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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For the Fallen Dreams

For the Fallen Dreams
Headstone of Terrence and Catharine McLoughlin, unfortunately fallen into disrepair, in St. Mary’s Cemetery on James Street, south of Clayton, New York in Jefferson County. Clayton is a quaint town along the St. Lawrence River with an antique boat museum and a few shops along the river. If you visit, don’t miss Koffee Kove Restaurant farther up James Street, downtown.

Secret Passages Invite Mystery at Dark Island’s Singer Castle

This fog-shrouded estate on the St. Lawrence River has long excited visitors’ imaginations.

Orange peaks of a medieval manor rise above the trees on a distant island. A secret panel in the library leads to hidden passages through the walls. Eyes spy from behind a painting. Singer Castle is literally torn from the pages of a children’s storybook, and you can tour it and even spend the night! But don’t expect to encounter any ghosts.

Frederick G. Bourne (1851-1919) was a wealthy industrialist and one-time president of the Singer Manufacturing Company. He owned many properties throughout his life, but his most famous was the hunting lodge he built in the Thousand Islands region in 1905. He called it “The Towers”, but today we call it Singer Castle.

The castle was designed by architect Ernest Flagg and inspired by the historical novel Woodstock (1826) by Sir Walter Scott. The novel revolves around Woodstock Manor House, set just after the English Civil War. Woodstock was allegedly beset by poltergeist activity. Frederick Bourne’s version cost approximately $500,000, rose four stories, and contained 28 rooms and four towers.

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Pray for the Dead

Pray For The Dead
A beautiful sculpture of the Virgin Mary in St. Mary’s Cemetery on James Street, south of Clayton, New York in Jefferson County. The monument commemorates the Lanther family. It also depicts a serpent being crushed under Mary’s foot.

Clayton is a quaint town along the St. Lawrence River with an antique boat museum and a few shops along the river. If you visit, don’t miss 1000 Islands River Rat Cheese farther up James Street, downtown.

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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