There are 11 ordinance stones in the Old Town that are 200 years old, and they deserve to be celebrated and protected, council heard Monday.
Ted Rumble, a member of the Niagara Historical Society, was at council Monday to ask the Town to document, repair and protect the stones, which were placed as property markers around four military reserves, as ordered by John Graves Simcoe in 1796.
Rumble first discovered one of the stones on the corner of Prideaux and Simcoe Streets, and his curiosity about its history and his ensuing research led to the discovery that there were originally 36 such stones. He has only been able to find 11 remaining.
They are solid limestone, engraved and numbered, and shown on a map of 1853, he told councillors, in areas that include the former Mississagua Reserve, now the NOTL Golf course; the Garrison Reserve, which includes Fort George and the Commons, and four other lots that include Simcoe Park.
The best preserved stone, he said, is at the corner of Simcoe and Queen Street, by the Charles Inn.
The BO engraved on each stone stands for the Board of Ordinance, founded in the 1600s, Rumble explained, and the arrow on them is a symbol called a board arrow, used to designate the property of the British government.
There is another beside the bench at the entrance to Simcoe Park, which has sunk into the ground, as have some of the others, he said — a stone by Queen’s Royal Park has sunk so low it could disappear within a couple of years.
The marker at the corner of Johnson and Nassau Streets has been damaged by construction equipment, he said, showing councillors a stone with a large chunk chipped out of it. “It’s 200 years old,” he emphasized.
Rumble asked the Town to enlist its heritage and operations departments to recognize the historic significance of the stones, and celebrate them, “as a direct link between us and the very founding of our town.”
He hopes to see them documented, repaired where they are damaged, repositioned to their original height “so they can be properly appreciated,” and protected by barriers erected around them.
Two are on Parks Canada property, he said, suggesting they would need to work together, along with the Friends of Fort George, and the Niagara Historical Society.
Several councillors indicated support for Rumble’s requests, but offered differing alternatives on how to deal with them. One option was to hand the matter over to a committee that was charged with looking into the preservation of Butler’s Burial Ground, also on Parks Canada property.
Others suggested the Municipal Heritage Committee and town staff should be involved.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero said she would discuss with staff how best to handle the request for protection of the ordinance stones, and assured Rumble it would be moving forward.