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Seed money found for War of 1812 celebration

Three local organizations will receive cash awards to help them observe the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, much of which was fought on the Niagara Frontier.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said that money left over from an earlier observance of the Boundary Waters Treaty that established the international border along the Niagara River and the Great Lakes would be used to jump-start a remembrance of the War of 1812.

Dyster said $5,000 grants would be awarded to the Castellani Art Museum, Old Fort Niagara and the Bi-National Economic and Tourism Alliance. The mayor said he hoped the grants, announced this week, would serve as seed money to raise more funds for an observance in the bicentennial year of 2012.

Dyster, a member of the Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council, said he hoped the Niagara County Legislature and the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. could each come up with $10,000 to support the observance.

The mayor said Canadian authorities were "way ahead" of the United States in preparing for the observance in 2012.

Canada has targeted about $19 million to help fund the observance and promote events that could benefit the tourist industry.

The Bicentennial Legacy Council is a nonprofit, cross-border organization established to commemorate the War of 1812 and celebrate the nearly 200 years of peace between Canada and the United States afterward.

Brian Merrett, a former member of the City Council in Niagara Falls, Ont., has been appointed as the new chief executive officer of the Legacy Council. Merrett also has served as chairman of the Regional Municipality of Niagara and past chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission.

He succeeds the late Vincent Del Buono, who was instrumental in several 1812-related initiatives in the Niagara Region of Canada and in Niagara and Erie counties.

Dyster praised the selection of Merrett as the new CEO "as a fine choice to work with both Canada and the United States in promoting this very historic bicentennial celebration. I am confident that the council and Brian will complement one another to build upon the earlier work of Mr. Del Buono, the late CEO of the Legacy Council."

Great Britain owned all of Canada when the War of 1812 started. Britain was occupied with fighting Napoleon's armies in Europe, and it did not want to split its forces between that war and a war in North America. However, the English fleet had seized American ships, removed their crews and forced them to serve aboard the British vessels. By the time it was over 30 months later, total casualties amounted to about 12,000 dead or wounded.

Some of the bloodiest fighting took place along the Niagara River. American troops set fire to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) and held Fort George at one time. British forces retaliated by crossing the Niagara River in December 1813, capturing Fort Niagara in a sneak attack and burning most of the buildings between Youngstown and what today is the Black Rock section of Buffalo.

e-mail: rbaldwin@buffnews.com

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