The Willow Tree, the Cannon Ball and the Battle of Sodus Point

 
By Bruce Farrington
 
Even after researching the history of our village and interviewing countless long time residents for the last seven years, I still get a nugget of pure historic gold sometimes in  chance conversations.  Frank Grosz provided such a nugget in this story of the Willow Tree, the Cannon Ball and the Battle of Sodus Point.

 

First the necessary background to put everything in context. The Battle of Troupville (later called Sodus Point) took place on June 19, 1813 sometime before midnight. The British Soldiers landed at the site of what is now the Pit Stop. Remember in those days the  land that would later become the numbered streets on Wickham Blvd. had not yet been filled in so Lake Ontario came right to the bottom of the hill on Bay Street. The British came up the hill and a group of farmers and militia ambushed them killing two British soldiers while suffering two American fatalities. A number on both sides were wounded. In the confusion that ensued, the British went back to their ships. The next morning the British opened up and fired cannonballs into where they would again land to discourage any militia that might be waiting there. This is why we have found a number of cannonballs where the Oscar Fuerst Base Ball Park was built. They then proceeded to burn all the buildings except one that held a mortally wounded Asher Warner.

Sodus-burning-Copy

 
Across the street from where the British landed is now Willow Park. This park got its name from all the willow trees that once adorned that area. You can get a sense of that from this old postcard from the early 1900s that showed the old railroad station whose terminus was in Willow Park.
 
Lake Shore Station at Willow Park 700x450

 

In the late 1950’s, in Willow Park, Sodus Point, Chuck Oathout and Frank Grosz were cutting down a very large willow tree using a two-man chainsaw, working for the Geo. Hogan Tree Service. They were greatly surprised when they found a cannon ball embedded in the middle of the old  Willow Tree.   This cannon ball must have been one of the many shot off the British ships during the skirmish that took place in June of 1813. Given the two timeframes, that means that this willow tree that they were taking down must have been at least 160 years old!
 
It is a pity that the last wounded victim of the Battle of Sodus Point met such an ignoble end.