ABOUT Town BY ANDREW HIND
It is said that Major General Isaac Brock, commander-in-chief of the British forces in Upper Canada during the war of 1812, used to sit on a rock in the middle of this burial ground, plotting battles and keeping an eye on the enemy just across the Niagara River. The fabled rock is still there, just one of the many secrets that St. Mark’s Anglican Church and Cemetery in Niagara-on-the-Lake reveals to modern visitors. Besides being stunningly beautiful and soothingly tranquil, this holy ground is unusually rich in history.
The cemetery at St. Mark’s, for example, is the oldest anywhere in Ontario. Even before the cemetery was established in 1792 to serve the village of Newark (as Niagara-on-the-Lake was then called), the grounds had been used for centuries as a First Nations burial site. The earliest tombstone dates back to 1794, and memorializes Elizabeth Kerr, daughter of Molly Brant (sister of Joseph Brant and herself an influential Mohawk leader) and her mate Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs. But an even older headstone resides within the church. Therein lies an interesting story. During the construction of the church transept in 1828, a weathered old grave marker belonging to Leonard Planck was discovered. Planck, a member of Butler’s Rangers, had died
in 1782 at the military hospital that was located to the east of the church. His death was a painful one, as he lingered for months after being wounded at the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Upper Sandusky. No one knows where he was buried or where the headstone originally was placed, so it resides today within the church. Because Newark was a small community, over the next few decades only a handful of others joined Elizabeth Kerr in St. Mark’s cemetery. That all changed in the autumn of 1812, when the United States declared war on Britain and invaded her Canadian colonies. For the next four years, the Niagara frontier became a hotly contested battleground. Hundreds fell on each side, with many of those who fought under the British banner ending up, at St. Mark’s Cemetery. >>