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

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