Annual War of 1812 Symposium


The Oswego International War of 1812 Symposium features a special component this year to highlight the bicentennial of Oswego County. Come to the sixth annual event at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, 26 E. First St., Oswego to hear local and national speakers talk about the people and events that came from the War of 1812 and led to the organization of the county.

The conference begins with a student presentation contest on Friday, April 1

and continues through the weekend. Sessions run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.on Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sunday. 

Fort Ontario State Historic Site Superintendent Paul Lear returns this year as a speaker with a new presentation, “Without Any Force to Protect It,” a discussion about the British raid on Oswego on June 19, 1813.

“Oswego was an important trans-shipment point on the Mohawk, Oneida, Oswego water route,” said Lear. “Shipments of war materials and other goods and supplies came in and through the area on their way to the shipyard and troops at Sackets Harbor as well as to army campaigns on the St. Lawrence River and along the Niagara frontier.

“With only an aging, marginally-armed fort standing in its defense, Oswego became a likely target for British raids as they attempted to gain naval superiority on Lake Ontario. In June of 1813, Major General Prevost and Commodore Yeo attacked Oswego and other nearby shoreline communities with an amphibious force that should have assured their success.”

The presentation describes that failed attack as well as the general state of alarm that persisted throughout the village as people grew dissatisfied with their government and lost faith in the military to protect them and their property. 

Lear has served as superintendent of Oswego’s Fort Ontario State Historic Site since 1999. His previous experience includes working as a curator of education at New Windsor Cantonment, Washington’s HQ’s in Newburgh and Fort Ontario State Historic Site. A historical archeologist, Lear also worked for the New York State Museum’s Cultural Resource Survey and the Archeology Unit of the New York State Bureau of Historic Sites.

He received a master’s in public archeology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a bachelor’s in anthropology history from SUNY Albany. He currently serves as chair of the Oswego County War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee and on the Oswego County Tourism Advisory Council.

Oswego County Historian Justin White will join the line-up of respected presenters this year with his discussion, “From Cannonballs to Calling Cards: A Look Back at the Amazing Evolution of Oswego County History.”

White said, “Oswego County was incorporated on March 1, 1816; however, it was a destination long before it was officially organized, and its people and events of the day left their mark on the pages of history for the last 200 years and beyond. In particular, from the War of 1812 to its heyday as a scene for high society, Oswego County shows a remarkable transformation within a single generation.”

His presentation will begin with the origin of the name “Oswego” and continue through the early years of the county, including personal stories of some of the key players on the scene.

White was appointed County Historian by the Oswego County Legislature in 2005. Before that, he served as the Oswego Town historian. He is the president of the Oswego County Historical Society, a regional coordinator for the Association of Public Historians of New York State, and a past president and trustee of the Heritage Foundation of Oswego County.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in both English and mass communications from St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y. and is the Oswego County Records Retention and Archives Clerk, managing the Oswego County Records Center and Archives. White is a life-long resident of the city of Oswego, where his family has lived for seven generations.

Registration for the three-day event is $50 per person or $35 for students with a valid ID. The registration fee includes Saturday’s lunch, refreshment breaks on Saturday and Sunday and workshop materials. One-day registration is also available: $35 for Saturday, including lunch or $25 for Sunday. For students with a valid ID, one-day rates are $20 for Saturday, including lunch or $15 for Sunday.

Advance registration is required and may be paid by check or credit card through the Friends of Fort Ontario. Contact Paul Lear at 315-343-4711 for credit card payments Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Checks should be made payable to “Friends of Fort Ontario – 1812” and mailed to the Fort Ontario State Historic Site, 1 E. Fourth St., Oswego, N.Y. 13126.

Special room rates for symposium attendees are available at the Best Western Plus Captain’s Quarters Hotel, 26 E. First St., Oswego. Please call the hotel at 315-342-4040 and mention the Oswego War of 1812 Symposium.

 This year’s symposium is sponsored by the Friends of Fort Ontario, Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, Oswego County Tourism Advisory Council, the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, New York State Archives Partnership Trust, Pathfinder Bank, Ensign Heritage Group, SUNY Oswego, The Palladium-Times, Man in the Moon Candies, Oswego County Today, Oswego Elks Lodge #271, City of Oswego, and the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.

For a complete schedule or to register online, go to For more visitor information, go to or contact the Oswego County Tourism Office at315-349-8322.

Posted On: March 03, 2016
Listed As: Events in CNY