Catherine Reynolds

Painters in the Reynolds Family

 

By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the fifteenth in a series of articles regarding the Belle Vue house and its history. Historian/genealogist Debra Honor is a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)

Among the children of Thomas and Jean Reynolds, were two daughters, Margaret and Catherine Reynolds. They never married, but they have become famous as painters.

Margaret Reynolds was born in Scotland in 1765. She was the oldest child of this family. Catherine Reynolds was born in Detroit, Quebec in 1784 as the youngest child. (Detroit was part of the Province of Quebec after 1760 when the British took over New France, until 1796, when it was handed over to the United States of America.) Therefore, Catherine has been named Canada’s earliest Canadian born female artist. Both women are recognized now for their artistic talent. Until recently, Catherine was considered the sole artist.

(Special to the RTT)

The discovery to the contrary was made in the 1980’s when the painting “View of Amherstburg 1812”, which had been attributed to Catherine, was restored and cleaned revealing the signature “Margaret Reynolds.” Art historians have since revisited the paintings and are attributing some to Margaret and some to Catherine.

The Royal Ontario Museum has a painting by Catherine Reynolds of the Amherstburg waterfront about 1850 from the same vantage point as the 1812 painting. Fort Malden N. H. S. had an artist paint a copy of this painting for use as a backdrop in an exhibit, which has now been installed on the back wall of the Amherstburg Town Council Chamber for everyone to admire.

We know Catherine did the paintings of Belle Vue from the back and the painting of the house called Stowe which belonged to her brother, Ebenezer. She sent these to her brother, Thomas Augustus in England to show their prosperity in Canada.

Margaret and Catherine may not have been formally taught in school to draw but with their father’s position, they would have had contact with military officers who were trained in art. Margaret’s paintings are more apt to be true life scenes. Catherine as well did true life scenes but also paintings in which she copied prints her father was able to provide.

(Special to the RTT)

Their skill truly shows in all the paintings that have been discovered.

Please support our fundraising campaign. One hundred per cent 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!

For more information on the Belle Vue Conservancy and its upcoming events, please visit www.bellevueconservancy.com.

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!