Friday, July 25, 2014

At Lundy's Lane: John Fletcher (1777-1842)

Engraving from Harper's Weekly June 1866
200 years ago today, one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812 took place in present day Niagara Falls. The Battle of Lundy's Lane pitted 3500 British regulars and Canadian militia against an American army of 2500. One of the participants was 37-year-old Sgt. John Fletcher of the 1st Regiment Lincoln Militia.

Pay list
1st Lincoln Militia
Recently digitized War of 1812 pay lists from Library and Archives Canada show that John Fletcher was a sergeant in Captain George Ball's company for much of 1813 and 1814. John was a recent arrival in Canada, likely part of the wave of American emigration after the Revolutionary War. In 1796 he received patents for Lots 5 and 6, Concession 4 in Grantham Township, east of present day St. Catharines. This 200 acre block of land is now mainly vineyards, and is northwest of the Niagara District Airport.
In 1811, John purchased parts of Lots 13, 14, and 15, Broken Front and Concession 1 in Grantham, located on the shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of Walker Creek. The 1876 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Lincoln and Welland Counties shows this land occupied by John's descendants. John Fletcher's property is now a residential area and parkland to either side of Vine Street in St Catharines.

John's neighbours to the south were the Darby family headed by George Darby (1763-1812), whose son Jacob Darby (1792-1866), was also a sergeant in Capt. George Ball's company. Jacob Darby married Mary Ann Goring (1794-1870), daughter of Francis Goring who I have written about previously.

In 1829, John Fletcher sold off Lot 5 and 6, Concession 4. Lot 5 was sold to his oldest son William (1798- ?), who in turn sold it in 1834.

It is uncertain where John Fletcher was born, and when and where he married. His wife Elizabeth (1773-1856) was a young widow with a son, David Wood. John and Elizabeth's first child, William Fletcher was born in 1798. Seven more children followed.

Unlike many in the Niagara District, John's losses during the War of 1812 were minimal. He did, however, make a claim for two horses, a wagon and harness lost in September 1814 during the Siege of Fort Erie. John's stepson, David, had been attached to his father's unit as a driver:
...he was sent with his team to bring water from the River, some firing took place which frightened the horses so much that they became unmanageable & got into the current where they were drowned before any assistance could be given.
The claim was rejected since it appeared "by the evidence that the loss arose from the carelessness of the Driver."

John died in 1842 and was buried at St George's Anglican Church. His wife Elizabeth died in 1856. Their graves were among the small number that were subsequently moved to Victoria Lawn Cemetery. Unfortunately, Elizabeth's gravestone is now in two pieces, however, a photograph from 1983 shows both stones side by side at the corner of the Parish Hall.

Fletcher gravestones, St George's Anglican Church, 1983
Fletcher gravestones, St George's Anglican Church, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chequered Sheds and Thomas Perrin (1791-1870)

Mt Vernon Cemetery, Brantford, Brant, Ontario
Mount Vernon is a small community in Brant Country west of Brantford, Ontario. The village was established in 1829 by Thomas Perrin (1791-1870) along the "Military Road" built in 1810 between Brantford and London.

Thomas Perrin
Thomas Perrin was the son of Thomas Perrin (1756-1822), an American who brought his family to Upper Canada about 1804. He purchased 1000 acres in the Mount Pleasant area southwest of Brantford. In 1811 he bought the local gristmill.

During the War of 1812, the elder Perrin commanded a company of militia from the Mount Pleasant area. Perrin's company became part of the 5th Lincoln Militia and was present in a supporting role at the Battle of Lundy's Lane on 25 July 1814. It is claimed that Perrin became known as "Captain Barefoot" for his habit of drilling his men in their bare feet.

The younger Perrin served in his father's company.

Pay list
5th Lincoln Militia
On 5 Nov 1814, Perrin's Mill and several Mount Pleasant homes were burned during American Brigadier General Duncan McArthur's extended mounted raid into Upper Canada. The following day McArthur attacked and overwhelmed a force of a few  hundred militia at Malcolm's Mills (Oakland) south of Mount Pleasant. The Battle of Malcolm's Mills was the last land battle of the War of 1812 fought in Upper Canada.

Perrin’s Mill was rebuilt the following year. Thomas Perrin Sr. died in 1822 and was buried at the Mount Pleasant Pioneer Cemetery. In 1829, Thomas Perrin, Jr. sold the mill and sought his own area to settle. He laid out a village which was first called Springfield after his birthplace in Massachusetts. Locally it was known as Chequered Sheds because of the black and white chequered hitching posts. Finally it acquired the name Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon Methodist Church
Mount Vernon grew into a productive village. The first sawmill was built in 1840 and a gristmill in 1845. By 1860, a woollen mill, a carding and fulling mill, and a barrel factory had been added by Thomas Perrin and Son Company.

In 1850, the Methodists built a large wood frame church on Mill Road. The church, which in 1925 became the Mount Vernon United Church, is now a pre-school, but was once the spiritual centre of a thriving community.

Footstone for
Walter B Swayze
The adjoining cemetery predates the church by a number of years. The oldest gravestone is that of a child, Walter B. Swayze, who died in 1834 at the age of 14 months. While the gravestone is not particularly remarkable, the survival of the corresponding footstone is. Another early gravestone is that of Eliza, the young wife of Charles Nixon, who died in 1844 at the age of 22.

The cemetery is still active and currently has just over 200 gravestones. Many of the older stones have been set in concrete and some have been repaired using metal frames.

Thomas Perrin, the founder of Mount Vernon, died on 15 Jul 1870. His monument is surrounded by those of other early settlers of the area.

Eliza Nixon, 1822-1844