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Sackets Harbor group returns books stolen from Toronto library

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SACKETS HARBOR — A village delegation went to Toronto last weekend to present a set of vintage books representing a collection taken by American military forces during the War of 1812’s Battle of York.

The 200th anniversary of the battle, which took place April 27, 1813, was marked in the city throughout the weekend. The village representatives presented the books at a ceremony at the Toronto Reference Library on Sunday.

Constance B. Barone, Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site manager, said the plan to return the books was the result of six years of planning.

“It’s really pleasant to see it get enacted and everything went well,” she said.

The books presented during the ceremony were “The Works of Dr. Jonathan Swift,” dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, from 1754; the Pope’s “Poetical Works,” from 1752, and James Fordyce’s “Sermons to Young Women,” from 1803.

Mrs. Barone said the books were not the exact items taken during the battle, but were originals that represented what would have been in the library’s catalog.

“You would’ve found these,” she said.

Several books were taken from the city by military forces from the village led by Commodore Isaac Chauncey.

However, Mrs. Barone said correspondence at the time showed the commodore was “very upset” when he learned of the theft, and he collected two boxes of books to be returned to the city.

She said she learned at the event that the city, with no library to hold them at the time, sold the books at an auction a few years after their return.

Mrs. Barone said the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance provided $200 to buy the books through a combination of eBay retailers and a New Jersey book dealer.

The three sellers supported the purchase, she said, by either waiving their shipping fees or reducing their selling price.

Other village residents at the event were David W. Altieri, the village’s heritage area director; Lawrence C. Barone, former village trustee; Michael D. Altieri and Ron Burris.

The book presentation was not the only Sackets Harbor tie to the bicentennial commemoration in Toronto.

Also taking place was a rededication of a plaque honoring Gen. Zebulon Pike, who died during the battle and whose remains rest in the village.

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