By Ted Como
In 1787 when the St. Lawrence border region was carved up into 10 towns sold at public auction, Alexander Macomb bought all of them and sold four to Samuel Ogden, who sent Nathan Ford to take possession of the Town of Oswegatchie with a view of starting a settlement where Abbe Picquet had built Fort LaPresentation.
The rest is history, one where Ogden had the city named after him despite that Ford did most of the work in building it. Ford was honored with the main street and even an avenue named for him but Picquet, the man who started it all? Well, his monument was but an afterthought with Picquet Drive stretching about the length of a city block in the eastern part of the city between the extended Montgomery and Lafayette streets.
It’s an address shared by only four of five homes, a slap in the face to the man who had an historic impact not just on Ogdensburg and Northern New York but in the French and Indian War that was to eventually force him to retire to his native France.
Picquet travelled around lake Ontario to gather into Fort LaPresentation as many as 400 Iroquois families and over six years of the war led them on attacks against the English whom he considered as much the enemies of Catholicism as of France. It was said of him that he was worth several regiments and the English set a price on his head.
Picquet selected the site of the fort which later became Ogdensburg, guiding its development for more than a decade until the British won the war and occupied the fort for another 36 years.
It’s well past time Picquet received the recognition he deserves, as Michael Wittaker recently posted on the Fort LaPresentation Association’s Facebook page. “Any consideration to putting François Picquet’s name on a major a road in Ogdensburg?” he asked, pointing to a vote by Chicago city officials to rename a segment of well-known Lake Shore Drive to honor the first non-Indigenous permanent settler of Chicago, Jean Baptiste DuSable.
“It is appalling that the founder of this great city has no major street named after him in Chicago. It is my hope that this city can right a wrong that is 230 years in the making,” a city official said. Ogdensburg shares that shame. Wrote Wittaker, “I’d have thought the Abbe Piquet was deserving of more than having his name attached to a cull-de-sac, and more fitting to the Downtown Arterial Highway (Route 68) which passes the site of Fort de La Présentation.”
Wittaker is spot on and he isn’t even from Ogdensburg. For that mattter he’s not even a citizen. He resides in Bishops Mills, Ontario and is an avid historian, president and founder of the Rideau Valley Archeology Society and chair of the North Grenville Heritage Advisory Committee. Wittaker came to Ogdensburg as an 1812 reenactor and heritage interpreter and was one of the organizers of the War of 1812 Symposium here. More than 50 of his articles on the history of Ogdensburg and the North Country have been published by NNY360.com.
Route 68 begins at its intersection with Route 37 near Acco Drive, follows Main Street across the bridges to State Street, and then the Canton Road through the village and ending at Colton. It is a segment of the Seaway Trail and from its intersection with Adams Avenue to its connection with Washington and Crescent Streets, is also called the Downtown Arterial Highway, now a misnomer.
As a shopping district “downtown” Ogdensburg is now at the eastern edge of the city, located around the intersection of the Ford Street Extension and Route 812. Nor does Route 68 even function as an arterial which describes high traffic loads and speed.
What it should be is Abbe Picquet Drive, from its beginning to State Street.
From what I can find a secondary naming of a state highway is a local prerogative. Can we get it done city leaders? The only expense would be signs at each end of Abbe Picquet Drive that would also draw attention to the Fort LaPresentation Association’s goal of recreating the fort, which would be a huge historical tourism driver for Ogdensburg.
Will Ogdensburg, at long last, pay Abbe Picquet his due? It might if supporters on this side of Kaniatarowanenneh, the “big waterway,” so petition the city council.