Reynolds builds Belle Vue during economic depression

 

By Debra Honor UE

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a regular series of articles by historian/genealogist Debra Honor regarding the Belle Vue house and its history.)

The War of 1812 was finally over.

On July 1, 1815, the American forces that had occupied most of Southwestern Upper Canada (Ontario) withdrew. The Union Jack again flew over Fort Malden. The Treaty of Ghent had restored the borders as before the war. Just the year before, the American forces had burned and pillaged the area, starving the population into submission.

A drawing by Catherine Reynolds, an original occupant of Belle Vue, is depicted. This is the view of the east side of the residence.

A drawing by Catherine Reynolds, an original occupant of Belle Vue, is depicted. This is the view of the east side of the residence.

American General McArthur’s plan was to make the Western District “a desert between us and them.” Most of the mills were burned all the way up to Port Dover. His next plan was to burn Amherstburg, Sandwich and then Michigan because he thought even the population of Michigan was against the American troops. The declaration of peace prevented him from starting his plan.

Yet because of the severity of the occupation, people were starving. The weather didn’t help either as the volcano on Mount Tambora, Dutch East Indies erupted in April 1815 that caused “the Year without a Summer” in 1816. Crops failed. Severe frost and snow happened even in the summer all over the Northern Hemisphere. But because of the burning of the crops and mills by the Americans, the Western District was hit even harder by the weather changes.

Robert Reynolds returned to Fort Malden with the British army as Commissary Officer with his family to rebuild their lives and the community. He bought a 2,000-acre farm on the river south of Amherstburg from the estate of William Mills who had died in 1813 from wounds he received at the battle of River Raisin. The next year construction began on the largest home in Upper Canada to date. His wife, Therese, being of French background, named the house Belle Vue.

bellevue-1984

Belle Vue, circa 1984

Through marriage and business alliances, Robert Reynolds was connected to some of the richest people in the Canadas. His father in law was James McGill of Montreal of the North-West Fur Trading Company. Robert Reynolds, through his patronage and investment in the community, helped start Amherstburg on an optimistic and hopeful future.

Please support our fundraising campaign. 100% of your contribution will be used for restoration of the Belle Vue House. You will receive a full tax receipt and a Belle Vue gift. Visit amherstburg.ca/donate to help us open up Belle Vue once again!

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