Famous re-enactors we have known
- This was published on Saturday, May 26 in The Toronto Star, the
newspaper of the center of the universe!
From early settler life to the War of 1812, Ontario will be alive
with history this summer
May 26, 2007 04:30 AM
STONEY CREEK, ON.Most of the time, Rick Peterson is a building
inspector with his eyes locked on the future of the city of
Burlington, but every once in a while he takes a 200-year leap back
into history to assume the role of a sergeant in the Battlefield
"As a youngster, I was always fascinated by the War of 1812,"
explains Peterson, who will don his uniform next weekend to serve as
the commanding officer at the re-enactment of the Battle of Stoney
Creek. "Then when I heard about re-enactments, I felt my calling."
Stoney Creek was the turning point in the War of 1812. As Peterson
points out, the American forces had captured Niagara-on-the-Lake just
weeks before and were pushing their way around the lake when the
British decided to make a stand with a night attack at Stoney Creek.
It was a decisive victory.
"The driving force behind what we do is to educate the public," he
says. "History classes can be fairly dry, so we put on a visual
demonstration and people remember what they see."
While interest in War of 1812 re-enactments has been growing with the
war's bicentennial just five years away, there are dozens of events
around Ontario this summer that bring to life the pages of history.
Some explore the life of Indians when Europeans first arrived;
others, the early days of the United Empire Loyalists and even the
American Civil War.
What started as a curiosity for Russell Booker six years ago has
grown to a passion that consumes his young family every summer.
"I've been taking my kids since they were born," the Port Perry
arborist says of his daughter and son, 7 and 5.
"They love it. Mom cooks over the fire and we sleep in the tent. But
we sleep in sleeping bags you can't get away from the 21st century."
With musket in hand, Booker, 43, wears the red corporal's tunic of
the British 49th Regiment, a European regiment sent over to Upper
Canada after the Napoleonic Wars. He says it is a unique and special
feeling to be sleeping on the banks of the Niagara River while
surrounded by the trappings of Canadian history.
"It's enjoyable," he says. "We live history as best we can."
Bill Brodeur's day job rivals his hobby for historical context. As co-
ordinator of marketing and media relations for Sainte-Marie Among the
Hurons, he promotes such events as the upcoming Aboriginal Festival
(June 16-17) at the historic site near Midland.
But in his off-hours, Brodeur is a volunteer on board the H.M.S.
Badger, a 30-foot replica of a British gunboat that is manned by a
crew known as the Ship's Company of Penetaguishene.
On the weekend of July 28-29, the Badger will take part in a land and
sea 1812 re-enactment called Wasaga Under Siege.
While the War of 1812 is the most popular theme for Ontario re-
enactments, even the American Civil War makes an appearance on the
list of events with a weekend of battles at the Wildwood Conservation
Area in St. Marys, near Stratford, on June 23 and 24.
Ian Culley, the leader of the 21st Mississippi Volunteer Infantry,
says most people are surprised to learn that more Canadians took part
in the Civil War south of the border more than 50,000 than fought
in the War of 1812. Of course, that war was fought primarily by
British forces with a few thousand members of local militias.
Culley, a 50-year-old father of two who lives in Kitchener, says his
interest in history was sparked when he was a boy. "As a youngster, I
liked seeing the guards at Fort Henry and places like that."
For Culley and his band of Mississippi volunteers, the summer re-
enactments are the culmination of a winter of preparation that
includes drill sessions and battle planning from January to April.
But re-enactments would be nothing without authentic costumes. Just
ask Diane Brown.
When Brown and her husband began documenting their family history,
she tracked her husband's heritage back to David Breckenridge, a
fourth great-grandfather of her husband and one of the founders of
the village of Maitland where they live today.
Breckenridge was one of the United Empire Loyalists who came from
Vermont in 1784 and settled in Maitland, a commercial hub between
Prescott and Brockville where cargo had to be transferred from ocean-
going ships to riverboats because of a nearby falls.
"But as we looked at the family history, it became important to know
more about them," she recalls. "What did he wear?
"It's the little things that make history interesting," Brown
adds. "They washed their hair once a month and took a bath in the
That curiosity about Breckenridge's attire became an epiphany for
Brown whose interest in historic garb has since turned into a
productive business that supplies costumes for those who take part in
historical re-enactments. She calls it Stitch in Time
(stitchintime@...). "They're very detail-oriented so the
sewing and materials have to be close to what it would have been back
then," she says. "The costumes were homemade so the patterns were
homemade. It's very rewarding to see it all come together."
Last summer in Adolphustown, a ferry ride east of Picton, Brown's
finest work was on display as her daughter Leanne Crain and her
granddaughter Beth, then 4, strolled about the United Empire Loyalist
Heritage Centre and Park wearing identical print dresses with
"We go to two or three historical events a year," says Crain, who
lives in Prescott. "We're kind of her models."
In the background, there were wedge tents where woodcarvers and other
craftsmen showed off their skills from another century for fascinated
onlookers. Later that June morning, a boat landed to commemorate the
first landing of the Loyalists in 1784.
This year, a Loyalist Legacy Weekend with a music theme from that era
will be held on June 16 at the Adolphustown park.
Over in Bath, a military event will be at Fairfield Gutzeit House
where there will be a re-enactment of 1812's Two Brothers Burnt, an
American ship that was set on fire, on the Canada Day weekend.
For visitors to these events, re-enactments can be a live reality
show where virtually any question of an historical nature can be
answered. Children especially find the simple lives of our early
As the historical seamstress Brown notes about the re-enactors: "They
are a special breed of people. They make history come alive."
Kevin Scanlon is an editor at the Star.
- --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "peter monahan" <petemonahan@...> wrote:
> This was published on Saturday, May 26 in The Toronto Star, the
> newspaper of the center of the universe!
Wow! The usual high-quality accuracy we expect from the fine
journalists who produce our daily newspapers... Where to begin on
commenting on this stuff? I'm salivating uncontrollably...
- --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "James Yaworsky" <yawors1@...> wrote:
>But at the end of the day, I guess all I'll do is repeat the old
> --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "peter monahan" <petemonahan@> wrote:
> > This was published on Saturday, May 26 in The Toronto Star, the
> > newspaper of the center of the universe!
> Wow! The usual high-quality accuracy we expect from the fine
> journalists who produce our daily newspapers... Where to begin on
> commenting on this stuff? I'm salivating uncontrollably...
> Jim Yaworsky
saying, "there's no such thing as bad publicity"... and the over-all
tone of the article is supportive of what we do.
- -----Original Message-----
From: WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com [mailto:WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com]On
Behalf Of peter monahan
Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 4:38 PM
Subject: [War Of 1812] Famous re-enactors we have known
Can I have your autograph next time I come up !!!! or do I need to start
cakking you 'Sir'.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]