William Canniff, 1869
pp. 448-458, Chapter L

Settlement of Adolphustown

The Fourth Township westward from Fort Frontenac, was, some time after its survey and settlement, named Adolphustown, after Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the tenth son of King George III. The Township contains about 11,459 acres, and was surveyed in 1784, By Surveyor-General Holland.

In the year 1783, a party of Loyalists sailed from the port of New York. They were under the command of Capt. VanAlstine, with a fleet of seven sail, and protected by the Brig "Hope," of forty guns. Some of this band had served in the army, in an irregular way, more had been in New York as refugees. VanAlstine although commissioned to lead this company, it would seem, had not been in the service - was not a military man, but a prominent Loyalist of the Knickerbockers. But these refugees, in setting out for the unknown wilderness, were provided with camp tents and provision, to be continued for three years, and with such implements as were given to the disbanded soldiers, as well as a batteau to every four families, after arriving at their place of destination. The company were mostly from the Counties of Rockland, Orange and Ulster, on the east side of the Hudson, and Westchester, Duchess, and Columbia on the west.

They sailed from New York on the 8th Sept. 1783, and arrived at Quebec, 8th Oct. Many were undecided whether to remain in the Lower Provinces, or go on to Canada. The events of this voyage; the departure from old homes, to penetrate the unknown north, are even yet held in remembrance by their descendants. Thus, it is told, that after leaving New York a few days, shark was observed following the vessel, which created no little consternation. It continued to follow for many days, until a child had died and been consigned to the deep, after which it was no longer seen. The Government rations with which they were supplied, consisted, as the story has been told the writer, of "pork and peas for breakfast; peas and pork for dinner; and for supper, one or the other." The party proceeded from Quebec from Quebec thence to Sorel, where they spent the winter. They inhabited their linen tents, which afforded but little protection from the intense cold. While staying there, it was determined to grant them a township on the Bay of Quinte. The first township had been granted to Capt. Grass, the second and third were to be possessed by Johnson's Second Battalion; so VanAlstine's corps were to have the next township. Surveyor Holland was engaged in completing the survey, and even then, had his tent pitched on the shore of the fourth township. The party then left Sorel 21st May, 1784, in a brigade of batteaux, and reached the fourth township on 16th June. The names of some of those who composed this party, were: VanAlstine, Ruttan, Huycks, Velleau, Maybee, Coles, Sherman, Ballis, three families of Petersons, Loyce, VanSkiver, Philip and Thomas Dorland, Cornelius VanHorn, VanDusen, Hagerman, father of the late Judge Hagerman, Angel Huff, Richard Beagle, John and Stephen Roblin, Fitzgerald, Michael Stout, Capt. Joseph Allan, Hover, Owen Ferguson, John Baker, Wm. Baker, German, Geo. Rutter, James Noxen, John Casey, Benj. Clapp, Geo. Rutledge, David Barker, Owen Roblin.

It is a curious fact, fully attested by the Allison's, the Hover's and others, that as the batteaux slowly wended their way along the shore, having passed the mark which indicated the boundary of the Third Township, several of the passengers, gazing upon the woods expressed a wish to possess certain places, according to the fancy of each; and, strangely enough, the Cole's, the Hover's, the Allison's, the Ruttan's, and others, did actually come respectively into possession, by lot, in accordance with their previously expressed wishes.

The company had reached the land whereon they were to work out their future existence. The writer has driven upon the ice along the Bay, following, it must have been, almost the way taken by this party, as they landed. They passed along the present Adolphustown wharf, westward nearly half a mile, and rounded a point known as Hagerman's Point. Here a small, but deep stream empties itself, having coursed along a small valley, with sloping sides, in a westerly direction. They ascended this creek for nearly a quarter of a mile; and proceeded to land upon its south side. Between the creek and the bay is a pleasant eminence; it was upon its slopes the settlers, under VanAlstine, pitched their tents. The boats were hauled up; and among the trees, the white tents were duly ranged. Thus housed, and thus far removed from the busy haunts of men, this community continued to live for many days. Steps were taken at an early day to draw lots for land. As so much of the township was washed by the waters of the bay, there was not the same anxiety among the settlers with respect to the decision of the ballot. Every one drew his number, with one exception, and this was a notable one, as indicating the noble feeling of brotherhood which lived in the breasts of the noble band of refugees. The exception was not in favor of the person in command, or a particular friend. Mr. Cole had expressed a liking for the first lot, now known as Cole's point, and he, having a large family and consequently more anxious to get on his land, and get settled for the winter, and the land ready for the next summer, was immediately, by universal consent, put in possession of the lot; and he even that year raised some potatoes. In addition to the 200 acres granted to each of the company, there was a town plot, consisting of 300 acres, regularly laid out into town lots of one acre each, and one of these was granted to each of the settlers. This plot thus surveyed, it was believed in time would become the site of a town.


While they were yet living in their tents one of their number died, a child it is said by some. The dead was buried close by, under a tree. When others came to die, they also were buried here, and thus was formed the "U.E. Loyalist burying ground."

The second person buried in this place, while it was yet a woods, was Casper Hover. Shortlived was his career as a pioneer. But a few months had passed, and he had barely taken possession of his land when, one day engaged in clearing off the land, he was struck by a falling limb and killed. A blow so sudden was felt not alone by his family, but by all the settlers. Imagination cannot call up the heart-stirring scene of this burial in the woods by his comrades. As there was yet no roads nor path, not unlikely the body was conveyed by batteau from Hover's farm to the burying ground. The coffin must have been made of rough green boards, split out of logs, or perhaps made with a whip-saw. There was no minister to discharge any rights belonging to the dead, or improve the events for the spiritual welfare of the living. Captain Hover had for his wife Barbara Monk, a relative of Barbara Heck, well known for her connection with early Methodism in the new world. There remains now in the possession Joseph Allison, of Adolphustown, whose wife was a Hover, a pewter platter which belonged to Barbara Monk. It is a relic of no ordinary interest. Barbara Monk was a descendant of the Palatines, and this platter was carried by her ancestors when they were forced to leave the Palatinate. They took it with to Ireland, thence to New York, and finally it was brought by Barbara to Adolphustown, with VanAlstine's company. The writer had the satisfaction of examining this relic of former days. It is a round dish, of solid metal, 16 inches broad, and weighing over five pounds. It bears no signs of wearing out. This article of household usefulness is, or was in the past, regarded as a township one, and famous for its associations with innumerable pot pies. For many a year when there was a bee, or a raising, or a wedding, the pewter platter was engaged to do service. The stores of provisions for the settlers in this township, were placed under the care of VanAlstine himself; but it would appear, from the statements of some, that Philip Dorland gave his assistance, and to some extent, was responsible, acting under the instructions of a committee, for the distribution to families. Also, one Emery, was connected with this department.

It would seem that Surveyor General Holland, who surveyed the fourth town, and Deputy Surveyor Collins, who surveyed third town, had some trouble with respect to "Fredericksburgh additional." The number of lots composing the third township at first, was not enough to supply the whole of the battalion; having been promised lots in the same township. When it was seen that all could not be accommodated in the lots of third township, it was determined to take a certain number from the fourth township. To this Surveyor Holland consented, probably with concurrence of Major VanAlstine. But more of Rogers' company continued to come; and Collins wished to absorb the whole of the fourth town to accommodate them. In this he was no doubt, supported by officers of the battalion; Sir John Johnson among the rest. But Holland, in the interest of the company, which had already settled in the fourth town, under VanAlstine, objected. The statement comes to us that Holland and Collins had well night fought a duel in connection with the matter. As Collins was a deputy under Holland, there must have been a strong influence supporting the former, which was probably through Sir John Johnson. But Holland, having completed the survey of the side lines as he desired, started preciptately to Quebec with his report. Whatever may have been the contest at headquarters, Holland's report of the fourth township was received, and the third township was limited to its present size.

Mr. Joseph Allison, says, respecting the settlement, that "what was one's business was everybody's business, they were all dependent on each other. Each concession was considered a neighbourhood, each being about four miles in length. After the trees were felled and the brush burnt, then came on the logging bees, and every man had to give an account of himself, if he should be missing when notified. There were no aristocrats, from Major VanAlstine down to the humblest individual. Each had to do what he could. They were perfectly organized in this branch of business, being divided into companies or squads of six; and each squad had to take a regular "through" of about six or seven rods wide, piling all the timber in their respective "throughs".

These logging bees were always attended with much strife, all striving to be ahead; and as they were always used to their rations of rum they must, on these occasions, have all they wanted. Then, in the evening, they must have their dance. It was considered a privilege and duty of all the women in the neighbourhood to attend and assist in cooking, as many of the settlers were bachelors. Indeed, if there was a wedding, in one of the concessions, all had a right to attend, belonging to the neighbourhood. These pioneers of Adolphustown were a wonderfully hardy set of men, possessed of great physical powers, although inured to hardships of a very pressing kind. They lived to a great age; very few of them died under eighty, and two of them lived to be over a hundred. John Fitzgerald was the oldest man that came with VanAlstine, he died in 1806, aged 101; Daniel Cole was 106, when he died. The leading men of the settlement were VanAlstine, Captain Peter Ruttan, Michael Stout, the Dorlands, and Nicholas Hagerman. If any dispute or grievance arose, it would be left to some one to settle, but they all, with very few exceptions, tried to do as they would wish to be done by.

"Joseph Allison was a whip sawyer by trade, and assisted to saw the first boards that were used in the buildings. He drew lot 17."

Examining an old map in the Crown Lands Department, certain names are found written upon the Islands and Points of Adolphustown. The southern extremity has upon it the name of Lieutenant Michael Vandervoort. The adjacent island has Lieutenant Samuel Tuffee, and P.V. Dorland. Proceeding around the point to the north, the first indentation of the bay is named Bass Cove. The next point is for John Speers, and Humphrey Waters - called on the map "Speers and Waters lots, 150 acres". The next cove is called Perch Cove, and the next point is for Lieutenant Samuel Deane, 100 acres. Then comes Little Cove. The bay off these points is called "Grand Bay", northward to where Hay Bay commences, it is called "The Forks", while Hay Bay is designated "East Bay", and up toward the Mohawk Bay it has the name of "the North Channel"; Casey's Point on the north shore of Hay Bay is called Green Point, and the land there is allotted to Phillip and Own Roblin.

Beside those mentioned, as forming a part of VanAlstine's company, there were, among the first settlers of Adolphustown, and probably of VanAlstine's party: Angel, William and John Huff, Thomas Casey; and at a later period came "Billy" Monroe, John Roblin, John and James Canniff, Philip Flagler, Carnahan, Robert Short, Fisher, and Captain Allan."

In some respects Major VanAlstine's company were better off than the soldier pioneers. Although they had to come a long distance by ship, and ascend the St. Lawrence in small boats, which precluded the possibility of bringing to the country many articles for family use; yet they could fetch with them some things to contribute to family comfort, beside clothing.

The township being almost surrounded by water, and having many indentations of the bay, there was thereby afforded the most advantageous place for the settlers, whose only mode of traveling was by boat. Every concession has communication with the bay. The township is the smallest in the Province, containing but 11,459 acres. The land at first, it is said, could be had for "one shilling an acre", and half of lot 15, of 100 acres, was sold "for half a joe" - $8.00. In contrast to this, in 1817, there was "no land in the township which could be procured for less than (British pound sign) 4 an acre", and few would sell at that price. Although so well provided with a water way for travel, good roads were early constructed.

The following are the minutes of the first "Town meeting" held in Adolphustown, on the 6th of March, 1793, for which we are indebted to Mr. J.B. Allison.

"The following persons were chosen to officiate in their respective offices, the ensuring year, and also the regulations of the same."

"Ruben Bedell, Township Clerk; Paul Huff, and Philip Dorland, Overseers of the Poor; Joseph Allison, and Garit Benson, Constables; Willet Casey, Paul Huff, and John Huyck, Pound Keepers; Abraham Maybee, and Peter Rutland, Fence Viewers."

The height of fence to be 4 feet 8 inches. Water fence voted to be no fence. Hogs running at large to have yokes on 18 by 24 inches. No piggs to run until three months old. No stallion to run. Any person putting fire to any bush or stuble, that does not his endeavour to hinder it from doing damage, shall forfeit the sum of forty shillings."

(Signed) Philip Dorland, T.C.

It is most likely that Philip Dorland was merely secretary for the meeting. Ruben Bedell was successively, elected town clerk for three years, when, in 1795, Archibald Campbell was appointed, who served for four years. In 1800, Daniel Haight was appointed. In 1801, William Robins filled the office, and continued to fill it for three years, when in 1804, Ruben Bedell was again elected. The year Bryan Crawford was appointed; the next Daniel Haight, who continued four years; John Stickney then filled the office three years, and Daniel Haight was again appointed, 1813.

There is in the Township Records, a Return of the inhabitants for 1794, March, with the names of each family, and the number of members in each. They are as follows: Ruben Bedell, 5; Paul Huff, 6; Solomon Huff, 10; William Griffis, 5; Caspar VanDusen, 6; Nicholas Peterson, 8; Nicholas Peterson, Sen. 3; Isaac Bern, 1; Thomas Jones, 4; Alexander Fisher, 10; James McMasters, 8; James Stephenson, 1; Russel Pitman, 7; Joseph Clapp, 4; George Brooks, 6; John Halcom, 3; Martin Sherman, 3; Joseph Cornell, 5; Peter Valleau, 5; William Clark, 6; Joseph Clark,1; Albert Cornell, 8; Peter Delrya, 4; John Huyck, 6; Alexander Campbell, 5, Buryer Huyck, 2; Albert Benson, 4; Gilbert Bogart, 2; Abraham Bogart, 3; Christopher German, 5; William Casey, 6; Edward Barker, 3; David Kelly, 4; Battin Harris, 8; John Canniff, 13; Nathaniel Solmes, 10; Peter Wanamaker, 4; Garret Benson, 1; William Mara, 4; John Roblin, 3; John Elms, 3; John Wood, 2; Peter Ruttan, Jun'r.3; Owen Roblin, Jun'r.,2; Owen Roblin, Sen'r., 8; Benjamin Clapp, 8' George Rutter, 7; Jacob Bullern, 6; Cornelius VanHorn, 6; Robert Jones, 5; Paul Trumper, 8; William Hanah, 4; Michael Slate, 4; Peter Ruttan, Sen., 5; Denis Oscilage, 1; Joseph Carahan, 8; Thomas Dorland, 6; Philip Dorland, 9; Willet Casey, 8; Peter VanAlstine, 3; John VanCott, 7; David Brown, 3; Peter Sword, 2; William Broack, 5; Nicholas Hagerman, 8; Cornelius Stouter, 3; Abraham Maybee, 7; Henry Tice, 3; Thomas Wanamakers, 1; William Button, 5; Joseph Allison, 2; John Fitzgerald, 2; Mathew Steel, 5; Conrad Vandusen, 6; Henry Hover, 3; Arion Ferguson, 2; Henry Redner, 4; Andrew Huffman,4; Daniel Cole, 11; Henry Davis, 5; James Noxen, 1. - Total 402.

The total number of inhabitants in 1800, was 524, and in 1812, 575. The returns are given, yearly, up to 1822, when the number was 571. It is observable that the number fluctuates from year to year. This was due to the fact that families would come to the township, from the States, remain a few years working a farm on shares, and then would move up the Bay, to another township.

Major VanAlstine, as the military commander, was the chief officer. But there lives no account of dissentions and litigations, for many a year. When the Government appointed Magistrates, probably not until after Upper Canada was erected into a separate Province, VanAlstine was the first to receive the commission. There were, likewise, appointed at the same time, or soon after, several others, viz., Thomas Dorland, Nicholas Hagerman, Ruttan, Sloat, and Fisher, afterwards Judge. It is said the Magistrates did not always agree. Ruttan and VanAlstine had dissentions; and VanAlstine claimed certain power, by virtue of his command over the corps who peopled the township. Whereupon Ruttan, at the next meeting, donned his suit of clothes, which he had worn as an officer of the Regular Army, and declared no one was his superior, and, it is said, gained his point.

The time came, when Adolphustown was almost the Centre of Canada. It is true, Kingston was the great point to which the military and naval forces centred, and the circumstances of such gave that place a status which it could not otherwise have obtained. But Adolphustown was really the centre of the settlements in the central part of Canada -the Midland District. So it came that the court was alternately held at the Fourth Town and Kingston, being twice a year in each place. The first court in this township, was held in the barn of Paul Huff, which served the purpose very well in summer. The next occasion was in winter, and some building had to be procured. Application was made for the Methodist Chapel. Some objection was made, on the ground that a "house of prayer" should not be made a "den of thieves", referring to the criminals, not to the lawyers. But the Chapel was readily granted for the second court in Adolphustown. It is said that a proposition was made, in due form, that if the inhabitants of the Fourth Town would build a Court House, the court should be held there twice a year. The offer was accepted, and a subscription set on foot, which resulted in the erection of a Court House. When the court ceased to be held, in accordance with the agreement, the Court House reverted to the Township.

The building of the Court House was followed by the growth of a village, and among its population were those whose names became household words in every Canadian home. It continued a place of importance for many a year; and, even when the court ceased to be held, the village, by virtue of its situation, and the standing of the township, continued for a long time of no little repute.

Adolphustown contributed, during the first years of Upper Canada, a good many worthy individuals to the welfare of the country, indeed Adolphustown took the lead for many years in political, as well as more general matters relating to the country. The general elections, at one time, resulted in the election of four natives of this township to Parliament, viz; two Hagermans, Sam'l Casey and Paul Peterson. Says Joseph B. Allison, of Adolphustown, "Our township, though, perhaps, the smallest in the Province, (if it were consolidated, it would not be more than three miles and half square,) has furnished as many statesmen and judicial officers as any of the larger townships. From the humble abodes of Adolphustown, have gone to the Legislative Halls of Canada, Thomas Dorland, John Roblin, Christopher A. Hagerman, Paul Peterson, Dr. W. Dorland, Willet Casey, Henry Ruttan, Samuel Casey, Dan'l Hagerman, David Roblin, John P. Roblin, who represented the County of Prince for many years. The Hon. John A. McDonald although not born here, spent his juvenile years, and attended the common schools in Adolphustown. Now, we challenge any township in the Province, that has not a city or town connected with it, to turn out eleven members of Parliament, all of them U.E. Loyalists."

Roblin, who settled in the third concession, was elected three times to Parliament, in 1808, 1811, and 1812. At first, he sat for two years; but, when sent the second time, he was expelled, because he was a local Methodist Preacher. His constituents re-elected him, and again he was expelled, to be a third time elected; but he died before the Parliament again met, on the last day of February, 1813, aged 44.

It was in the year 1793, in the second Session of Parliament, that an Act was passed "to fix the time and place for holding the Courts of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace". The Act provided "that the Courts of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the Midland district of this Province, shall commence and be holden in Adolphustown, on the second Tuesday in the month of July, and on the second Tuesday in the month of January; and in Kingston, on the second Tuesday in the month of April and on the second Tuesday in the month of October". The other places were Michilmackinac, Newark, New Johnstown, and Cornwall. In this second year of Upper Canada, no mention is made of Toronto, nor yet of York. Where now stands the splendid Osgoode Hall, with its chaste and beautiful decorations; and, indeed, now exists the whole of Toronto, with its unrivalled University building, its Colleges, its handsome Churches and elegant mansions was then a tangled forest, and, except an Indian path along the Don, marking a portage to Lake Simcoe and Fort Toronto, there was no indication of human existence. Moreover, about this time, upon the shores of Adolphustown was born Christopher Hagerman, who was destined to adorn the bar and grace the bench; who saw arise the Courts of Law, the organization of the Law Society, and assisted to establish them at Toronto, where he spent his latter days, and where now his ashes repose. Among those who first came to Adolphustown are some who had seen service in an irregular way, as well as the refugees. The names of some of them will be found among the loyal combatants and loyalists.

For several years, the families that came from the States would stop at the Fourth Township, where they would "work out", or take a farm on shares, or perhaps rent a farm, until they could find a suitable place on which to permanently settle, in the back townships, such as Sophiasburgh, Ameliasburgh, Sidney and Thurlow. The ordinary terms for working a farm on shares was for the owner to furnish team, seed, &c., and take one-half of the produce when gathered.

Conrad VanDusen kept the first tavern west of Kingston, and at his house travelers up and down the Bay would stop. Also, new comers to the Bay would here first tarry, until decided where to settle.

This page was transcribed and provided by Linda Herman.