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AmeriCorps Volunteers Unearth Missing Lighthouse Marker

Oswego, NY — On August 21, a group of volunteers led by AmeriCorps member Matthew Harmer helped to clear debris and fallen trees from Fort Ontario State Historic Site; in the process, they also managed to track down a stone monument which marked the location of the 1821 – 1836 lighthouse.

Only about a cubic foot in size and inscribed simply, “LH,” the marble marker was placed long after the lighthouse last stood in that spot. The marker was lost, however, following severe storms and resulting debris.

Volunteers clear away brush and debris while searching for a missing lighthouse marker.
Volunteers clear away brush and debris while searching for a missing lighthouse marker.

“We set out with two specific goals,” said Harmer. “First was to find this marker; the second was to clear the area of all this dead wood and overgrowth. We knew we would be killing two birds with one stone with this project.”

Paul Lear, Historic Site Manager at Fort Ontario, was pleased with the successful finding of the marker. “We have bus groups of lighthouse enthusiasts stop at the fort specifically to view the location of the first lighthouse in Oswego, and, it has been irksome not having the marker available due to storm damage and staff losses which have resulted in reduced services and maintenance,” he said.

The marker was discovered during the cleanup when Gary Wilson, a seasonal park maintenance employee, slightly bumped it with a front loader as the group was clearing the remains of dead trees.

“We needed the front loader to lift the trunks for us,” explained Harmer. “As we were positioning the scoop under the trunks, Gary told us that he’d nudged something, and when the trees were moved, there was the stone we were looking for.”

Fort Ontario Maintenance Staff Member Gary Wilson and AmeriCorps Member Matthew Harmer pose beside the rediscovered lighthouse marker.
Fort Ontario Maintenance Staff Member Gary Wilson and AmeriCorps Member Matthew Harmer pose beside the rediscovered lighthouse marker.

The marker was cleared of debris and washed; it can be found to the west of the fort’s entrance, overlooking the Port of Oswego.

AmeriCorps is a government service program whose mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. The volunteer project was created and organized by Matthew Harmer as a part of his AmeriCorps service in Oswego County. Matthew Harmer has been a member in Oswego County since May of this year.

1 Comment

  1. HOW exciting! Anytime we discover another page in history, it should be celebrated. Many people don’t even know what the little house outside of Fort Ontario was in a previous life!

    Thank you volunteers and Americorp workers! Wow!!!

    Lighthouses are so special. A beacon into our past, for sure.

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