The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Commercial Times (Oswego, NY), Tues., April 28, 1859

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"Union Village"

At a meeting convened at the Cobble Stone School House, on the 7th inst. at 10 o'clock A.M. Agreeably to adjournment, Selden P. Clark took the chair, and Jonathan Lamb acted as Secretary.

On the platform in the rear of the officers of the meeting were seated several venerable, grey headed men - pioneers of the town - Hon. Arvin Rice, Hon. Alvin Bronson, Matthew McNair, William Dolloway, C.B. Burt, George W. Burt, Abraham D. Hugunin, Timothy Beecher and the Rev. R.W. Condit. Mr. Condit opened the meeting with prayer.

The object of the gathering seemed to be the interchange of personal reminiscences of early times - the comparing the recollections of different persons as to the same old events, and the relation of incidents and anecdotes illustrative of pioneer life by those who were actors in the scene when Oswego and its vicinity were commencing their transformation from a wilderness to their present populous and prosperous condition.

Mr. Rice, though not the oldest person present, being the oldest inhabitant of this section, was called upon as the first speaker, and occupied the time, till the hour of dinner, in the recital of bygone scenes and pastimes, hardships and privations, of which we of the present day can form but a faint idea. he said he was very happy to meet his friends on this spot - was reminded of the "log cabin times" - remembered further back back - had assisted in making many log cabins in different parts of this county - helped make the first.

In June, 1797, the British evacuated the fort at Oswego, and the same day the Americans took possession, Lieut. Vischer commanding the company. The first vessels belonging to Oswego, were two small sloops brought from Schenectady by Capt. Ford in 1797. Benajah Boynton kept a little store on the west point (now the island) Capt. Conner's, Mr. McMullen's, John Love's and a Mr. Hudson's were the only other families in Oswego. They all moved to Salt Point in the winter, and returned in the spring of '98. Asa Rice (the father of the speaker) raised a large quantity of watermelons, and had a party of all the inhabitants of the village to a feast of the same.

About 1802 two topsail schooners came here from Presque isle, and continued to do the business of the place - one was built entirely of red cedar - one was lost on the Lake, and some of her property came ashore here - the other made a remarkably short trip to Lewiston and back occupying only five days. In 1806 the town of Hannibal was set off from Lysander, and on its organization, William Vaughn was chosen first supervisor, and Edward Conner first town clerk. At this stage of the proceedings the meeting took a recess for dinner, and such as came from a distances were amply provided for, with not only the more substantial fare, but luxuries, and some luxuries such as pure, rich sweet butter and cream, not often met with in the city.

After partaking of this repast to repletion in the best of feeling, the meeting again convened at two o'clock and Mr. McNair was called upon. He said he was no speech maker - could better hold the plough. He, however, gave some very interesting statistics and incidents connected with the early history of Oswego. He landed in New York from old Scotland on the 4th of April, 1801 - went into some business there; but in the autumn of the same year, on account of the prevalence of the yellow fever, was induced to leave, and went on an exploring tour to Vermont - found the winter so severe, and the show so deep, that he abandoned that enterprise, and visited western new York on a trading expedition, with a capital of about $900.

During the tour he visited Salt Point, and bartered away some of his commodities for a quantity of salt, with which he came to Oswego, September 3, 1802, and has been here ever since. he went into trade - bought a vessel from Mr. Sharp, and soon after hired a dwelling and warehouse from him for three years, 1804-'5 and '6 for $200. When he came, McMullen, Capt. Connor, Sharp, Rasmussen, Fairfield and two or three other families were all who resided in the village. Upon the organization of the town Asa Rice, Jonathan Buel and himself were commissioners of highways, and run the first road through the forest from Oswego Falls to the place now called Hannibalville, and thence to Oswego. At this place laid out the cross-road south, and the surveyor named it "Rice's Corners."

Mr. Bronson said he was a comparative newcomer. 1810 was the year of his advent - was a farmer in his youth, and afterwards a merchant in the West India trade - was driven from the seaboard by the operation of the Berlin and Milan decrees and the British orders in council, and sought the Lakes as the future theatre of his enterprise. In March, 1810, chartered a hack at Guilford, Connecticut, and with five or six ship carpenters and their tools, started for Oswego. After a slow and tedious journey, and divers mishaps incident to that mode of traveling, they reached Salt Point. From that place a hack could not get to Oswego; so it was discharged, and went on to Cayuga, to take on board as return freight, a merino buck, which had been purchased there for the very moderate price of $1500.

From Salt Point the party came on foot to Three River Point, where Mr. Bronson took passage with an Onondaga Indian on board a bark canoe, and the men continued through the twelve miles' woods to the Falls. At Three River rift the canoe got on a rock, and they were for some time in jeopardy. After getting safely off, Mr. B. asked the Indian if he had not been afraid if he did not think they had been in great danger? He replied, "oh! No - not afraid - no danger - might perhaps have lost the yankee!"

At Oswego Falls stopped for a fortnight and got out timber for a vessel. On arriving at Oswego found the great ice jam had taken place; the U.S. Brig Oneida was high and dry on the west point, and he could not get over the river; staid on the east side at a little log tavern kept by Daniel Burt; when the spring opened, brought down the timber for the vessel, which was the largest then on the lake, being 106 tons, but sheathed up to measure less than 100 tons. She was called the Charles and Ann, and was sailed by Capt. Theophilus Pease.

The principal trade for several years, was in salt. It was carried by the way of Lewiston and Black Rock to Pittsburgh, Pa. Freight to Lewiston five shillings per barrel, and price at Pittsburgh $6. Had about one return freight (fur) per year from Lewiston by the N.W. Company.

Mr. Bronson gave some very interesting incidents relating to the history of the New York canals, in their inception, from the appointment of a commission of exploration in 1810, till the final adoption of the system, showing that then, as well as since, Oswego has had to contend with powerful influences at every turn, and to rely mainly for success upon the vigilance and energy of her own citizens. Mr. B. also related several incidents of a personal nature that took place during the War of 1812 - he being taken prison, with several other citizens, by the British, and carried to Canada; the taking of Oswego and the brilliant affair of Sandy Creek, all of which were listened to with much pleasure by the meeting.

C.B. Burt, William Dolloway, A.D. Hugunin and William Lewis, Esq., each addressed the meeting, relating anecdotes and incidents of early times, which added not a little to the enjoyment of the occasion. The inhabitants of the locality filled this house, and the meeting was highly interesting. The speaking was interspersed with singing by the children and grandchildren of the early settlers, and various tunes which were in vogue 60 years ago, were performed very respectably and with spirit, among them were several said to have been sung at the landing of the "Pilgrims," Oct. 6, 1797. It was really very pleasant, and keenly suggestive of our childhood days to hear the strains of old "Schenectady," "Ocean," "Delight" and "Montgomery."

Being about to separate, on motion of the President,

Resolved, That in behalf of the District and Sabbath Schools of the Town of Oswego, the inhabitants of said town meet at the Cobble Stone School House, in District No. 2, on the 4th of July next, at 9 o'clock A.M., to form a procession, then march to some point on the lake shore, (which shall be previously designated) to celebrate the day; and that we cordially invite our friends in the adjoining towns and city, to participate in such celebration.

At 5 P.M. the meeting broke up in good spirits, well satisfied with having had a pleasant reunion and a good time generally.

Jonathan Lamb, Sec'y.

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Tues., April 28, 1859
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Richard Palmer
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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 Commercial Times (Oswego, NY), Tues., April 28, 1859