One of the Old Settlements in Ontario
The Struggles and Adventures of Those Who took Possession Over One Hundred Years Ago -
A Look at the Chief Historic Features - Recalling Names.
From Our Own Correspondent.
ADOLPHUSTOWN, Aug. 21 - The little township of Adolphustown is one of the smallest in the province of Ontario, containing less than 12,000 acres, but it is one of the most historic. Over a century ago, in the first settlement of Upper Canada, the "Fourth Town," as it was then named, occupied a very conspicuous place among the pioneer U.E. Loyalists. It was on the shores of Adolphustown, on the 16th of June, 1784, that the boats of the first band of U.E. Loyalists were haled ashore and tents were put up in which the new settlers and their families remained a short time, while the government surveyors were completing their work of surveying the lots, so that each family could at once be assigned a permanent home. This hardy band of true British patriots was under the leadership of Major Vanalstine, a knicker-bocker of New York. They left New York the year before in several small sailing vessels, escorted by a British war vessel, and coasted their way wearily around the shores of New England, of Nova Scotia, up the Gulf and River St. Lawrence, reaching the little town of Sorel, below Montreal, when winter came on and further navigation was found impracticable until the following spring. Here their small canvass tents were pitched, and a long and dreary winter was spent, during which many died of exposure and of small-pox, which broke out among the small company. Early in the spring the tents were taken down and the families and all their trappings were transferred to small boats which had been built for the purpose at Lachine, In these the St. Lawrence rapids were slowly ascended, the men toiling hard with long ropes and poles, dragging the boats with their families and few household effects up through the rapid currents, long years before any canals were even thought of. It then required six weeks of patient, daily toil to reach the shores of the Bay of Quinte from Montreal. Even as late as 1828, the regular freight tariff on a barrel of pork from the bay to Montreal was $2.50, and on a barrel of flour $1.60.
Adolphustown soon became one of the most densely populated and most prosperous townships in Upper Canada. The first parliament in this province, at Newark in 1799, made provision for the erection of four court houses in the province, and one of these was at Adolphustown, one being also, at Kingston. For many years the assizes and other courts were held alternately at Adolphustown and Kingston, and in many other respects it was a formidable rival to Kingston. No vestige of that old Adolphustown court house now stands, although it was used until some twenty-five years ago for a township hall, a general meeting place, the division courts and the like. Some of the old residents now greatly regret it was allowed to be torn away to make room for a new town hall.
It was in this township, too, on the shores of Hay Bay, where the first Methodist church in Upper Canada was built. That was commenced in 1792, though not completed until several years later. As soon as the building was well enclosed temporary seats were made of rough planks, laid on the ends of several wooden blocks, and the house was at once used as a place of worship. In it, too was held several of the first courts for the midland district, though some of the church officials strongly objected to the house of God being made "a den of thieves". Care was taken, however, to explain that the 'den' aforsesaid referred to the prisoners and not to the lawyers. The ruins of that historic old place of worship still stand in a pretty fair state of repair on the shores of the bay, though it is now thirty years or more since it was abandoned as a place of worship, a fine new brick church having long since taken its place. Many regret that a building so memorable in the history of the largest church body in Ontario should be thus allowed to fall into total neglect and decay.
Half a mile west of this stand also the ruins of the first Quaker meeting house built in Upper Canada. This was built about the first years of the present century, and it was long a well-known meeting place for various gatherings of that body. A large number of the U.E.L. pioneers were Quakers, and around the venerable house lie buried many of the first members. It, too, was abandoned many years ago, and the building is now rotting away. None of the descendants of these grand old "Friends" now remain in the ranks of that venerable body.
There stands also on the "Front" of Adolphustown the remains of an Anglican church, which was erected many years ago, and in which a large portion of the generation of inhabitants, now passed away, formerly worshipped. It, too, is dilapidated and passing away, and a very fine new stone church, "St. Alban's" has taken its place. This church has been very appropriately made a memorial church for the grand old pioneers. Along its walls are very neatly arranged memorial tablets to the memory of a large number of first settlers who lived and died in this locality. The Rev. Mr. Forneri, the present rector, though not a native of the locality, had taken great pains in the laudable matter of keeping green the memory of these noble patriotic men. To his indefatigable efforts the township is largely indebted for this fine memorial church.
Near by this church are still some of the ruins of the historic old schoolhouse in which little John A. Macdonald, and his two sisters went to school. They all lay side by side now in Cataraqui cemetery. Their parents lived fully four miles away, close beside the old Methodist church, between that and the Quaker house and they had that long trudge every day to school. All those that attended at that time have now gone to their long home but Parker Allen, Esq., now the oldest native inhabitant of Adolphustown. The writer found him at his own comfortable home, near the old schoolhouse, near where he was born and where he has spent all his days. Though now eighty-five years of age his health is good and his memory and mental faculties apparently unimpaired. Speaking of those times, he said: "I well remember the Macdonald family. John showed no signs of being a very bright boy or a ready scholar, but the sisters did. I remember our school examination, when the brightest scholars recited pieces from our school books. Margaret Macdonald recited that now familiar one beginning:
"Who sat and watched my infant head
While sleeping in my cradle bed
And tears of deep affection shed,
The intimacy that sprang up at that time was always kept up between the families. the late Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Watson, of Adolphustown, were also schoolmates at the same time. She used to tell of "Little Jack" mischievously pushing her off into the water on noon intermission at the bay shore and she gave his ears such a round boxing that he often laughingly referred to it as long as they met..
The historic old U.E.L. Burial ground lies nearly front of the old court house and the Anglican church. It is on the same lot of land where the first landing was made. It is said that while the little company were sheltered in their canvass tents a small child died and it was buried on the knoll close by. The same season one of the pioneer men was killed by the falling of a tree, which he was chopping, and he was also buried there. After that it became the burial ground for years for the whole locality. A century after the landing, June 16th, 1884, a large celebration was held there and steps were then taken to erect five grey granite monuments in memory of the landing and of the quiet sleepers. Beyond that, however, not much attention appears to be given to this, one of the most memorial burial grounds in all Canada. No proper fence encloses the ground, and cattle and horses are now allowed to roam on it without hindrance. Nearly every headstone and paling is broken down, and many of the graves of the leading men, who have become heads of numerous and influential families, cannot now be located at all. Among those buried there is Nicholas Hagerman, the first practicing lawyer in Upper Canada, the father of Christopher Hagerman, a leading spirit in the "old family compact" government in the days of Sir Francis Bondhead and afterwards one of the leading judges in our high courts. He was also grandfather of the late Mrs. J. B. Robins, the wife of our ex-lieutenant governor of Ontario, and of many wealthy people; and yet his grave cannot now even be located. He was buried there in 1819.
Major Vanalstine's grave is also unrecognizable, though hundreds of his descendants are among leading residents now. He was the leader of the Adolphustown U.E.L. band and a member of the first Upper Canada parliament, held in Newark, now Niagara. He died in 1811.
Thomas Dorland, also the head of a large and influential family, lies buried also in that "God's Acre," but none can point out his grave now. Some of his descendants have occupied his broad acres ever since. He was also a member of one of the first Upper Canada parliaments.
Willet Casey and his son, Col. Samuel Casey, both in their day representatives of the Midland district in parliament, lie here side by side with several of their families. Willet, the father, took an active part on the British side in the great American rebellion. When that was over he first left New York and settled on the shores of Lake Champlain, but finding, later on, that he was in United States territory he left all there and moved on to Adolphustown, where he lived and died at the patriarchal age of eighty-six years. He was a member of the fifth Upper Canada parliament, elected in 1811. Col. Samuel Casey, his son, was elected for the county in the stirring times of 1836, defeating Marshall Bidwell, then a leading spirit in the old reform party. He died in 1857, aged seventy-one years. He was the father of the late Mrs. Thomas Wilson, of Kingston.
The Huffnails, Allens, Watsons, Ingersolls, Allisons, Coles and many of the other leading spirits among the early pioneers of the old midland district lie buried in the same historic ground. It is much to be hoped that some movement may yet be made to better preserve and guard their last resting place.
Among the points visited by the writer were the old homes of some of these notable men. They lived in large and grand houses, for men in those days, and assumed a good deal of dignity and "style". But these grand old homes are now nearly all falling into decay and the most of them are in other hands than those of their own families. Among these is the homestead of Judge Fisher, one of the first judges of the midland district. He died in 1830, aged seventy-four years, and was buried with several of his family, on his own farm, now the well-known "Platt farm” on the shores of Hay Bay. Judge Fisher was father-in-law of the late Thomas Kirkpatrick, so well-known and respected in Kingston, and the grandfather of our present lieutenant-governor of Ontario, the Hon. George A. Kirkpatrick.
Rev. Job Deacon, the first rector of Adolphustown, who died many years ago, had also a fine residence and homestead. It and the homestead of Thomas Dorland and of the Ruttans and several others, now belong to David Allison, ex-M.P., a descendant both on his father's and mother's side, of the early pioneers. Mr. Allison now resides on the old Hagerman homestead, on which is located the U.E.L. Burial ground.
It may be as well to mention just here that one of the points of interest now in Adolphustown is the immense apple orchard of Dr. Young, just opposite Glenora and just adjoining Glen Island. It is one of the largest in all Canada. There are something like 8,000 thrifty bearing apple trees on this one farm, and this year the fruit would fill many thousand barrels. Unfortunately for the owner, however, some thousands of these trees are heavily laden with early apples, which, though large and fair, are of very little market value because of their short keeping qualities. Those later planted are of the hardy winter varieties, such as can now be shipped to England with great advantage, and have already become so popular in the English market.
Another enterprising farmer on the bay, A.C. Parks, has over 4,000 trees, most of which are heavily laden with fine fruit. Nearly all of his have been judiciously selected with a view to long keeping and profitable exporting. From his orchard alone may, no doubt, for years to come, be exported to England some thousands of barrels of valuable fruit. Our Canadian farmers are now finding that with good culture and judicious selection of qualities a very large and profitable business can be carried on in fruit growing. Canadian apple begin to stand as high in the estimation of the English market as Canadian cheese, and it need not surprise us if our apple exports across the Atlantic may amount to several million dollars a year, just as our cheese exports have grown up within the half-dozen years.