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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 23

Blockhouses in Canada, 1749-1841: A Comparative Report and Catalogue

by Richard J. Young


This report is based on 15 months of archival research undertaken for the National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Parks Canada, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. The nature of the subject matter being so vast and consequently the prospects for further research seemingly endless, it was agreed that a preliminary report should be prepared from existing research notes. It must be emphasized that the blockhouses described in the first part and listed in the second part of the report are not all the blockhouses built in Canada. This paper is intended to provide an outline or approach to the study of blockhouses in Canada for the period 1749-1841.

Dealing with the research notes on over 100 blockhouses constructed during a century presented two serious problems. First, despite the common subject matter, the material was not sufficiently homogeneous for a tightly analytical treatment. Second, the blockhouses were so numerous, so separated in time and place, that a controlled narrative was equally unrealistic. Compromise on both sides seemed to be the only alternative. The result was an attempt to compare, organize and catalogue the blockhouses.

The first chapter, "Origins," briefly describes the use of the blockhouse as a defensive structure in the early North American colonies. The second chapter compares the structural elements of seven representative blockhouses. These seven span the whole era of blockhouse construction in British North America. They differ sufficiently in shape, size, disposition and construction methods that the survey ought to identify the main physical types. In the remainder of the first part of the report, blockhouses have been loosely organized into their varying functional defensive roles. These are arbitrary classifications, but ones which the research seemed to suggest; hopefully they will provide a useful second means of comparative study.

The second part of the report is an alphabetical catalogue of blockhouses in Canada, each accompanied by relevant documentation.

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