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Stepping into the Past at King’s Landing

by Barbara Rogers

Mar 27, 2018

© Stillman Rogers

Destinations / North America

Living museums that are entire villages give kids a unique chance to step inside another time in history. But King’s Landing, in New Brunswick, gives American kids an added opportunity — that of seeing the American Revolution from a different perspective.

During and after the Revolution, thousands of Americans from New England who remained loyal to the British king fled to the province of Nova Scotia, in Canada. During 1783 more than 15,000 “Loyalists” landed, many on the western shore of the Bay of Fundy in what soon became the Province of New Brunswick. Anxious to populate this region, the British government issued land grants and settlement quickly spread along the fertile banks of the Saint John River.

6696 Horse and wagon bus, King's Landing, New Brunswick

© Stillman Rogers

King’s Landing, a few miles up-river from the provincial capital at Fredericton, was created to preserve the monuments of those Loyalist settlers and later 18th-century Scots, Irish and English arrivals. They built homes, mills, barns and shops close to the river, their highway. When the huge hydroelectric Mactaquac Dam was built in the 1960s, the empoundment meant the destruction of that riverside heritage. That’s how King’s Landing was born, named in honor of the King’s American Dragoons, a regiment of Loyalists who fought with the British in the Revolution.

A Village Re-Created

King’s Landing includes more than 50 historic buildings, arranged as a village over several acres of riverside land. These authentically restored buildings date from the late 18th through late 19th century, and the docents who welcome visitors know the complete story of each house and its inhabitants. Hearing these stories brings the houses and the families that lived in them to life for kids.

6864 Costumed docents, King's Landing, New Brunswick

© Stillman Rogers

The tales told here covers everyone from the wealthy and to the poor, from the respected local lawyer to tradesmen like the miller, farmer, cooper and blacksmith. At Courser’s Cove, a dammed stream powers a water-driven saw mill (1830) and grist mill (1885), both essential for 19th-century villages. Kids can inspect the mechanisms, one driven by a waterwheel and the other by a turbine, and see the changes in technology. They can discover other trades at the blacksmith and wheelwright shop and at the cooper’s shop, where barrels are built as they watch.

Daily Home Life

One of the most fascinating is the Thomas Jones House, built of stone in 1828 by a Loyalist. Set into a hillside, it was occupied by a local jurist and furnished with fine American and New Brunswick colonial furniture. At the other end of the economic scale is the modest Killeen cabin, hand-built in 1822 by an Irish immigrant. Its simple and homemade furnishings illustrate the harshness of the immigrant experience. Here kids can watch — and try their hands at — making flax into thread for weaving. They can see flax growing in the field next to the cottage.

King's Landing, New Brunswick

© Stillman Rogers

Learn Heritage Crafts

Throughout the settlement kids can meet costumed docents at work farming fields with horses or oxen, weaving, sewing, cooking meals and engaged in the daily tasks of that period. The best experience at King’s Landing is to learn one of these skills side by side with an expert teaching docent. A full schedule of lessons in everything from wool spinning to blacksmithing is always available. For families vacationing in New Brunswick, the “Visiting Cousins” is a summer camp program for children, and there are special events for kids all summer long.

Kings Landing Historical Settlement is located on the Trans Canada Highway Route #2, 20 minutes west of Fredericton, New Brunswick, at Exit #253.

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