By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The Stoney Creek Historical Society showed off to the public local hero Billy Green’s drum, sword, and trousers in a new display case as it celebrated its revitalized Reference Library and Archives Jan. 19 in a former church on Highway 8.
As people crowded around the new glass frame to peer at the historical artifacts that had been stored away in Billy Green’s former house in Upper Stoney Creek, his great-great-grand-daughter Barbara Green seemed pleased at the opportunity the new location offers to showcase such vital Stoney Creekhistorical artifacts.
“I wanted people to see them,” said Green. “They were stuck in my house. They are very well preserved.”
William Green, another fifth-generation descendent of Billy Green, who was watching as people gazed at the white pants, and brown drum, said theStoney Creekcommunity needs to see these items from his famous ancestor.
“It’s quite a coup for the society to get (the drum, sword, and trousers),” he said. “(Barbara) held on to it for a long time and didn’t want to give them up.”
The Stoney Creek Historical Society officials long wished for a larger venue so it could showcase these vital local historical items to the public. The society’s archives were contained in an 8 by 10 room at the Nash Jackson House, said Greg Armstrong, SCHS president. And while the society appreciated the room that was provided, space was at a premium, he said.
Then an opportunity appeared. With the assistance of Ward 10 councillor Maria Pearson, the SCHS relocated to the formerStoney CreekCommunityChurchthe city purchased two years ago on Highway 8. The 33,000-square-foot building, located on 11 acres of land offered eight times the space for the society, said Armstrong. Also relocating to the facility was the Stoney Creek Community Food Bank and the Seniors Outreach Services from the former downtown fire hall. Pearson said eventually the location will include other recreation activities for residents, including a soccer field.
“I’m thrilled with this,” said Pearson. “This is a win-win-win for everyone. This is the perfect spot for the historical society.”
The society also received a $15,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation last March to help it property store its collection. The money went towards purchasing display frames, ultra-violet treatments for windows to protect valuable documents, new environmental controls, and office equipment.
Not only have Billy Green’s artifacts benefited from the new surroundings, but Armstrong said the society can now properly document the people, buildings, and life of the city. He said the family of Dr. Bob Kemp, who helped to get the renowned hospice operating inHamilton, recently, donated his papers to the society.
“We want to capture the essence of these extra-ordinary individuals, like Dr. Bob Kemp,” said Armstrong.
He said preserving a historical record ofStoney Creek’s people, and buildings, is vital to the memory of the community. He said over the years buildings, such as the Fox Theatre, have been torn down, but the society continues to preserve the memory of those important buildings in the public’s consciousness through drawings and photographs.
“It’s important our children know their history,” said Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller. “We need to find new ways to get that information out to the public.”
Mayor Bob Bratina said Stoney Creek has had a history of unique and colourful characters who have become essential toHamilton’s history, including the former Supreme Court Justice John Sopinka, Mary Jones Gage, a Loyalist widow and sister of the famous surveyor Augustus Jones, and his son Peter Jones, a popular minister.
“These lives are so fascinating,” Bratina told about 90 people who turned out for the open house. “You have a community that needs to be preserved, and be passionate about.”
Miller said Stoney Creekis the site of a pivotal battle in the War of 1812, which the community will be celebrating the 200th anniversary in June this year.
“This is long overdue,” he said. “Everybody should certainly be thrilled.”
Not only does the society now have the capacity to properly display important historical items, and celebrate notedStoney Creekresidents, but Armstrong said they can now do the gritty, but necessary work of recording the historical data from land records, charts, and other information documents, that are essential to historians, and students of history.
“We have the land records in the proper storage,” said Armstrong. “We are building a more comprehensive record of photographs and family records.”
The society is also steadily moving into the 21st century by creating a website so more information about its collection can be viewed by the public.
The reference library is open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m.
The Historical Society began in 1908, with the idea to buy Smith’s Knoll and erect a monument to the memory of the soldiers killed in the Battle of Stoney Creek. But soon after the memorial was installed in June, 6, 1913, the historical society continued to meet and plan anniversary events for the battle.