Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Francis Goring (1755-1842)

The French Castle at Fort Niagara
During the American Revolutionary War, many colonists who remained loyal to the Great Britain fled to other parts of British North America. Loyalist refugees from the Mohawk Valley area of New York, and from the East Branch of the Upper Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, often made their way to Fort Niagara, located at the mouth of the Niagara River. It was here in 1778 that 15-year-old Lucy Secord met 23-year-old Francis Goring.

Lucy Secord was the daughter of Peter Secord, one of three brothers who settled on the East Branch of the Upper Susquehanna River in 1773, but were forced to abandon their farms during the war. The date of Lucy and her family's arrival at Fort Niagara is uncertain. It is known that Peter Secord was a member of Butler's Rangers, a Loyalist Regiment, but was discharged in 1778 because of his age. In 1780, Peter Secord became the first settler west of the Niagara River.

Francis Goring, on the other hand, was born in Westminster, England, and was baptised at St Martin in the Fields on 7 Sep 1755. His father, Abraham Goring, was a bookseller. In 1776, Francis, an indentured apprentice, left England for Quebec, arriving on the 30th of June. He was then unexpectedly sent to Fort Niagara which he reached on the 26th of August. In a letter written soon after his arrival he describes his situation:
There are no pleasures or prospects to direct the mind, being confined by the woods in one side and the water on the other. Our whole place consist of a fort and four houses and about five hundred men, therefore I leave you to judge how agreeable it must be to one who has accustomed to much pleasure.
From 1780 to 1781, Francis was briefly a partner in a trading firm at Fort Niagara. He likely married Lucy Secord during this period.

After the war, Francis received a grant of land on the west side of the Niagara River and took up farming. He tutored the children of his neighbours, and opened the first school house in the district in 1792. He was a land agent for many years, and was secretery to Robert Hamilton, a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada. Francis and Lucy raised ten children, however, Lucy sadly died during the Winter of 1801. Francis never remarried.

Francis was a highly literate person, and much of what we know about him comes from his surviving letters and journals. The journals contain records of his accounts, the crops he planted and harvested, the animals he butchered or sold, lists of his students, visits of dignitaries, but very little about his family. The 1792 marriage of Lucy's cousin David Secord is mentioned, as is the funeral of her cousin Peter. Of his own family only the births of his son Arthur and daughter Mary Ann are recorded:
Friday, August 10, 1792—My wife delivered of a Son at about half-past nine in the evening.

May 26, 1794—My wife delivered of a Daughter at about 11 o'clock at night.
The weather is frequently mentioned. A drought in the spring of 1791 resulted in a fire that caused considerable damage:
May 11, 1791—Considerable damage done in this settlement by the woods catching fire. Mrs. Guthrie's House and fence burnt and most of the fence by the river. Peter Secord's fence burnt and many others.

May 12, 1791 - A remarkable dry spring. But one day's rain between the 13th April and 12th May—29 days drought—Mostly hot days and frosty nights.—Rained 24th in the Morning.
Journal entry for Sunday, July 1, 1792
Francis's entry for Sunday, July 1, 1792 is perhaps the oldest surviving description of a tornado in Canada:
A violent hurricane happened this day about 2 & 3 o'clock in the afternoon which began at the little lake at the head of Lake Ontario which drove which such violence towards Fort Erie as left hardly a tree standing for two miles in width. The heaviest part fell among the Short Hills, between the Fifteen and Thirty Mile Creeks. In some places, for near five miles wide, there is not so much as a sapling, but what is torn up by the roots, whole trees carried a considerable distance, some fifty trees a foot and a half thick twisted like a [?] — every house disroofed and many blown down, in some places the hail was as large as a man's fist, in other places there was neither hail or rain. The woods now is rendered impassable 'til roads can be cut through, forty men were three days cutting so as to get out five families and their cattle, the whole way it went was as a whirl wind, the trees falling different ways. There is no appearance by the woods that such a storm has ever happen'd in this country before, what is very remarkable we hear of no lives being lost except those of Cattle.
Francis died in 1842 at the age of 87. He was buried at Homer Cemetery in Niagara Township, however, no grave marker remains.


  1. Thank you William! What an insight..

  2. might I ask where the interest in Francis Goring and the Secord's comes from?

    1. Lucy Secord was the niece of my ggggg-grandmother, Mary Secord, sister of Peter Secord. Mary Secord was the wife of Joshua Beebe, a soldier in Butler's Rangers.

  3. I have a record of Agustus Frederick Goring with matching parents of Francis Goring and Lucy Secord (the same in this blog) dated b. 1787. I am a decendent.

    1. Frederick Augustus Goring was the oldest son of Francis Goring and Lucy Secord. According to his gravestone in the Homer Burying Ground near St. Catharine's, Frederick Augustus Goring was born 15 Feb 1785 and died 2 Nov 1868.

  4. Do you know where i can find info on Francis' father Abraham Gorringe? Any help would be highly appreciated.

    1. See my post titled The Gorringe Family: The Ones Left Behind.

    2. I, like many are doing their Family Tree, and by chance I saw your Blog on my wife's family, Francis Goring. His father's name was Abraham from the UK.
      Francis settled on a plot of land, now in the town (township of Niagara, previously Grantham) of Niagara-on-the-Lake. His son, Frederick Augustus, had a son; John B., who in turn had a son; Frederick Augustus, who did some begatting and had a son; Charlton Cavers; who then had my Father-in-law, Frederick Stewart; who had my wife... Dale Margaret. The farm was sold just a few years ago, after 200 plus years.

      Her family is almost as long time residences as mine, but then someone had to greet Francis when he got off the boat. Mine came over prior to the UEL group, and settled in Newark them selves. Of which one of my Great plus, plus etc grandmother, got hitched to one of Brock's Officers, a Capt. Alexander Garrett, and never left. Took over 200 years but two old families finally got together. Of course my Family name is very new to the country, with my Grandfather Frederick John Moore coming over after the Boer War from his home in Topsham, UK, and his wife's father coming from Tullamore, Ireland. One RC and one Anglican..... guess that caused a lot of $!*^ to hit the fan back then.

      My wife is fairly new to this, but with MS, then breast cancer, then heart problems, followed by a stroke, and no diabetic.... it keeps her mind active.

      Hoping to read more of your blogs, ans we are VERY new to that....

      Yours truly

      Alan Moore UE

  5. I have a Caroline Goring who married Robert Lambert. I have Robert born in 1795 but no age for Caroline, and no other history on her. I am very curious as to where this leads as I am finding a lot that my family had to do with Butlers Rangers. I am also related to Cornelius Lambert and John Clement. http://www.exploringniagara.com/all_about_niagara/the_history_of_niagara/niagara_townships/niagara_townships_niagara.html

    1. Lucretia Caroline Goring was the youngest daughter of Francis Goring and Lucy Secord. She was born about 1799 and married Robert Lambert (1795-1873) in 1819. She died about 1872. There are numerous Lambert gravestones in the Homer Burial Ground including Robert's parents Cornelius Lambert (1757-1818) and Elizabeth Matthews (1767-1845).

  6. My father's name is Francis Goring Secord Jr. He passed away in 2010. His father, Francis Goring Secord Sr. was fathered by Frederick Goring Secord. I always heard Goring was a family name, but maybe this is how the Goring and the Secord are connected. Wow! Gotta be relatives!!!