5 witnesses to 200-year-old war still living

By Allan Benner, The Tribune

Thursday, April 4, 2013

 

Welland parks department employees Dave Steven, from left, Peter Boyce and Frank Reddon hold a framed picture of the flower garden they created commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The picture, taken by Thies Bognar, was presented Tuesday by representatives of the Welland's 1812 subcommittee. (ALLAN BENNER Tribune Staff)

Welland parks department employees Dave Steven, from left, Peter Boyce and Frank Reddon hold a framed picture of the flower garden they created commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The picture, taken by Thies Bognar, was presented Tuesday by representatives of the Welland’s 1812 subcommittee. (ALLAN BENNER Tribune Staff)

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WELLAND – Five witnesses to the carnage that occurred nearly 200 years ago in Cooks Mills are still alive today.

And one of those living witnesses still dwells in the midst of the battlefield, near the intersection of Pearson and Lyon’s Creek Rds.

It’s a white oak — a tree identified as being more than 200 years old by arborist Bryan Kaastra, contracted by the city’s War of 1812 subcommittee to find “living witnesses” to the Battle of Cook’s Mills.

Subcommittee co-chairs Adrian Rittner and Andre Ceci were at Tuesday night’s Welland city council meeting to discuss ongoing plans to commemorate the last major conflict on Canadian soil during the War of 1812.

Rittner said Kaastra identified five trees in the area that were likely growing when the battle occurred, including one “right in the epicenter of the activity.”

“It would have very much been in the focal point of the area of the battle,” he added.

Rittner said the next step is to create plaques identifying each of the trees, their species and local history.

Although one of the five trees is located in a nearby cemetery, he said most of them are on private property. The subcommittee will work with property owners regarding plaques identifying the trees on their land, he added.

In his address, Rittner also said a distillery was operating in Cooks Mills about 200 years ago, and subcommittee members suspect that whoever ran that business was likely brewing beer.

For that reason, he said, the subcommittee has approached Niagara College in the hope of creating a commemorative Cook’s Mills beer to serve during upcoming bicentenary celebrations.

Ceci said work is also continuing towards the development of a commemorative peace park at the intersection of Lyon’s Creek and Doans Ridge Rds. He said construction of the park is expected to begin later this spring or next fall.

A Battle of Cook’s Mills re-enactment planned for the fall of 2014, however, did not receive the federal government funding organizers were counting on. Nevertheless, the subcommittee is still working towards finding other sources of funding for the event.

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