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Summer Fieldtrip 2006 - Loyalists, Highlanders and Nor'westers : A Visit to the Old Eastern District

corner of Main Road and Selkirk (opposite the pharmacy and SAQ store)

For the first time in recent memory our summer field trip will actually take place in the summer! Saturday, August 26, to be precise.

Our trip has been planned by Past President Pat McCaffrey, and she has put together an exciting itinerary to historically-rich Eastern Ontario. In the late 18th century the county of Lunenburg, or the Eastern District, was detached from the Montreal district of the Old Province of Quebec, to accommodate the Loyalist expelled from their American homes. Shortly after they were joined by Nor'westers, fur traders for the North West Company, and Scots seeking refuge from the Clearances in their native country.

Pioneers from this district left their mark on Canada. Take explorers and map-makers, for example.

Americans are celebrating with great fanfare the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-06). But the achievements of Simon Fraser and David Thompson at virtually the same time can easily rival the exploits of their American confreres. Fraser, of Fraser River fame, established the first permanent settlement in British Columbia. Thompson has been called "the greatest land geographer who ever lived," an explorer who made Lewis and Clark "look like tourists."

Thompson lived for a while in Williamstown and Fraser lived in St. Andrews West, neighbouring villages just over the border in Ontario. Both were "Nor'westers" in the fur trade. Both ended their adventurous lives in great poverty.

The same could not be said of Sir John Johnson, famed Revolutionary War soldier and head of the Indian Department like his father Sir William Johnson. Johnson père was the subject of the 2005 book by Fintan O'Toole, White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America. Perhaps to compensate for the loss of the vast Johnson estates in the Mohawk Valley, he went about acquiring land in Lower and Upper Canada, including the nearby Seigneury of Argenteuil. Johnson settled a number of Loyalists in Williamstown (which he named after his father) and built mills and a manor house there.

Our trip back in time will be carried out in considerable more comfort than the journeys of our pioneer ancestors; we'll travel in a comfortable bus.

On Saturday August 26 we'll meet in the parking lot on the corner of Main Road and Selkirk (opposite the pharmacy and SAQ store) at 8:30 a.m.

Our first stop will be Williamstown, Ontario, where we'll visit the Nor'Westers and Loyalist Museum and the Sir John Johnson Manor House. Well-known historian David Anderson will tell us about the colourful past of the village and its inhabitants. He and his family live at another stop, the Bethune Thompson house. The oldest part of this building, where David Thompson drew some of his famous maps, was constructed in 1784 by Peter Ferguson, an Indian scout with the King's Royal Regiment of New York during the American Revolution.

Then we'll head over to St. Andrews West, just a few minutes down the road. Our first stop will be lunch at Quinn's Inn, an historic establishment built as a hotel in 1865 by Hon. John Sanfield MacDonald, Prime Minister of the Province of Canada (1862-64) and Ontario's first premier in the Confederation era. MacDonald's hotel was strategically located on the main stage-coach road between Montreal and Kingston/Toronto.

The Inn is located opposite the graveyard where MacDonald is buried, as is explorer Simon Fraser and "Spanish" John MacDonnell, aide to the Stuart court in France. The parish hall of St. Andrews West, built as the original stone church in 1798-1803, served as a hospital in the War of 1812. A visit to the Raisin River Heritage Center, also in St. Andrews, will introduce us to life in the area a century ago.

On our way to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum in Dunvegan, we will pause briefly at the St. Raphael's Ruins National Historic Site. The Glengarry Pioneer Museum is a collection of seven buildings, four of which are of log construction dating from the 1840s. The Museum celebrates the pioneer Scottish settlers in the area.

We plan to return to Hudson between five and six o'clock.

I mentioned that the plan is to travel by bus, similar to the one we used in our trip to the War Museum in Ottawa last year. Those who made that trip will remember that the bus is large, comfortable and equipped with a toilet - definitely not a school bus!

The rental fee for a 48-passenger bus for the day is $1196.48 (tax included.) We figure that to cover this fee, plus driver tip and entrance fees, we will have to charge participants $35. Should all seats be filled and we generate a small surplus, this money will go towards two publishing projects we are planning for this fall.

Please note that lunch at Quinn's Inn (about $15) is extra. Arrangements have been made at the Raisin River Heritage Center to accommodate those who wish to bring their own lunch.

We hope that you, and your spouse or friend, will be able to join us. And please spread the word about this event - non-members are definitely welcome! Also, while we will accept new participants until we have reached the maximum capacity of the bus, we would appreciate knowing ASAP of your intentions to attend. Please contact us by August 15 if at all possible.

For more information and to reserve your ticket(s) please contact Pat McCaffrey at 458-5529 or Kevin O'Donnell at 458-5948, or by email


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