LOCKPORT – The Lewiston Historical Association last week asked the Niagara County Legislature to support its request for an additional $15,000 to complete the monument dedicated to the heroism of Tuscarora Indians credited with saving the lives of settlers during the War of 1812.
Designed to be about 10 percent larger than life-size, the Tuscarora Heroes monument depicts two Indians leading a woman carrying a baby, running for their lives.
That’s what happened in Lewiston Dec. 19, 1813, during the War of 1812.
The unveiling of Youngstown sculptor Susan Geissler’s work is scheduled for Dec. 19, which would be the 200th anniversary of the event the statue commemorates.
In 2011, the Host Communities Standing Committee, which controls Niagara River Greenway funding in Niagara County, approved $300,000 for the creation of the monument.
“This $15,000 is the final piece in the puzzle,” Lee Simonson, association president and former legislator, told the Legislature’s Greenway committee last week.
Other money has come from the Key Bank and Margaret Wendt foundations, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, and the local, state and national chapter of the U.S. Daughters of the War of 1812.
Assistant County Attorney R. Thomas Burgasser said a letter support from the Town of Lewiston is needed. “They have veto power in this area,” he said of the funding.
The statue is currently being cast in bronze in Colorado, Simonson said.
On that December day in 1813, approximately 1,000 British troops crossed the Niagara River, captured Fort Niagara without firing a shot, and proceeded to burn Lewiston. About a dozen residents were killed.
There could have been a full-scale massacre if not for a small band of Tuscarora Indians, who appeared atop the Niagara Escarpment, with three men blowing horns as if to summon an attack on the British.
Simonson said this ruse stopped the British attack for five or 10 minutes, “buying enough time for Lewiston citizens to get out of harm’s way.”
The residents fled east along what is now Route 104, going as far as Church Road and Baer Road in Cambria, about nine miles away. The British pursued, but another band of Tuscaroras simulated plans for a defensive stand, and the invaders broke off the chase.
“The Tuscaroras, in one of the bravest actions in United States history, have never been thanked. They’ve never been acknowledged. They’ve never been appreciated,” Simonson said. “This is going to be a huge destination, not only for War of 1812 enthusiasts but Native Americans. This might be the only monument put up by white people to Native Americans.”
The work by Geissler, whose Freedom Crossing monument to the Underground Railroad stands on the Lewiston riverfront, is to be installed on the southwest corner of Center Street and Portage Road in Lewiston, next to Hibbard’s Custard.
The site plan, including walkways, roughly resembles a turtle. The Iroquois, including the Tuscaroras, believed that the earth was created on the back of a turtle.
“It actually has more symbolic meaning than we intended,” Simonson said.