The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Landmark Will Be Removed
Syracuse Sunday Herald (Syracuse, NY), March 6, 1915

Full Text
Oswego Landmark Will Be Removed
Goble Shipyard Has Been Condemned by State
Building to be Razed
Goble Ship Yards Were Famous in the Days when Oswego
Was the Third Most Important Port in the Country

Within a short time now the buildings of the Goble shipyard and the old dry dock will have passed into local history to make room for more modern shipping facilities. These buildings are located at the corner of West Second and Lake Streets and on the southwestern corner of the plot of land condemned by the State last summer for the site of the West Side Barge Canal terminal and will be torn down to make room for the approaches to the 1,000 foot dock which is now being extended into the harbor.

Work on the terminal is under contract to H.S. Kirbaugh, Inc., and a considerable amount was done late last fall. During the latter part of the season and during the present winter a huge plant had been assembled and the contractor is now ready to complete the work, the cost of which will approximate three quarters of a million dollars.

The two buildings which are to be torn down constitute landmarks on the waterfront. How old they really are is a matter of some question, but it is claimed that a portion of the foundations are more than 100 years old and it has been said by some that they are a portion of the old Fort Pepperell, which was destroyed by the French in 1756. It is certain that the foundations, as well as the buildings themselves were erected when labor was cheaper than at present and materials to be had almost for the asking for the stone walls would be measured by inches.

The handsome marker for the old fort erected by the Oswego Historical Society is located just east of the plant, and arrangements will be made to preserve it intact. Underneath the building on the right is an old well, carved deep down through the solid sandstone and it is a favorite tradition that this well was the entrance to the secret passage said to have existed when Forts Ontario and Peppeerell were English frontier strongholds.

It is said that the passage went from the mouth of the present well to another well across the river, sunk in the middle of the parade ground of what is now old Fort Ontario. Legend has it that this passage was used for communication and the exchange of supplies and ammunition during the time of siege, but that at the time of the capture of the east side fort by the French the English blew up the secret way directly in the center of the river, after carrying all possible provisions to the west side, and the passage since that time has been filled with water. It suffices that the well today is certainly full of water and those who know it claim that the level rises and falls according to the height of water in the river.

In the old days when the schooner was the queen of the lakes, this shipyard was busy every day in the year and some of the fastest and staunchest of the great Oswego owned fleet of schooners which brought grain from the upper lakes and lumber from Canada, and carried back salt, coal and general freight, making Oswego the third greatest port in the country, were built here.

In those days the business was owned and run by George Goble, than whom there was no more honored and respected citizen, and he not only built schooners for others, but he owned a fleet of no mean importance himself. Even during the last two or three decades, when steam was driving out the sailing craft, the building operations ceased, but the drydocks did a thriving business in repairing and rebuilding the obsolescent schooner and small steamers.

Its days are over now, the change of the times have seen Oswego's grain fleets driven from the waters of the Great Lakes, but the shipyard site may still serve as it marks the point of inception of the great State owned terminal, which with the completion of the Barge Canal from fresh water to tide water, traffic and shipping experts claim will serve to bring back waterborne commerce to Oswego in tonnage never even dreamed of in the heyday of the great grain fleet.

Old residents of the city hate to see the old buildings go. Almost every male resident born in the First Ward has tender memories concerning it for most of them have been hauled out by the seat of their pants, half drowned from the old well or the drydock itself, but the people who hold the interests of the city at heart are above mere sentimentality and are inclined to applaud a spirit which places progress above such things.

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Some notes from Wally Workmaster, of Pittsburgh, Pa., who was site manager at Fort Ontario Historic Site in Oswego for 21 years.
"Nary a trace of any tunnel from Fort Ontario across the river revealed itself between 1960 and 1981.
Nor do I believe it was technologically possible to dig a tunnel of that length through solid bedrock under a running river within the time and manpower constraints of 1755 - 56, especially with no mention of it by Patrick Mackellar, the engineer in charge of work on the fortifications at Oswego, or anyone else.
The troops, Royal Navy personnel, and civilian workmen at Oswego in 1755 - 56 had all they could do to construct the naval vessels they did, build the first version of Fort Ontario, begin to build Fort George, and try to improve the defenses at Fort Oswego, and, at that, time ran out on them.
Additionally, if such a tunnel existed, why wasn't it used when British troops abandoned Fort Ontario and concentrated themselves in Fort Oswego in the face of the attack by Montcalm's forces?
The story is nothing but the result of over-active imaginations at a much later date, but some legends die hard!
Memories of a tunnel from the lake to Fort Ontario at least a
slight basis in fact . . . there was a square stone drain, the interior dimensions of which I would estimate at this distance in time as no larger than 18-inches x 18-inches, that led from drains on the parade inside the fort to a point on the bluff face. I don't think a man could have fit through it.
There also was (and probably still is) a larger rectangular stone drain east of the Post Cemetery created between 1903 and 1905 for a stream that once ran down the valley occupied by East Tenth Street to the lakeshore. When I first arrived at Fort Ontario, one could hunker down and work back about 30 feet from the spot where it exited, but it was caved in at that point. The exit of that drain at the lakeshore later was covered by large stones dumped by the railroad to serve as rip-rap to protect the rail line to the Port Authority's East Side Terminal. I suspect that drain inspired tales of a tunnel from the McWhorter House to the lakeshore with a branch to the fort. . . imaginations at work again!
The name "Fort Pepperrell" comes from Sir William Pepperrell (1696 - 1759) who, in cooperation with a fleet under Sir Peter Warren, led an expedition of New Englanders that captured Louisbourg on June 16, 1745, during King George's War. Pepperrell was made a baronet in 1746 in recognition of his services.
The capture of Louisbourg, located on Cape Breton Island and the largest French fortress in North America, on gained no permanent advantage because it was returned to France by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle that ended the war, but New Englanders deeply resented its return since, to them, the victory represented their military abilities.
They continued to respect Pepperrell, who, I believe, was a resident of Massachusetts, and William Shirley, the governor of Massachusetts and acting British commander-in-chief in North America after the death of Major General Edward Braddock, conferred Pepperell's name on Fort Oswego when he was there in 1755 preparing to lead an expedition against Fort Niagara that had to be put off until 1756.
It was one of the many things Shirley did that alienated New Yorkers, including quarrels with Sir William Johnson and the DeLanceys. Shirley's campaign against Niagara never occurred because, by the opening of the next campaign season, he had been notified from London that he was going to be replaced in command, in no small part because of the machinations of Johnson and other enemies, and should do nothing.
The 51st Regiment of Foot, one of the two ostensible British regular regiments (it really was composed of a cadre of regulars from another regiment in Ireland and the dregs of New England as the rank and file) at Oswego in 1755 - 56, which along with part of Colonel Peter Schuyler's 3rd New Jersey Regiment, ended up being captured by Montcalm, also had been designated as "Pepperrell's Regiment."
Date of Original:
March 6, 1915
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Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.461736896202 Longitude: -76.5150847440236
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Oswego Landmark Will Be Removed