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Lewiston monument to mark Tuscarora heroism in War of 1812

Published:April 23, 2010, 8:10 AM

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Updated: August 21, 2010, 5:52 AM

LEWISTON — The village has big ideas for marking the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

The Historical Association of Lewiston unveiled a model Thursday for a $350,000 to $400,000 monument depicting an 1813 event in which Tuscarora Indians saved the lives of an unknown number of Lewiston residents as the British and Mohawk Indians were burning the village.

“Our mission is to tell that story, lift it out of obscurity and elevate it to its proper place in American history,” said Lee Simonson, a Historical Association board member and former Niagara County legislator.

The monument, to be called “Tuscarora Heroes,” shows two Indian men leading a woman and her baby to safety. It is to be sculpted by Susan Geissler, a Youngstown artist who created the Freedom Crossing monument to the Underground Railroad on the Lewiston waterfront.

“Believe it or not, Lewiston has never officially thanked the Tuscaroras, and, for all we know, neither has the United States of America,” Simonson said. “That is about to change.”

Simonson has written a book, also called “Tuscarora Heroes,” which lists the names of 50 Tuscarora men whose courage helped save lives.

The event to be depicted in the monument occurred early on Dec. 19, 1813, after the British-Mohawk force captured Fort Niagara without firing a shot. They then headed south along Lower River Road, intent on torching Lewiston and massacring the inhabitants.

As the attack raged, a band of Tuscarora warriors charged down the Niagara Escarpment toward the village.

It was a bluff, but the Tuscaroras gave the impression there were many more warriors waiting atop the Escarpment. The British stopped attacking long enough to allow many Lewiston residents to escape along Ridge Road.

“I want to thank you people for all the honor you’re showing us,” Tuscarora Chief Leo Henry said at the news conference in the Lewiston Museum.

“I’m kind of dumbfounded and lost for words,” said Neil Patterson Sr., a descendant of one of the Tuscarora Heroes. “This is really going to happen, and we’re taken aback by it.”

Simonson said no funding is lined up for the monument, nor has the location been chosen. He said the funding plan will be similar to the one that was used for the Freedom Crossing monument, including donations and a request to the Niagara River Greenway Commission.

The 8-foot-high bronze figures are expected to rest atop a stone base, Simonson said.

Geissler said, “I have three years to do it. It’ll probably take me a year and a half.”

The goal is to unveil the monument on Dec. 19, 2013, the 200th anniversary of the attack.

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