Mayoral blade is coming home

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Don Wilson shows off a 200-year-old sword that was owned by A.D. McLean, Chatham’s first mayor. A plan is in the works to return the artefact for display in Chatham-Kent’s council chambers. (Photo by Cathy Wilson)

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Reporter Initiative 

Following a somewhat circuitous journey, a unique sword that belonged to Chatham’s first mayor may be on its way home.

Don Wilson is hoping he can help make it happen.

The Windsor resident, executor of the estate of Evelyn McLean – great granddaughter of inaugural Chatham Mayor A.D. McLean – wants to honour his friend’s wishes, return the sword to its rightful place, and make it available for the public to see.

“It’s a very interesting artifact and we want it maintained in a public venue,” Wilson said in a recent telephone interview. “Evelyn would have wanted it in a public venue.”

Evelyn McLean, a well-respected Windsorite, who was keenly interested in preserving history, was the keeper of the steel and brass weapon for the McLean family. It’s unknown how it happened, but at some point, the heirloom was sold. However, the family managed to buy it back from an antique dealer and Evelyn kept it safe until her death in 2020.

Reportedly used and worn by Mayor Alexander Douglas McLean at Chatham council and official events, the intricately designed steel and brass weapon dates back to the years between 1822 and 1845, purchased from the famous Montreal retailer Gibb & Company.

Wilson can’t confirm it, but he said the sword may have been used by A.D. McLean during the Rebellions of 1837-38, when insurgents in Upper and Lower Canada led uprisings against the Crown and the status quo. Although only 19 years old at the time, Chatham’s first mayor was ranked as an officer in the army.

According to Wilson, the sword was passed onto Evelyn through her lineage. Mayor A.D. McLean had a son, also named Alexander Douglas McLean, who was an architect in Chatham. His son James, Evelyn’s father, was trained as an engineer and moved to Windsor where Evelyn was born.

Wilson said he has grown a bit frustrated trying to find a home for the sword. He first offered to donate it to Fort Malden near Amherstburg, but was turned down. Following that he approached the Chatham-Kent Museum, but was told they are not accepting any new donations until 2024.

But he said it looks like things are finally moving along with Chatham-Kent planning on accepting the sword to display in council chambers.

When contacted by The Voice about the sword, Mayor Darrin Canniff said he’s all in and he hopes the sword can soon be brought to Chatham.

“That’s the plan,” Canniff said. “It’s a pretty cool piece of Chatham’s history and we’re thrilled we can put it back in council’s chambers.”

The sword’s recently appraised value is between $3,500 to $4,500.

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