A Scrap of History.
Oswego At The End Of The Last Century
From the first discovery of the place by the French, Oswego has a history running back more than two hundred years, which is becoming a subject of inquiry, investigation and of increasing interest, in a ratio corresponding with the growth and advancing population of the City., From its favorable and important position as a trading and military post, it was an object of contest, a battle field and a victim of the wars waged by the nations of Europe, who discovered and colonized the North American Continent, through the period of a hundred years.
Modern Oswego may be said to date from the surrender of the place by the British, under the provisions of the Jay Treaty, in the spring of 1795 by which Fort Ontario was then received and taken possession of by Lieut. Vischer, with about fifty men of the United States Army.
At this epoch, forming a link in the chain that connects the present with a past age, Oswego had no vessels, no commerce, no resident population. The withdrawal of the British garrison took away nearly if not all that had been established here of civilized society. Oswego was then, in all that regarded population and business, like an entire new settlement.
In June, 1796, after the British garrison had surrendered the Fort and left, Neil McMullen landed here with the frame of a house, which had been made at Kingston, and which he immediately caused to be put up and covered, when he moved in his family from Kingston, where he had been established for many years in mercantile business, and for some time furnished stores for the garrison at Oswego. This was the first framed house, of which we have any knowledge, built in Oswego, and it was removed from its original foundation on Water street but a few years since.
We learn from the lips of living witnesses, of which there are yet a few, survivors of McMullen's family, that there were in 1796 two white American residents in Oswego, John Love and Ziba Phillips, who were traders and might have resided here prior to the surrender of the place in that year. They left here soon after McMullen moved in, but their subsequent residence is unknown to us.
Some Canadian trade was carried on through Oswego, under the control of the British garrison, but we infer that the trade was wholly prohibited to citizens of the United States, from the fact that in 1796, the Connecticut land Company, understanding that the posts of Oswego and Niagara were to be surrendered to the United States, early in the Spring of that year fitted out an expedition, under charge of Joshua Stow, of Middletown, to survey the Western Reserve, then called New Connecticut; the expedition fitted out with boats at Schenectady, took the route by Oswego and Niagara to Queenston.
On his arrival at Oswego, Mr. Stow found the port had not been surrendered, and the boats were not permitted to pass. As the boats contained the implements and provisions of the expedition and a considerable amount of merchandize, Mr. Stow determined not to be delayed. he took the boats a mile or two up the river, and the night following ran them past the Fort into the Lake, and pursued his voyage to Niagara. On arriving there, he found that post had been surrendered, and passed into the possession of the United States troops.
He landed at Queenston, had his boats and loading taken round the Falls to Chippewa, from whence he pursued his voyage to the Western Reserve, now forming the Northern counties of Ohio. At this period Western and Northern New York was an unbroken wilderness. No vessels were owned on the Southern shore of the Lake or the St. Lawrence. All the vessels then navigating the Lake and River were owned by the British, the Hudson Bay Company and a branch called the North Western Fur Company.
Oswego has a history worthy of a volume of respectable dimensions, which we shall not attempt to write now - the object of this article being simply to rescue and record, from living words and memory, a few authentic and unwritten facts, which the tide of Time is rapidly consigning to the "receptacle of things lost upon earth."
The family of Neil McMullen may be justly regarded as witnesses to the actual transfer of Oswego to the Republic, and as pioneers in the settlement, and inaugurators or established civilized society here. Three of the surviving members of the family are now in the city - two of whom reside here, Mrs. Hunter Crane, who came here as an infant, and Mrs. Rankin McMullen, born here in 1800, being the first born under the new order of things following the change of possession to Oswego.
Mrs. Vaughn, an elder member of the family, who resides at Sackets Harbor and is now on a visit to the City, is 73 years of age, with mental faculties unimpaired and a clear and vivid memory of what transpired here in 1796, and in subsequent years, of which so little has been written or is known. She converses with much freedom and fluency, and had a distinct recollection of incidents, of persons and things, obscured by the darkening shadow of 60 years. We are indebted to her for the principal facts given in this article, and many others, forming essential and important material to a full and connected history of Oswego.
Mrs. Vaughn is the widow of Capt. William Vaughn, who died in December, 1856, at the age of 82 years. Capt. Vaughn performed an active and honorable part in the stirring scenes of the last war with Great Britain, on Lake Ontario - having received a commission in the Navy of the United States in 1812, which he held down to the time of his death.
We have notes of facts gathered from the oldest surviving residents of Oswego, of more or less interest, as supplying from tradition deficient links in the unwritten history of the place, which we mean on occasion to present.