Milestones at Port Colborne Museum

Posted by Jamie Lee on Friday, May 11th, 2012

Luke Edwards / Niagara This Week

Celebrations all summer long


Milestones at Port Colborne Museum. From left: registrar Tami Daoust, education programmer Michelle Mason and curator Stephanie Powell Baswick are excited about the Port Colborne Museum’s exhibits this year. In addition to recognizing the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the museum also has displays on DeWitt Carter and a look through women’s fashion from 1812 to 1912. LUKE EDWARDS/STAFF PHOTO

This year marks a couple of milestone anniversaries in Port Colborne and Niagara, and the Port Colborne Marine and Heritage Museum will be celebrating those anniversaries all summer long.

The museum has opened for the year, showing off both its new face lift and some exciting exhibits. The big exhibits on display this summer will be a tribute to the role Port Colborne played during the War of 1812, a look at the man behind DeWitt Carter Public School, and a fashion trip back in time looking at Victorian fashion in the area from 1812 to 1912.

And to help kick off the museum’s season, curator Stephanie Powell Baswick said they’re inviting the public out to celebrate international museum day on May 18.

“Why not check out the local museum on International Museum Day?” she said.

The event will take place from noon to 5 p.m. and the public is welcome to check out the museum and enjoy refreshments. They will also be able to send a postcard featuring the Neff steam buggy to a loved one or friend, free of charge.

Though no major battles were fought at the Sugarloaf settlement, which later became Port Colborne, during the War of 1812, it was still an important location for a number of reasons. And the display at the museum shows its importance.

Tami Daoust, the museum’s registrar, noted the area’s importance as a major line of communication for the militia forces during the war. Being the highest point in the area, Port Colborne was used to send fire beacons to surrounding settlements to warn them of danger or otherwise communicate with them, she said.

The Sugarloaf trail was also a major connection for settlements, allowing messengers to send updates to neighbouring militias and settlements.

“It was the main line of communication,” she said.

The museum also has a travelling exhibit that will be going around to local schools and community groups that examines three groups during the war. This exhibit examines, both in general and specific individuals, soldiers that fought, women that lived in the area, and the Mennonites and Quakers that were conscientious objectors.

Visitors to the museum can also access the virtual display, which is an online collection of all the region’s War of 1812 exhibits.

A century after the War of 1812, 100 years ago this year, Dewitt Carter school opened up. The school was the first high school in Port Colborne, though at the time they were known as continuation classes.

One of the museum’s exhibits is called “The Man Behind the School” and looks at DeWitt Carter, the city’s first mayor. The Carter family was a major family at the time, though the family tree came to an end when none of his five daughters married.

In addition to being the city’s first mayor, Carter’s family was a driving force in the early days of the Welland Canal. They owned horses, and later tugboats, that pulled barges up and down the canal.

During the 19th century jeans and running shoes were not part of a lady’s wardrobe. The museum has an exhibit on women’s fashion from 1812 to 1912.

Florence Neff Young bequeathed the fashion to the museum, which includes dresses and some accessories and a pair of shoes, quite rare said education programmer Michelle Mason.

“It’s really rare to get shoes (from that time period). People usually just wore them out,” she explained.

The museum is open to the public daily from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free but residents are encouraged to become members. Membership fees cost $3 for seniors and students, $5 for individuals and $10 for families.



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