The untold story of Point Frederick, where early nineteenth-century Canadians built warships that stopped invasion, brought peace, and the world’s longest undefended border.
Opposite Kingston, Point Frederick became the 1789 dockyard home of the navy on Lake Ontario. Armed vessels were built to transport settlers and the military. War in 1812 prompted the need for larger warships. Shipwrights were critical to winning the war. French Canadians from Quebec shipyards worked with the British to build warships with massive firepower.
In 1814, two invading armies advanced on outnumbered British and Canadians holding Niagara. Meanwhile, powerful Royal Navy warships sailed toward the action, unchallenged. When advised he was without naval support, the American commander halted his advance and withdrew from Canada.
With peace, the need for warships vanished. But threats of rebellion and insurgence demanded gunboats, and continued naval presence until 1853, when the dockyard finally closed. Glimpses of dockyard legacy are found today in Kingston waters, and on the grounds of the Royal Military College of Canada.
Robert Banks graduated from Royal Military College (RMC) in 1974, and went on to become a military pilot, flight surgeon, NASA consultant, and author of scientific papers. His published articles include histories of air force and naval squadrons, WWII, and historic buildings of RMC. He splits his time between Barrie, Ontario, and San Antonio, Texas.