Sunday, July 31, 2011

Battle Of The Windmill

By : Dennis Stein

  Many things shaped our country in its early history, including military battles. In the summer of 1838, in response to a number of raids conducted by a group of reformers led by William Lyon Mackenzie and a number of American Hunter Patriots, Fort Wellington at Prescott was repaired and upgraded with a new blockhouse to repel threats from across the St.Lawrence.  Although not fully completed, it was ready to play a part in a pivotal battle later that year...
  In November of 1838, a group of 250 American Hunter Patriots gathered at Ogdensburg to liberate Canadians in Upper Canada from what they saw as oppressive British rule. A Swedish man by the name of Nils Von Shoultz lead these men across the St.Lawrence early one morning, and after a failed attempt to land at Prescott, the Hunters landed and took over the hamlet of Newport, where the group took up a position in a stone windmill, east of the town. They were of the belief that they would be immediately joined by thankful Canadians, ready to be free of the crown.This, of course, never happened. The Americans got a further surprise, because the Canadians were ready for them, having been tipped off by spies about the impending invasion.
  The windmill was made of thick stone, standing 60 feet high, and provided a good defensive position for the American invaders. It stood on top of a 30 foot bluff, making it impossible for the British to approach without being seen, and was impervious to all but heavy artillery. It also afforded the Hunters a wide view, nearly to Brockville in the west, and the Galop Rapids in the east. Early in the morning of the 13th, a force of British infantry and 500 Canadian militiamen, including a group from the Brockville Rifles, attacked the Hunters. The initial attack failed, leaving 13 on the british side dead, and only 18 of the Hunter Patriots, along with wounded on both sides.
  On the 16th, artillery from kingston arrived along with over 1100 Upper Canadian militiamen, commanded by Henry Dundas. Royal Navy boats blocked any escape for the Hunters, and being pounded by artillery with no supplies or reinforcements, Von Shoultz and his forces surrendered, with many men fleeing to avoid capture. Those who were caught, underwent trial in Kingston, with the Hunter leader being represented legally by a prominent young Kingston lawyer named John A. Macdonald, who would later become Canada's first Prime Minister. 11 of the Hunters, including Von Shoultz, were sentenced to execution, 60 were sent away to a penal colony in Australia, 40 were acquitted and 86 more were later released.
  The site where the windmill still stands was declared a National Historic Site in 1920, and is accessible from Hwy. 2, just east of Prescott.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Way She Goes.....

By : Dennis Stein

  Why is it that we settle for what we get these days? I watched the recent CUPW lock out by Canada Post, and although most people were very supportive, there were some who were either misinformed, or flat out disagreed with the picketers, shouting for them to get back to work, or that they should be fired and let other people be hired who WANT to work. Those folks who do nothing like Canada Post employees have no idea what is involved. It is not a simple leisurely stroll with a few envelopes. Most letter carriers walk the equivalent of a marathon each day, carrying a great deal of weight, through whatever mother nature chooses to dish up that day...The fact that CUPW is simply trying to keep their previous collective agreement, without even seeking outlandish wage increases, seems to do little to appease some of the people driving by.
  Some of those same people probably were on their way to the local gas station, to fuel their vehicles. I am sure that they are not happy about the price per liter for gasoline. But do they do anything about it? They chastise the posties, saying they should be glad to even have a good job with a pension these days. The problem with that statement is this : 'These days' is the result of allowing corporations to impose their will on the employees freely, regardless of unions, and with little retribution. We pay the highest taxes in the world, allow hydro and natural gas companies to dictate the amount we will pay in a climate where HEAT is a life necessity, and accept all of this as though there is nothing we can do in this 'new economy'. Air Canada's CEO pockets $86 million dollars in a time period where workers are forced to accept $10,000 dollar a year pay cuts, and boost their productivity. Canada post CEO Deepak Chopra is being paid just under a half million per year plus a 33% bonus, yet is telling CUPW that their 3% per year increase is not doable. Meanwhile, CEO wages are increasing above 4% per year?
  The bottom line here is that things have gotten a little out of control. Energy costs are spiralling upwards, your Hydro and gas bill equal your mortgage, everything you buy is more expensive as a result of higher fuel prices, and we seem content to just carry on with our lives, shrugging and saying 'That's just the way she goes...'
  I appreciate that the older folks among us came from a tough as nails upbringing , where jobs were harder to find. I can also appreciate that we still live in the greatest country on the planet, where freedom and tolerance of the differences among us still reign supreme. There are simply a few things which need to be corrected. So don't complain about the politicians, they only lie and steal because we allow them to. Don't complain about your job or the amount it costs to fuel your vehicle if you think there is nothing you can do about it. Canada is a place where you should not have to be thanking your lucky stars you have a good job, it should be the norm for all that we pay for. Greed must come to an end somewhere, and we canadians must stop acting like cattle being led to the slaughterhouse. Just because it IS, doesn't make it RIGHT... Mooooooo.....

Monday, July 4, 2011

Brockville's Changing Waterfront

By : Dennis Stein

 Few places in Brockville have faced as much evolving change as Blockhouse Island. In the early history of our city, it was indeed an island, and like alll others in the St.Lawrence, belonged to England. It was destined to become 'Hospital Island' in June of 1832, when a series of events occurred, beginning with the ship 'The Carrick', arriving at the port of Quebec from Ireland. The ship carried immigrants from Ireland. A few of these people were feverish, and three days later cholera morbus struck, spreading like wildfire up to Montreal, and then into Upper Canada. Several quarantine hospital sites were erected, such as one on Grosse Ile, Quebec, which stood to screen immigrants to Canada more than a century. Here in Brockville, 'Refuge Island' as it was then known, was set up in June of 1832 to quarantine immigrants wishing to land at Brockville. City Council appointed a Board of Health, and a special police force to assist in enforcing regulation. Thanks to the quick reaction by Council, and the procedures used to house and treat patients, only a handful of people died. By the end of 1832, 9,000 people in this country had died of the disease, more than half in Lower Canada.
  Later, 'Grant's Island' as it was then known, was called into service in 1838 by the military, with a six-pound gun and a wooden blockhouse for barracks, in response to the growing threat of American invasion. Blockhouse Island was never really involved in any fighting, although militiamen from Brockville did see action in that year east of Prescott at the 'Battle of the Windmill'. As the threats of invasion cooled the following year, the island remained a military istallation, still isolated from the mainland for the following two decades.
  During the late 1850's and early 60's, the Island evolved again, becoming the hub of transporting goods and people alike on the Brockville and Ottawa Railway. With the completion of the railway tunnel down to the waterfront, a stretch of land between the mouth of the tunnel and the island was filled with rock and soil, and the island now became part of the railway's terminal, complete with a roundhouse, warehouses, and lumber yards. Blockhouse Island was then used for many years to transfer goods from the railway to waiting ships.
  Recently, Blockhouse Island has become a tourist location, its wooden blockhouse and railway yards all but gone. A popular spot for visitors to our city, it continues to evolve. A short distance away, Tall Ship's Landing is now under construction, along with the Maritime Discovery Centre of the 1000 Islands, a $20 million dollar attraction to showcase wildlife and the environment of our world class tourist hotspot. Both facilities will change the Brockville waterfront yet again...

  For more info about the MDC, visit, and for historical information about Blockhouse Island, visit local historian Doug Grant's website, at