One of the most important and notorious Canadians of all time celebrates the big one January 11th, 2015. I’ll give you some hints: he’s political, he loves a good stiff drink, he’s of Scottish heritage, and he’s turning 200 years old. That’s right: Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, marks his bicentennial b-day in 2015.
To celebrate this, Bay of Quinte Tourism has combed the region for some of Sir John A.’s favourite haunts and has aptly named this list of places the “Bicentennial Birthday Celebration Tour” (We think it’s a rather fetching name!) So let’s take a trip, shall we?
First on the list is a quaint little place affectionately known as Hay Bay, located in Prince Edward County just south of Deseronto and north of Adolphustown. Moving to the area in the 1820s, the Macdonald family settled near Hay Bay shortly after a business venture failed in Kingston.
Today when you head to Hay Bay, you can visit the historical Old Hay Bay Church. Start your tour where Johnny started his Canadian life, down in the County. Take some pictures, sip some hot cocoa, and ponder the life Sir John A. must have lived 200 years before us.
Once you’ve had a good ponder, head south to Adolphustown, home of the Methodist Church where the Macdonald family made their first community alliances. Here, John’s father, Hugh, made friends and political connections. It could be said that this was where Johnny learned to be such a loyal young man, a stepping stone en route to becoming the first Prime Minister of Canada.
It was also in the one-room log-cabin school house in Adolphustown where Sir John A. attended school for the first time in his new home country. Although neither building still stands, you can head to the UEL Heritage Centre and Park to explore more of the history of Adolphustown.
Your next stop on the tour is the town of Picton, known as Hallowell in the days when Sir John A. was residing there. Johnny found himself living and practicing law here in 1834 when he took over the practice of one George Mackenzie, a prominent Kingston lawyer whom Macdonald was studying under.
Although he only stayed for a year, this lovely town on the east edge of Prince Edward County no doubt made a huge impact on Johnny. Anyone who visits this idyllic place will immediately understand the draw. While you’re there grab a treat and stroll the main street while you guess at which law firm Sir John A. once studied in. Before you leave, be sure to head down and check out Picton’s ornate courthouse, where Sir John A. held his first trial.
From Picton, journey to Glenora to visit one of the Macdonalds’ most precious homes. Stone Mills House was Sir John A.’s country home while he lived and studied in Kingston. Here he would relax with his family and take in some quintessential Prince Edward County pastimes. This home is one of the County’s most valued historical properties, built in 1812 and still retaining much of its historical integrity.
Glenora itself is a picturesque area seated on the south shores of the Bay of Quinte, just east of Picton. Once there, you will fall in love with all the charm and beauty that once captured the heart of our first Prime Minister. While there, be sure to consider taking a ferry ride to Kingston.
After discovering some of Johnny’s favourite places in the County, head just north to Belleville and stop by Bay of Quinte’s school named for our first Prime Minister. Sir John A. Macdonald Public School sits in the west end of Belleville and houses 300 students from kindergarten to grade 8.
After a long day of touring the Bay of Quinte Region, you will no doubt have a fresh perspective on the region’s history and the life and times of a young John A. Macdonald. Raise a glass to Sir John A. and celebrate this bicentennial anniversary!