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Unveiling the Elizabeth Gwillim Simcoe statue

In August 2007, a folder of photographs and information was compiled by Drs. Ann and Richard Parker and sent to Mikki Nanowski. The theme was to cover scenes which would have been familiar to Elizabeth Simcoe throughout her life, such as the front door and hall interior of 'The Old Court'; the lane to St. Dubricius Church and the Grave Enclosure, plus historical details of the central Table Tomb of her Great-Grandmother, Elizabeth Steward. The intention was to help with fund raising to pay for the statue, now unveiled on Sunday 8th June, 2008.

From left to right, ?, Mikki Nanowski, Brenda Wainman Goulet (Sculptress), Statue, Town Crier.

Brenda Wainman Goulet (Sculptress)

Honorable David C. Onley (on scooter) Lt. Gov. of Ontario and Rama Mnjikaning (First Nation Representative - in purple)

Baby Francis Simcoe held by Chief Canise

Elizabeth Gwillim Simcoe Statue Unveiled in Bradford

On Sunday, June 8, 2008, a special event took place at the corner of John and Barrie Streets in Bradford West
Gwillimbury, in the Province of Ontario. The occasion was the official unveiling of a statue commemorating Elizabeth
Gwillim Simcoe (1762-1850). Already before 10am, a crowd began to gather. This included members of the Bradford West Gwillimbury Local History Association, the kilted Bradford Pipes and Drums, the South Simcoe Police Colour Guard, veterans from the Royal Canadian Legion, cadets, guides and scouts, Rotarians, St John Ambulance, the Ladies' Auxiliary, a town crier, and even a horse and a pig for petting.

At the stroke of 11, a lively parade began with Parade Marshal Frazer McConkey at the helm. The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, came down the street in his wheelchair, greeting the crowd with great warmth and pausing to chat with several groups of young people. As the dignitaries took their place on the podium, Queen's Rangers reenactors gave a rousing Vice-Regal Salute complete with loud musket fire.

Committee Chair Mikki Nanowski acted as Master of Ceremonies. Mikki had spearheaded the year long project to bring a statue of Elizabeth Gwillim Simcoe to Bradford as part of the town's sesquitennial celebrations. She introduced the the Lieutenant Governor who spoke with great enthusiasm of the remarkable woman who was Elizabeth Gwillim Simcoe, Colonial diarist, watercolourist and devoted wife and partner of John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, from 1791-1796 and first Commanding Officer of the Queen's Rangers, (1st American Regiment).

Greetings were given by Doug White, Mayor of Bradford, County Warden Tony Guergis, MP Peter Van Loan, MPP Julia Munro and local councillors, many of whom referenced growing up in Gwillimbury, Tay and Tiny townships and not appreciating the historical links until they were adults. The statue project was an effort to educate the young people as to their roots.

A lovely touch was presence of Merched Dewi- Daughters of St. David, a women's choir which sings almost exclusively in Welsh; there was a beautiful and fitting arrangement of three heartfelt songs with accompaniment by Celtic harpist Dianne Parke-Jones. Representatives from Rama Mnjikaning First Nation also gave greetings, reminiscing how Elizabeth Simcoe had welcomed Indian leaders and that to this day local Indian children are named in honour of the Simcoes.

The unveiling of the statue by the Onleys and Huntsville sculptress Brenda Wainman Goulet was followed by an Indian smoke and feather ceremony of blessing by Nina Burnham, Six Nations Elder. It was moving and appropriate given Elizabeth Simcoe's appreciation of the native leaders she had met and sketched.

The statue of Elizabeth is jaunty and adventurous and has intriguing bas relief side panels depicting scenes from the life of the Simcoes. The life size bronze figure emerges from a giant piece of Ontario granite, set in the newly named and beautifully landscaped Gwillim Parkette. An Ontario Heritage Plaque has been erected near the statue. Historian and noted author Mary Beacock Fryer was in attendance. She had double checked and ensured the accuracy of the information on the plaque prior to its casting.

Her Honour, Mrs. Ruth Ann Onley, was stunning in a lovely yellow summer suit. Her well chosen words and intrinsic grace could not help but bring to mind the presence of the beautiful and accomplished lady named Elizabeth Gwillim Simcoe.

Submitted By LCol Diane Margaret Kruger, CD
23 July 2008

Historical Plaque Inscription
Elizabeth Gwillim Simcoe

Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim was born in Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, England. Orphaned at birth, she was
raised by her grandmother, Jemina Spinckes, and subsequently married John Graves Simcoe, the first
Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. In 1791, she accompanied her husband to Upper Canada where she
traveled extensively. Elizabeth was an avid artist, cartographer and botanist, and her drawings, Setters and records of the new colony in the late 18th century continue to be a valuable resource. Governor Simcoe named the townships of West, East
and North Gwillimbury after, "My most excellent and noble wife." On this site, Elizabeth Simcoe looks upon historic Yonge
Street, planned by Simcoe arsd carved through the woods by the Queen's Rangers. Returning to England in 1796, Mrs.
Simcoe devoted her later years to charitable work. She is buried beside her husband at Wolford Chapel, Devon.
Erected by the Bradford West Gwillimbury Local History Association in 2008 with the assistance of the Ontario Heritage

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From left to right; Mikki Nanowski (Organiser and Fundraiser), Mary Beacock Fryer (Biographer of Elizabeth Simcoe), Geoffrey Fryer.