Sixty-five years ago 982 people arrived at Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY. They would stay the next 18 months at the only World War II refugee camp on American soil. On August 20th at 6 pm in Sackets Harbor, Safe Haven President Elizabeth A. Kahl will share the story of those 982 “guests” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt from August 1944 to February 1946. The program is part of the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center.
Kahl, who has served on the board of the nonprofit that administers the Safe Haven Museum and Education Center in Oswego since 1999, said in a press release that “The maelstrom that was World War II had millions of fugitives fleeing for their lives in Europe. A continent away, Oswego, New York on the shores of Lake Ontario was to play a unique role in history as the small community who gave 982 people shelter and hope.”
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is among those who visited the refugees at the fort.
The $5 admission to the August 20th program benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation and its educational programming.
Cannibalism? Daring battles and sieges? Rum becoming river water? All a part of Fort Ontario history? Yes, says author Rev. George A. Reed, who will share his enthusiasm for the history of Fort Ontario at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, NY, this Thursday, August 6, at 6pm. Reed is the author of Fort Ontario: 250 Years of History. His program is part of the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series.
“My research includes an overview of all the eras at Fort Ontario from the French and Indian War through World War II. There are tales of cannibalism that always make 4th graders eyes get big. Descriptions of daring battles and sieges at the fort, and stories of how rum turned into river water,” Reed says. According to the author cannibalism is indeed part of the Fort’s history, but he has debunked a bit of other folklore associated with the historic, star-shaped fort that overlooks Oswego Harbor and Lake Ontario.
A lifelong historian, Reed worked with the National Park Service at the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials in Washington, DC. He managed the North Creek Depot historic site near Gore Mountain where Vice-President Teddy Roosevelt learned that U.S. President McKinley had been shot, and served as executive director of the Pratt House Museum in Fulton, NY.
While volunteering with the Fort Ontario Guard at the State Historic Site in Oswego, NY, Reed realized that no one had ever written a comprehensive text on the history of the fort. Reed will sign copies of his new book Fort Ontario: 250 Years of History as part of the August 6 program at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center. Program admission benefits the nonprofit Great Lakes Seaway Trail Foundation. Discount applies to active and retired members of the military.
Thursday, July 16, 2009, at 6 pm, War of 1812 sailor Ned Myers will be telling his lively tale of the sinking of the Hamilton & the Scourge at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, N.Y. To be completely accurate, an authentically costumed James H. Fischer will relate the story of the famous shipwrecks’ survivor in this presentation for the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series. Fischer’s presentation will also include a series of Jacques Cousteau slides of lake bottom vessels.
Seaman Myers lived to tell his story to noted American author James Fenimore Cooper. Fischer, a marine consultant who has studied the underwater history of Lake Ontario for 22 years, draws on Myers’ narrative as told to Cooper for A Life Before the Mast. Fischer shares fascinating details of the moments before a squall surprised captain and crew.
The wrecks of the two merchant ships – Hamilton, built as Diana in Oswego, NY, and the Scourge, originally Lord Nelson, were discovered in 1973 and are considered to have national historic significance to both the U.S. and Canada.
The $5 program fee benefits educational programming at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center, Ray and West Main Streets, Sackets Harbor, NY. For more information, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.
Photo: James H. Fischer in 19th century sailor’s dress is seen below the bust of U.S. merchant ship Diana purchased in Oswego and converted in Sacketts Harbour in 1812 as the US naval warship Hamilton.