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Nov. 13, 2019 | Wednesday
Entertainment News
Niagara's History Unveiled: St. Davids in the 20th Century
Brock’s Monument in Queenston. (Supplied)

On the top of the Niagara Escarpment, on the site of the Battle of Queenston Heights from the War of 1812 stands a tall column, the final resting place of two men who were buried four times.

On Oct. 13, 1812, while leading the charge up the escarpment to fight the American Army, Major General Sir Isaac Brock was shot and killed. His Aid-de Camp, John MacDonnell was also shot and killed.

Although the battle was a success for the British Army, Canadian Militia and Native Allies, two great men were lost that day.

The first funeral for Brock and MacDonnell was a solemn affair with both bodies leaving Government House (now the parking lot behind the Courthouse) proceeding through the town of NOTL, then into Fort George where they were buried in the north-east corner of the fort. A small stone was erected honouring the two men and this area of the fort took on the nick name “Brock’s Bastion”.

It was after the war of 1812 that Upper Canadians decided to honour Brock and MacDonnell with a more prominent grave marker. From 1823 to October of 1824, on the site of the Battle of Queenston Heights, a 135 foot (41.1m) Tuscan column, designed by Francis Hall, was constructed. There was a viewing platform at the top with a single set of stairs leading up and down.

On Oct. 13, 1824 (anniversary of their deaths), Brock and MacDonnell were removed from Fort George and interred in the base of this new monument.

The Tuscan column could be seen for miles. Many visitors came to pay their respects and to also get the most spectacular view of the Niagara River flowing north into Lake Ontario. The park like setting was a natural draw for picnickers as well.

But the peace of the area was soon to be disrupted.

It was during the time of the Upper Canada Rebellion (1837) that Benjamin Lett became an ardent supporter of William Lyon Mackenzie. Although Lett had not been in the rebellion, he carried on the work of Mackenzie, with continued acts of treason against the British Crown.

Lett was known to have murdered one captain of a ship, as well as to have burned, bombed and stolen other ships. However the one act he is most famous for is the bombing of Brock’s monument.

On April 17, 1840 a bomb was detonated in the stair well of Brock’s monument, severely damaging the monument. It was determined that Lett was behind this bombing.

The people of Upper Canada were furious that this monument to Brock and MacDonnell had been destroyed. Discussions were held on whether to repair the monument or to build a new one. A new monument was approved.

Brock and MacDonnell’s remains were moved once again, this time to the Hamilton Family Burial Ground which is located at Dee Road and Niagara Parkway (in Queenston). The damaged tower was torn down and a new, grander monument was built.

In 1852, the design submitted by William Thomas was accepted. Thomas is also known for several other very prominent buildings throughout Ontario. His designs include St. Paul’s Church in London Ontario, St. Michael’s Cathedral and Bishops Palace in Toronto, the St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto, the Don Jail in Toronto, the Courthouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Grace United Church in NOTL. Thomas’s crowning achievement was his design for Brock’s Monument.

From 1853 to 1859 work was done on this new monument using limestone quarried from the local Queenston Quarry.

The new monument stands at 185 feet (56 m) in height, fifty feet taller than the first monument. At the top is a 16 foot (4.8m) statue of Brock looking out over the Niagara River. There is a circular staircase made of 235 stone blocks which lead up to an outdoor observation deck. At the base of the structure, sealed by granite slabs is the crypt. On its completion, Brock’s monument was the second tallest freestanding structure in the world and is the third oldest war memorial in Canada.

One final journey for Brock and MacDonnell, when on October 13, 1859, their remains, in new caskets, were interred in the crypt at the base of the new monument. It is said that over 8,000 people attended the ceremony.

Not to be left in peace, in 1929, lightning struck the statue of Brock, sending pieces crashing to the ground.

In 2003 an engineering inspection revealed some major structural problems.

The monument was closed to the public while repairs were made and reopened in May of 2009.

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To learn more about the topic of this story you can visit the Niagara Historical Society & Museum website at, www.niagarahistorical.museum, or visit the museum for yourself.

The Niagara Historical Museum is located at 43 Castlereagh St. in Old Town, in Memorial Hall. Visit, or give them a call at 905-468-3912.

Ascenzo is a regular Niagara Now contributor. Her full profile can be found here.

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