The ruins of Fort Frontenac

The European presence in the Kingston area

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Can you imagine arriving on these lands in 1672 to trade with the First Nations? 

This is what the Comte de Frontenac, Governor General of New France, did when he arrived here. Accompanied by his interpreter and wealthy merchant Charles Le Moyne and some 400 soldiers from the Carignan-Salières regiment, he met with the chiefs of the five Iroquois nations to encourage them to trade with the French, and established a fortified fur-trading post on the river's edge. Samuel de Champlain had already passed through, and relations with the Iroquois were not very good, but the Comte de Frontenac succeeded in signing a peace treaty. This was truly the beginning of the European presence in the Kingston area!

Fort Frontenac, originally built of wood, was erected in 1673 to protect Ville-Marie (Montreal), a five-day canoe trip, and to promote the expansion of the Canadian colony. The aim was to establish fur-trading-post in this Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions, and to expand the French presence in North America. A truly strategic location for the exchange of all kinds of goods, it was the start of a lucrative trade, providing links with other French outposts further up the Great Lakes and the upper Mississippi.

Completely rebuilt in stone under René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who was the fort's first administrator and commander, life here was dynamic and prosperous. Domestic animals were brought in to attract settlers, and the land was cleared for farming and cattle breeding. Near the fort, several French houses, an Iroquois village, a convent and a church were built. This small, well-established French colony frequently organized expeditions to explore the North American interior and establish a route linking New France to the Gulf of Mexico. 

This strategic position was much envied by the English and Dutch for its control of the fur trade and the development of business in the region. Supported by the latter, the Iroquois attacked the fort in the 1680s, and several battles damaged the fort. Until 1758, Fort Frontenac was reinforced by the French, increasingly becoming a strategic stronghold and a threat to the English. But the battle of 1758, led by an Anglo-American force of over 3,000 men, forced the French to surrender and leave the territory for good. 

The British then built Fort Henry and Fort Frontenac was gradually abandoned. Today, the fort is a national historic site. Since 1947, it has housed the Canadian Army Staff College. Can you find the ruins of the original fortifications in the downtown area? 

Extract of
Thousand Islands Region Sightseeing and Discovery Tour

Thousand Islands Region Sightseeing and Discovery Tour image circuit

Presented by : Société économique de l’Ontario
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