We should be living in Fordville

By Ted Como

We should be living in Fordville.
Samuel Ogden inspired the city’s name but while he was the moneyman behind the creation of Ogdensburg, he never set foot here. His agent, Nathan Ford, built the city with his blood, sweat and likely a few tears over his ill treatment by Ogden, an abrasive and demanding sort.
When the 10 towns of St. Lawrence County were laid out in 1785 and advertised for sale, the principal purchaser was Alexander Macomb, a fur trader. In 1792 Macomb conveyed to Samuel Ogden the Towns of Hammond, Gouverneur, Oswegatchie and DeKalb. Other buyers of some of the land included David C. Judson and Nathan Ford.
In a second purchase Ogden acquired more land, including Fort Oswegatchie, and secured the services of Ford to set up shop in the old fort, sell goods and land and start a settlement that Ogden could profit from. Ogden (1746 – 1810) was a colonial businessman in New Jersey who owned an iron works. He fought in the Revolutionary War and afterward became a developer and land speculator. Ford (1763-1829) was raised near Morristown, NJ, also fought in the war and was with Washington at Valley Forge. Ford made contacts with wealthy people during his wartime service including the Ogdens.
He arrived at Fort Oswegatchie Aug. 11, 1796 and as per instructions took immediate possession of the fort. He crossed to Canada and returned with three yoke of oxen, four milk cows, peas, wheat and other goods, and about 40 men to set about repairing the fort and dam and rebuilding the sawmill. He obtained a surveyer to lay out the town and the next year, a grist mill was built near the mouth of the Oswegatchie to allow vessels to load and unload in the deeper water.
Often begging Ogden for money to pay expenses, often humilated with no money forthcoming, Ford persevered and by 1800 there were several families living in the city and more coming as Ford sold parcels and did such other work as to grow the community. Most others would have packed up and left , telling Ogden where he could get off. But Ford, his pride swallowed, kept at it and because of him the erection of St. Lawrence County was pursued and on March 3,1802, accomplished at the site of the old fort with Ogdensburg as the county seat. The rest is history.
Ford, the first judge of St. Lawrence County and an active Federalist, never married and is buried in the Ford Vault at the end of Lake Street while Ogden is buried in New Jersey. Ford did all the work to build Ogdensburg but Ogden got the credit. Nor is Ogdensburg the only city so named, though there is no connection between it, and several others.
Ogdensburg, NJ was founded by Robert Ogden, 1746-1836. He was the son of Robert Sr., who was the son of Johnathan, who was the son of John Ogden, born 1609 in England. It is a borough in Sussex County, west of Newark, with a declining population of 2,300.
Ogdensburg, PA comprises several buildings on the Ogdensburg Road in the western part of Tioga Township. John Ogden with wife Polly and son Luther arrived in 1839 and farmed. At one time, the place had a post office, tavern, hotel, wagon and cooper shopts, two blacksmith shops and a sawmill.
There supposedly is an Ogdensburg in Georgia and another in Kansas, but I cannot find either. Ogdensburg, Quebec, seems to be a spot in the road several miles east of Grenville along the Ottawa River – which brings us to the Village of Ogdensburg along St. Lawrence Creek in the Town of St. Lawrence. In Wisconsin.
Given the similar names you’d think there must be a connection but there is not, despite that one is falsely claimed. Unless someone has passed, the population of the place is but 168, down from 740 two decades ago.
The village was named for founder Caleb Smith Ogden who, with partners, constructed a dam across St. Lawrence Creek. The dam was followed by a sawmill and grist mill, both built and operated by Ogden. Varous genealogy sources claim Caleb Ogden, 1819-1906, was the son of Abraham Ogden, 1796-1856, who was the son of Abraham Ogden, 1743-1798, who was in fact Samuel Ogden’s brother. And it is true that Samuel’s brother Abraham had a son of the same name.
But that Abraham was born in 1775, not 1796, and Caleb Ogden is of no relation to Samuel that I can find. For more on Nathan Ford, read city historian Julie Madlin’s piece here: https://tinyurl.com/4k8952b6 .

  • Ted Como is a member of the board of the Fort La Presentation Association and may be reached at tedcomo@chartertn.net.
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