History comes alive in Centreville

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Two centuries after being raided by Americans three times in one year, Oxford was at war again on the weekend. Or at least part of it was.

Reenactments of American attacks on Oxford on the Thames during the War of 1812 were among the highlights of Oxford at War 1814 – a free, two-day commemorative event in Centreville on Saturday and Sunday.

Occurring in April, August and November of 1814, the attacks saw the Americans loot, terrorize and burn out Oxford's early residents.

Gunfire echoed around Centreville Pond on Saturday and Sunday, near where the actual events transpired 200 years ago, as members of the Oxford Militia aimed their muskets at the invaders in defence of their homes and country.

More than 1,000 people turned out to the event by mid-day Sunday, said Karen Paton-Evans, chair of the Oxford at War 1814 committee.

“It's really been lovely, people have been so into it,” she said. “We've had a lot of compliments. It's not just that people have responded well, they've gone to our reenactors and our volunteers to let them know how special this event has been.”

Ironically, the wet weather on Saturday evening would have been something Oxford residents would've appreciated 200 years ago, said Paton-Evans.

“They might have been able to save the (local) mill (from burning) if they'd had the kind of rain storm we had.”

Between reenactors and volunteers, more than 70 people were involved in bringing history to life in Centreville over the weekend.

“We have the best volunteers,” Paton-Evans said.

The event has been in planning stages for more than 18 months.

“We've met some fantastic people who have heard about us and enlisted as volunteers,” said Paton-Evans. “It's been good to have all that talent and passion.”

She said the story of Oxford's role in the War of 1812 is a rich one.

“People really did suffer here,” she said. “The fact that (the settlers) stayed and kept building a community says a lot about Oxford's people.”

Besides the reenactments, there were tours to the last remaining witness to the time when war came to Oxford – a black walnut tree. The tree is one of three that settler George Nichols brought from Saint John, New Brunswick, and planted on his property and the only one to survive the fire when his home was torched by the Americans.

Spectators could also tour the militia encampment, go on a horse-drawn wagon ride, visit Martin's Tavern and chat with quilters and knitters and the village healer.

Children had the chance to dig for dug for the King's gold on Indian Hill.

Several vendors were also on site for the event.

The Ingersoll Cheese and Agricultural Museum and Beachville District Museum also hosted Oxford At War 1814 events, including cricket matches on the weekend.

Going Home Like a Hero: The Death of Tecumseh – a play written by Marion Ross and George Henry – was also among the events of the weekend.

While war was the main topic of discussion, love was on the minds of some with several couples taking the opportunity to renew their wedding vows with the help of Rev. Jim Evans who portrayed Rev. Enoch Burdick – an Oxford preacher in 1814.

Beachville resident Nick Donker and his wife, Nancy, were among those who took in Oxford at War 1814 and they said the event was well put together.

“It's nice to know the history of the area, living so close to it,” Nancy Donker said.





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