The colorful history of Sackets Harbor is full of interesting milestones. Here we provide some highlights for the period from 1801.
- Sackets Harbor is founded by Augustus Sacket, a New York City lawyer. The Village of Sackets Harbor is incorporated into the township of Hounsfield, named for Ezra Hounsfield, who had purchased land nearby.
- Augustus Sacket is appointed U.S. Customs Officer for the Sackets Harbor District, which extends from Ogdensburg to Oswego.
- Elisha Camp, Augustus Sacket’s brother-in-law, moves to Sackets Harbor.
- The Ontario Lodge of the Masonic Order organizes in Sackets Harbor.
- International tensions between the United States and Great Britain led to the U.S. Embargo Act of 1807 which forbade trade with Great Britain and Canada. This was understandably unpopular with local residents, and resulted in widespread smuggling along the U.S./Canada border. Until this time there had been a very profitable trade in flour and potash. Potash is an alkaline substance used in the manufacture of fertilizer, gun powder, and explosives. It was produced by burning timber from around Sackets Harbor, and was selling in Canada for $320 per ton.
- Augustus Sacket resigns as U. S. Customs Agent due to unpopularity of the Embargo Act of 1807. He is replaced by Hart Massey.
- United States Troops are stationed at Sackets Harbor to enforce Embargo Act of 1807 and stop smuggling.
- Typhus Fever breaks out among the troops and spreads through the town.
- The brig Oneida, built in Oswego, is sent to Sackets Harbor to patrol Lake Ontario and enforce U.S. Embargos and stop smuggling activities.
- The U.S. declares war on Great Britain. Sackets Harbor becomes headquarters for the U.S. Army and Navy on the northern frontier.
- On July 19 the Canadian Provincial Marine Fleet attacks Sackets Harbor, but is repulsed by the guns of the Oneida and a long 32 pound cannon mounted on shore.
- On May 29 British and Canadian forces attack Sackets Harbor and are repulsed by U.S. troops after a lengthy battle. The British and Canadians retreat, but American supplies are destroyed, delaying American efforts to launch a campaign into Canada.
- Several forays into Canada are mounted from Sackets Harbor, including the American attack on York (Toronto) on April 27. This attack culminated in an American victory, at the price of the life of Brigadier General Zebulon M. Pike. On November 11 the American forces were defeated in an attack on Canada at Chrysler’s Farm.
- Supply boats from New York City, carrying guns, rigging, and supplies for the U.S. frigate the Superior, are halted near Sandy Creek, NY by British forces. But American troops trick the British in an ambush at Sandy Creek and succeed in transporting the supplies overland to Sackets Harbor, allowing the Superior to be launched.
- The U.S. and Great Britain sign a peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium on Christmas Eve. The terms of the treaty call for peace without territorial concessions from either side, and disposal of most of the armaments and ships amassed during the War of 1812.
- The U.S. Congress ratifies the peace treaty on February 16, 1815. When word reaches Sackets Harbor, work stops on two unfinished ships under construction, the New Orleans and the Chippewa.
- Sackets Harbor’s first library, the Union Library, is organized.
- The Presbyterians organize their first Society at Sackets Harbor.
- 1816 to 1819
- The first phase of Madison Barracks is constructed by the Second U.S. Infantry. The Second Infantry, under the command of Colonel Hugh Brady, earns the nickname “Brady’s Saints” because they march to church in a group on Sundays.
- George Camp prints the first issue of the Sackets Harbor Gazette on March 18.
- President James Monroe visits Sackets Harbor to view construction of Madison Barracks.
- The Steamship Ontario is built at Sackets Harbor and makes the first steam-powered voyage on Lake Ontario from the village. She continues to serve Lake Ontario until 1832 when she is scrapped at Oswego.
- The Athol Lodge of the Masonic Order is formed at Sackets Harbor and meets in the Union Hotel.
- The Jefferson, a War of 1812 brig designed to carry 20 cannon, begins to settle into the mud off Navy Point. The ship’s skeleton lies there today and has been the subject of serious underwater archeology study.
- An Episcopal congregation is organized in Sackets Harbor.
1827 to 1836
- Elisha Camp excavates a canal to divert water from the Black River to supply water power for industries that he expects to be established near the port of Sackets Harbor. Elisha Camp’s plan becomes know derisively as “Camp’s Ditch” and is abandoned in 1836.
- Dr. Samuel Guthrie, a Town of Hounsfield resident, conducts experiments which lead to the first known use of chloroform.
- Capt. August Pickering of Sackets Harbor is the first entrepreneur to sail a commercial vessel into the frontier town of Chicago.
1834 to 1836
- The Sackets Harbor Bank is chartered and its stone building at the corner of Main and Broad Streets is completed.
- The Trenton & Sackets Harbor Railroad Company is chartered. This first attempt to bring a railroad into Sackets Harbor is never realized.
1837 to 1840
- The Patriots’ War, a rebellion that attempts to expel British rule from Canada, takes place in Canada. The U.S. border with Canada, including the Sackets Harbor Naval Station, is reinforced in response to the rebellion.
- President Martin Van Buren visits Madison Barracks. A volley of muskets fired in his honor nearly results in tragedy when a ramrod, left in the musket barrel by one of the soldiers, flies through the air like an arrow and pierces the ground near the President.
- The Eighth Regiment leaves Madison Barracks to serve in the war against the Seminoles in Florida.
- The population of the Village of Sackets Harbor reaches its peak at 4,146.
- A two story schoolhouse is built on the corner of Broad and Washington Streets at a cost of $2,000.00.
- Cinders from the steamboat St. Lawrence start a devastating fire which sweeps from the wharves to destroy forty buildings in Sackets Harbor.
- The McKee Iron Foundry begins manufacturing agricultural equipment in Sackets Harbor.
1847 to 1848
- The U.S. Navy builds the Commandant’s House and the Lieutenant’s House near the harbor, on land that is now part of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site.
- The New York State Senate proposes to build a railroad from Sackets Harbor through the Adirondack Mountains to Saratoga Springs. The railroad, intended to encourage settlement in the Adirondacks and improve communication between eastern and western New York State, in never built.
1848 to 1849
- Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant, are stationed at Madison Barracks.
- Captain Ulysses S. Grant, accompanied by his wife and son, returns to Madison Barracks for a second tour of duty.
- The Sackets Harbor & Ellisburg Railroad Company, founded in 1850, begins service. At Sackets Harbor, the railroad connects with the Ontario and St. Lawrence Steamboat Company. At Pierrepont Manor, it connects with the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railway.
1861 to 1865
- During the Civil War, Madison Barracks serves as a recruiting and training center under Colonel Walter B. Camp.
- The Sackets Harbor & Ellisburg Railroad Company ceases operation.
1870 to 1930
- Sackets Harbor enjoys tremendous popularity as a summer resort community.
- The Utica and Black River Railroad opens service to Sackets Harbor.
- Fire destroys nearly half of the Officers Quarters at Madison Barracks. U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant decides to re-invest in and improve Madison Barracks.
- A storm destroys the building that protects the New Orleans, a ship kept in Sackets Harbor by the U.S. Navy since the War of 1812.
- The remains of the New Orleans are sold at auction by the U.S. Navy for $427.50.
- Heirs of Elisha Camp donate land for the “Old Battlefield Park,” to commemorate those who served in Sackets Harbor during the War of 1812.
- The U.S. Army expands Madison Barracks by constructing several new brick buildings and the stone water tower.
- The New York Central Railroad absorbs the rail link at Sackets Harbor, incorporating it into one of the world’s most extensive rail systems.
1898 to 1901
- The Ninth U.S. Infantry, stationed at Sackets Harbor, fights in Cuba and the Philippines during the Spanish American War, and in China during the Boxer Rebellion.
- A new passenger railroad station is built at Sackets Harbor to accommodate travelers and tourists.
- The U.S. Army establishes Pine Camp eleven miles east of Watertown. The post is later renamed Camp Drum and today Fort Drum.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, visits Sackets Harbor to dedicate a monument at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield to those who served in the War of 1812.
1917 to 1918
- Madison Barracks trains officers for service in World War I. As many as 2,500 men are stationed here during this period.
1918 to 1919
- Madison Barracks is uses as a hospital for shell-shocked veterans and other World War I wounded.
- The “Red Legs,” the second Battalion of the Seventh Field Artillery, arrive at Madison Barracks. The Red Legs acquired their nickname due to distinctive red piping on the seams of their trousers.
- A Citizens Military Training Camp is established at Madison Barracks by the U.S. War Department to bring young men together to “stimulate patriotism and promote military preparedness.”
- The Sackets Harbor “Civic Improvement League” is formed by the women of Sackets Harbor to help convey the history of the village and foster improvements in the village. The Civic League operates the Pickering-Beach Historical Museum for many years.
- Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, Fox, Paramount and Pathe film the maneuvers of the Seventh Field Artillery and the Twenty-Eighth Infantry on the ice of Lake Ontario.
- A camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression Era mobilization of young men to carry out environmental projects, is established at Madison Barracks. In 1934, Madison Barracks becomes the headquarters for ten CCC Camps in the region.
- Old Battlefield Park is given to the State of New York, under the auspices of the Thousand Islands State Park Commission, by the Jefferson County Historical Society and the Village of Sackets Harbor.
1934 to 1935
- The Army’s motorization of the Twenty-fifth Field Artillery replaces horses and mules with trucks at Madison Barracks.
- The United States subchaser, S.C. 431, explodes at anchor off Navy Point, mortally wounding Chief Petty Officer Steven Kafka, who dies three days later.
- The Pickering-Beach family donates its home to the Village of Sackets Harbor for use as a museum.
1941 to 1944
- Madison Barracks is used by the National Guard, and medical and quartermaster units during World War II.
- The U.S. government considers closing both Pine Camp and Madison Barracks. Ultimately, Pine Camp is expanded and Madison Barracks is closed.
- Madison Barracks is declared surplus property by the U.S. Government.
- The New York Central Railroad abandons its line to Sackets Harbor.
- Madison Barracks is sold to a private individual.
- The U.S. Government property on Navy Point is declared surplus.
- The U.S. Government property on Horse Island is declared surplus.
1967 to 1974
- The State of New York purchases the Union Hotel and several parcels of land adjacent to the Old Battlefield Park and implements a program to open the historic site to the public.
- The Village of Sackets Harbor adopts an Historic Zoning Law and establishes an Historic Zoning Board.
- Madison Barracks is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but remains mostly vacant and continues to deteriorate.
- The Sackets Harbor Battlefield is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- The Sackets Harbor Historical Society is created by village residents to stimulate community revitalization and promote the history of the village.
- The Sackets Harbor Historic Society purchases the Old Bank Building and the USO Building, and begins to renovate both buildings. Numerous private individuals also begin to join in the effort to revitalize Sackets Harbor, beginning a movement that transforms Sackets Harbor and continues to this day.
- The Village of Sackets Harbor and the Sackets Harbor Historical Society write an application and receive a federal grant to re-pave and beautify Main Street.
- The Village of Sackets Harbor begins work to be designated as a New York State Urban Cultural Park.
- The Sackets Harbor Village Historic District is listed on the Nattional Register of Historic Places.
- The Village of Sackets Harbor completes the Sackets Harbor Urban Cultural Park Management Plan.
- The Village of Sackets Harbor develops a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to guide development of the Village’s waterfront.
- Madison Barracks is purchased by developers who begin renovation, still underway today.
- The Village of Sackets Harbor and the Sackets Harbor Historical Society begin major renovation work on the Pickering-Beach Historical Museum building.
- The Sackets Harbor Urban Cultural Park Visitors Center opens in the Augustus Sacket House.