Submitted by Oswego County
OSWEGO – William Cooper’s plan to construct a floating battery to defend American shores, and the tales of brave local militiamen, are among the many topics to be presented at Oswego County’s War of 1812 Symposium Saturday, April 2 at the American Foundry.
Well-known historian and retired newspaperman Richard Palmer will share his research into the fascinating story of Cooper’s Ark, built in Oswego by William Cooper, the brother of James Fenimore Cooper. Palmer spent several years as a reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard, Eagle Newspapers, Cortland Standard, Erie Canal Times and other publications. His local history columns run regularly in the Oswego Palladium-Times.
“William’s plan was to build a floating battery that could annihilate the British naval force then existing on Lake Ontario,” said Palmer. “He offered to build such a vessel at his own expense, providing the U.S. government furnished arms and ammunition. It was constructed on a gravelly semi-circular spit of land on the east side of the Oswego River that jutted out into the lake.”
The wooden structure was launched during the summer of 1813 with a load of supplies bound for Sackets Harbor. It was destroyed in a squall off New Haven. Palmer will deliver a colorful lecture on the events surrounding this little-known chapter of Lake Ontario’s naval history.
Historian Matthew MacVittie will speak about the militia in the War of 1812, focusing on who they were, why they existed, and some of the major players in the region. MacVittie is the assistant curator of history at the Onondaga Historical Association in Syracuse, a graduate of the SUNY Oswego history program, and a staff member at Fort Ontario State Historic Site.
Paul Lear, historic site manager of Fort Ontario, Dr. Gary Gibson, and Shawn Doyle, Town of Richland historian and president of the Half-Shire Historical Society, will speak on other topics relating to the important role that this section of the northern frontier played during the War of 1812.
The event takes place at the American Foundry, 246 W. Seneca St., behind the Fajita Grill on Route 104 West, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The symposium is sponsored by Friends of Fort Ontario, the Oswego County Tourism Advisory Council, Fort Ontario State Historic Site, Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning, City of Oswego, The Palladium-Times, Oswego Harborfest, H. Lee White Marine Museum, Continental Arms Collectors Association, American Foundry, Man in the Moon Candies, and Oswego County Historian’s Office.
The deadline to register is Wednesday, March 30. Registration is $25 per person and $15 with valid student ID. The registration fee includes lunch and workshop materials. Registrations may be paid by credit card by contacting Fort Ontario State Historic Site, phone 315-343-4711, Monday through Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by e-mailing [email protected] Checks should be made payable to Friends of Fort Ontario Inc. and mailed to Fort Ontario State Historic Site, 1 E. Fourth St., Oswego, NY 13126.