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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

War of 1812 Encampment recognizes a piece of local history




by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

Canon fire, 18th century cooking, weaving, looming, and embroidery demonstrations – coupled with reenactors dress in period and military garb – were just some of the features that lured many to the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum on Saturday where the annual War of 1812 Encampment was hosted.

  Visitors to the event were enthralled to learn more about a piece of Canadian history that has roots in Essex County, as they were able to explore and investigate the encampment with those who have a fair bit of knowledge about this interesting era.

Victoria Beaulieu, Curator at the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum, spoke of the importance of hosting the War of 1812 Encampment, noting the first engagement in Canada took place at the River Canard on July 12 of that year. Many may not know that, she said, adding many associate the War of 1812 with the Niagara region.

  “And that’s what makes this encampment so special, is recognizing the local ties to the War that helped establish Canada,” she said.

This year’s encampment began with education days on Thursday and Friday, which brought in around 150 youths from around the region. These young visitors were able to learn about this historic time while onsite from the reenactors and volunteers who are happy to provide the kids with a hands-on learning experience.

On site, children were able to enjoy rope-making, learning about ships, and were able to carry water using a yoke.

“The kids had a blast,” Beaulieu said. “It was fun. The kids had a hoot. They didn’t want to leave.”

In the future, Beaulieu noted something they might try to add to the festivities may include a dress up area where the kids would be able to try on some 18th-century costumes to further enhance their hands-on learning experience onsite.

On Saturday, The War of 1812 Encampment opened to the public, and attracted good foot traffic throughout the day.

  “It’s important to learn history and it’s important for kids to learn this. History is something we learn from and hopefully will not repeat itself if you do learn from it,” she said. “History doesn’t have to be boring. Where else can you shoot a cannon and cook on the fire?”

Throughout the encampment on Saturday, Beaulieu noted there were nine stations visitors could learn from, each manned by reenactors relaying important information from the time period. In addition, event-goers were also able to sit and watch canon and musket fire demonstrations. Knowledgeable reenactors explained details about the equipment and the impact it would’ve had during the War.

Though visitors and reenactors alike enjoyed participating in the festivities over the three-days the War of 1812 Encampment was held onsite at the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum, Beaulieu noted volunteers are needed to put more hands-on deck for events like this.

  “Where else can you dress up like this,” she said, wearing pioneer garb.

Volunteers do not necessarily have to have an interest in history to get involved, she added. The Museum could use individuals who have an interest in caring for the native garden or who have experience with weaving other artistry type skills that they could pass on to others through Museum programming.

  “It’s about benefiting your community,” Beaulieu said.

Looking ahead, the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum will host a Pollinator Day on July 13. This will be an all-age event, with crafts available for the youth attendees. It will teach participants all about bees, butterflies, and gardens. In addition, a garden tour will be this summer.

  Those interested or urge to contact the Museum for more information or visit its social media page.

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