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January 3, 2012

More on the War of 1812 Bicentennial

Due to time constraints I have not looked at the War of 1812 as much as I would have liked. I did write a few articles (Google Heritage Perspectives and look at articles 400, 401, 406 and 407).  Community Voices did feature a dozen syndicated articles by Tom Villemarie on the war. The celebration is not over since the war started in the middle of 1812 and went 28 months to the spring of 1815. There will be much more news to come. 

Mr. Harper has put some 28 million dollars into various reenactments, museums, publications, monuments, etc. Most of the activity has taken place in Southern Ontario and Ottawa with little in our local museums. S.S. Marie with its border on the U.S. has been active however. 

There has been a deluge of books, articles, pamphlets, etc. on all aspects of the war with a book on almost every battle and many online sites.  I picked up a signed copy of Pierre Bertons War of 1812 book and his book on the rest of the war at Allison the Bookman. In Toronto I visited the new museum on the first Ontario Parliament Buildings on Front Street. 

The new Parliament Building Museum in Toronto established as part of the War of 1812 Bicentennial. D. Mackey photo.

The Parliament Building remains were discovered in an archaeological dig a decade ago. A car dealership on the site was purchased and made into a museum with some excellent displays and a DVD on the archeological findings. Fort York has a 5 million dollar new facility. Fort York was burned and pillaged in the spring of 1813 and the Parliament Buildings were burned. There will be lots of activity around there in April. 

Northern Ontario in 1812 

There was little population in Northern Ontario and Quebec in 1812.  There were a few Seigneuries on the Ottawa River but the most activity was the work of the fur traders and their few forts. The native population was involved and this was one of the reasons the native participation in the war of 1812 was so intensive and so critical to its success. The initial battle at the U.S. Depot in Michilamacimac with native help was a critical first success for Canada. 

In 1815 when the war was ending my wife's earliest descendant came from France and travelled to support the defence of Michilamacinac. He married a metis woman which led to my wife’s grandfather on her mothers side and a remarkable family history. 

After the war Michilamacinac was given back to the Americas and the Upper Canadians were relocated to Drummond Island.  Drummond Island was later given back to the Americans and the people were relocated to Midland/Penetang. We have celebrated numerous family reunions their over the years. 

Logging and Lumbering 

In the early 1800s as the war developed the remarkable change that opened Northern Ontario took place as lumbermen arrived.  Stephen Burritt and William Merrick started on the Richelieu River. 

In February 1800 Philemon Wright (1760-1839) an American came to the Chaudiere Rapids with 50 workers including a freed slave.  He sent squared timber to British ships fighting Napoleon. He developed the square timbers and log cribs that opened the areas along our northern waterways and beyond. 

As noted the War of 1812 was fought primarily in Southern Ontario in the Niagara Peninsula.  I have been reviewing my family history with my brother the family genealogist. My 2 maternal grandparents came from United Empire Loyalist stock and fled the U.S. in the American Revolution. One of the grandparents settled in the Niagara Peninsula where a lot of the War of 1812 battles took place. He had seven children and though he died in 1804 his sons fought in the War of 1812 and they and the rest of the family suffered the incredible abuses of the war and received land as a result. What happened after the war is another story for another time. 


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