Town unveils loyalist plaque as part of ongoing St. Stephen 150 celebrations

Sari Green/Courier A plaque celebrating the landing of the loyalists in the area that is now known as the David A. Ganong Chocolate Park was unveiled during a ceremony on Sunday, October 24. A small crowd gathered for the event, including many local dignitaries. Left to right: local historian Darren McCabe, Deputy Mayor Ghislaine Wheaton, Saint Croix MLA Kathy Bockus, and former mayor and local historian Allan Gilmor.

ST. STEPHEN – Did you know that on May 26, 1784, Captain Nehemiah Marks, the leader of the group of loyalists and soldiers called the Port Matoon Association, came ashore at St. Stephen, right where the David A. Ganong Chocolate Park is located now? Marks planted the British flat and declared this new settlement to be Morristown. This was the beginning of the community we now know today as St. Stephen.

On Sunday, Oct. 24, a ceremony was held at the David A. Ganong Chocolate Park to unveil a commemorative plaque placed in honour of the loyalist landing. On hand to speak to a small crowd were Deputy Mayor Ghislaine Wheaton, former mayor and local historian Allan Gilmor, local historian Darren McCabe, as well as Mayor Allan MacEachern and Saint Croix MLA Kathy Bockus.

“So, today, we’re commemorating the loyalist landing, which took place in 1784,” said Wheaton.

Before introducing McCabe , Wheaton also spoke about many of the events that have taken place this year in celebration of St. Stephen’s 150th anniversary. The planning for the events began with the creation of a committee in 2019, and this committee was excited to begin hosting many commemorative events to take place throughout the year. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as planned.

“As you know, this has been a very special year for St. Stephen,” said Wheaton. “We have been celebrating our 150th anniversary. Back in 2019, we decided we would make a great big celebration for the anniversary. We set up a committee toward the end of 2019. As 2020 started, we were all gung-ho, and as you know, COVID happened.”

Wheaton said the committee knew they had to keep on working on celebration plans, even if they would end up having to do things differently than they had initially hoped. On May 17, the anniversary date, there were a couple of small celebrations, including the unveiling of a mural along King Street, a celebration near the time and life sculpture along the waterfront, and the placing of a time capsule, which is to be opened in 2046.

“Usually for these celebrations we keep announcing it and trying to get people to come to it. This one, we had to limit the people. Anyway, I’m really, really happy to see the people we have here today,” Wheaton said to the small crowd who gathered at the park for the plaque unveiling.

Wheaton was very excited to speak about the commemorative booklet about the Town of St. Stephen, and couldn’t thank McCabe and Gilmore enough for all of the work they put into its creation. Wheaton said the book begins with a timeline at the bottom of the page that spans from 5,000 BC until now.

“So, you see the different events that have taken place on this land right here,” said Wheaton.

McCabe spoke about how he wanted to do something to commemorate the landing of the loyalists in St. Stephen all those years ago, and how he took the idea to the events coordinator to see if it was something the town would like to be involved with.

“Back in the late spring, I suggested the idea to the town’s event coordinator, Michelle Vest, who believed it was a fantastic idea and one that would fit well with the ongoing events celebrating the town’s 150th, so here we are,” said McCabe.

McCabe spoke about a building that had been in the location where the park sits now, which at one point had been the Salvation Army Citadel. A plaque identifying the location as the approximate location of the loyalist landing adorned the building. Following the demolition of the building, that original plaque seems to have disappeared.

“That building was torn down almost 40 years ago,” said McCabe. “It has been a mystery ever since as to the whereabouts of that plaque. This moment comes to fruition from a very conscientious effort to properly recognize this place once again. I think I even sent a letter to Santa Claus on this one.”

Gilmor shared some of the history of St. Stephen and the landing of the loyalists in this spot. He also spoke about times before the loyalist landing as well as more current history. He thanked many people for their help in gathering the information needed to put together this history of the Town of St. Stephen, and spoke about historical events that led-up to the placing of the Loyalist Landing Plaque, before handing the microphone back to Wheaton, who invited all guests to stay for refreshments following the ceremony.