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Dekalb teacher chronicles the “Folly and Mischief” from the War of 1812


DEKALB – While the U.S. struggled to keep its freedom from Great Britain during the War of 1812, author John M. Austin says St. Lawrence County played a divided role.

“This county was made of federalists who were against the war from the beginning,” he said. “They did not want to cooperate with the soldiers or in general. Many Americans and Canadians at the time were related or going to square dances with each other. But when you’re drafted, you’re drafted.”

Mr. Austin recounts these complex relationships in his book, St. Lawrence County in the War of 1812: Folly and Mischief.

One federalist against the war was Nathan Ford of Ogdensburg. “He was against the war as a federalist,” Mr. Austin said. “He also became cozy with the British.”

Mr. Ford was instrumental in fining members of the U.S. Army $10,000 for unconstitutional arrests.

“That was a huge deal and $10,000 was quite a bit of money back then,” Mr. Austin said. “No doubt the criminals were smuggling and trading with the British, but even back then you had to be indicted and swear out a warrant before making an arrest.”

Mr. Austin, DeKalb, is a teacher at Southwest Tech Center. He is a member of the St. Lawrence Historical Society and an enthusiast of the county’s military history.

While compiling a list of the soldiers from the county who fought in the Civil War, Mr. Austin noticed there was no list of local War of 1812 soldiers.

“I felt bad for those soldiers whose names had never been written down,” he said.

He said his research then led him to chronicle the stories surrounding some of these military men.

“These are stories that I found interesting and particular to our county’s history that haven’t been talked much about before,” he said. “I wanted to put them all in one place, instead of scattered about in several books.”

The book is available as an e-book via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple’s I-bookstore, Google’s e-bookstore and Overdrive.

Readers can also find Mr. Austin’s book at several Kinney Drugs locations, the Frederic Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, and the Brewer Bookstore, Canton.

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