenters

Darren Bonaparte from the Mohawk community of Ahkwesáhsne on the St. Lawrence River is an historical journalist. He created the Wampum Chronicles website in 1999 to promote his research into the history and culture of the Rotinonhsión:ni—the People of the Longhouse. Mr. Bonaparte has been published by Indian Country Today, Native Americas, Aboriginal Voices and Winds of Change, and he has served as an historical consultant for the PBS miniseries The War That Made America; Champlain: The Lake Between; and The Forgotten War: The Struggle for North America.

Paul Fortier, of Kingston, ON, worked 10 years as a military curator and historian for Parks Canada and a following 10 years as a manager at the National Archives of Canada. While living in Prescott, ON, the home he restored was the Stockade Barracks, British military headquarters on the St. Lawrence River during the War of 1812. Mr. Fortier is a founder of the re-enacted Regiment of Canadian Fencible Infantry. He owns Jessup Food & Heritage, providing period food services at Upper Canada Village, Fort Henry and Fort York.

Kate Kenney is the Program Historian at the University of Vermont Consulting Archeology Program. She supervises historic artifact analysis and also helps supervise field work, particularly at historic sites. She is the senior author of Archaeological Investigations at the Old Burial Ground, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Ms. Kenny has organized and conducted UVM CAP public outreach, including presentations to elementary and high school students. Personal research projects involve Vermont history from the earliest settlement through to the Civil War.

Richard F. Palmer of Syracuse is a senior editor of “Inland Seas,” the quarterly of the Great Lakes Historical Society, and has written some 40 articles for the publication, covering more than 250 years of Lake Ontario’s maritime history. His presentation on “Cooper’s Ark,” is the story of a short-lived floating fortress built in Oswego during the War of 1812, but lost in a storm while sailing to Sackets Harbor. He’ll also recount the attempt to raft lumber for the construction of ships from Oak Orchard to Sackets Harbor; the delivery was intercepted by the British.

Victor Suthren, from Merrickville, Ontario, is an author and historian. He served as Director General of the Canadian War Museum from 1986 to 1998, and is an Honorary Captain in the Canadian Navy and advisor to the Directorate of Naval History and Heritage, Department of National Defence (Canada). He has worked as an advisor to film and television productions and has voyaged extensively as a seaman in traditional “tall ships.” Mr. Suthren has published several works of historical non-fiction, as well as two series of historical sea fiction.

Patrick Wilder is an historian retired from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. He is the author of The Battle of Sackett’s Harbour, 1813.

Photo: Canadian Fencibles Colours, courtesy Fort La Présentation Association.

Fort La Présentation to Develop Schools Project


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A grant of $10,000 has been awarded to the Fort La Présentation Association by the telecom giant AT&T to develop and implement a five-year educational outreach project to elementary schools in the St. Lawrence Valley region.

The curriculum-based Hands-On-History project will provide reproduction 18th- and 19th- century heritage items, interpretive materials and lesson plans which will intrigue students and help teachers meet state and national standards for history and social studies.

Hands-On-History will run as the name suggests. Students will be able to handle, hold or try on the clothes, tools and other gear which will help them explore the history of Fort de la Présentation under the flags of France, Great Britain and the United States from 1749 to 1813.

“We are very grateful to AT&T for the generous funding,” said Barbara O’Keefe, President of the Fort La Présentation Association. “The donation significantly maximizes the Fort Association’s modest financial and in-kind resources to allow us to reach a major goal of our educational strategy.”

“Our thanks also go to our long-time supporter, former State Senator Darrel Aubertine,” O’Keefe continued, “who drew the attention of AT&T to our plans to enrich our children’s learning.”

To ensure the project continues beyond the first year, the Fort Association’s contribution is $4,700. Fort Association board is committing $300 annually in year’s two to five. The $1,200 investment is to maintain printed materials and replace lost or damaged items.

In-kind services worth $3,500 – volunteered by museum, history and education professionals affiliated with the Fort Association – will help develop evaluation criteria, meet curricular goals and promote the new education opportunity to schools across the region.

“By autumn 2011, Hands-on-History should be available to teachers,” said O’Keefe. “We look forward to students experiencing their local history and discovering a first-hand connection to early days in the St. Lawrence Valley region.”

Ogdensburg’s Lighthouse Point Makes Historic Register


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The Fort La Présentation Association’s historic Fort de la Présentation property on Lighthouse Point, already listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places, will soon join the seven Ogdensburg sites recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office has helped move the Fort Association’s application forward, and her office reports the Fort historic site on Lighthouse Point should be on the Federal Register soon.

“Fort de la Présentation, one of the historic jewels in New York State, once played a vital role in the formation of our nation. Once fully restored, the Fort has the potential to attract thousands of tourists, which will help stimulate the region’s economy through new development and job creation,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “As New York’s first Senator from Upstate in nearly 40 years, I am proud to support the restoration of this beautiful, historic site. Thanks to the work of the Fort La Présentation Association, New Yorkers will soon be able to enjoy this landmark restored to its former glory.”

“The Fort Association is grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her staunch backing of the Fort Project and the assistance of her office to have the Fort’s location listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with Ogdensburg’s registered heritage sites,” said Barbara O’Keefe, President of the Fort La Présentation Association. “Becoming an acknowledged member of this distinguished group will positively impact our work toward building our Interpretive Center. The recognized historical importance of our property gives us credibility among potential donors as we continue planning to build Fort de la Présentation.”

From the mid-18th century to the early 19th century the fort at the mouth of Oswegatchie River, under French, British and American flags, influenced the development of Ogdensburg and its role in the history of the United States.

“In addition to honoring the City’s place in American, Canadian, and Native histories, placement of these lands on the National Register of Historic Places positions the Fort La Présentation Association to use the site to continue to play an important role contributing to the development of historic tourism and local hospitality businesses, as well as the overall growth of our local economy,” said Ogdensburg City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra.

The Acker and Evans Law Office, New York State Armory, Ogdensburg Armory, Oswegatchie Pumping Station, U.S. Customs House, U.S. Post Office, and Library Park Historic District have met the criteria to be worthy of federal recognition and preservation because of their links to American history.

Until the building of the Interpretive Center and Fort de la Présentation, the interpreted site on Lighthouse Point will attract tourists who would not usually venture this way and indicate to residents the significance of their community’s history.

Study: Ogdensburg History Event Offers Local Boost


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Between $250,000 and $500,000 was injected into the regional economy by the Fort La Présentation Association’s Founder’s Day Weekend, July 16-18, 2010, according to Association President Barbara O’Keefe. The financial impact was made by the 3,000 visitors and 700 re-enactors who came to Ogdensburg to commemorate the last Battle of the French and Indian War.

In an exit survey conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday, visitors were asked to estimate their expenditures related to the event in terms of transportation, meals and beverages, accommodation, and all other expenses.

Harold G. Needham, a consultant to the Fort La Présentation Association, designed the survey, analyzed the data and wrote the report. He took a very conservative approach. Needham disregarded the high-end estimates of the dollar value in each expenditure range selected by respondents; he also disregarded estimates exceeding 50 percent of the dollar range selected by respondents in each expenditure category.

“I deliberately undervalued event organizers’ estimates of numbers of visitors and gave a zero value to the estimates of people who didn’t respond to the economic impact questions in the survey,” Needham said. “I believe my estimated range of total expenditures errs, if at all, in underestimating the economic impact of the event.”

As to the infusion of visitors’ cash Needham wrote, “While most of this would have been spent in the immediate area, some of it impacted on the economy elsewhere in the state and nation, and a very small part in adjacent areas of Canada.”

The survey did not ask about money spent on groceries, but found from $75,000 to $150,000 was spent on meals and beverages and $31,000 to $63,000 on accommodation. Visitors’ transportation expenses infused between $68,000 and $136,000 and from $77,000 to $154,000 flowed into all other expenses.

“As the Founder’s Day Weekend re-enactment and colonial trade fair has grown over the years, we have assumed a significant amount of money is spent locally by the visitors and re-enactors,” said Barbara O’Keefe, President of the Fort La Présentation Association. “We decided this year, when we hosted New York State’s final 250th anniversary commemoration of the French and Indian War, would be a good opportunity to gauge the potential economic impact of this tourist-focused event, and we have been pleasantly surprised.”

This is the second survey conducted for the Fort Association to get a profile of the visitors and their responses to Founder’s Day Weekend activities. However, this is the first look at what the weekend can pump into the economy.

“We know people spent money getting here. Some traveled lengthy distances to get to our re-enactment and colonial trade fair, and some who were here to visit family took in the event,” said O’Keefe. “Regardless, local motels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and other business saw trade directly linked to Founder’s Day Weekend, and we are very pleased to have helped contribute to their bottom lines.”

Re-enactors and others who brought the mid-18th century to life put their dollars into the local economy. They arrived in Ogdensburg one, two or more days before the Friday opening and some did not leave until Monday.

In addition, St. Lawrence County and the City of Ogdensburg benefit from their share of the sales tax collected by local merchants.

As of the end of September 2010, the financial statements of the Fort La Présentation Association indicate almost $59,000 had been spent in the local economy on the event. When bills yet to be received are paid, the total will rise to at least $60,000, giving the event a total economic impact of between $300,000 and $550,000

“The major events hosted by the Fort translate into enough additional business for our restaurant that we can do improvements that we otherwise could not afford,” said Deb Janson, owner of the Freight House Restaurant. “The Fort brings in the additional customer base that establishments like ours really need to move ahead.”

Of the visitors to Founder’s Day Weekend, 61.7 percent live in St. Lawrence County and another 18.9 percent elsewhere in New York State; 11.7 percent came from other U.S. states and 7.6 percent from Canada.

Battle of the Thousand Islands: Final 250th French and Indian War Event


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The Fort La Présentation Association’s annual Founder’s Day Weekend will host the 250th anniversary commemoration on Lighthouse Point, July 16-18, 2010. Dressed in 18th-century clothes, military re-enactors (army & navy) and heritage interpreters from Canada and the US will camp under canvas and cook over fires. Each afternoon, they will battle on land and water to bring the Battle of the Thousand Islands to life.

The Battle of the Thousand Islands, the last significant clash of French and British forces of that distant war, was fought in two parts in August 1760. The capture of the French corvette L’Outaouaise and the siege of Fort Lévis opened the upper St. Lawrence River to Montreal. In September 1760, Montreal capitulated, and the hostilities ended.

Founder’s Day Weekend is more than a military camp. Children’s games and military musters, more than 30 18th-century merchants and artisans, and period dancing are some of the activities that also include a deck tour of a schooner typical of the 1700s. There will be fur traders, a blacksmith, a tinsmith, and displays of other trades and early medical equipment.

Ogdensburg native and Hollywood actor Mark Valley (Boston Legal and Human Target) plans to dress the part and join the re-enactors. A number of military attachés posted in Ottawa, along with other special guests, will review the troops. Special visitors are expected from France.

Founder’s Day Weekend, on Lighthouse Point, is adjacent to the site of the original Fort de La Présentation (1749-1759).

Admission of $8 per adult and $1 per child opens the door to a colorful colonial world.

For information, visit www.fortlapresentation.net or call the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce at 1 877-228-7810.

The Fort La Présentation Association is facing a financial challenge by hosting this 250th anniversary commemoration. Ironically, the Fort Association was invited by New York State to host the final Signature Event for which it is unlikely to be reimbursed in the foreseeable future.

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.

Ogdensburg, Fort La Présentation’s Founder’s Day Weekend


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Stepping into the past at Founder’s Day Weekend in Ogdensburg, NY July 18-19 is an opportunity for visitors to witness the crafts and trades of our ancestors beyond the activities of the French and Indian War re-enactment. To kick off the weekend, there will be a free concert of colonial music Friday evening in Library Park. Linda Russell, an 18th-century balladeer, will perform courtesy of the St. Lawrence County Arts Council. Ms. Russell will also perform Saturday and Sunday on Lighthouse Point.

After an absence of many years, lace making is returning. In the 1700s, lace was an essential fashion statement on the clothes of well-to-do men and women. Girls learned at an early age to make lace that brought extra income to a family.

New this year is a demonstration bakery. The homey smell of fresh-baked bread usually brings a flood of good memories. A unique part of New France will come to life in the scent and sight of crusty loaves and buns.

The blacksmith and tinsmith are basic to Founder’s Day Weekend. As the blacksmith describes his trade, he will no doubt be hammering, riveting or welding some traditional piece of equipment ordered by a re-enactor. The tinsmith displays lanterns, candlesticks, and tinderboxes once indispensable in a colonial household, and now found in the camps of re-enactors or the homes of collectors.

Collectors, too, may take a fancy to the pottery to be made and sold on site. Jugs, mugs, bowls and other essentials will be turned on the potter’s wheel with an eye to tradition and practicality.

Re-enactors add to their kits and replace lost items by purchasing items at Founder’s Day Weekend. They patronize the sutlers, the canvas-covered vendors that spring up at re-enactments selling just about everything a person from the 18th century or the 21st century may need or fancy.

Vital to the weekend are the re-enactors portraying the French, British and Native troops of the mid 1700s. Their uniforms, arms, camps, drills and battle tactics give substance and color to our history. Re-enactors also spend money in the community, so expect to see them in their colonial garb in the stores and restaurants of Ogdensburg.

The display of antique naval arms and equipment that debuted last year is coming back to round out the riverside aspect of Founder’s Day Weekend. Traditional boats in the navy camp are expected from Quebec, Ontario and New York. The historically accurate bateaux will race Saturday morning and engage in battles on the river Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The armed boats are likely to join in a cannonade at 8:30 P.M. Saturday evening. The guns of Fort Wellington in Prescott, Ontario will duel with the re-enactors’ artillery on Lighthouse Point. The larger Canadian guns will fire slowly, but there will be rapid fire from the smaller guns on the point. The public will be able to watch from Riverside Park and the marina.

Following the artillery pyrotechnics, a free-admission ball featuring English country dance will be held at the Freight House Restaurant in walking distance of Lighthouse Point. “No dancing experience is required,” said the organizer George Cherepon. “Easy-going dance instructors will teach the steps before playing the music, and they then call the steps as the music plays.”

Founder’s Day Weekend is larger this year as the Fort La Présentation Association prepares to host the final New York State 250th anniversary commemoration of the end of the French and Indian War in 2010. Information about Founder’s Day Weekend can be found at www.fortlapresentation.net.

Photo: French boats armed with swivel guns drive away a British boat while skirmishing off Lighthouse Point during a battle re-enacted on the St. Lawrence River at Founder’s Day Weekend in Ogdensburg.