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Last post ended with an aerial photo.  Here’s a higher one of the same area, taken in 1981, for a state agency.  The Oneida River flows from the bottom of the photo.  Notice the tanks below, or east of,  the bridge.  As we pass, notice vestiges of docks and pipes to those tanks, although the tanks are gone.  This has been a crossroads for ages;  Haudenosaunee used it,  and French coureurs de bois and Dutch boslopers passed through here.  The French defended it until General Jeffrey Amherst came through here with 10,000 troops.  After 1763, the British used it, and in fact, Barry St Leger traveled through here twice, before and after his retreat from his siege at Ft. Stanwix.  The British held possession of Fort Ontario in Oswego until the Jay Treaty in 1796, but that’s getting ahead a bit.   James Fenimore Cooper, assigned to Fort Ontario, explored the area, using it later as source material for one of his novels.   Basically, you are looking down at a crossroads from time immemorial.

At the south side of Three Rivers, there’s a park on the point.  Between 1934 and 1973, the Three Rivers Inn nightclub stood, to the right  where the darker trees are, and big-name acts came to play:  Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Pat Boone, and others passed through this crossroads.  Click the link in the previous sentence to read the full list. Remember, this was a time when celebrity still traveled from gig to gig in rail cars.  Entertains would play here for more intimate sets, and some folks from Syracuse, about 15 miles away, would come by boat and tie up.

We’ve now traveled 160 miles since Waterford, not quite half the way to Buffalo.  If we were headed there, we’d turn slightly left and head up the Seneca River.  Next trip planned is from Lake Erie to Buffalo to here.  For now, since our destination is Lake Ontario, we’ll hang a right. At that point we are leaving the Erie Canal per se, and entering the Oswego Canal, another canalized river.  The Oswego Canal has a separate history from the Erie Canal.  The early 1800s saw a plethora of canals built all over what is now the NE US.

A little over a mile down the Oswego, we pass the Lysander Canal Maintenance Yard, likely the newest of six in the system.

About three miles down from Three Rivers Point, we get to the first lock in this system, O-1.   Legend has it that on an island just before Phoenix, French priests in the 18th century took refuge, having fled from the Onondaga Lake area with gold and a brass canon, then left everything behind when they feared an attack by natives. To date, no one reports having located the treasure.  Would you report the loot if you found it?

Just north of O-1, there are two unusual single-span lift bridges–only the yellow one still used.

Oswego Canal locks have dams with tainter gates.

If the west side of the river currently looks empty, the photo below show its appearance in 1907, pre-Barge Canal.  Nine years later the mills burned; click here to see the view after the fire.   And if you imagine therefore that the town is named for its rebirth, you would be wrong. Land there was first owned by an Alexander Phoenix.

 

The Oswego River sees a lot of recreational use.

Although you see lots of wildlife in most places along the Canal, these birds are most plentiful here.

Fulton had such a solid industrial and manufacturing base in the 1930s that it was praised in a New York City newspaper headline as “the city the depression forgot.” Unfortunately, things changed later.  The Fulton Nestle plant that had pioneered morsels,  Nestle Quick, and Nestle Crunch, closed in 2003.  Fulton Birds Eye closed in 2011 but reopened in 2014 as K&N Foods.   Miller Brewing, which closed its brewery in 1994, reopened in 2008 as a Sunoco ethanol plant, and in 2019 sold to Attis, a biofuels company.  On my first visit to a bar in Fulton, friends asked me to order Miller; the response to my request was an icy stare and  . . . “We don’t serve that here.”

Hunter Arms is another lost Fulton business.  From 1890 and 1950 they built high end shotguns here, had some celebrity clients, and to this day, an annual reunion brings enthusiasts back here.

Two islands with notable names between lock O-2 and O-3 and O-5 in Minetto are called Pathfinder Island (see p. 230 of this guide) and Battle Island, a reference to an ambush by French Captain Devilliers and his force of over 700 Canadians, regulars, and Indians of a column led by British Colonel Bradstreet and his force of 1000 troops in 350 bateaux.  There is no lock O-4;  in construction it was deemed unneeded and the numbers left unchanged.

This building on the east bank referred to as “the tavern” was built by John Van Buren, cousin of the 8th US president,  around 1820. John died the following year, and the property was taken over by his son Jacob.  It served as both family residence and business catering to travelers on the canal.

Just to the north of the “tavern” is “the pillars,” built by Jacob’s brother David in 1847.  Both places are privately owned and not open to the public.

More winding scenic miles later we arrive at the top of O-5 in Minetto,

Not much remains except the hydro-electric plant, but Minetto was a company town, manufacturing cloth from 1879 until 1977.

I’m unsure of attribution for the b/w photos here;  all color photos by Will Van Dorp.  Color drone photo by Jim Kerins.

 

 

 

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