By Dave Johnson, The Tribune
Tuesday, June 5, 2012 5:45:20 EDT PM
Members of Port Colborne-Wainfleet War of 1812 bicentennial committee and Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum stand around the new location of the Zavitz Mill Memorial at H.H. Knoll Park in Port Colborne in November 2011. The mill stone once sat in front of what is now the Newport Centre and is all that is left of the former mill that stood during the War of 1812. From left are Tami Daoust, education programer at the museum, committee members Don and Virginia Anger, committee chair Brian Heaslip and committee member James Van Dillen.
PORT COLBORNE – June 18, 1812, marked the day the United States declared war on Great Britain, starting a conflict that was to last almost three years and shape Niagara and the country into what it is today.
Nearly 200 years to the day of the war’s beginning, members of the Port Colborne-Wainfleet War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee will meet at the top of the hill at H.H. Knoll Lakeview Park to rededicate a grist stone from Christian Zavitz’s mill.
Tami Daoust, Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum’s registrar, said a colour party from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 56 and the Paris-Port Dover Pipe and Drum Band will enter the park, from Northland Pointe, up the hill to where the stone sits.
“The ceremony runs from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., but we’re asking people to show up at 1:30 p.m.,” said Daoust, adding everyone is invited to attend on Sunday, June 17.
At 2 p.m., Port Colborne’s town crier, Thomas Pekar, will give a cry of greeting, followed by speech from local dignitaries.
“Members of the Zavitz family will be there … and at the end of the program we’ll unveil the monument.”
Re-enactors will also be by the monument, which sits east of the Fielden Ave. entrance to the park.
“It’s the major event for the city for the War of 1812,” Daoust said.
The importance of the stone, which sat for years in front of Newport Centre, just up the road, was that Christian Zavitz’s grist mill was captured three times during the War of 1812, but was the only mill in the Niagara Peninsula not torched by American forces.
In an interview late last year, Don Anger, a local historian and member of the local bicentennial committee, said the mill, captured all three times by Capt. Cyrenius Chapin, wasn’t burned down because the grain inside was not tied to British government stores. He said if it had been burned down, it would have created a great hardship for people in Sugarloaf Settlement. The once-important mill — built in 1790 on the northeast side of the Eagle Marsh Drain and closed sometime in 1834 — is long gone. However, two mill stones, used to grind grain to make flour, survived when the mill was torn down in the 1880s.
While the one stone, on a new pedestal with a new plaque, is now in the park, the other sits on the grounds of the Port Colborne museum.
During research, an old photograph of the mill was found and it was learned the mill also housed British and Canadian forces in Sugarloaf Settlement, the name for the area long before it became Port Colborne.
On Oct. 28, 1814, American soldier John Dixon, retreating back to Buffalo after a skirmish in Norfolk where British and Canadian soldiers were killed, was shot by a militia guard while trying to raid a store for guns near Zavitz Mill.
“It was the last shot fired in the peninsula and the last death,” said Anger, adding Dixon made it back to Buffalo before he died.