The first Loyalists settlers arrived at Adolphustown on 16th June, 1784. Their landing spot and site of the first Loyalist Cemetery in the area has been preserved by the Loyalists to this day. Their descendants became part of the Bay of Quinte Branch of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada, and to this day, the group own and operate the park that marks this important site.
In the mid 1800s there was no formal organization, but local Loyalist descendants would make a pilgrimage to honour the landing site of their ancestors. By 1869, historian William Canniff noted the deplorable condition of the cemetery and asked that work be done to commemorate their memory and this site. During 1884 the Province celebrated the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Loyalists and establishment of the province of Ontario, and the very first celebrations to mark the event took place over several days in June at Adolphustown, which culminated with the dedication of the first monument to the Loyalists of Ontario in the UEL restored cemetery, and the laying of cornerstones to the UEL Memorial Methodist Church and St. Albans Anglican Church. Within the next few years a Loyalist Association was started for descendants, but meetings were held in Toronto. Many Bay of Quinte Loyalist descendants joined this group over the next few years. In 1924 to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Loyalists, a group of Loyalists in Belleville, led primarily by Mayor W.C Mikel UE, constructed a second local monument to the Loyalists in Belleville and held a large anniversary event. By the mid 1930s several Bay of Quinte residents were listed as members in the Toronto UEL Association, being the only organization close enough to attend.
In the summer of 1955 a meeting was held in Bloomfield, hosted by Harry Blakely with the purpose of establishing a branch of the UEL Association in the Bay of Quinte area. At the same time, many other Loyalist descendants with ancestors buried at the UEL cemetery in Adolphustown were working with the Ontario Government to restore the site and establish a park to honour the Loyalists. On 16th June 1956, the Adolphustown Loyalist Park was officially opened by Ontario Premier Leslie Frost, and the restored UEL Cemetery Grounds were also unveiled, mostly due to the efforts of Adelaide McLaughlin, wife of Col. Samuel McLaughlin, founder of General Motors of Canada. Much of the necessary funds were raised by Toronto Branch UEL.
On 26th June, 1956, the Bay of Quinte Branch UEL received its Charted from the Dominion Headquarters and held its first meeting at Adolphustown Township Hall, with branch president Claude Young, and the original 29 members, many formerly from Toronto Branch. This was the first branch east of Toronto. Within its charter year the branch grew to 164 members, a size similar to the present membership. The newly formed group soon raised the profile of the importance of the Bay of Quinte Loyalists in the early history of Ontario, and was instrumental in establishing several historic plaques in the area. The 175th Anniversary of the UEL Landing at Adolphustown was celebrated by the branch on the weekend of June 20th to 21st, 1959. At that weekend the Historic Sites of Ontario Plaque to mark the landing of the Loyalists was unveiled at the cemetery by branch member John D. Vanalstine of Trenton, a great-great-grandson of Major Peter Vanalstine. The weekend also featured speeches from various local and provincial politicians, a picnic luncheon and games. On 4th May, 1960 the branch held its first meeting in the historic Allison House, which was being renovated to become a museum to the UELs, as well as serving as residence for the Park manager. The branch began to collect artifacts and books for the proposed museum. The official opening of the Adolphustown UEL Museum in Allison House took place on 16th June, 1962 under the direction of curator Maurice Young, member of the Bay of Quinte Branch UEL. That day members of Toronto and Governor Simcoe Branches held their picnic at the site and the museum was given a painting of Governor John Graves Simcoe by the Governor Simcoe Branch UEL.
The Bay of Quinte Branch became one of the busiest branches in the Dominion with many activities centred around the park and museum, as well as historical research into the area. One prominent researcher who published many articles and books on the area was branch genealogist Dr. H. C. Burleigh from Bath, whose massive records are now housed mainly in the Archives of Queens University. The Bay of Quinte Branch also has some of his research in their collection as well. During 1967 the branch organized historic events related to the Loyalists at many communities in the Bay of Quinte area.
The branch orgainized its first bus trip of many in 1972, taking members from its branch and others to various historic sites over the years, including Bennington, Vermont, the Mohawk Valley, Quebec City, and the Niagara region. In keeping with the mandate to help protect historic sites, the branch began work to preserve the Shibley Cemetery located on the site of Lake Ontario Cement, (now Lafarge) near Bath. The cemetery was restored with cooperation of the Company in the fall of 1974.
Bay of Quinte Branch has had a strong leadership since it was chartered in 1956, not only at the branch level, but also at the Dominion Level. The first female elected president of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada was in 1975: Evelyn Drew, from Picton, Ontario. The branch has had two other members serve as Dominion President: Gwendolyn Smith, and Peter Johnston.
In 1979 the branch established its Bicentennial Endowment Fund which was aimed to raise money by 1984 to pay for educational outreach about the Loyalists in the area. That fund has provided support for classroom visits, bus trips to the Museum and park in Adolphustown, and educational books on the Loyalists for elementary schools in the area. The Bicentennial Year of 1984 was very busy for the branch, with many activities throughout the area, a huge event at the Park, publishing of some local historic works, sale of Loyalist souvenirs, and the hosting of the Dominion UEL Conference in Belleville. On 3rd July, 1984, Canada Post unveiled a stamp to commemorate the Loyalists in Ontario at Adolphustown Park. The branch was instrumental in getting the stamp created and was given permission to use the artwork for the stamp to help celebrate their 50th Anniversary in 2006.
The Bay of Quinte Branch covered the area west of Kingston, in Lennox and Addington, Prince Edward and Hastings Counties. A branch meeting was held in Northumberland County for the first time on Apr.15th 1989 organized by Kate Gibson, and that region was added to their jurisdiction. Members come from not just these counties but from all of Canada and the United States, tracing their roots to the Bay of Quinte.
Around 1990, the provincial government threatened closure of the park, and the potential closure of the UEL museum. On April 9, 1992 the museum in Adolphustown and the park was re-organized as the Loyalist Cultural Centre, under the efforts of several local members headed by Norman Bell. With co-operative partnership with the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, this group took over management of the entire park and for the first time turned a profit for park operations. June 19th, 1998 became UNITED EMPIRE LOYALIST DAY in Ontario, due to the efforts of Harry Danford MPP. Harry was recognized by the branch as an honorary member, and by the naming of a road in the park in his honour. To mark UEL Day, the branch held a Loyalist Landing Re-enactment on June 19th, 1999, also celebrating the 215th anniversary of the original landing. This event featured displays, encampments, tours, entertainment, and the ship St. Lawrence II, with over 1700 people in attendance. There have been several other Landing events since that date and the largest is planned for 2009. An historic event took place on May 19th, 2003 when full ownership of the park was formally transferred to the Bay of Quintem due mainly to the efforts of president Don Diminie. On Feb. 19, 2004, another historic piece of property came under the ownership of the branch as the Town of Greater Napanee transferred the former Adolphustown Township Hall to the branch. The park and museum was renamed as the United Empire Loyalist Heritage Center and Park. Since then, the branch has also assisted with the establishment of the Loyalist Fifes and Drums and the Herkimer Batteaux Brigade, which are historic groups keeping Loyalist History alive.
Despite being a volunteer group the Bay of Quinte Branch still runs four regular meetings, an annual general meeting, social events, branch newsletters and website, participates in various events and of course continues to own and operate the important site dedicated to the landing place of the Loyalists. Membership is open to anyone who has an interest in Ontario history and their activities, whether you are a Loyalist or not.
Past Presidents of the Bay of Quinte Branch:
1956-1957 Eugene Claude Young, Wellington, Ontario
1957-1958 Col. Gerald Allison, M.B., M.D. , Picton, Ontario
1958-1959 Lt. Col. William Albert Davern, Wellington, Ontario
1959-1960 Miss Kay McFarland, Napanee, Ontario
1960-1961 E. John Chard, B.A., M.Ed., Stirling, Ontario
1961-1962 Maurice Hurlburt Young, Bath, Ontario
1962-1963 Miss Edith M. Allison, B.A. ,Adolphustown, Ontario
1963-1964 E. Mildred Wanamaker, Rossmore, Ontario
1964-1965 Vera Allison, (Mrs. Gerald) Picton, Ontario
1965-1966 Warner McFaul, Consecon, Ontario
1966-1967 E. Cummings Daverne, B.A., Napanee, Ontario
1967-1968 C. Loral R. Wanamaker, Rossmore, Ontario
1968-1969 Gordon Franklin Osborne, B.A., Napanee, Ontario
1969-1970 Maj. Ralph D. Maybee, Westbrook, Ontario
1970-1971 D. Donald Thompson, Picton, Ontario
1971-1973 Charles Frederick Young, Picton, Ontario
1974-1976 Gwendolyn M. Smith, Bath, Ontario
1977-1979 Richard M. Daverne, Bath, Ontario
1979-1980 Susan Hogan, Bath, Ontario
1980-1981 Gwendolyn M. Smith, Bath, Ontario
1981-1982 Mary M. Mackey, Bloomfield, Ontario
1983-1984 R. Wendell Camm, Belleville, Ontario
1985-1987 Evelyn Drew, Picton, Ontario
1988-1991 Russell Sills, Stirling, Ontario
1992-1996 Douglas Crawford, Hillier, Ontario
1997-2003 Don Diminie, Cobourg, Ontario
2003-2013 Brian Tackaberry, B.Sc., B.Ed., Almonte Ontario
2013-present Peter Johnson, B.A., B.Ed., M.Ed. Frankford, Ontairo