“On July 11, 200 years ago today, the Dundas Militia was mobilized to defend Upper Canada from invasion by American forces,” Bill Shearing, a member of the 1812 Signs committee, told the dignitaries and guests gathered at the formal dedication of the War of 1812 Commemorative Signs, held in Iroquois, Wednesday, July 11.
Wednesday’s ceremony was the last act in almost two years of hard work.
The South Dundas War of 1812 Commemorative Signs Committee was formed in 2011 by chair Bill Shearing. He described it as an “informal group made up of Brenda Brunt, Nicole Sullivan, Hugh Garlough and myself. Federal or provincial funding did not exist.”
Instead members directly approached each area council for support in the initial phases of the project. This year, South Dundas provided labour and equipment for setting up local signs and South Stormont and South Glengarry have also committed to signs in their regions.
The Commemorative Com-mittee researched historical information for the signs and brochures, designed art work, scouted locations for signs and worked hard at fund raising.
Shearing reports that signs will run from the west end of Dundas County to the east end of Glengarry County.
The last South Dundas sign, which recalls the exploits of teenage Trooper John W. Loucks, Dundas County’s ‘Paul Revere’, was on display during the Iroquois dedication ceremony.
Joining Bill Shearing for the dedication were Deputy Mayor Jim Locke, representatives of the Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders, piper Peter Coughlan, MPP Jim McDonell, Eric Duncan on behalf of MP Guy Lauzon, SD&G warden Ian McLeod, Brenda Brunt, clerk for South Dundas, Nicole Sullivan, Economic Development Officer, Alicia Wanless, St. Lawrence 1812 Bicentennial Alliance and the Rev. Janet Evans.
“The installation of these signs is a big step to bringing alive our history,” Nicole Sullivan said. “They represent a source of pride. I hope they create awareness of the role South Dundas played in the War of 1812.”
“These signs are an example of how our heritage can be celebrated by our communities,” said Alicia Wanless. “Few places in North America have the sense of history we have in Eastern Ontario. We have the chance, in these two years, of sharing our heritage and showcasing it to the world.”
Bill Shearing made it clear that the generosity of organizations and individuals made the signs project possible. “We could not have done this without the support of these groups. We received donations of upwards of $6,000 from these supporters.”
Shearing thanked Lt. Col. William Masson, president of the SD&G Highlanders Regimental Association, Robert Ivine, president of the Friends of Crylser’s Farm Battlefield, Dr. Graham Houze, Branch #48, the Morrisburg Legion, Linda Halliday, public affairs officer Eastern Ontario, Ontario Power Generation, Mrs. Jean MacDougal and Doug Grenkie, (who was unable to attend the ceremony) for their generous financial support.
Shearing explained that his focus in this project has always been on the citizens of Dundas County and their contributions to Canada.
“No other region in Upper Canada was more successful in defending Canada and ensuring she did not fall into American hands. The role of the people of SD&G is sometimes forgotten by historians. Our role needs to be emphasized. I want people to stop, read these signs and remember.”
Also present at the ceremony was local author, Mike Phifer, who spent over a year intensively researching and writing Lifeline: the War of 1812 Along the Upper St. Lawrence. His book specifically focuses on the history of this region.
“We need to emphasize the importance of this area militarily,” Phifer said. “It was the key, in my view, to saving Canada.”
The Reverend Janet Evans presented a special 1812 prayer for the dedication ceremony.
“Two years ago, my colleague and I were discussing the coming 1812 celebrations,” Evans said. “We decided to contact American churches in Massena and Ogdensburg, an experience which proved very rewarding. From our talks, the prayer developed.”
In part, the 1812 Prayer asks for reconciliation “with our First Nations, who lost so much in this War.” It also remembers “the violence, fear and pain that came 200 years ago when Canada and the United States were at war. We hope this peace will remain lasting.”