Since the Ontario Historical Society is pleased to honor our town by holding its annual convention here, it seems but right that we upon our part should in some manner justify the wisdom of such a choice. We might content ourselves by accepting it as a graceful recognition of the fact, that we have a live and useful County Society, founded and nurtured by an intelligent and untiring President, who grants immunity to none, when he asserts his prerogative to search every attic and lumber-room in the County, and for the good of the cause, to confiscated every musty document and record that comes within his reach. But we have other claims, a few of which I will briefly enumerate. This was once a famous tilting ground, for here those two stalwart knights, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Richard Cartwright, entered the lists and broke many a lance upon the hustings. Each had his peculiar claim to the suffrage of the electors. Sir John had spent his boyhood days upon the shores of Hay Bay, where the very atmosphere is impregnated with the spirit of loyalty, and it was in a corner room of a little cottage of Clarksville, not over five minutes' walk from this hall, that he first embarked upon his professional career. From time almost immemorial, the Cartwright family has been closely identified with the hamlet, village and town of Napanee, and every householder in town can trace the title of his holding back to what is locally known as the Cartwright estate.
In the field of literature we have produced a Sir Gilbert Parker, and in the Village of Camden East, the visitor is still shown the little country store where he served his apprenticeship behind the counter.
In the neighbouring village of Newburgh, there still lives our most respected octogenarian, who gave to Canada one of her most gifted sons, Sir Allan Aylesworth. In the same village one of the foremost educationalists of his day first embarked upon his brilliant career, as an exponent of higher education in the Newburgh Academy, and died in harness, the beloved and honored President of Victoria University. i of course refer to the late Rev. Dr. S.S. Nelles.
Canada has produced many able jurists, but I think I am safe in claiming that no man contributed so much towards the uplifting of the bench and bar of Ontario as did the late Chief Justice Hagerman, a native of Adolphustown. Later on mention will be made of the great men who at some period of their lives were identified with this the smallest Township in the Province.
It was from the Town of Napanee that the legislature of the Province, secured its first Speaker in the person of the Honorable John Stevenson, and the Chairman of this meeting now sits upon the same chair he occupied while filling that position.
To our militia we have contributed Major Perry of the North West Mounted Police. The industrial world is indebted to us for M.J. Butler, C.M.G., once Deputy Minister of Railways and Canals, now President of the Dominion Steel and Coal Company. We take an especial pride in claiming as our very own, one who has endeared himself to the great farming interests of our country, and is an honored member of the Society, Mr. C.C. James, C.M.G.L.L.D.
In this County was first planted the seed from which has sprung the great Methodist Church of Canada. In January 1790, William Losee came to Adolphustown to visit his U.E.L. friends and relatives, and while there so impressed the settlers by his pious and saintly life, that upon their petition, he was in the following October appointed the first regular itinerant Methodist preacher in Canada. His circuit extended from Kingston to the head of the Bay of Quinte. The first three regular Methodist classes in Canada were organized in the early part of 1791, on the shore of hay Bay; in the Village of Bath; and in the Township of Fredericksburgh, respectively. The first Methodist chapel was built on Paul Hough's lot on Hay Bay. This old landmark of Methodism was fast falling into decay, but thanks to the energy of another old Napanee, boy, Mr. A.R. Davis, C.E., suitable provision has been made for its restoration and preservation. Amid surroundings that must have suggested the humble birth of our Saviour, the first Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, administered to a body of Methodists in Canada, was celebrated in the barn of a Mr. Parrott, in the first concession of Ernesttown on the 15th of September A.D. 1792. The Canada Methodist Episcopal Church was brought into being at a conference held in the old Switzer Chapel in the Township of Ernesttown, in the month of October 1828. I have in my possession the writing desk of the "Father of Indian Missions" the Rev. William Case, whose name is a household word in every Methodist home in this country. In 1905, near the old chapel on the South shore of Hay Bay, he presided over the first camp meeting ever held on Canadian soil.
Let us now take a little trip upon the water, and before our return, I think you will be convinced that there are many good and sufficient reasons why Napanee should be the rallying point for just such a body of men and women as I see before me. Before we leave the dock, just glance along the northern bank to that huge frame building just below the falls. I need not tell you that that is the “big mill.” Upon that site Robert Clark built a mill in 1786. The second flour mill erected in Central Canada, and from far and near the early settlers, white and red, came in their bateaux and on horseback with their little grists, and Napanee became famous for its flour. So famous indeed, was the output of the Napanee mill that the word “Napanee” became in the Indian language synonymous with flour. Before we drift into a controversy over the origin of this name let us get aboard at once. While lingering at the wharf, you will be able to observe the singular phenomenon of a fresh water tide, which ebbs and flows to a height of eighteen to thirty-six inches every two hours, and in passing down towards the mouth, you will see the buoys marking the channel pointing up stream, and the weeds clinging to them, stretching out upon the water in the same direction. Our river is crooked an choked with weeds, yet it is beautiful. The crooks we would not dispense with and the weeds form an excellent test of one’s equanimity, especially if he happens to run foul of them in a motor boat upon a dark night. As we steam down the narrow channel, the rushes on either side disappear beneath the surface with a graceful courtesy. Now and then a heron or crane startled by our approach crosses our bow, and the king fisher, poised in mid-air, watching for his prey in the waters below, utters his halcyon shriek, and rushes away to his mate perched on a neighboring bough. On we pass through fields of lily pads, stretching away to the waving cat-tails, which line the banks on either side. The fresh breeze greets us as we round the Big Bend, and soon the Bay of Quinte, down which Champlain passed with his Huron allies, three hundred years ago, lies before us. Let us cast our anchor at the mouth of the river, lower a boat and go ashore on the Fredericksburgh side, and perhaps we can solve a problem which up to this date has remained unanswered. There behind a fringe of trees, a hundred yards or more from shore, is the outline of an old foundation. With the aid of a pick and shovel we may be able to unearth a few more relics, such as were picked up at this spot last summer by a local antiquarian, fragments of Indian pottery, hand forged nails and bits of plaster, not unlike that found among the ruins of early French origin. Have we at last stumbled upon Ganneions, the first out post of the Kente mission, established by M.M. Trouve and Fenelon in the spring of 1669? No one can recall ever seeing a building upon that spot, or even the remnant of one, and the suggestion that this the real location, is worthy of your consideration, commanding as it does, a view of the three approaches to Mohawk Bay, as this expansion of the Bay of Quinte is called, and presenting an excellent landing place for the crafts of the Indians, it is a much more likely spot than any that could be found further up the river.
Across the Bay is the Town of Deseronto, so named after the notable Mohawk Chief, Day-say-ronth-yon, (Thunder and Lightning) a cousin of Captain Joseph Brant, and immediately beyond the Town is the Township to which was given his family name, Tyendinaga. Nestled among the trees on yonder hill, with its tower just peeping above their tops, is the Mohawk Church, in which the Chiefs will proudly exhibit to you a portion of the silver communion service, presented to their forefathers by Queen Anne. See yonder island just opposite decorated with a species of cosmopolitan architecture that defies classification. It is now known as Forester’s Island, but in its pristine days when the wild ducks sought a shelter behind its marshy shores, it was plain “Captain John’s Island,” for it at one time formed a part of the demesne of Captain John, the English title of Day-say-ronth-yon.
We will now get under way again and resume our trip down the reach, but here you will need no guide or commentator, for neither the ravages of time nor the advent of the white men have marred the beauty of the scene. You will be quite content to enjoy in silence the panorama of the broken shore line, with its snug little coves, abrupt banks and shallow beaches, where you can hardly discern where land and water meet, all decked in every shade of green.
All too soon, Hay Bay is reached. Upon the farm at our left was born our local historian, the late Tomas W. Casey, who imbued with love and loyalty to his native Country, did more than any other man to put in readable form our early records.
That barn like structure, a few miles down the other shore is the first Methodist Church, to which I have already referred. After being neglected for so many years, it is now back again under the care of that great body of christians which was cradled under its roof 120 years ago. As you observe, it was located near the shore, for in the early days, when good roads were scarce, the water route was the favourite thoroughfare. In the old burying ground nearby, there lied side by side the remains of nine young people (a tenth is buried elsewhere) who were capsized in 1819, a short distance from shore, as they were crossing the bay in an open boat to attend a quarterly meeting in the old church.
Crossing the mouth of Hay Bay we enter upon sacred territory, for every farm has its history – a history of joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments. Ahead of us is the famous Lake-on-the-Mountain, the shore of which is but a few yards distant from the steep precipice whose base is watered by the waters of the Bay 200 feet below. The water flowing from this lake formerly leaped over the cliff in a beautiful cascade and in time wore away the limestone, thus hollowing out the glen, from which the hamlet “Glenora” derives its name. The scenic effect was sacrificed to the uses of the early settlers in 1796, when this outlet was conduct5ed down the hill to turn the stones of the third grist mill built in this section.
But we must not tarry here too long, although the temptation to do so is almost irresistible, for you will travel many a mile before you will command so entrancing a view as that to be had from the summit of the mountain. Turning our prow Eastward, we steam down the Bay towards the old limestone City. In the distance is Amherst Island, at one time a part of the seignory of LaSalle, and then called Isle de Tonti, after his faithful lieutenant. Across the Bay is the Village of Bath, where stands the old St. John’s Church, built in 1793, but still comparing favourably with most of our modern structures. A mile or two on this side of the Village is the site of the old Finkle shipyard, where in 1815 were laid the timbers of the Frontenac, the first steamboat built in Upper Canada. Just opposite that blue neck of water, reaching in from Lake Ontario, was erected in 1791, the first Anglican Church built in what was then the Province of Quebec. Here at St. Paul’s Church and at St. John’s at Bath, the Rev. John Langhorn, for many years ministered faithfully to the spiritual wants of his little flocks, and being the only clergyman in the Country authorized to solemnize marriages, his neatly kept registers have been of inestimable value in tracing the family history of his parishioners.
Having proceeded Eastward from Glenora, some three or four miles, we see to our left an inviting landing place, and so it appeared 128 years ago for that is the identical spot where Major Vanalstine beached his bateaux with his faithful band of U.E. Loyalist, on the 16th day of June 1784. What a change has been wrought since that eventful day! On every side we now see evidences of prosperity and contentment in the well tilled farms, spacious barns and imposing residences, but most of all in the smiling faces of the residents who will greet us with a royal welcome, for the hospitality of the Adolphustownians is proverbial. In 1784, the stately forest, which until then had never resounded to the woodman’s axe, stretched away from bay to bay, and in its welcome shade the tired pilgrims pitched their canvas tents, where you see that grey monolith erected to their memory. Thither we will direct our steps before descending the hill to the village beyond. Let us uncover as we bow our heads and contemplate in silence the following inscription:
In memory of the U.E. Loyalists who
Through loyalty to British
Left the U.S. and landed on these shores on the 16th of
Here in the graves that cannot now be identified, for the wooden slabs then used as markers have long since rotted away, were buried many of Canada’s worthiest sons.
Here also, crumbled into dust a century ago, lie the ashes of the first martyr on Canadian soil to that loyal cause. The joy of reaching their destination as marred by the death of a little child, worn out by the fatigue and exposure of the trying voyage. Here they digged their first grave and many a tear betrayed the emotion of the sunburnt spectators, as they lowered the wasted body into its tiny resting place.
As we reach the top of the hill, we will find much to engage our attention. Here stood the old Vandusen tavern, whose rough and ready proprietor, moved by the prohibition sentiment of the day, cho0pped down his own sign post and cast in his lot with the first organization in Canada. Here lived Nicholas Hagerman, who for some time enjoyed the monopoly of being the first licensed legal practitioner in Upper Canada, and even with that enviable distinction did not scruple to hold his own with his neighbors in swinging the axe or wielding the cradle. Over the way stood at one time the old Court House in which Chief Justice Hagerman, son of Nicholas received his early training. Going eastward down the street, we pass a more modern graveyard, yet the epitaphs recall names associated with many important events in the early history of our county. A few rods beyond is the memorial Anglican Church, the corner stone of which was laid by the Hon. John Beverly Robinson at the centennial celebration conducted with much ceremony and speech-making in 1884. This neat little building reflects great credit upon its former Rector the Rev. R.S. Forneri, to whom may be ascribed the honor of raising the necessary funds for its completion. Tastefully arranged around the walls of the interior are scores of modest but attractive tablets. I cannot refrain from mentioning a few of the inscription kindly furnished me by the Rev. Canon Roberts, the present Rector of the parish:
In Memory of
Thomas R. Fuller
who died here
This Thomas R. Fuller was the father of the late Bp. Fuller, of Niagara.
Right Rev. Charles Inglis, D.D.,
Rector of Trinity Church, N.Y. 1777
1st Bishop of N.S. 1787
Aged 82 years
Rev. John Stuart D.D.,
Born in Pennsylvania 1730
Missionary to Mohawks 1770
Came to Canada 1781
In Memory of
Died May 22nd 1830
Aged 74 years.
He was the first District Judge and Chairman of the Quarter Sessions in the Midland District.
Member 1st Legislature N.Y. 1759
Died U.C., 1815
He was the grandfather of Sir Richard Cartwright and Rev. Conway Cartwright.
Lieut. Col. C.S. Jarvis,
Born 1797, Died 1878
Late Judge of Storm., Dund., Geng.,
Served in 1812-14 in
11 general engagements
Died in Cornwall, Ont.
To the Reverend
Chaplain to Glengarry Highlanders
Died at Williamstown, U.C.,
Sept. 23rd, 1810
In Memory of
Ensign Queen’s Rangers, Inspector of
One of the first Benchers of the
M.P. Lennox and Addington, 1794
Born about 1763, Died 1798.
This young man who attained such distinction during a short life of thirty-five years, was father of the late Hon. J. Beverly Robinson, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and of the eminent lawyer Sir Christopher Robinson, late Chancellor of Trinity College Toronto.
One of the first appointed
Magistrates and Lawyers in
Born December 19th, 1786
Died March 19th, 1819.
In Memory of
Col. Hazelton Spencer
Died at Fredericksburgh
Aged 64 years.
Major H.M. 45th Regiment
Served in Holland, Egypt and Spain
Came here 1816
Registrar Co., Grenville,
Barrack Master at Toronto,
Died Aug. 15th 1833
Aged 67 years.
We cannot do more than cast a hurried glance over the long list of honored dead, which represents but a fraction of those brave loyalists, every man of whom has earned a place in our Nation’s Roll of Honor. They not only led the way in the ordinary and arduous struggles of the pioneer, but at the same time, worked out for themselves a system of self-government, the fundamental principles of which are preserved in our Municipal Act of today. No adventurers or outcasts were they, seeking to better their fortunes in a distant land, but strong me, whose loyalty was put to the severest test, men whose watch-word was “God and our King.”
Here we could linger for hours in these sacred precincts, in our vain endeavor to fully appreciate the true meaning of their voluntary exile. When we contemplate how these our forefathers abandoned home, with all that precious word signifies, how they endured the perils of a tedious voyage on the ocean, gulf and river, how axe in hand they advanced against the barriers of the forest and suffered the pangs of cold and hunger – when we contemplate that they freely underwent all these trials as their offering upon the altar of loyalty, can we find words to duly express their noble qualities of mind and heart? Have we paid that tribute to their memory that their deeds deserve? Are we not too prone to accept without question the priceless heritage they have left to us? It is only by awakening the enthusiasm of such men as gather at meetings of this character that we can ever hope to do full justice to them. It is most fitting therefore, that the members of the Ontario Historical Society should hold, what I trust will prove one of its most successful conventions, in this historic old County, and as this is the point I set out to demonstrate, I leave it to you, while we return from this pleasant outing, whether or not in the brief time at my disposal, I have succeeded in proving that you chose well and wisely when you selected our little town for your meeting place.