Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

The Stories of the Counties of Ontario

“Then upon the ground the warriors
Threw their cloaks and shirts of deer-skin,
Threw their weapons and their war-gear,
Leaped into the rushing river,
Washed the war-paint from their faces.”


IN the mother-isle red and White roses recall the memory of the rival Houses of Lancaster and York and of a long civil war. In Canada the same fair flowers were taken, on the occasion of a; recent centenary, as symbols of the Indian and Canadian peoples, and wreaths of red and white roses were laid on the monument commemorating the great chief from whom the city of Brant —or Brant’s Ford—takes its appellation.

The name of Brant is with excellent reason written upon the map of our Province, for, none the less for his Indian blood, he was one of the most notable Loyalist pioneers of Upper Canada. Born on the banks of the Ohio in 1742, Joseph Brant, or Thayandanegea, received at thirteen years of age his “baptism of fire,” when his patron, Sir William Johnson, defeated the French, under Dieskau, on the shores of Lake George. After this first taste of warfare, Brant was sent by Johnson to a school for Indian boys in Connecticut. There he learned to speak, read, and write English so well that he acted later as interpreter to a missionary, and aided in the translation of the New Testament into his native tongue. But he soon returned to “the Mohawk Castles,” for school routine was not to his taste, and the best-loved business of his maturer life was warfare. Always on the side of the British, he fought against the French in 1759; against Pontiac’s braves in 1763; for the Loyalists throughout the Revolutionary War; and against the Americans in the Indian uprising, west of the Ohio, in 1791. As a warrior, he gained a name of terror, not all deserved, for there are many stories of his mercy to old acquaintances n the midst of fierce scenes of carnage; and the evening of his days was passed in peace.

Despite his Indian blood. Brant realised that it would be for the benefit of his race to learn many of the arts and ways of civilised life, and tried to interest his people both in agriculture and books. He, himself, according to a visitor, who, in 1792, stayed at his home on the Grand River, was “well acquainted with European manners," receiving his guests “with much politeness and hospitality. . . . Tea was on the table when we came in, served in the handsomest china plate — our bed sheets, and English blankets were fine and comfortable. Two slaves attended the table.” But “Mrs. Brant appeared superbly dressed in the Indian fashion. Her blanket was made up of silk and the finest English cloth, bordered with a narrow strip of embroidered lace.’’ Afterward Brant built the fine house, already referred to, at Wellington Square (now Burlington), and there, in 1807, he died, when his wife returned to the more congenial home amongst her own people on the Grand River. Brant's last resting-place, moreover, is under the shadow of the little old "Mohawk Church ” near Brantford, built by George III for the Indians. It is famous as the oldest Anglican church in Upper Canada, and possesses a communion service of beaten silver, given by Queen Anne to the Mohawk chiefs who visited her court. One of these, by the way, is said to have been the grandfather of Brant. Brant was succeeded as Chief of the Six Nations by his youngest son, John, a well-educated gentleman, who died at a comparatively early age.

The county named after the great Mohawk is rather small, comprising only six townships. It is of a curious tripartite shape, resembling a short, thick letter Y, laid upon the convolutions of the Grand River. South Dumfries, originally half of the larger township of Dumfries, of the settlement of which some account will be given in the "story’’ of Waterloo, forms the right arm of the Y; and Burford, once part of Oxford County, makes the left arm. The tiny triangular township of Oakland was successively known as the “Gore” of Townsend and of Burford before it took a more distinctive name.

The remaining three townships were borrowed from Wentworth when Brant County was organised in 1852. Onondaga is called after that nation of the Iroquois Confederacy known to this day as the "Fire-keepers,” who, in the formal councils of the tribes, held a position resembling that of umpires. The township name, Tuscarora, comes from that of a tribe of North Carolina Indians who, early in the eighteenth century, joined the Iroquois League, which henceforth was known as the “Six” instead of the “Five” Nations, the whole of Tuscarora, as well as parts of Ouonaaga and Oneida (in Haldimand County), is included in the famous Indian Reserve; and these townships, with Brantford, South Dumfries, and others, were within the “tract of land six miles in depth on each side of the Grand River,” from its mouth to the Falls of Elora, given in 1784 to the Six Nations Loyalists. The boundaries of this grant followed the general direction, not the minor curves, of the river, and were drawn in straight lines, with angles here and there, to enclose a strip of country a hundred miles long by twelve in breadth. The Indians found this territory of 1200 square miles, or 768,000 acres, unnecessarily large, and from time to time it was reduced, by sales to private persons or concessions to Government, to its present relatively small dimensions of a little less than 44,000 acres. The plan of the original grant has ’.eft its traces in the township lines and the curious shape of Bran t County.

In early days white men sometimes squatted on the Reserve, but sixty years ago the squatters were all obliged to remove. One of the pioneers of Onondaga unfortunately happened to pitch upon a place where the Indians had a “long house,” or meeting-place, and were accustomed to “burn their dog.” Holding the spot sacred, they pulled the intruder’s hut down about his ears, and at another time beat him into insensibility. Generally, however, they were friendly to the white settlers.

About 1853 the population of the Reserve was 2330 souls, a number now nearly doubled, two-thirds of the Indians on the Reserve belonging to the Mohawk and Cayuga tribes. To-day there arc several churches and ten or eleven schools on the Reserve, besides the Mohawk Institute, where both boys and girls are trained in industrial pursuits. It is under the care of what is known as the “New England Company,” an ancient missionary society, which has worked amongst the Mohawks since 1649. The Indians on the Reserve are generally industrious and law-abiding. They live chiefly by farming and have long had a flourishing agricultural society among themselves.

Settlement began in a small way at Brantford about 1816—when there was a log hut by the river, used as a tavern—but it was not till April, 1830, that the Indians surrendered the town-plot to the Government. Its situation is in many respects advantageous. It was made a port in 1852. Now it has many flourishing industries and a population of over 28,000 In 1814 the American General, McArthur, marching from Detroit to relieve his countrymen besieged in Fort Erie, arrived at the spot to find the river high and a number of British troops (white and red) guarding the ford. A few shots were exchanged before McArthur turned aside to the township of Oakland to bu^n Malcolm’s Mills, where a few raw volunteers had gathered. The story goes that, on his approach, some of the would-be defenders of the soil fell into a panic and, seeking the most direct line of flight, splashed into the mill-pond, from which they were with difficulty rescued. However, McArthur, at any rate, went back to Detroit without accomplishing his purpose.

The town of Paris was founded in 1828 by Hiram Caprorl, an enterprising Vermonter, who bought a thousand acres of land, at “the forks of the Grand River," and built a mill, with “two run of stones,’’ for the double purpose of grinding wheat and plaster. This he sold to another good business man, named Elias Conklin. Other settlers soon came in, and in 1836 Capron called a public meeting to give a name to the village, suggesting it should be called Paris, “for shortness and because there was so much gypsum in the neighbourhood.’’ Locally, Hiram was known as “King” Capron, and, on one occasion, having an opportunity to buy a five-gallon keg of oysters—then a rare luxury—he invited every man, woman, and child in the village to an oyster supper.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus