Every night at bedtime, children beg to hear a story. They are all ears as they listen to tales of pirates, soldiers, sailors and adventurers. But what if the story suddenly came to life and unfolded before their very eyes? That’s what they will have the chance to experience all summer long at Fort Wellington National Historic Site in Prescott.
The fort was built during the War of 1812 to defend the St. Lawrence River shipping route against a possible attack by the United States, and it was rebuilt to thwart another American invasion during the 1837–1838 rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada.
When you visit the fort this summer, the entire family will have the chance to discover how soldiers and their families lived in 1846, when the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment (RCRR) was in garrison there. Once inside the fort walls, you will be able to visit the barracks, the powder magazine, and even the officer’s quarters and the latrines. You will meet interpretive guides in period costumes who will be happy to tell you their story and demonstrate their skills. Don a soldier costume and take part in a military exercise with them or play some period games. And to wow your little ones, nothing beats tasting the treats of bygone days, cooked over an open fire (not offered everyday), or watching a soldier fire a rifle. Your sailors-in-training will also be speechless when they see the wreck of the 1812 gunboat that is on display in the Visitor Centre.
To spice up your family visit to the fort even more, take a guided tour or get your kids involved in the Parks Canada Xplorers program. Armed with an activity booklet, budding adventurers will scour the fort in search of clues and new experiences. Once they have completed all their activities, they will even receive a certificate and a souvenir of their visit.
If your children crave adventure and have a fertile imagination, let them spend a whole day as a soldier, pirate, sailor or archaeologist. Every Tuesday this summer from July 12 to August 16, the fort will be abuzz with the sound of children aged 7 to 12 taking their role seriously as they participate in the “Fort Kids” activity. This is undoubtedly the best way to experience something new and take part in the daily life of the people who inhabited the fort 200 years ago.
This year, Fort Wellington is also marking the 150th anniversary of the Fenian raids. In 1866, just before Canadian Confederation, the Fenian Brotherhood brought armed conflict to Canada. The small town of Prescott was one of the targets of this conflict, and at the height of the threat, the authorities stationed troops at the fort. On Saturday, May 28, members of the 30th Field Artillery Regiment, along with local militia units, will retrace the steps of their predecessors at Fort Wellington. Visitors young and old will not want to miss seeing modern-day soldiers training and even firing 19th-century cannons. A new temporary exhibit entitled “On to Canada! Fenians on the Upper St. Lawrence” will also be on display all summer in the Visitor Centre.
So don’t wait for bedtime; let your stories—and history—take on a whole new dimension!