Stories

The 200 story nodes created in commemoration of the Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial can be searched by more than twenty themes, through the pins on the interactive map and by date on the timeline. 

You're viewing 109 stories about “First Capital
Kingston City Hall and the Market Battery, 1857. Source: Queen's University Archives, William Sawyer fonds.

Kingston: A Geopolitical Location

1780-1890

Following the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists (UEL) in the 1780s, sensitivity between the Americans and the British over their mutual frontier was to have implications for Kingston for the n

Plan showing islands in Rice Lake circa 1875. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Kingston “Indians”

1837

In 1837, the “Kingston” Mississauga were granted title to their present location, Alderville, in Alnwick Township to the east of Peterborough.

Dr. James Sampson Becomes Mayor of Kingston

Dr. James Sampson Becomes Mayor of Kingston

1789-1861

Born in Ireland and educated in medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, James Sampson was a surgeon and educator dedicated to public welfare in Kingston.

Henry Cassady Becomes Mayor of Kingston

Henry Cassady Becomes Mayor of Kingston

1797-1839

Henry Cassady was the first mayor of Kingston to be born locally. His United Empire Loyalist family members were among the earliest settlers of Kingston.

John Counter becomes the first Mayor of Kingston

John Counter Becomes the First Mayor of Kingston

1799-1862

John Counter, the first mayor of the newly incorporated City of Kingston in 1846, was a baker turned entrepreneur.

Smallpox circa 1909. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

19th Century Diseases

1801-1900

Life is anything but easy for John A., his family and any resident of Kingston (or anywhere else) in the 19th century when it comes to health.

The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway

1800-1900

With no Highway 401 connecting Kingston to the rest of Ontario, Kingston’s location on the shores of Lake Ontario contributed to its significance. The Great Lakes and the St.

The Architecture of William Coverdale

The Architecture of William Coverdale

1842-1851

Born in England in 1801, it is unclear when William Coverdale arrived in Kingston though the birth of his son in Kingston is recorded in 1833.

Thomas Kirkpatrick Becomes Mayor of Kingston in 1838 and again in 1847

Thomas Kirkpatrick Becomes Mayor of Kingston in 1838 and Again in 1847

1805-1870

Thomas Kirkpatrick, born near Dublin, Ireland, arrived in Kingston to study law and later became the town solicitor (1839-1846).

St Mary’s Cathedral before the enlargements of 1889. Source: Henderson booklet on Kingston c1888, coll. J. McKendry

Kingston’s Saints: St. Mary’s

1808-1880

A few Roman Catholics continued on in Kingston following the British capture of Fort Frontenac and their spiritual needs were first met by a small church built on the corner of William and Bagot st

Robert Charles Archibald McLean Becomes Mayor of Kingston

Robert Charles Archibald McLean Becomes Mayor of Kingston

1811-unknown

Born in Martinique, West Indies where his Irish father was serving in the Royal Artillery, Robert Charles Archibald McLean was a physician and one of the most popular men in Kingston.

William Ford Jr. becomes Mayor of Kingston

William Ford Jr. becomes Mayor of Kingston

1811-1893

William Ford Jr. was born in Ireland and immigrated to Kingston as a young man. He was a keen and successful business owner and active member of many councils, committees and social organizations.

William Sawyer

William Sawyer

1820-1889

William Sawyer was a Canadian-born, self-taught painter and, later in his life, a photographer.

Eliza Grimason. Source: Newland family private collection, reprinted in Lena Newman, The John A. Macdonald Album, Tundra Books, 1974.

Eliza Grimason

1821-1916

Of the several women in John A. Macdonald's life, Eliza Grimason stands out first as a client and later as a confidante and close friend.

Sir Alexander Campbell. Source: Library and Archives Canada

Sir Alexander Campbell

March 9, 1822 - May 24, 1892

Sir John A. had no closer confidant in Kingston than his fellow Father of Confederation, Sir Alexander Campbell.

From the New Forts - Point Levi - Looking down the St. Lawrence by John Herbert Caddy circa 1841. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Kingston Bypassed: Imperial Policy and Canals

1825-1959

The St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and their tributary rivers were corridors of movement since the prehistory of the Kingston region.

Legal Apprenticeship

1830

John A.'s formal education ends at age 15, when he begins articling with George Mackenzie, a Kingston lawyer and friend of the Macdonald family.

Watercolour by George St. Vincent Whitmore in 1836 of the interior of Fort Henry. Source: Library and Archives Canada, Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana.

Military Pressence in Early Kingston

1830-1865

The 1830s and 1850s witnessed a burgeoning military presence in Kingston.

Map of Wolfe Island showing the canal from the illustrated Atlas of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (1878). Source: The Canadian County Atlas Project, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library.

Kingston Bypassed: Railways

1830-1892

Another challenge to Kingston’s lake/river transhipment function was a new technology: rail.

Unveiling of memorial cross commemorating the Irish immigrants who died of cholera in 1849 in 1909. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Kingston's Cholera Epidemic

1831-1854

From 1831 to 1854, five major cholera epidemics were responsible for the deaths of nearly 10 per cent of Kingston’s inhabitants.

Political Tensions and the Cholera Epidemic

Political Tensions and the Cholera Epidemic

1831-1854

As the cholera epidemic grew, and Kingston’s best and brightest continued to fall victim, panic and political tensions flared.

Kingston Penitentiary circa 1906. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Construction of Kingston Penitentiary

1833-1835

The Penitentiary has long been one of the defining institutions of Kingston.

Harriet Dobbs Cartwright. Source: Queen's University Archives.

Harriet Dobbs Cartwright

1833-1887

Harriet Dobbs Cartwright came to Kingston from Ireland in 1833 with her new husband, Robert David Cartwright.

Kingston Mechanic's Institution

Kingston Mechanics' Institution

1834-1911

In 1840, the Kingston Mechanic's Institute was six years old and the struggle to find stability came to an end.

The unveiling of 'Holding Court.'  L-R: Robert Quaiff (Mayor of Prince Edward County), Daryl Kramp (M.P. Hastings and Prince Edward), Janet Minor (Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada), Ruth Abernethy (Artist), David Warrick (Chair of the Macdonald Project). Source: The Macdonald Project.

John A.'s First Legal Case

October 8, 1834

Macdonald's first legal case ended in a  fistfight with the opposing counsel at the Picton courthouse.

Sand Lake, Rideau Canal looking down, 34 miles from Kingston, Ontario circa 1854. Source:  Library and Archives Canada.

Kingston's Backcountry

1835-1868

Kingston’s hinterland is dominated by the Frontenac Axis of the Pre-Cambrian Canadian Shield consisting of outcrops of igneous and metamorphic rocks, swamps and forests.

John A. Joins the Local Militia

1837

As an able male, Macdonald is required to join the local militia. They train on the Cricket Field, just south of the present-day Frontenac County Court House, a few days each summer.

Site of the Battle of the Windmill, Prescott. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Nils von Schoultz

1837-1838

The most prominent criminal case in Macdonald's law career involves Nils von Schoultz, leader of a band of American-based raiders who attack near Prescott during the Rebellion of 1837.

St. Helen's

St. Helen's

1838

In July 1836, St Helen’s was begun for Helen and Thomas Kirkpatrick, a member of the Family Compact and a lawyer.

Unsuccessful Invasion of Kingston

Unsuccessful Invasion of Kingston

1838

By 1838, numerous secret societies of trained and armed Americans had formed with the intention of liberating Upper Canada from British rule.

Lord Durham's Report on the Affairs of British North America

Lord Durham's Report on the Affairs of British North America

1838-1839

John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, arrived in the Canadas in 1838 to investigate, on behalf of Britain, the causes of the rebellions.

"Lillie Williams alias Harrington" from Arresting Images. Source: The OPP Museum.

Women and "Disorderly Conduct" in the First Capital

1838-1850

In a report by the Grand Jury on the state of the District Gaol (attached to the court house, King at Clarence), there are no less than 35 to 40 criminal prisoners, accommodated four to a cell in s

In the left corner, the windows of the rooms turned into jail cells at Fort Henry have been barred. Watercolour by Lt. George St. Vincent Whitemore of the Royal Engineers, 1841. Source: National Archives of Canada.

The 1838 Escape from Fort Henry

June 29, 1838.

On June 29th, 1838 the prisoners of the Rebellion in Upper Canada escaped through one of Fort Henry’s underground chambers.

Sir Alexander Campbell. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Alexander Campbell Becomes John A.'s Second Articling Student

1839

In 1839 Alexander Campbell becomes Macdonald's second articling student (Oliver Mowat is his first). Four years later Macdonald makes him a junior partner.

Regiopolis College

Regiopolis College

1839

Bishop Alexander Macdonell laid the cornerstone for Regiopolis, originally meant to be a seminary to train priests, in June 1839.

Sir John A Macdonald circa 1842 or 1843. Artist unknown. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Brandt Trial

1839

In the autumn of 1839, John A. defended Abraham Brandt, a Mohawk man, against the charge of murder in the brutal beating and death of fellow Mohawk man, John Marrikell. John A.

Sir John A. and Queen's University

December 18 1839 - October 16, 1841

On Dec. 18, 1839, the day after the bill was introduced to the Legislature for the establishment of a Presbyterian college to train ministers, a meeting was held in St.

The view down Brock Street from Wellington Street circa 1875. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Establishing the Fabric of Kingston

1840-1847

Kingston wasn’t always the “Limestone City.” At one time, most of the houses were built of wood which contributed to the severity of the fire of April 17-18, 1840 that destroyed most of the downtow

Henry Smith Jr. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Henry Smith Jr.

1840-1850

Henry Smith Jr. is an immigrant from England and three years older than John A. Macdonald.

Fire insurance map of Kingston circa 1911. On this map the Stuartsville of the 1840s is contained within lots 17, 20 and 21, now near the heart of Queen's University campus. The centre of Picardville is lot 11 notable for the mention of Frontenac Park, now McBurney Park (locally referred to as Skeleton Park), but was in the 1840s still the Upper Burial Ground. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Kingston's Slums

1840-1850

Kingston had two slum neighbourhoods in the 1840s: Stuartsville west of Barrie Street, and Picardville between Princess Street and Raglan Road.

Morton's Brewery Rebuilt

Morton's Brewery Rebuilt

1840-1864
In 1840, the Morton Brewery and Distillery reopened and included the buildings that now form the base of the Tett Centre and the Isabel Bader.
Bellevue House. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Bellevue House

1840 - present day

Once home to John A. and his first wife, Isabella, Bellevue House, an architectural gem and a National Historic Site, was officially opened as a museum by Her Majesty the Queen in 1967.

The Great Kingston Conflagration

The Great Kingston Conflagration

April 17, 1840

As American Steamer, the Telegraph, attempts to leave Coupler’s Wharf, sparks fly from its flume and ignite the largest fire in the history of Kingston.

After the Great Conflagration

After the Great Conflagration

1840-1847

The Great Conflagration was the largest fire in Kingston to date and marked a turning point in the development of fire prevention.

Kingston Named the Capital of Canada

Kingston Named the Capital of Canada

1841

As Ontario's oldest settlement and a key naval and military town, Kingston had expected to be named the capital of Upper Canada.

102-114 Yonge St

102-114 Yonge St

1841

From the 1857-58 city directory: “The spacious mansion lately erected by Colin Miller, Esq., and its ample garden grounds, form a pleasing feature midst the bustle and business of a principal city

Hardy's Buildings

Hardy's Buildings

1841

During the First Capital period (1841-44), there was a flurry of building activity and Ontario Street, being on the waterfront, was a desirable site for commerce and industry.

Ramsay and Ford newspaper notice. Source: Chronicle and Gazette, 21 May 1841, page 3, column 2.

Kingston's First Photographers

1841

Kingston’s first known photographers arrived in the city in May 1841, two years after photography was invented in Europe. Messrs.

Rockwood House

Rockwood House

1841

This Palladian villa is of national significance in the history of Canadian architecture.

St. Andrew's Mance

St. Andrew's Mance

1841

In late June 1841, George Browne, in town as the government architect while Kingston was the capital of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, called for tenders to build St Andrew’s Presbyterian Manse in

Decision Made to Build a Civic Building Suitable to the New Capital of Canada

Decision Made to Build a Civic Building Suitable to the New Capital of Canada

1841-1842

In 1841, the town of Kingston acquired what had been a privately owned lot at the corner of Ontario and Brock streets in an effort to gain as large a building site as possible for the proposed town

Confederation Celebrations in Market Square on July 1, 1867. Source: Queen's University Archives.

John A.'s Community Presence

1841-1849

Apart from is career in law and politics, Macdonald was a visible and active presence in 19th century Kingston society.

Peter Jones from his History of the Ojebway Indians with Especial Reference to their Conversion to Christianity; with a Brief Memoir of the Writer.

John A. and the Union Church

February 1, 1841

On what later became the site of the First Congregationalist Church of Kingston, the Union Church served various congregations who had not yet built independent churches in Kingston.

Students with home-built car, Queen's University, Kingston, ON circa 1916 by Clifford M. Johnston. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Queen's University

October 16, 1841 - present day

Sir John A. Macdonald attended and participated in the earliest Kingston meetings that led to the establishment of what is now Queen's University.

Commercial Mart

Commercial mart

1842

Early in 1842, while Kingston was still the capital of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, government architect George Browne called for tenders for “Three Cut-Stone Wholesale Stores” for merchant Charl

Newcourt House

Newcourt House

1842

During the First Capital, the Honorable Hamilton H.

Wellington Terrace

Wellington Terrace

1842

“Capt. Jackson’s new stone buildings” were mentioned in July 1842.

Abraham Nordheimer. Source: The Jews of Kingston, A Microcosm of Canadian Jewry?; Marion E. Meyer; 1983; The Limestone Press.

Abraham Nordheimer

1842-1844

Abraham Nordheimer was the first Jewish  inhabitant of Kingston.  He moved here in 1842 and placed an advertisement in the Kingston Chronicle and Gazette offering "...lessons on the Piano Forte, Vi

A Poem "To the Ladies of the Female Benevolent Hospital Kingston"

A Poem "To the Ladies of the Female Benevolent Hospital Kingston"

February 19, 1842

Poetry was a common feature of 19th-century newspapers and was often published anonymously or signed with initials only.

Charles Dickens on Fort Henry

Charles Dickens on Fort Henry

May, 1842

On his 1842 visit to Kingston, Charles Dickens made the following observations, recorded in American Notes, about Fort Henry: "There is a bomb-proof fort here of great strength, which occu

Charles Dickens on Kingston Penitentiary

Charles Dickens on Kingston Penitentiary

May, 1842

On his 1842 visit to Kingston, Charles Dickens made the following observations, recorded in American Notes, about Kingston Penitentiary:

Charles Dickens Visits Kingston

Charles Dickens Visits Kingston

May, 1842

In May of 1842, following an extensive trip to the United States, Charles Dickens made a short trip through parts of Canada beginning in Niagara Falls, passing through Cobourg and Kingston and then

Criticism of the Construction of City Hall

Criticism of the Construction of City Hall

1843

In a letter to the editor, a “Kingstonian” has some harsh words about the city hall, “now in course of erection,” including: "It is said that there are no drains sunk, nor water closets erected; th

Bellevue House

Bellevue House

1843

In the early 1840s, the style of Bellevue House was unusual in the Kingston area and, in fact, in all the province, as a moderate-sized house in Italian or Tuscan style with the picturesque composi

Kingston City Hall and the Market Battery, 1857. Source: Queen's University Archives, William Sawyer fonds.

City Hall Offered to the Government of the Province of Canada, if Kingston Could Remained the Capital

1843

The city council offers -- to no avail -- their new city hall for use as a parliament building to the Canadian parliament in a desperate bid to retain Kingston as the capital city of the United Pro

St Mary's Cathedral

St Mary's Cathedral

1843

During the time when Kingston was the capital of Lower Canada and Upper Canada, St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral was designed in Gothic Revival style by P.-L.

St. Mark's Church, Barriefield

St. Mark's Church, Barriefield

1843

“Built by Subscription A.D. 1843 A. Brunell Inventor” is inscribed on one of the church’s stones.

The First and Last Words of a Pastor to His People

The First and Last Words of a Pastor to His People

1843

In June of 1843, less than a month after his death, the first and last sermons of Reverend Robert David Cartwright of St.

Sir John A. circa 1856 by F.S. Richardson. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Trust and Loan Company

1843-1948

In 1843 Macdonald helped secure the charter for the Kingston-based Trust and Loan Company, a mortgage bank.

Possibly the earliest photograph of John A. Macdonald, circa 1840s. Source: Library and Archives Canada

Alderman Macdonald

1843-1844

In the municipal election on March 28, 1843, Macdonald ran for his first political post and was elected to Kingston's town council. He was carried from the tavern by his supporters, atop a chair.

Report on Prisoners Brought to Stationhouse (bottom portion). Source: City of Kingston.

Report of Prisoners Brought to Stationhouse in April of 1843

April 1843

On April 8, 1843, Samuel Shaw, Chief Constable of Police from 1840 to 1849, submitted a “Report of Prisoners Brought to Stationhouse” (the framed recent copy is available for viewing in the city ha

Statement of Marriage between John A. Macdonald and Isabella Clark. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

John A. Marries Isabella Clark

September 1, 1843

In the summer of 1843, John A.'s cousin, Isabella, arrived in Kingston from England. Before long, Macdonald was courting her.

City Hall's Police Holding Cells

City Hall's Police Holding Cells

1844-1906

Only one of the four cells has a window, and it is yet to be determined if that was a later change. They range in size from 5’10½” x 7’11” to 9’7” x 10’.

Kingston City Hall and Market circa 1910. Source: Archives of Ontario.

Kingston's City Hall

1844-present day

Designed by famed architect George Brown and now a National Historic Site, Kingston's majestic City Hall was completed in 1844. Even today City Hall commands the Kingston skyline.

Sir John A. Macdonald, date unknown. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The 1844 Election Platform

October 14 & 15, 1844

In 1844, an election was called in the Province of Canada. John A. stood as the Conservative candidate for Kingston. His platform was about building roads and infrastructure.

225 King St East at William. Source: photograph by Jennifer McKendry

Bank of Montreal

1845

It was unusual to find significant construction in the immediate aftermath of Kingston being abandoned as the capital in 1844, but the Bank of Montreal proved an exception, although the as-built st

Kingston Penetentiary North Lodge

Kingston Penitentiary North Lodge

1845

In the autumn of 1840, architect William Coverdale presented his plans for a stone perimeter wall to replace the decaying wooden fence protecting Kingston Penitentiary.

City Hall and Martello Tower circa 1916 by Clifford M. Johnston. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Martello Towers

1845-1848

The four British military fortifications called Martello Towers that still "guard" Kingston today, were constructed in 19th century Kingston.

Elizabeth Cottage

Elizabeth Cottage

1846

Why did architect Edward Horsey build this attractive and stylistically innovative house in 1846 during the depression after Kingston was abandoned as the capital of Upper Canada and Lower Canada?

Market Battery

Market Battery

1846

When the Market Battery was demolished in 1872 in today’s Confederation Park on Ontario St, we lost one of the most architecturally pleasing military installations in Kingston.

Sir John A. and Kingston General Hospital

May 30, 1849

As Kingston grew, so did the need for medical care. In May 1846, Macdonald presented a memorandum to the Governor General requesting the establishment of a hospital and £300 was awarded.

Telegraph poles (loaded with wires). Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Telegraph Arrives in Kingston

1847

In 1847 the communications revolution spurred by the invention of the telegraph arrived in Kingston and decorated the landscape with the required poles and cables.

Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph's caring for typhus victims, Kingston waterfront, 1847. Artist unknown. Source: St. Joseph Region Archives of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, Kingston K-135.

The 1847 Typhus Epidemic

1847

In 1847, Kingston harboured thousands of Irish emigrants fleeing the Great Famine.

St. George's Anglican Church - architectural drawing. Source: Queen's University Archives.

John Harvey and St. George's Church

1847-1896

John Harvey, a member of the Royal Artilliary was stationed in Kingston in the 1840s.  During this time he conducted bible classes at St.

Kingston Penitentiary circa 1906. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

George Brown's 1849 Report on Kingston Penitentiary

1849-1856

Macdonald denounces George Brown's 1849 report on Kingston Penitentiary and accuses Brown of bias. His defence of warden Smith, father of his close friend Henry Smith, is unwavering.

Cataraqui Cemetary

Cataraqui Cemetary

1850

By 1850, the year Cataraqui Cemetery was incorporated, the city’s graveyards were filled, and a new site for a “garden” or “rural” cemetery, well removed from the downtown, was needed.  Seventy acr

Bank of Montreal entrance at City Hall circa 1920.

Bank of British North America

1850-1926

Of all the tenants housed in City Hall over its 170-plus history, none had a longer stay than the Bank of British North America (BBNA).  Beginning in 1850 it occupied space in the south wing with o

City Hall Skating Rink. Source: Queen's University Archives.

Early Skating in Kingston

1850 - present day

Located on the lake side of City Hall, near the Market Battery, the City Hall Skating Rink provided winter outdoor activity for the community long before there was a Parks and Recreation department

Kingston City Hall and the Market Battery, 1857. Source: Queen's University Archives, William Sawyer fonds.

Kingston at Mid-Centry: An Overview

1850 - present day

By 1850, the future of Kingston was being determined by several factors.

City of Kingston Water Works

City of Kingston Water Works

1851-present day

Built in 1851, the City of Kingston Water Works, affectionately known as the Pump House, was Kingston’s first water-pumping station.

156 King St East at Lower Union St. Source: photograph by Jennifer McKendry

Earl Place

1851

From the 1857-58 city directory: “The spacious mansion lately erected by Colin Miller, Esq., and its ample garden grounds, form a pleasing feature midst the bustle and business of a principal city

Roselawn (Donald Gordon Conference Centre), 421 Union St, in 1992. Source: photograph by Jennifer McKendry

Roselawn

1851

From the 1857-58 city directory: “Roselawn…a large heavy stone building surrounded with fine grounds, and forming a residence fit for any gentleman in the country, and with the tame deer sporting t

Crimean cannon in City Park. Source: City of Kingston.

Crimean War Cannons at the Sir John A. Statue in Kingston's City Park

1853 - present day

The two cannons flanking the Sir John A. statue in Kingston's City Park were captured in the Crimean War (1853 – 1856) as English trophies of war.

Sir John's Study at Earnscliffe in “The Dominion Illustrated,” 20 June 1891. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

British High Commissioners to Canada

1930 - present

Since 1930, British High Commissioners to Canada have had to learn a great deal about Sir John A. Macdonald.

Summerhill

Summerhill

1839

The Reverend George Okill Stuart, minister at St George’s, was an ambitious developer and – one suspects – an amateur architect.

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