Sackets Harbor, New York

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Sackets Harbor, New York
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Sackets Harbor
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Sackets Harbor
Coordinates: 43°57′N76°7′W / 43.950°N 76.117°W / 43.950; -76.117 Coordinates: 43°57′N76°7′W / 43.950°N 76.117°W / 43.950; -76.117
CountryUnited States
State New York
County Jefferson
Town Hounsfield
  MayorMolly Reilly
  Total2.31 sq mi (5.99 km2)
  Land2.31 sq mi (5.97 km2)
  Water0.01 sq mi (0.01 km2)
282 ft (86 m)
(2019) [2]
  Density605.81/sq mi (233.94/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
  Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 315
FIPS code 36-64408
GNIS feature ID0963166

Sackets Harbor (earlier spelled Sacketts Harbor) is a village in Jefferson County, New York, United States, on Lake Ontario. The population was 1,450 at the 2010 census. [3] The village was named after land developer and owner Augustus Sackett, who founded it in the early 1800s.


Sackets Harbor is in the western part of the town of Hounsfield and is west of Watertown. The heart of the village, with a Main Street and well-preserved 19th century buildings, has been recognized as the Sackets Harbor Village Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. [4]

To support the War of 1812, the US Navy built a major shipyard and its headquarters for the Great Lakes at the village. Within a short period, more than 3,000 men worked at the shipyard. The Army constructed earthworks, forts, barracks and supporting infrastructure to defend the village and navy shipyard, and its troops also camped in the village. The thousands of military personnel made it seem like a city. By the fall of 1814, this was the third-largest population center in the entire state, after Albany and New York City. [5] With its strategic protected harbor on Lake Ontario and military installations, the village had national importance through the 19th century.

Soon after the war, the Army strengthened its defenses on the northern frontier by constructing Madison Barracks. The village also developed a commercial shipyard and many business connections to communities around the Great Lakes. Its businessmen were also connected to bases in the major markets of Louisville, Kentucky, and New Orleans. In 1817 a consortium of local businessmen supported construction of the 240-ton Ontario, the first US steamboat on the Great Lakes. In July 1834, the commercial schooner Illinois from Sackets Harbor was the first to enter the harbor of the new settlement of Chicago. Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site commemorates a battle during the War of 1812 and the contribution of the area to the United States defense.


Prior to the American Revolutionary War, this area had been inhabited for thousands of years by differing cultures of indigenous peoples. The historic tribe were the Iroquoian-speaking Onondaga, part of the Haudenosaunee , or Iroquois Confederacy. Long trading with the French and English, the Mohawk and most of the Six Nations allied with the British during the Revolution, hoping to dislodge the American colonists from their territory. Following the war, they were forced to make major cessions of most of their land in New York to the United States. Most of the Iroquois went to Canada and settled on land granted by Great Britain.

In the large-scale sales of 5 million acres (20,000 km2) of public lands in the postwar period, Sackets Harbor was founded in 1801 by Augustus Sackett, a land speculator from New York City. He and others had high hopes for trade across Lake Ontario with Kingston and other parts of Canada. With one of the few natural harbors on Lake Ontario, Sackets Harbor was the most significant community in the area until the founding of the city of Watertown.

The area attracted migrants from New England, as well as immigrants from Great Britain and France. The latter were fleeing the turmoil of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. They cleared heavy forest and gradually constructed houses for a village center. Edmund Luff, a young English immigrant, constructed a non-denominational meetinghouse, where all Christians met until they built their own churches in later decades. Converted to a residence, the house still stands.

The American Revolution did not resolve all issues with Great Britain. Border issues and increasing tensions led the US to impose the Embargo Act of 1807 prohibiting trade with Great Britain, which effectively included Canada. People on both sides of the border, Canadian (many of them Native Americans, including Loyalists who had fled there after the Revolution) and American, quickly built up a vigorous smuggling trade across the waters and through the nearby Thousand Islands area along the St. Lawrence River. But the embargo reduced trade. The US government first stationed forces in the area to try to reduce smuggling.

By the 1810 census, there were 943 qualified voters in the village. Sackets Harbor incorporated as a village in 1814, during the War of 1812.

War of 1812

As tensions increased with Great Britain, the US began to build up its military forces at Sackets Harbor, including creating a major shipyard at what became Navy Point. The scale of buildup was such that the citizens were outnumbered on a scale of about 8:1 by thousands of sailors and soldiers, camp followers and traders. Some 3,000 workers built the warships, and most had been recruited from the New York City area.

Limited sanitary facilities and medical knowledge made the dense troop encampments breeding grounds for infectious diseases, such as typhus, which quickly spread to villagers, too. By February 1813, Sackets Harbor was the largest community in the state north of the Mohawk River. [6]

The village was the site of two battles during the War of 1812. In the first battle in 1812, the brig USS Oneida and shore batteries repulsed an attacking force of five British ships. The village became a major base of operations for both the Navy (including US Marine Corps) and Army for the duration of the war. The Army built defensive earthworks around much of the village, and Fort Tompkins with barracks near Navy Point. Local militia built Fort Volunteer north of the village main streets. [7] Thousands of troops gathered to defend the shipyard and village, and to attack Canada.

The numbers of troops so exceeded what could be built to shelter them that in 1813 troops were housed with residents, in stores, in barns and in tents. Village women counted themselves lucky if they were only cooking for officers. By the spring of 1813, the Army had gathered approximately 5,200 men in the village. [8]

Most importantly, by 1813 the village became the US Naval Headquarters on the Great Lakes. Working at the Navy Point shipyard were 3,000 highly skilled men, including hundreds of shipbuilders and carpenters brought from New York City because of a lack of locally skilled craftsmen. The yard was constructed and supervised during the war by New York City naval architect and shipbuilder Henry Eckford. They rapidly built eleven warships to establish control over the Great Lakes.

Control of the Great Lakes ultimately ended up in the hands of both the peoples of Canada and the United States (with the exception of Lake Michigan, which is located entirely within the United States) and has been managed since 1909 by the International Joint Commission.

In the Second Battle of Sacket's Harbor in May 1813, British forces landed and attacked the village, but they were again driven off. Most of the American garrison and ships were at the western end of the lake at the time in another conflict. The American defense was marred by officers' mistaken orders at Navy Point to destroy stores and a partially constructed ship, to prevent capture by the British.

The buildup continued. In the fall of 1813, the Navy had moved its hospital off a ship and was temporarily renting the non-denominational meeting house from settler and preacher Edmund Luff. [9] The next year a two-story hospital was constructed on land just north of the village and south of Mill Creek, on land that was bought from his father Samuel Luff. By the fall of 1814, Sackets Harbor was the third-largest population center in all of New York state, after Albany and New York City. [5]

Until the federal government established the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, it had several schools for the training of midshipmen. Commodore Isaac Chauncey, writing to the Secretary of the Navy on November 30, 1814, described a school established at Sacket's Harbor on Lake Ontario in that year:

Sir. I have the pleasure to inform you that I have established a Mathematical School under the direction of my Chaplain the Revd. Mr. Felch who is fully competent to the duties of such a School. More than One hundred Officers attend this School, as they can be spared from duty and about Sixty Lieutenants and Midshipmen attend daily who make great progress in the various branches of Mathematics Navigation. etc. [10]

The end of the war came in 1815 before the Navy completed construction of the last warship, the USS New Orleans. She was put into storage and never completed. She was finally scrapped in 1883.

19th through 20th centuries

The military recognized the continued importance of Sackets Harbor's strategic location. The Navy Shipyard operated until 1874, building ships such as USRC Active (1843), a revenue cutter. In 1848 a new Sackets Harbor Naval Station was constructed. After 1884, the base was used mostly for training.

The Army took over privately owned land of Samuel Luff just north of the village to build Madison Barracks (c. 1814–1819). Well into the late 19th century, this was a substantial military installation; the Army added new construction including housing, a school, a hospital, stables for horses, and supporting infrastructure. Ulysses S. Grant was among the officers who served here. During World War I, the base was used primarily as a hospital post, and in World War II as a training post.

Madison Barracks has been designated as an Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The New York State Museum of Military History calls it "a living museum of military architecture". Comprising the northeastern quarter of the village, the Madison Barracks is being slowly redeveloped as a planned commercial/residential area. [11] The New York City consortium Fort Pike Associates holds title to unsold land in the complex.

In July 2017, the 24-acre (9.7 ha) Horse Island, located just west of the village, was acquired for preservation by the Civil War Trust, aided by a grant from the National Park Service. It was the site of a War of 1812 engagement. This was the first time in the US that a grant from the American Battlefield Land Grant program has been used to preserve a War of 1812 site. [12]

Sackets Harbor developed as an important Great Lakes port through most of the 19th century. Commercial shipyards were built that adjoined Navy Point. In 1817 a local consortium of military officers and businessmen—General Jacob Brown, Commodore Melancthon Taylor Woolsey, Charles Smyth, Eric Lusher, Elisha Camp, Samuel F. Hooker, and Hunter Crane—financed the construction of the 240-ton Ontario. It was the first US steamboat to be built west of the Hudson River and operated on the Great Lakes. [13] This was the beginning of extensive steamboat traffic on the Great Lakes, including passenger boats that stopped at towns around the lakes.

On July 12, 1834, Louis Hooker, a son of Samuel Hooker, was aboard the schooner Illinois from Sackets Harbor when it was the first commercial ship to enter Chicago harbor, a sign of what was soon to be greatly increased Great Lakes trade with that city and region. [14] Samuel F. Hooker and his sons had shipping interests in Sackets Harbor with national networks; their firm had steamboats based in Louisville, Kentucky. These were part of the Mississippi River trade to and from New Orleans, a major port and one of the wealthiest cities in the nation before the American Civil War. Thus Hooker and similar upstate New York businessmen gained some of their wealth from the domestic slave trade, as Louisville was a major shipping point for slaves sold to New Orleans markets and the Deep South.

As cities industrialized and major economic development moved West, from 1870–1930 the village became a popular destination for families taking lengthy summer vacations. It attracted visitors from Chicago and other major cities around the Great Lakes, many of whom had family who had lived in Sackets Harbor before the mid-19th century westward migration. Some maintained second homes in historic properties of the village.

In the early 21st century, heritage tourism and summer recreation have been renewed sources of growth for the village. Navy Point is a marina providing moorings and facilities for private boats.

The Elisha Camp House, Galloo Island Light, Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor Battlefield, Sackets Harbor Village Historic District, and Union Hotel are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [15]

Notable people

Additional facts


Sackets Harbor is located at 43°56′47″N76°7′4″W / 43.94639°N 76.11778°W / 43.94639; -76.11778 (43.946503, −76.117758). [20]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2), of which 0.004 square miles (0.01 km2), or 0.26%, are water. [3] The village is on Black River Bay, southwest of the mouth of the Black River, on Lake Ontario. Its protected harbor was critical to the founding and early history of the village. Much of Lake Ontario was gouged out of rock by glaciers. There were few protected harbors on the south shore deep enough for major shipping in the early 19th century.

New York State Route 3 passes east of the village, which is at the convergence of County Roads 62 (Sulphur Springs Road) and 75 (Adams Road/Dodge Avenue). Watertown, the Jefferson county seat, is 10 miles (16 km) to the east, and Henderson Harbor is 9 miles (14 km) to the southwest.


Historical population
1870 713
1880 88524.1%
1890 787−11.1%
1900 1,26660.9%
1910 868−31.4%
1920 667−23.2%
1930 1,680151.9%
1940 1,96216.8%
1950 1,247−36.4%
1960 1,2792.6%
1970 1,202−6.0%
1980 1,017−15.4%
1990 1,31329.1%
2000 1,3865.6%
2010 1,4504.6%
2019 (est.)1,397 [2] −3.7%
U.S. Decennial Census [21]

As of the census [22] of 2000, there were 1,386 people, 653 households, and 370 families residing in the village. The population density was 609.1 people per square mile (234.7/km2). There were 791 housing units at an average density of 347.6 per square mile (134.0/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 97.26% White, 0.43% African American, 0.29% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.36% from other races, and 1.37% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.73% of the population.

There were 653 households, out of which 23.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.2% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.3% were non-families. 35.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.72.

In the village, the population was spread out, with 18.8% under the age of 18, 11.0% from 18 to 24, 37.7% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 113.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 113.3 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $42,629, and the median income for a family was $51,397. Males had a median income of $33,696 versus $26,917 for females. The per capita income for the village was $23,269. About 5.8% of families and 7.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 7.7% of those age 65 or over.


Sackets Harbor Central School District provides public education in the area, and operates a high school and elementary school.

Related Research Articles

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Melancthon Taylor Woolsey

Melancthon Taylor Woolsey was an officer in the United States Navy during the War of 1812 and battles on the Great Lakes. He supervised warship construction at Navy Point in Sackets Harbor, New York, and later had a full career in the Navy.

USS Julia was a schooner in the United States Navy during the War of 1812. Initially the privately-owned schooner Julia, she was captured at the onset of the war by armed boats looking for violators of President James Madison's embargo of trade with the British. Purchased by the United States Navy, the vessel was armed with two guns and made part of the squadron on Lake Ontario. Julia took part in the Battle of York and the Battle of Fort George. In August 1813, the schooner was captured by the Royal Navy after failing to execute a turn and was put in service as HMS Confiance. The vessel continued as a warship in British service for a couple of weeks before being converted to a troop transport. In October, Confiance was recaptured by the Americans and renamed Julia. No longer considered capable as a warship, the vessel was retired from service.

Second Battle of Sackets Harbor

The Second Battle of Sacket's Harbor or simply the Battle of Sacket's Harbor, took place on 29 May 1813, during the War of 1812. A British force was transported across Lake Ontario and attempted to capture the town, which was the principal dockyard and base for the American naval squadron on the lake. Twelve warships were built here. The British were repulsed by American regulars, militia, marines and sailors.

USS Lady of the Lake was a small schooner in the United States Navy during the War of 1812. She was built by Henry Eckford of Sacketts Harbor, New York, during the summer and winter of 1812-13, launched 6 April 1813 and entered service 13 days later, Sailing Master Flinn in command.

USS <i>General Pike</i> (1813) Corvette of the United States Navy

USS General Pike was a corvette in the United States Navy, which took part in Engagements on Lake Ontario during the Anglo-American War of 1812. She was launched in June 1813 and took part in several indecisive battles on the Great Lakes. She was laid up at the end of the war and was sold in 1825.

HMS <i>Duke of Gloucester</i> (1807)

HMS Duke of Gloucester was a 10-gun brig of the Royal Navy which was launched at the Kingston Royal Naval Dockyard in Kingston, Ontario. A Provincial Marine vessel, during the War of 1812, the brig took part in several of the early engagements between British and American naval forces on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. While being repaired at York, Duke of Gloucester was captured by Americans in 1813. A month later the British destroyed the brig at the Battle of Sackett's Harbor.

Battle of Big Sandy Creek

The Battle of Big Sandy Creek was fought in northwestern New York on May 29–30, 1814, during the War of 1812. American troops and Oneida Indians launched an attempted surprise attack on British troops and sailors, who were pursuing them inland from Lake Ontario.

USS <i>Scourge</i> (1812)

USS Scourge was an American warship converted from a confiscated Canadian merchant schooner. She and the American warship Hamilton foundered at 2:00am on Sunday, August 8, 1813 during a squall on Lake Ontario. during the War of 1812.

USS <i>Hamilton</i> (1809)

The first USS Hamilton was a United States Navy schooner which served on Lake Ontario from 1812 to 1813 during the War of 1812.

First Battle of Sackets Harbor

The First Battle of Sacket's Harbor was a battle fought on July 19, 1812, between the United States and the British Empire; it was the first engagement of the war between these forces. It resulted in American forces repelling the attack on the village and its important shipbuilding yard, where 12 warships were built for this war.

Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site United States historic place

Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site is a historically important location in Jefferson County, New York, United States. The historic site is south of the Village of Sackets Harbor, bordering Lake Ontario in the Town of Hounsfield. Two battles were fought near this location during the War of 1812. Some 3,000 men worked at the shipyard building warships, and the village was fortified and garrisoned with thousands of troops.

Engagements on Lake Ontario Naval battles during the War of 1812

The Engagements on Lake Ontario encompass the prolonged naval contest for control of the lake during the War of 1812. Few actions were fought, none of which had decisive results. The contest essentially became a naval building race, sometimes referred to sarcastically as the "Battle of the Carpenters."

Kingston Royal Naval Dockyard

The Kingston Royal Naval Dockyard was a Royal Navy Dockyard from 1788 to 1853 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, at the site of the current Royal Military College of Canada.

USS Fair American was a United States Navy schooner which served in the War of 1812, taking part in several engagements on Lake Ontario.

Henry Eckford (shipbuilder) Scottish-American shipbuilder

Henry Eckford was a Scottish-born American shipbuilder, naval architect, industrial engineer, and entrepreneur who worked for the United States Navy and the navy of the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century. After building a national reputation in the United States through his shipbuilding successes during the War of 1812, he became a prominent business and political figure in New York City in the 1810s, 1820s, and early 1830s.

USS Madison was a U.S. Navy corvette built during the War of 1812 for use on the Great Lakes.

Horse Island Light

Horse Island Light, also known as Sackets Harbor Light, is located on Horse Island in Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County in New York on Lake Ontario. In July 2017 the 24-acre island was acquired for preservation by the Civil War Trust, aided by a grant from the National Park Service. This was the first grant in the United States made for a War of 1812 site under the NPS battlefield grants program.

Madison Barracks United States historic place

Madison Barracks was a military installation established in 1813 or 1815 at Sackets Harbor that was built for occupation by 600 U.S. troops, a few years after the War of 1812. It was named for James Madison who had just completed his presidency in 1817. Construction began under the name Fort Pike. The facility is a National Historic Landmark and a historic district located in Jefferson County, New York. The district includes 86 contributing buildings and two contributing structures. It includes the stone hospital, bakery, several warehouses known as "Stone Row," a stone water tower, and a series of brick buildings constructed in the 1890s as officers quarters, barracks, mess hall, and weapons storage and repair building.


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  7. Sacketts Harbor Forts
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Further reading