By Karen Robinet in The Courier Press
WALLACEBURG – Chatham-Kent’s heritage co-ordinator discussed the proposed Tecumseh Parkway with members of the Chatham Rotary Club last week.
Dave Benson said plans are well underway, but adjustments may have to be made if anticipated federal and/or provincial grants are not forthcoming for the project.
However, Benson said the driving tour will go forward and the plan is to have much of it in place by next summer in time for the War of 1812 bicentennial celebrations which will take place across the region over a two-year period.
He said the Tecumseh Parkway has been in the works for the past two years and that it’s “basically a driving route running along the Thames River that will connect many sites of cultural, historic, natural and commercial interest.”
Benson said many people aren’t aware of the fact that Chatham-Kent was the site of a massive chase in 1813.
Refugees trying to escape the Americans following the British defeat at the Battle of Put-In-Bay joined retreating British troops and First Nations warriors.
“It was a dramatic chase,” Benson said, “with thousands and thousands of people trying to escape the Americans.”
Apart from its key role in the War of 1812, Benson said the Tecumseh Parkway also embraces some of the area’s black history, its agricultural history, its francophone and First Nations history and also Chatham-Kent’s significant, and underappreciated, drainage history.
Benson said the idea is to expand the parkway beyond its War of 1812 role as the project develops over time.
The parkway will include a number of stops at significant sites along the route, including the Tecumseh monument near Thamesville.
This marks the site of the Battle of the Thames, in which the legendary Shawnee Chief was killed.
Benson said the battle and the fact that it put an end to Tecumseh’s First Nations Confederacy are so significant to the U.S. that a plaque commemorating the event can be found at the Capitol building in Washington.
“That event allowed a lot of American migration into traditional native lands,” he said. “We shouldn’t underestimate how important the events that happened here were and how well known south of the border.”
Benson said the Tecumseh Parkway has the potential to become a key tourist draw for Americans.
He said the battle was also “a who’s who” of famous political and military figures from both sides.
“It was a real event,” he said.
Benson said the parkway would mesh with other projects being undertaken in the region to commemorate the War of 1812, including a peace gardens project, with one proposed for the Tecumseh Monument site which will be enhanced as part of the project.
Signage and logos have been developed for the route and its various pull-offs.
The route will begin at Baptiste Creek at the far west end of the municipality and will continue to the northwest corner of Longwoods Road and Clachan Road.
Along the route are various sites, including Tecumseh Park in Chatham, where encamped British troops successfully skirmished with the advancing Americans.
Another significant site is at the corner of Communication Road and Colborne Street where the British burned and scuttled their ships that were too large to move any further along the river.
Another significant site is the Thomas McCrae House, where an American detachment surrendered and was taken prisoner.
The Fairfield Museum, which sits on the original site of Moraviantown, is also a site the parkway hopes to incorporate.
The Americans burned the village to the ground and Benson said, “It’s the last site in Chatham-Kent that pertains to that whole retreat.”
Posted March 2011