By Don Glynn
Column by Don Glynn —
The state has finally agreed to help communities commemorate the War of 1812.
That's a sudden change of mind from two years ago when former Gov. David Paterson, citing the fiscal crunch in the budget, vetoed a proposal to create the War of 1812 Commission to help market and promote the 200th anniversary of what many historians even now describe as "The Forgotten War." His successor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also had made it clear that no funds were available to commemorate that milestone.
Since Lewiston was one of the major areas for the U.S. to invade Canada (then British North America), local government officials, historical groups and tourism leaders — like their counterparts in several upstate towns — were looking for the state to help fund programs, re-enactments and other events that would undoubtedly attract visitors and boost the local economy.
After a lot of uncertainty and delay, there is some financial assistance on the way, although it's only a fraction of what the bicentennial organizers had initially hoped to secure.
As the budget process in Albany neared completion this past week, the governor and the Legislature agreed to provide $450,000 to the New York Council for the Humanities on the condition that some of that money fund War of 1812 programming, especially in the Buffalo-Niagara region, Plattsburg and Sackets Harbor, sites of major battles upstate. The planning is already under way for events at Old Fort Niagara, Youngstown, Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and at Fort Erie, in the shadow of the Peace Bridge.
On the local front, earlier in the year Niagara County awarded a $37,500 grant to Old Fort Niagara, the largest amount the legislators had given to the site. The fort association also was the recipient of generous donations from foundations and some $50,000 from individual donors.
William Ross, chairman of the county Legislature, and Clyde Burmaster, vice chairman, recently presented a $37,000 check to the Lewiston Historical Society for bicentennial-related activities. Those funds will be used for pageantry and re-enactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights and for the Tuscarora Heroes Monument.
The latter will be dedicated in honor of the Native Americans who helped some Lewiston residents flee to safety in December 1813, when the British and Canadian troops, along with their Mohawk allies, killed people and torched the village. Burmaster noted that Lee Simonson, active with the historical society, has been working diligently on the bicentennial planning.
Elsewhere, some government are going all out for this anniversary. Maryland has been eyeing a $25 million budget for its activities (After all, our national anthem was written during the Battle of Baltimore) and the Canadian government has appropriated $29 million for restoring historic sites, for re-enactments and, among other things, a war-themed iPhone app.
The U.S. declared war against Britain on June 18, 1812, and the fighting continued for nearly 36 months until the Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1815.
IN THE PARK: If you're interested in exploring superstitions and urban legends, you may want to attend a free program the regional state park commission's interpretive office is offering.
The event including ghost stories by a campfire (weather permitting) is set for April 13 at DeVeaux Woods State Park.
(As you probably guessed, that's a Friday). For information and registration, call 282-5154.
A LEGAL ISSUE: Overheard in the lower level of the Gallagher Center on the Niagara University campus: "If law school is so hard to get into, how come there's so many lawyers?" — a student talking about his plans for next fall.