History of Houndsfield, NY (part 3 - Sackets Harbor)

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Sackets Harbor.-Augustus Sacket was the founder of the village settlement on Black river bay, and in allusion to him the name Sackets Harbor has ever been applied to the place. A doubt has always existed as to the grammatical accuracy of the name, which undoubtedly should be rendered "Sacket's Harbor." On various occasions modification of the name has been under consideration by the department in Washington, and some suggestions have been made. In 1886 the postal authorities ordered the name changed to, or at least spelled as, "Sacket Harbor," but throughout this work (and the writer proposes to so continue) the old historic and truly honorable nane of Sackets Harbor is adhered to.

As has been mentioned on a preceding page, in 1801 Augustus Sacket purchased at public sale a considerable portion of the town of Hounsfield, including all that now comprises the village tract. Mr. Sacketat once came to the lands with a sufficient corps of employees and began the erection of a saw mill and other necessary improvements to attract settlers to the locality. The mill stood near the mouth of the stream known as Mill creek, on which pioneer Samuel Luff (one of the worthiest of the English colony which came 1805), also built the first grist mill, and Solon Stone, another early settler, erected a small cotton factory. About this same time, or in 1804, Elisha Camp, who was brother in-law to Judge Sacket, came to the settlement and was appointed resident land agent, under whose direction the last of the proprietary lands were sold just previous to 1850.

Some of these men were such worthy factors in the early history of the village and its vicinity that a brief mention of their work is appro priate. Augustus Sacket was born in New York city, Nov. 10, 1769, and was educated for the legal profession. In 1810 he came to Hounsfield to develop and dispose of his vast tract of land, and thereafter lived in the village until 1809, when his interests were sold, and he returned to the east and took up his residence at Jamaica, Long Island. In 1812 he became largely interested in Pennsylvania lands, and in 1820 bought a vast tract in South Carolina. Later on he became interested in certain of the St. Lawrence river islands, whereupon he returned to the harbor, remaining until 1827, when he removed to Newburgh. In that year, on April 29, at Albany, Judge Sacket died. Notwithstanding the magnitude of his business operations, Mr. Sachet was ultimately unfortunate, but throughout his career he commanded respect for honor, integrity and worth. On the organization of the common pleas court in Jefferson county, he was the' first judge, appointed February 26, 1807, and served until 1810, when he was succeeded by Moss Kent. From this service Mr. Sacket was always afterward addressed and referred io as "Judge Sacket." On the formation of the customs districts (under the act of March 3, 1803) he was appointed collector of the port at this place.

Elisha Camp, who was frequently known in later years as Col. Camp, came to the harbor in 1804, equipped for the practice of law, and in connection therewith acted as agent for the Kimball & Houndsfield lands; also assisted Mr. Sachet in developing his lands and the company of purchasers who succeeded to the Sacket interests. In 1807 Mr. Camp was appointed town surveyor, an office rarely named or filled at that time. He was thenceforth one of the leading men of the county, and was interested in many public and private enterprises. In 1811 he organized an artillery company, and was an important factor in the success of the American arms in the war which followed. Later on in establishing schools, academies and churches his generosity was appreciated all through the county. In 1816 he was one of the company which built the Ontario, the first steamer on the lake, and the success of the enterprise stimulated other efforts in the same direction until the harbor as a ship building and general navigation point rivaled any on the river. When the canal (which for many years was known as" Camp's ditch,") was completed in 1832, a grist mill, two saw mills, a plaster mill, a paper mill and a furnace were built along its borders in the village, and were, with the canal itself, chiefly the results of the enterprise of Col. Camp. This worthy developer and upright citizen did much for Sackets Harbor during its early history and was one of its foremost men. He died January 25, 1866.

In 1805 the little settlement founded by Judge Sacket was increased by the arrival of several Englishmen, a nuniber of whom brought families, and all of whom were more or less prominently identified with the early history of the village, Their names are mentioned on a preceding page. hence need no repetition here. Just previous to the arrival of the colony Dr. William Baker had come and began practice, Ambrose Pease and Stephen Simmons had opened inns, and Loren Buss and Hezekiah Doolittle were doing business as tradesmen. Judge Sachet had become customs officer, and the harbor was perhaps one of the most important places in the county, having about 20 families and 100 inhabitants. The growth during the next four or five years was rapid, and the healthfulness of the locality made it noteworthy even at that early day. Between February, 1805, and January, 1809, but one death (except of infants) occurred, and that was the result of an acci dent. About this time the Black river country was eported as very unhealthy and the reverse condition existing about the harbor drew to it many residents.

On March 5, 1809, Judge Savket sold the village tract, including about 1,700 acres, to Cornelius Ray, Wm. Bayard and Michael Hogan, in trust for themselves and Herman Le Roy, James McEvers, Joshua Waddington, James Lenox, Wm. Maitland, Wm. Ogden, McLeod, Benj. W. Rogers, Duncan P. Campbell, Samuel Boyd, Abraham Ogden, David A. Ogden and Thomas L. Ogden, each owning a fifteenth part, except the two last named, who together owned one such part. Ray, Bayard and Hogan were the trustees, and soon after their purchase was completed Colonel Camp was appointed local agent to sell, settle and develop the tract. He engaged actively in this work and succeeded in attacting to the village many men and enterprises of value, but in the meantime other events of a political and military character were taking place, and soon all growth and increase of interests was destined to be dwarfed in importance by the struggle and confusion of another war with Great Britain. However, among the interests then existing, in addition to those noted (owing to the disturbed condition of affairs at that time exact dates have not been preserved) was the little store owned by Charles Berry (sometimes called Barrie) which stood adjoining the site of the Eveleigh house. Berry at length sold to Loren Buss, whom we have recalled. Hezekiah Doolittle, a later prominent character in village life, had charge of the store.

The interests thus described were small, comparatively, but were sufficient for the time and its requirements. The first large mercantile enterprise of the village (which, indeed, was one of the most extensive in the county), was that started by Samuel F. Hooker, who began business here in 1808, and who in after years was one of the largest lumbermen and operators in that part of the county, his interests extending into other towns besides Hounsfield. In his mercantile business at the harbor Mr. Hooker began with about $20,000 invested in stock, but so great were his dealings that within two months his sales amounted to $17,500.

Just previous to the enforcement of the embargo laws, pearl and potash were staples in trade handled by all dealers, and large quantities of this commodity were shipped from the harbor. Even after the law was passed the traffic continued, though every trick was resorted to to evade the vigilance of the officials. To check these unlawful operations Capt. William P. Bennett with a detachment of artillery, and Lieut. Cross with a company of infantry were atationed at the harbor in 1808 and part of 1809.

At that time Sackets Harbor was the seat of the customs district, and all captured boats and contraband wares were brought here for appraisement and sale. As is stated, the customs district was established in pursuance of the act of March, 1803, and soon after the law went into effect. The office during the embargo and war periods was of great importance, but in later years, as lake and river commerce became divided and lessened, the local station lost nearly all its old-time prominence, and on March 3, 1863, it was consolidated with and made subordinate to the Cape Vincent district, the latter having been organized from the former April 18, 1818. Subsequent to 1863 the local customs office has been in charge of a deputy collector. During the period in which the principal office was maintained at the harbor, the collectors were:

Augustus Sacket, Hart Massey, Perley Keyes, John M. Canfield, Thomas Loomis, Danforth N. Barney, Leonard Dennison, John O. Dickey, Otis M. Cole, Daniel McCullock, Abram Kromer, Thomas M. Hall, William Howland and Cornelius W. Ingleh art.

Perhaps the most eventful period in the history of Sackets Harbor was that of the war of 1812-15. At the outbreak of hostilities the village had no defenses whatever, and only the old brig Oneida (with an armament of sixteen guns), was available for harbor defenses. On the other hand, the British were well prepared for the contest, and early threatened the harbor with destruction by an overpowering fleet. Col. Camp soon organized an artillery company, and Col. Bellinger was sent to assist in defending the place. Ordnances and military stores were greatly needed, whereupon a letter asking for these supplies was sent to the governor. In the meantime, while awaiting their arrival, Fort Tompkins was built, and afterward became one of-the most noteworthy and historic fortifications on the frontier. More than three-quarters of a century have passed since the fort was constructed, and while not a single vestige of it is now visible, its earthworks outline is yet plainly to be traced on a rising mound of earth. Considerate persons have faithfully preserved this old relic of the war period, and quite recently the generous owner (Col. Walter B. Camp, executor,) of the surounding lands has publicly given the old battle-ground to the village and county historical society.

During the period of the war, several other forts were constructed in this immediate vicinity, and the village was the central point for both military and naval operations, with hundreds and sometimes thousands of troops and marines quartered and rendezvoused here. No less than three times the village was threatened with British invasion, and on one occasion (May 29, 1813) the historic battle of Sackets Harbor was fought with disastrous results to the enemy. However, the story of The struggle had its reverses and fatalities, but at length victory rewarded the efforts of the Americans and a long era of peace followed.

Immediately after the war Sackets Harbor was made a permanent naval station and has been so continued to the present time, although no government vessels have been kept here for many years, and the only duty of the shipkeeper is to live upon the reserved tract and keep the building in order. This subject is fully treated in another chapter, hence a passing allusion to it in this place is sufficient.

Madison barracks is one of the most interesting localities within the town, and its garrisons have been for many years one of the chief supporting elements of the village. The original barracks were begun in 1815, on the order of Gen. Jacob Brown, and have ever since been maintained here. Madison barracks as a military station is also made the subject of a special chapter in this volume, to which the attention of the reader is directed for a detailed narration of its history.

Previous to the outbreak of the war the village had gained considerable importance as a shipping and ship-building point, and as a result a large commerce had been built up on the lake, the greater portion of which business was done at the harbor. Among the vessels in trade which touched at the harbor (many of them having been built here) were the Genesee Packet, Capt. Obed Mayo; Diana, Capt. A. Montgomery; Fair American, Capt. Augustus Ford; Collector, Capt. Samuel Dixon; Experiment, Capt. C. Holmes; Charles and Ann, Capt. Pease; Dolphin, Capt. Wm. Vaughn, and others of less note, the names of which have not been preserved. During the war, Henry Eckford was the shipbuilder of the harbor, and one of the most energetic men of his times in the country. To him more than to any other one person is due the credit of having built up and maintained the American navy on the lake aiid river, and in the village it was not unusual for him. to have 2,000 men employed in shipbuilding at one time. Nearly all the prominent sloops, schooners and frigates in the service on the lake were the results of his handicraft, but of all of them not one remains. The famous New Orleans was unfinished at the close of the war, and by careful housing and attention was preserved until quite recent years. But, as is elsewhere stated, the old ship was at length sold and torn to pieces, and with it passed away almost the last remaining relic of the war.

After the war the harbor retained its supremacy as a lake port for many years, and during the time several boats of importance were built here. Among them was the Ontario, the first steamer, which was begun by a stock company in 1816, and was launched in 1817. She run until 1832, when she was broke up at Osw ego. About the same time the Woolsey, Rambler, Farmer's Daughter, Triumph, Commodore Perry, Dolphin, and others were run on regular packet lines to this port. It is said, too, that the first trading vessel to enter the river at Chicago-the Ariadene-sailed from Sackets Harbor under Capt. Pickering, and carried a cargo of pork and flour. A regular line of steamers-the Bay State, Cataract and Ontario-run between St. Lawrence river ports and Chicago for many years, and made regular stops at Sackets Harbor. During the 'forties and 'fifties, these boats afforded the only ready means of travel for persons going west from this region. During the latter part of the 'fifties the regular operation of the line was discontinued. But as a lake port the harbor in later years has lost much of its prestige through the decline of lake and river navigation and the corresponding increase in shipping facilities by railroad.

Part 1 Houndsfield
Part 2 Organization
Part 3 Sackets Harbor
Part 4 Incorporation
Part 5 Supervisors 1806-1899

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