If you follow the route along the St.Lawrence River in Southeastern Ontario, there’s a good chance you’ll spot Windmill Point Lighthouse. This heritage lighthouse is not only recognized for its architectural values, but it was also the site of a deadly battle, which took place during the Rebellions of 1837-38.
The Windmill Point Lighthouse was originally built to serve as a windmill. Built in the 1820s, the mill produced flour for the local population. In fact, it is one of the few surviving examples of an English-built wind-powered mill in Ontario.
During the Rebellions of 1837-38, a group of rebels from the United States attempted an invasion of Canada at Prescott. They landed at Windmill Point, with the hope that the local population in turn would revolt against the British rule.
Unfortunately for them, the local population remained loyal to the British. Faced with British soldiers and local militiamen, the rebels had no choice but to take refuge in the windmill. For a few days, they were surrounded by the British and eagerly awaited help from the United States, help that never came. When the British got reinforcements and heavy artillery, they bombarded the mill for hours and the rebels eventually surrender.
In all, around 40 people were killed in what would eventually be called the Battle of the Windmill Lighthouse. Although the Rebellions failed to bring down British rule, they profoundly transformed political life in Canada and eventually led, some thirty years later, to the creation of the country.
In 1874, the old windmill was converted into a lighthouse. It served as a lighthouse for over a hundred years, before being designated a National Historic Site in 1979.
Today, the old lighthouse still stands out in the landscape. It’s hard to imagine that people died on this quiet point. The site offers a nice view of the St.Lawrence River and of the American town of Ogdensburg, across the river (as the border is still closed, it is closest to the United States that I have been for the past few months!).