Kingston History

When you are walking through the City of Kingston Ontario, you are walking through some of the earliest history of Canada. Kingston history starts with the native tribes that wandered this part of North America for ages.

It was the late 1600’s when visitors from Europe, from France specificallly, colonized this part of North America and build a trading post and then a fort where Fort Frontenac stands in Kingston today. That’s along Ontario Street just adjacent to the west end of the LaSalle Causeway.

The French colonists chose to build on this site, a first nation community of the Mississauga indians. The site was known in the native tongue as Katerokwi (hence the current iteration of Cataraqui – and the local pronunciation as KAT ER ACK WAY). The site ultimately became known as Fort Frontenac. The trading post and the fort was destroyed repeatedly and ultimately ended up in the hands of British forces.

Mackenzie Building at RMC Kingston

Fort Frontenac grew with settlers from the United Empire Loyalists and members of the upstate New York native Tyendinaga tribe, up until the early 1800’s.

The Lake Ontario division of the Great Lakes British naval fleet made this area their home during the war of 1812. This British fleet hotly contested the control of Lake Ontario with an American naval force located in Sackett’s Harbor NY.

It was the British that, out of necessity, built what is now one of Kingston’s major visitor attractions, Fort Henry. They also constructed the Martello towers to guard access to the Cataraqui River and the Rideau Canal, the latter of which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site (since 2007).

Kingston was incorporated as a town in 1838.

For a brief few years Kingston was declared the capital of Canada from 1841 through 1846, losing that crown to Toronto, Montreal and ultimately
Ottawa, which is now Canada’s capital city.

Kingston was incorporated as a city in 1846.

Kingston is proud to have been the birth place of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John Alexander Macdonald (Sir John A. Macdonald) who holds the distinction of being Canada’s second longest serving Prime Minister.

Sir John A. died in June 1891, and his remains are interred in a modest plot in the Cataraqui Cemetery.┬áThe cemetery is named after the village of Cataraqui, the center of which was located at the junction of where Princess Street and Sydenham Road meet now, and now is part of urban Kingston. Here are a few photos of Sir John A. MacDonald’s resting place.

Kingston is home for the world-respected Queen’s University. The university was founded in 1841 under royal charter from Queen Victoria. It currently has an enrollment of more than 13,000 undergraduate and 4,000 graduate students.

Also located in Kingston is the Royal Military College. RMC was established in 1876 and is Canada’s only military university training Canada’s future military leaders both academically and in leadership skills.

Proud antique CP Locomotive on display in Kingston’s Confederation Park – downtown

Historically a trading post, military base, a city of learning, a shipbuilding city, an important locomotive building center, and home for numerous provincial and federal corrective institutions, Kingston’s traditional industrial heart has been ripped out as the Canadian and eastern Ontario economy came to grips with the industrial realities of the 20th century.

The institutes of higher learning remain. So too do many of the institutions that incarcerate those who choose not to learn about getting along in society.

Yes, the Kingston area jails remain, and so does a warm, pleasant, safe city to visit, to enjoy and, perhaps, in which to make your home.

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