They Made History in 2013

During 2013, the Sterling Historical Society presented diverse programming at its monthly meetings. Author Susan Peterson Gateley spoke of Lake Ontario being “borne of ice” 10,000 years ago, during the ice age. The Lake has influenced the weather, occupations and hence, the people of the area. She discussed the history of jobs, brought forth by Lake Ontario. Men were engaged in stevedoring, railroad work, coal, fi shing and lumber industries, sailing, etc. Today the area harbors charter boats, recreational boaters and weekend fishermen. Susan also discussed sailing, Lake Ontario shipwrecks, and interesting local mariners.

Marion Teachout, life resident of Sterling, spoke about changes in farming during his lifetime, from type of crops grown, use of horses for plowing and hauling, and trains taking crops to NY City, to modern farms with scientific rationing to feed cows, huge fl ocks of chickens and giant herds of cows, etc. His family had once raised lettuce, celery, potatoes, onions, cabbage, chickens and turkeys. For about eight years, they raised 8,000 turkeys per year. His family had a 16 acre muck that supported two families at one time. Nowadays the Merrill Farms located near Wolcott, for example, sometimes has up to 5000 cows, some as young stock. A family in Missouri raises 155,000 chickens at a time 5,000 turkeys per year.

At the annual June banquet, Dr. Robert Spitzer presented a lecture on the history of guns, noting that gun control legislation is as old as the nation. He presented examples of gun control laws of various colonies and states over time. Two issues that seemed of particular concern were carrying concealed weapons and particular persons not being allowed to have weapons, such as slaves and Indians. He demonstrated that attempts at gun control have waxed and waned over time in response to various historical events, such as spates of violence or assassinations.

After the picnic at the Fair Haven Yacht Club, Karen Lee, head of the youth sailing program, spoke about the history of the Yacht Club. It was formed in 1933 with Arnold W. Chapman as fi rst Commodore. The Club hosted the Lake Yacht Racing Association that year with 50 boats participating in the long race and 60 in the shorter races. She discussed several other Yacht Club regatta and race events that have taken place over the years. She also explained how the grounds and moorings have changed, the Club’s structure and the youth sailing program. Karen had on display trophies, photos, newspapers, books and a slideshow of the raising of the clubhouse.

Susan Peterson Gateley returned to speak about Lake Ontario and the War of 1812. It was 200 years ago (Oct. 17, 1813) that the heaviest loss of life occurred on the Lake. Most of the major naval battles had been fought on Lakes Erie and Champlain, with only skirmishes occurring on Lake Ontario. e largest loss of life on Lake Ontario was caused when a “War Hawks” plan to annex Canada ended in failure. A flotilla amassed at Sackett’s Harbor to sail up the St. Lawrence River, led by General James Wilkinson’s forces. After interpersonal problems between Wilkinson and another general, and many delays, the fl otilla fi nally sailed on Oct. 17. at night was calm but by midnight the clouds thickened, the wind blew, lightning struck and the rains came. e men tried to save the boats but 15 were lost. en the men were pinned down by 10 inches of Lake eff ect snow. Men became sick with pneumonia. e troops never made it to Montreal. Bad weather, poor leadership and chance combined for the result that the Americans were defeated south of Montreal at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm, ending any chance of annexing Canada.

Susan Parsons, Secretary,
Fair Haven Village Historian

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