CELEBRATING HOMETOWN HISTORY: The Launch of the 2016 History Moments Television Series

The rich history of the Quinte area will be celebrated at a special event on Friday, October 14th, 2016 from 5 pm – 7:30 pm at the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario.

The event will showcase the premiere of twelve, two-minute stories of the region as part of the History Moments television series now in its sixth season. The series tells untold or forgotten stories from the past from Eastern Ontario communities – stories of early settlement, founding industries, prominent people, and events, which have shaped the history of the area and Canada. The series is broadcast on CKWS TV in Kingston, CHEX TV in Peterborough, TV Cogeco cable, before movies at several participating theatres, online on the websites of sponsors and community partners, and is distributed into local libraries, museums, and schools as learning resources.

Municipalities, businesses and tourism and heritage organizations sponsor the History Moments series. History Lives Here Inc., a Picton communications company, produces the History Moments series.

“These are old stories, but we believe there are new audiences for them,” says journalist Peter Lockyer, the creator of the series. “There was a time when Eastern Ontario was at the very epicenter of Confederation as a driving economic, social and political force. Those days are gone. But as we approach Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations in 2017, it is timely to celebrate the past as a way of preserving it for future generations.”

This year’s series tells the story of Belleville as a railway town, the building of the Trent –Severn Waterway in the 1830s, the construction of Canadian Forces Base Trenton as a work project during the hard years of the Depression era, the restoration of Picton’s historic Royal Hotel, the history of Albert College, a Belleville private school that is older than Canada, the life of Quinte artist Manly MacDonald, and the making of Picton’s Sir John A. Macdonald sculpture to celebrate the life of Canada’s first prime minister and his early years as a “Quinte boy.”

The launch event is open to the public.

Historical Walking Tours Picton

One of the best ways to discover community history is through walking tours. 

Courtesy of Sandra Foreman Photography

History Lives Here Inc. has provided guided walking tours of Picton to visitors for over a decade now sharing stories of streets, buildings, people, and past events, which have shaped the community. 

Courtesy of Sandra Foreman Photography

One of the most popular tours is of the historic Glenwood Cemetery in Picton. Opened in 1873, this 62-acre property of winding roads, rolling hills, and mature trees is the final resting place of Wellington Boulter, the father of the canning industry in Canada, temperance pioneer Letitia Youmans, and a convicted murderer, a 23-year old man many people believed was hanged in 1884 for a crime he didn’t commit.

Courtesy of Sandra Foreman Photography

Experienced guides take you on this journey into the past. Tours last approximately 90-minutes.  The cost is $20/per person. A family rate (for two adults and two children under age 16) is $50. To arrange a tour, contact us by email at historyliveshere@bell.net 

The 2016 History Moments Video Series – APRIL 2016

The latest installment of our popular History Moments series is currently in production.

These highly – produced, two-minute television vignettes celebrate the history that is all around us. They are short stories from the past – stories of early settlement, founding industries, prominent people, and significant events, which have shaped the history of Eastern Ontario and Canada. These are old and forgotten tales. But there are new audiences for them. And as Canada approaches its 150th birthday in 2017, now is the time to tell these epic stories of our communities.

This year’s series – our sixth – will be launched Friday, October 14th at a gala event to be held at the Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario. Current stories include a portrait of Belleville artist Manly MacDonald (1889 – 1971), one of Canada’s foremost painters famous for his canvases of farming, pastoral scenes, and small towns in rural Ontario.  

Another story tells the past of Picton’s Royal Hotel, a landmark historic building on Picton’s Main Street built in the 1880s to accommodate upscale travelers expected to visit the community after the completion of the railway. Over a century later, the Royal was an abandoned building in need of extensive repairs. But today, the hotel is undergoing a massive restoration under the direction of Greg Sorbara, Ontario’s former finance minister, and his family. It is scheduled to re-open in late 2017 as a boutique hotel. 

Other stories in the series include tales from the era when Belleville was a railway town and the catastrophic railway accident in the 1870s that prompted a community effort to build the Belleville hospital. 

History Lives Here at the Belleville DocFest

Sandra Foreman Photography

History Lives Here has been a regular contributor to Belleville’s popular DOCFEST since the event’s inception five years ago. Organized by a small volunteer group of ardent documentary fans, the event has proved to be a sold-out success with the community hungry for thoughtful programming that rarely makes it to television and the big screen.

Courtesy Ben Quaiff

DOCFEST also provides a showcase for local filmmakers and students. Our entry this year was a seven-minute feature on the Music At Port Milford youth music camp that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Founded in 1986 by professional violinist Doris McLaughlin, today the camp is run by her daughter, Meg Hill, and her two daughters along with a small, volunteer board. Located on an old Loyalist homestead overlooking South Bay in scenic Prince Edward County, the camp attracts 40 talented students from across North America for intensive week – long workshops conducted under the direction of some of the best classical musicians in the world.  


Beginning every Monday afternoon from March 2 – May 25th 2015, CKWS TV in Kingston will be broadcasting The History Moments series – short video vignettes on local history themes. 

Over the next 13 weeks, excerpts from the five series produced by History Lives Here Inc. will showcase popular history stories on early settlement, founding industries, prominent people and significant events, which have shaped the history of Eastern Ontario. The series airs on ‘Ws Daily, the station’s current affairs show which airs weekdays from 5 – 6 pm.

The series kicked off on Monday, March 2 with an interview with series producer Peter Lockyer discussing the project, plans for a new series scheduled to be launched this fall in Kingston, and his introduction of a segment on the Fox Sisters of Prince Edward County, two teenagers who are credited with founding the American Spiritualist movement in the 1840s. Katie and Maggie Fox claimed they could communicate with the after life through a series of knocking sounds they interpreted. The idea didn’t seem so preposterous in an age when American inventor Samuel Morse had demonstrated how a series of telegraph clicks could be communicated across vast distances and translated into messages. And in an era when so many families were suffering the loss of wives in childbirth, and children from a wide variety of diseases for which there were not yet any cures, the Fox Sisters provided hope to a grieving nation. The girls became an instant sensation making $150/night conducting demonstrations of their abilities in lecture halls across the country. In reality, the Fox Sisters were frauds able to make their knocking sounds by snapping their toes on hardwood floors. Yet they were also gifted clairvoyants who told skeptics and families things about their loved ones they could not possibly have known by tricks alone. Today, Maggie and Katie Fox remain two of the greatest historical figures from the rich past of Prince Edward County.


About 100 people attended a celebration of the 125th anniversary of the official opening of the Murray Canal on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

Organized by the Murray Canal Organization in partnership with History Lives Here Inc., the event was developed to mark the anniversary year with a celebration of this historic site. The volunteer organizers hope to make the event an annual one tied closely to other regional activities such as the development of the Macdonald Heritage Trail to be launched in 2015, and the Macdonald Project of Prince Edward County, which will install a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Sir John A. Macdonald in downtown Picton on Canada Day 2015. Next year is the 200th anniversary of Macdonald’s birth and celebrations are planned across the country.

Macdonald’s was Canada’s first prime minister and remains the area’s most famous citizen. He spent much of his early years in the Quinte area living in Napanee, Hay Bay, and Picton, and often reflected fondly on his years as a “Quinte Boy”.  The new Macdonald Heritage Trail will link sites stretching from Kingston through Napanee, Bath, Hay Bay, Prince Edward County, Belleville and Quinte West – including the Murray Canal – through a visitor site map to be made available next year.

Sir John A. Macdonald actually opened the Murray Canal twice – once on October 6th, 1886 for its preliminary opening and again on April 14th, 1889 when it officially opened to marine traffic. For those who attended this last ceremony, the event must have been a special day as the project took nearly 100 years to complete.

In the first days of Loyalist settlement in the 1790s, land was set aside for its construction with an additional 3,000 acres to be sold to pay for the project. Over the decades, war with the Americans and the constant threat to shipping and sailors off the dangerous shores of Prince Edward County, kept the issue of the canal construction front and centre in area politics. But while there were many surveys of the proposed canal route – there were at least five surveys undertaken in 1824, 1833, 1837, 1845, 1866 and 1881- there was no construction. Over time, the threat of war with the United States subsided, and steamships replaced the great age of sail. Railways were the rage, and the issue of constructing a canal to link Presqu’ile Bay with the Bay of Quinte remained a largely local concern. Infighting among local groups over the canal route didn’t help matters.

Still construction of the canal remained a persistent concern championed by the timber industry and local politicians like James Biggar, and Joseph Keeler, the MPs for Northumberland and Mackenzie Bowell of Belleville, a minister in the Macdonald governments. Their lobbying efforts paid off and work started on the canal project in August 1882, and after many challenges and delays, the canal opened in the spring of 1889.  One hundred vessels passed through the 8.5 kilometre canal in its first year of operation. Upon completion, the canal project had cost $1,272,470 to build – about $32.6 million in current dollars. Today, the Murray Canal remains a safe and scenic route for boaters and an important part of our history.

The 125th Anniversary of the Opening of the Murray Canal

On Saturday, October 18th, 2014 starting at 1 pm, the Murray Canal District Organization will be celebrating the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Murray Canal in 1889. The event will take place on the site of the official opening in 1889 at Twelve O’Clock Point Rd. on the northeast side of the canal crossing at Carrying Place.

The canal has a long history and land was set aside for it during the first days of Loyalist settlement in the 1790s. Pressure to build the canal built during the War of 1812 as the route became an important supply line for the British, and saved days of dangerous sailing for the great vessels of the era. Afterwards, the timber trade in the Trenton area also encouraged local lobbying efforts to have the waterway built. While there were many surveys of the site, the Murray Canal became less of a concern for federal authorities. Steamships replaced sailing ships; the threat of war lessened; and railways were the rage. 

But nonetheless, the local residents of Prince Edward County, Hastings and Northumberland wanted the canal built and they got their way in October 1889 with John A. Macdonald official opening it.

We plan to mark the day with a re-enactment of Macdonald’s official opening together with historical tours of the canal. Parking at the site will be limited and we plan to bus folks from nearby parking areas. 

Re-enactment of the Lazier Murder Trial: Prince Edward County 1884

Re-enactment of the Lazier Murder Trial: Prince Edward County 1884 LIVE

Friday, 11 July 2014 from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM 

Picton, Ontario | Picton Courthouse

In December 1883, Peter Lazier was shot in the heart during a bungled robbery at a Prince Edward County farmhouse. Three local men, pleading innocence from start to finish, were arrested and charged with his murder. Two of them — Joseph Thomset and George Lowder — were sentenced to death by a jury of local citizens the following May. Nevertheless, appalled community members believed at least one of them to be innocent — even pleading with Prime Minister John A. Macdonald to spare them from the gallows.

The Lazier Murder explores a community’s response to a crime, as well as the realization that it may have contributed to a miscarriage of justice. Robert J. Sharpe reconstructs and contextualizes the case using archival and contemporary newspaper accounts. The Lazier Murder provides an insightful look at the changing pattern of criminal justice in nineteenth-century Canada, and the enduring problem of wrongful convictions.  In 2011 Justice Robert Sharpe wrote a book about the infamous double hanging that took place in Picton in 1884.  The book was called The Lazier Murder, Picton Ontario 1884.  The outcome of the trial was controversial at the time, and remains that way today.  

Justice Sharpe, a Prince Edward County native, gave a fascinating presentation about the trial at the Regent Theatre soon after the book was published.  A re-enactment of the trial has been in the works for some time and is now planned for July of this year.  Justice Robert J. Sharpe (OCA) author of The Lazier Murder: Prince Edward County, 1884, will preside at the re-enactment of the trial in the courthouse where it all took place.  Did they get the right men?  You be the judge.

The re-enactment takes place on Friday, July 11, 2014 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm at the historic 1834 Courthouse in Picton where the actual trial took place.  After the re-enactment participants are invited to tour the gaol and gallows where the men were hung.  A reception follows at the Waring House where Huff Estates wine and county fare will be served and Justice Robert Sharpe will answer questions about the trial and re-enactment.  

Tickets are $125/per person with a charitable receipt issued for a portion of the ticket price. To order tickets go to Eventbrite.ca / Find Events / Picton, Ontario / Lazier Murder Re-enactment

Proceeds support The Macdonald Project to create a bronze sculpture of Sir John A. Macdonald presenting his first case as a young lawyer in Picton in 1834 in the very same courthouse. Visit www.macdonaldproject.com for more information.