If you are driving west along the Bath road past the sprawling bedroom community of Amherstview (named after its commanding view of Jeffrey Amherst’s grand island) you will encounter some distinct reminders of our Loyalist heritage.
The first clue is the elaborate gates at the eastern access to the parkway that was opened by the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II in 1984, 200 years to the day the first Loyalist settlers had made their way down the St. Lawrence to the confluence of Lake Ontario. The gate stands as a reminder to the hardships and foundation our loyalist ancestors endured to make a new life in Upper Canada.
In the shadows of the gate stands the house of William Fairfield Sr. (circa 1793). William brought his large family from Pawlet Vermont. His house stands as a legacy to all the Loyalist families in the area and is open to the public from Canada Day to Labour Day. The Fairfield Park surrounds the house and is a fantastic space to spend a day at the beginning or end of your journey along the eastern portion of the Loyalist Parkway.
William Fairfield’s closest neighbor in the late 1780’s was Matthias Rose who’s classic white stucco house still stands on the north side of the parkway just west of County Road #6 at marker #4639.
As we move west along the parkway we come to the famous floating bridge at Parrott’s Bay, named after Lt. James Parrot of Jessup’s Loyal Rangers.
Parrot had served in Roger’s Rangers in the 7 Yrs War, and joined Jessup in Montreal in early 1777. He served through the duration of the Revolutionary War in 1783 and settled in Ernesttown in 1784.
Noted as a “brave, active, intelligent man, very fit for laborious service”, he is credited with 7 years service. There is a beautiful conservation area unspoiled and ideal for hiking just west of the bridge on the north side of the Loyalist Parkway.
We finish off the first leg of our journey in Millhaven. As you enter the Village from the west you will encounter the Millhaven Inn on the water side at marker #5510. Originally built in 1795, the Losee Inn served as the political hub of the region. If there was an important meeting, rally or gathering, it would be hosted at the inn. Visited by heads of government including the Prime Ministers in later years.
A short walk to the west will bring you to the end of the first leg of our Loyalist journey at the Millhaven Bridge over the Millhaven Creek. If you looked north up the creek in the early 1800’s you would see the shoreline lined with working mills.
The mills were built by many of the Loyalist settlers, the most prominent being Joshua Booth, Booth’s Woolen Mill pictured on the Millhaven Creek (right ) would be moved from its original home at the mouth of the creek to Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg where you can see it working today (/).
The mills are of particular personal interest to me as my grandfather A. J. (Bert) Smith had the last working mill on the creek until it burned to the ground in 1936.
As you make your way west out of Millhaven you are struck by the Bay of Quinte on the south shore and the Amherst Island Ferry dock commands your attention. The ferry connects the Village of Stella to the mainland and has been in service since the mid 19th Century. We will spend another leg of our journey on Jeffrey Amherst’s Grand Island!
The King’s Highway hugs the shoreline as did over 240 years ago. On the north side of the road you pass the entrance of the infamous Millhaven & Bath Institutions. To the members of the community it has always been there and supports the Village of Bath’s infrastructure.
(Author’s note: I have recollections of playing fastball inside Millhaven at the age of 15 and the impression it made on me then, today I make regular visits to help the facility with its Infection Control Program).
A short distance from the penitentiary you enter the Historic Village of Bath. Founded as the Village of Ernesttown after King George III’s son Prince Ernest in 1784. It was founded by Loyalists following the American Revolution, Ernesttown was originally known as Cataraqui Township No. 2. The Village was settled primarily by members of Jessup’s Rangers and the 2nd Battalion of the King’s Royal Yorkers. Names like Hawley, Finkle, Davy, Church, Miller and Thompson still have ties to the Village today, “ Loyal then, Loyal now “.
Today the Village has the largest collection of late 18th and early 19th Century architecture in the Province. As you crest the hill at the Village of Bath sign you start to experience the Village’s charm. At the bottom of the hill (only one stop light) you find several of the Village treasures.
The Fairfield Gutzeit House (c1796), Lafarge 1812 Discovery Centre ( c1806 ) sit south of the highway and are open for tours from July 1st to September 1st. The house was built by William Fairfield’s Sr. sons Benjamin and William Jr. It was the site of the American attack in November of 1812 where they seized and burned the Fairfield’s schooner “Two Brothers”. The Fairfield’s operated the first Custom’s House and Post Office in the Village along with holding prominent roles in government.
The history of the Village and the War of 1812 are chronicled in the 1812 Discovery Centre that was once a barracks during the war. The site gets multiple visits from Grade 7 classes yearly focused on the history. More recently American Infantry buttons from the period have been located in and around the property. You will find artifacts including the buttons along with cannonballs fired by Isaac Chauncey’s fleet at the inhabitants of Ernesttown.
In recent years the Society has hosted the two largest events in Loyalist Township’s history including the War of 1812 Bicentennial Event Flight of the Royal George and the Canada 150 Tall Ship Rendezvous last year. See more on the Society’s website at https://www.fgsociety.com/
George Ham’s house shares the same corner as the Fairfield Gutzeit House. The house has undergone a major restoration by owner Ron Tasker and they are very accommodating about visitors if they are on site. More information is available at http://hamhousebath.com/
The best way to experience the Village is take a walk.
The Masonic Lodge ( Priest Store ), the Layer Cake Hall and the Davy store are personal favourites ! At the west end of the Village stands Jeptha Hawley’s house which is the oldest continuously occupied house in the Province. Started in 1784 and finished in 1785. Hawley had served the British as a Captain of a Batteaux Coy during the revolution.
His grandsons would fight the Americans again in the War of 1812. I have the privilege of knowing several proud descendants of the Hawley clan and they visited on mass for the 2012 War of 1812 Bicentennial.
You can spend the better part of a day between, the walking tour, lunch and the local shops, Bath is one the Crown Jewels of the Loyalist Parkway! As you head west out of the Village you will find Finkle Shore Park, turn back the clock to the 1790, where Cpl. Henry Finkle of the Jessup’s Rangers built a Tavern and lived with his wife and son. The tavern was a hub of activity in the region and upon Henry’s death, his wife would continue to run the tavern and develop a commercial shipyard, It was here in 1816 that the first steamer on the lakes the Frontenac was launched.
One of Bath’s best kept secrets sits across the street on the north side of the King’s Highway at Finkle Shore Park. The studio of the Tragically Hip is nestled in woods. Flowers left in tribute to Gord Downie adorn the security fence.
The road continues to snake along the shoreline to the Upper Gap between Indian Head at the end of Prince Edward County (5th Township settled by Loyalists) and the end of Amherst Island.
This view has seen its share of history through the years. Greater Napanee has a road side park that marks the site of an Algonquin longhouse and community that dates to the early 1600’s.
The National Historic Plaque marking the American pursuit and attack on Bath and Kingston in 1812 stands at the foot of where County Road 8 meets Hwy #33.
Just a little further west of County Road 8th stands a road side plaque on the north side of the highway. It was here in 1785 that Sjt. Major John Howell of the King’s Royal Yorkers built the first windmill in Upper Canada. The windmill operated for many years and housed a 68Lb. British Carronade during the War of 1812 protecting the Gap.