Kingston, Ontario – After The War

The weary war, whose close was most welcome to both belligerents, had at least borne some good fruit in proving and strengthening the loyalty of the young Canadian Provinces and their courage and self-reliance, in the face of what might well have seemed almost hopeless odds. Especially was this remarkable in two classes of the people, from whom it could hardly have been expected—the French-Canadian population with the traditions of the conquered, and the great mass of the later immigrants from the United States. The strong patriotism of the old U. E. Loyalists was, if possible, strengthened by the sacrifices again cheerfully made for the British flag, and this in spite of real and pressing grievances under which many of the colonists were, even then, suffering, through administrative abuses which, some twenty years later, induced a widespread disaffection. But, in general, the loyalty of youthful Canada has been unimpeachable, and—keeping pace with its growth—has won for the country the proud distinction of being the most enthusiastically loyal spot within the great Empire on which the sun never sets.

In Kingston, as has been said, the long pressure of the war could not be said to have caused more than temporary inconvenience. Indeed, it even greatly stimulated its growth, by a large influx of population, chiefly military, and gave a strong impetus to building and improvement, both civic and military. The latter followed naturally from the lessons and needs of the war and the demand for the accommodation of a greater number of troops. The original barracks, built on the ruins of old Fort Frontenac, had been intended only for the small garrison of from sixty to a hundred soldiers who were then stationed at the place. At the period when the war broke out, the town proper was limited to what is now its eastern portion, the land west of the present City Hall being still clothed with cedar and pine woods, and the area around the Tetede-Povt Barracks being known as Cataraqui Common. An old inhabitant has left us a detailed description of the appearance of the precincts at that time still known as Fort Frontenac, and not entirely coinciding with the present limits of the Tete-de-Pont outer walls, which had not then been built. The old “limits extended to Barrack Street, on the northern side of which stood some old buildings used as barracks for soldiers and for other military purposes. On the site where the Haymarket weigh-house now stands, were houses for engineers’ quarters, and on the point near the present Tete-de-Pont Barracks’ stables and the entrance to Cataraqui Bridge, were buildings used for military stores. The main form of Fort Frontenac in its ground plan was square, with extended angles or bastions. The southern angle was near the line of Barrack Street, looking up Ontario Street ; the opposite angle looked down the Cataraqui towards Bell’s Island ; the westerly angle was on the present line of the Place d’Armes, about half way up between Ontario and King Streets, while the fourth angle was within the line of the Tete-de-Pont Barrack wall. within which stood a round tower. not removed until the year 1832. The whole of the fort precincts were enclosed by a picket-fence, the entrance being at the foot of Barrack Street.”

The late Dr. R. T. Walkem, in describing to the Kingston Historical Society an old plan dating from the end of the eighteenth century, tells us that “at the point where the barrack wharf now stands there is on the plan a wharf marked with the name of Mr. Forsyth, and north of this another wharf, stated to have been the property of Mr. Cartwright. In the space between these wharves, which is now occupied by the barrack stables, there appear on the plan some houses marked as occupied by the Quartermaster-General, and near the gate of the fort there is a store, which I am told was of stone, triangular in shape, and built so as to protect the gate from a direct artillery fire. There are also two buildings marked stores, north of Mr. Cartwright’s wharf, on a point which separated the bay from the outer water, and from which Cataraqui Bridge now extends to the Pittsburgh shore. An old French fortification is shown to the west of the fort, extending southward from the bay, which has been filled in to a considerable extent in late years. On the bay-shore, west of the present line of King street, are some buildings which are marked as engineers’ houses.”

Ontario Street is marked on this plan as Front Street, as it was then called. It was produced northwards about 1820, through the site of the old fort, the remains of which were then partly demolished. The following account of the appearance of the square previous to this demolition was thus described by a centenarian, the late Mr. Sellars. an old official in the Royal Engineers’ Department, who said of the old tower, destroyed in 1832, that it was so well built that it was found difficult to remove its stones by pick or crowbar.

” The gate,” he tells us, “was on the east side; the south side was two storeys high, and the buildings on this side were of stone and wood, occupied as officers’ quarters, mess-room, and kitchen. On each side of the gateway were stone buildings, guard-house, storehouse and ordnance store. The north side was occupied by buildings two storeys high, the external walls of which were built of six-inch logs clap-boarded. This side was occupied by about four companies of soldiers. There were, on the east side, an embankment and ditch, the latter running down to the river. What remained of it, after the extension of Ontario Street, was filled up about 1834 by the 70th Regiment. The tower was enclosed by a picket fence. There was no drawbridge, but there was a building in front of the gate, intended for its protection. The tower, which remained standing till 1832, was built of small rubble-stone, two storeys in height, and was used as a powder magazine.”

After the demolition of the remains of the old fort in 1819, the troops were temporarily lodged in a frame building, on the site of the Haymarket, till the present stone barracks were completed; the officers’ quarters in 1821, the stone barracks for the men in 1824, and the wooden ones ten years later. A one-storey building of logs on Sydenham Street west, having been used for housing the troops, long retained the name of the “Line Barracks.” It is still standing, being most substantially built, though now externally transformed by a coat of whitewash. The stone barracks in the Artillery Park were not built until 1843, at a cost of more than £3,000—$15,000. The picturesque stone cottage at the head of the Park, which was pulled down when the present “Armouries” building was erected, was long the residence of the commanding officer of the artillery, and the pretty grounds, with their luxuriant shrubbery, were known as the “Garrison Gardens.”

The blockhouses, built soon after the War of 1812, constituted a cordon of defence around what were then the limits of the town, and were originally connected by a high stockade. There were at least two gates—the “North Gate,” probably about Bay Street, and the “Picket Gate,” between Clergy and Sydenham Streets. Each blockhouse was about half a mile distant from the Market Battery, and the only one which has survived the ravages of time still stands, and, we hope, will long stand, as a historic landmark, on the high ground north-east of Sydenham Street. Of the location of the others, C. W. Cooper, in his Prize Essay, written in 1856, while one was still standing and one had been only recently removed, says that “on the hill on Princess Street (probably between Clergy and Sydenham Streets) stood a blockhouse surrounded by a strong stockade ; one near the new court-house ; one, then standing, at the west end of Wellington Street, and one near the Marine Railway, probably near the junction of West Street with King and Ontario Streets. He also mentions a small redan, on Ordnance Street, and the loop-holed guardhouse at Murney Point, and also one on Snake Island. Portions of the old stockade still existed in 1856. The blockhouses were all of the same pattern, two storeys high, the upper one slightly projecting. The lower storeys of two were built of masonry and the upper storeys of oak, while the others were built entirely of the latter material. All save one were of larger size than that still remaining, and were armed with cannonades of 6, 18 and 24 calibre. Besides the batteries placed at Mississauga Point, the Market Battery, and Point Frederick, there was one at the north corner of Artillery Park, armed with four guns, protected by earthworks, and facing what is now Sydenham Street East. For those times and conditions, we may certainly consider Old Kingston as well defended.

But these strictly local defences were not the only ones to which the war gave rise. Captain Viger, in his diary, referred to the clearing of Point Henry, now crowned by the modern fort of that name, but then a “wilderness of stumps.” In 1813 a rude fort of logs, with an embankment, was thrown up at the summit of the hill, and, a year or two later, two lofty and substantial towers of rubble work, rounded at the corners, were added to the primitive buildings, which remained standing till about 1826. During the years 1816-17-18, stores, magazines, ordnance offices and an armoury were built outside this fort. Between 1818 and 1820 extensive stone barracks were added, roofed with tin, one of these, within the fort, being 139 feet in length. Another building of hewn stone, on the site of the advance battery, which afterwards replaced it, was 80 feet long, and formed the officers’ quarters. This was pulled down in 1841, and the stone sold to build two large houses on Brock Street (near Clergy). The present Fort Henry was not begun until 1832, after some years spent in quarrying and preparing material, and was occupied early in 1836.

Point Frederick also had its defences built during or just after the war, its first works beginning with a breastwork of logs and earth, with traversing platforms for guns, within which stood a blockhouse burned in 1820. The “Stone Frigate” has been already mentioned, on which the men ashore were regularly piped to quarters, as if at sea. The long row of stone dwellings to the left of Point Frederick, originally occupied by officials, probably dates from this period.

As yet, of course, the streets were few, and, with scarcely an exception, known by other names than those they now bear. From the reminiscences of the old inhabitant already quoted, we find that Ontario Street was called Front Street, and had more buildings on its line than any other street in Kingston ; that King Street, west of Brock, was Church Street ; that Wellington Street West was Grass Street, in honour of the leader of the pioneers, while east of Brock Street it was Quarry Street, taking its name from the large quarry on its northern limit. Bagot Street, afterwards so named in honour of Sir Charles Bagot, was then known as Rear Street, probably from its occupying a position in rear of what was then the town ; while Rideau Street was Brewery Street, because it led down to “Robbins’ Brewery.” The main business street, now called Princess Street, owed its first name of Store Street chiefly to a large wooden building close to the river, whither the Indians resorted to receive their annual presents. Our modern Queen Street was known by the sombre name of Grave Street, from the earliest burying-place of the settlers, the site now occupied by St. Paul’s churchyard, where massive stone tombs under the old, overhanging trees, mark the graves of some of the honoured forefathers of the town. In the centre of Queen Street, west of King, but facing east, stood the house in which Governor Simcoe resided during his stay in Kingston, a considerable portion of surrounding ground being reserved for Government purposes, including the Governor’s stables. An old wooden building on the corner of Wellington and William Streets, which only recently disappeared, was long familiarly known as the “Montreal Tavern,” a rendezvous and central point for the French-Canadian citizens, of whom there were a considerable number. The old Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph’s—also known as the “French Church”—referred to in Viger’s Diary, was built about 1808, and stood on the corner of Bagot and William Streets till it was removed to make room for the existing St. Vincent’s Academy. The French residents of those days were faithfully ministered to by missionary priests, one of whom, the Abbe Gaulin, afterwards Bishop of Kingston, is thus described by Captain Viger :

“The missionary Gaulin, a truly learned, clever and worthy man, is a native of Quebec, speaking English with perfect ease. No one excels him in public esteem, and no one so well deserves it. His virtues, his learning, his patriotism, all, in this worthy priest and loyal compatriot, combine to secure him a favourable reception wherever he presents himself, and cause him to be desired when absent. For our militia men, to know him is to love him, and to us, in this plight, the Abbe Gaulin has been a most precious friend.”

The original St. George’s Church, begun in 1792 and completed in 1794, stood somewhat to the east of the present St. George’s Cathedral. In 1822 we find the Court of Quarter-Sessions ordering that “the square in front of St. George’s Church, between King and Front Streets, shall be the Market Square, and that persons bringing hay, wood and straw shall range the waggons or sleighs containing butcher’s meat, butter, cheese, eggs, poultry, flour and grain, on each side of the Market House, the horses’ heads towards the buildings opposite each side of the market ; and that persons from the country bringing articles in baskets or wheelbarrows shall range themselves on each side of the pavement leading to the Market House.” A guardhouse in front of the Market Square was maintained for the town-guard until the city ceased, in 1870, to be an Imperial garrison. The guard also acted as keeper of the fire-station, being allowed a fee of two shillings and sixpence for each alarm; and sentries long continued to be posted at the entrance to the court-house and gaol.

In 1812, when Captain Thomas Hall visited Kingston, the state of the streets does not seem to have been very satisfactory. He remarks that “although the town boasts more houses and regular squares than Sackett’s Harbour, the latter possesses a pavement of flag-stones, while Kingstonians are obliged to walk through mud.” Six years before, Stephen Miles, boarding in a loghouse near the market-place, near which giant pines still towered, declared that “there was no lack of mud in the spring and fall, and it was no uncommon thing for waggons to be pried out by

fence-rails just north of the market-place.” The ground west of Sydenham Street was as yet thickly wooded, and from the end of Store Street, not then very long, the road turned towards the right, and took a zig-zag course to what is now the village of Waterloo.

An anonymous writer in the Kingston Gazette, in December, 1812, urged that the inhabitants of a town possessing so many advantages should set about the work of improving and embellishing it. The streets, he said, “require very great repairs, and in the rainy seasons it is scarcely possible to move about without being in mud to the ankles ; from the breadth, they will admit of very wide footpaths at each side, which ought to be paved. Lamps are required to light the streets in the dark of the moon, and trees should be planted on each side, while the streets should be kept free of lumber of every kind. A fire-engine, with a certain number of buckets and a company of firemen, are also required, and in order to meet the expense it is suggested that each householder should be taxed in proportion to the value of his property.”

Some of these defects were probably supplied before long, for, in the following January we find another letter-writer commending the liberal spirit manifested “among heads of society,” during the previous summer, in contributing to the turnpiking of the streets and paving the foot-paths before their own doors.

In these, as in other respects, the town improved rapidly in appearance and apparent prosperity during the palmy days after the war, when it was still the military centre for Upper Canada. It possessed a considerable garrison, a resident Commandant, and a leisure class of military men and their families, which, of course, greatly stimulated the social life and ambitions of the citizens. In 1816, we are told by Captain Hall, it had a “large wooden Government House,” a “theatre built by the military,” and shops which displayed the most attractive novelties in the way of millinery to be worn at the gay balls and parties that now abounded. One milliner’s advertisement, quoted by him, announces to “the ladies of Kingston and their chaperons” that she has just procured a large assortment of black and coloured gauzes and laces, ” Waterloo sarcenets,” and “Wellington bombazines,” with gold and silver trimmings, and other wares enticing to feminine eyes. Horse racing soon became a favourite amusement with the officers, who frequently celebrated field days in this fashion, particularly the King’s Birthday; and Colonel Clark informs us that, at the entertainments which followed, the loyal dames of Kingston would appear in brilliant dresses, with threads of silver forming the motto, “God Save the King!”

Kingston at this time more than doubled its population, buildings and business, while the presence of the officers of the garrison and navy helped to create an atmosphere of Old World culture and refinement which it never lost. There were, however, evils associated with these benefits. Extravagance in dress and mode of living became too prevalent, and many families involved themselves in financial embarrassment through the folly of trying to live beyond their means. The sobriety of the town also suffered, drinking habits growing more common, especially among the lower classes. The presence of so many soldiers had a demoralising influence, especially in the multiplication of the low taverns and groggeries that spring up like mushrooms in the vicinity of a garrison, scattering liberally the germs of misery and degradation. Kingston at different periods in its history benefited much by the presence of high-minded and earnest-hearted officers, ready to devote their leisure to the service of God and their fellows ; but this was not always the character of their influence, and it may be here noticed that Kingston was, in 1795, the scene of the first duel fought in Upper Canada, between Captain Sutherland of the Twenty-fifth Regiment, and Mr. Peter Clark, Chief Clerk of the Legislative Council (a son of the builder of Kingston Mills), in which the latter fell, mortally wounded.

On May 17th, 1824, the foundation of a new courthouse and gaol were laid with Masonic honours, by Sir Peregrine Maitland (then Governor of Upper Canada), St. John’s Lodge, No. 5, Kingston, taking charge of the ceremonies. The list of contents of the bottle placed in the cavity of the foundation stone has a local interest for us still, for it was as follows : “Parchment with inscription, ‘St. Ursula’s Convent,’ or ‘ The Nun of Canada,’ the first novel ever printed in Upper Canada ; the U. C. Herald of May 11th; the Kingston Chronicle. of May 14th ; Christian Register, November, 1823; U. C. Almanac, 1824 ; report of Female Benevolent Society for 1824 ; a York Bank bill ; a sovereign of George IV., with several other coins.” The second item, showing that a literary work had already been printed in Canada, is certainly a testimony to the progress of a colony which had barely completed its fourth decade.

The Kingstonians of the early years of the nineteenth century were readers, as might easily be inferred from the fact that a public or “social” library—referred to in the Voltigeur’s diary, existed as early as 1818, and probably earlier, the annual subscription being twenty shillings, a fee which would now be considered very high. To this library a valuable donation was made in 1823 by the athletic and eccentric Mr. Langhorn, an active and untiring pioneer Anglican missionary of the Midland District, whose labours and endurance, as well as his peculiarities, were household words in his extensive parish for more than twenty years. Convinced, it is said, that the war which began in 1813 would result in the conquest of Canada by the United States, he determined to escape the evil day by returning to England. Before his departure he presented to Kingston the welcome gift thus acknowledged in the Kingston Gazette of the day:

“The Rev. Mr. Langhorn, of Ernestown, who is about returning to England, his native country, has presented a valuable collection of books to the Social Library, established in this village. Many of the volumes are very elegant, and, it is to be hoped, will for many years remain a memorial of his liberality and disposition to promote the diffusion of useful knowledge among a people with whom he lived as an Episcopal missionary for more than twenty years. During that period his acts of charity have been frequent and numerous, and not confined to members of his own Church, but extended to indigent and meritorious persons of all denominations. Many who have shared in his bounty will have reason to recollect him with gratitude, and to regret his removal from the country.”

These words of appreciation were well deserved, and amply verified, for Mr. Langhorn’s loss was never made up to his charge. Tradition says that he eventually set out to return to Canada, but was shipwrecked on the way.

Mr. Stephen Miles, the young and active editor of the Gazette, who probably wrote the notice quoted above, was, like many other Kingstonians, a volunteer during the war, in the Company of Captain Markland, and recalled in after life his having, on one occasion when an attack seemed imminent, and all were called out for defence, observed the young rector of St. George ‘s, afterwards “the Archdeacon,” shouldering his musket with others in the market-place. On this occasion the exigencies of military duty interfered with the publication of the paper, but Colonel Cartwright prevented a recurrence of the inconvenience by permitting him to remain in his office, to be sent for when wanted. He had on his staff of contributors some able assistants, as we find that Colonel Cartwright sometimes wrote for it under the pen name of “Faulkner”; young Mr. Strachan (the school master, and future Bishop), over the signature of “Reckoner”; that Christopher Hagerman, as a student, sometimes contributed verses ; while Barnabas Bidwell and a bookseller named Solomon Jorn were also occasional contributors. By 1816 the Gazette had grown so enterprising that it established what, for those days, was the equivalent of a news train. to carry the Weekly Gazette regularly throughout the district. Three years later Mr. Miles sold his printing establishment to Mr. Macaulay and a recently arrived Scotch-man, John Alexander Pringle, long and deservedly esteemed in Kingston. These gentlemen started the Kingston Chronicle, with which at one time another Scotchman named James Macfarlane was connected, and which long existed as a most respectable weekly. Some years later Mr. Miles issued, on his own account, a quarto paper, called the Kingston, Gazette and Religious Advocate, and the two eventually coalesced in the Chronicle and Gazette, which became the lineal ancestor of the Chronicle and News, long published by John Creighton, later Penitentiary Warden. The British Whig was founded in 1832 by Dr. E. J. Barker, whose ability and energy soon made it one of the leading papers in Canada. It was the first daily, and still flourishes and maintains its old prestige.

About the year 1830 the names of several streets were altered, by order of the Court of Quarter-Sessions, to those by which they are still known. Brock Street only then received its present name, given in honour of the gallant hero of the war of 1812. Clarence Street, Montreal, Colborne and Barrie Streets then received their permanent names. The lower portion of Grave Street was to be hencforth known as Queen Street, the upper portion retaining its funereal dsignation, a difference which must sometimes have been inconvenient. The continuation of this street past a “new burial-ground,” long since fallen into disuse, was to be called Cross Street, a name now unknown. The principal business street—Store Street —retained its old name until the birth of the Princess Royal of England (the late Dowager Empress of Germany), in honour of whom it received its present name of Princess Street.

In the same year the magistrates in Session petitioned the Lieutenant-Governor to set aside for public purposes the strip of land between the Market Square and the water’s edge, along the then precipitous shore of the harbour, which, it appeared from the original survey of the town in 1784, was to be left vacant as a part of the market-ground. It had, however, been occupied as a military reserve during and after the war of 1812, and had become a nuisance-ground injurious to the general health. For this reason it was urged that it he handed over to the civic authorities to be kept in proper order. The Commandant was also requested to continue the two sentries who were posted at the court-house and gaol.

As we have seen, the penalties for offences against the law were often severe enough, the harsh measures of the past century being still in force. The practice of branding the hand for petty felonies had, however, been abolished in 1800, a pecuniary fine having then been substituted for it; but during the first quarter of the new century Kingston still retained the old-fashioned stocks and public whipping-post, and as late as 1822 a man was, for petty larceny, sentenced to exposure in the stocks, in addition to one month’s imprisonment*. Smuggling seems to have been very prevalent between 1818 and 1822, and on one occasion a sensation was caused by a subordinate official of Christopher Hagerman shooting a smuggler named Lyons, who, however, eventually recovered, though severely wounded. All kinds of articles seem to have been thus illicitly imported, from sleighs, boots, stoves, oxen and hogs, to leather, hats, liquor and gunpowder.

A chapter dealing with the growth of Kingston during the early years of the nineteenth century may be appropriately closed by quoting—in contrast with the descriptions given by Dr. Stuart and La Rochefoucault, of the primitive village of 1795—that of Commodore Bouchette in 1815, dwelling on its rising importance as an entre-pot of trade, and on the busy scene presented by its military dockyard.

“For the last fifteen or twenty years,” says the Commodore’s report, “the town has attained considerable maritime importance. Wharves have been constructed, and many spacious warehouses erected, that are usually filled with merchandise. In fact, it has become the main entre-pot between Montreal and the settlements along the lakes to the eastward. From the commencement of spring until the latter part of autumn great activity prevails ; vessels of from eighty to a hundred tons are continually receiving and discharging their cargoes; as well as the bateaux used on the river. The harbour is well sheltered and convenient, accessible to ships not requiring more than three fathoms of water, with good anchorage close to the northeastern extremity of the town.

“Opposite to the town, and distant from it about half a mile, is a long, low peninsula. This is the principal depot of the Royal Navy on Lake Ontario, where the ships are laid up for the winter. The anchorage is good, but somewhat exposed to south and southwest winds. On the west side of Navy Bay are the dockyards, a large storehouse, slips for building men-of-war, naval barracks, wharves, and several dwelling-houses for the master builders and other artisans ; for since their occupations have been so unremitting, it has been found necessary to erect habitations on the spot. In that yard the ships composing at present the British Ontario armament were built and equipped. The construction of the St. Lawrence, a frigate mounting 102 guns, proves that the home of this fleet may hereafter be increased to a vast extent as a rival to the American station of Sackett’s Harbour. Navy Bay is entitled to every consideration, and as long as it is an object to maintain our supremacy on this lake, the greatest attention must be paid to this establishment, particularly when we observe with what care our rivals complete such of their ships as were begun during the war, and the means they are adopting, generally, to contest against us, at a future period, with numerical strength in their favour.”

He concludes his report with the practical suggestion that as vessels will not last more than five or six years at most, it would be best to follow the example of the Americans, and build, hereafter, with a view mainly to strength and power, rather than with the completeness of finish so dear to the martinet of the British navy. Up to the period we have reached, the following schooners and frigates had been built at Navy Bay—the Speedy, lost on the lake in 1805, with all on board (including Solicitor-General Gray and Judge Cochrane) ; the Mohawk, Mississauga, Toronto, Duke of Kent, Royal George, Wolfe, St. Lawrence, and (probably) the Duke of Gloucester, burned at the capture of York, most of which lie buried under the placid waters of Navy Bay, well called “the graveyard of H. M. fleet of the War of 1812.”

The Story Of Old Kingston:The Founding Of Fort FrontenacFort Frontenac Under The French RegimeThe Fall Of Fort FrontenacThe Coming Of The LoyalstsSettlement And Early DaysA Naval And Military Centre And First Seat Of Provincial GovernmentThe Cloud Of WarTo ArmsNaval Expeditions From KingstonAfter The WarRead More Articles About: The Story Of Old Kingston