Saturday, August 24, 2013

Seeking Molly in Early Kingston

Plaque in St. Paul's churchyard, Molly Brant's final resting place. 

On a recent research trip to Kingston, Ontario, I spent some time walking about that historic city. I was seeking out spaces through which Molly Brant might have moved during the time she lived here, from 1783–1796 — the location of the church she attended regularly, the first St Georges Anglican Church, the barracks where she and her family lived until their house was ready. Nowhere was Molly easier to imagine than at the site of her former home, on the banks of the Catarqui River.
Bust of Molly Brant at the Rideaucrest Home, built of the site of Brant's home.

While in the city, I was fortunate to be able to visit professional archaeologist Susan M. Bazely at her home so that we could talk about Molly. I left there with a map of the city of Kingston on which Sue had kindly marked the various places I must see in order to trace Molly's story.

After the Treaty of Paris in 1783 the proposed boundary between the newly independent United States and Canada was drawn through the middle of the lower Great Lakes. It was looking as if Carleton Island, Molly's home at the time, was going to become part of the States. The island is located in the St. Lawrence on the other side of Wolfe Island, close to the American mainland. To take its place, a new military port began to develop at Cataraqui.

The old French Fort Frontenac on the west side of the Cataraqui River was in a dilapidated state, but temporary barracks were built within it for the garrison troops. And it is here where Molly and her family were housed for a while.
Reconstruction of the northwestern bastion of old French Fort Frontenac. In the background, across the street, are the gates of today's Fort Frontenac .

Governor Haldimand ordered any houses or sheds that could be moved from Carleton Island be taken to Catarqui. Sue Bazely described to me how these would have been pulled across the ice of the St. Lawrence in the winter.  It's not hard to imagine what a spectacle that must have been for the early residents of the town.

Legend has it that part of this house, on the corner of Gore and King Streets in Kingston, may have been brought over the ice from Carleton Island to Catarqui  after 1783.

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