« AnteriorContinua »
KINGSTON AND THE THOUSAND ISLES.
BY F. P. BETTS, KINGSTON.
HE chain of lakes which lies along the southern boundary of Canada, and the river which connects them, form an inexhaustible field of exploration for the tourist. From the mighty Superior, where the current of the St. Lawrence takes its rise, to the gulf where it empties itself into the Atlantic, the view is everywhere interesting, and to one who makes the trip between these two points, the characteristics of American as distinguished from European scenery are most forcibly presented. In the older country, the charm which invests the loveliest spots is owing as much to the associations they call up as to their own intrinsic beauty. In journeying through Europe, the traveller sees, in the many noble monuments and tottering ruins which meet his eye, the silent history of a bygone people. In travelling the classic waters of the Rhine he passes many a grim fortress,-its keep broken down, and its shattered, moss-covered walls gone long ago to decay,-which hangs beetling over the dark surface of the water below, a gloomy monument of ruthless might; and the scene calls up to his mind the remembrance of those dark ages when some savage feudal lord-worthy descendant of Attila or Alaric-erected here his place of abode, and, with his horde of servile retainers, made with impunity daily depredations on all who came within his reach, contented to believe, if he ever gave the matter a thought, that the law of might was the only law of right.
In Africa, too, the traveller's longing is to behold the tomb of Cheops; nor is the site of ancient Carthage passed by unnoticed.
But in America the case is very different. Here the tourist is such from a love of nature alone. The lofty bluffs and precipitous steeps of Upper Superior have no borrowed charms from having been the haunt in time past of some arbitrary outlaw; nor is the broad sheet of Huron rendered more attractive as once the scene of some critical and decisive naval engagement. These owe, to history, nothing; to nature, all. Yet in the inhabited parts of this continent there is a history which is traceable by the eye, but it is a history the landmarks of In the more ancient lands of Greece and which are not ruins, but edifices; the subject Italy, also, relics remain sufficient to enable of which is not decay, but steadily increasing the visitor to form some idea, though an in- progress. In the beauties which it owes to adequate one, of the gigantic steps made by nature, America will compare favourably, civilization under the enlightened guidance as far as any comparison can be instituted, of the Greeks and Romans, and of the height with the most lovely spots of the Old World. of culture ultimately attained by both. Who I say as far as any comparison can be instivisits the pass of Thermopyla without think-tuted; for there are some traits of American
scenery which are so peculiar to this continent, that it is impossible to draw any comparison between them and the Old World scenes. The Falls of Niagara and the "Thousand Islands" may serve to illustrate the truth of this remark.
The former have been described so often by writers of all nationalities, that their fame is world-wide. Not so the latter. Most people on this continent, it is true, are familiar with the name "Thousand Isles," but the number of those who have visited them is small compared with those who have seen the "Falls." And out of the number who have visited them, how many have seen them in any but the most cursory manner? Yet the Isles are as well worthy of being visited by the tourist as Niagara, and the time spent in viewing them and their vicinity will be considered by the true lover of nature as well spent.
Situated just at the head of the Thousand Islands, it would have been indeed an injustice to the sleepy city of Kingston had nature denied to her all traces of that picturesque beauty with which she has so bounteously endowed the region below. Of no such injustice, however, has Kingston to complain. Dead or moribund in commerce and commercial relations, unless when momentarily awakened from her lethargy by ⚫ the arrival, to unload or refit, of some propeller or schooner of her more energetic western neighbours, and leading a life almostas quiet as that of some secluded village, she has few attractions to offer to commercial
But to tourists and others who are at leisure to break loose for a time from the all-engrossing chains of business, and to devote a short space to the enjoyment of the picturesque, Kingston is far from being devoid of interest. It is strange that the commerce of the city should be characterized by stagnation so profound. Possessed of so many natural advantages, one would expect to find Kingston a flourishing and prosperous city. Having a central situation in Canada, and being built just at the east end of Lake Ontario, at the junction of the Lake and the River St. Lawrence, it occupies the position of a half-way house between the commerce of the western Canadian and American cities and that of the Lower Province. This alone, it would be thought-the constant passing and repassing of western and eastern trading vessels, and the amount of traffic
which ought thereby accrue to the cityshould suffice to render Kingston a stirring place of business. Moreover, the advantages enjoyed do not end here. There are two other sources, the water traffic from whence passes immediately through it. One of these is Ottawa, between which place and Kingston there is a direct connection by the Rideau Canal, 170 miles in length; the other, Belleville, Picton, and the towns lying on the Bay of Quinté, from which the only entrance to Lake Ontario lies within six or seven miles to the west of the city.
There is also another circumstance which would naturally tend to give Kingston an advantage over her sister cities in Canada. I refer to the early date of her foundation. More than a century before Toronto, now the most enterprising and important city in Ontario, was thought of, Kingston was founded by French troops, who, in 1672, under the command of Governor De Courcelles, penetrated as far west as Lake Ontario, on an expedition against some rebellious tribes of Seneca Indians. The favourable position of the spot, then known by the name Cataracoui, for a military station, was at once perceived by the French Governor, and in planting the settlement he had in view as well the extension of the scanty commerce which was then carried on in the country, as the subjugation of unruly bands of natives. It was not till a hundred years from its first foundation that the little settlement of Cataracoui, or Cataraqui, having been known in the meantime successively as Fort Cataraqui and Fort Frontenac, at length, in 1762, fell into the hands of the British, and received its present name.
It may prove interesting, before entering upon a description of the Thousand Islands, to which Kingston forms the key, to give some idea of the city itself, and notice some of the salient points of interest connected with it. Built upon a large bay, Kingston has every facility for shipping and shipbuilding. The harbour, which is formed by Wolfe Island, some twenty miles in length, and Garden Island, lying across the mouth of the bay, is most commodious, and is adapted, in depth of water and other respects, for affording safe moorings to vessels of the largest class. Viewing it from its western entrance, which is nine miles from the city, and is formed by Amherst Island, at the mouth of the Bay of Quinté, and the north
shore of the lake, on the left hand, and Simcoe Island, five or six miles to the southeast of Amherst, on the right, it appears like a long, narrow bay, tapering gradually to a point in the distance, and seeming to end in a cul de sac just beyond the city. Simcoe Island, on the right, and Wolfe Island, lower down, seem to form one continuous stretch of land, and the western entrance, through which the tourist has come in, appears to him to be the only way of regaining the open lake. Although such an idea is deceptive, inasmuch as Simcoe and Wolfe Islands are separated by a channel of about a quarter of a mile in width, called Bateau, and there is an opening at the east end of the city of about two miles in width, yet for all purposes of shelter from wind and sea the harbour is just as perfect as though no such openings existed; with the exception that when the wind is from a certain point-about southsouth-west the current which sweeps through Bateau channel renders the water in certain parts of the harbour somewhat rougher than it would otherwise be. The frontage of the city for upwards of a mile is a continuous succession of wharves and docks. A large part of Kingston ship-building is carried on on Garden Island, which lies some two miles from the city, directly in front of it, and contains about thirty acres of land.
An important feature of the topography of Kingston is its fortifications. As a Canadian fortress, it is considered second in strength only to Quebec. A mile distant from the east end of the city, separated from it by Great Cataraqui Creek, over which a wooden bridge has been built, six hundred yards in length, stands Fort Henry. Situated on an eminence, and well protected by embankments and trenches, this fort overlooks the harbour and city, and with the martello towers, several of which stand in advantageous positions about the water frontage, could do effective execution in time of war.
The plan upon which the city is built is to a great extent irregular. The streets do not cross one another at right angles, but each street leading to the lake slopes away from its neighbour more and more as it approaches the water. The consequence is that every now and then, in walking through the city, one comes upon two streets leading from the lake, which have met one
another at an acute angle, and standing at this angle it is possible to obtain a view of the harbour down either of them.
The principal buildings of Kingston are the City Hall, a large and handsome cut stone structure, the Post Office, and the Court House. The City Hall is situated in the very centre of the water frontage, overlooking the harbour, and comprises within itself, besides several spacious halls, the principal municipal offices of the city. The Court House, which in the winter before last was gutted by fire, is being rebuilt on a somewhat improved plan.
Besides these buildings, all of which are situated within the city limits, Kingston possesses two others worthy of remark, which, though not actually within the boundary lines of the city, are yet always accounted Kingston buildings-these are the Provincial Penitentiary and the Rockwood Lunatic Asylum. Both are Government buildings, and, under the conduct of efficient officers, have established for themselves reputations as very perfect institutions of their respective kinds. The former is situated at the water's edge, about a quarter of a mile from the city limits to the west. The building or rather set of buildings, for there are separate structures for the various departments of trade and mechanics-is surrounded by a high and massive stone wall, upwards of thirty feet in height by four in thickness. This wall is built with towers at the corners, in each of which a guard is stationed at all hours of the day. Along the top of the wall, for a distance of about sixty feet from the towers, a platform is built of sufficient width to allow of a man's walking on it without difficulty, thus forming a beat along which the guards patrol when the narrow limits of the watch towers grow irksome. With such complete arrangements for the secure confinement of the prisoners, it would be thought that all attempts at escape must prove futile. Such, however, is so far from being the case, that, as the guards know well, if the wall were left unguarded for but half an hour, hardly a convict in the place would be baffled in an attempt to scale them. The experiment has been tried, not by way of experiment, but through the negligence of one of the guards, who, having left his post for barely twenty minutes, found on his return that two prisoners whom he had left