History of Fort Haldimand and the shipworks at Carleton Island

Below is a recent satellite image of Fort Haldimand at the head of Carleton Island. Compare the outline to that of the digram below. Arrows point to bastions easily identified in the diagram.

Ship built at the North Bay, Carleton Island 1779-80

HMS Ontario (Post-Revoluntary War Great Lakes British Brig-Sloop of War)
Canada, 1780

Ship's History:
HMS ONTARIO was built in 1779/80 at Carleton Island Shipyard located east of the City of Kingston on the St. Lawrence River. She was the largest and most powerful vessel on the Great Lakes in the immediate post-revoluntary war period. Mounting 22 heavy guns, her military role was to deter an anticipated American attack on Montreal via the Mohawk and St. Lawrence Rivers by supporting new Loyalist ranger battalions in an aggressive policy of 'hit and run' raiding along upper New York State. Weighing 226 tons, ONTARIO was 123 foot long to the end of her bowsprit, and had a top-gallant mast of 100 feet above her keel. ONTARIO floundered on Halloween night of 1780 in a sudden and violent hurricane while en-route from Fort Niagara to Oswego. At least 88 men, women and children perished, including her Captain - James Andrews. No wreckage was ever found and only 6 bodies eventually washed up on shore. News of this great military loss was kept secret for a number of years. To this day, the exact location of the wreck remains a mystery. Many marine archeologists believe ONTARIO may remain in pristine condition in her deep, cold fresh water grave in the depths of Lake Ontario.

Data and photo from www.DoranBayShips.com sellers of ship models.

 

HISTORY of CAPE VINCENT, NY
FROM OUR COUNTY AND ITS PEOPLE
A DESCRIPTIVE WORK ON JEFFERSON COUNTY NEW YORK
EDITED BY: EDGAR C. EMERSON
THE BOSTON HISTORY COMPANY, PUBLISHERS 1898

THE TOWN OF CAPE VINCENT.


In many respects the history of Cape Vincent is unlike that of any other town of the county, for within its territorial boundaries is one of the most interesting localities from a purely historic point of view to be found in northern New York. Carleton island is the particular locality referred to. There exists evidence tending to show that almost three hundred years ago the daring French explorer Champlain, voyaged quite near if indeed he did not touch this island when he crossed over the river and invaded the Iroquois country in 1615 In 1684 Marquis de la Barre, governor general of the Canadas, followed nearly the same course when he sailed to the south side of the lake and held a treaty with the Indians at Bay le Famine, in the present town of Ellisburgh. From historical accounts of that period there is reason to believe that De Ia Barre knew of the existence of what we now call Carleton island, if indeed he did not actually occupy it for temporary purposes. A few years later, in 1696, Count Frontenac in organizing and executing his historic expedition 1 against the Iroquois in the province of New York certainly became fully conversant with the famous islands at the foot of the lake, for even then they were regarded as points of importance in the warlike events of the period. We have no positive proof. that Frontenac occupied Carleton or any other island within the jurisdiction of this town, yet there is evidence tending to that conclusion. The island is first definitely mentioned in the Charlevoix letter of 1721 (see an earlier chapter), when that noted Jesuit missionary priest was at Bay le Famine and there wrote a letter to the Duchess de Lesdiguires. He mentioned Carleton island as "Isle aux Chevreuils." which has been translated as "Isle of Roe Bucks."

Father Charlevoix visited the island first in 1720, and described it as "a pretty port that can receive large barques," Among the early French explorers it was a favorite stopping place and camping ground, and the practice of utilizing it for this purpose was prolonged throughout the colonial period. In alluding to it a contemporary writer says: But what renders this island of more historical interest than the many other islands of the group are the remains of a strong military work, which was built upon it during the latter part of the last century, crowning the brink of the bluff at the head of the island, overlooking the "pretty port" and commanding the American channel of the great river. This fortification has generally been known as Fort Carleton, but in regard to its origin and date of construction there was much conjecture, and not a little controversy among students of history until the doubt was removed by Major Durham's researches. (See note.) Until within the last score of years it was supposed that the fort was built by the French between 1758 and 1760, or during the last French and English struggle for supremacy on this side of the Atlantic, while some writers haveascribed it to a still more ancient origin, dating back in some cases almost to Champlain's time. As a matter of fact the fort on Carleton island was built by the English during the years 1778-79, and was heavily equipped with cannon and other necessary munitions of war.

However, the advocates of the earlier date of construction were not wholly without foundation for their claims, for as early as 1758 the plans of French defenses along the Canadian border contemplated the costruction of a fort on Isle aux Chevereaux, but the work was not done under the French governor-general, nor until after the overthrow of that power in America. The accompanying diagram gives an idea of the outlines of this historic fortification although the elements and the ever destroying hand of man have reduced the work almost to a pile of debris.

Fort Carleton stands immediately on the brow of a high bluff overlooking the little peninsula and two harbors below, and commands both channels of the river lying south of Wolf island. The gorge, or rear wall, was chiefly formed by the high cliffs at its base, forming a natural defense, and in addition is an artificial wall of stone, although now a pile of ruins, while its accompanying stockade has entirely disappeared. The length of the gorge wall line is about 800 feet, and about in its middle is a gateway leading out to what was evidently the magazine. The fort, looking toward the mainland of the island, was defended by an irregular line of works, with a solid parapet having three faces, and each strengthened by a bastion. Outside of the parapet was a ditch excavated in the rock to a depth of six feet, and having a width of about 22 feet. The stone from the ditch was used in constructing the irregular wall which run along the entire front and about 30 feet distant therefrom. There were two main sally-ports, one at the north and the other at the south extremity of the fort, and each connected with a road leading to a landing. The fort, including the ditch, covered an area of about eight or ten acres, and could accommodate a garrison of about 500 men. It was one of the most substantial fortifications on the frontier, and must have cost an immense sum of money. The relics found in and around the fort consist of coins, buttons, tomahawks, flints, &c., and indicate French, English and Indian occupancy of the region. Nearby and on the plain east of the works, was a burial ground, but little if any of this spot is now visible.

Such, in brief, is a description of one of the most noted localities in Jefferson county, yet during the period of its history we have no account of an important conflict at arms on the island. This indeed was the key to the outlet of the take and the value of Carleton island as a strategic point wasundoubted, yet the circumstances of war decreed that it should not be the scene of any sanguinary engagement. The island and the fort were held as a British port until 1812, when Abner Hubbard and a few companions took it upon themselves to capture it in the cause of the Americans. Three invalid men and two women were the fruits of this conquest. The movable contents of the fort were soon afterward transferred to the mainland and the buildings were burned and destroyed.

Carleton island also had an interesting civil history, and was, so far as we have any definite knowledge, the first occupied portion of the territory now constituting this county. After the close of the revolution William Richardson was granted a bounty or land warrant in compensation for services in the army. This he sold to Matthew Watson and William Guilland, who, on Oct. 2, 1786, located the same on Carleton island generally. This action was approved by the land commissioner, but the transaction was to be void if the island proved to be within Canadian territory. Guilland sold his interest in the warrant to Watson, and the latter died, leaving three children, John, Margaret and Jane, two of whom (John and Jane) subsequently died without issue. Margaret married with Jacob Ten Broeck, and they sold the right to Charles Smyth. In the meantime the island was in possession of the British, and Smyth was thus unable to locate his claim or occupy any portion of the land, hence had recourse to the legislature in 1821, which resulted in an act to the effect that the title should not be prejudiced by the lapse of time between the location of the claim and the application for patent. At the same time Smyth also applied for a patent for the remaining lands of the island (its area is about 1,300 acres), and the legislative committee, to whom the applications were referred, learning that the lands were then occupied by about a dozen squatters who were making serious inroads on the timber lands, advised a compliance with the petition. An act was therefore passed (March 2, 1821) directing the issue of a patent for 500 acres on the west end of the island, but subsequently Smyth became possessed of the whole tract.'

In 1823 F. R. Hasler, a mathematician of note, and who for many years had charge of coast survey work, was employed to survey Carleton island, and reported it to contain 1,279 acres. He found about 30 acres of land near the south shore which had previously been im proved, and which was known as the "king's garden." At that time the island also contained 8 log houses and 2 cabins, and about 197 acres of land under cultivation. This, of course, was the work of squatters. These improvements are said to have begun in 1822, when Avery Smith and Abijah Lewis began lumbering operations, and in the course of a few years the island possessed a post-office and a school; James Estes had a tavern, and four dwellings were built in the vicinity of the old chimneys on the site of Fort Carleton. A Mr. Shumway taught the school, and also served as justice of the peace to settle any differences which might arise among the settlers; and if local tradition be true, the worthy pedagogue dispensed justice with the same firmness with which he wielded the rod in the school room. Among the other denizens of the locality were David Briggs, who made shoes, and also James Wood and a Mr. Shaw, who kept stores. Abijah Lewis also kept store, and after he and Smith dissolved partnership, each carried on the lumber business alone until the island was practically stripped of its primitive forest growth. This having in due time been accomplished, the business importance of the island passed away, and where once was the semblance of a hamlet only the old smoke colored chimneys survived to mark the historic spot. Subsequently the island was divided into farm tracts, and has since been devoted chiefly to agricultural pursuits, except as non-resident persons have secured small parcels in the most attractive localities and turned them into summer resorts.' The permanent occupants of the island do not number more than half a dozen families.

 

Barracks near Central bastion in Fort Haldimand. Drawing by J.H.Durham 1889. Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Old Chimney of the dockyard hospital: Drawing by J.H.Durham 1889. Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

View of fort haldimand looking toward the North Salient: Drawing by J.H.Durham 1889. Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Barracks and powder magazine. Drawing by J.H.Durham 1889. Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Whate Boat. ~ 25 feet. Manned by ~ 14.: Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Sunken Hulk H.M.S. Haldimand in the north bay at Carleton Island: Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

Ruins of Fort Haldimand circa 1850: Material captured from: 'Legend of the Lake' by Arthur Btitton Smith

From Legend of the Lake by Arthur Btitton Smith: "Seneca, Ontario, and Haldimand at the Carleton Island Anchorage in May 1780. Ontario is setting sail for Niagara ..... Painting by Peter Rindlisbacher.": "Seneca, Ontario, and Haldimand at the Carleton Island Anchorage in May 1780. Ontario is setting sail for Niagara ..... Painting by Peter Rindlisbacher."

Cropped from Legend of the Lake by Arthur Btitton Smith: "Seneca, Ontario, and Haldimand at the Carleton Island Anchorage in May 1780. Ontario is setting sail for Niagara ..... Painting by Peter Rindlisbacher." Fort Haldimand at left. Ahead is Schank Harbour now known as the North Bay at Carleton Island.

Limnade built at Carleton Island 1780-81. Painting by Peter Rindlisbacher from Legend of the Lake by Arthur Britton Smith.