War of 1812 comes to life


By Vicki Gough, Chatham Daily News

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 8:39:58 EDT AM

WHEATLEY – A woman standing on a beach here was overheard telling her grandchild, “this really happened.”It was music to the ears of over 40 amateur actors who portrayed settlers, aboriginals, sailors and General Isaac Brock to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Brock, in full dress uniform played by Scott Finlay of the Niagara Parks Commission, arrived in a 24-foot whaler navigated by members of the Provincial Marine of Amherstburg.

Brock was reported to have landed at Taylor Beach during stormy weather on Aug. 11, 1812.

The re-enactment included a brief address from Brock and music by local folk singers performing their original 1812-themed songs.

Husband-and-wife Jim and Robin Wellheiser travelled from Ayr to depict John Norton and his wife Katherine for the meeting with Brock.

“Norton was an Iroquois chief … one of Joseph Brant’s people,” Wellheiser said.

It took 45 minutes to get into his costume which included his face painted half black and half red.

“It’s an intimidation factor to face enemies that says one of us will die and one will survive,” Wellheiser said.

The actors and more than 250 people who turned out for the event expressed great delight to be part of the colourful characterization of local history.

“I thought it was great. It took a lot of people a lot of time and effort to show this important part of history,” local resident, Karen Chadwick said.

Retired history teacher, Dave Derbyshire said the replication was “pretty close to the actual landing.”

Brock and his men were en route to his taking command of British forces at Amherstburg and his subsequent capture of Fort Detroit when he stopped in Wheatley, said John MacDonald of the Amherstburg Historic Sites Association.

His boats were battered and his men were tired of bailing out water when they took a chance and landed where the high sand bluffs end along the shoreline, MacDonald added.

Lake Erie water levels dropped significantly in the last couple of days Derbyshire said, forcing the re-enactors to adjust their arrival plans.

Weekend storms damaged a couple of boats docked in Amherstburg that were to be part of the event.

“I think it was very successful. We had a better crowd than we thought we would,” MacDonald said.

Heritage Canada provided an undisclosed grant to sponsor the event.

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