Located at the mouth of the Moira River on Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte, Belleville lies 180 kilometres east of Toronto, along the urban corridor stretching from Quebec City to Windsor. The town was established by United Empire Loyalists in 1789 as the settlement of Meyer's Creek, named after Captain John Walden Meyers, who started the town’s first sawmill, gristmill, brick kiln and distillery. In 1816, the town was renamed Belleville, after Arabella Gore, wife of then Lieutenant-Governor Sir Francis Gore, following a visit by the couple to the fledgling community. In 1855, the Grand Trunk Railway linked Montreal to Toronto, and Belleville became a divisional point in the system, where locomotives were serviced, train crews were changed and rolling stock was stored. In 1866 gold was discovered in Madoc, earning Belleville the nickname “Gateway to the Golden North” as miners were supplied in Belleville before heading north in search of mineral riches in the Canadian interior. As the largest municipality in Hastings County, Belleville was incorporated in 1878. Aside from the industry related to the railway, Belleville was also an important sawmilling centre throughout the 19th century, primarily because of its location on the Moira River.
When the logging industry waned at the end of the 1890s, the city’s economy diversified into more of a manufacturing base. New industries included iron foundries and furniture manufacturing. Situated in the midst of a dairy-producing region, Belleville has become renowned for producing world-famous cheddar cheese. Nearby Canadian Forces Base Trenton, which opened in 1931, remains one of the primary military centres in Canada, and the region was an important site for Royal Canadian Air Force pilot training during the Second World War. With its excellent yacht harbour and marinas, Belleville is an international boating and fishing hub throughout the year, becoming a major ice fishing centre in winter. The Quinte Arts Council, symphony, opera and ballet are part of Belleville’s thriving cultural life, which also includes the Pinnacle Playhouse and Empire Theatre. Belleville today has a population of over 48,000, for the city proper, and over 91,000 for the metropolitan area.