TOWN OF HOUNSFIELD
Taken from Child’s Gazetteer of Jefferson County, N. Y. p. 466-505
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HOUNSFIELD was formed from Watertown, February 17, 1806. It embraces No. 1, or “Hesiod,” of the “Eleven Towns,” and was named in honor of Ezra Hounsfield, who, with Peter Kemble, purchased the couth part of the town (15,913 acres) from the proprietors, March 10, 1801. It is situated on Black River Bay, on the west border of the county, has an area of 27,790-3/4 acres, and is bounded on the north by Black River and the bay of that name, which separate it from Brownville, east by Watertown, south by Henderson and Adams, and west by Henderson Bay and Black River Bay. Galloe, Little Galloe, Stony, and Calf islands, which lie in Lake Ontario, also belong to the town of Hounsfield. The surface of the town is somewhat diversified, though in the main it is level, and the soil is a clayey and sandy loam. Through nearly the center of the town flows Mill Creek, which arises in the town of Watertown and discharges into Black River Bay. A branch of this stream from the north rises in a long strip of low land, originally a swamp, filled with tamarack, black ash, cedar, and elm, and other varieties of timber peculiar to such a locality. Much of this land has been reclaimed and cleared, and the stream, during the summer, becomes nearly dry.
The waters of Black River Bay were early regarded as an eligible place for a commercial point, and in a work published in Paris in 1801* the following description of it is given under the name Niahoure: --
“ ‘ At the bottom of this gulf Black River empties, forming a harbor sheltered from the wind and surges of the lake, which, during the prevalence of the southwest winds, roll like those of the ocean. The land on the right or south of this bay is extremely fertile, and is a grove more fresh than can elsewhere be seen. That on the left, i.e., the country that extends to the north of the Bay of Niahoure, as far as the St. Lawrence, and east to the Oswegatchie, is not less fertile, and the colonists begin to view in settling it.’ “ (From Hough’s History of Jefferson County).
Much discussion has obtained (sic) regarding the location of La Famine, or Hungry Bay, and the question of its exact location has never been definitely settled to the satisfaction of all. On Charles C. Brodhead’s map of Macomb’s Purchase, made about 1791, and published in Documentary History of New York, vol. III., the name of Hungry Bay is given to the waters comprised within the Six Town Point, in the town of Henderson, and Point Peninsula, in Lyme. Guy Johnson’s map of the country of the Six Nations, including part of the adjacent colonies, made in 1771, and published in Doc. History of New York, Vol. IV., gave the name “Niourne Bay” to the above waters, and located “Famine Bay” near the mouth of Sandy Creek, in the present town of Ellisburgh. Famine Bay probably received its name from the want of provisions and sickness which decimated De la Barre’s expedition in the latter part of Augut, 1684. The commissary of that expedition, De Meneles, in a letter to the minister (Paris Doc., II.), says that the camp at La Famine was made “in places never inhabited, entirely surrounded by swamps.” Ellisburgh is the only town in this county, having a lake shore, which can furnish extensive marshes. Such marshes exist at the mouth of Big Sandy Creek.
This town is a part of the original Boylston Tract, and in common with 10 other towns in Jefferson and Lewis counties, comprising an area of nearly 300,000 acres, became the property of Nicholas Low, William Henderson, Richard Harrison, and Josiah Ogden Hoffman, on July 15, 1795. These eleven towns form what has since been known as the Black River Tract. On the division of this tract Hounsfield fell to the share of Hoffman and Harrison, who, on July 13, 1797, conveyed to Champion and Storrs 11,134-1/2 acres in the northern part of this town, with the town of Champion (25,708 acres), for $58,333.33. “On the 14th of November, 1798, Champion and Storrs sold a portion of the above to Loomis and Tillinghast, receiving two notes of $6,000 each, which, with a mortgage upon the premises, not being paid, the tract was sold by a decree of chancery, at the Tontine Coffee House in New York, June 20, 1801, and bid off by Augustus Sacket, of that city, who received a conveyance from Champion and the assignees of Loomis and Tillinghast. While the sale was pending Mr. Sacket, having heard of the location, and inclining to engage in its purchase, made a journey in 1801 to the place, and was so struck with the great natural advantages for a port which the place presented that he hastened back, and having secured the purchase returned with a few men to commence improvements. In the second and third years he erected an ample and convenient dwelling, and the little colony received the accessions of mechanics and others.” (From Hough’s History of Jefferson County)
At the first town meeting convened at the house of Ambrose Pease, and from thence adjourned to the house of Joseph Landon, March 4, 1806, Augustus Sacket was chosen supervisor; William Waring, clerk; Amasa Fox, William Baker, Samuel Bates, Jr., Theron Hinman, assessors; Ambrose Pease, Robert Robbins, commissioners of highways; Jotham Wilder, John Patrick, overseers of the poor; Jeremiah Goodrich, collector; J. Goodrich, William Galloway, and John Root, constables. At the same meeting it was
“Resolved, That the inhabitants of this town, who shall hunt any wolf or panther in this town (though he should kill such wolf or panther in any other town), shall be entitled to $10 bounty.”
The meeting also appointed Theron Hinman, Augustus Sacket, and Amasa Fox “delegates to a general meeting of the county to nominate a suitable candidate for the legislature, at their own expense.” The first town meeting was warned by Amasa Fox, Esq. At subsequent early meetings the usual rewards for the killing of ferocious beasts, and fines for the neglect to now down or destroy Canada thistles before they went to seed, were voted; the fines thus obtained to be given to the inhabitant of the town who would discover the most practical method of destroying said thistles.
From Spafford’s Gazetteer of 1813, we quote: --
“We were unable to determine the number of mills, etc., that were in town about 1810-11. Sackets Harbor was a port of entry and delivery; had a collector of revenues and a post-office; and contained about 40 families.
The same author in 1824 says of Hounsfield in 1820: --
“The taxable property was $230,348. There were 5,813 acres of improved land,2, 158 cattle, 383 horses, 3,235 sheep; 10,472 yards of cloth were made that year in families. The town contained one grist-mill, six saw-mills, two fulling-mills, three carding machines, one distillery, and four asheries. The school districts were nine in number, where 547 children received education; the schools were in session eight months in the year.
“Sackets Harbor had become a prominent village, and contained two churches, three school-houses, one printing office, 10 stores, and several mechanic shops. For the times the commerce of the place was quite extensive. There were 10 schooners owned there, engaged in the lake trade, aggregating about 700 tons tonnage. There were also two steamboats on the lake, which made regular stops here. There was at that time laid up at the port of Sackets Harbor a frigate of 68 guns, three ships of 28 guns each, four brigs, and a number of gunboats. The village then contained 2,020 inhabitants, including about 600 United States troops stationed at Madison Barracks.”
In 1880 Hounsfield had a population of 2,770. The town is located in the first school district of Jefferson County, and in 1888 had 17 school districts, in which 14 teachers were employed 28 weeks or more. There were 667 scholars attending school, and the aggregate days attendance during the year was 65,316. The total value of school buildings and sites was $12,105, while the assessed valuation of all the districts was $1,101,059. The whole amount raised for school purposes was $4,753.40, $2,279.15 of which was received by local tax. S. Whitford Maxson was school commissioner.
SACKETS HARBOR (post village) was incorporated April 15, 1814. It is a port of entry and a military post situated on Black River Bay, and is the terminus of the Watertown branch of the U. and B. R. division of the R., W. & O. Railroad, 11 miles from Watertown, 193 from Albany, and 335 from New York. It has telegraph, telephone, and express offices, a daily stage to Smithville, four churches (Presbyterian, Methodist Espiscopal (sic), Protestant Episcopal, and French Roman Catholic), two hotels, a foundry and machine shop, saw and planing-mill, grist-mill, two general stores, four groceries, one hardware store, two drug stores, a merchant tailor, and about 1,200 inhabitants. The postoffice at Sackets Harbor was established just previous to the War of 1812, and Ambrose Pease was appointed first postmaster.
EAST HOUNSFIELD (p.o.) is a small hamlet in the eastern part of the town, near the Watertown line. It contains a church (Christian), cheese factory, school-house, and a small number of dwellings.
The villages of BROWNVILLE and DEXTER, on Black River, lie partly in Hounsfield. In addition to these there are the hamlets of STOWELL’S CORNERS, FIELD’S SETTLEMENT, CAMP’S MILLS, JEWETTSVILLE, and ROBBINS SETTLEMENT, which are simply clusters of dwellings around localities where early settlements in the town were made.
The McKee foundry, at Sackets Harbor, was built in 1840 by McKee & Hammond, and first engaged in the manufacture of stoves and mowing machines. It is a stone building and cost $1,000, about its present value. The present proprietors are McKee & Son, who manufacture machinery for vessels and do a general repairing business.
Bacon’s cheese factory at East Hounsfield, on road 33, was built by Casper L. Bacon, the present proprietor, in 1885, and cost about $4,000. It manufactures about 82,000 pounds of cheese per year.
The Empire flouring mills, located in the northern part of the town, were built by _________Munson in 1850. The mills are run by water-power, and have the capacity for grinding 75 barrels of flour per day.
E. Drake’s grist-mill, located in the northern part of the town, near the village of Dexter, was built by Henry Payne in 1867. The machinery is propelled by water-power, and the mill at present is run by William H. Youngs.
Hoover’s saw and planing-mill, located in the northern part of the town, near Dexter village, was built in 1880 by George Hoover. It is run by water-power, is fitted with circular saws, and cuts annually about 300,000 feet of lumber.
EARLY SETTLERS, ETC.
The first settlement in the town of Hounsfield was commenced in 1800, by Amasa Fox, who located on great lot 36, in the northern part of the town, near the cemetery, on road 18. His name appears frequently on the town records, and it was he who gave notice for the first town meeting, held in 1806. The settlement of the territory progressed rapidly, and in 1802 a traveler reported 30 families living in township No. 1. Five brothers, Solomon, Robert, Asher, Austin, and Joshua Robbins, from Berkshire County, Mass., located in the southwestern part of the town previous to the War of 1812, in the neighborhood since known as the Robbins Settlement. They were the first settlers in that locality, and made the first improvements. In the eastern part of the town, near the Watertown line, at what is known as Field’s Settlement, located several of the sons of Elijah Field, who came with their father from Woodstock, Vt., in 1805 or ‘06. Mr. Field had no less than nine sons, most of whom were of mature age, and located in Hounsfield, while the father’s location was in Watertown. Following the Fields in this locality came Palmer Westcott, who became an extensive manufacturer of potash.
In March, 1808, Ebenezer Allen, from Windsor, Vt., came with his family, consisting of his wife and 10 children, and located on great lot 38, where he made a clearing and erected a log house. The eldest of his children was 20 years and the youngest 11 months of age. During a service of five years in the Revolutionary army Mr. Allen attained the rank of major, which title clung to him through life. His son Leonard served in the War of 1812 and participated in the battle of Sackets Harbor. In 1815 Ira Ingleheart, a native of Canada, who had served in the American army during the War of 1812, removed from Watertown, and located in Hounsfield, in school district No. 6. His son, C. W. Ingleheart, for some time an influential resident of Sackets Harbor village, came with him. In the neighborhood of Stowell’s Corners settlements were made quite early. Previous to 1807 Nathan Baker located near the south line of the town.
Stephen Blanchard, from Vermont, located at East Hounsfield about the beginning of the War of 1812. He kept an hotel there, and the place acquired the name of Blanchard’s Corners. A postoffice was established there in 1850, with Nelson Jones as postmaster.
Augustus Sacket began the first settlement at Sackets Harbor village. He built a saw-mill, wherein was sawed the lumber used in the construction of the first permanent house and other buildings put up at that time. The saw-mill was on Mill Creek, where were also erected a grist-mill by Samuel Luff, the first one in the neighborhood, and a cotton factory by Solon Stone. In 1804 came Mr. Elisha Camp, a brother-in-law of Mr. Sacket, who settled at the village, and was appointed resident agent, under whom the estate was sold, the last of the business being closed up about 1848 or ‘49.
“In 1805 several English families settled at Sackets Harbor, among whom were Samuel Luff and sons Edward, Samuel, Jr., Joseph, and Jesse, David Merritt, William Ashby, John Root, Henry Metcalf, and George Slowman. Besides these John and William Evans, Squire Reed, Amasa Hollibut, Charles Barrie (or Berry), Uriah Roulison (or Rowlson), Azariah P. Sherwin, and others. Dr. William Baker settled in 1803, and was the first physician in the town. Ambrose Pease and Stephen Simmons were early inn-keepers, and Loren Buss and Hezekiah Doolittle, merchants.” (from Hough’s History of Jefferson County)
William Rowlson was the first white male child born in the town of Hounsfield. His birth occurred at Sackets Harbor, September 18, 1804, and he still survives (1889). His father, Rial Rowlson, was one of the first settlers at the village, having located there about 1802 from Connecticut. Squire Reed, a native of Rhode Island, also came from Connecticut to this county in 1802, first locating in the town of Adams, whence he removed to Sackets Harbor in 1806 or ‘07, and became prominently identified with the affairs of that village. He served in the Revolutionary war. After the breaking out of the War of 1812 he removed to Brownville, where he died. His son Daniel, who came to this county with his father, was a captain on the lakes for many years. Daniel De Wolf was a blacksmith in the navy yard at Sackets Harbor from 1812 to 1815, in the employ of the government. After the war he moved away, but returned with his family in 1822 and located permanently. The first school in the town was opened in Sackets Harbor in 1807 or 1808, by a man named Mitchell. Outside the village the first school was opened in the “Muskalonge” neighborhood, in 1808, by Amasa Fox. The next year a frame school-house was built there. No school-house was built at Sackets Harbor until after the War of 1812-15, when a one-story frame building was erected on the site of the present union school building. About 1816 a log school-house was built at Blanchard’s Corners (now East Hounsfield), which gave place to a frame house which was burned. A stone house was next erected, which was finally torn down and a frame building erected instead.
The first hotel in Sackets Harbor, a small story and a half frame building, located on Main street, was built by Ambrose Pease before 1805, and was conducted by him until the beginning of the War of 1812, when it was purchased by a Mr. Kelsey, who came here from Cape Vincent. The building was afterwards burned. In 1806 a Mr. Lanning commenced the erection of an hotel on the site of the present Eveleigh House, which became the property of Stephen Simmons before it was completed. Mr. Simmons finished it and conducted the hotel a number of years. Ambrose Dodge built the Eveleigh House in 1843-44, and it was opened by him in 1844. Judge Elijah Field built the Earl House in 1817, and it was opened by him in December of that year. It has been remodelled, and greatly enlarged and improved to accommodate an increasing patronage. The present proprietor is Richard M. Earl.
A stone hotel, which is still standing, although not used for the purpose for which it was built, was commenced by Frederick White in 1817, and opened by him the following year, with the name of “Union Hotel.” The Masonic fraternity occupied a room on the top floor, and subsequently removed to the floor below. It has been said that Morgan, who published an expose of Masonry, was brought to this lodge room very soon after his mysterious disappearance. Mr. White, the first proprietor of the hotel, was a man of dissolute habits, and dissipated his large fortune of $150,000, finally dying a pauper. He was at one time president of the Jefferson County Bank, when the institution was located in Adams.
In March, 1817, George Camp established a printing office at the village, and became “proprietor, publisher, and editor” of the Sackets Harbor Gazette. A copy of the Gazette of October 8, 1818, contains an editorial which fails to substantiate the report so often heard that, although liquor was freely used, drunkenness was unknown among the pioneers 50 or 75 years ago. We are sure no such condition of affairs as is described in the following extract from this editorial would be allowed to exist in Sackets Harbor at the present time: --
“The intemperate use of ardent and intoxicating liquors is the crying sin of these times. Nor is our own neighborhood free from this foul offense___ ‘It smells to heaven.’ --Every night may be seen more than one miserable wretch reeling from the grog-shops (if not so beastly drunk as to be incapable of motion), and carrying to his broken-hearted wife and famishing children, not bread, nor meat, but RUM! And in this execrable way, week after week, he squanders the little that he earns, while his perishing, starving family are supported by the charity of his neighbors. Their clamors for bread he silences with rum, and the obvious effects of this conduct in the parent on the children, is, that they are drunkards from the cradle.”
The following description of the above mentioned copy of the Gazette, printed in the Watertown Daily Times, July 6, 1888, contains so much of historic value, and illustrates so well the commercial importance of Sackets Harbor at that time, that we give it space here: --
“It is a four-page sheet about half the size of the Times, ‘printed and published’ by George Camp, (father of T. H. Camp, Esq., of this city, and Col. W. B. Camp, of Sackets Harbor,) at $2 per year in advance to mail subscribers, and $2 to village subscribers payable half yearly in advance. The first page contains miscellany and advertisements. The second page has editorial and advertisements. The third page has also editorial and advertisements. The fourth page has a report of the first fair of the Jefferson County Agricultural Society at Watertown, and advertisements. Among the advertisements, which are interesting reminiscences in themselves, is that the ‘steamboat Ontario,’ which made weekly trips between Ogdensburg and Niagara, leaving the first named place every Saturday at 9 A. M., Sackets Harbor on Sunday at 3 P. M., Hanford’s Landing (Genesee River) on Monday at 3 P. M., and ‘arriving at Niagara with all possible expedience.’ Returning, the Ontario left Lewiston at 4 P. M. on Tuesday, Hanford’s Landing at 4 P. M. on Wednesday, Sackets Harbor at 4 P. M. on Thursday, and ‘arrive at Ogdensburg the next day.’ The rate of passage was $5 ‘from port to port.’ For the convenience of people at Oswego, Sodus, and Pultneyville ‘the fast sailing schooner Kingston Packet is provided as a tender to the steamboat, and after touching at those places’ will make connection at Genesee River on Monday and Sackets Harbor on Thursday.
“The ‘Marine List’ shows there were many other steam and sail crafts plying at that time. On October 1 the arrivals were the steamboats Ontario from Ogdensburg, Sophia from Kingston, packet Swallow from Henderson, brig Maggie Graham from Oswego, and schooner Lizzie from Cape Vincent; on the 2d, packetboat Jane from Oswego, steamboat Sophia from Kingston, schooner Sea Foam from Rochester, and steamboat Maria from Ogdensburg; on the 3d, schooner Rambler from Kingston, packet Alvira from Port Hope, and brig Seneca from Buffalo; on the 4th, schooner Genesee Packet from Ogdensburg, schooner packet Swallow, brig T. Rogers from Charlotte; on the 5th, steamboat Sophia from Kingston, and the sloop George N. from Belleville, Ont.; on the 6th, steamboat Ontario from Niagara, schooner Loren P. from Chicago, brig Rochester from Port Colbourne, yacht Iva from Ogdensburg, and schooner John Powell from Wilwaukee (sic). The departures were: On October 1st, schooner Rambler for Kingston, schooners Sachem, Lady Washington, and Farmer’s Daughter for Niagara, and schooner Triumph for Boston; on the 2d, the Ontario for Oswego, Genesee, and Niagara, schooner Templeton for Milwaukee, and brig B. Williams for Ogdensburg; on the 3d, packet Swallow, sloops Arcadia and Ontario for Niagara, and brig Susie for Rochester; on the 4th, steamboat Sophia for Kingston, schooner Genesee Packet for Sodus and Niagara, brig George Vane for Detroit, and sloop Mary B. for Ogdensburg; on the 5th, the Ontario for Ogdensburg, brig Sea Bird for Chicago; steamboat Maria for Ogdensburg, packetboat Jane for Oswego, and schooner Olcott for Detroit; on the 6th, steamboat Sophia for Kingston, brig T. Rogers for Charlotte, schooner Sea Foam for Rochester, and schooner Appelona for Cape Vincent. The steamboat Sophia, it appears, made semi-weekly trips between Sackets and Kingston. The schooner Woolsey made regular trips for the season between Sackets and Niagara.
“The editorials are on the subject of the ‘White Man’s Government,’ “Military’ (giving an account of the annual public parade of the Sackets Harbor Light Infantry company), and ‘The Newspaper.’ Among the local items is a ‘report that in the vicinity of Ellisburg on the 30th ult. was seen by a gentleman of unquestionable veracity, an animal resembling “Ya-ho, or Wild Man of the Woods.” Hundreds of men were in pursuit for several days, but nothing further is heard of seen of him.’ The conviction at the Circuit Court at Watertown, James Hany, of manslaughter, for killing of Malachi P. Varian, soldier of Sackets Harbor, is noted. The sentence was 10 years in state prison. Judge Platt presided at the court.
“The advertisements are various. Among the principal ones are those of J. G. Parker, who sold all kinds of spirits, rums, brandies, and whiskies, and all kinds of groceries; F. Clark, who sold ‘Jamaica spirits’ by the puncheon, Boston ‘rum,’ and brandies, gin, wines, groceries generally, dry goods, crockery, hardware, etc. One man advertises against trusting his wife. The sheriff of Montgomery County offers a reward of $175 for the return of four prisoners who ‘broke goal.’ ‘A New Line of Stages’ from Utica to Sackets Harbor through Rome and Adams is advertised. ‘A reward of $30 and all reasonable charges will be paid for any deserter from the U. S. army’ is the burden of an advertisement dated ‘Madison Barracks.’ The Lowville Academy has a conspicuous advertisement. Among other things it says that board, including lodging and washing, is afforded to students at $2 per week. ‘Six Cents Reward’ is offered for the return of a runaway indented apprentice boy, by a Rodman man. The ‘Jefferson County Bank,’ then located at Adams, through James Wood, its cashier, announces a dividend of 3-1/2 per cent, payable to its stockholders. The loathsome disease of ‘itch’ must have been more or less prevalent then generally, for there are two conspicuous advertisements of ‘ointment’ therefor.
“Perhaps the most interesting feature of the paper is the full report of the first fair of the County Agricultural Society, which was held at Watertown on the 28th and 29th days of September. The first day was devoted to the exhibition of stock and domestic manufactures, award of premiums, and in discussions. There were present as guests Gov. De Witt Clinton, General Stephen Van Rensselaer, Colonel Jenkins, Mr. Parish, and other distinguished strangers from different parts of the country. The exhibition of stock was large and fine, and Roswell Woodruff exhibited 17 yoke of oxen and steers drawing a cart. They were of his own raising. Judge Noadiah Hubbard and Colonel Harris, of Champion, also exhibited a cart drawn by 15 pair of working oxen, very large and fine. The next day began with a plowing match. After that was finished a procession, the largest which was ever seen in the county up to that time, marched to the court-house, where, after a prayer, addresses were made by the president of the society and Governor Clinton. The procession then re-formed and marched to the house of Mr. Isaac Lee and partook of a sumptuous dinner, and then succeeded a list of 19 toasts, including several appropriate to the agricultural and manufacturing interests, and complimentary notice of Washington, President Madison, farmers’ wives and daughters, Governor Clinton, and others. Doubtless the entertainments during these two days were among the most edifying and delightful that have ever been given at the annual fair.”
The first regular physician in Sackets Harbor was Dr. William Baker, who located here in 1803. Other early physicians were Dr. Benjamin Farley, who came in before, and Dr. James Starkweather, who came soon after, the War of 1812. The first number of the Sackets Harbor Gazette (1817) contained the advertisement of Dr. R. B. Hayes, who avowed the intention of making “medicine and surgery his only pursuit.” Dr. Samuel Guthrie, subsequently world-renowned, located in Sackets Harbor, on Mill Creek, soon after the War of 1812, and here prosecuted his scientific investigation which resulted in the discovery of chloroform (at about the same time with Soubeiran, in France, and Liebig, in Germany), and of the percussion compound for firearms, which superseded the old flint locks. Dr. Guthrie died in this village, October 19, 1848. A more extensive account of his discoveries, etc., has been printed in this work in the medical chapter, by Dr. Crawe.
In 1806 Charles Barrie (or Berry), a Scotchman, opened a small store on the lot adjoining the one now occupied by the Eveleigh House, and he was the first merchant in the village. Barrie sold out to Loren Buss, who continued the business.
“The first mercantile operation at Sackets Harbor on an extensive scale was by Samuel F. Hooker, who, in 1808, commenced with a stock of $20,000 worth of goods, and in 50 days had sold $17,500 worth. The business that then opened with the brightest prospects was the trade of potash to Montreal, where Astor and other heavy capitalists had placed money in the hands of agents for its purchase. The embargo of 1808, by withholding those along our frontier from a career in which they were highly prosperous, naturally led to a spirit of evasion of the laws, and the difficulty of exporting this great staple of commerce directly from the Atlantic ports to Europe led to extensive and systematic measures for forwarding to the lake and river, from the interior and southern counties of the state, and even from New York, large quantities of potash. This sometimes vanished in the night, or was shipped with due formality to Ogdensburg, where it disappeared, and sometimes an open course of defiance of law was attempted. In whatever way it may have escaped it was sure of reappearing in Montreal, where it commanded the enormous sum of $200 to $320 per ton, and from whence there was no obstruction to its export to England.”*
*Hough’s History of Jefferson County”
“Previous to the war a flourishing commerce had sprung up on Lake Ontario, and the following vessels were engaged in trade, all of them having more or less business at Sackets Harbor; Genesee Packet, Capt. Obed Mayo, of Ogdensburg; Diana, Capt. A. Montgomery; Fair American, Capt. Augustus Ford; Collector, Capt. Samuel Dixon; Experiment, Capt. C. Holmes; Charles and Ann, Capt. Pease; Dolphin, Capt. William Vaughan; and a few others whose names were not obtained. The Fair American is said to have been the first vessel built under the present government on this lake. She was launched at Oswego for the North Western Fur Company. Soon after the war the schooners Woolsey, Ramble, Farmer’s Daughter, Triumph, Commodore Perry, Dolphin, &c, were advertised as running on regular lines as packets from this port.” (Ibid., p. 184) * * * *
It is said the Ariadne, which sailed from Sackets Harbor with a cargo of pork and flour, under Captain Pickering, was the first merchant-vessel that ever entered the river at Chicago.
“On the 2d of March, 1799, Congress first enacted a law applying to the collection of duties on Lake Ontario, by establishing two districts, of which all east of Genesee River was included in Oswego, and all west in Niagara District. * * * In pursuance of the act of March 3, 1803, Sackets Harbor District was soon after established, and has been since maintained, having been reduced in extent by the formation of Oswegatchie District, including St. Lawrence County, March 2, 1811, and Cape Vincent District, April 18, 1818, comprising all below Point Peninsula, inclusive.” (Ibid.)
March 3, 1863, Sackets Harbor was consolidated with the Cape Vincent district, and since that time it has been only a port of entry in charge of a deputy. Cape Vincent district comprises the entire coast of Jefferson County.
Previous to the completion of the railroad to Watertown, in 1851, Sackets Harbor was a place of considerable commercial importance. The greater portion of the freight for Watertown and the surrounding towns, and for adjoining counties, came by boat to Sackets Harbor, whence it was carted to its destination, and in return the products of this rich territory found way to the markets through the same channels. Although enterprising citizens of the village put forth every effort to maintain its commercial relations its commerce has been mostly diverted to other channels. In 1846 the declared value of exports and imports was $2,735,091; as early as 1859 it had fallen to the comparatively insignificant sum of $13,016. The enrolled and licensed tonnage of the district in 1852 was 7,083 tons, and in 1859 it had been reduced to 1,375 tons.
About 1823 a measure was proposed to supply a water-power to Sackets Harbor by diverting the surplus waters of Black River from the lower pond in Watertown through Pleasant and Mill creeks. Through the opposition of influential persons, through whose lands the water would pass, the project failed. In 1825 the effort was renewed, and an act was passed by the legislature authorizing Joseph Kimball, Amos Catlin, and Daniel Hall, Jr., to divert the surplus waters of the river into Pleasant and Stony creeks, for hydraulic purposes. The act provided that waters should not be taken from any dam then existing without the written consent of the owners, virtually defeating the project, for this was next to impossible. In 1826 the act was amended by removing the obnoxious restriction, but still the plan was not considered feasible. It was next proposed to make the canal navigable from Carthage to Sackets Harbor, and an act was accordingly passed in April, 1828, incorporating the Jefferson County Canal Co., with a capital of $300,000, but nothing was done under this act. In 1830 a canal 20 feet wide at the top and 12 feet wide at the bottom, four feet deep, was made from Huntington’s Mills, two miles above the village of Watertown, to the “Big Swamp,” and in 1832 it was finished, supplying to the village of Sackets Harbor a valuable water-power, upon which were erected a grist-mill, two saw-mills, a plaster-mill, a paper-mill, and a furnace, principally the property of Elisha Camp, to which person is due, more perhaps than to any other man, the credit of making the village a place of consequence. Great difficulty was encountered in maintaining the first half-mile of the ditch, which was constructed along Black River, where it was liable to be washed away on one side and filled by slides of sand and clay on the other. These difficulties finally led the work to be abandoned, after having been in use 10 years, to the pecuniary loss of all.
FIRES IN SACKETS HARBOR“Soon after the War of 1812 a small fire company, a ‘bucket brigade,’ was organized at the village, and unsuccessful efforts were made to procure an engine. The fire wardens of the village passed an ordinance requiring owners of buildings to provide a certain number of buckets to be placed conveniently about their buildings for the use of the brigade. Hough’s History contains the following account of early fires: --
“ 'On May 23, 1838, a paper-mill of Col. Camp, at the Harbor, was burned, with a loss of from $7,000 to $10,000. It had been in operation about a year.
“ ‘A destructive fire occurred at Sackets Harbor on the morning of August 21, 1843, originating in a warehouse on the wharf, as was supposed from the cinders of the steamer St. Lawrence, and spreading rapidly, consumed nine buildings on the north side of Main street, and eight upon the south side. Passing up Bayard street, it consumed several barns and dwellings, and from the violence of the wind the flakes of burning materials were wafted to the cupola of the Presbyterian Church, which was burned. Upon the ally or street in the rear of Main street, a number of buildings and much property was burned. The whole number of buildings consumed was about forty; the loss over $35,000. Had this fire occurred in the night time, from its rapidity and violence, a loss of life could have scarcely been avoided. An ineffectual suit was instituted against the steamboat company. On several other occasions the village has suffered severely by fires.’“
“Col. Walter B. Camp has kindly furnished the following regarding the fires of more recent occurrence.
“Sackets Harbor has been singularly unfortunate with its fires, commencing in particular with that of August 21, 1843, to which reference has been made --- many of them so serious and unaccountable in their origin as to bring at last a degree of discouragement to its inhabitants, who question how far they can be justified in restoring the present burnt district. After that destructive one of 1843 better and more modern buildings rapidly took the place of those destroyed. The same conditions do not now exist. Then an extensive commerce was carried on, being a port of export and import for several counties, and from which sailed a fine fleet of vessels, owned by enterprising merchants. This source of accumulative wealth has disappeared from the lakes.
"In the fall of 1851 the Ontario House barns, on Broad street, took fire from some unknown cause. The fire extended to Main street, and five stores and dwelling houses were soon in flames. Before the sixth was reached a very heavy-timbered two-story building (and one in which printing presses of varied newspapers had been established for years) was torn down by the heroic efforts of the foresighted and resolute inhabitants. Hook and axes demolished it in a few minutes. The feat was heralded as something almost incredible.
“Six weeks afterwards Buck & Burt's dry goods and hardware establishment, on Main street, took fire in like manner, and was consumed with nearly half the square. Each one of these conflagrations brought clouds filled with snow, by the vacuum produced, from distant hills that held the currents running eastward from the lakes. About 1854 a dwelling house of Captain Tuttle, on Main street, nearly opposite the navy yard, burned down; the only point of interest remembered is, that buildings each side, one only four or five feet away, had ice formed upon the exposed sides from the intense cold prevailing.
“Lane's dry goods stock was badly damaged by some cause unknown--supposed by the bursting of a lamp. Being in a block, and adjoining Eveleigh's Hotel, much solicitude was felt for the result.
“"Gladwin's brick" a little later was occupied by some Hebrew clothing merchants. They were compelled to escape from their sleeping quarters from the heat among their goods. A gallant fight with this no doubt incendiary fire confined it to the store equipment.
“June 11, 1883, Clark & Robbins' grain warehouse, filled with grain, was discovered on fire at 3'clock a.m. This valuable and useful storehouse was fired by the fiend, no doubt, who delights in flames and destruction. Can it be that in quiet villages that a nihilistic spirit has found growth with malice and hatred toward enterprising neighbors, such as is exhibited in populous cities?
“January 3, 1886, a disastrous fire was well under way in the unoccupied annex to Gladwin's brick building, on Main street, when discovered. Formerly it faced on Main street, and here Mr. George Camp started the Sackets Harbor Gazette, in March, 1817. Stokes's hardware store and dwelling and Robbins's block, corner of Ogden and Main streets, with Lane's dry goods below, offices and Ontario Hall above were burned, with Gladwin's, northerly, Dennison's malt-house, and McEvoy's grocery and provision store. With the aid of the 12th Regiment command at Madison Barracks working the brake engine a wood two-story building was saved intact, though only 18 inches from the malt-house, and exposed to six window openings in its walls, from which came an intense heat.
“May 29, 1886, the historic warehouse built by the United States navy during the War of 1812, as a storehouse for its fleet, was burned. It had served many purposes in civil life---a bethel house for seamen, 1828; "Knickerbocker bowling alley" and sail loft; Hooker & Hopkins, forwarding merchants; steam flouring-mill; again, warehouse and sail loft, which last was converted into a skating rink. At the date mentioned Mr. Eveleigh permitted an embryo band to practice in it evenings. During the night it burned, no doubt by carelessness on the part of the band. In March, 1888, Mr. Horace Payne's store and fine dwelling house on Main street were destroyed. Fire started in the store part, occupied by Mr. Jones, soon after closing business at night. Here was another well contested battle with the fiery element, this time aided by the 11th United States Infantry at the brakes. A two-story dwelling, only two feet away, was saved with no damage to it whatever.
“The last and most severe fire since 1843 occurred August 11, 1889, beginning in the Boulton store adjoining the malt-house walls, where the fire of January, 1886, was stopped. The building was unoccupied, and its burning is plainly considered by the inhabitants of incendiary origin. That and McEvoy's grocery and provision store north of Railroad street, north, Conlin's grocery and provision store, Hasting's saloon, Clark & Bowe's fish-house and office, railroad passenger and ticket office, telegraph and telephone offices on Main street, Ira Rowlson's clothing store and dwelling, M. Jeffrey's store, dwelling, and boat-house, A. J. Drake's feed store and dwelling, Maddigan's saloon and dwelling, Hermans's (McGuire block) saloon and dwelling, Eveleigh's stone stores, ---hardware and meat market, ---with extensive warehouse containing grain and deposited valuables; crossing Ray street slip; Hooker & Crane's store and warehouse of 1812, custom-house, market house, and town hall --- all were burned. Mr. Eveleigh had been in possession of the navy warehouse, custom-house, and Hooker & Crane's building some years. They faced the market and Town Hall square. About these historic buildings are clustered associations that have found echo in many a wanderer from the parent hearth. Scenes of civic and national character enacted about them have stirred their manly hearts to deeds of devotion and love for country, in whatever clime they have taken up their abode.
“An incendiary effort was made to burn Mr. Eveleigh's hotel some years since. Had it been accomplished the village would have been annihilated. Fire was seen by the Masons, on leaving their lodge, breaking out from the attic. By their activity in getting the hose into the building, and a stream directly upon the fire, the calamity was averted. The wind was blowing a gale in a direction to have soon made any efforts perfectly futile. Some one had saturated the rafters with kerosene, leaving a party-filled bottle unused, which remained to ‘point a moral and adorn a tale.’
“The recent purchase of a steam engine may give a feeling of more security, but the fiend who delights in flames and destruction can find opportunities enough to gratify his hellish propensities.”
The first record we find of any “materials of war” being necessary at Sackets Harbor was in 1808-09, when Capt. William P. Bennett, with a part of a company of artillery, and Lieutenant Cross, with a few infantry, were stationed here to enforce the embargo of 1808. On the 1st of June, 1812, President Madison sent a message to Congress on the subject of the aggressions of Great Britain, which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations in the House of Representatives, who, on June 3, reported a manifesto as the basis of a declaration of war. The House adopted the measure by a vote of 79 to 49, and the Senate by a vote of 19 to 13; and on June 18, 1812, the President signed the act declaring war.
At this time the United States possessed almost no means of defense on the frontier. Sackets Harbor was the most important point on Lake Ontario. It was the headquarters of the northern division of the American fleet, and here were fitted out the expeditions against Toronto (then York), Fort George, etc., and the unfortunate enterprise under General Wilkinson in the fall of 1813. It was twice attacked by the British, who were repulsed, the last time (known to history as the battle of Sackets Harbor) with a loss of 150 men. The first attack on this village, which was also the first battle of the war, was on a Sunday morning on the 19th of July, 1812. Captain Woolsey, who had command of the brig Oneida, which was stationed here, sighted from his mast-head a British fleet of five vessels (carrying an aggregate of 80 guns) bearing towards the Harbor. Col. Christopher P. Bellinger was stationed here with a body of drafted three-months’ militia to enforce the embargo. Captain Elisha Camp, the then principal personage here, foreseeing the danger of invasion from the British in Canada, had formed an artillery company and offered their services to General Brown. A thirty-two pounder gun, which had been intended for the armament of the Oneida, but which proved too large for that vessel, and which had long been lying in the mud near by and was named the Old Sow,* had been placed in Fort Tompkins. Guns of less degree, taken from the brig, were planted here and there, and with the Oneida, stationed in the harbor with her broadside of nine guns to the approaching fleet, constituted all the organized force in readiness for the proper reception of the hostile Sunday morning callers. The British expected little or no resistance, and threatened to burn the town if a shot were fired. The first shot from the thirty-two pounder called forth shouts of derision from the British marines. William Vaughan, worked the gun on this occasion, and as the government failed to provide thirty-two-pound balls, he paid his compliments with twenty-four-pound balls wrapped in strips of carpet torn from the floors of their homes by the patriot women of the village.
*About 1851 the Old Sow was sold, with other government stores, to G. Lord, of Watertown. Rosselle Bingham, of New Bremen, bought it of Mr. Lord to celebrate the breaking of ground for the Sackets Harbor and Saratoga Railroad. Afterwards Bingham sold it to W. L. Babcock, of Lowville, and from that place it was taken to Turin, Lewis County, where it is now used for Fourth of July celebrations and other holidays, also by the different political parties to celebrate their victories.
Lossings’ Empire State relates the following incident of this battle: ---
“The flag-ship of the attacking squadron was the Royal George (26-guns, 260 men). When the vessels were near enough for action, the battle was begun by a shot from the big iron cannon on shore. It was harmless, and drew peals of laughter from the crew of the flagship, followed by two shots. Firing was kept up for about two hours, the squadron standing off and on, out of range of the smaller guns. Most of the enemy’s shot had fallen against the rocks below the battery. At length a thirty-two-pound ball came over the bluff, struck the earth, and plowed a deep furrow. It was picked up by a sergeant, who ran with it to Captain Vaughan, who was in command of the Old Stow, exclaiming:
“ ‘I’ve been playing ball with the red-coats, and have caught them out. See if the British can catch back again!’
“The ball exactly fitted the old cannon, while those which had been sent did not. At that moment the Royal George was nearing to give a broadside, when the big gun sent back the captive ball with such force and precision that it struck the flag-ship’s stern, raked her completely, sent splinters high on her mizzen top-sail, killed fourteen men, and wounded eighteen.
“The flag-ship had already received a shot that went through her side, and another between wind and water. Two other vessels had been severely crippled, and a signal for retreat was speedily given. The squadron sailed out on the lake, while the band on the shore played ‘Yankee Doodle’ in the liveliest manner, and the soldiers and citizens cheered the retreating enemy in their departure.”
And thus ended the first regular battle of War of 1812, in which, it has been facetiously said, the British “broke nothing but the Sabbath.”
(Note: -- The commander of the defeated squadron was Sir James Lucas Yeo, who had the reputation of boasting and promising more than he could perform; and his actions on more than one occasion tended to the belief that he was not as brave as he should have been. He died in England in 1819. -- EDITOR.)
Soon after the successful descent upon York, described in the County Chapter of this work, in which the commander of the expedition, General Pike, was killed by the explosion of a magazine, the enemy, knowing that Sackets Harbor had been weakened by the withdrawal of a large portion of Chauncey’s squadron with the land troops to Niagara, resolved to attempt the capture of the post. May 27, 1813, the commander of the British squadron, Sir James Yeo, sailed from Kingston with six armed vessels and 40 batteaux, carrying more than a thousand land troops, the whole armament under the command of Sir George Prevost, the governor-general. At this time Fort Tompkins was manned by about 200 dismounted dragoons, under Col. Backus, a detachment of 40 or 50 artillerists, under Lieutenant Ketchum, and a few infantry invalids and recruits. Brigadier-General Brown, who was at his home in Brownville, had been ordered by General Dearborn to assume command of the post, but out of consideration for Col. Backus he had not yet done so.
On Friday, May 28, in the morning, the schooner Lady of the Lake, that had been cruising in the vicinity, came in and reported that the enemy was approaching with a formidable fleet. Col. Backus at once dispatched an express to General Brown, who immediately repaired to the place and assumed command. Signal guns were fired and messengers sent in all directions to rally the neighboring militia, and especially to hasten the arrival of Col. Tuttle, who was advancing with several hundred regulars. The militia on their arrival were sent to Horse Island, about a mile distant from the village, where it was supposed the invaders would first attempt to land. No landing was attempted on the 28th, Sir George, who was a timid man, being alarmed by the appearance of a fleet of barges from Oswego, bearing part of a regiment of infantry under Col. Aspinwall to reinforce the garrison at the Harbor. Seven of these barges got safely into port, and 12 were taken by the enemy after their crews had deserted them and fled to the woods, arriving at their destination about nine o’clock that evening.
After Sir George had slept and infused courage from the capture of the barges, on the morning of the 29th he landed a considerable force, with artillery, upon Horse Island. During the night about 40 Indians, under Lieut. Anderson, had landed on the main land in Henderson Bay, with a view of attacking the rear of the militia. The American militia were called from the island and placed behind a gravel-ridge on the main land. They were “about 600 in number, fresh from their homes, and without discipline, experience, or organization, and although not wanting in courage or patriotism, yet lacked that assurance which an acquaintance with military affairs alone can confer. These, with about 300 regulars and 100 of Aspinwall’s party, comprised the force by which the enemy were to be opposed.” *
“The night was spent by General Brown in making disposition for the attack. Colonel Mills, with about 400 militia, was stationed with a six-pounder near the shore opposite the island, with orders to reserve their fire until the enemy should approach within pistol shot. Colonel Greshom Tuttle, with the remainder of the militia, was posted in the edge of the woods back of the clearing, and Colonel Backus, with his dismounted dragoons, was stationed in the skirt of the woods near the village, with orders to advance through the woods to Horse Island the moment it was known that the enemy had landed. Colonel Aspinwall, with his men, was posted to the left of Backus; and the artillerists, under Lieutenant Ketchum, were stationed in Fort Tompkins with no other armament than a thirty-two-pounder mounted on a pivot. The militia on the shore were directed that, in case of being driven from their position, they should fall back into the woods and annoy the right flank of the enemy as he advanced towards the village. Col. Tuttle was directed, in the same event, to attack their rear and destroy their boats.
“The morning of the 29th dawned beautifully clear and calm. Not a breath of air ruffled the placid surface of the lake. * * * The calm prevented the enemy from bringing their vessels to cooperate in the attack, and was one of the causes that influenced their subsequent retreat. As soon as it was light the enemy were seen approaching in 33 large boats, under cover of gun-boats, directing their course to the outside of the island, where they landed and formed without opposition; but in crossing the bar that connected it with the main land they encountered a galling fire, and lost several in killed and wounded, which they subsequently carried off. As the landing was being effected the heavy gun in Fort Tompkins was brought to bear with considerable effect upon the enemy’s column.
“The fire of the militia was at first well directed and deadly, and was answered by discharges of musketry, and by two small cannon loaded with grape shot; but Colonel Mills, who was stationed a short distance towards the village, with his cannon, fell early in the engagement, and his death, with the unaccustomed whistling of balls that cut down the branches of trees around them, struck with terror the inexperienced militia, and without waiting to return the fire or recover from the panic they turned and fled towards the town in the greatest confusion. This retreat was not entirely general. Capt. Samuel McNitt, who had been stationed with his company on the extreme left of the flanking party of the militia, not noticing the movements of his comrades, continued his firing after some moments longer, and before he was aware he found himself and his party alone, and in danger of being cut off by the enemy. General Brown, finding himself nearly alone, with no support but his company, retired toward the village, directing those that could be rallied to annoy the advancing column of the enemy as much as possible. The enemy, having gained the beach and dispersed the militia, formed in good order and marched toward the town.
“They were soon met by the troops of Colonel Backus, who had advanced to dispute their progress, and who gallantly encountered and returned their fire, retiring slowly before them through the half-cleared woods. General Brown had succeeded in rallying about a hundred militia, with the aid of Caleb Westcott, a citizen, and others, and had joined the detachment of Backus; but at his juncture, happening to look towards the ship yard, he was surprised to see huge volumes of smoke issuing from the storehouses that contained the spoils of York. Not knowing but that the enemy might have gained his rear, he hastened to the spot and ascertained that the disastrous panic of the militia had been communicated to those in charge, and a report had reached Lieutenant Chauncey, of the navy, that all was lost, and upon the faith of this rumor he had given orders to fire the buildings, an act which the most extreme and desperate issue of affairs alone could justify. Learning the cause of the conflagration, and somewhat relieved by the knowledge that the enemy were still on but one side, he returned, giving directions to Lieut. Ketcham, in Fort Tompkins, to maintain that post as long as the heat of the flames would permit. The regulars of Col. Backus felt their courage renewed upon learning the nature of the accident that had given a natural alarm, and continued steadily to oppose the advance of the enemy, who had now gained the clearing next the village. Very soon after, Col. Backus fell, mortally wounded, and was borne off the field; his troops taking possession of some log barracks, and continuing their resistance.
“The enemy had throughout evinced great courage and coolness, and were under the immediate command of Captain Gray, of the quartermaster-general’s department, who was advancing in front of the ranks, and walking backwards, waving his sword for his troops to follow, and shouting, ’Come on, boys; the day is ours! Remember York!’ when he suddenly fell, wounded, and immediately expired.
“At this moment the signal for retreat was given from the fleet, and the enemy hastily retreated to their boats. This retreat is said to have been in part caused by hearing a report of small arms on the right, from the rallied militia, but which the enemy mistook for a reinforcement of 450 regulars, which they had learned was advancing under Colonel Tuttle, and was then within a mile of the place. Their arrival would at once put an end to the contest by giving us the advantage of numbers. The enemy on their retreat removed a part of their wounded, and having reembarked, they, at about 10 o’clock, sent a flag demanding a surrender of the place which they had been unable to capture, and were of course refused. They, however, were promised that decent attention should be paid to the dead and humane treatment to the wounded. They shortly after sent another flag requesting to send surgeons to their wounded, which was denied, as they seemed not to have abandoned the attack, and were laying by in their barges; but shortly after they put off to the fleet, which lay about five miles from the town, and made sail for Kingston. Both Sir George Prevost and Sir James Yeo are said to have landed during the engagement.
“The loss of the British was 150 killed and wounded; 25 of their privates were found dead, two captains and 20 privates were wounded, and, including the wounded, two captains, one ensign, and 32 privates were taken prisoners. Our loss was 150 killed, wounded, and missing. The enemy took a few prisoners, and one man was found in the woods killed and scalped by the Indians.
“The flames of the burning stores were subdued as quickly as possible, but not till they had consumed half a million of dollars’ worth of property. The ship Pike, then on the stocks, was saved. The prize schooner, the Duke of Gloucester, was saved by Lieutenant Talman, of the army, who boarded it, extinguishing the fire, and brought her from under the flames of the storehouses. This heroic conduct will be appreciated when it is known that a large quantity of gunpowder was on board. The schooners Fair America and Pert cut their cables and retreated up the river, and several of the guns on Navy Point were spiked. Had it not been for this disastrous mistake our success would have been complete. Colonel Backus survived eight days, and hopes of his recovery were entertained, but mortification supervened.” -- Hough’s History of Jefferson County.
During the exciting times of the war about a dozen military executions took place here for repeated desertion, with the effect of increasing the evil and gaining for the malefactors the sympathy of their comrades and of civilians. Many of the cases were of young men from New England, who left sisters, mothers, and sweethearts, and enlisted in the heat of political excitement and found themselves, after the romance of war had faded, subjected to severe hardships and severer discipline, even cruelty, ill clad, ill fed, and sometimes without shelter. Perhaps some should have suffered the penalty; but the majority of them should have been forgiven and treated with consideration and charity. These executions generally took place in the rear of the village, where the graves were dug. “The brutality of officers was in some cases excessive; the most extreme cases of corporeal punishment being inflicted from the slightest causes, or from mere caprice; and such was sometimes the bitterness of men towards officers that in one case it is said a captain durst not lead his company in an action for fear of being shot by his own men.”
The shedding of blood was not all done in battle. Public opinion was not then so pronounced against dueling as now, and the several duels that were fought here attracted little attention. On June 13, 1818, one was fought with muskets, near Madison Barracks, by two corporals of the 2d Regt. U. S. Inf., which resulted in the instant death of one of the participants.
Soon after the battle of May, 1813, a breast-work of logs and earth was built along the water-front of the village, one end touching the bay about half way between the harbor and Horse Island, and the other at the site of Madison Barracks; but no opportunity was ever afforded for testing these defenses, as Sackets Harbor was never again attacked.
Madison Barracks. -- After “grim visag’d war had smooth’d his wrinkled front” the government, recognizing the importance of Sackets Harbor as a military post, in 1816-19 erected Madison Barracks at a cost of about $85,000*. Regarding the history of this interesting military reservation no better authority is desired than the Medical History of the Post, a finely executed document in the possession of the
*The Medical History of the Post gives total cost of buildings, grading, etc., at $150,000.
surgeon in charge (to whom the writer is indebted for favors), from which we quote: --
“Excepting a short distance in front of the parade, the land overlooks the water by a perpendicular bluff of limestone. Originally a deep valley filled with cedars occupied a portion of the parade. This was filled, and the rough place in front was sloped off, and the boundary of the parade towards the water was secured by a stone wall, brought up as high as the plane of the parade, the surface of which was allowed to slope gently from the officers, quarters towards the water. The reservation contains 39-1/4 acres, purchased in parcels at different dates as required, from July 1, 1813, to March 28, 1817. The reservation is in the form of an irregular four-sided figure, with gates for footmen and vehicles on the southern and southwestern sides. About a third of the water-front is occupied by Fort Pike, an ordinary earth breast-work and water-battery, erected in 1812.”
The principal buildings on the reservation are the officers’ and men’s quarters, guard-house, hospital, the quartermaster’s and commissary’s storehouses, which are constructed of stone, and the administration building, ice-house, etc., which are of wood. The officers’ quarters consist of two rows of buildings (one part being now in course of construction), each 217 by 33 feet. The men’s quarters are also two rows of buildings, one on each side of the parade, running northwest, at right angles to the officers’ quarters. Each row is 452 feet long, 23 feet wide, and two stories high. The hospital is at the northwestern limit of the reservation, about 50 feet from the water. This building, which is nearly square, with wings on the north and south, has recently been subjected to a thorough renovation and extensive repairs. The cemetery, which comprises about three acres, will be mentioned later. Continuing to quote from the Medical History: --
“The plan of the buildings was drawn by William Smith. Great irregularity seems to have been practiced in the expenditure of public funds during the construction of this place, by the issue of due-bills for labor, which for a long time had but little value, and in consequence great fraud was put upon some of the contractors, (The masonry work was done under contract by Orrin Ives, and the carpenter work by Joseph Kimball, Philo Johnson, and Chauncey Calhoun. The grading of the site was done by the 2d U. S. Inf.) which was in some measure remedied by an act of Congress, passed in 1836, ‘for the relief of Jesse Smith and others.’ * * * In the fall of 1816 the men’s quarters were so far completed that five companies of the 2d Infantry moved into them for Navy Point, though as yet some of the floors and porticoes were unfinished. Near the top of the side of the officers’ quarters, facing the sally-port, on each side are tablets of stone, inscribed on the eastern side with ‘Commenced August 1, 1816; completed October, 1819’; on the western side, ‘Erected by the 2d Infantry.’
“The 2d U. S. Infantry,* whose history for 23 years after the close of the war with Great Britain is inseparable from that of Madison Barracks, was re-organized and filled up in 1815 at this place from volunteers, citizens, quartermaster’s employees, etc., that were mustered out of service at the cessation of hostilities. The addition of these new elements to the regiment required the utmost rigor of discipline on the part of the officers to prevent outbreaks of intemperance, violence, and the dissolute habits that had been learned in camps hereabout during the war. The moral tone of all classes along the northern frontier appears to have been much shaken by the war about this time, and among the officers difficulties often arose from slight causes, and quite a number of duels are reported as having been fought among them at this place, during the war and soon afterwards. The first one that comes within the scope of this narrative was fought between Dr. Burr, U. W. A., and a Lieutenant Smith, 2d Infantry. Both parties were slightly wounded, and Smith was afterwards hung in Philadelphia for killing Carson, captain of an East Indian vessel. While the malign effects of the war upon the habits and morals of both soldiers and citizens were seen in the prevalence of intemperance and other irregularities, a counter influence soon sprung into action among the officers of the 2d Infantry, for about this period they took the first steps toward reestablishing religious services and for restoring public order, then so much needed in this community. This regiment afterwards, in the western country, was familiarly known as the ‘praying regiment.’
“The first commanding officer of Madison Barracks was Colonel Hugh Brady, 2d U. W. Infantry, who, as mentioned above, moved into this place, with five companies of his regiment, in the fall of 1816. From this date to 1833 no records concerning the place can be found. There is a report, however, that from 1816 to 1821 an artillery company, of which Capt. Hilerman and Lieut. Leggett were officers, occupied Fort Pike.
“From 1816 to April, 1828, the garrison was occupied uninterruptedly by the Second Infantry, and the commanding officers were, as far as can be learned, as follows:
“Lieut.-Col. William Lawrence, from January to December, 1824.
Col. Hugh Brady, December, 1824, to February, 1826.
Capt. F. Staniford, February to March, 1826.
Col. Hugh Brady, March to May, 1826.
Brevet Capt. James Young, May to June, 1826.
Capt. J. D. Wilkins, June to August, 1826.
Brevet Major N. S. Clark, August, 1826, to April, 1828.
*Organized by Col. Hugh Brady, who was subsequently transferred to the post at Sault de Ste. Marie, and died in Detroit about 1851.
“On the departure of the troops under Major Clark the belief was entertained that there was but a remote chance that the barracks would be needed again as a military post, whereupon Capt. Alden Partridge, a teacher of some note in a military school at Middletown, Connecticut, obtained the consent of Hon. Peter B. Porter, then Secretary of War, for the use of the place for a term of years as a military and scientific school, which was approve by the President and afterwards confirmed by a joint resolution of Congress., May 24, 1828; but nothing further was done towards carrying out the project beyond announcing the object to the citizens in the vicinity.
“November 21, 1828, the barracks were again occupied by two companies of the Second Infantry, under Capt. William Hoffman, who remained till April 1, 1829, when he was succeeded by
“Col. Hugh Brady, 2d Infty., April 1 to May 12, 1829.
Lieut-Col. A. Cummings, 2d Infty., May 12, 1829, to May 29, 1831.
Capt. O. Ransom, 2d Infty., May 29, 1831, to August 16, 1831.
Capt. William Hoffman, 2d Infty., August 16 to September 17, 1831.
Lieut. Col. A. Cummings, 2d Infty., September 27, 1831, to May 20, 1832.
“The troops in the barracks being required to take part in the Black Hawk war, the place was again left unoccupied, and under the charge of Ordnance-Sergeant Gaines, till May 19, 1834.
“On May 9, 1834, Lieut. Col. A. Cummings, with his adjutant, Gallagher, returned and established the headquarters of the Second Infantry at the barracks, where it remained undisturbed till June, 1837, when the troubles on the northern frontier, familiarly known at (sic) the Patriot War, caused the withdrawal of the troops, and the place again was left in charge of Ordnance-Sergeant Gaines till June, 1838, when it was reoccupied by a detachment of the Second Infantry, under the command of Lieut. Col. A. Cummings.
August 28, 1838, Col. W. J. Worth, Eighth U. S. Infantry, assumed command of the barracks, and commenced the organization of the Eighth Infantry, authorized by act of Congress, July 5, 1838, and the detachment under Lieut. Col. A. Cummings took its departure for the West. This closed the service of the Second Infantry at this place.”
During the occupancy of this post by Colonel Brady the remains of most of the officers who had fallen in the field, or died of sickness on the frontier, were collected and buried together, within the pickets of Madison Barracks. Over these sacred and honored ashes a temporary wooden monument of pine boards was erected, from the defaced and broken panels of which Historian Hough deciphered and preserved the following inscriptions: --
North Side. --“Brigadier-General L. Covington, killed, Chrysler’s Field, U. C., November 11, 1813.” “Lieutenant-Colonel E. Backus, Dragoons, killed at Sackets Harbor, 29 May, 1813.”
East Side. -- “Colonel Tuttle,” “Lieutenant-Colonel Dix,” “Major Johnson,” “Lieutenant Vandeventer.”
South Side. -- “Lieutenant-Colonel Mills, Volunteer, killed at Sackets Harbor, 29 May, 1813.” “Captain A. Spencer, 29th Infantry, aid-de-camp to Major-General Brown, killed at Lundy’s Lane, July 25, 1814.”
West Side. -- “Brigadier-General Z. M. Pike, killed at York, U. C. 27 April 1813.” “Captain Joseph Nicholson, 14th Infantry, aide-de-camp to General Pike, killed at York, U. C., 27 April, 1813.”
In 1839 Colonel Mills’s remains were removed to Albany, being escorted to the steamer for Oswego by the 8th Regiment, Colonel Worth in command.
During the Patriot war the steamer Telegraph was fitted out at the barracks and manned with one company of the 8th Infantry, and was kept cruising about the Thousand Islands, in concert with a force of British, in search of Bill Johnston, who led the party which burned the Sir Robert Peel at Wells Island, on the night of May 29, 1838. In the fall the steamer Oneida joined the Telegraph with another company of the 8th Infantry on board, all under Colonel Worth, who laid off Wind-Mill Point, during the battle at that place, November 13, 1838. The same day Colonel Worth captured several boats, loaded with supplies for the patriots, which were taken to Sackets Harbor and, with their cargoes, sold by the United States marshal.
“About the time Col. Worth took command of the barracks there was some prospect of trouble with Great Britain, and in consequence of authority invested in him he added the buildings necessary to complete the garrison, and put all the others in good repair. The building put up at this time were the commissary and quartermaster’s store-house, and the hospital, guard-house, and ordnance buildings. The total outlay was about $150,000.” * (*From Medical History of Post.)
“The organization of the 8th Infantry was completed in 1840, and nine companies and the band occupied the barracks. Owing to excessive crowding much sickness resulted, and in the fall of 1839 there were reported by Dr. Thomas Henderson, U. S. A., 90 cases of death by remittent fever. Col. Worth was followed in command of the barracks by the following names officers of his (8th) regiment: --
“Capt. G. Wright, August 28, 1836, to April 14, 1839.
Captain F. Staniford, April 14 to June 26, 1839.
Lieut. Colonel N. S. Clark, June 26 to October, 1839.
Col. W. J. Worth, October to December, 1839.
Lieut. Colonel N. S. Clark, December, 1839, to January 20, 1840.
Captain G. Wright, January 20 to February 2, 1840.
Lieut. Colonel N. S. Clark, February 2 to April 22, 1840.
Colonel W. J. Worth, April 22 to May 2, 1840.
Lieut. J. K. Smith, May 2 to September 22, 1840.
“The 8th Infantry soon after this last date was ordered to Florida, and Lieut. Smith was relieved by Major M. M. Payne, of the 2d Artillery, with two companies of his regiment. He remained in command at the barracks from September 22 to October 4, and was succeeded by
“Lieut. Colonel J. B. Crane, 2d Artillery, October 4 to November 12, 1840.
Major M. M. Payne, 2d Artillery, November 12, 1840, to August 13, 1841.
Major F. S. Belton, 4th Artillery, August 13, 1841, to June 24, 1842.
“The artillery was relieved by Major J. Plymton, 2d Infantry, with three companies of his regiment. Major Plymton assumed command June 24, 1842, and was relieved December 4, 1844, by Captain J. J. B. Kingsbury, of the same regiment. Major Plymton again took command January 30, 1845, and stayed till August 13, 1846, when the troops were sent to the Mexican border, and the barracks left in charge of Ordnance-Sergeant Gaines from that time until November 13, 1848. November 13, 1848, the barracks were occupied by Major T. Lee, of the 4th Infantry, with two companies of his infantry. He was followed September 7, 1849, by Lieut. Col. B. L. E. Boonville, of the same regiment. After him the post commander was the colonel of this regiment, Col. William Whistler, in charge from June 27, 1851, to June 18, 1852, at which latter date the post was left in charge of Ordnance-Sergeant Gaines, and was so occupied for nearly nine years, or until the breaking out of the Rebellion in 1861. The buildings and fences became badly dilapidated, and certain parties living in the neighborhood plundered more or less of value from the premises. While the 94th Regt. Vol. Inf. was quartered here, with Col. W. B. Camp in command of the barracks by virtue of his rank on the governor’s staff, First Lieut. George Ryan, 7th U. S. Infantry, with Co. B, of his regiment, paroled prisoners from the Indian country, joined the barracks December 22, 1861. Lieut. Ryan, on his arrival with his small company of paroled, dispirited men, found themselves quite swallowed up by the new regiment of young, eager, undisciplined, raw recruits under Colonel Camp, whose position as a nominal officer on the governor’s staff invited controversy and trouble, and it was not long before it came, in the shape of a dispute for the command of the post. Lieut. Ryan put the question to the test by attesting Colonel Camp’s guard, and by substituting his own instead. The difficulty was settled by the War Department confining Lieut. Ryan’s authority to the limits of the quartermaster’s and commissary’s storehouse till the 94th left.
“The 94th and Lieut. Ryan’s Co. (B) of the 7th were crowded into the
men’s quarters, and as there were nearly a thousand of them, and the ventilation
was either bad or totally wanting, these causes, combined with a wrong mode of
living, produced many cases of fever among the men, attended with considerably
mortality. Lieut. Ryan was relieved April 29, 1862, by Capt. R. M.
Stevenson, of the 7th Infantry, also a paroled prisoner from the Indian
country. Stevenson died while in command, October 8, 1862. In 1864, after the
186th N. Y. Vols. (which was organized at Sackets Harbor for the period of one
year) had left, the barracks had become sadly out of repair by general misuse,
and Capt. Elisha Camp. A. Q. M., U. S. A., was ordered on from
Washington, with a force of skilled carpenters, to put it in a good state of
repair. He expended some $13,000, and placed everything once more in good shape.
“From November 8, 1864, to February, 1865, 1st Lieut. Walter Clifford occupied the barracks with a detachment of the 16th U. S. Inf. From March 5, 1865, to May 10, 1865, Capt. Pliny Moore, with one company of frontier cavalry, occupied the place with the above detachment of the 16th Infantry, and Capt. H. F. Turner, with the same command, held the place from May 10 to June 25, 1865. This frontier was employed in protecting the northern frontier from such raiding parties as that which plundered St. Albans, Vt., in 1864, and for watching the suspicious sympathizers of the rebels going to and from Canada. The company of this organization stationed at this place guarded the line from Cape Vincent to Henderson Bay.
“From June 20, 1865, to March 29, 1866, Col. C. C. Sibley, of the 16th Infantry, commanded the barracks, then occupied by portions of the 1st and 2d battalions of his regiment and one company of the 4th Infantry. Lieut.-Col. A. J. Slemmer, of the latter regiment, and during the war in command of Fort Pickens, on Santa Rosa Island, near Pensacola, Florida, had charge of the post from March 29 to September 29, 1866, being relieved at the latter date by Capt. William H. Powell, also of the 4th Infantry, who remained in command till March 25, 1867. From June 20, 1865, to April 30, 1867, the headquarters of the 16th Infantry was established here. March 25, 1867, the detachments of the 4th and 16th Infantry were relieved by 2d Lieut. A. C. Bayne, 42d U. S. Infantry (Veteran Reserve Corps.). Brevet Major Tully McCrea, captain of Co. C. of this regiment, commanded the post from April 15 to April 29, 1867, and was succeeded by Brevet Major-General J. B. McIntosh, who transferred the headquarters of the regiment from Plattsburgh Barracks to this place, where it remained till April 13, 1869, when the regiment took its departure for Fort Gibson, C. T., to be consolidated with the 6th U. S. Infantry. While General McIntosh was in command about $25,000 worth of the repairs and painting was put upon the barracks.
“The following of the 42d Regt., V. R. C., had command of the barracks, succeeding General McIntosh:
“Maj. T. F. Robenbough, from December 12, 1867, to May 26, 1868.
Bvt. Major C. T. Greene, from May 26 to June 3, 1868.
Maj. T. F. Robenbough, from June 7 to August 20, 1868.
Bvt. Major C. T. Greene, from August 30 to October 5, 1868.
Maj. T. F. Robenbough, from October 5, 1868, to February 16, 1869.
Bvt. Major C. T. Greene, from February 16 to March 5, 1869.
Bvt. Brig.-Gen. T. F. Robenbough, from March 5 to April 13, 1869.
“On the latter date 1st Lieut. A. Miltemore, 1st U. S. Artillery, with a small detachment of Battery F, arrived at the post, and on the 14th Bvt. Lieut. -Col. R. C. Duryea arrived with the remainder of the battery, and assumed command, which he held until May 26, 1870, when the troops were removed to Ogdensburg. The next person to command was Major C. L. Best, of the 1st Artillery. The troops in garrison during October, 1870, were those of Battery F, 1st Artillery, and Co. B, 1st U. S. Infantry.
“November 1, 1872, Major Best left with Battery F, and turned over the command to 1st Lieut. John L. Worden, Jr., of Co. B, 1st Infantry. December 7 Battery D, 3d Artillery, arrived, and its captain, John G. Trumbull, assumed command of the post by virtue of his rank.”
Lieut.-Col. Bvt. Brig.-Gen. R. B. Ayres, of the 3d Artillery, assumed command December 10, 1872. He is often mentioned for gallant services in the Army of the Potomac. November 6, 1876, eight sets of officers’ quarters were destroyed by fire, leaving only the colonel’s quarters to the eart (sic) of sally-port.
Lieut. Abbott remained when Ayres left, in 1876, to be relieved by Bvt. Brig.-Gen. James Robertson, 3d Artillery, who retired from the service in 1879. Bvt. Maj. James R. Kelly was now in command, and during his administration the officers’ quarters were rebuilt in 1879-80. Hon. George Bagley, M. C., was instrumental in procuring an appropriation of $25,000 for that purpose, assisted by friends of the project. Maj. and Bvt. Brig.-Gen W. M. Graham relieved Maj. Kelly, occupying the post till September 12, 1882, when Bvt. Maj.-Gen Orlando B. Willcox arrived with six companies of the 12th U. S. Inf., making it headquarters. Previous to their arrival Surgeon Edwards, 1872-74, and Surgeon H. S. Turrill, U. S. A., 1879-83, had insisted upon an entire change in respect to sanitary regulations. The latter, in 1879, found 20 per cent. of organic matter in the earth surrounding the quarters; after partial sewerage (sic) only three percent. in three months. Diphtheria and scarlet fever prevailed in the neighboring village and villages, without a case entering the reservation. Gen. Willcox, with his efficient officers, continued the improvement by adding Holly’s system of water-works to more sewerage, and heating the barracks with furnaces. Gen. Sherman had, since 1872, been opposed to making any improvements, looking to abandonment of the post entirely. Influences had been brought to bear so as to change his opposition. When the 12th arrived he visited the post and became convinced as to the desirability of the location strategically, and for a post of rest for troops long upon the plains or in climes where discomforts wear both mind and body. Sheridan ordered the soldiers’ quarters raised a story, and on the arrival of the 11th Inf., Col. Richard Irvin Dodge, rapid and substantial improvements went on. An administration building, 104 x 42, had its foundation laid in November, to be enclosed the following month, mid severe and tempestuous weather. All the executive offices, with library, school-room, and printing office, are below. Above, Dodge hall extends the whole length. Two stone buildings, a quarter-master’s and commissary’s storehouses have been built. Steam heating has been introduced throughout the entire barracks with complete success. Broad piazzas, facing the soldiers’ quarters, replace the old ones. The hospital has gone through changes to make it a complete one, as present requirements demand; also a house for the hospital steward as annex. The most conspicuous and marked change has been the erection of officers’ quarters to the west of sally-port, in place of the old set erected so indifferently in 1816-19. Coal and ice houses, with capacity sufficient for all needs, walks and enclosures, and new driveways--all objectionable out-houses removed. The cemetery, so long neglected, remained a reproach until Gen. Willcox gave his Christian care to renovating the ground of briars, disclosing some historic names that were called to his attention by an interested citizen. Col. Dodge has made it the most attractive spot in the reservation---an iron fence, formerly around Lafayette Park, Washington, was secured by him, and now encloses the grounds. Monuments have been restored, and the reflection of Historian Hough, “that some day a suitable monument ought to be erected over the resting place of such illustrious heroes as Gen. Pike, Dix, Backus, Mills, and others,” has been accomplished. A sarcophagus of granite has been erected to the memory of the ten officers whose names were copied by Mr. Hough in time to save the fading record, and “to the unknown dead” to the number of 1,700 who perished and were buried in the locality. Imposing ceremonies on Decoration day, the 30th of May, 1888, were instituted by Col. Dodge. By invitation the G. A. R. organizations of this and neighboring posts dedicated the monument after the forms of their order, with the whole U. S. command and 2,000 citizens to assist. Col. W. B. Camp gave the address.
Col. Dodge has expended $61,000, with promise of more extended outlay, hoping to make a full regimental post of unexceptional importance. Following is a roster of the 11th Regiment: --
Headquarters 11th U. S. Infantry
Field: --Col. Richard I. Dodge, commanding and regiment and post. Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin C. Bush, post. Major John H. Page, commanding, Fort Niagara.
Staff: --Adjutant Robert J. C. Irvine, post. Quartermaster George Leroy Brown, post.
Captains: --George K. Sanderson, commanding, Fort Ontario, Co. C; Erasmus C. Gilbreath, post, Co. H.; Ogden B. Read, commanding, Plattsburgh, Co. F; William N. Sage, post, Co. I; Ira Quinby, post, Co. A; William Hoffman, Fort Niagara, Co. K; Charles F. Roe, post, Co. B.; George G. Lott, post, Co. D; Leon A. Matile, post, Co. G; Albert S. Myer, Fort Niagara, Co. E.
First Lieutenants: --Francis W. Mansfield, commanding Co. I; Ralph W. Hoyt, with Co. F; John J. Dougherty, Co. K; William H. Wheeler, commanding Co. B; James E. Macklin, with Co. E; John P. Philbrick, with Co. A; H. O. S. Heistand, with Co. C; P. M. B. Travis, commanding Co. D; Jonas A. Emery, with Co. G; R. M. Blatchford, with Co. H.
Second Lieutenants: --Charles W. Penrose, with Co. H; Lorenzo P. Davison, Co. C; Robert L. Hirst, Co. G; Edward M. Lewis, with Co. B; Arthur Johnson, with Co. F; Odon Gurovits, with Co. D; William Weigel, with Co. A; Eugene L. Loveridge, with Co. K; Watkins Russ, with Co. I.
The senior officers of the regiment are all veterans, some having passed through the entire campaign that was opened by the memorable shot at Sumter, and finished with the last conflict established the fact that they who had sown to the wind reaped the whirlwind in painful defeat and disaster. Col. R. I. Dodge made his acquaintance with the circumstances of war at Bull Run. His executive abilities were early recognized by our government, and made available by appointments to such important commands as provost marshal-general of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York city. As an author Col. Dodge has the distinguished reputation of having produced the most complete and popular works on life and habits of the Indians, and the country they inhabit. His last work has already reached 65,000 copies from the press. Lieut.-Col. Bush, Major Page, and the ten captains are all veterans. Their individual histories cannot be given here. Some would mark a page of heroic deeds, of intense interest, and excite our admiration and gratitude.
Naval Station. -- After the close of the War of 1812 a naval station was permanently established at Sackets Harbor, and Lieut. Thomas Brownell, who had sailed under Commodore Perry, was appointed to its command. Following Lieutenant Brownell in command came Capt. Charles T. Platt, Capt. George Sawyer, Capt. James McIntosh, Capt. Josiah Tatnall, afterwards a commodore in the Confederate navy during the Rebellioin, and Capt. George N. Hollins, also a rebel commodore afterwards. Previous to 1860 Capt. Tatnall had been to China, and on returning, having been promoted to commodore, relieved Captain Hollins. Captain Hollins went from Sackets Harbor to the Mediterranean, in command of the U. S. frigate Susquehanna, and on the breaking out of the Rebellion resigned his command and joined the southern navy. After Tatnall was here the second time the command was given to Commodore E. A. F. Lavelette, who stayed until 1862, in the fall of which year he was relieved by Commodore Theodorus Bailey, afterwards retried at the rank of rear-admiral. He stayed until sometime in 1863, and was succeeded by Henry Metcalf, of Sackets Harbor, who, in connection with his duties as ship-keeper, had charge of the station until July, 1866. Commodore J. B. Montgomery was stationed in charge succeeded Metcalf, and stayed three years, being succeeded by Rear-Admiral J. B. Montgomery. Commodore Francis B. Ellison was next here, and stayed two years, or until 1871, and was relieved by Commodore J. P. McKinistry. The latter stayed but about three weeks, and was in turn relieved by Capt. Alexander C. Rhind, who was here only two weeks, after which the station was placed in charge of Ship-Keeper Albert H. Metcalf.
During the war the ship building department was directed by Henry Eckford, who accumulated a fortune, which he afterwards lost in unfortunate speculation, and gained a world-wide fame by the rapidity with which he constructed large vessels. The Mohawk, a frigate of 44 guns, launched at Sackets Harbor, occupied him but 34 days in building. The line-of-battleship New Orleans, which was built in 1815, as a countermatch to the St. Lawrence, a three-deck man-of-war set afloat by the British, was carried to the point of completion in even less time. The New Orleans had a keel of 187 feet, breadth of beam 56 feet, and 30 feet depth of hold, with a measurement of 3,200 tons. She was pierced for 110 guns, but could have carried 120. The vessel was never launched, owing to the peace measures adopted by the two countries; and to preserve her the government erected a house over her at considerable expense. For many years the New Orleans was the greatest object of interest to tourists on the American shore of Lake Ontario. She was bought by Alfred Wilkinson, of Syracuse, for $400 and torn down and carried away. While tearing it down in February 9, 1884, the old ship fell, killing two men and severely injuring several others.
The Chippewa, a vessel of the same class, was being built at Starr’s Harbor, farther up the bay, but the news of peace put a stop to the work upon her also, which had not advanced as far as on the New Orleans. A house was built over her and preserved for a number of years, but the vessel was finally taken down for the iron it contained and the house removed.
The Old Battle-Ground. --On July 6, 1886, on the occasion of the celebration of the anniversary of American Independence, there was assembled at Sackets Harbor a notable gathering of military and civic personages to assist in and witness the presentation of the old battle-ground of the War of 1812-15 jointly to the village of Sackets Harbor and the Jefferson County Historical Society. The day was as beautiful as so worthy an undertaking deserved. The military organizations present were the 39th Separate Company of Watertown, under command of Captain James S. Miller; the 12th Infantry band and five companies of regulars from Madison Barracks, under command of General O. B. Willcox; and the Q. M. Camp and J. K. Barnes Posts, G. A. R., with bands and drum corps. A platform was erected on the old battle-ground overlooking the harbor and lake. The stand was occupied by members of the historical society, among whom were H. M. Allen, mayor of Watertown, Rev. Dr. Randolph, T. H. Camp, Jason M. Fairbanks, W. B. Camp, Lewis J. Hooker, Lotus Ingalls, B. Brockway, Albert D. Shaw, Sidney Cooper, L. J. Dorwin, Moses Eames, D. S. Marvin, Justus Eddy, R. A. Oakes, Judge A. H. Sawyer, Rev. Dr. R. Fisk, E. M. Gates, Hiram Converse, C. M. Clark, Rev. J. Winslow, E. Q. Sewall, Richard M. Earl, Jr., president of the village of Sackets Harbor, and the trustees of Sackets Harbor, and many other prominent citizens of Jefferson County; also Judge Turner and William McCulloch, of Lowville, the latter a veteran of the War of 1812; the Hon. John F. Seymour, Dr. M. M. Bagg, and R. D. Williams, of the Oneida Historical Society of Utica. C. M. Clark, Esq., was president of the day. Speeches were made by Rev. Richmond Fisk, D. D., General O. B. Willcox, Hon. J. F. Seymour, and Col. Albert D. Shaw. Letters and telegrams of regret were received from Generals Sheridan, Schofield, and Robenbough, Hon. Ellis H. Roberts, of Utica, Hon. Charles K. Skinner, and others. At the conclusion of Col. Shaw’s address Col. Walter B. Camp, sole surviving executor of Col. Elisha Camp, in behalf of the heirs of the estate presented to Mr. B. Brockway, president of the Historical Society, and to Richard M. Earl, the president, and trustees of the village of Sackets Harbor, the papers, duly executed, conveying to said society and village the old battle-ground. In presenting the papers Col. Camp said: --
“It is easy to picture to our imagination, gathered round about us, the veteran host who once bivouacked upon these grounds. Could our eyes be opened as were the prophets of old, chariots and horsemen might be seen attending the fair Goddess of Liberty, and viewing with approving smile the offerings of their loyal children to-day. How cheering the thought that the same infinite source that endows mortals with the faculty of retaining past events can extend that god-like quality to those who pass into the bourne of his infinity! How natural to suppose the invisible army are marshaled here: shades of Scott, Harrison, Brown, Pike, Dearborn, Backus, Mills, and Wilkinson, with thousands of associates once in arms. The navy meet Woolsey, Chauncey, Montgomery, Ford, Vaughan, Mallory, and their equals, with their gallant crews manning their phantom ships on the waters of our beautiful bay. We will suppose them all here, charged with a benediction for the same spirit to abide with us that actuated them in establishing a country, a nation, and a home. Here is the sacred camping of the immortals, and for those living who are not lost to a sense of obligation and veneration for the labors and sufferings of their patriot fathers. Our efforts to preserve this historic locality have awakened a lively interest throughout our county. Those afar send congratulations by telegraph. The press have but one voice of encouragement and approval for our timely action. With these gifts of benediction and encouragement, with this outpouring of loyal citizens and soldiers of the professions with honorable representation, we assemble to commemorate the deeds of our ancestors, and dedicate these memorable acres.
“Mr. President and Gentlemen, Members of the Historical Society of Jefferson; Mr. President and Trustees of the Village of Sackets Harbor: A sole surviving executor of the estate of the late Col. Elisha Camp, with the hearty approval and consent of his heirs, I hereby convey to your corporate bodies, by papers duly signed and delivered this day: All that certain piece or parcel of land designated as the battle and camping-ground of 1812, lying in the village of Sackets, to have and hold by deed and trust according to the provisions of said papers, and to be known as Fort Tompkins Park.”
President Brockway, for the historical society, acknowledged the gift as follows: --
“Col. Camp and Fellow-Citizens:
On behalf of the Jefferson County Historical Society I gratefully accept the historic trust which you have so eloquently presented, jointly, to our society, and to the trustees of this village. It is a gift of great value, and one that should be---and will be---highly prized by all our people. Such generous solicitude for the preservation of historic battle-fields is worthy of all praise, and the ceremonies of this day will long be remembered as among the most interesting in the annals of our county. I trust that these grounds may be made beautiful in years to come---and that some suitable monument may be erected here to mark the deeds of heroes who gave their lives to the cause of their country.”
President Earl, for the village of Sackets Harbor, acknowledged the gift as follows: --
“Col. Camp, Ladies, and Gentlemen:
“I accept, on behalf of the trustees of the village of Sackets Harbor, the valuable gift, jointly, conveyed this day to the Jefferson County Historical Society, and to our village. We shall take pride in doing what we can to carry out the wishes of the donors, and will heartily join in such improvements as may be possible within our means to make this battle-field attractive as a historic park.”
The Rev. J. Winslow, then amidst the firing of guns, read the following sentences: --
“In the name and by the authority of the Historical Society of Jefferson County and the corporation of the village of Sackets Harbor, and in the presence of the military of the United States of America and the posts of the G. A. R., and in the presence of the citizens of this and adjoining counties, we now dedicate this battle-field to the memory of those who in the navy guarded our inland seas and lakes and ocean coasts. We dedicate it to the memory of those who in the army fought for our hillsides, villages, and plains. We dedicate it to the memory of those who on land and sea fought for the defense of the Union and the American flag.”
After a prayer by Rev. Mr. Winslow a salute of 38 guns was fired by the U. S. Battery, commanded by Lieut. Abbott. The military then re-formed and marched back to the barracks, where the members of the 39th Separate Company from Watertown were entertained at lunch by the officers of the garrison.
The gentlemen of the historical society, with guests and orators of the day, by invitation of Col. W. B. Camp, proceeded to his spacious residence, once that of General Woolsey. Here, under the trees, at three p.m., 35 guests sat down to a most bountiful dinner. After dinner several inpromptu (sic) speeches were made and many pleasing reminiscences indulged in. Col. Camp related how it came about that the old battle-ground was given away. It was to carry out the wishes of Col. Elisha Camp, that the battle-ground be kept as a park. He had often long before his death expressed the wish that the village would buy the ground and beautify it. Mr. Camp closed by expressing the hope that the historical society and the village would be able to beautify the place and render it an attractive park. Its situation on a bluff, overlooking the large harbor and the lake, is unsurpassed for beauty of view.
It is to be regretted that no appropriate monument has been erected by the national government to mark this historic spot, where was fought the first battle of the important war, the success of which the American forces firmly established our independence. Not long since an effort was inaugurated by an enterprising and patriotic citizen of the village, assisted by friends in Washington, to interest our legislators in securing for this ancient battle-ground proper recognition in the form of an appropriation to be expended in the erection of a suitable memorial. This laudable project was probably defeated because there was not enough of political jobbery in it to inspire our patriotic (before election) senators and representatives.
The following copy of an ancient document, the original of which is in the possession of Col. W. B. Camp, will show the expense attending, and manner of celebrating, the anniversary of our national independence in the early days: --