History of Fort Oswegatchie

On November 21st, 1748, French missionary and Catholic priest, Father Francois Picquet, made his first voyage from Montreal, Canada to what is now St. Lawrence County in northern New York State. The following Spring he led an expedition from Montreal up the St. Lawrence River to where the Oswegatchie and St. Lawrence Rivers converge. Upon their arrival members of the expedition built a fort at that location. Father Picquet called the fort “LaPresentation,” after the Catholic Feast of the Presentation, in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This marked the first permanent settlement of the white man in this vicinity. The city of Ogdensburg was later built at this location on both sides of the Oswegatchie River and along the St. Lawrence River.

Picquet claimed the land for France and established a mission here for the purpose of converting the Native American people here to Christianity. The fort contained a church, school and a trading post that would serve the community, and was guarded by a number of French soldiers. Historians would later dub this for as “Picquet’s Folly.”

British troops invaded and took possession of the fort in 1760, but the French settlers destroyed the fort. The British subsequently built a new fortress at or near the same location, which they named Fort Oswegatchie. This fort figured in the War of 1812 when General Brown and some 1200 militia repelled a small British force here in October of that year.

The settlement at Fort Oswegatchie became an important St. Lawrence River port and center of commerce. In 1817, the growing community was incorporated as the village of Ogdensburg, named for the first landowner, Colonel Samuel Ogden. It was the first home of the St. Lawrence County seat from 1802 to 1828. In 1868, Ogdensburg was incorporated as a city, and is today the only city in St. Lawrence County, and the only US city on the St. Lawrence River.

Fort Oswegatchie was also the site of a key battle in the Patriots War of 1837, an ill conceived attempt by some well-meaning American patriots to capture Canada for the United States and liberate Canada from the British. It might have succeeded, too, had it not been for the fact that heavily armed British troops stationed along the border had contrary ideas, not to mention the fact that no one had let President Roosevelt in on the plan to take over Canada. In Canadian history this conflict was known as The Rebellion of 1838.

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