Prince Edward County, Ontario clings tenaciously to its early history as a Loyalist community settled in the mid – 1780s by colonists loyal to the British crown who were driven from their homeland during the American Rebellion.
These colonists were re-settled by the British government on tracts of land along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Kingstown, now Kingston, was one of the first major settlement areas with townships established by British surveyors. The first settled area in Prince Edward County was at its southeastern end and called Fifth Town as the fifth township from Kingstown.
The Rose Family was part of this early settlement. Somehow, they managed with others to survive the hardships of the first years clearing the land, growing crops and building shelter. Many families didn’t. During the years 1787 – 1789, a period know as The Hungry Years, families ate bark to survive the winters when the game was scarce, and annual supplies from the British government failed to arrive. Evidence of the grim fate of many earlier settlers can still be seen in the Rose Cemetery that nestles the Lake Ontario shoreline.
The Rose House is now a local museum – one of five in Prince Edward County – stocked with period furniture, cooking utensils and farming tools typical of the Loyalist era. In September 2009 it became alive with this rich history when soldiers and their families dressed in period costumes camped on the property as part of a re-enactment for the 225th anniversary of the Loyalist settlement.
The 70 actors and their families were from across Ontario and the United States. But their authentic costumes, canvas tents, and traditional cooking over wood fires to make period fare, reached across time. It was probably also cold and uncomfortable, but these men, women, and children are very dedicated. Their encampment and mock battle re-lived Loyalist history with all its rigours.
We were there to capture the event as part of our History Moments series to be launched the following week at The Regent Theatre in Picton. In fact, our lead feature celebrated the Loyalist anniversary. The September re-enactment was timely, colourful, and a unique glimpse into the past – a way of witnessing history.