Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Grievances provoking the American Revolutionary War left many Philadelphians unprovoked. Loyalists often fled to Canada, especially Kingston, Ontario. Decades later the flow of dissidents reversed, Canadian anti-royalists taking refuge south of the border.

Sackett's Town at Sackets Harbor

{Augustus Sackett}
Augustus Sackett

After the American Revolution, a New York land speculator named Augustus Sackett established a town on Lake Ontario, destined nevertheless to remain Sackets Harbor on maps and documents. As the boundaries of the United States and Canada became established, Sackett recognized the potential for his town to become an international trading center. Whether or not he knew it, that would essentially become a term for smuggling, which was the early foundation for the economy. Federal troops were stationed in (President) Madison's Barracks north of town in an effort to discourage smuggling, so existing fortifications came in handy for the War of 1812. With the advent of that war, the town was flooded with troops in a ratio of 8:1, eventually attracting attack by British warships and leading to the rapid establishment of a flourishing naval shipbuilding center. The war ended before most of those ships saw action, but the countryside was denuded of trees needed for the building of 32-gun battleships, and hence improved for agriculture. After the war, the town was used for naval training, but the burning of Washington DC was reason enough to move naval training to Annapolis MD.

{Sackets Harbor Mansion}
Sackett's Mansion

Cute little Sackets Harbor is small enough to become a par-three golf green with a big water hazard in the middle, but instead, tourism turned in the direction of sail boating from a snug harbor. The abandoned railroad station is now a restaurant center, and there are hotels and restaurants in a circle around it. There are a lot of tourist amenities hidden around, leaving the rest of the village intact. It's really a nice place to stop for lunch or dinner or to stay overnight. The eastern edge of Lake Ontario nearby is a stretch of sandy beaches and lovely farm country, which turns out to be a favorite sort of place for people to go camping. Nowadays, that mainly means Recreational Vehicles and trailers, with retired folk resting in their hammocks on the neatly mowed grass. The most upscale trailer camps cost twenty or thirty dollars a night for "full hook-up", so the campers are mostly affluent retirees, watching their pennies nevertheless. There are motels galore in nearby Watertown, but just a little effort will seek out something more appealing in Sackets Harbor. Right now, Sackets Harbor is even cheaper, but everybody knows what happens to prices in response to supply and demand.

Originally published: Thursday, August 05, 2010; most-recently modified: Wednesday, June 05, 2019

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