Fort Henry National Historic Site in Kingston, Ontario

Built for a war with the U.S. that never came, this nineteenth century relic is a treasure of Canadian military history.

The War of 1812 left relations between the United States and Great Britain at an all-time low. Raids along the Saint Lawrence River were common during the war, and Kingston, Ontario in what was then Upper Canada was seen as potentially vulnerable. The British eyed Point Henry as an ideal place for what became known as the “Citadel of Upper Canada”.

Early in the war, British Canadians erected a blockhouse and artillery battery on Point Henry to help defend Kingston and its naval dockyards. They continued fortifying it throughout the war, calling it Fort Henry after Henry Hamilton, one-time Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Quebec and Governor of Bermuda.

After the War of 1812, the British saw a need to strengthen their defenses around Kingston and Rideau Canal, which connects the Canadian capitol to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River. Between 1832 and 1836, they built a more permanent stone fort in place of the old wooden one.

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Battle of Crysler’s Farm National Historic Site

Canadians are so polite, they physically erased this humiliating loss for the American Army from existence, except for this small monument and museum overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

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The Battle of Crysler’s Farm was fought on November 11, 1813 between American forces under the command of Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson and British forces commanded by Lt. Col. Joseph Wanton Morrison near Morrisburg, Ontario during the War of 1812. It was a complete victory for the British, and this, alongside another defeat at the Battle of the Chateauguay, persuaded the Americans to abandon plans to march on Montreal.

The American effort to capture Montreal in 1813 was known as the St. Lawrence Campaign, since it focused on militarily dominating the St. Lawrence River, at the border of the United States and British Canada. In September, Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson and 8,000 men departed from Sackets Harbor, New York and advanced east along the river, while Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton and 4,000 men advanced north from Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain. Hampton was defeated at the Battle of the Chateauguay on October 26.

Lt. Col. Joseph Wanton Morrison’s much smaller force of 900 to 1,200 men had pursued the American expedition to Morrisburg, where the two sides made camp on November 10. The next morning, battle occurred almost by accident when scouts began firing at each other, making both armies believe an attack was imminent. Morrison had chosen Crysler’s Farm because of its open terrain, while the Americans had to slog through swampy ground to reach the British.

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Prehistoric World in Morrisburg, Ontario

Prehistoric World in Morrisburg, Ontario is a quaint throwback to roadside attractions of yore. There’s nothing fancy here; it’s just a stroll through the park among painted concrete dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals created by local artists Paul and Serge Dupuis, but it’s simple fun and education for a reasonable price.

The Dupuis brothers have been creating these life-sized sculptures for over 37 years. They depict primitive reptiles of the Paleozoic period to large mammals of the Cenozoic and Quaternary. Each sculpture features a plaque with information about the creature. There are currently over 50 sculptures.

For kids, there’s something fascinating about the hugeness of dinosaurs. It’s hard to believe creatures like this once existed. Kids can rattle off complex Latin names with ease. I’ve forgotten half of what I used to know about all the different species and popular theories.

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Battle of the Windmill National Historic Site

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Rebels holed up in a stone gristmill held off the British Army for several days before being forced to surrender in this odd chapter in Canadian military history.

The Battle of the Windmill was a strange episode in North American history, when British and U.S. forces cooperated to put down a rebellion in Upper Canada, known as the “Patriot War”. The battle was fought from November 12 to November 16, 1838, between Nils von Schoultz and 250 rebels against 1,133 Canadian militia, 500 British regulars, and the British and U.S. Navy two miles east of Prescott, Ontario. The entire rebel force was killed, wounded, or captured.

On November 12, approximately 250 armed members of a “Hunters’ Lodge” attempted to land in Prescott, Ontario to touch off a war against the British ruling class. A show of force by the Prescott militia gave them second thoughts, so they occupied the nearby hamlet of Newport and Windmill Point, where they awaited reinforcements from the United States.

The next day, British infantry from the 83rd Regiment and around 600 Canadian militiamen attacked the rebels, who had holed up in and around an old gristmill. The short battle left 13 British killed and 70 wounded. The rebels lost approximately 18 killed and an unknown number wounded.

The standoff continued as Nils von Schoultz and his Hunters’ Lodge militia waited for help from across the river in Ogdensburg, however, a blockade by British and American naval forces and efforts by American authorities in Ogdensburg prevented any relief. The British Army decided to bombard them into submission, and they surrendered on November 16. The Hunter rebels lost 53 dead 61 wounded. Of the 136 who surrendered, 11 were later executed in Kingston, and 60 were exiled to Australia.

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Queen’s University’s Haunted Halls

Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario was founded by the Church of Scotland as Queen’s College in October 1841. Queen’s is one of Canada’s oldest degree-granting institutions, predating the country itself by 26 years. With such a long history, rich traditions, and fabled architecture, the university was bound to pick up a ghost or two. Nearly every building on campus has its stories.

It was originally a theological seminary, with a mission toward “the education of youth in the principles of Christian religion and instruction in the various branches in science and literature,” but secularized in 1912. In 1853, it settled in a limestone manor called Summerhill, which remains at the heart of campus.

The institution was not financially stable in its early years and almost disbanded, however, it survived and thrived and today is home to over 24,000 students with an endowment of over $1 billion. During the mid-twentieth century, money from the National Research Council and Ontario Research Fund sparked a growth of research laboratories, including the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory.

During the First World War, Grant Hall served as a military hospital and many of its students left to serve in the war. After the war, Queen’s experienced a growth spurt, when a library, residence hall, and stadium were constructed. In 1969, the university purchased a 61-acre parcel of land, then a prison farm and quarry, less than two miles west of campus. The Kingston Penitentiary water tower still stands next to John Orr Tower apartment building, and a popular (but false) legend maintains it was used for hangings.

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Fairmont Château Laurier’s Invisible Guests

Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa, Ontario, is Canada’s most lavish and elegant hotel and sits just up Wellington Street from Canadian Parliament. The granite and white Italian marble building was designed in French Renaissance and neo-Gothic style and built in 1912 for $2 million at the behest of railroad baron Charles Melville Hays. Some say he never left.

Hays was born in 1856 in Rock Island, Illinois and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Like many railroad tycoons, he began working at a railroad company as a young man and climbed up the ranks through hard work and dedication. He eventually became General Manager and later President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada. Hays dreamed of building a continental railroad across Canada with luxurious hotels for passengers along the way.

Tragically, just twelve days before the Château Laurier opened, Hays drowned when the RMS Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean on April 14, 1912. Since its completion, royalty, heads of state, politicians, and celebrities have all the graced the Château. Three movies: Captains of the Clouds (1942), Little Gloria: Happy at Last (1982), and H2O (2004), were filmed there.

Despite its romantic appearance, several deaths have allegedly occurred in and around the hotel, including suicide by jumping from the upper floors. Many strange stories center on the former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio studio on the seventh floor, which occupied that space for 80 years. Former CBC Chairman Patrick Watson reported several unnerving incidents in his nearby suite. The ghost of an unnamed child has also been reported.

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