Friday, October 22, 2010

Visiting Kingston, Canada

We didn’t have to travel far to visit a foreign country. We are lucky we are such good friends with Canada. Canada is our closest foreign country. Kingston was the first capital of a united Canada.

During the warm months it is fun to drive to Kingston from Central New York. In Cape Vincent we drove our car onto a small ferryboat to Wolfe Island. Adults need to have a passport or an Enhanced Driver’s License in order to enter Canada. Wolfe Island is part of Canada. Children traveling with both parents do not need a passport but if they are traveling with one parent or someone else they should have a letter of permission from their parent.

When we arrived on Wolfe Island we only needed to answer a couple questions from the border patrol people before we drove across the island and caught another ferry to Kingston. We thought the ferry was fun. We could see Fort Henry from the ferry and understood why it was a good place for a fort. The fort is high on a hill where the St. Lawrence and Cataraqui Rivers meet Lake Ontario. Rivers were a fast and easy way to travel in the 1800s – especially for invading troops.

During the War of 1812 when the United States was at war with England. Canada was part of England. Fort Henry was never attacked but other areas were. The fort was interesting because some of the soldiers had their families living at the fort with them so they had a school for the children. We think it would be fun to live in a fort as long as there was no fighting.

Our guide, Sergeant Cybulski, pointed out the Commander’s Room explaining that it was one of the haunted rooms. It seems that one of the ghosts of Fort Henry is Nils Von Schultz. In the 1830s Von Schultz with a small group of Americans led an attack on Canada in an attempt to free Canada from English rule. He was captured by the British near Fort Henry and kept in the Commander’s Room during his trial. Von Schultz said that he would plead guilty to all crimes as long as none of his men were hanged. Even though many supported him including John A. MacDonald it did not sway the court and he was hanged along with five of his men.

John A. MacDonald helped unite Canada in 1867 and was the first Prime Minister of Canada. He could be considered the George Washington of Canada. We thought it would be a good idea to visit Bellevue, MacDonald’s home during the 1840s. The house is decorated and furnished the way it was when MacDonald, his wife and son lived there. There are always a lot of interesting things to see in an historic house. We thought the bathtub was especially interesting because it was shaped like a shoe and had padding on the outside. They had to get the water from a well, heat it on a stove and then pour it into the tub. The padding and shape helped to keep the water warm. Getting the bath ready was a lot of work and usually the whole family took turns using the same water.

We also visited a prison museum. There were beautiful art objects created by the prisoners and some scary handmade weapons - if only the prisoners had used their creativity to stay out of prison.