Every year on Nov. 11, Canadians pause in silence to remember the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve Canada during times of war and peace.
More than 2.3 million Canadians have served throughout history and more than 118,000 lives were lost in the ultimate sacrifice for their country. In Niagara, our military history begins well before the world wars, and Col. Richard Leonard played a prominent role in the War of 1812.
Leonard was born in England and served his country during the Irish Rebellion and in Egypt during the Napoleonic Wars. He made his way to Canada in 1805 and was a captain in the New Brunswick Fencibles, which later became the 104th Regiment. This was the famous regiment that travelled on snowshoes from Halifax to Quebec in March of 1813.
Leonard was soon promoted to brigade major of the 104th Regiment who were then stationed at the "Twelve" (now St. Catharines). On the evening of the Battle of Lundy's Lane, Gen. Gordon Drummond placed the 104th Regiment on the extreme right of the battle line and they held this important position bravely and tenaciously. It is also reported that Maj. Leonard, at great personal risk, stopped two British companies from firing at each other in the confusion and darkness of battle.
He also saw action during the siege of Fort Erie, where he was wounded and only 26 men in his company escaped unhurt.
After the war when his regiment was disbanded, Leonard became colonel of the First Lincoln Militia. He decided to stay in the area when he was appointed sheriff of the Niagara District in 1820. In the same year, he decided to build a home on the west side of Drummond Road, where Stamford Collegiate is now located. It was a large home, 65 feet long and 26 feet wide and served as the family home for more than 15 years.
Leonard died on Oct. 31, 1833 and was buried with full honours in a military funeral at the Drummond Hill Cemetery. The large Leonard Home was taken over by the government of Upper Canada for use as a hospital and military barracks during the Rebellion of Upper Canada in 1837 and 1838. The residence was eventually purchased by the Drummondville village council in 1856 to be used as the first grammar school in Welland County. When a new school was built in 1892, the building then served as the residence of the headmaster.
For a portion of the Second World War, the Leonard house served as the headquarters of the Stamford Red Cross. It was also home to the Stamford District Board of Education and later the Niagara Falls Board of Education before it was demolished in 1965 to make room for a major school addition.
Today, we can still be reminded of Col. Richard Leonard, a brave soldier and prominent early resident when we drive along Leonard Avenue, which was once part of his property.
Cathy Roy is the Local History Librarian.
The Niagara Falls Public Library temporarily closed our doors at all four locations on Friday, March 13th 2020 until April 5th 2020. This was our immediate response to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and align with provincial measures to support social distancing.
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