The Niagara 1812 Legacy Council will be honouring Colonel James Kerby (1785-1854) with a new veteran’s plaque at his grave at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Fort Erie; the first War of 1812 veteran buried in Niagara to be honoured with this plaque.
On Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. the Legacy Council will unveil the marker at Kerby’s final resting place, where the public are invited to attend the commemorative ceremony. The 2nd Lincoln Militia, 2nd Lincoln Artillery and the Incorporated Militia of Upper Canada units will be saluting Kerby with cannon and musket-fire, along with support from the Fort Erie 1812 Bicentennial Committee, Staff at Old Fort Erie, Ridgeway and Fort Erie Legion branches and local United Empire Loyalists.
This is the first plaque to be presented in Niagara for a War of 1812 Veteran, through the federal government’s Graveside Recognition program which started earlier this year and is a part of the 1812 Commemoration Fund. Any group or person can apply for a graveside marker, by going to www.1812veterans.ca, but must provide a bio for the particular soldier and proof of their involvement in the War of 1812; a task that is harder than it seems.
Kerby was born in 1785 near Sandwich (Windsor) Ontario, and was placed in command of an artillery company, in the 2nd Lincoln Militia, and fought in the War of 1812.
Kerby served extensively throughout the War of 1812 and fought in a number of engagements, including the Battle of Frenchman’s Creek, the Battle of Fort George, the Capture of Fort Niagara, the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and the Siege of Fort Erie.
Throughout Kerby’s two years of continuous military service, he was wounded on two separate occasions and received numerous commendations for his service, including being awarded a sword valued at fifty guineas.
By 1817, Kerby had been appointed justice of the peace and by 1820, Kerby moved to Fort Erie where he purchased a gristmill. He continued to devote his time to the militia by returning to the 2nd Lincoln Militia, where he earned the rank of colonel. Kerby became the town warden of Bertie Township in 1826 and later its first postmaster.
Throughout his time in Fort Erie, Kerby served as warden of St Paul’s Anglican Church until his death. Kerby was instrumental in the establishing of the church by successfully petitioning the government to use stone from Fort Erie to construct part of the church, as well as donating a silver chalice that is still used today and can be seen on the altar of the church.
On June 20, 1854, Kerby died in Fort Erie and is buried in the cemetery of the church he was so influential in establishing. Today a memorial window and tombstone commemorate him.
The Graveside Recognition program will fill a tremendous gap in Canadian’s knowledge about the far-reaching effects of the War of 1812 on our nation. We are one of a very few nations that has not honoured its founders. The graves of veterans of the War of 1812 have never been recognized nationally and by doing so, we will bring an awareness of this time in our history to light in communities that have no other link to the War of 1812.
This project will provide a database of biographical information on thousands of veterans of the War of 1812, a database that presently does not exist, and one that will be a boon to future research by students of our history. The Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council is a bi-national not-for-profit organization established to commemorate the War of 1812 and celebrate the 200 years of peace between Canada and the United States.