Friday, October 7, 2016

History Comes to Life in Celebration of Oswego County Bicentennial

Oswego County's bicentennial celebration continues this weekend with the Oswego Players' production, "Dawn of Freedom." The show tells the story of a local "safe haven" for refugees during one of the darkest hours in world history.
As the German Nazi regime swept across Europe during World War II, millions of lives were destroyed. Then, as now, many countries were hesitant to take in refugees. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt finally agreed to accept 1,000 people outside regular immigration quotas.

As "guests" of the president, they would not be permitted to stay in America beyond the war and were required to sign a statement that they would return to their home country at that time. To many; however, that condition didn't matter if it meant their escape from war-torn Europe and nearly 3,000 people applied for the opportunity.

The grueling selection process considered those who had escaped concentration camps and whose skills would aid in running a shelter in America. Priority was also given to full family units and those who had relatives already living in the U.S.

U.S. Navy photo of USS Henry Gibbons.
Image courtesy of NavSource Naval History.

Finally, in July 1944, 982 men, women and children boarded the USS Henry Gibbons in Naples, Italy, bound for America. The troop transport ship was carrying injured U.S. soldiers and protected on both sides by ships holding German POWs. An additional 18 people who were chosen did not embark on the ship and their whereabouts were, and remain, unknown.

The rigorous two-week journey across the ocean was fraught with seasickness, extreme heat, and cramped space. When, at last, they arrived in the New York harbor, the group was elated at the sight of the ultimate promise of freedom: the Statue of Liberty.  

"Casual Baggage" claim ticket issued to refugees for identification.
Image courtesy of the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum.
The refugees were each tagged with a "casual baggage" ticket for identification purposes and taken to New Jersey where they would board a train to Oswego. The sight of the train raised an alarm throughout the group as many of them had been taken to a concentration camp this way. After much reassurance, the group was finally persuaded to embark.

LIFE Magazine (Aug. 21, 1944) article describing the refugees arrival.
Image courtesy of Fort Ontario State Historic Site.
Their fears were further fanned when they arrived at Fort Ontario in Oswego, N.Y. One of three locations considered for the shelter, the fort was chosen due to its ample space, solid infrastructure and support from a small crew that remained behind after the U.S. Army had vacated the base earlier in the year.

As an active military station, the fort was surrounded with a chain-link fence topped with rows of barbed wire for security purposes. This only reminded the refugees of the horrors of concentration camps. They feared that they'd been tricked into another one and refused to leave the train.

The arrival of the refugees.
Image courtesy of the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum.

After much persuasion, one refugee was convinced to enter base and assess this new situation. After careful inspection, he returned to the train and reported that it was not another concentration camp and told of the tables and tables of food that had been laid out in anticipation of the group's arrival.

Children from the shelter attend local schools.
Image courtesy of the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum.

Children from the shelter enjoy Oswego's famous winter snow.
Image courtesy of the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum.

Teens from the shelter spend time together.
Image courtesy of the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum.

The refugees were quarantined for 30 days after their August arrival, so local family and townspeople came to the fence to greet and talk with them. In September, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt paid a well-publicized visit the shelter. Later, a public open house was held and day passes were given to the refugees. Children attended local schools and adults were assigned jobs at the base. They all received English speaking lessons and preserved their own culture with art, music and theatre classes, concerts and productions. They mingled with the local community by attending dinners and hosting dances.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt tours the shelter with site director Joseph Smart.
Image courtesy of the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum.

With the death of President Roosevelt in April 1945, the refugees' future became more uncertain. Many wished to remain in the U.S., despite having signed a document agreeing to return to their home country after the war. Later that year, with the Allies' victory secured, the U.S. Congress ruled that they must return to Europe after the December holidays.
President Harry S. Truman; however, decided that it would be inhumane to sent them back to Europe knowing its condition after the war. On December 22, he signed an order allowing them to remain in the country if they so chose. While some people did return to Europe, the majority were bused to Canada where they received their visas to re-enter the country as immigrants and apply for U.S. citizenship.
The Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum.
Image courtesy of Mary Ellen Barbeau.

The Fort Ontario Refugee Shelter in Oswego, N.Y. was the only site in the U.S. that sheltered refugees of the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. The Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum is located in the shelter's former administration building to preserve their stories.

Bob Davidson answers questions about the shelter exhibit.
Image courtesy of Mary Ellen Barbeau.

Historian George DeMass describes the original site of the shelter.
Image courtesy of Mary Ellen Barbeau.

Come to the Francis Marion Brown Theater at the Fort Ontario Park Complex on East Fourth Street in Oswego, N.Y. to hear some of the refugees' personal accounts with the production, "Dawn of Freedom." Written and directed by Richard Sivers, the show is a living history of what life was like in the shelter. Through the words of 10 refugees, experience their joy and sadness and learn how their lives have impacted ours today.

The cast of "Dawn of Freedom" includes (from left):
front row: Alyssa Halstead, Noah Pauldine, and Brienna Pauldine;
center row: Pablo Mendoza, Bobby Fontana, Kristie Pauldine, and Marilyn Dirk;
back row: Jeffrey Cole, Marianne Natoli, and Ken Snow.
Image courtesy of Richard Sivers.

Presented by the Oswego Players and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, the show begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 8 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 9. Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Proceeds will benefit the museum. For tickets, call the theater box office at 315/343-5138.

To learn more about this chapter in local history, visit the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, 2 East 7th Street, Oswego, N.Y. 13126. It is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children and students. To schedule a group tour, call 315/342-3003.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Celebrate Oswego County's Bicentennial in Fulton

Oswego County continues its bicentennial celebration in Fulton, N.Y., with events that offer something for everyone to enjoy!

Salt City Jazz Collective delivers the big band sound.
Photo courtesy of Reidsma-Logan.

On Friday, come to the War Memorial on NYS Route 3 to kick off the eighth annual Fulton Jazz Festival! The 16-piece Salt City Jazz Collective brings the big band sound to the stage at 5 p.m., followed by the jazz and funk rhythms of the Longwood Jazz Project at 6:30 p.m. Fan favourite Atlas, who have opened for the likes of Patti LaBelle, Michael McDonald, and Earth, Wind & Fire, performs at 8:30 p.m.

The CNY Arts Center in the River Glen Plaza on NYS Route 481 presents its production of "Pollyanna" at 8 p.m. The cast welcomes all to come to 'Glad Town' with this family musical based on the 1913 novel by Eleanor Porter. Follow the antics of the ever-hopeful orphan girl Pollyanna who teaches an entire town to smile in the face of adversity, just as her father taught her with the 'Glad Game.'  Photos courtesy of Nancy Fox of the CNY Arts Center.
Fultonville townsfolk receive word of Pollyanna's arrival.
Pollyanna teaches Mrs. Snow and Milly how to play 'The Glad Game.'
Aunt Polly confronts Jimmy Bean and Pollyanna.
This production; however, is set in Fulton, N.Y. (Fultonville) and features several pieces of artwork in the background that reflect its past.
In commemoration of Oswego County's bicentennial this year, artist Melinda Lamb was commissioned to create five paintings from a series of historic postcards. Some of the locations may be familiar to the audience such as the Fulton Public Library and John Wells Pratt House Museum. Other pieces feature a street scene from 1909, a former church that was located on the corner of West First Street and NYS Route 3, and a gazebo that once stood in Voorhees Park where many community events were held and also serves as the backdrop for the Independence Day picnic shown in the production.

Historic postcard features gazebo in Voorhees Park, Fulton, N.Y.

Audience members will be able to bid on each of the five paintings in a silent auction throughout the weekend. The proceeds from the sale will fund arts programming and the pieces will be awarded following the final performance.

Historic postcard features view of First Street looking south in Fulton, N.Y.

On Saturday, return to the War Memorial for the Arts and Crafts Festival from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Browse original pieces of hand-made artwork from local artists. Get a free vendor passport at the fair information booth and begin your journey through the festival. Receive a stamp at each booth (no purchase necessary) to be entered in a drawing for a getaway at Chase Lake Lodge in the Adirondack Mountains.

The "Tale of Two Bridges" Fun Walk begins at 10 a.m. from the War Memorial. Come as you are, in costume, or with a team of friends to join the fun and support the arts. Take a relaxing stroll around the two bridges of Fulton to learn more about local history in the county's bicentennial year and raise money for arts programming. Prizes will be awarded at 1 p.m. based on the most funds raised (individual or group), most artistic or creative (individual or group), largest community group, and best team spirit.

Representatives from Home Depot lead a free woodworking project for kids and their parents from 3 to 5 p.m. at the War Memorial, while the Jazz Fest resumes at 4 p.m. with the 17-piece FreeFall Jazz Orchestra led by Stan Gosek.

Trumpeter and vocalist Jumaane Smith headlines the 2016 Jazz Festival.
Photo courtesy of Jumaane Smith.

Headliner Jumaane Smith and drummer Carmen Intorre take the stage at 6 p.m. Smith is a trumpeter and vocalist who trained at The Julliard School and with jazz great Wynton Marsalis before touring and recording with Michael Bublé for the last decade. He was a special guest soloist and opener for Jackie Evancho on her "Songs of the Silver Screen" world tour and has worked with Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock. He has also performed on the Grammy Awards with Stevie Wonder, on American Idol, and at the White House. Grammy-nominee Intorre is also Julliard trained and participated on "Legends of Jazz," a program for PBS. He has worked with a variety of acclaimed musicians, including George Benson, Larry Coryell, Wynton Marsalis and Monty Alexander.

Classified closes out the show with their 8 p.m. performance. Known for their swinging sound, the band has performed around the world with artists such as Jason Marsalis, Eddie Money, KC & the Sunshine Band and The Pointer Sisters.

"Pollyanna" returns to the stage at the CNY Arts Center at 8 p.m. on Saturday and again at 3 p.m. on Sunday, after which the set paintings will be awarded in the silent auction.

Admission is free to the Jazz Festival and Arts and Crafts Festival. Tickets to see "Pollyanna" are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, while children age 5 to 9 'pay their age.' For details, visit or For more great summer events, go to



Friday, May 6, 2016

Celebrating the Arts, History and Oswego County's Bicentennial...

As Oswego County celebrates its bicentennial in 2016, the Richardson-Bates House Museum welcomes visitors to come in and learn more about local Victorian-era culture.

Richardson-Bates House Museum in Oswego, N.Y.

The beautiful Italianate Villa-style home was built between 1867 and 1890 for Maxwell Richardson; local attorney, real estate developer, and two-time mayor of Oswego. It remained in the family until 1946 when it was donated to the Oswego County Historical Society. Today, it features period rooms with 95 percent of the home’s original furnishings, much of it preserved as the family knew it. The exotic and opulent furniture and decorative arts provide a unique glimpse at Victorian America’s fascination with history, arts and culture, education, and travel.

The museum also houses the society’s collection of nearly 25,000 artifacts, documents and photographs that trace the history of the area and also displays permanent and changing exhibits. One such exhibit highlights the Richardson Theater in Oswego and includes photos, props, lighting, floor plans and architectural blueprints, various memorabilia and a scenic theater drop.

In the early 1800s, there were limited theater opportunities available to the Oswego community. As cultural activity increased, professional productions were held in various halls around the city. In September 1875, the completely re-modeled Doolittle Hall opened as the Academy of Music and, for nearly 20 years, featured many significant stars of the day in various productions.

Richardson Theatre as it looked in 1909.
Image courtesy of Richard Sivers.
Then, in January 1895, the Richardson Theatre opened at the corner of East First and Oneida streets in Oswego. It was a state-of-the-art facility, equipped with all of the latest innovations of the time. The four-story brick building featured a domed ceiling, was lit with gas and electric lights, equipped with 25 permanent sets and provided seating for 1,400 people before its massive stage.

The opera “Robin Hood” launched the theatre with a sold-out show and, over the next 50 years, more than 5,000 performances featuring the most popular performers, musicians, orchestras and bands graced its stage. In 1897, the first silent movie was shown, followed by the first “talkie” in July 1912. In the 1920s, film began to overtake theatre as a means of entertainment and professional performances at the theatre declined, leading to its darkened stage from May 1930 to January 1931. The theatre re-opened from January to December of 1931 thanks to a contract with Warner Brothers to present a series of first-run movies. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to save the theatre and, for a variety of reasons, it closed in 1932, never to re-open. Oswego’s premiere theatre was finally demolished in 1945.

At the turn of the 20th century, a new art theatre movement taking place in Europe crossed over to the U.S. and community theatre was born. In 1938, Frances Marion Brown and fellow thespians founded the Oswego Players, making it now one of the oldest continuously-run theatre programs in the country. A testament to true community theatre, the Players attract cast and crew from around the county for a variety of productions run throughout the year.

Oswego Players' cast prepares for "Way Down East" production.
Image courtesy of Rick Sivers.

For the next two weekends, the Oswego Players will mark the county's bicentennial with their premiere of “Way Down East,” a melodrama written by Oswego native Lottie Parker.

Lottie Blair Parker.
Image courtesy of the Oswego County Historical Society.

Parker was born Charlotte M. Blair in 1858 to Captain George and Emily Blair of Oswego. She graduated from Oswego High School in 1870 and the newly-formed Oswego State Normal School in 1872. She began her career as a teacher; however, the lure of the spotlight drew her to the stage. She married Henry Parker and the pair toured the Northeast with various theatre companies. In the 1890s, they returned to Oswego where Lottie penned the play which would go on to become one of the most successful and popular shows of its day.

One of producer William Brady's original advertisements for "Way Down East."
Image courtesy of Richard Sivers.

The story follows the arrival of a young woman, Anna Moore, on the doorstep of a New England family, disrupting their lives and casting doubt upon their future. Filled with love, mystery, chaos and humor, the production provides a fun and entertaining theatrical experience.

Inside cover of souvenir booklet from original 1898 production.
Image courtesy of Richard Sivers.

The production played in Oswego’s Richardson Theatre nine times as did D.W. Griffith’s silent film adaptation starring Lillian Gish. Now, audiences can see the original play on stage in the Frances Marion Brown Theater at the Fort Ontario Park Complex on East Fourth Street in Oswego. It will run on Fridays and Saturdays, May 6, 7, 13, 14 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students. For tickets, reservations and details, call the box office at 315-343-5138.

Alfred E. Rickert once wrote, “The role of the theatre, its traditions, its experiments and probes, its vitality and contributions, in Oswego as in so many communities across these United States is kept alive by community theatres.”

Memorabilia associated with “Way Down East” is included in the Richardson Theatre exhibit now on display at the Richardson-Bates House Museum, 135 East Third Street, Oswego. The exhibit will run through the remainder of the year. Museum hours are from 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from April to December or by appointment. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. For more information about the museum and its exhibits, call 315-343-1342.



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Celebrate Local, Shop Local…

Show Us CNY 2015 has arrived in Oswego County! The annual community photo project showcases the art and nature all around us and gives viewers the opportunity to pause and reflect on the beautiful region in which we live.

The project began in 2013 to commemorate Social Media Day. It was launched by Social Media Breakfast Syracuse, a group of social media practitioners and enthusiasts, with the help of nearly two dozen regional organizations.

The concept was simple. People were invited to share their activities or favorite things about Central New York on various social media platforms using the hashtag #ShowUsCNY. Since that time, the movement has grown significantly; from just a little over 300 shares in 2013 to nearly 1,100 images submitted this year.

From this, a traveling juried photography exhibit has evolved to honor the talented artists and showcase the many wonderful communities throughout Central New York. The forty pictures featured in this show were selected by a panel of judges and include both color and black-and-white images in seven categories.

The exhibit includes five photographs that were taken in Oswego County. The selected pieces include the bridge in Minetto and railroad bridge arches in Pulaski, both by Laurel Haller; the lighthouse and break-wall in Oswego by Joe Falcetti; a re-enactment at Fort Ontario State Historic Site in Oswego by Michael Byrne; and Oswego Harborfest fireworks by Michele C. Wood.
Laurel Haller's photograph of the Minetto bridge won first place in the "Best of Structure" category.
Photograph of the Oswego Lighthouse and break-wall by Joe Falcetti.
Other artists in the show are Brian Byrnes, Kathryn Cartini, Tara Charles, Kate Collins, Andrea Elliott, Kathleen Paice Froio, Jim Gibbons, Julie Janusz, Dan King, Laura McCord, Adrian Mitchell, Kevin Morrow, Tim Mulcahy, Tim O’Connor, Molly Saunders, Tony Shi, John Szozda, Michael Tracy, and Whitney Wagner.

Photographer Joe Falcetti at the Canal Commons exhibit with his winning entry in #ShowUsCNY15.

The Oswego County Tourism Office and its partners worked together to promote the project and host the exhibit. It opened in Canal Commons on West First Street in Oswego last Friday and will run through Tuesday, January 5, 2016.

The photography exhibit #ShowUsCNY15 lines the halls of Canal Commons in Oswego.

Several winning entries are posted outside the Good Guys Barber Shop.

Friends gather outside Taste the World where more photos are hung.
Be sure to visit Canal Commons to see the entire exhibit while you enjoy local holiday shopping!
Visit Lakeside Artisans this holiday shopping season.
Lakeside Artisans features a variety of gift ideas crafted by local artisans.
Local artist Kathy Fenlon welcomes visitors to Lakeside Artisans.
Shoppers browse Sensibility Outfitters.
Man in the Moon Candies prepares for this year's holiday season.

For more information about #ShowUsCNY or to see the complete collage, visit



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Modern Renaissance

Dreams can come true again; when everything old is new again. ~ Peter Allen

The golden age of entertainment has returned to the Kallet Theater in the village of Pulaski, N.Y. Fully restored and dressed in retro chic, the theatre rolls out the red carpet to welcome patrons back into its fold. Step back in time to enjoy a variety of programming, from films to fundraisers to live entertainment.

The restoration of the Kallet Theater, once the cornerstone attraction in the community, was near and dear to this writer, a native of the quaint little village. We had the opportunity to return home and explore this vibrant gem as it resumes its prominent position and marks its first anniversary.

A Scorched History
The history of this local landmark goes back more than a century. In October 1881, a major fire destroyed the entire business district of the village, from the Salmon River to the North Park and Broad Street. Dr. James N. Betts was said to have experienced the most significant losses, which inspired him to give back to the community by building the Betts Opera House in 1883.

Francis Hohman took over in 1908 and the venue became the Hohman Opera House; changed again to the Pulaski Opera House, and later to the Pulaski Theater when the facility made its transition to a movie house.

In 1924, the Pulaski Lodge International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) acquired the vacant lot next door and built the Temple Theater, launching a decade-long entertainment rivalry before the Hohman venue was destroyed by fire in January 1934.

Fire at Betts Opera House
photo courtesy of the Pulaski Historical Society

The following year, Myron J. “Mike” Kallet assumed the lease on the Temple Theater, re-modeling and re-opening it as the New Temple Theater, until it, too, succumbed to fire in January 1939.

Fire at Temple Theater
photo courtesy of the Pulaski Historical Society

By this time, Kallet had also acquired the rights to the neighboring Hohman property and began building a new theater on the two lots. Designed in art deco style by architect Milo Folley, the Kallet Theater opened on Wednesday, June 7, 1939 as a cinema and meeting house.

The Kallet Theater: Gala Opening
photo courtesy of the Pulaski Historical Society

The Kallet Theater circa 1940s
 photo courtesy of the Half-Shire Historical Society

The venue entertained residents of the village and its environs for nearly 50 years before closing its doors in the early 1980s. A variety of other businesses moved into the building before it finally went dark. Then, in 2011, local entrepreneurs Vince Lobdell and his son Vince Jr. acquired the dilapidated property and took on the monumental task of its restoration. With local, county and state grants to match their own contributions, the Lobdells completed a multi-million dollar upgrade to the theater and re-opened it to the public in November 2013 as a community and events center.

A New Beginning
photo courtesy of the Kallet Theater

A Modern Renaissance
The venue now features a stage with exquisitely carved woodwork; a state-of-the-art entertainment system; a retro lobby and concession stand with a modern twist; and a museum room dedicated to the preservation of the theater’s long history. Two barrel staircases lead to the second floor balconies and reception area which is highlighted by glass tile windows.


The building’s façade was restored to resemble its original design, including double red doors, a ticket book, old movie posters and an updated marquee; which now projects events and community information on a bright LED screen.

Overlooking the iconic Salmon River, the building now also features a rear deck to showcase these scenic views. With a seating capacity of over 400, the Kallet Theater is an excellent venue for events small and large; weddings and banquets; and, of course, movies and live entertainment.

Ring in the Holiday Season
Come to the Kallet Theater on Friday, December 5 for a one-of-a-kind experience as the SUNY Oswego Theater Department presents, “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” Enjoy this timeless classic in a whole new way; observing the production of a 1940s radio broadcast. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. For tickets, visit

Don’t miss these special events!
Throughout the month of December, enjoy these holiday movies with the whole family at the Kallet Theater, 4842 N. Jefferson St., Pulaski, N.Y.:

Sun., Dec. 7:
6 p.m. Elf

Sat., Dec. 13:
2 p.m. Elf; 5 p.m. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol; 7 p.m. The Nativity Story

Sun., Dec. 14:
2 p.m. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol; 5 p.m. The Santa Clause

Sat. Dec. 20:
11 a.m. The Santa Clause; 2 p.m. Miracle on 34th Street; 4 p.m. The Nativity Story

Sun. Dec. 21:
2 p.m. The Nativity Story; 5 p.m. Miracle on 34th Street; 8 p.m. The Santa Clause

Sat. Dec. 27:
2 and 5 p.m. How to Train Your Dragon

For more information about the Kallet Theater and its events schedule, call 315/298-0007 or visit For more holiday fun in Oswego County, go to our Web site at

Wising you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Re-telling a Local Legend…

Fort Ontario State Historic Site
Oswego, N.Y.
When last we gathered, walking through the parade grounds of Fort Ontario State Historic Site, we remembered the bicentennial of the Battle of Oswego, which saw the loss of the fort to British forces. Before the battle, American troops were able to hide or remove a store of naval supplies, the real prize of the battle. What transpired next is the making of a true local legend.

A Most Important Mission
Two years in, the War of 1812 had become a shipbuilding race with both British and American forces vying for control of Lake Ontario. Cannon, ropes, rigging, munitions, and anchor cables were saved by American troops in the Battle of Oswego; however, unless these naval materials reached the U.S. Navy shipyard at Sackets Harbor, N.Y., the four ships under construction there would likely not be finished, and the British would win control of Lake Ontario, the main theatre of action in the war.

On May 28, 1814, 19 flat-bottomed bateaux left Oswego Falls, now known as Fulton, rode the Oswego River to the port city and headed out along the lakeshore in the cover of darkness to avoid detection by British patrols. During the night, heavy rain separated one bateau from the party and it was captured by the enemy. Upon learning of the mission from its crew, the British gave chase to the remainder of the convoy.

Meanwhile, the flotilla, which had intended to rendezvous with 130 Oneida Indians at the mouth of the Salmon River, realized it had lost a bateau and feared the mission was compromised. They changed course and pushed on toward Big Sandy Creek instead, where they received confirmation that British boats were indeed in pursuit. Reinforcements were called in to aid the Americans and Oneidas in defense of the convoy and its precious cargo.

The Battle of Big Sandy
At sunrise on May 30, 1814, the British arrived at the mouth of Big Sandy Creek. Despite orders not to enter the waterway for fear of an ambush, the troops rowed up the winding creek, blasting into trees and brush along the way. At 10 a.m., the party rounded a bend and spotted the American flotilla at anchor. The order was given to advance on the banks, where a carefully prepared ambush awaited British troops.

Three hundred American riflemen, Oneida warriors and local militiamen rose from cover, firing rifles and muskets, catching the surprised enemy in the open and pressing forward to surround them. In 15 minutes, the British lost 17 men and had another 47 wounded, some of whom died in the days and weeks following the battle. American casualties were light comparatively; one rifleman and one Oneida Indian were lost. The Battle of Big Sandy was a devastating defeat for the British as they not only lost the battle, but 220 marines and experienced sailors who were either killed or captured.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site Superintendent Paul Lear (left) traveled up Big Sandy Creek to join in the Henderson Historical Society's bicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Big Sandy and the Great Cable Carry. Pictured with him are Peter Sterbak (middle) of Fort Ontario and Chris Rotunno (right) of the Oswego Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of Sandy Creek Town Historian Charlene Cole.
A Local Legend: The Great Cable Carry
After the battle, the Americans returned to their mission. With British naval forces now alerted, the decision was made to complete the journey by land. Most of the cannon and cables were transported by wagon and ox carts to Sackets Harbor; however, the anchor cable for the U.S.S. Superior, weighing 9,600 lbs. and measuring 7” thick and 600’ long, was too large and heavy for the one remaining ox cart.
About 200 men of the 55th New York State Militia Regiment were then ordered to move the cable to Sackets Harbor. With one section on the ox cart and the rest on their shoulders, “The Great Rope” was carried the remaining 20 miles of the expedition.

The serpentine line of cable carriers passed from village to village during the arduous journey. It took two days, with the men resting every mile and civilians pitching in to relieve them. Mats of woven grass were fashioned to protect their shoulders, but still many were left with large bruises. Excitement grew along the route as people turned out to encourage and help the men. Finally, when “The Great Rope” reached Sackets Harbor, the cable carriers were greeted with cheers, patriotic music, whiskey and other refreshments.

Former Fort Ontario State Historic Site and AmeriCorps volunteer Ian Mumpton demonstrates the Great Cable Carry of 1814. The original anchor cable would have been four times as thick and heavy as the one pictured here.
In The End
Just two months later, the U.S.S. Superior and three other ships were completed and the U.S. Navy once again ruled Lake Ontario. If the War of 1812 had continued into the spring of 1815, the Americans would have launched the U.S.S. New Orleans and the “War of Shipbuilders” would have continued to escalate.

The Battle of Big Sandy was one of few decisive American victories of the War of 1812, and the story of “The Great Rope” or “The Great Cable Carry” is a true legend of the North Country. The individual burden of the cable was estimated at 120 pounds, and it is said that some of the men walked with a limp the rest of their lives and many more proudly pointed out their permanent callouses or scars as evidence of their participation in the great event.

And Now…
Bring the whole family to Fort Ontario State Historic Site, 1 E. Fourth St., Oswego, for the one-and-only performance of “The Great Rope” at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2. Originally written and performed around 1976, Rosemary Nesbitt’s award-winning children’s play tells the story of the huge anchor cable being carried from Big Sandy Creek to Sackets Harbor.

Cast, crew and sponsors of "The Great Rope" hoist a replica of the anchor cable featured in the story. The model was crafted by Mary Kay Stone, production manager of the play. Photo courtesy of Jen Marriner Photography.
Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for teens and free for those aged 12 and younger. Advance tickets can be purchased at Fort Ontario State Historic Site, E. Fourth St., Oswego; H. Lee White Marine Museum, West First Street Pier, Oswego; Arts in the HeART Gallery, S. First St., Fulton; river’s end bookstore, W. Bridge St., Oswego; and Man in the Moon Candies, W. First St., Oswego.

Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to watch the performance on the parade grounds of the fort. In the event of rain, the show will be re-scheduled to Sunday, Aug. 3.

For more information, call Fort Ontario State Historic Site at (315) 343-4711 or visit, or
Here are some previews from play rehearsal:

For more information about Oswego County’s fascinating heritage and events, visit our Web site at