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UEL Association of Canada – Governor Simcoe Branch (Virtual): January 2023 Meeting

January 11, 2023 @ 7:30 pm

“Fort Frontenac” — Presentation by Jean Rae Baxter

Wednesday, January 11, at 7:30pm – on Zoom; Register here:

Please note, this is not a hybrid meeting, it will take place virtually on Zoom

It all began with the beaver. The City of Kingston owes its existence to the beaver. If it were not for the beaver, Fort Frontenac would never have been built. And if Fort Frontenac had not been built, there would have been no settlement at Cataraqui. But in every European country, wealthy gentlemen and military officers wore hats made from beaver felt. All Europe ran “mad as a hatter” for the beaver.

It was competition for the fur trade that led to the construction of Fort Frontenac. Because the English paid more, in trade goods, than the French, both hunters and middlemen started taking the furs to the English, not to the French. To block competition from the English, France needed to establish forts that would serve as trading posts in locations much closer at hand than English trading posts such as Albany to the south and Hudson Bay to the north.

This is where the famous explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier de LaSalle enters the story. It was LaSalle who chose the site where Fort Frontenac would be built. By choosing this site, he was choosing the spot where Kingston stands today.

Count Frontenac, Governor of New France, approved the site and built the first wooden fort. But it was LaSalle who in 1675 rebuilt the little wooden fort into a real fortress, which for the rest of his life he used as home base for his expeditions of discovery.

This presentation follows the fortunes of Fort Frontenac over the centuries. How it was knocked down, rebuilt, abandoned, rebuilt, blown up, rebuilt again, destroyed by the British in the last days of New France, and finally became the site for the Loyalist settlement at Cataraqui following the American Revolution.

Today, disrupted by digging in the construction of utilities and buried under streets and buildings, there is little of the historic old fort to be seen. In my presentation, I dig up three hundred years of history.

Jean Rae Baxter is the descendant of settlers who arrived in New France in the 17th century, Loyalists who came here in the 1780s, and immigrants from Germany in the 19th century. There were many family stories to awaken her interest in Canada’s history.

Baxter’s historical fiction has won wide recognition. In 2022 she was nominated for the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media: the Pierre Berton Award. She has received the Hamilton Arts Council Award for Young Adult Literature as well as a City of Hamilton Heritage Award for her writing. Her books have been shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association’s Red Maple Award and British Columbia’s Stellar Award. She has received an Honourable Mention at Boston’s New England Book Festival.

Three of her six novels based on Loyalist History have received the Moonbeam Awards for Young Adult Historical Fiction: In 2011 Freedom Bound was awarded the Bronze Medal. In 2012 Broken Trail won the Gold Medal, and just a few months ago, in October 2022, her latest book, The Knotted Rope, won the Silver. Jean is especially proud of these three medals—Gold, Silver and Bronze—because the Moonbeam Awards are American, and she writes Loyalist history from an unswervingly Canadian point of view.


January 11, 2023
7:30 pm