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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Bicentennial Museum preserving Essex County’s role in the War of 1812

by Sylene Argent

Essex County was home to many significant historical moments during the War of 1812. This includes the Battle of River Canard, where British soldier James Hancock became the first casualty and British soldier John Dean became the first prisoner of war, and when Sir Isaac Brock and Chief Tecumseh met at Fort Malden to plan an attack on Fort Detroit.

For the last 13-years, members of the Maidstone & Area Historical Society have hosted the annual Essex County in the War of 1812 Encampment at the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum to help preserve those historical stories and get area residents interested in their own local history.

This year’s encampment was hosted on Saturday and Sunday. Despite the threat of rain, reenactors lined the grounds of the local Museum to set up displays, share stories of the past, and explain the tools and weaponry soldiers used.

The reenactors also demonstrated how everyday life was lived in the early 1800s by showing visitors to the site how individuals of this era removed corn from its husk, made rope, created swords and metal tools as blacksmiths, and cooked over an open flame.

Reenactors also hosted demonstrations, where they showed how soldiers would have properly loaded a black powder cannon and muskets. They also performed skirmish re-enactments.

“The War of 1812 is part of what formed Canada,” Victoria Beaulieu said, who is the Curator for the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum. “I don’t think people know the importance the area played in the development of Canada. It is important for people to realize Essex County played a huge role in the War of 1812.”

In wanting to engage youths on the importance of the War of 1812, the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum welcomed area students to its education day on Monday, directly following the encampment. “We need to keep the history alive,” Beaulieu said, adding she is always excited to hear from youths who return to the encampment and easily answer questions she asks them about things they learned the previous year.

Hosting an encampment, where youths can get a hands-on history lesson, is a way to ensure they remember what they learned through the education day.

  In addition, visitors to the Bicentennial Museum were able to peruse a timeline exhibit that outlined Native contributions to the war and displayed artifacts.   

The Essex County in the War of 1812 encampment is an annual fundraiser for the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum, which houses many items of local historical significance.

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