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Monday, April 13, 2015

Field Trip to the Dundas Museum and Archives

Yesterday Doug and I went on a research visit to the Dundas Museum and Archives in Dundas, Ontario, where both the Elliot and Oliphant families originally settled when they came to Canada. We found some great material, although not the great material I was originally hoping to find.  One day wasn't quite enough, so we plan on making a return visit sometime this summer.

To give some context:  Robert and Ann Elliot brought their children, including our ancestor William Elliot, to Ontario in 1827 and they settled in Dundas. Robert came to Canada with his brother Josiah but they didn't settle in the same place;  Josiah became a merchant in Beachville, Ontario.  Robert was a currier or leatherworker in England, but his occupation in Canada is unknown.  William was 15 when the family arrived;  in his twenties he farmed briefly, then worked in the Lesslie pharmacy and eventually took it over from the Lesslie family with a partner.  William moved to Toronto in 1854 to broaden his business horizons, and his father Robert died that same year.  Robert's wife Anne's death date is unknown.

David Oliphant, meanwhile, arrived in Canada in 1822 with one son, and his wife and three other children joined him within a few years.  He was a shoemaker in Scotland and lived as a shoemaker in Dundas as well, although family letters refer to David and Sophia living on a family farm.  Their  children were Alexander, Mary (our ancestress, who married William Elliot), David Jr. and William.   David died in Dundas in 1841.  He was an enthusiastic member of the Disciples of Christ church, and his son David Jr. was educated at Bethany College, a Christian college in Virginia,  and went on to become editor of several Disciple newspapers.

I was primarily hoping to find out more about the lives of Robert and Ann Elliot in Canada, and unfortunately I didn't find anything.  However, we did find lots of references to William Elliot and to the Oliphant family, primarily in the Lesslie family fonds, and we did find some scattered information about both families in other sources.

From the Woodhouse Family History collection (a collection of index cards giving point form information on various Dundas families):  Maria Elliot (Robert and Anne's daughter) married 1/1/1828 to David Yates of Dundas, also Louisa Elliot (another daughter of Robert and Ann) married 1/1/1828 (the same day!) to Thomas Hilton of Dundas.

We found a copy of the Dundas Centennial 1847-1947 Souvenir Historial Program, "Produced under the direction of the Dundas Centennial Committee by the Star Printing Company of Dundas", which on page 45 had something to say about David Oliphant Sr.

"David Oliphant, one of the earliest shoemakers in 1819, had a son Alexander who was very prominent in the Union Sabbath School in 1829.  David is reputed to have sheltered his relative, Samuel Lount, after the 1837 rebellion.  Maybe if Lount had remained hidden in Dundas he might never have been captured or executed."   

I don't believe that Lount was a relative of the Oliphant family, but various sources do state that it was Oliphant who hid Lount as he was trying to escape Upper Canada.

The more I learn about the Lesslie family, the more I feel that they were touchstones of a sort, bringing together and influencing various families from which we descend.  It's almost certain that our family story would not have taken the shape that it does without the influence of the Lesslies on the business, religious and social lives of the Scotts, Elliots and Oliphants.  The Lesslies were members of the Disciples of Christ church and successful businessmen in Dundas, Toronto and Kingston.  The Lesslie family was originally from Dundee, Scotland.  Here is a biographical sketch of the family from the Dundas Archives:

 Edward Lesslie was born in May 1765. He married Grace (Grizel) Watson on August 13, 1798 in Dundee. Although his father was a sailor, Edward Lesslie established himself as a bookseller and printers ink maker in Dundee. He is described in the Scottish Book Trade Index as a leader of the advanced radicals who narrowly escaped prosecution for 1819 he decided to emigrate to Canada with his family. He sent his son John in 1820 with a supply of goods to open a store. Upon arrival, John chose York (Toronto) and, together with his travelling companion, William Lyon Mackenzie, established a business in the book and drug trade. They later opened a store in Dundas, which, in addition to drugs and books, dealt in a variety of other merchandise. In 1822, ill health prevented the emigration of the remaining family so Edward sent his sons James and Charles, and daughter Grace on a chartered brig loaded with supplies for the stores. James ended up in Kingston, operating a store there for the next four years. In the meantime, Edward and Grace and their remaining children finally arrived in Upper Canada and settled in Dundas where they operated the store now named Lesslie and Sons. The Lesslie family played an important role in early life in Dundas. They operated a thriving business and owned considerable land in the area. Edward Lesslie was instrumental in establishing the Free Church in Dundas, which offered meeting space to a variety of denominations. John Lesslie would continue to manage the store in Dundas, become the postmaster, and purchase a brewery. He and three of his sisters remained in Dundas. Edward Lesslie died in 1828 and management of the business fell to the sons, John, James, Charles, and William. John remained in charge of the Dundas branch while James operated the York store with the help of their youngest brother, Joseph. William operated the store in Kingston. Charles emigrated to Davenport, Iowa, disillusioned after the rebellion of 1837. He would remain there for the rest of his life. Joseph Lesslie eventually became postmaster of Toronto. 

Here are some of the connections I already knew.  James Lesslie was responsible for the Scott family coming to Canada, as Thomas Chalmers Scott had originally intended to immigrate to America.  This is what Scott's obituary in the Toronto Globe Newspaper has to say about Scott's change of mind:

Upon his arrival at New York [in 1842], however, he met with Mr. James Lesslie, of this city, who persuaded him to come to Toronto, and took him into his employment.  For several years he continued his connection with the Examiner, of which Mr. Lesslie was the editor and publisher....

The connection of the Lesslies to the Elliots is obvious;  William Elliot received his pharmaceutical training in the Lesslie pharmacy in Dundas, and eventually took over the Lesslie family businesses in Dundas before he moved to Toronto.  William Elliot was also a member of the Disciples Church, and probably worshipped with the Lesslie family in Dundas.   Since the Lesslies were close to William Lyon MacKenzie,  I think we can assume that William  Elliot got to know MacKenzie through his connection with the Lesslies, even though MacKenzie had relocated to York (Toronto) by the time the Elliot family landed in Dundas.  MacKenzie is a huge figure in Ontario and Toronto history and I have  a lot of questions about his political  influence on William Elliot and other members of our family, which I will save for another post.  

The sources we examined in the Lesslie family fonds were a scrapbook and a diary kept by John Lesslie.  The scrapbook consisted of unidentified newspaper clippings, primarily about politics, and recipes for pharmaceutical medicines (most of these were handwritten and not from published sources).    The recipes were rather fascinating;  there was a recipe for a medicine to cure smallpox, for example, as well as a cure for cancer.   From a modern perspective, not many of the recipes looked particularly promising.  It gave me a lot of insight into why William and his son Robert Watt became so invested in regulating their profession and in the education and training of pharmacists in college settings, where subjects like chemistry were taught.  Although advertisements for various remedies that the Elliot pharmacy sold in Dundas were sweepingly optimistic, William must have noticed that in actual practice not all of his medicines were that effective.

John Lesslie's diary was very business-like, with short factual entries about goings-on in the business and in his religious and/social spheres. He also recorded the weather.  William Elliot's name came up frequently, which was not surprising since he worked for John.  William seems to have travelled for the business quite a bit throughout Ontario and the diary records his comings and goings.  MacKenzie's name shows up fairly frequently as well, and surprisingly, so does David Oliphant Jr.'s.  John records David's going to Bethany College in Virginia and his coming home, for example.  There appears to be a close relationship between John and David Jr., who will eventually become William's brother-in -law when William marries David's sister  Mary Oliphant.   Thomas Chalmers Scott's various visits to Dundas, presumably to preach, were also mentioned. 

A page from John Lesslie's diary, 1843.  Thomas C. Scott and Wm. Elliot both mentioned.

Friday, April 10, 2015

William Davis and Family in "Interesting Sketch of First Pioneers to Arrive in Norfolk, Oxford and Elgin Counties"

The above sketch was written by W.B Waterbury, originally published in The Southern Counties Journal, St. Thomas, 1899, and reprinted in the Aylmer Express, December 7, 1933.  I found it on the Elgin OGS website.  Here's a little adventure that happened to our ancestor Deacon William Davis:

"During the progress of the war of 1812, McArthur’s army made a raid through this county, and halted at the home of Deacon William Davis, where they secured his red coat and a large quantity of maple sugar which he had in barrels. He was conducted to the farm of Deacon William Teeple adjoining, a half-mile east of Orwell... 
Deacon Teeple was divested of his red coat and while this was being done he retained a belt which he wore around him, in which he carried a sheath knife, etc. An Indian noticing this became possessed of envy and desired to see it and try it on. He refused to return in and the Deacon who was slight, but wiry, dashed the Indian to the ground and gave him a severe choking. An officer standing by ordered the Deacon to stop, but made the Indian return the belt. Deacon Teeple and Deacon Davis were taken prisoners, later being allowed to go on parole." 

The next adventure involves Andrus Davis, (son of Richard Davis and Mabel Mann, brother of William Davis) and his wife Mary Teeple. Note that Andrus is described as a "staunch loyalist".

"Pellum Cartwright, (originally spelled Pelham) thirteenth and youngest child of Peter Teeple, was born 28th November 1809, and was a participator in the Upper Canadian Rebellion in 1837, or the Patriot War, as it was then often called. He was the leader of a band of young Canadians opposed to the long mis-government of the county by an irresponsible body of men known as the Family Compact, who ignored the statutes passed by the parliament representatives of the people, and frustrated their will; and when it was determined to fight, he was chosen a captain, but on the flight to the United States of the two principle leaders, William Lyon MacKenzie and Hon. John Rolph, all those who had been leaders under them were compelled to follow them into exile or forfeit their lives.
Pellum, on attempting to flee, fell in with a party of soldiers who made him their prisoner. The story of his capture and escape is thus told by his nephew, Luke, son of Simon Peter Teeple, who heard it from his own lips:

“The price set upon his head by the Canadian Government was $600. He was determined to leave Canada and was then on his way to the western frontier line. He was riding a horse and had reached a point some seven or eight miles westerly from London, Ont., on the road leading from that city along the southern side of the River Thames. His brother, Edward Manning Teeple, lived on the road some two or three miles from London, and he was coming from his house. On turning a bend in the road, he came in full view of a sergeant and six men advancing towards him. He could neither retreat or conceal himself, so he rode steadily on and met them. The sergeant halted him and piled him with questions, and as his answers were unsatisfactory, he was taken in charge, faced about and obliged to go with them towards London. They dismounted him and the sergeant rode the house. Plodding along for some time, darkness overtook them before they reached the city. They stopped at a tavern, and the soldiers ordered a meal, which was at once prepared. They then asked him to come and eat with them, but he assured them he was not hungry, and they left their guns in the bar room and went into the next room and sat down to eat.

He also went with them into the same room and asked the waitress for a drink of water. He was on the side of the table next to the outside, and as the girl gave him the drink of water, she flung this door wide open, and in an instant he was through it and made for the woods. The men sprang for their arms and came rushing out, firing after him. He could hear the orders given to surround the cluster of tavern buildings, and saw lights moving, but he made good his escape into the adjoining forest. There was snow on the ground and running was difficult, yet for fear of being overtaken, he kept at it until almost exhausted. Taking what he supposed to be a course between the public road and the river, he at length came upon the latter, but he did not know whether above or below his starting point. Going down to the water, which was frozen over, he followed along until he espied an airhole; into this he threw a stick to see which way the water ran; then going down the stream he finally came upon a house. By this time he was excessively fatigued and very very hungry from his long fast. He went up and knocked at the door, and a man appeared and began talking with him. He had no means of ascertaining whether this man was a Patriot or not, so he feigned himself an urgent dispatch bearer of important official papers which must be delivered in London with utmost haste. He said he had given out in travelling and insisted upon the man’s acceptance and conveyance to London forthwith, as he was utterly unable to go on himself. The man demurrred, so after an earnest discussion, Pellum said, “Well, if I could rest a few minutes and get some food to eat, I might possibly try to go on”. He then heard the man’s wife getting up, and she vehemently protested that her husband could not go, but said she would get Pellum something to eat at once, which she did. While eating he became satisfied they were Patriots, and revealed his true position.

The man then said they could not keep him there, but that they would see that he was hidden and fed at a neighbour’s over the hill. Pellum went with him to the neighbour’s and was concealed there for a time. If there was any likelihood of capture one of the children at the first house was to come over the hill and notify him. He was alarmed one day by seeing one of the children come running over the hill, but it proved to be only a neighbourly call. After a few days had passed and he thought search for him had ceased, he worked his way through the woods at night up to his brother Edward’s, and soon after went in the same way to the home of his sister, Mary, wife of Andrus Davis, of Orwell,Ont., on Talbot Street. Several weeks were spent in this hazardous trip.

Mary and Andrus Davis were reputed to be staunch Loyalists, and there is no account of any attempt to search for him at their place. There he was supplied with food for a short time, but the danger of recapture was so great that he did not remain all the time in the house but kept concealed sometimes in the woods. Still fearing arrest and execution, as some of his compatriots had thus suffered, his sister, Mary Davis, nephew, James Teeple, and sister-in-law Jemima Teeple, conducted him secretly in the dead of winter by sleigh from Orwell, to the Niagara frontier, where his relative Rev. Samuel Rose, of Lundy’s Lane, though a political opponent of the Patriots, espoused his cause and under the pretense of being the employer of Pellum, sent him on an errand to friends across the Niagara, and at once hired a man to row him across a point below the Falls.
He, Pellum, grew very intense when relating this part of the narrative and declared that had any one ordered the boatman back to the Canadian shore he would have leaped overboard and attempted to swim to the American side. But no difficulty arose; he was safely landed in New York State and waving a parting adieu to his relatives, who sat in their conveyance and witnessed his crossing, he began his career in the United States.

Through the Patriot War, thus came to so inglorious an end, it is now generally admitted in Canada, that had it not been for that uprising by which the attention of the British Government was called to the untold grievances of the Canadians and a just form of responsible Government quickly conceded, it would in all probability have been many years before the people of Canada would have obtained that full measure of Home Rule which they henceforth enjoyed....

His father and mother were now so old they were desirous he should come home to Canada, and care for them the rest of their days, but although he had already paid them one secret visit he would not do this until a special amnesty was sent him by the Canadian government for his part in the Patriot War. This was readily obtained by the then parliamentary member for Oxford, and forwarded to him, and he journeyed to the old home in Oxford county, accompanied by his wife, son Charles, and Luke (son of Simon H. Teeple), who lived with them, in a two-horse buggy, there being no railroads, and remained there till the two old pioneers were laid away in the church yard. Later he returned to Illinois, and settled at Marengo, where he died on the 12th of December 1878..."

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Will of Richard Davis of Charleston, Montgomery County, New York

Richard Davis was one of the sons of Loyalist Thadeus Davis, who moved to Niagara towards the end of his life with many of his adult children.  I  believe that Richard moved to Ontario briefly and then returned to the United States, where he lived in Charleston, Montgomery County, NY.  He was the husband of Mabel Mann and the father of Deacon William Davis, one of our Baptist ancestors who moved to the Aylmer area as a young man.  Here is his will, which names his wife Mabel and all of his children then living.  It was written January 2, 1823 and registered June 2, 1823.  Richard was 61 years old at the time of his death.

  • he identifies himself as being of Charleston, Montgomery, NY and says that he is "weak in body but of sound and perfect mind and memory"
  • he leaves  his "beloved wife Mabel Davis" all his personal property and the interest and profit of it "to be under her control as long as she remains my widow for the bringing up and educating of my son Henry Davis and my son Joel Davis and my son Hosea Davis"
  • he gives two hundred dollars each to his younger sons Lyman, Henry, Joel and Hosea, with the caveat that if his estate is not sufficient to cover the amount they are to get the equivalent in real estate after the death of his wife
  • he leaves to his children William (whom he names as his eldest son), Joseph, Simeon, Andrew, David, Mary, Sally, Lyman, Hannah, Henry, Joel and Hosea all his property to be divided equally between them
  • his daughter Sally's share he gives to his sons William, David and Lyman to control,  and instructs them to give her the interest from it and upon her death to give the principal from the property to her children.  Why is her share treated differently than the others?  
  • he names William, David and Lyman as executors of the will
  • witnesses are Francis Carey, Wright Davis (Richard's brother), and (Wesn?)  Gage. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The William Norton Family in the New York Tax Assessment Rolls

I'm trying to create a timeline for William Norton, father of Louisa Norton, who was the wife of Adoniram Davis.  I'm finding it a little tricky.  William has many siblings, as did his father Josiah Norton, and many of the names are passed down through the two generations.  Also, it turns out that the name Norton is common in New York State.  The records I usually rely upon to trace people--birth, marriage and death records--are pretty sparse around this time, so I'm looking around at other records which might fill in some of the blanks about  his life.  William was born in 1795, and he marries Amaryllis Andrews in 1816.  (He fought in the War of 1812 in 1812).   By 1820 he and his family had moved to Granville, Washington County, New York, where William and his wife Amaryllis lived for the rest of their lives.   However, I've found a few tax records which suggest that William and some of his family were located in Canaan, Columbia County, New York from 1799 to at least 1803 (the records don't go any further).  William's brother Elisha Norton's obituary states that he was born in Canaan, NY in 1791,  and his father Josiah Norton shows up as a head of a household in Canaan in the 1790 census, so the family can definitely be placed there.  What I'm interested to know is whether the William Norton on these records is our ancestor William, who would  have been only 14 years old in 1799, or is he a different member of the same family, or is he someone totally unrelated?  Other Norton names which appear are in the Canaan tax records are Thode Norton, Theodore Norton (probably the same person), Andrew Norton, James Norton, and a second William Norton, one with the initial W.  You''ll notice Josiah's name does not come up at all.

Interestingly, there is a David Flint living in Canaan in 1790 and in the 1800s.  Remember William Davis's son David Flint Davis?  I'm wondering if there is a family connection, but right now I can't figure it out.

The history of Canaan is described on,  I was interested in finding out which Church the family attended--Louisa and Adoniram were Baptists, and I wanted to see how far back in the family Baptist membership went.  The Baptist Church in Canaan was begun in 1776, according to the information here, but none of the members are listed.  However, in the Canaan Methodist Episcopal Church, which begun in 1804, a few Nortons (Truman Norton and Jeremiah Norton) are named as members, but I don't believe they are immediate family.

Database:  New York, Tax Assessment Rolls of Real and Personal Estates, 1799-1804, Ancestry.

1799.  Canaan, Columbia, New York.  William Norton, Thode Norton, William W. Norton.
Columns, from left:  Name of Possessors, Description of Real Estate, Value of Real Estate, Value of Personal Estate, Tax to be Paid Thereon.

Canaan, Columbia, 1800:

Canaan, Columbia, 1801:

Canaan, Columbia, 1802:

Canaan, Columbia, 1803: