The Ball Is Rolling

Have you ever experienced a sequence of events that have snowballed unexpectedly from one thing to another?

Mine had to do with a slice of time in the mid-1800 and the ball started back in June while playing tourist at Black Creek Pioneer Village.  Black Creek is an open-air heritage museum – made up of structures from the mid-1800s that have been preserved and relocated from around the Toronto area.

Black Creek

I found the visit quite fascinating and the snowball started rolling when one of the workers doing demonstrations on a spinning wheel, mentioned a book written by Canadian author, Margaret Atwood.

I’m actually a Margaret Atwood fan (people seem to either love her work or hate it), but I had never heard of this particular book called Alias Grace – based on the true story of Grace Marks convicted of murder in 1843.

The book is full of details on day-to-day life during this time period and since I love this kind of stuff, I got the book.

Black Creek2

In reading this story, I discovered several references to the Rebellion of 1837.


I don’t remember learning about any Rebellion.  In fact I’ve had a tendency to sneer at Canadian history – no revolutions, no grand uprisings, nothing dramatic, only bland and boring. The only constant in Canadian history seems to have been the unending bickering between the French and English.

Of course the hint of a Rebellion led me to do some quick research.  As soon as I read “Family Compact”, a dim light bulb came on.

Ah yes – the rich and powerful dominating all affairs in the colony – blah, blah, blah – excessive patronage – blah, blah, blah – discontent stirred up by American rabble rousers {insert smile}.

The Rebellion was poorly organized and quickly squelched, but – blah, blah, blah – a pivotal point in the creation of Canada as a nation – blah, blah, blah.

Oh yes – not exactly riveting stuff when you’re in primary school.

But the snowball was rolling and now gaining momentum.

On my recent visit to the Necropolis I found the grave of William Lyon MacKenzie – you guessed it, the leader of the Rebellion.  He  also happened to be the first mayor of Toronto, but I digress.

With the spectacular failure of the Rebellion, MacKenzie fled to the US where he lived for many years, later to return to Toronto when a general pardon was granted.


Not so lucky were two of his supporters who were caught and subsequently hanged for treason.  They, too, are buried at the Necropolis.


Fifty-five years after their death, a monument was erected at their grave by “their friends and sympathizers”.


Incredibly, another 100 years later, a plaque was then erected by “family and friends”.


These poor guys became the scapegoats in this sad affair. They were the only rebels executed for their efforts – all the others either escaped to the US or were exiled to Australia, and eventually all those who survived made their way back to Canada.

Ever wonder why there is a suburb in Sydney, Australia called Canada Bay?  You guessed it … because of the Canadian rebels exiled following the Rebellion of 1837.

And the snowball keeps rolling ….




  1. I love a snowball. You know, of this kind. Because I don’t see the frozen water kind. And I don’t like the ‘marshmallow covered in chocolate and coconut’ kind.

    Hm. Given we had the Eureka Rebellion up the road in in 1854, I might need to investigate possible links to Canadian rabble rousers…… Just toss that snowball in this direction, will ya? 🙂


  2. This is fascinating Joanne- great detective work! I am also a fan of Margaret Atwood. Will dig out my copy of Alias Grace. I haven’t got around to reading yet, but am intrigued afresh after reading your post.


  3. I love when the historical thread of a fabric of a country is unraveled and later revealing multiple threads, keeps on displaying further connections, Joanne!
    I liked that beginning and now, since I “visited” the Necropolis in two if your posts, now this third post makes me want to head North to Canada. So cool, Canada Bay over in Australia!
    I liked two of Margaret Atwood’s books. (“The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Robber Bride.”)

    I tend to stumble upon books on racks labeled “Library Staff Recommends.” 🙂 She definitely has researched and creates interesting books.


  4. Love those snowball moments. I have to admit that I was quite disappointed to discover that my US history classes all failed to relay WWII in the Pacific. We heard all about what was going on in Europe but nothing, na-da, zilch of the Japanese/US confict. 😦


  5. I absolutely love these old villages Joanne, and if I ever get even close to one, no matter how large or small, I have to visit. No amount of reading can give me the feel for the lives of historic figures like a visit to one of the pioneer villages. They always have a dusty smell that carries me back to the time. Thanks for an interesting history lesson and a reminder of how much I love these places. ~James


  6. Very interesting! I’m also a big Margaret Atwood fan – may have to check that out. I love how you call the Native Americans – First Nations. We visited Fort William last year when we were in Thunder Bay, and were surprised to learn how well everyone got along. Karen


  7. Fascinating account, I’ve just been reading Norm’s post about it, too. Did you know about the Fenian invasion of Canada in 1866? I came across it doing some research for a book. The plan was to draw the British into a battle on the borders of America and Canada, thus depleting their forces enough to strike for freedom in Ireland. It all went terribly wrong. The decision to go ahead with the invasion caused a split in the Fenian movement.


    • This one is totally new to me too. So many connecting dots!!

      This would have been the year before Confederation when Canada became a sovereign country.
      The worry in the colony was that Britain had so many issues of her own to deal with and so far away, she would abandon the colony to be annexed by the US.
      A group of men – known in Canada as the Fathers of Confederation – petitioned Britain for sovereignty and it was granted in 1867.
      I suspect the Fenian invasion was one more “log on the fire”.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That first grave site for the supporters looks impossibly sad. I’m sorta glad they got some better structures in their name over time… But, also kinda cool that the first mayor of Toronto had such a cool history. 🙂 I don’t know what it is (I hate American history for the most part, but I think it depends on who is telling it…textbooks, step aside! …but I love Eastern history. 😛 Go figure.)


    • I agree that the first stone is very sad – and completely nondescript. It makes me wonder about all the other wonderful stories that are lost in a typical cemetery because no “family friends, and supporters” came back later to leave a more lasting tribute to describe their contribution.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Black Creek is lovely, Ive taken my class there before. As for the rebellion and Canadian history. It’s quiet rich we just don’t know too much as it never really makes it into the pop culture reference unlike US history.


    • I think you’re right about how subtle our history is … it’s rich, but not in-your-face.
      After reading a book about John A MacDonald called The Man Who Made Us, I developed a whole new appreciation for that period of time in our history.


      • Our history has been more “civil” in some ways but also more concealed. We’ve had rebellions, battles and wars. Quebec didn’t come under British control willingly after all, it had to be won. Also numerous wars backed by either English or French between various First Nations are ours to bear. And the war of 1812 also, which reminds me I should go to Fort York soon, haven’t been there in years.


  10. That’s an interesting story, although I’m afraid I’d never even heard of the rebellion you mentioned. Incidentally, I particularly liked the bit about Canada Bay at the end. It’s amazing how many historical clues are lying unsuspected in the place names of the world.


  11. The history of the United States is always being edited or redacted. So many things the powers that be don’t think we the people need to know certain things. Starting with the way this nation was actaully found and “tamed” or “won”! Don’t get me started.


  12. I love discovering stuff like this. The hidden history that someone finds by pulling thread after thread. Sometimes it was governments trying to hide stuff, and sometimes it’s family members. But it’s always interesting to discover the truth.


  13. Oddly enough the doorscursion that led to last week’s post from Vieux Saint-Eustache gave me a good education on this rebellion – I too didn’t know much about it. It involved citizens from both Upper and Lower Canada and was considered by some historians as our own (unsuccessful) war of independence from the British. Saint-Eustache was the site of the final battle. If you look up that battle you’ll find out how incredibly ruthless the British were. The last of the rebels were holed up in the church, so the Brits set it on fire and then started shooting the rebels as they climbed out the windows.
    Ultimately the rebellion did force the British to reform their political structure, which led to more autonomous government. It’s all such fascinating stuff isn’t it?


    • I had read that the Rebellion in Lower Canada was much more violent and lasted much longer. The rebels in Upper Canada were very poorly organized and most of them ran away at the first sign of fighting.

      I find it interesting that you and I were tripping over this particular piece of history at the same time!! That ball just keeps on rolling … 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post. I loved Alias Grace when I read it but had forgotten the rebellion and I didn’t know about Canada Bay in Sydney. Thanks for sharing (and the photos are terrific).


    • Thank you 🙂

      I’m still reading Alias Grace – I’m about 2/3 of the way through and I find it a totally compelling read. A random comment by a presenter at a tourist attraction introduced me to a great book.


    • The cemetery had been on my list of places to explore, but after discovering they were interred there, it became a mission to find them.

      Unfortunately the office was closed when we visited, so it really became a treasure hunt … especially since we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for!
      With over 50,000 people buried there, there was certainly a lot of luck involved. Imagine squeals of delight when we found them!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. oh I do enjoy all of Margaret Atwood’s writing especially her futurist books. But the history she described in Alias Grace intrigued me too especially since her main character was from old Richmond Hill where I lived for many years and her ‘victim’ (did she really kill him?) is buried there. The library did a walking tour of the book some years back too which I unluckily missed! I remember the rebellion from high school history but you’re right -they did make it boring.


    • I know!! – Canadian history was a giant yawn. Is it any wonder that people are clueless about our history?

      I’ve discovered that the whole places-and-dates approach to history doesn’t work for me … but talk about people, make them “real” with their personalities and background, then I’m hooked.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Brilliant! I studied history at university and couldn’t believe I was learning about the same times and places as I had in high school history. It may be different now, but school history then was almost guaranteed to drive even the most enthusiastic students insane with boredom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting … I thought it was just Canadian history that was boring … and the fact I grew up in a small isolated community without the opportunity to visit any of these historical sites.

      I’m not a teacher and I know nothing about teaching, but surely there has to be a way to make history more *real* for young people.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My son did history at school and loved it! In his middle school they encouraged the kids to watch ‘Horrible Histories’ — a series of UK videos which mix modern culture with history. I remember he particularly loved this song

        It obviously worked to get information to stick. I’ll never forget the boy hold having a very intense discussion about Tudor England with the emergency room doctor who was stitching a gash in his arm. Odd I grant you, but it took his mind off the needle!


        • omg – I remember a show like this from a few years ago. I LOVED that series – I don’t know if it was the same one but it had the same irreverent approach to historical figures.

          Putting information to music is a great way to learn something. All the musical rhymes I learned as a kid I still remember.
          When our boys were very young and I was trying to street-proof them, I got them to learn their telephone number and street address by putting it to music.

          Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, that is so interesting. “American rabble rousers,” huh? We do tend to stir things up a bit. 🙂 It’s true that history that made us yawn in school can actually be riveting when we get older and can appreciate the nuances. Did you know those graves were there before you visited the cemetery?

    I have enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s books in the past; I might check out Alias Grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know! Those Americans always causing trouble! 😉

      As you know, I was very interested in visiting the Necropolis when you were in Toronto, then I discovered the connection to the book I was reading.
      It became a quest to actually find their graves, which was easier said than done! We were just about to give up and head back to the car when we stumbled upon the last grave.


  18. Oh how fascinating! I wonder if this is what other people call ‘coincidence’ or ‘happenstance’? Hah, I don’t believe in it. I should think there will be more 🙂
    I love Margaret Atwood and I truly don’t remember Alias Grace although I read it. I have this image of a man in the woods and a woman’s piqued curiosity and that’s it. Bet I read it more than 15 years ago…
    Anyway, that’s neat 😀

    I loved Oryx & Crake, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Robber Bride. They’re all in my faves, FOREVER!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! Another Margaret Atwood fan!
      I’m not quite finished Alias Grace, but I haven’t encountered anything yet about a man in the woods and a woman’s piqued curiosity.
      The Year Of The Flood is probably my favourite, although if I went back and re-read Handmaid’s Tale and Robber Bride, I might change my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I sat around wondering about that book last night and I don’t have it anymore. I think I got it mixed-up with the one about Johnny Appleseed/John Chapman….Not the one by Neil Gaiman, but the one by Alice Hoffman. This is what happens to me, lol.
        Anyway, I like to re-read The Robber Bride now and again 🙂


        • I have enough trouble working my way through the stack of unread books I always seem to have. I rarely get a chance to go back and re-read one … although occasionally I’ll pick one up and simply read a random chapter or two. That’s sometimes all it takes to refresh my memory of the story and characters.


  19. Interesting story. The deeper you dig, the more interesting history becomes. I too am the product of ‘boring’ elementary school history lessons, only to find later that the history of Canada is quite interesting. Hey, we even burned down the White House 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Could they have made elementary school history any more boring?!!

      A few years ago, I very reluctantly read a book about John A MacDonald called The Man Who Made Us by Richard Gwyn. It had been recommended to me although this is not the kind of book I would normally pick up.
      I quickly became very hooked. It told about our Confederation from the perspective of the people involved and life at the time. So interesting!!

      Liked by 2 people

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