The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Monday, March 7, 1887

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Another Harbor Wanted

A vigorous effort is being made by marine men and those interested in navigation on Lake Ontario, to secure an appropriation for the establishment of a lighthouse and harbor of refuge at Port Ontario. Petitions are being circulated and signed by all sailors and vessel men Last week every vessel captain at the lower end of the lake signed them.

Port Ontario came very near being what Oswego is today. The canal that now terminates at Oswego was originally intended for Port Ontario, intersecting the Erie canal somewhere in Oneida county. It was deemed so certain that the plan would succeed, that a city was laid out at Port Ontario. The streets were all nicely graded and fenced and square city lots laid out. But when this new city had thus far materialized, influence was brought to bear on the legislature that caused a change in the canal scheme and it came into Oswego instead. Port Ontario remains today in the same condition it was then left. The streets are all there just the same, but covered with weeds and grass. It is about twenty miles in a direct line from Oswego harbor and is at the mouth of the Salmon river.

Many years ago, a harbor was maintained there. A few of the piles that helped to form the piers are now all that remain of those structures and the old stone lighthouse, which also sheltered the keeper's family is now a crumbling ruin. The reason the harbor was abandoned was because of the difficulty in obtaining appropriations to keep the piers in repair and the sand dredged from the channel, and because of the frequent wrecks that occurred at the place by seamen mistaking the light for the one at Oswego.

The ingenuity of man has given us so many systems of guiding the mariner since those days, that this difficulty could easily be obviated now. The lake front on the south side of the river is a narrow strip of land. Behind it there is an immense marsh, through the center of which the river flows and this could easily be dredged out so as to give sixteen feet of water, as the bottom is soft.

By dredging channel through the the strip of sand that forms the lake front, a better entrance could be obtained than at the mouth of the river, as the latter flows parallel with the shore for some distance and then makes a sharp turn into the lake.

Had there been a harbor there last Fall, two bad wrecks could have been prevented and the brave men who were frozen to death on the schooner Ariadne would probably be alive. There is now no chance for a vessel that happens to miss Oswego - and many of them are forced to run by here during the Fall gales by reason of being in some manner disabled - to find shelter except at the foot of the lake, forty-five or fifty miles distant.

To reach this shelter they have to cross Mexico Bay, a place the sailors dread. Once driven into the bay by a westerly gale it is almost impossible for them to work out and as there is no anchorage to speak of, their chances for being lost on the beach are very good.

Port Ontario is about in the center of the coast that forms Mexico Bay, and a harbor of refuge there would shelter many distressed vessels every year. Once constructed properly it would not be difficult to keep in repair. We hope those interested will succeed in obtaining a favorable consideration of the project from the 50th Congress.

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Monday, March 7, 1887
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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 Palladium (Oswego, NY), Monday, March 7, 1887