Michael Whittaker, from Bishop's Mills, Ontario is an unabashed shill for history. The bug bit early. When he out-grew diapers, his grandfather took him in tow across Ontario. Michael has been a military and civilian re-enactor for 30 years with current memberships in Rhode Island, Quebec and Ontario. He is a member of the Fort La Présentation Association and recently concluded a nine-year stint on the board. He remains with association's marketing committee. Michael is the first vice president of the Merrickville and District Historical Society. He offers his writing services pro bono to not-for-profit organizations. Retired from the Canadian Government, he has experience in media relations, marketing and branding.
Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest fraternity. Although its rituals are secret, it is not a secret society. Honor, truth and charity are expected from the members.
Members are not recruited. Color, creed and religion do not factor into membership. Freemasons are not required to forsake their religious or moral values.
English and Scottish guilds of practicing stonemasons in the Middle Ages are believed to have originated the order. The first Grand Lodge of Modern Freemasonry originated in London England in 1717 when members were no longer limited to actual working stonemasons.
The Free or Accepted Masons adopted enlightened philosophies focused on moral edification, intellectual recitation, benevolent service and gentlemanly socialization.
As George Washington wrote, “It is most reverently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications that discover the principles which actuate them, may tend to convince mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.”
The founding of the first lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Ogdensburg in 1809 was predated at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River by Freemasonry associated with the military.
The Marquis de Montcalm, commander of French troops during the French and Indian War, purportedly a Mason, passed through Fort de La Présentation to and from the successful siege of Oswego in 1756.
Freemasonry arrived more permanently with British forces when La Présentation was occupied in 1760 and renamed Fort Oswegatchie. Thirteen of the 19 regiments under the command of General Sir Jeffrey Amherst had Masonic Lodges under traveling warrants.
When the American Revolution began in 1775 the King’s 8th Regiment of Foot, holding a field/traveling warrant dated to 1755, had companies posted at Great Lakes forts. Forster’s Company at Oswegatchie and their Iroquois allies proved the fraternity’s values at the Battle of the Cedars in May 1776.
The Mohawk leader Thayendanega, Joseph Brant, reportedly saved the life of a captured American officer. Captain John McKistry gave Brant the Masonic sign of appeal, which secured his release from the British Indian allies.
Though all American prisoners were freed from the Indians by Forster, McKistry’s early liberation may be attributed to him and Brant being Masons. The men remained friends for life.
Claude Nicolas Guillaume de Lorimier, who raised many of the Iroquois allies to join the attack on the Americans, seems to have been a Freemason.
Following the Revolution when Fort Oswegatchie and other posts along the Great Lakes remained in British hands, the Loyal American Regiment at Oswegatchie possessed a warrant from the Grand Lodge of New York dated 1783. The New Oswegatchie Lodge operated on the New York side of the St. Lawrence until 1787.
The first Masonic meeting of New Oswegatchie Lodge in Canada was held in 1787 at Maitland, ON, known then as New Oswegatchie. Jessup’s Loyal Rangers and Major Roger’s Company of King’s Rangers had settled along the Canadian shore in 1784.
Fort Oswegatchie and surrounding territory reverted to the United States in 1796. The charter meeting of the first civilian lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in St. Lawrence County, the Northern Lights Lodge in De Kalb, was Sept. 29, 1807.
With support from the Northern Lights Lodge new lodges were formed: Madrid, 1808; Ogdensburg, 1809; Parishville, 1814; and Gouverneur, 1824.
The inaugural meeting of the Ogdensburg Lodge assembled March 22, 1809 at the home Horatio Berthrong at the southeast corner of Ford and State.
The monthly meetings convened on the second floor of the home of Hamilton Stewart at the long-lost northeast corner of Isabella and Washington Streets and later moved to the upper story of a Ford Street business.
The economic and social disruption of the War of 1812 ended meetings between Dec. 28, 1812 and April 18, 1816, when monthly gatherings resumed. Records covering July 1816 to May 1822 vanished, but membership appears to have been a respectable 57 men esteemed by the community.
The building committee for the new Presbyterian Church at the southwest corner of Ford and Franklin invited the Masons to lay the cornerstone with Masonic rites in June 1824.
Illustrations of Masonry an attack on Freemasonry by William Morgan published in 1827 after he was allegedly murdered by Masons generated an anti-Masonic backlash in the United States. Come Feb. 1829 the Lodge virtually shut down for 18 years through the period of persecution and exclusion from social and political activities.
In June 1847 the Master of Masons of New York issued a dispensation to organize the Ogdensburg Lodge. Members met in an upper room of a former courthouse in the block bound by State, Knox and Water Streets.
The first meeting gathered July 22, 1847 and March 7, 1848 the Grand Lodge granted a warrant to Ogdensburg Lodge
They required new accommodations by 1855. An agreement for rooms in a brick building under construction on Ford Street fell through. Instead, the fourth floors of two stores referred to as the Vilas Block (northeast corner of Ford and Caroline?) were dedicated Sept. 7, 1855.
Here meetings continued until Jan. 1874.
Although fires in 1859 and 1871 destroyed many records, the fraternity seems to have listed 462 members on the register by 1874.
In 1870 a petition from Ogdensburg brother lodges for a new lodge was granted by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York to the Acacian Lodge. The Freemasons continue with regular meetings at 201 State Street in the building the fraternity completed in 1919.
The Acacian Lodge, with other members of the St. Lawrence Masonic Charities, donates to many worthwhile causes in St. Lawrence County. Money is raised annually with apple and citrus sales.
In the United States, the works of Freemasons include the Shriners Hospitals for Children, 225 Learning Centers helping children with dyslexia, speech and hearing disorders, the Masonic Youth Child Identification Program, and the Masonic Angel Foundation, providing modest assistance to children and adults in communities lacking the usual social-services.
Sources: Extract from an address delivered by E. M. Holbrook, February, 1874, at the dedication of the present lodge-room of the order in Ogdensburg. www.mocavo.ca/Report-of-the-Commissioner-of-Records-Kings-County-1910/945748/196
The Northern Lights Lodge by Bryan Thompson. Town of De Kalb Historian. www.dekalbnyhistorian.org/LocalHistoryArticles/MasonicLodge/masons.html
Loyalists and Masons: exploration of the relationship between the United Empire Loyalists and Freemasonry in Upper Canada, now Ontario. A Paper Presented to the Heritage Lodge A.F. & A.M. No 730 G.R.C., 19 May 2007 www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-172132744.html
First and Second St. Lawrence District Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York. www.mastermason.com/stlawrencefreemason
AskaFreemason.org, Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. http://askafreemason.org
Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington. www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/digital-encyclopedia/article/freemasonry/
Michael Whittaker is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario and is the vice president of the Merrickville and District Historical Society.
The Fort La Présentation Association and Forsyth’s Rifles, Inc. have made great strides over many years commemorating the French and Indian War and the War of 1812 in Ogdensburg’s history.
Missing from these annual weekend celebrations of American history is the war that secured the independence of the United States.
North Country residents should be as proud of Ogdensburg’s history as the citizens of Boston and Philadelphia are in their city’s roles in shaping American history, noted Dr. Melissane P. Schrems, an associate professor of history at SLU.
Dr. Schrems made this point briefly and eloquently at the Mon., June 20 meeting of the Ogdensburg City Council, which resolved to relinquish municipal claims to paper road crossing the Fort La Présentation Association’s 21 acre property on Van Rensselaer Point.
Fort Oswegatchie, as La Présentation was renamed by the British following the Battle of the Thousand Islands in 1760, played a noteworthy yet peripheral role through most of the American Revolution.
From the spring of 1776 until the spring of 1782 British regulars, Loyalist militias and their Indian allies attacked American troops and raided into the Mohawk Valley. Continental soldiers with a supporting Indian levy moved against Fort Oswegatchie in 1779.
In the early months of the Revolution, the Continental Congress sought to gain a 14th colony by driving the British from Canada, thus securing the northern frontier.
For Gen. Richard Montgomery the invasion of Canada was a mere matter of marching to Montreal in late autumn 1775. The city stood defenseless, no different than when the British arrived in 1760.
Governor General Sir Guy Carleton and a precious few soldiers managed to slip down the St. Lawrence to reinforce Quebec City.
Gen. Benedict Arnold’s exhausted army reached Quebec City in Nov. 1775 after hard scrabbling across Maine.
Troops with Montgomery joined Arnold, and the decision was made to capture Quebec on New Year’s Eve 1775. The two-pronged attack into the city failed. Montgomery died and Arnold wounded.
Arnold camped his dwindling army outside the city walls until a Royal Navy convoy anchored in the river in May 1776; then rapidly withdrew to the Richelieu River and the Island of Montreal.
Almost simultaneously, Captain Forster commanding soldiers of the King’s 8th Regiment at Fort Oswegatchie moved against the Continentals ensconced west of Montreal at Fort Cedar.
May 14, 1776, Forster with 40 soldiers, 10 Canadian militia and 160 Iroquois met 44 Iroquois near present-day Cornwall, Ontario. The famous Joseph Brant was among the Iroquois.
Claude-Nicolas-Guillaume de Lorimier, a son of Chevalier de Lorimier, who 20 years earlier commanded at La Présentation, recruited Indians, led the advance party from Oswegatchie and convinced the priest in Les Cèdres, near the American fort, to conceal supplies.
Prior to Forster’s arrival, Colonel Timothy Bedel left Fort Cedar in command of Lieutenant Isaac Butterfield and traveled to Montreal to report the British descent from Oswegatchie, 85 miles to the west.
Major Henry Sherburne took 140 men to reinforce the post and learning of the predicament General Arnold began organizing a larger relief force.
May 18 Forster demanded the American surrender. Butterfield refused and the shooting began. The siege became heated and not knowing of Sherburne’s imminent effort to relieve the garrison, Butterfield surrendered with 200 men May 19. The Iroquois liberated the fort’s stores and the captive’s belongings.
Sherburne’s scout, captured by Lorimier’s men, was fed misinformation about 500 Indians surrounding Fort Cedar, and then freed. Sherburne hesitated two days before crossing the Ottawa River with 100 men toward the village of Quinze-Chênes (Fifteen Oaks).
There with 80 Indians Lorimier forced Sherburne’s surrender in less than an hour. Captain Forster ransomed the American prisoners, whom the Iroquois intended for traditional revenge.
May 23 Forster took his mixed force to Montreal Island, but halted inland following an erroneous report crediting Arnold with 2,000 men. As Forster withdrew, Arnold followed and arrived at the east bank of the Ottawa May 26 as the pursued reached the far shore.
Kahnawake Mohawks sent by Arnold demanded Forster release his prisoners. Forster refused and Arnold’s push across the river in bateaux failed under fire from two artillery pieces captured at Fort Cedar.
In a prisoner exchange the Americans were released May 30, 1776. Congress later reneged on releasing British prisoners.
With some Indian allies homeward bound, Forster ordered his command to Oswegatchie.
Not until spring 1779 did the Continentals move against Oswegatchie where the 31st Regiment had replaced the King’s 8th in summer 1776.
From Fort Stanwix, Captain Thomas McClennan accompanied by Lt. Hardenbergh of the 1st New York Regiment, a sergeant and a corporal arrived near Oswegatchie May 25 with thirty privates and as many Oneida.
Captain Davis commanded a subaltern, forty men and four small artillery pieces, as prisoners revealed. Captain McClennan knew the garrison could not be surprised and decided to draw out the defenders.
His Oneidas made themselves visible at the edge of the woods. The British sortied to drive them away. Any hope for the Americans to pull them into a forest ambush vanished when the Indians prematurely opened fire.
The fort’s defender withdrew without firing, leaving two dead. Within 40 yards of the fort, the pursuing Americans met hot artillery and muskets fire.
Lacking firepower to breach the walls, McClennan’s party retraced their way to Fort Stanwix, following lengths of the Oswegatchie, Black River and the Mohawk.
July 1777, Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger of the 34th Regiment with his army passed through Oswegatchie on the ill-fated expedition to capture Fort Stanwix and link with Gen. John Burgoyne in Albany.
The flank and grenadier companies of the 31st were not dispersed among interior forts, but accompanied Gen. Burgoyne only to surrender at Saratoga in Oct. 1777.
Captain-Lieutenant Daniel Robertson of the1st Battalion Royal Highland Immigrants took charge at Fort Oswegatchie in Sept. 1779. Under his watch a number of raids savaged the Mohawk Valley.
Mannheim a settlement northeast of Little Falls was attacked and prisoners taken in 1778, before Robertson’s arrival. A retaliatory raid struck Fort Stanwix in June 1779 took prisoners and scalps.
In 1780, 1781 and 1782 Fort Oswegatchie initiated or supported raids into a breadbasket of the breakaway colonies, the Mohawk Valley.
In Sept. 1780, a party from Oswegatchie burned houses and barns in the vicinity of Fort Dayton.
The following year, a strike at Canada Creek burned buildings, slaughtered horses and cows, and killed a farmer, his son and two militiamen.
Robertson commanded a June 1782 attack reportedly several hundred strong. This is in the novel and movie Drums along the Mohawk. Robertson burned Ellice’s Mill, perhaps another and a number of farms.
Prior to the mill attack, which resulted in death or capture of Americans, advance parties had killed or captured American scouts.
After burning the mill, the raiders unsuccessfully besieged Fort Herkimer.
This incursion may have coincided with two dozen Indians also raiding out of Oswegatchie.
The forays into the Mohawk Valley did nothing to alter the outcome of the Revolution. American victory was a foregone conclusion once Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown Oct. 17, 1781.
Fort Oswegatchie’s combative days ended. Robertson was ordered to Fort Michilimackinac and departed Aug. 13, 1782.
In 1784-85, troops and the Provincial Marine based at Oswegatchie helped settle nearly 3,000 Loyalists of the first wave along the upper St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte.
Fort Oswegatchie continued as a forwarding base and supported Loyalist migrations into Upper Canada until 1796 when British forts on the American side of the frontier were official ceded to the United States.
Ogdensburg’s history related to the American Revolution may lack the patriotic sheen of Boston and Philadelphia.
Nonetheless, Fort Oswegatchie’s role should be proudly remembered in the North Country narrative, bracketed by the French and Indian War and the War of 1812.
Michael Whittaker is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario and is the vice president of the Merrickville and District Historical Society.
One hundred fifty years after the founding of the La Présentation mission, Ogdensburg confidently anticipated a bright future in the new century.
In 1909 the Ogdensburg Business Men’s Association celebrated the city’s sesquicentennial by publishing the Ogdensburg Illustrated, which proclaimed the city, “one of the liveliest and most energetic of the smaller cities in the whole State of New York.”
With nearly 18,000 residents Ogdensburg, an up-and-coming metropolis, possessed the advantages of a larger city in which to live and prosper.
The 55-page souvenir industrial review of the City of Ogdensburg promoted the Maple City’s commercial supremacy, manufacturing resources and educational advantages with early 20th-century pride and optimism.
Photographs emphasized the confident text touting the city’s most modern ideas; including wide thoroughfares sided by substantial business blocks.
Splendid described the brick and stone public buildings, such as the City Hall, Post Office and Armory. The praise also applied to the waterworks, gas mains, electricity and the electric railway connecting the city and suburbs.
Comparable kudos went to the police department, fire service, school system and free postal delivery.
Shipping facilities topped the reasons for the city’s progress and prosperity. In 1906, the value of imports approached $33.5 million, the largest amount on the northern border from coast to coast, even eclipsing Chicago.
There are various means to measure the sum against today’s dollar. One of the figures from the independent, academic organization MeasuringWorth (measuringworth.com) puts the economic value, based on relative annual income, at $5.1 billion in today’s currency.
In the pre-Seaway years, the Atlantic Ocean was accessible by smaller ships. Passenger and freight service steamed up and down the St. Lawrence to American and Canadian ports. Annual government appropriations for dredging, deepening and widening Ogdensburg’s harbor channels ensured a safe port.
Daily summer cruises wove through the Thousand Islands and called at resorts.
Competition amongst water-bound freighters and two railroads gave Ogdensburg industry a competitive advantage.
The New York Central and the Rutland Railroads carried passengers and freight to lines crisscrossing the United States. Only 10 hours separated Ogdensburg passengers from New York City; today is a six-hour drive.
Access to Canada began with passenger and rail ferries to Prescott and from there across the Dominion via the Grand Trunk and Canadian Pacific Railways.
The journey to and from China and Japan also crossed the river. Canadian Pacific ships from the Orient docked in Vancouver. Valuable Asian cargoes headed east on the CPR. Hauled at record speeds, the specially constructed, air-tight cars of the Silk Trains had priority over passenger and other freight service.
The industrial review itemized 42 established manufacturers from aerated water and ale to stained glass and wagons. Silks made the list between shirts and skirts.
Convenient water and rail links and connections to city water and drainage topped the attractions for new businesses. Plentiful cheap power combined with abundant labor contributed to the package making Ogdensburg the ideal city for early 20th-century manufacturers.
Waterpower and generated electricity fed the industries. Flumes and canals served the milling and industrial enterprises. Ogdensburg Power and Light Company dynamos wrung electricity from the Oswegatchie. Reliable electricity flowed from the plant at Hannawa Falls.
Electric power in Ogdensburg was cost competitive with that at Niagara and cleaner and less expense than steam or gasoline power used in less fortunate communities.
While the city expected future electric power from a plant proposed for Waddington, stores, businesses and homes received uninterrupted, 24-hour electricity from the Ogdensburg Power and Light Company. Electric lights illuminated the city streets. The Ogdensburg Gas Company delivered clean gas for lighting, cooking and home heating.
Twenty-five miles of gas mains and electricity lines traced below and above the streets.
Ogdensburg was on the verge of becoming a convention city with ample accommodation and hopes for a large, modern summer hotel. Rail and water connections and the camps and cottages of the Adirondacks and Thousand Island offered incentives, as did the established summer tourism.
Ogdensburg enjoyed broad, well-kept streets arched by large trees. Twenty miles of hard-surface roads laced the city. The electric railway branched into the neighborhoods of well-maintained homes connected to water and sewage lines.
Six large parks served the neighborhoods. To the east stretched Sandy Beach and the spacious grounds of the state hospital. The annual fall fair, one of the most important in Northern New York, hosted a locally significant horse show.
Churches served eight faith communities, and there was a synagogue. Eight public and three Roman Catholic schools met the basic instruction needs, and the Ogdensburg Free Academy provided further education.
The Ogdensburg Public Library, with numerous patrons, presented well-stocked shelves for appreciative citizens. Four newspapers kept the population up-to-date with local happenings and events worldwide. Within the city, printing plants rolled for “The Republican and Journal,” “The News,” “The Advance” and “The Mirror.”
The city boasted an automobile club with a large and growing membership. On State St. was the Ogdensburg Club and the Century Club sat on Caroline St., considered first-class clubs.
The well-known fraternal societies held regular meetings. Their number then significantly larger than those generally familiar today.
On Ford Street the Armory housed the Fortieth Separate Company of the National Guard of the State of New York.
The Ogdensburg Business Men’s Association had formed to foster and promote the trade, manufacturing and other business interests of the city; induce the locating of manufactories or other businesses; promote public improvements; and educate the people in the necessity of wise expenditure of public monies.
Reforming abuse in trade or business to secure freedom from unjust or unlawful exactions (taxes, fees, etc.) was among the association’s objectives.
Ogdensburg was in its glory days in 1909. An Epitome of American Achievement read the opening page banner of “The Maple City Ogdensburg Commercial, Financial, Manufacturing Illustrated.”
But the population approaching 18,000 had peaked. The 1940 population of 16,346 declined to 16,166 in 1950. From 1950 to 2000 the population shrank by 23.5 percent. More than half the decline, 15 percent, happened between 1970 and 2000.
The glowing future anticipated in 1909 slowly eroded, ground away by international business and economic trends. Although tonnage flowing through the Port of Ogdensburg has increased remarkably over the last 40, the financial bounty promised by the St. Lawrence Seaway seems illusory.
The tax base crumbled as people followed the jobs out of the city...a situation not unique to Ogdensburg.
There is no difficulty recalling better times. In the new economy, the challenge is re-imagining Ogdensburg as a flourishing, vibrant City attracting new residents and tourists.
“The appropriate development of the waterfront, its connection to Canada, its front door neighbor, and the rejuvenation of a culture established in 1748 by Abbé Picquet will lead to the economic resurgence and stability the City of Ogdensburg deserves,” concludes the 2012 City of Ogdensburg Economic Market Trends and Analysis.
Sources: Historic Ogdensburg NY. 1909 Business Directory. www.ogdensburg.info/1909_Business/1909_business.html.
1950 Census of Population. Population of New York by Counties. Bureau of the Census. 1950. www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/41028710p8ch2.pdf
Population Trends in New York State’s Cities. Office of the New York State Comptroller. 2004. www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/research/pop_trends.pdf
City of Ogdensburg Economic Market Trends and Analysis. 2012. www.ogdensburg.org/DocumentCenter/View/1208.
Michael Whittaker is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario and is the vice president of the Merrickville and District Historical Society.
In the last days of French Canada, the defense of the St. Lawrence River rested in the command of Captain Pierre Pouchot.
During the French and Indian War, the complement of soldiers and militia defending New France was small and mobile, thus an officer’s record could indicate his service in most major battles.
Pouchot was such an officer at Fort Lévis, his final post in Canada.
He fought at Chouaguen (Fort Oswego) in 1756, Fort William Henry (of Last of the Mohicans fame) 1757, Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) 1757 and Fort Niagara 1759.
Pouchot was a military engineer whose service in Europe earned distinctions and the Order of Saint-Louis. The award was commonly given to officers on the continent. However, when a soldier in Canada won the Order, the decoration unquestionably recognized merit.
In any case, he may have been the only French officer during the war to capitulate twice to overwhelming Anglo-American numbers.
When the Régiment de Béarn took post in Canada in 1755, Pouchot found himself at Fort Frontenac (Kingston, Ontario) building protective entrenchments.
The quality of his work soon saw him off to Fort Niagara to restore the stone building, replace rotting palisades and complete the enclosing earthworks arcing from the Niagara River to Lake Ontario.
Summoned to the siege of Oswego by Marquis de Montcalm, the experienced engineer stealthily pushed the trenches and batteries forward. Within three days of his Aug. 12, 1756 arrival, the fort surrendered.
Later, he was appalled to discover many of the stores taken there did not go to supply French forts, but were sold by corrupt Canadian officials.
Governor Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil recommended Pouchot be promoted from captain to lieutenant colonel. That was not to be. As a Corsican, his social status precluded the advancement, but he did win a 200-livre pension, and won the same twice again.
Pouchot enjoyed a good rapport with the Indian allies. He was a fair trader and supplied their raids into the American colonies when he first commanded at Niagara in 1756. This post was considered a plum for profiteering Canadian officers who forced his transfer in 1757.
He returned in 1759 after the loss of Fort Frontenac in 1758 and his valiant contribution to the victory at Carillon in 1757. His command of Niagara included Fort de La Présentation and the shipyard at Pointe-au-Baril.
In early April, Pouchot ordered defenses built at Pointe-au-Baril. The two 10-gun corvettes Iroquoise and Outaouaise under construction were ready to sail at month’s end to escort his 450 men to Niagara.
Command at Niagara gave him a force of 3,000 distributed among the upper posts.
By early June, Pouchot sent more than 2,500 men and supplies to François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery at Fort Machault in northwest Pennsylvania for an attack on Fort Pitt.
Soon after, he received word of an Anglo-American army descending the Oswego River bound for Niagara.
Fort Niagara failed as the French Gibraltar on the Great Lakes. By mid-July artillery shot rained down. The relief force led by de Lignery was ambushed. He died of his wounds.
Pouchot surrendered Niagara to Sir William Johnson July 25, 1759 and hosted an officers’ dinner.
An English officer later referred to Pouchot as a “bon soldat et homme d’esprit,” a good soldier and spirited man.
In November he and his men were freed in New York City to make their way to Montreal.
In March 1760 Pouchot took full command of Fort Lévis. He must have known this was a forlorn hope, but continued reinforcing the defenses.
The wood and iron of Fort de were scavenged for Fort Lévis on Île-Royale (Chimney Island), and the Point-au-baril boatyard (Maitland, Ontario) abandoned.
With La Présentation picked apart his force could only delay the inevitable.
Fort Lévis was unfinished, under gunned and under strength when General Jeffrey Amherst’s 10,000-strong Anglo-American army landed Aug. 16, 1760 at Pointe-au-Baril.
The French allies, the tribal mix of Oswegatchies at La Présentation, had made a separate peace with their Iroquois brethren.
The Battle of the Thousand Islands began with the capture of the French corvette Outaouaise off La Présentation Aug. 17 by a swarm of gunboats. Construction of gun batteries on the islands and shorelines bracketing Fort Lévis commenced the next day.
A landing, under a protective artillery barrage from land and the three vessels, failed. Two ships were badly shot up, and the third surrendered.
Captain Pouchot’s small victory Aug. 21 was the last hurrah for the French.
Within four days Fort Lévis was dust and kindling. Most of the 316 defenders were dead or wounded. Pouchot struck his colors Aug. 24, and as at Niagara, the survivors marched out with the honors of war.
When Amherst’s army descended the river to capture Montreal Sept. 8, bringing a military end to the French and Indian War, Pierre Pouchot and his troops were prisoners heading to New York.
March 8, 1761 he returned to France to be falsely branded with improprieties related to colonial corruption. Under this dark cloud he joined the war in Corsica as an engineer.
May 8, 1769, Pierre Pouchot was killed in a forward position.
The bravery of men such as Pouchot and nameless others are commemorated at the Founder’s Weekend colonial trade fair and reenactment.
The July 18-19 event on Van Rensselaer Point does not glorify war and offers more than colorful uniforms, gun smoke and mock battles on land and water.
Within the tented community, enjoy 18th-century music and dance, cooking, clothes, games, toys, blacksmithing, weaving, leatherworking and Iroquois legends among many activities.
You will be surprised by what you discover.
Sources: Pierre Pouchot, Memoirs on the Late War in North America between France and England, Brian Dunnigan (Editor), Michael Cardy (Translator). Old Fort Niagara Association, 1984.
Moogk, Peter N. “Pierre Pouchot.” The Dictionary of Canadian Biography www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pouchot_pierre_3E.html.
Through the 1600s, the French named the tributary rivers and major islands of the St. Lawrence. When Abbé François Picquet arrived at the mouth of the Oswegatchie in the mid-1700s only the river had a name.
As outposts and missions grew, their names appeared on maps. La Présentation appeared in 1749.
La Présentation became Fort Oswegatchie in 1760, which when restored by Americans in August 1812 officially became Fort Van Rensselaer and thus the point was labeled.
Fort de La Présentation and its successors stood on a much shorter point before industry stretched the peninsula to its current length.
Little of the fort remained in 1835 when first lighthouse was built and soon Lighthouse Point entered common usage.
To distinguish the historic lighthouse from the Fort de La Présentation acreage, there is a trend to use Van Rensselaer Point to mark the distinction.
More than 265 years ago, the gates of La Présentation began welcoming unnumbered and now nameless visitors. Among the remembered are priests and tribal leaders from the mission’s dramatic decade, 1749 to 1759.
The tribal leaders, often war chiefs, played conflicting roles during the mission’s short span. A continuous Sulpician commitment served the nearly 3,000 Iroquois and their allies comprising the La Présentation parish.
While Picquet journeyed to and from France during 1753 and 1754, Élie Depéret ran the mission. Depéret, in his early sixties, left La Présentation to return to his duties at the Sainte-Anne-du-Bout-de-l’Île parish where he died in April 1757.
The tenure of Leger-Jean-Baptist-Noël Veyssière, who served 14 months ending in 1755, overlapped with Depéret. When England took formal control of Canada in 1763, he converted to Protestantism only to be universally ostracized.
Pierre-Paul-François de Lagarde had the last and longest association with Picquet and La Présentation beginning in March 1754 when he voyaged from France to Quebec with the abbé.
Shortly after his May 1755 ordination in Quebec he joined Picquet at the mission. He remained five years and mastered native languages.
Although Picquet traveled frequently, Lagarde was not always alone. From 1758 until 1760, François-Auguste Magon de Terlaye and Jean-Claude Mathevet supported the ministrations. Occasionally, they too served alongside Picquet.
In March 1756 Magon de Terlaye presented the mission paintings portraying the Last Supper, the Descent from the Cross, and the Virgin and Child with John the Baptist.
He was appointed to the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission in May 1758. When he died there in May 1777, his manuscripts included an Iroquois grammar and Onondaga-French and Cayuga-French dictionaries.
Mathevet and Picquet accompanied the La Présentation warriors on Montcalm’s July 1757 campaign against Fort William Henry.
By 1761 Mathevet had returned to the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission and eventually became the superior. His specialty was the Algonquin language. He sermonized in Algonquin and wrote a grammar.
Mathevet called Ouakoui – the sky – by the Algonquins was unaccountably paralyzed in March 1778 and retired to the Sulpician Seminary in Montreal. He died in August 1781 and was buried beneath the chancel of Notre-Dame.
July 23, 1760 Lagarde wrote his last entry in the La Présentation records. As General Jeffrey Amherst’s Anglo-American army descended the St. Lawrence, he joined Pierre Pouchot’s small force at Fort Lévis.
Lagarde survived the short, brutal siege and stood among the few to surrender August 24. Following a short captivity, he served the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission.
When Magon de Terlaye died, Lagarde became bursar, and he became the superior when Mathevet left in 1778. Lagarde became ill in 1782, retired to Montreal in February 1784 and died in April. Lagarde was also interred beneath the Notre-Dame chancel. The fall of New France was inevitable by 1759. The Iroquois and their allies residing around La Présentation sought a peaceful settlement with their tribal cousins aligned with the Anglo-Americans.
In April 1760 General Jeffery Amherst assured their traditional rights in return for their non-combatant status. The “Seven Confederate Nations of Canada” secured their lands and their Catholic faith before the fall of Fort Lévis.
Four tribal leaders stand out.
Ononwarogo, an Onondaga warrior chief, brought a number of his tribe to La Présentation in 1751. His loyalty to the French lasted until the early years of the French and Indian War.
In August 1758, he and his warriors participated in Lt. Col. John Bradstreet’s successful siege of Fort Frontenac. He later joined parties scouting La Présentation and provided a map of French positions along the upper St. Lawrence in advance of the move on Montreal.
As an earlier converted to the French cause, the Six Nations Council sent him to recruit Cayuga for the 1760 Montreal campaign rather than risk inter-tribal turmoil should he go to La Présentation to woo his Onondaga kin from the French.
During the 1763 Pontiac rebellion Ononwarogo provided Sir William Johnson, the superintendent of northern Indians, with information on the western tribes and often mediated between them and the English. At Oswego in June 1764, he died of alcohol poisoning.
Ohquandageghte, another Onondaga warrior, possessed shifting loyalty. Pierre Pouchot believed he spied for the English and facilitated the illegal trade by French officers at Fort Frontenac. Whatever his initial allegiance, he accepted Governor Vaudreuil’s endorsement as head warrior at La Présentation in 1757.
In April 1758 he led a raid of 80 Indians and four French on German Flats in the Mohawk Valley. Although the Oneida warned the settlers, the attack killed 33 before Ohquandageghte’s party retired.
According to Pouchot, his anti-British zeal so aroused by Bradstreet’s victory at Fort Frontenac had waned by March 1760 when Pouchot took command of Fort Lévis. Ohquandageghte refused to join war parties, citing his Christian conversion.
He may have set aside his tomahawk, but Ohquandageghte informed Pouchot of the Six Nations’ intentions regarding the impending strike down the St. Lawrence. He warned his Iroquois cousins at Oswego of British intentions to eradicate them.
Back at Fort Lévis he claimed to have talked with General Amherst and gave an account his army.
After the war, Ohquandageghte was warned off involvement with Pontiac and revealed the names of people at La Présentation (then called Oswegatchie) sympathetic to the pro-French rising. Shunned by the Oswegatchies, he took up residence at St. Regis.
Early in the French and Indian War, a majority of Iroquois doubted an English victory, and the Oneida feared a French attack. From the outset Gawèhe, an Oneida war chief, couriered for Sir William Johnson.
Major-General William Shirley commissioned him a lieutenant during the fruitless 1755 campaign against Fort Niagara. Regardless, Gawèhe retained communications with New France and proclaimed his devotion to the French at a 1756 conference called by Governor Vaudreuil. In 1757 he frequently traveled to La Présentation and Montreal. The German settlers in the Mohawk Valley received Vaudreuil’s offer of allegiance from Gawèhe.
During the Pontiac uprising, Gawèhe supplied Sir William Johnson with intelligence on the western Indians. On his death in 1766, Johnson gave ritual condolence gifts and supported his family. Teyohaqueande, a chief warrior of the Onondagas, threw in with the Anglo-Americans. He was a member of the Six Nation delegation attending Vaudreuil’s 1756 Montreal conference, collecting intelligence for Johnson.
In summer 1759, Teyohaqueande raided the Catawba when Six Nations warriors joined Johnson’s attack on Niagara. Later he rendezvoused with Johnson at Oswego. In the summer 1760 Teyohaqueande joined warriors for the Montreal attack and was among the few Iroquois reaching Montreal with Amherst and Johnson.
During the Revolution, despite an Onondaga preference for the American cause, Teyohaqueande traveled widely to bring support to the Crown.
At La Présentation, the priests had served God and France. When the end was near, the leading warriors acted for a variety of motives.
The history of La Présentation and the memory of those who passed through its gate are commemorated at Founder’s Weekend colonial trade fair and re-enactment July 18-19 on Van Rensselaer Point.
The history of Fort de La Présentation is soon to be commemorated at Founder’s Weekend July 18 and 19 on Van Rennselaer Point.
The colonial trade fair and re-enactment celebrates the decade of the fortified mission’s heyday from 1749 to 1759, which was nurtured and guided by Abbé François Picquet.
Priest, missionary, Sulpician. Abbé François Picquet was ordained 14 years when the commandant general of New France Roland-Michel Barrin de La Galissonière charged him in October 1748 to find the best village location for Indians open to conversion.
Picquet had paid his dues. Within months of his April 1734 ordination at the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Paris, he arrived in Montreal to serve in the parish while learning Indian languages and customs. From 1739 he lived at the Sulpician mission of Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes, (Oka, Quebec).
There, his calling to garner the tribes south of the Great Lakes to the French cause coalesced.
In 1745, when Picquet traveled to Quebec with a party of Iroquois, the senior administrators, Intendant Gilles Hocquart and Governor Charles de Beauharnois, recognized his zeal and bond with his Indian flock.
Official confidence and that of his Sulpician superiors, in accordance with Iroquois elders, secured his 1748 authorization to found the new mission for Roman Catholic Iroquois.
Hocquart declared Picquet the “apostle to the Iroquois.”
At a narrowing of the St. Lawrence River below the Thousand Islands and above the rapids, Picquet selected the mouth of the Oswegatchie River. He did not want his parishioners corrupted by European influences at Fort Frontenac (Kingston, Ontario).
At the river mouth Nov. 21, 1748, the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he said a mass consecrating the site for his mission.
With 25 Europeans and four Abenaki he returned to raise the walls of La Présentation June 1, 1749. Later that month Pierre-Joseph Céloron de Blainville found Picquet, as his mission took shape, comfortably ensconced under an Indian shelter of leafy branches.
As tensions with the English increased, Céloron’s expedition headed to the Ohio territory to bury engraved lead plates claiming the land for France.
By summer’s end a flimsy stockade with a redoubt/habitation and separate living quarters for 300 Iroquois, Hurons and other Indians neared completion. In October a band of renegade Indians burned all but the redoubt/habitation.
The outcome would have been different if the five two-pounder guns en route to Picquet had arrived. A more robust fort of stone and wood with corner bastions was soon erected.
Late in 1751, following a prosletising journey around Lake Ontario, Picquet settled more than 390 families at Présentation. Monseigneur de Pontbriand, the Bishop of Quebec, traveled to the mission in 1752 to baptize 132 converts.
Today in a church in Oka the original banner, which fluttered beside the French flag on many battlefields during the French and Indian War, commemorates the first baptisms.
Picquet took Iroquois to Montreal in August 1752 for them to swear allegiance to the new governor, Duquense. The following summer with three Iroquois companions he sailed for France to seek financial support from Louis XV.
The court pageantry impressed the Iroquois; the king’s bounty of 3,000 livres, books and a statue did not inspire Picquet.
The fortified mission, the river shores and the islands defined his parish. In the first years of the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1757, he preached against the Anglo-Americans and led his warriors into battle at Fort Bull and Oswego in 1756.
In 1757 he secretly negotiated a new alliance with the Oneidas, all the while the war became increasingly heated. Given the temper of the times, Governor Vaudreuil sent a military commander to Fort Présentation, the fiery Chevalier Claude-Nicolas de Lorimier de La Rivière.
March 1758, the egotistical Picquet removed himself to Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes.
In May “Abbé Picquet appeared this morning from the depths of his retreat; he is like a seigneur of the royal court, who, dissatisfied, has spent two months on his estates,” Montcalm reported. The general sided with Picquet against the governor and de Lorimier was recalled.
Picquet, credited with leading his warriors to Montcalm’s victory at Carillon (Ticonderoga), received the affable Antoine-Gabriel-François Benoist as the new commandant. But as the military situation deteriorated, Captain Pierre Pouchot, enjoined by Vaudreuil “to show Abbé Picquet all the respect due his character and his prestige among the tribes,” took provisional command of La Présentation March 1759.
The end of the French regime was in the air by July 1759. La Présentation was indefensible; Picquet moved his mission to Île Picquet, but his starving communicants drifted away. Those who remained made a separate peace with their Iroquois brethren and the English.
Come summer 1760 many went down river with Picquet to Montreal.
Picquet had a price on his head offered by the English. Before the September 1760 capitulation of Montreal, Picquet with French and Indian compatriots slipped away to emerge in Louisiana July 1761. Two years later he returned to France.
An anticipated Crown pension for his services was denied. In lieu of royal gratitude, the general assembly of the French clergy twice stepped up with l,200 livres, in 1765 and 1770.
In 1772 Picquet returned to his birthplace in eastern France, Bourg-en-Bresse. Somewhat less exciting than his role in New France, he served as parish priest in Verjon and as chaplain to the nuns of the Visitation in Bourg-en-Bresse.
In 1779 he retired from religious duties. François Picquet died July 15, 1781, age 72.
In recent years the town of Bourg-en-Bresse has honored the memory of Picquet with a historical plaque, which mentions Ogdensburg, and named a park and a street after the founder of La Présentation.
Sources. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography. www.biographi.ca/en/index.php
The History of St. Lawrence County, New York www.archive.org/details/cu31924028833015
Let there be no more mourning over the lost architectural heritage of Ogdensburg. Let the fallen be remembered and what remains preserved.
More than 200 years of architectural history reveals a rich mosaic, of which to be proud and to make known, across the city’s landscape.
At the heart of these treasures are nine properties on the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation because they are significant to the history of their community, state or the nation.
On the city’s waterfront is the oldest federal building remaining in use in the United States. The Robert C. McEwen United States Custom House is commonly known as U.S. Customs House.
The recently renovated building dates to Ogdensburg’s founding years. Built in 1810 as a store and warehouse by David Parish, the two-story stone building at the west end of Water Street bears the scars of British artillery shot fired during the War of 1812.
In 1936 the federal government purchased imposing structure at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River for conversion into the Customs House.
The Remington Art Museum, the Ogdensburg Public Library, Library Park, and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument represent the main features of the Library Park Historic District designated for historical and architectural significance.
At the heart of the Remington Art Museum is the imposing home completed for David Parish in 1810.
The early developer and industrialist resided here until 1816. Members of the Parish family lived in the redbrick house until 1860.
Louis Hasbrouck, an early notable and lawyer, also built a substantial home in 1810, into which the Ogdensburg Public Library moved in 1895. A fire during exterior remodeling in the early 1920s destroyed much of the interior.
In Library Park stands the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, dedicated in 1905 to honor citizens from Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence County who served the Union during the Civil War.
Winged Victory stands atop the column, designed by renowned sculptor Sally James Farnham, an Ogdensburg native.
Also within the Library Park Historic District are the Dillingham Residence (311 Washington St.), the Newell Residence (323 Washington St.), the Augsbury Residence (112 Caroline St.) and the Wheaton Residence (100 Caroline St.).
The now privately owned New York State Armory on Lafayette Street is popularly called The Arsenal. The 1858 National Guard armory was bought by the city in 1873, which sold the property in the 1960s.
Then there is Ogdensburg’s other historic New York National Guard Armory at the corner of Elizabeth and Ford Streets. The impressive, company-size building erected in 1898 remains in active use.
The Ogdensburg Bank at 315 State St., dating to about 1830, houses the law office of Nicholas Fodor. Between the years as a bank to becoming a law office, a ticket agency, insurance broker and an express office used the premises.
The commercially astute James Averell III was an organizer of the Ogdensburg Bank and a long-serving president. He and his associates brought the first railroad to Ogdensburg and created the Ogdensburg Free Academy.
Nearby 422 State St. is the 1823 home of Judge John Fine. Soon after being called to the bar in 1815, New York City-born Fine moved to Ogdensburg to establish his law practice.
The politically active, Fine served as the treasurer of St. Lawrence County from 1821 to 1833, from 1839 to 1841 was a Democratic Congressman and a member of the New York Senate in 1848 and 1849.
The U.S. Post Office at 431 State St. is officially the Frederic Remington Post Office Building. Until 1906 an octagonal cupola ornamented the roof of the stone-block building.
On the east bank of the Oswegatchie River stands the Oswegatchie Pumping Station built in 1868. The pumping station, resembling a stone bastion with corner towers, is on Mechanic Street north of Lafayette.
Stepping back to the roots of Ogdensburg, the Van Rensselaer Point site of Fort de La Présentation is recognized as an archaeological site having eight or more potential French, English, American and Native American components dating from 1749 to 1813.
Here, too, is the history of the settling of Ogdensburg and early industrial development beginning 1796.
More properties in the City of Ogdensburg deserve consideration for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
This may be a task for Ogdensburg Historical Preservation Commission. The commission can suggest, recommend and implement local historic preservation programs and to otherwise promote the historic resources of the City of Ogdensburg.
More than 80,000 properties on the National Register represent 1.4 million buildings, sites, districts, structures and objects.
The National Register of Historic Places, part of the National Park Service, coordinates and supports public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources.
Listing in the National Register is the first step toward eligibility for federal preservation tax credits. The credits have generated more than $45 billion in private investment and National Park Service grant programs such as Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America.
From the Federal persecutive, property owners can do whatever they want with their property, as long as there are no federal monies attached to the property.
Before this occurs, an individual or the property owner should contact the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the State agency that oversees historic preservation efforts.
Before undertaking changes to the property, the owner should be aware of any state or local preservation laws.
If federal monies are attached to the property, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation must be allowed to comment on any changes to the property.
The records of the National Register of Historic Places are being digitizing. The online collection is in two parts: 1966-2012 and 2013-2014. Other records are digitized.
Sources: National Register of Historic Places Program: Research. www.nps.gov/nr/research/
National Register of Historic Places Program: Frequently Asked Questions. www.nps.gov/nr/faq.htm#modify
Ogdensburg Historical Preservation Commission. www.ogdensburg.org/index.aspx?NID=369
Great upheavals in weather patterns are predicted meteorological scientists. Global warming is said to be putting the world’s climate on an increasingly rollicking rollercoaster.
Let’s hope environmental changes deliver no repeats of the most extraordinary blow Sat., Sept. 20, 1845 that shredded St. Lawrence County and the North Country.
Observers first recorded the peculiar storm effects at Cobourg, Canada West (Ontario), about midway between Toronto and Kingston. The worst of the documented weather along the roaring wind’s 200 mile course seems to have died somewhere east of Burlington, VT.
The purported tornado, known as the Great Windfall of 1845, slashed devastation across Northern New York.
Near noon on the wild day a strange phenomenon disturbed the water of Lake Ontario. Witnesses in Cobourg saw an unheard of current flowing from the shore out into the lake. Soon the water returned to a height two feet above the usual level.
The back and forth action continued into the evening on an eight-to-10-minute cycle. Waterspouts formed. To the west, the steamer Princess Royal could not enter Port Hope harbor.
Down the lake, one mile east of Antwerp in northwest Jefferson County, the storm struck at 3 p.m. as “a cloud of pitchy blackness from which vivid lightnings and deafening thunder incessantly proceeded, and the air was filled to a great height with materials carried up from the earth, and branches torn from the trees,” according to Durant and Pierce in their 1878 History of St. Lawrence County.
Rain and hail hammered the area. Little stood in the path of destruction as a gash from half-a-mile to a mile-and-a-half wide tore through the forest.
The storm struck Pitcairn, Fowler, Edwards and Streeter’s and Emmerson’s settlements before raging eastward. In Edwards, the roof of a frame schoolhouse tore away without injuring the teacher or the students.
Homes and barns were damaged or destroyed, but not a man, woman or child died.
Durant and Pierce wrote, “In the house of a Mr. Leonard were two women and five children, who took refuge in the cellar, and escaped harm, except that one was struck senseless by a piece of timber.
“In another house was a sick woman with a young child, and a nurse attending them. Frightened by the noise, the latter threw herself upon a bed, when the house was blown down, and one of the logs of which it was built fell across her and held her fast. She was relieved by the superhuman exertions of the invalid.”
Nearby a coal wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen had two trees crash upon the load without hurting the carter or his team. Large hail stones lacerated grazing cattle.
Along two paths the ferocious wind roared into the woodland near the Franklin County line to emerge at Union Falls in Clinton County.
Many buildings were reported wrecked, including a brick schoolhouse in Peru and two houses. The tailing lightning storm struck a church in Clintonville; many buildings were hit and some burned.
Before rushing across Lake Champlain at 6 p.m., the wind felled 15 or 20 buildings. Near Burlington barns toppled, and a house lost its roof.
The 1892 Annual Report of the New York Forest Commission noted the most visible forest destruction occurred about six miles north of Lake Massawepie. The lake in the town of Piercefield is 12 miles southwest of the Village of Tupper Lake.
Nearly 50 years after the storm, the strange tempest’s route remained evident for 25 miles. After the Civil War, the Windfall Road linked settlers from Cook Pond across the Grasse River to Sevey Corners and into Franklin County.
Inviting as the open area appeared, the land was not fertile and the homesteads failed one by one.
The Great Windfall marked the geography of St. Lawrence County with place names. In Adirondack Canoe Waters, North Flow, Paul F. Jamieson wrote the course of the great storm is marked by the largely uninhabited Windfall Road, Windfall House at Sevey, three Windfall Brooks, two Windfall Ponds and the Windfall Club at Cook Corners.
In time, the forest reclaimed the trail of obliteration. The broken and uprooted woodland of 1845, much burned off by settlers in the late 1860s, has left the most marginal traces on the landscape.
The Great Windfall may have been a derecho, a long-lived windstorm associated with thunderstorms, which follows a straight course. Behind the front sustained winds increase in strength and often exceed hurricane force.
July 14-15, 1995 a derecho on a course similar to the 1845 storm swept southeast 800 miles from the Strait of Mackinac to Cape Cod. Peak winds exceeding 100 mph caused about $500 million in damages, killed seven people, injured dozens and trashed nearly one-million acres of Adirondack forest.
The Great Windfall of 1845 is thought by some to have been more powerful.
Sources: Emmons, E. & Osborn, A.: American Quarterly Journal of Agriculture and Science, Vol. III. (J. Munsell, Albany. 1846)
About Derechos. NOAA-NWS-NCEP Storm Prediction Center web site, www.spc.noaa.gov/misc/AbtDerechos/derechofacts.htm#july1995.
Old maps take us time traveling, especially if more than one are at hand. Paring back the layers of history on paper or online is archaeology without a trowel in hand, which may lead to an archaeological dig.
The oft-quoted Anonymous said, “A good map is a useful tool and a magic carpet to faraway places.”
The meaning is absolutely true, and those faraway places are distant from us by time and the changed landscape. Some detective work by the curious can be very revealing.
Step back to when the state’s northern tier was the remotest part of the Province of New York, before any European, British or French, attached a name to the confluence of the Oswegatchie and the St. Lawrence.
Abbé Picquet occupied the point of land and the sheltered river mouth not by chance, but with intent. By 1748 the French had been voyaging up the St. Lawrence from Quebec City for almost 140 years.
Across the St. Lawrence River in 1673, the French founded La Galette, now Johnstown, as a forwarding post at the top of the rapids to support the construction of Fort Frontenac, now Kingston, Ontario.
The location for the fortified mission was known. A map ca. 1719 shows only an X on the east bank of the Oswegatchie south of where the Elsa M. Luksich Municipal Pool is today.
Abbé Picquet rejected Fort Frontenac as the place for his undertaking.
He wanted a site free of corrupting European influence, a notion possibly shared by tribal elders. Here his first Haudenausonee (Iroquois) parishioners, from the Cayuga and Onondaga tribes, could use the Oswegatchie River for part of their journey to and from their traditional lands.
Subsequent maps trace the first four years of La Présentation’s short, but significant 10-year life on the western shore of the Oswegatchie.
Searching the Internet for maps presents challenges to investigators. By modern convention, maps are oriented with north at the top. Online four easily accessible maps view La Présentation with north to the bottom or to the left side of the sheet. The French text is blurred.
Three maps (1749, 1751 and 1752) that can be viewed in their entirety share common features. They are scaled, with the fort having four corner bastions and outlying Indian longhouses, and illustrate the narrow shape of the point, the island/sand bar at the mouth of the Oswegatchie, and river depths into the Oswegatchie.
The 1751 and 1752 maps are virtually identical as to shorelines, indicators of rising land and the fort’s façade with gate and bastions.
Interestingly, the 1752 map is official, bearing the stamp of the Marine i.e. the French Navy below the fort and within the legend. This version contains far less annotated information than the one dated a year earlier, while showing a larger, more grid-like Indian community.
The maps are indicative of the French style of square-shaped frontier fortifications. The four corner bastions are typical. To the north and west, the marsh (marais) is not an unusual feature protecting one or more flanks of French forts.
As one British officer remarked, La Présentation exemplified inland French forts because the walls could only be defended to the range of a musket shot. Getting large guns up the St. Lawrence presented a remarkable challenge and into the interior, an astonishing accomplishment.
The mid-18th century spelling and capitalization had not been captured by rules. Oswegatchie is rendered as Chouekatsy, which according to the United States Navy means “at the very outlet” or in a less official source as “black water”.
The St. Lawrence River recorded as Fleuve St. Laurent in 1749 becomes Riviere De Katarakoui, then Riviere De Catarokouy on the later maps.
The variations of today’s Cataraqui strove to transliterate the Haudenausonee word interpreted as “impregnable,” “muddy river,” or “place of retreat.”
The use of “riviere” is noteworthy because in current French usage only a “fleuve” flows into an ocean.
The maps referenced above are found at Historic Ogdensburg, N.Y (www.ogdensburg.info), and there are more. Ted Como has built this an invaluable site with maps, photographs, illustrations and historic documents.
The Ogdensburg Public Library history room and archive are excellent resources. Two interesting maps are framed outside the local history room. Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa and the National Archives of France hold many maps.
This has not been so much an interpretation of the maps, but an approach to arousing the inquisitive to delve into history, poke around the roots and follow them as they trace the community’s growth.
Look at a contemporary map of Ogdensburg. The street names are lessons in local and American history: Ford, Ogden, Hasbrouck and Rosseel; or Washington, Greene, Knox and Lafayette. There are more, such as Jefferson and Harrison.
With every family and given name attached to a road, street or avenue is a link to the past worth investigating.
Through maps explore the arrival of the first American settlers following Nathan Ford in 1796 and onward into the 21st century. What remarkable changes!
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many is a map worth?
Memorial Day Weekend; how fitting. Sunday, May 24 Ogdensburg’s Pride and Beautification Commission began the grounds’ clean-up around the Ford Family Vault, which has fallen into an embarrassing condition.
Improvements to the City of Ogdensburg through cooperation with businesses and residents by promoting beautification projects, new plantings and engendering civic pride are the primary tasks of the Pride and Beautification Commission.
The crypt built into the steep incline below Lincoln Ave. is difficult to spot, but there is no more deserving place for the commission’s attention than the vault overlooking the Oswegatchie River at the north end of Lake St. Here rest the remains of Ogdensburg’s principal founder, Nathan Ford.
The volunteers began making headway against the weeds, brush and dead leaves around the Ford Family Vault on the once picturesque site in the Oswegatchie Valley.
Mary Ann Narenkivicius, who heads the Pride and Beautification Commission, is pleased with accomplishments of phase one. Care of the grounds and the restoration and preservation of historic vault should be an unfaltering priority.
Members of the Pride and Beautification Commission were joined by about 10 community volunteers and landscaper Paul Brown and his crew raking and bagging leaves and accumulated debris.
Mr. Brown has presented the commission with a landscape design proposal.
The work on the landscape and the vault will be completed over time. The commission will continue to organize work groups and may invite public and corporate contributions to improve the aesthetic quality the Ford Family Vault.
According to the City’s web page, cash contributions for beautification projects approved by the City Council are paid to the City.
The Lake St. approach to the vault crosses a ditch and climbs a canting, broken concrete stairway. From Lincoln Ave., the tomb is unmarked and accessed by a short path through lilac bushes. The path runs to an incised granite cross sitting atop the arched vault.
From this point there is no easy passage down the abrupt slope to the masonry now sealing the entrance. The stonework replacing the iron gate deterred vandals and treasure hunters. Regrettably, the coffin nameplates had been stolen before 1895.
Any nameplates recovered would be gladly accepted by the archives of the Ogdensburg Public Library.
A large blue sign with yellow lettering leaning against the vault’s façade records the individuals laid to rest. This deserves a prime place to be seen by visitors.
Signage honoring Nathan Ford should be high on the priority list.
The commission plan for the site will take time to accomplish, but civic pride has stirred to beautify and maintain the Ford Family Vault.
Nathan Ford, the man responsible for the vault’s construction, arrived on the western bank of the Oswegatchie in August 1796 as agent for land-grant proprietor Samuel Ogden. Like Ford, the first settlers came from New Jersey, principally from the Morristown area, to occupy the lands inspected by Ford in 1794-95.
In the American Revolution, he served as assistant deputy quartermaster, 1779-1780, to the troops encamped at Morristown, N.J. Ford possessed the stamina, discipline and experience essential for success.
In the abandoned Fort Oswegatchie on Van Rensselaer Point, he appropriated three suitable structures for a home, store and warehouse. Appointed in 1802 as First Judge in the Court of Common Pleas, he held the position until 1820.
Under Ford’s guidance, Ogdensburg became a legal village in 1807.
He was the driving force in the early years of the village, a catalyst for civic, political, legal and church advances.
He was influential in the development of St. Lawrence County and Oswegatchie Township. Heuvelton once bore the name Fordsburg.
Nathan Ford died unmarried March 29, 1829, age 65. A year later he was interred in the completed Ford Family Vault as stipulated in his will. Although Ford died childless, 19 people are buried within the crypt.
Within a generation, the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad shattered the tranquility of the idyllic site.
In 1895, Mr. Beverly Jones of Toronto contracted to have his ancestors’ remains and rotting coffins buried behind a new wall built within the structure.
Mr. Jones erected the engraved, red granite cross above the facade, sealed the entrance and deeded the vault to the city in 1905.
The Ogdensburg Historic Preservation Commission had recommended greater attention be shown historical and interpretive markers, and specifically identified the Ford Family Vault as a historic site worthy of special mention in the policies of the Local Waterfront Development Program.
The Ford Family Vault, returned to the public eye, deserves proper recognition among the monuments commemorating the history and the people of Ogdensburg.
Sources: Pride and Beautification Commission. www.ogdensburg.org/index.aspx?NID=370
Local Waterfront Development Program. www.ogdensburg.org/index.aspx?nid=232