Over 260 years ago a Sulpician missionary from Quebec traveled up the St. Lawrence River by canoe in search of a site for a new settlement and mission. The river at the time was unadulterated by development, and the large stand of pines and oaks where the muddied waters of the Oswegatchie River mixed with the mighty St. Lawrence River must have been a spectacular site. French-born Abbé François Piquet thought the site strategically located and elected to build his mission and fort here in 1749. It was the first white habitation of what would eventually become the City of Ogdensburg, NY.
Picquet named the settlement Fort de la Présentation for the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was the day he arrived at the site. His purpose was to teach the indigenous peoples of the area and protect the land for his native France. The Fort served as a church, school, trading post and Native American village. The first mass at the site was celebrated on June 1, 1749 and a cornerstone was carved in rock to mark the site.
The cornerstone read: "In nomine = Dei Omnipotentis Huic habitationi initia dedit Franc Picquet MDCCXLIX" (Piçquet laid the foundation of this habitation in the name of Almighty God, in 1749.) The hand engraved cornerstone can still be viewed at the entrance to Ogdensburg City Hall.
Prior to the arrival of the French in this area of the New World, the region was the hunting grounds of the Iroquois League, which was comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations.
Ogdensburg's French period came to an end in 1760. Downstream in the St. Lawrence River on Chimney Island Fort Lévis was constructed by Captain Pierre Pouchot, French engineer and soldier. Fort Lévis was the site of the last major battle between the French and English in the French and Indian War. Both Forts fell under British rule. Fort la de Presentation was renamed Fort Oswegatchie and became a supply depot and a busy stopping place for traveling soldiers.
British forces and the new United States of America battled for control of the region. The British were eventually ordered to evacuate the area on June 6, 1796 and the first settlers under the American Flag arrived in Ogdensburg on August 11, 1796. Ogdensburg was named for Colonel Samuel Ogden, who was a patriot during the Revolutionary War.
Ogdensburg has the distinction of being one of the few places in the United States to have been under the government of three flags. Over the course of the next 20 years, Ogdensburg became an important border community. Industry flourished along the river and Ogdensburg began to grow.
The total population of Ogdensburg went from 138 in 1800 to 16,610 in 1820. On April 5, 1817 Ogdensburg became the first incorporated village in St. Lawrence County. The letter 'h' was added to it's name and dropped when it became a city on April 27, 1868, the only city in St. Lawrence County and the only United States City on the St. Lawrence Seaway. The City grew to be a busy shipping center for river traffic and greeted its first train in 1850. The opening of the railway drew trade from the upper lakes to New England. By 1860, Ogdensburg was known as 'New York of the North'.
On February 16, 1872 Pope Pius IX designated the City as the See of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. The first telephone was installed in July 1881 in the residence and offices of the Proctor Lumber Company. The HuffDeland Airplane Company, founded in the early 1920's in Ogdensburg, manufactured airplanes for the United States Government, the company left Ogdensburg shortly after and became Delta Airlines. In 1929, after a tour of the St. Lawrence River area, Governor Roosevelt proposed the building of a bridge across the Seaway to improve communication between New York State and Ontario. The bridge opened for traffic 50 years ago on September 21, 1960.
In 1976, the first building opened in Commerce Park, a light industrial park developed by the Ogdensburg Bridge & Port Authority. Numerous Canadian-based firms have located in this park as trade between Canada and the United States continues to be integral to the growth of Ogdensburg.