Experience the treasures
Banner
History

LOCATION: Sackets Harbor is nestled on the shores of Lake Ontario and the beautiful Black River Bay.

Sackets Harbor Visitors' Center

FOUNDER 'AUGUSTUS SACKET': The community was named after Augustus Sacket, a New York City lawyer who settled the area. Sacket founded the village in 1801, and built the "Sacket Mansion" a year later. Today, it is known as the Sackets Harbor Visitors' Center.

Sacket recognized the commercial advantages of the deep, natural harbor of the Black River Bay, along with the plentiful timber resources. Timber, when burned to produce potash (a component of gunpowder) sold for as much as $320 per ton on the Canadian market. The village’s proximity to Canada, only 30 miles across Lake Ontario, meant profitable trade with Canada and Great Britain. The Village became a major shipping and shipbuilding center.

War of 1812

The War Years (1812 - 1814)

Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain in June 1812, Sackets Harbor became the center of American naval and military activity for the upper St. Lawrence Valley and Lake Ontario. The brig Oneida, with a company of marines, was already at the harbor to suppress smuggling between northern New York and Canada. Local woodlands provided ample timber, and a large fleet was constructed at the harbor's extensive shipyard. Barracks were also built for the thousands of soldiers, sailors, and mechanics who soon arrived to provide the manpower for the invasion and conquest of Canada.

In an attempt to destroy the American shipyard, a British-Canadian force launched an attack on May 29, 1813. At that time the majority of the American forces were across Lake Ontario attacking Fort George. The remaining Americans drove off the enemy, but their narrow victory was marred by a fire that destroyed their military stores. During the remainder of the war, Sackets Harbor was an active station where naval ships were constructed and supplied. In December 1814, the Treaty of Ghent officially ended the War of 1812, and the Lake Ontario fleet was placed in storage at Shiphouse Point.

The Post-War Period

After the war, the massive earthen fortifications protecting the harbor were graded off and the battlefield reverted to farmland. Several blockhouses were converted to barns and another became an office for the commandant of the Navy Yard.

The shipyard remained under Navy control because of the presence of an unfinished first-rate ship-of-the-line, the New Orleans. It was designed to carry a crew of 900 and was enclosed in a huge wooden ship house to protect it for future use. In 1817, the Rush-Bagot Agreement between the United States and Great Britain limited all naval forces on the Great Lakes. During the 1840s, old naval buildings were removed and new quarters were constructed for the naval commandant and sailing master (lieutenant), to meet the needs of a continuing naval presence.

The Navy decided to scrap the New Orleans in 1883. The demolition of the vessel, together with improved Canadian-American relations, ended the need for a naval base in Sackets Harbor. The Navy maintained the facility until 1955, although it was seldom used except for training by the state's naval militia.

The Battlefield Site Today

The 1913 Centennial Park portion of the battlefield was recognized as early as 1866 as a special plot of land to be set aside to honor all the military personnel who had fought and died in the War of 1812. In 1878 the land was called the Old Battle Ground and was used for patriotic meetings, political rallies, church picnics, and other events.

New York State took control of the Navy Yard in 1967 and began acquiring more of the historic battlegrounds, including the most recent forty acres in 2006.

CONSTRUCTION OF THE STEAMSHIP 'ONTARIO': Construction of the Ontario took place in Sackets Harbor in 1816, and opened steamboat commerce with Canada. The steamship made its first steam-powered voyage on Lake Ontario from the Sackets Harbor village. Ontario continued to serve Lake Ontario until 1832, when she was scrapped at Oswego.

FUNNY CIDE RACING VICTORIES: Sackets Harbor received national attention for 2003 racing victories of Funny Cide, a horse owned by six local residents of the village. Funny Cide won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

HISTORIC TIMELINE -

Sackets Harbor, New York

 

1801 Sackets Harbor is founded by Augustus Sacket of New York City

1802 Augustus Sacket builds his federal-style home across from the harbor for his family

1803 Augustus Sacket is appointed U. S. Customs Officer for the Sackets Harbor District

1804 Elisha Camp, Augustus Sackets brother-in-law, moved to Sackets Harbor

1805 The Ontario Lodge of the Masonic Order organizes in Sackets Harbor

1808 U. S. Troops are stationed at Sackets Harbor to stop smuggling into Canada

1809 Typhus Fever breaks out among the troops and spreads through the village

1810 The brig, Oneida, built at Oswego, is sent to Sackets Harbor to patrol Lake Ontario, and enforce

U. S. embargoes, which forbid trade with Canada

1812 The U. S. declares war on Great Britain. Sackets Harbor becomes headquarters for the U. S.

Military

1812 British troops attack Sackets Harbor (the first battle) July 19, 1812

1813 British and Canadian forces attack Sackets Harbor on May 29, 1813 (which came to be known as

“The Battle at Sackets Harbor”)

1814 The U. S. and Great Britain sign a peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium on Christmas Eve

1815 Sackets Harbor’s first library, the Union Library, is formed

1816 The Presbyterians organize their first Society in Sackets Harbor

1816-19 The first phase of Madison Barracks is constructed by the Second U. S. Infantry

1817 President Monroe visits Sackets Harbor (near the bridge on Military Road)

1818 The Athol Lodge of the Masonic Order is formed in Sackets Harbor

1821 An Episcopal Congregation is organized in Sackets Harbor

1832 Dr. Samuel Guthrie, a Town of Hounsfield resident, invents Chloroform as an anesthetic

1834-36 The Sackets Harbor Bank is chartered and its stone building at the corners of Main and

Broad Streets is completed

1838 President Martin Van Buren visits Madison Barracks

1840 A two-story schoolhouse is built on the corners of Broad and Washington Streets for a cost of

$2,000

1843 A devastating fire sweeps the wharves to destroy forty buildings in Sackets Harbor

1844 The McKee Iron Foundry begins manufacturing agricultural equipment in Sackets Harbor

1848 The New York State Senate proposes to build a railroad from Sackets Harbor through the

Adirondack Mountains to Saratoga Springs

1848-49 and 1851 Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant, are stationed at

Madison Barracks

1840-50 Population of the village of Sackets Harbor reaches its highest peak at 4,146

1875 The Utica and Black River Railroad opens service to Sackets Harbor

1880 A storm destroys the building that protects the New Orleans, a ship kept in Sackets Harbor by the

U. S. Navy

1892 The Stone Water Tower was constructed at Madison Barracks

1900 A new passenger railroad station is built in Sackets Harbor to accommodate travelers and tourists

1908 The U. S. Army establishes Pine Camp eleven miles east of Watertown. The post is later renamed

Camp Drum, and today is known as Fort Drum (home of the 10th Mountain Division). Additionally,

Madison Barracks Steel Water Tower was built by the Chicago Bridge & Ironworks Co. for the U.S. Army

to serve the military at Madison Barracks.

1913 Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, visits Sackets Harbor to dedicate a

monument at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield to those who served during the War of 1812

1917-19 Two thousand, five hundred (2,500) men are stationed at Madison Barracks, while Madison

Barracks is also used as a hospital for shell-shocked veterans of WWI

1928 The Sackets Harbor “Civic Improvement League” is formed by the women of Sackets Harbor to

help convey the history of the village, improvements and the operation of the Pickering Beach Historical

Museum

1933 The “Old Battlefield Park” is given to the State of New York, under the auspices of the Thousand

Island State Park Commission, by the Jefferson County Historical Society and the village

1936 The Pickering Beach family donates its home to the Village of Sackets Harbor for use as a house

museum near the battlefield

1945-46 Pine Camp is expanded and Madison Barracks is declared surplus property by the U. S.

Government, and is closed

1949 The New York Central Railroad abandons its line to Sackets Harbor

1955 Madison Baracks is sold to a private individual, Augsbury Oil Co.

1972 CBS Newscaster, Haywood Halebroom, visits Sackets Harbor during an ice fishing derby

1974 The Sackets Harbor Battlefield is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

1975 The Sackets Harbor Historical Society is created by village residents to promote the history of the

village

1978 The village begins work to be designated as a New York State Urban Cultural Park

1985 Sackets Harbor Sentinel Marching Band performs at Disney World in Florida

1986 Two developers from Long Island purchase Madison Barracks and begin a massive clean up

1987 Governor Mario Cuomo visits Sackets Harbor during Can Am Festival

1989 “Good Morning America”, with Al Rowker, telecasts from the New York State Battlefield

1990s Old McDonald’s Farm, outside of Sackets Harbor, opens for business

1995 The Sackets Harbor Urban Cultural Park Visitors’ Center opens in the Augustus Sacket home on

W. Main Street

2000 Seaway Trail Discovery Center opens in the old Union Hotel building

2002 Association Island developers in Henderson Harbor open an RV Resort Park

2003 “Sackets Six” are identified as the owners of the 2003 Kentucky Derby - Preakness winner, “Funny

Cide”

2004 Senator Hillary Clinton visits Sackets Harbor and presents a check for the water district at Ontario

Shores

2005 The former Hooker House is renovated and becomes the AANNY Art Center

2010 Funny Cide visits Sackets Harbor and is on display at the Visitors’ Center. Additionally, the

Madison Barracks Steel Water Tower is permanently removed