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Niagara Falls Public Library

Lundy’s Lane Historical Society born out of desire to enhance battlefield site

The city of Niagara Falls is lucky to have so many highly regarded clubs and organizations that do such a great deal to improve and enhance our community. The Lundy’s Lane Historical Society is a great example of such an organization. After all, if you’ve been around for 136 years, you must be doing something right!

The Lundy’s Lane Historical Society was organized on June 23, 1887. Ironically, this was the same day in history that Laura Secord was in the midst of her courageous 32-kilometre journey in 1813. George Armstrong Bull (who would later become a canon), the newly appointed rector of All Saints Church, was concerned about the neglected state of the historic Drummond Hill Cemetery and battlegrounds and wanted to do something about it. Ten local men gathered in the reading room of the Mechanics Institute and on that day, the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society was born.

The first objective (which they called “Our Great Object”) that the Society undertook was to tidy up the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield and erect a suitable monument to commemorate the brave men who fought and died there on July 25 in 1814. Although it took some time to gather funding and government support, they were eventually successful. In front of a large crowd, the unveiling of the imposing granite obelisk took place on the anniversary of the battle in 1895. A few years later, in 1901, the society also played a crucial role in the erection of a suitable monument at Laura Secord’s grave.

The collection and preservation of historic information was another long-standing goal of the society. In 1888, Ernest Alexander Cruikshank delivered a lecture entitled “The Battle of Lundy’s Lane.” This was an important milestone in historical writing, as no one before him had attempted to give an unbiased account of the actions of both sides during the War of 1812. Many other publications followed, and the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society soon gained the reputation as a publisher of high-calibre historical writings. Many other local authors followed in the brigadier-general’s footsteps, including William Kirby, James Morden and Janet Carnochan.

For many years, the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society has observed the anniversary of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. At times, the gatherings were small and the graves were decorated accordingly. In 1914, for the 100th anniversary of the battle, the largest historical gathering in Canada took place with an estimated 10,000 people in attendance! I am pretty sure that we broke that record during the three-year 200th anniversary celebration that took place from 2012 to 2014.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society is that they are still very active today. With close to 100 current members, they hold monthly historical presentations and attendance is still free. They also hold yearly commemorative services on the anniversary of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and are also striving to keep some of their key local publications in print. Although it was written in 1891, a quotation that appeared in “The Dominion Illustrated” still rings true today: “As a society, the organization has done an extraordinary amount of work in a quiet, unassuming manner.” I am sure that the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society will continue to do so for many more years to come.

This column, written by Cathy Roy, local history librarian, was originally published in Niagara this Week on Thursday, August 24.