On The Road: Fort Erie, Ontario

 "But in looking back at the
  places that I've been
  The changes that I've left
  behind
  I look at myself to find
  I've learned the hard way
  every time."
       ~Jim Croce~

  "Good and bad, I define
   these terms
   Quite clear, no doubt
   somehow. Ah, but I was
   so much older then, I'm
   younger than that now."
       ~Bob Dylan~

Intro

We lived in Fort Erie from November 1995 to June 1997. A short time, to be sure, but growing up twenty-odd miles away made me familiar with it.

There were many nights and weekends during my teen years when hanging out at a coffeehouse in Fort Erie was the epitome of freedom. It was the early seventies—which looked like the leftover sixties—and the Jesus People movement had reached sleepy southern Ontario.

Raggedy wannabe disciples, clad in bleach splattered blue jeans and sandals, were surging together and making plans to change the world. Everyone was accepted and welcomed without overtones of judgment.

We sang folk songs, flirted with each other, and sat in circles in the candlelight to discuss some obscure bit of theology as though we were the first to ever think these thoughts. Our exploration of Scripture could switch from intensity to hilarity in a heartbeat.

We were underground seekers and scholars, and a sense of defiance was strong. Established expectations were to be pushed aside because all previous generations had screwed up the Lord’s Prayer. We smoked cigarettes by the pack while drinking gallons of coffee, and took great pride in our spiritual enlightenment.

However, for all our rebellion against the status quo of institutionalized church, we developed a remarkably structured conformity. We mimicked the hippy culture, so instead of suits and ties, tattered and frayed glad-rags were our uniform.

Looking back, it is clear that Mr. Dylan was correct: “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

Petro Canada Station on Garrison Road
Petro Canada Station on Garrison Road
Point Abino Lighthouse
Point Abino Lighthouse
Mildred M. Mahoney Doll House Museum
Mildred M. Mahoney Doll House Museum
The Peace Bridge
The Peace Bridge
Canadian 50th Anniversary Stamp
Canadian 50th Anniversary Stamp
U.S. 50th Anniversary Stamp
U.S. 50th Anniversary Stamp

Light & Peace

Fort Erie is directly across from Buffalo, NY. It sprawls along the Niagara River at the east end of Lake Erie and is connected to the United States by the Peace Bridge.

With a population of 30,000, Fort Erie stakes a claim on being one of the fastest growing communities in the Niagara Region. Garrison Road a.k.a. Niagara Regional Road 3 is its commercial corridor, running east to west through town.

History has stamped its imprint on Fort Erie. During an infamous and near apocalyptic Great Lakes storm in 1913 the Buffalo-based Lightship #82 went down with all hands near Point Abino on the Canadian side of Lake Erie.

The Point Abino Lighthouse, which is ornate and unique in its beauty, was built by the Canadian government in 1918 as a memorial for the crew of Lightship #82.

Automated in 1989, the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1995 and designated as a National Historic Site. It’s owned and maintained by the city of Fort Erie, and though upkeep and renovations are ongoing, is available for tours.

During the 1800s, Fort Erie was a station along the Underground Railroad, a place of refuge for those escaping the horrors of slavery. A building near downtown, which reputedly is haunted, houses the Doll House Museum, but had been a hostel and hiding place for those fugitives seeking asylum.

The Peace Bridge is maintained by and under the jurisdiction of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority. The landmark structure came into being because the International Railway Bridge, which had been built in 1873, couldn’t accommodate pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic.

The project was an immense undertaking. It received a green light by the International Joint Commission on August 6, 1925. Work began almost immediately and was completed in the spring of 1927.

A difficulty that the engineers had to overcome was the swift currents of the Niagara River, which at that juncture averages 7.5 to 12 miles per hour. It took a prodigious amount of material for its construction: 3,500 feet of steelwork, 9,000 tons of structural steel, and 800 tons of reinforcing steel in the concrete abutments.

On June 1, 1927 the Peace Bridge, named in commemoration of 100 years of peace between Canada and the United States, was opened for business. In 1977, the summer of its 50th Anniversary, a joint issue of stamps was published, though in a burst of contrariness, the two countries settled on significantly different designs.

My older sisters, Jane Ann & Janice with me sitting on a cannon at Old Fort Erie.
My older sisters, Jane Ann & Janice with me sitting on a cannon at Old Fort Erie.

Treaties & War

The 1763 Treaty of Paris brought the hostilities of the Seven Years’ War, known in the U.S. as the French and Indian War, to an end. With the stroke of a quill, all territory held by France in the New World was ceded to Great Britain.

The British flexed their muscles by taking control of the French forts, and solidified their presence by constructing a communications and supply line along the Niagara River and Upper Great Lakes. Fort Erie was established as an integral part of this network in 1764.

Originally the edifice was built nearer the water’s edge below the present site. In its initial service, Fort Erie was an active port for ships and a depot for merchandise and passengers to be transported westward via Lake Erie to the Upper Great Lakes.

In 1776, when colonial patriots declared their independence from Great Britain, Fort Erie was a base for British Troops, Loyalists, and Iroquois allies. It didn’t experience any actual engagements during the American Revolution, but over the years it suffered considerable damage as a result of annual assaults by winter storms.

In 1803, plans for relocation and rebuilding were authorized. Construction of a more formidable structure was started on the heights above the earlier post.

In an example of government inefficiency, nine years later, at the outbreak of the War of 1812, the new fortress was unfinished. Troops stationed there were caught off guard due to the fact they were involved in masonry and other such efforts.

Fort Erie was fiercely fought over, with possession of it changing hands more than once. In July 1814 American forces captured the post for the second time.

The Siege of Fort Erie took place over the summer and autumn months. It was an ugly and protracted affair destined to be the bloodiest battlefield in Canadian history.

In November, inflated rumors about the eastern seaboard of the U.S. being under severe attacks reached the American troops defending the fortress. On the 5th, running short of supplies and with winter approaching, the soldiers abandoned the outpost and skedaddled to Buffalo. Before doing so, they destroyed the fort.

The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, was signed on December 24, 1814. Enemies didn’t instantly become trusting friends. A British contingent remained stationed at the ruined stronghold until 1823.

Meanwhile, when the railroad came to town, the settlement began to grow and stretch out north of the crumbling fortifications. The scattered debris of the old fort was reclaimed and rebuilt as a tourist attraction in 1939.

In your experience Is there a dime's worth of difference between Americans & Canadians?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe
  • No Opinion
See results without voting

The Friendship Festival happens annually, with coordinated activities taking place on both sides of the Niagara River. It occurs during the first week of July, coinciding with both Canada Day and Independence Day.

The week-long international handshake emphasizes the culture, heritage, and unique connections between Canada and the U.S.

Events held in Fort Erie and Buffalo include free concerts, pageants, arts, crafts, children’s entertainment, a carnival midway, and a spectacular fireworks display.

The fun-filled days bear testimony to the peaceful relationship between neighbors who share the longest undefended border in the world. From my perspective as one who has a Canadian Passport and an American Green Card, it is an essential affirmation of our common history.

In my lifetime, growing up in Canada a short hop from the border, married to an American for thirty-five years, and being steadily in the U.S. for over a decade, it is evident to me that there is a continuing disintegration of the bonds that tie our nations together.

It’s a disturbing observation, but wishful thinking or denial won’t make it go away. Agitators on both sides stir dissension for purposes that must be profit driven because there can’t possibly be any other reason to crap on friendship.

Ameri-centric or Cana-centric viewpoints are ignorant and equally offensive. Each only serves to contribute to misperceptions which do nothing to edify.

Perhaps there are sometimes truths within stereotypes, but the blanket caricatures Americans apply to Canadians and vice versa are often laughable to me. We ought to look for and cultivate our distinct similarities, and in doing so, demonstrate that we value the woven strands of diversity that unite us.

Hopefully the Friendship Festival will always be a true reflection, strong and free.

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Comments 44 comments

msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago

Thanks for the lesson in History which, my son would have encountered in school, but not I.

I like your conclusion.

Great hub.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

msorensson - You're welcome. Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Much appreciated.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

Interesting Hub - I learned something new. I liked the Bob Dylan quote too. Thanks.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

suziecat7 - Glad you found it interesting. That Dylan quote is a classic from the sixties.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Ken, this is an interesting hub about the history of that area of Canada and the US. I hope the relationship between the countries won't deteriorate any further. I've always thought of Canada as being like the USA in most ways and hope the minority doesn't spoil the relationship for the majority. Interesting hub.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Pamela - Thank you for stopping in & sharing. I appreciate your words. Blessings to you.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

I love these words: "we value the woven strands of diversity that unite us". It is so important in all human relationships to recognise those "woven strands" because they are what help us to be the best we can be. We are all connected, but somehow those "woven strands" become invisible to us and then we start to make up stories about each other, stories that become stereotypes that push us further and further apart. As people and as countries we need to appreciate the strength that comes from a proper appreciation of diversity.

Thanks for sharing this interesting bit of history.

Love and peace

Tony


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

tonymac04 - You're welcome. Thank you for your interesting observations. I am in full agreement. Peace & blessings.


E. Nicolson profile image

E. Nicolson 6 years ago

A great Hub with a solid conclusion. Your statement "We ought to look for and cultivate our distinct similarities, and in doing so, demonstrate that we value the woven strands of diversity that unite us" should be taken to heart by all of us. Thank you.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

E. Nicolson - You're welcome. Thank you for your words. I appreciate them. Blessings.


Rafini profile image

Rafini 6 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

Being in a northern state with no Canadian border, we often get Canadian coins through shopping and even through banks - only our coin operated machines are programmed not to accept anything different to prevent fake slugs. Thank you for reminding us of a true mark of friendship. :)


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

This is a fabulous piece of writing with a very smart and commonsense ending.


oldyeller3 6 years ago

Health care!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Rafini - You're welcome. Thank you for your story. There is, or was, a trick that I've used to fool American machines into accepting Canadian coins. It's been years since I've used it, but it used to work.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

breakfastpop - Thank you so much for your words of affirmation. Much appreciated.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

oldyeller3 - Thanks for stopping in & reading. And giving me a soapbox to get on. :>)

Health care? Since I have experienced it in both countries I could write a Hub about the problems & issues with each country's chosen approach.

It is actually a place for the two nations to come together to take the best of both systems that'd eliminate the worse & fashion one that'd functioned effectively & efficiently. But what do I know?


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

Ah Ken my brother, "The Hippie Movement" what memories! Fort Erie has always been a place where brothers and sisters, friends and neighbours could join hands across a common border, separating two lands. Fort Erie has been a safe haven, a refuge for those Americans, being oppressed in their own land, like the Afro- Americans, and the Draft- dogers from the US. Military. Canada,specifically Fort Erie has always welcomed others with open arms and love.

The Statue of Liberty in the New york Harbour bears a great quote, but Fort Erie lives it.

Brother Dave.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, Dave. Loved this line & wish I would've thought of it, "The Statue of Liberty in the New york Harbour bears a great quote, but Fort Erie lives it."

BTW, one of those who left America in the sixties to avoid the draft was a cousin of mine. He still lives in Toronto.


Richard Armen profile image

Richard Armen 6 years ago

I had visited Fort Erie many years ago and this brought back memories...thanks!


UlrikeGrace profile image

UlrikeGrace 6 years ago from Canada

Having never visited Fort Erie before I found this interesting. Thanks for sharing

UlrikeGrace


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Richard - Glad it brought back memories. Hope they were all good ones. Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

UlrikeGrace - You're welcome. Hope you get to visit sometime soon. It's a neat place.


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario

Another interesting hub Ken. I have a cousin that lives in Fort Erie. She grew up down river in Chippawa. You probably know where that is too.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Make Money - Thank you for visiting & sharing. Yes, I've spent some time in Chippawa. Blessings.


Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

Thanks for this great hub on Canada! I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from it! Good job, Ken!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Ann Nonymous. Glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

My mother was French Canadian and I think my grandparents immigrated here. Somehow it was never really mentioned or it might have been mentioned and lost in understanding mt mother who buried everything in too much detail.She did say she spoke French before English.

I was a bit too old for the hippei movement--they were called beatniks in my day.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

dahoglund - Thanks for visiting & sharing. I appreciate your perspective. Blessings.


west40 profile image

west40 6 years ago from Canandaigua, NY

Great hub - So informative. I am familiar with Fort Erie as I live about 60 miles East of Buffalo - Beautiful area. Thanks


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

west40 - You're welcome. Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Always appreciated.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

Beautiful, Ken. Good work. I liked all information here, including the picture also. thank you very much!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

prasetio30 - You're welcome. Thank you for your encouraging words. Glad you enjoyed it.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Very nice hub. I like the photos and the verbiage! Thanks Ken.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Micky Dee. Thanks for stopping in on your travels. Blessings.


janice 6 years ago

COFFEE HOUSES NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN, AND WHO CAN FORGET

"HIPPIE WALL" KEN

GOOD STORY WE DO TAKE A GREAT PICTURE


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Janice. Yeah, we were kind of cute, weren't we? Kind of funny. I'm wearing a long sleeve shirt but short pants. I still do that nowadays.


Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 6 years ago from USA or America

Hey Ken, very nicely written hub and I love the details you put into it. I am glad I read it, because I learned a few things during my reading. Thank you for sharing. :)


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Cagsil - You're welcome. I'm glad you stopped in & enjoyed the visit. Blessings.


Hopmoney wizard profile image

Hopmoney wizard 6 years ago from barak

i like this hub. i enjoyed it. person like me who came from asia is fortunate to be in Canada and learned a new diversified culture. It's new diversified culture because Canada in such a way is changing because of immigrants adapting Canada ways and reintroducing their own culture to the society. Reading your article gives me opportunity to know a part of Canada. its treasure ! . Gbless ken


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Hopmoney wizard - Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Much appreciated. Blessings.


Patricia Rae profile image

Patricia Rae 6 years ago from Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada

Great write up Ken. We moved to Crystal Beach from Mississauga 23 years ago. People have no idea the rich history that pervades the Niagara Pennisula. Our first summer here with our children was spent exploring the all the historical sites. Funny too, I'm an American married to a Canadian and the accounts of history here were vastly different than what I was taught in school. We just love this area...best move we ever made.

Thanks for the hub on Fort Erie.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Patricia Rae - You're welcome. Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Glad you enjoyed the visit. Best wishes to you for your journey on HubPages.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Hi and thank you so much for writing this. Really enjoyed reading it. I am a Canadian but also lived in the USA for about six or seven years. Oh and I love the quote by Jim Croce!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Just Ask Susan - You're welcome. I'm glad you stopped in & shared. Thank you.

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