NOTL heritage committee agrees ordnance stones should be restored

The municipal heritage committee has endorsed a town program to preserve and protect ordnance boundary stones used as markers by the British military in the early 1800s to distinguish the property of four reserves in town.

A total of 37 stones once existed and 19 of them have been discovered, while 18 have yet to be found.

The committee endorsed a report from town staff highlighting steps for one stone located at King and Byron streets near Simcoe Park.

The work includes restoring, resetting and cleaning the stones, together with the installation of a fence to ensure long-term protection of the piece of local history.

There are also plans for the installation of a bronze plaque to commemorate its significance, explaining that the British Army maintained a military presence in the Town of Niagara until 1865, to guard against another American invasion from Fort Niagara.

The British Army Royal Engineers placed the 37 stones Between 1823 and 1854 around the perimeter of the four military reserves in the town of Niagara.

Military reserve property included Simcoe Park, Queen’s Royal Park, the Parks Canada property leased to Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club, and the commons.

Each stone is carved with the initials BO (Board of Ordnance) under the Broad Arrow symbol, which identifies military property of the British Government, says the staff report received and supported by the committee.

A $5,000 budget request for work on this stone at Simcoe Park was approved in 2023. In 2024, council approved an additional $7,500 for the restoration of a total of six stones, such as ones on a path at the golf course, one at Charles Inn, the corner of Queen and Dorchester streets, the corner of Nassau and Johnson streets, as well as another at Nassau and Queen streets, says town documents in the recent committee agenda.

Some stones are located on private property, others on Parks Canada property. Town staff are investigating the use of an easement or agreement to be signed with the owners to address ownership of a proposed fence and a QR code plaques that would provide historic information, as well as the future maintenance responsibility for the installations.

Rumble found his first ordnance stone shortly after he moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake. He could see a stone across the road from his house, he told town council in 2019, and when curiosity got the better of him, and he crossed the street to have a closer look. He became interested in the history of the boundary markers made from Queenston Quarry stone, did some research at the NOTL Museum and began a quest to find as many as he could. Along the way he asked the town to help preserve them.

One concern raised at the recent meeting by heritage committee member John Morley was that a chain should not be used as a barrier, fearing it this could cause a “potential safety issue” with children.

Staff said that of the 19 stones which have been discovered, 15 need restoration and 18 need a barrier.

Rumble said it’s “far more economical” to move ahead with the project to restore six stones, as the town is recommending with its current project, rather than one at a time.

While bollards and chains are a “traditional way to frame military monuments,” Rumble agreed with the points made about safety. “I think some of the concerns expressed are legitimate.”

Rumble told The Local he believes the public will support the project, considering its low cost. “I think people will be pleased the town is taking this on.”

The work is expected to begin taking place this summer.

Rumble said the restoration project is important because it “tells the story of how the town came to be the way it is today.”

The British Army is known to have used stone markers in many parts of the world, but Niagara-on-the-Lake appears to have the most still in existence, he said. “I’ve not been able to find any other town that has more than one or two.”

Some of the 18 stones that haven’t been located are known to have been removed, he said, and he expects some are below grade as well and may never be unearthed. “We’ll be lucky to find any more.”

A contractor from Sarnia is currently being considered to carry out the work, according to the report approved by the committee.

Kris Dube, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara-on-the-Lake Local