Heritage Committee working to list cemeteries, install more recognition plaques

Filed under: IN THE NEWS |

by Sylene Argent

Members of the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee recently met to coordinate planning for the remainder of 2018.

Rita Jabbour, who is the Assistant Planner with the Town of Essex and is the liaison on this Committee, explained members have been busy planning, researching, and connecting with the community to promote local heritage preservation as of late.

Jabbour said, the Heritage Committee has worked to list 15 properties on the Heritage Register, which is a mechanism instituted in the Ontario Heritage Act to identify properties that have cultural heritage value. Properties that are listed must be Council-approved for inclusion on the Municipal Heritage Register.

St. Clement Church in McGregor was one of those heritage listings, based on its cultural importance to McGregor.

The Heritage Committee, in that time, has approached owners of properties they felt had historical significance to solicit interest in the listing process. All listed properties are viewable online at essex.ca, under the Heritage Planning Register.

In February, The Heritage Committee hosted a number of events that highlighted the past in celebration of Heritage Week. It also offered a history-themed colouring book for local youth to enjoy and from which they could learn. The colouring books were a big hit, she said.

They also reached out to students in grades six through twelve to submit creative pieces, celebrating history, in the forms of poetry, essays, short stories, art, music, etc. Though this program was not as successful as hoped, Jabbour is optimistic it will be next year. The Committee will give more notice to the schools next year in hopes that it will solicit more interest.

In an effort to engage more students with their community’s past, the Heritage Committee hopes to implement heritage-themed walks with the PA day programming the Town offers through the Community Services Department.

In 2016, the Heritage Committee introduced the Heritage Plaque program. This program is expected to continue this year. This year, the Committee is hoping to place a plaque in Harrow to recognize its history before the annual Harrow Fair, and perhaps one in the Colchester Community Centre to recognize the history of the lighthouse, in advance of the fishing derby.

After reading about abandoned cemeteries in the region, the Heritage Committee has started investigating such properties within the Municipality of Essex.

“We’ve re-opened the cemetery file,” Jabbour said.

One such cemetery she said the Committee would like to see work on is the AME cemetery, located on County Road 12, which was once part of the former community of New Canaan.

Delos Rogest Davis is buried there, who was one of the first black lawyers of Canada, Jabbour said. Challenges include that is not owned by the Town, so the Committee is trying to reach out the AME church.

All together, there are around five cemeteries within the Town of Essex the Heritage Committee is looking at right now.

When a property is designated, Jabbour said, it becomes eligible for funds under our heritage grant program which can assist with rehabilitation of the cultural resources. “This really benefits private property owners like those who own St. Marks or Central Grove [Cemeteries].”

It is also hoping to help come up with an idea of what should be done to the Colchester Schoolhouse, which the Town owns, but is currently unused.

On May 31, beginning at 6 p.m. at the McGregor Community Centre, the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee will host a presentation with the Marsh Collection of Amherstburg. This group has collected articles from old copies of newspapers to compile information about Amherstburg and McGregor.

The event will begin with a tour of the recently listed St. Clement Church.

The Heritage Committee would also like to plan a presentation this fall to recognize the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.