Portion of a map of Sackets Harbor and the Town of Hounsfield from the late 1800s

Sackets Harbor History

Sackets Harbor was founded in 1801 by Augustus Sacket, who recognized the commercial advantage of the deep, natural harbor of the Black River Bay and the plentiful timber resources. The Village’s proximity to Canada, only 30 miles across Lake Ontario, meant profitable trade with Canada and Great Britain. Sackets Harbor quickly became a major shipping and shipbuilding center.

In 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain, and Sackets Harbor became the headquarters of the U.S. military for the northern frontier. As a result, thousands of troops and hundreds of ship carpenters poured into the Village, transforming it into a major military outpost and shipbuilding center.

Sackets Harbor was the site of two important battles in the War of 1812. First, it was attacked by the Canadian Provincial Marines on July 19, 1812, and it was successfully defended by the guns of the Oneida and a long, 32-pound cannon mounted on shore. Then, less than one year later, the British and Upper Canada forces again attacked on May 29, 1813 to destroy its shipbuilding efforts. The US troops repelled the attack after a lengthy battle but suffered losses of both supplies and facilities.

Beyond the War of 1812

Though the War of 1812 history is of great importance to Sackets Harbor, the Village also played a part in every major war through World War II, due to Madison Barracks, an active Army post located in the village. In addition, the Village has welcomed numerous American luminaries as visitors and residents, including:

  • Brigadier General Zebulon Pike,
  • President James Monroe,
  • Dr. Samuel Gutherie,
  • Captain Augustus Pickering,
  • President Martin Van Buren,
  • President Ulysses S. Grant, and
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1975, a group of Sackets Harbor residents banded together to form the Sackets Harbor Historical Society. Its mission then, as now, was to stimulate community revitalization and preserve and promote the history of the area. The group began by purchasing and renovating the old Sackets Harbor Bank building, spurring a community-wide renaissance which transformed the village.

The State recognized these efforts and the village’s historical significance by designating it a New York State Urban Cultural Park in 1982. In addition, the federal government honored it the following year, adding the Village’s Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places.