Robert Runchey
Captain Runchey’s Men of Colour

Robert Reuben Runchey was born c. 1756 in Ireland.  He married Eleanor de Bonnat and in 1788 they emigrated to Canada.  It is thought that their eldest child, Reuben, was born on the Atlantic during that voyage or when they arrived in Quebec.  In addition to Reuben, Robert and Eleanor had at least five more children:  (not in order of birth)

  • William
  • George
  • Cyrus
  • Robert Reuben
  • Thomas

Robert and Eleanor settled on Lot 15, Conc IV & V in Louth Twp., Lincoln County.  Robert built and operated a tavern on this property, which was one mile east of the Village of Jordan and this is listed as being a stagecoach stop as early as 1798.

In 1809 Robert became an Ensign in the 2nd Flank Company, 1st Regiment Lincoln Militia.   By 1812 he had risen to the rank of Captain.  Upper Canada, in 1812, had a large population of free black men, many of whom had served in Loyalist Corps during the American Revolution and were now employed as labourers or indentured servants.  In June 1812, Richard Pierpoint, a black gentleman who had served in Butler’s Rangers proposed the creation of a Coloured unit to Major General Isaac Brock.  Initially Brock declined the suggestion, but as the weeks wore on and the volunteer ranks were not growing, Brock reconsidered and gave the task to Runchey to form a unit.  His son, George Runchey, left the 1st and became the Lieutenant of this unit.  Sons Reuben and Robert Reuben also served in the War of 1812.

The Men of Colour or Coloured Corps averaged around fifty men and they were considered to be a light infantry unit.  They participated in the Battle of Queenston Heights, fighting alongside John Norton’s First Nations Company to recapture the redan battery from the Americans.  For some reason, Runchey was absent from this battle and removed himself from the unit immediately thereafter.  He was replaced by Lt. James Cooper.

Robert Runchey returned to running of his tavern and likely moved in with one of his children prior to his death.  The burial register for St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Grimsby, Ontario reveals Runchey was buried on 17 July 1819 and the churchyard records indicate he was buried in Plot 6, Range 13 but no marker remains on his grave.  There is no indication when Eleanor died or where she is buried.

Veteran Summary

Robert Runchey
Captain, Captain Runchey's Men of Colour
Place of Birth
Unknown, Unknown, Ireland
Place of Death
Louth Township, Lincoln County, ON, CAN
Died on: 01 JUL 1819
Reason: Unknown (day not known)
Location of Grave
St. Andrew's Anglican Churchyard, St. Andrew's Ave.
Grimsby, ON, CAN
Latitude: 43.195201N Longitude: -79.569419