Preserve America Community:
Ogdensburg, New York
Ogdensburg, New York, (population 11,128) is located at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River in the St. Lawrence River Valley region. European settlement began here in 1749, on land claimed by the Oswegatchie and Mohawk Indians. Francois Picquet, a missionary, established Fort de La Présentation on what is now Lighthouse Point as a base from which to educate and convert Native Americans. The fortified mission for Roman Catholic Iroquois and their allies loyal to France was a forwarding post aiding the supply of French forts in the Ohio Valley and on the lower Great Lakes. The original fort was destroyed in 1760.
The British then built Fort Oswegatchie at Lighthouse Point in 1760. In 1796 the property was turned over to an agent for Col. Samuel Ogden of New York City, and the village began to grow rapidly, populated by settlers from Canada, Europe, and New England.
Transportation has always been an important part of Ogdensburg’s story. In 1817, Ogdensburg became the first incorporated village in St. Lawrence County, and steamboats from the Great Lakes began using it as a port of call. By the mid-1800s the seaport became the western terminus of the Northern Railroad, and in 1959 the St. Lawrence Seaway opened the area to industrial expansion.
Plans are underway to build a historically accurate reconstruction of Fort de La Présentation, in close proximity to its original site on Lighthouse Point, as well as an interpretive center. The original site of the fort is listed on both the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.
An annual Founder’s Day Weekend brings thousands of visitors and re-enactors from across the Northeast and Canada to relive battles between the French and the British and experience mid-18th century life. Merchants, also called sutlers, are on site, as well as interpreters portraying a variety of historic artisans and traders. Last year’s Founder’s Day Weekend, which coincided with the 250th anniversary of the last battle of the French and Indian War, saw more than 700 re-enactors and 3,000 visitors attend the two-day event, giving the local economy a boost estimated at up to $500,000.
The Fort La Présentation Association also sponsors a living history day for area students, a culmination of year-long study about the French and Indian War and the role of the fort in this conflict. Nearly 300 students interacted with 18th century re-enactors and interpreters demonstrating open hearth cooking, life in the Navy and Army, colonial clothing, lighting, tinsmithing, Mohawk history, and other traditional activities. Through this program, the students see, touch, and taste aspects of everyday life for their ancestors, experiencing the history that was made in their own backyards.
Ogdensburg is also the home of the Frederic Remington Art Museum, housing the works and archives of the great American painter and sculptor. An adjacent education center, also in a historic building, engages museum visitors in an exploration of Remington’s life and art.
Posted July 23, 2012