Tag Archives: Lake Ontario

World’s Longest Skating Rink!

English: Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada, Janua...

English: Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada, January 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Rideau Canal between the Ottawa River and Lake Ontario is now used only by pleasure boats.  The lift from the Ottawa River to the canal is through a series of picturesque locks between the Parliament Buildings and the Château Laurier Hotel.  The first stone of one of the locks was laid by Sir John Franklin, the famous explorer.

The project that eventually led to the building of the Rideau Canal began on September 29, 1783, immediately after the end of the American Revolutionary War.  British military leaders wanted a route from the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario that would not be exposed to the American border.  Lieutenants Jones and French were assigned to survey what was ten wild territory and reported that a canal was possible by using the Rideau River and a chain of lakes.

Nothing was done until after the War of 1812, when the building of the canal again became an issue.  In 1824, Upper Canada became impatient with the delay and had another survey made by Samuel Clewes.  The British Government offered to lend upper Canada £70,000 to build the canal, but Upper Canada would not go through with it.  In 1826, the British Government sent Colonel John By to build the canal.  he built the eight locks up the steep cliff from the Ottawa River and reserved the land on either side for military purposes.

By coincidence, the opening ceremonies for the building of the canal in 1827 were on the same date that Jones and French began their survey, September 29.  People came from near and far, on foot, in canoes and by ox-teams.  It was an Indian summer: the forests were rich in colour, with scarlet maples and golden birches.  During the opening ceremony, where Governor Dalhousie turned the first sod, frogs in nearby marshes provided their “musical” accompaniment.  The first steamer, Rideau, made the journey from Kingston to Bytown in 1832.  The route was busy until nearly 1900 when railways made it unnecessary.

However, it becomes the “World’s Longest Skating Rink” in the winter!

The Rideau Canal is amazing, as is its beginning.  To learn more about it, I suggest going to the Rideau Canal World Heritage site, the Bytown Museum, the Canadian Encyclopedia, the Parks Canada. If you would like to take a holiday in Ottawa, then I would suggest clicking your way to Ottawa Tourism!


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Lachine Massacre in 1689

Engraving of Governor General of New France th...

Engraving of Governor General of New France the Marquis de Denonville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Warning: today’s post is graphic and is not for kids or if your stomach is just weak today!

Some stories of Indian massacres have been related, but the worst one of all happened at Lachine, a suburb of Montreal, on August 5, 1689.

There are two sides to every story, and sometimes more.  It was the Iroquois who had been provocation two years before.  Governor Denonville had been asked by Louis XIV to capture some Iroquois and send them to France as gallery slaves.  The Récollet priests had a mission for the Iroquois at the Bay of Quinte, west of Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario.  The Iroquois at the mission were invited to visit Fort Frontenac with their wives and children, but when they arrived they were seized by Denonville’s Intendant, horrified to see fifty members of his mission tied to posts, but could do nothing about it.

They were flogged, and insects were put on their skins, while Hurons forced their fingers into hot pipes of tobacco.  They were then sent to be galley slaves in France, where most of them died.

On the night of August 4, 1689, a violent summer hailstorm swept across Lake St. Louis.  As the householders got up to make sure windows were closed, they heard the screeching war cry of the Iroquois rising over the noise of thunder and hail.  Within minutes, swarms of naked Iroquois, armed to the teeth, came running down the lane, their faces smeared with war-paint.  There were 1,500 of them, taking advantage of the storm to cross the lake unseen.

It is said that those who died in the first few minutes of the onslaught were fortunate.  Men and women were cut down by tomahawks, and the brains of little children were dashed out against door frames and bedposts.  One hundred prisoners were taken to the Iroquois villages in the Finger Lakes area, tied to stakes and burned or tortured.

The prisoners might have been saved if soldiers 3 miles away had been allowed to take action.  Unfortunately, their commanding officer, Subercase, was in Montreal attending a reception for Denonville.   Returning to the camp, Subercase cursed his men for not having  gone to Lachine without him.  When they arrived the horror of the scene was beyond description, but the surgeon, who had managed to hide, told Subercase that the Indians to hide, told Subercase that the Indians had taken a large quantity of brandy.  Subercase knew this was the time to attack, but just as he was about to follow the Iroquois, word came from Governor Denonville that he must hold his troops to guard Montreal.  The Indians stayed on the rampage, capturing new communities and taking more prisoners, none of whom could be rescued by the French.

To learn more about the Lachine Massacre, you can go to CBC Learning, and Rideau Canal and All That, and then Faith in Action. Lastly, I suggest Wikipedia.


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The Speed, However, Did Impress Them!

Count Frontenac, first came to Canada as governor in 1672.

English: Map of Lac de Frontenac (Lake Ontario...

English: Map of Lac de Frontenac (Lake Ontario), showing Teiaiagon and Lac Taronto, and the land occupied by the Mississaugas and the Algonquin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His biggest problem apart from the intrigues among the civil servants at Quebec and Montreal, was to keep the Iroquois under control.  The French were inclined to treat them with contempt, and there is a French word “Iroquois” that means a boor, peasant, or clown.  it was not an accurate description of a proud race whose discipline and strategy in war can be admired even today.

In June 1673, Frontenac set out from Quebec to survey his domain, and to build a fort where Lake Ontario flowed into the St. Lawrence.  The 185-mile trip to Montreal was not too difficult.  Then came the hard task of transporting 400 men and supplies up the river to Lake Ontario.  Frontenac had two flat-bottomed boats built at Montreal on which were loaded the equipment and canon for the fort.  The men travelled in 120 canoes, taking turns dragging the flat-bottomed boats against the current.  Getting through the rapids was back-breaking.  The men pulling the boats had to wade along the shore, sometimes up to their necks in water.

Meanwhile, Frontenac had sent La Salle ahead to call a conference of Iroquois.  The historic meeting took place where Kingston, Ontario, now stands.  Frontenac put on a great show to impress the Indians.  Sixty chiefs were invited to his tents, which they reached by passing through a double rank of soldiers.  Frontenac spoke to them through an interpreter.  The evil days of strife were ended, he said, and the Indians’ enemies from then on would be France’s enemies.  He was building a fort so that the Indians would not have to go all the way to Montreal to trade.  The Iroquois took it all with a grain of salt.  They could make better trade deals with the English and the Dutch in the heart of their own territory.

What did impress them was the speed with which the French built the fort.  It was ready by July 28, 1673, obviously impregnable to attack.  Frontenac, who was anything but modest, called it “Fort Frontenac,” and raised over it the fleur-de-lis of France.

If you would like to read more about Frontenac and today’s post, I suggest the Historical Narratives of Early Canada, and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.


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In Petrolia, Ontario …


Petrolia-highview (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’ve been giving you bits of wacky laws around this great country, Canada.  Judging by the comments I’ve received, they seem to give you a few chuckles.  So to this end, I’ve found a link to Reader’s Digest, where they have a list of 13 strange laws in Canada.

Just to whet your appetite, here’s the first one:

It’s Illegal To Whistle in Petrolia, Ont. A Petrolia city rep says this unusual law simply aims to limit excessive noise between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., but according to Article 3, 772.3.6 on the town’s website, “Yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing is prohibited at all times.” Keep your enthusiasm to yourself, folks.


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6,500 Canadians Needed New Homes!

English: The Welland Canal's Lock 7 at Thorold...

English: The Welland Canal’s Lock 7 at Thorold, Ontario. The Welland Canal is a ship canal in Canada, that runs 43,4 km (27.0 miles) from Port Colborne, Ontario on Lake Erie to Port Weller, Ontario on Lake Ontario. The canal is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


An outstanding example of co-operation between Canada and the United States is the St. Lawrence Seaway, which was officially opened on June 26, 1959, by Queen Elizabeth for Canada, and President Eisenhower for the United States.

The St. Lawrence Seaway is a canal 191 miles long, enabling large ocean freighters to travel from the Atlantic to Lake Ontario and then continue to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, using other canals that had already been built.  The Seaway is also an important source of electric power, generated by the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario and the Power Authority of the State of New York.

Canada had done a great deal of work on a seaway before the building of the present canal began in 1954.  The first canal past the Lachine Rapids above Montreal was built in 1700, and was enlarged in 1821.  About that time, Canada and the States began talking about building something bigger and better.  The Americans were never able to co-operate, and Canada kept enlarging the waterway through Lake Ontario.  By 1883, the canal had a depth of 14 feet.  Another integral part of the waterway through to Lake Erie was the Welland Canal, by-passing Niagara Falls.

In 1932, it looked as though the dream of attracting ocean-going ships into the Great Lakes was becoming a reality when Canada and the States signed the St. Lawrence Deep Waterway Treaty.  However, strong railway, shipping and other interests in the States opposed it, and the Senate would not pass the bill.

Finally, in 1952, Canada decided to “go it alone” and build a deep-water seaway entirely in Canadian territory.  This decision led Congress to take swift action and the Seaway was built as a joint venture.  As Canada had already spent millions of dollars on the St. Lawrence and Welland Canal, the States spent a larger share on the cost of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The control dam required by the power project flooded a large area between Cornwall and Iroquois, and necessitated the removal of entire communities.  New homes had to be provided for 6,500 people; 40 miles of the C.N.R. had to be rerouted, and Highway 2 relocated.  Many improvements were made, including the creation of Upper Canada Village in Crysler’s Farm Battlefield Park, now a popular tourist attraction.

To read more about the St. Lawrence Seaway, a few sites I suggest are the CBC Archives, with two particular subjects: the first is Queen opens St. Lawrence Seaway with U.S. President Eisenhower, and the second is Queen Elizabeth officially opens the St. Lawrence Seaway. I also suggest is Quebec’s There’s a Place for you in Engineering (a new site I found that kids would like), and Yahoo! Voices with an article written by Cherie Bowser. Still want more? I also suggest a great coverage at the Canadian Geographic Magazine, and then the Canadian Encyclopedia, as well as the Minnesota Sea Grant.And finally I would go to Legion Magazine for a great article, “The Lost Villages.”


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Missed Opportunity

English: "Henry Dearborn," oil on ca...

“Henry Dearborn,” oil on canvas, by the American painter Gilbert Stuart. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were few bright spots for British forces defending  Canada from the Americans in 1813.  York, the new capital of Upper Canada, had been captured and looted (see my April 27 post Americans Attack York, Destroy New Legislation) and Newark soon suffered a similar fate. General Henry Dearborn was well pleased with himself. He now had a solid line of communication from Buffalo to the head of Lake Ontario.

General Vincent, who had defended Fort George at Newark, led his surviving troops to Burlington (near Hamilton) and expected help, if necessary, from Colonel Procter’s force in the Detroit area.

In the meantime, Dearborn missed an opportunity to finish him off. Instead of following up the success at Fort George, Dearborn waited for five days, perhaps because it was raining hard. Then he heard rumours that Procter was sending reinforcements to Vincent and decided that he had better take action before they arrived. Generals Winder and Chandler set out for Burlington with 2,000 infantry, cavalry and artillery, whereas Vincent now had about 1,600 men.

The Americans force camped at Stoney Creek for the night of June 6, about 6 miles from Burlington, but their movements had been followed and reported by Canadian volunteers. General Vincent sent out a scouting patrol which brought him word that the American tents were strung out in a long line, and that their artillery was badly placed. Vincent immediately ordered an attack. His troops made their way through the woods in the darkness and stormed the camp at two o’clock in the morning. There was a sharp fight in which the British lost 214 men, but both Generals Winder and Chandler were taken prisoner with 123 others.

The Americans still had enough strength to retaliate, but lost heart when Admiral Yeo’s ships were seen approaching. Yeo bombarded the American position at Forty Mile Creek, and they decided to retreat to Fort George.

Vincent received help from an unexpected quarter when the 104th New Brunswick Regiment arrived. It had left Fredericton in winter, marched 400 miles on snowshoes to Quebec and was then transported to Kingston by ship. After fighting at Sackets Harbor, New York, it travelled another 500 miles to join Vincent’s army. The march of the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment was one of the notable achievements of the war.

If you want to read more about the Battle at Stoney Creek, I suggest About, .com‘s article written by Kennedy Hickman, and then History of War. There’s also Battlefield House Museum and Park and finally, Wikipedia.


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Just Like the Three Muskateers?

English: Fort Frontenac at Cataraqui, 1685.

Fort Frontenac at Cataraqui, 1685. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Detroit, Cadillac, and Pontiac are so identified with automobiles that few people realize their connection with Canadian history.  Detroit was founded by LaMothe Cadillac, one of Frontenac‘s officers.  The name is French, meaning “on the strait.”  Pontiac, of course, was the great Ottawa chief.

When Frontenac was asked to return to Canada in 1689, one of his problems was to try to control the Iroquois.  They used two  main routes into Canada from their territory in  New York.  They could cross Lake Ontario and go down the St. Lawrence River, or they could reach the Ottawa River via Lake Huron and French River (Rivière des Français).  Frontenac had blocked the St. Lawrence route by building a fort at Cataraqui.  The fort at Michilimackinac was supposed to guard the other route.

Cadillac had been in charge of Michilimackinac for six years, and felt that its site was awkward and out of date.  He had snowshoed all the way to Montreal several times for supplies, or to attend to some business connected with the fur trade.  How he would enjoy the same trip in a Cadillac today!  Cadillac persuaded Frontenac that a better location would be along the strait connecting Lakes Erie and Huron.

Frontenac was impressed, but sent Cadillac to France to get the approval of Louis XIV.  It wasn’t easy, because Michilimackinac was an important Jesuit mission and they did not want it weakened.  Cadillac insisted that his plan would be profitable for France and block Britain from the fur trade.  Finally he got his way.

On June 5, 1701, Cadillac left Quebec to found Detroit.  He took a party of soldiers and workmen in twenty-five canoes, and travelled the long route via the Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing, Georgian Bay, and Lake Huron, with a stop at Michilimackinac.

There was a marked resemblance between Cadillac and D’Artagnan of the “Three Musketeers.”  Both were Gascons (a region of southwestern France), fast tempered and expert swordsmen.  There was nearly a mutiny on the way, with someone knocking Cadillac’s hat over his long nose. His sword was out in a flash and he turned on the 100 men, challenging them to fight!

Nobody wanted any part of it, and the journey continued.  They reached Detroit on July 23, and began building the fort that has since expanded into one of the automobile centres of the world!

Do you want to read more about this? Well, I can steer you in a few directions. For instance, I recommend Canadian Museum of Civilization and Detroit Historical Society. There is also a site I just found out about, and is quite interesting, it’s the Waymarking (trust me, it’s an interesting site! After that, I suggest The Historical Marker database, and another site I just learned about, the Your Dictionary Biography, and finally Detroit History.


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