James Sedgwick was born in the Parish of Magheragall, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland c 1796 to John Sedgwick. His step-mother was Agnes Agnew. The Sedgwick family lived on Lot 25, Ballymave, Parish of Magheragall, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
James Sedgwick enlisted in the British Military on 13 Mar 1812 at 16 years of age for unlimited service. He listed his occupation as a labourer and signed his name with an ‘X’. He was not a tall man standing at 5 feet 2 inches. He had brown hair, gray eyes and a fresh complexion.
Private James Sedgwick served 1 year and 7 months in the 89th (Princess Victoria’s) Regiment of Foot (13 Mar 1814-24 Nov 1815). He was a soldier of the 2nd Battalion, one of two companies of British soldiers, which left for North America in the summer of 1812 for service in the War of 1812 in Canada. James fought in the War of 1812-1814 at the Battle at Crysler’s Farm on 11 Nov 1813 and, unfortunately, was severely wounded in the right thigh.
Records show it was at Crysler’s Farm on the St Lawrence River that Private James Sedgwick, along with his fellow troops from the British Army, were the first ones to face an American Army, far greater in number, as their soldiers attempted to come onto the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. It was believed that the American’s plan was to eventually take Montreal so they could control access to the St. Lawrence River. The story goes that the 2nd Battalion of the 89th (Princess Victoria’s) Regiment of Foot, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Morrison, was lined up and ready, “rose up out of concealment and opened fire on the attacking American forces”. Although the British did not have near the number of soldiers as the Americans, defeat was handed to the opposition at Crysler’s Farm on 11 Nov 1813 with the backup support of the 49th Regiment, Canadian Fencible Regiment, the Voltigeurs, Provincial Light Dragoons and the First Nations allies. This battle has been touted as The Battle that Saved Canada!
Following his injury, Private James Sedgwick was transferred to the 3rd Garrison Battalion where he continued to serve for 10 months (24 Nov 1815-20 Sep 1816). Private James Sedgwick was discharged from the British Army at the age of 20. For his service to his country, he received a pension of 1.0 shilling per day.
After Private James Sedgwick was discharged from the army, he returned to his homeland of Ireland. He married Elizabeth Unknown before 1818. Two boys and three girls were born in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland between 1818 and 1831.
James must have had lingering thoughts which left a positive impression of Upper Canada when he served his country in 1813. This lasting impression, along with, perhaps, the fact that he was not the eldest son of the family and, therefore, would not be taking over the family farm in Ireland, convinced him and Elizabeth to leave Ireland with their five young children and forge their way in this New World.
He received his pension in Lisburn, County Antrim, Northern Ireland “up to the 30th Jun 1831” and upon his arrival in Canada made a sworn statement before a magistrate on the 4th Aug 1831 indicating “that he has not left either wife, child, or children, chargeable on any Parish”. There was a limited number of ships that left Belfast (the closest port to where James and his family lived) to arrive at the Port of Quebec just before 4 Aug 1831.
Unfortunately, a specific list of passengers on these Ship’s Lists was not recorded, rather it stated the number of settlers! Based on the date of the sworn statement of James Sedgwick on 4 Aug 1831, available records showed that there were two possible ships leaving Belfast which James and his family may have boarded to come to the Port of Quebec so they could continue their journey to Upper Canada (Ontario).
One possibility was the brig Nelson Village (a vessel with two masts, a fore and main, both of which were square rigged) that left Belfast 18 Jun 1831 and arrived at the Port of Quebec 1 Aug 1831 with Master Kenn and 354 settlers and general cargo (assigned to A. Gilmour & Co.), an ocean journey of 45 days.
The second possibility was the bark Margaret Johnson (a vessel which was square rigged on all three masts and had a gaff sail on the mizzen mast) which left Belfast 12 Jun 1831 with Master Sowry and 336 settlers and ballast and goods (assigned to W H Parke) and arrived at the Port of Quebec 3 Aug 1831, an ocean journey of 53 days.
What is known, for sure, is that James and his family were among the 34,000 Irish immigrants who travelled to Canada in 1831.
Following the Sedgwick family’s arrival in Upper Canada, James Sedgwick petitioned His Excellency Sir John Colborne, K.C.B. Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Upper Canada in 1831 that “Your Excellency will be pleased to grant him 100 Acres as a discharged Soldier & Pensioner.”
James Sedgwick, a resident of Asphodel Township at the time of his application, was granted the opportunity to settle on the W 1/2 Lot 20, Conc 1 in the Township of Asphodel, Peterborough County, Upper Canada (Ontario). Order-in-Council was issued for a Free Grant of 100 Acres of Crown Land on 21 Sep 1831 in recognition of his military service.
James Sedgwick and his family started life in Asphodel in a shanty. By 1835 he had made improvements to and sold his first homestead. By 1836, he and the family moved to another location closer to the town of Peterborough, Ontario. He selected W 1/2 Lot 29, Conc 10 on the east side of current-day Burnham Line in the Township of Otonabee. Here the family lived in a two-storey stone house, which James Sedgwick built, on 100 acres where they continued to farm. This home is still standing and in fine shape, I might add, along with a large barn and outbuildings. This was a vast change from the shanty the family had in 1831. One girl and two boys were added to the family in Otonabee.
The life of a pensioner in Upper Canada had its challenges. In 1836, the military establishment demanded that the pensioners travel to Toronto from Peterborough to collect their pensions at the Commission Office. This presented a major challenge for James Sedgwick as well as the other pensioners in the Peterborough area. These pensioners, many of whom were not young, were crippled or hampered by previous war wounds, protested against this expectation. In 1836, this group of 22 pensioners banded together and submitted a signed petition to Lieutenant John Colborne requesting that the monies owing them be brought to Peterborough. James Sedgwick attempted to sign his name and regiment on this document, although he did not include all the letters in his surname or regiment. It is to be noted that there was a favourable outcome to this petition. An Officer of the Commissioner from Toronto travelled to Peterborough twice each year, in “February and August”, to disburse the pension funds and verify each of the recipients.
In 1847, the British government decided to award the Military General Service Medal with specific clasps to all surviving officers and soldiers who fought for the British in 29 various battles between 1793 and 1814. One of only three battles of the War of 1812 included was considered, that being the Battle at Crysler’s Farm. The living soldier had to apply for the medal and it was never presented posthumously. Private James Sedgwick was eligible and received this decoration. The clasp is embossed, “Chrystler’s Farm.” The name of the soldier was inscribed on the rim with their regiment, e.g., Pte James Sedgwick 89th Regiment of Foot. The head of Queen Victoria is on the obverse of the medal and, on the reverse, the Queen is seated on a dais holding a laurel wreath over the Duke of Wellington, who kneels before her.
James Sedgwick began farming when he arrived in Upper Canada. However, his days as an active farmer were limited. By 1861, his occupation was no longer listed as Farmer but was Pensioner on the Census of Canada. It is understandable that since he was ‘severely wounded’ during the War of 1812, he would likely have more physical limitations as he aged and, therefore, would not be able to continue actively working on the farm. About this time, his second youngest son, Thomas, and his first wife, Mary Ann, lived with James and Elizabeth, who was also known as Betsy. His son, Thomas, took on the full responsibility of the farming duties.
James Sedgwick departed this earthly world on 7 Feb 1875. He was at the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Richard Mowry, in Peterborough, Ontario. Asthma was the ultimate cause of his death. He was laid to rest at Little Lake Cemetery in Peterborough, Ontario which is less than ten minutes from where he lived most of his life in Ontario. His gravesite is situated on the hilltop overlooking the Otonabee River/Little Lake. The site is located near the original chapel built in the cemetery. Buried in the same plot are his wife, Betsy d 1871, Thomas, his second youngest son d 1888, Thomas’ second wife, Margaret Deyell d 1881, and William John, James’ and Betsy’s grandson, the six-month old son of Joseph, d 1870. Many immediate family members are buried close by, including James’ half-brother, Joseph, a Bombardier in the 4th Battalion, who also served in the British Military until 1856 and who, along with his wife and three of their eight children emigrated to Peterborough, Ontario, Canada in 1870. Many other family members are buried in Little Lake Cemetery, also.
James Sedgwick and his wife, Elizabeth, taught their children well and the work ethic and military commitment instilled in them trickled down and is evident in their numerous descendants. In spite of the challenges James and his family faced when they left their homeland and moved across the ocean to a new land, there is evidence that the family continued to, and still does, contribute in many ways to the building of the nation of Canada.
James and Betsy’s oldest son, William John, joined the military in Canada, British Army in 1838 and later, along with his wife and young family, responded to the challenge to settle in Haliburton County when it was opened up in the 1850’s. Some of William John and Martha’s children stayed in the Haliburton area, while others moved to other areas of Ontario. Some left Ontario to settle the west and some even settled beyond Canada’s borders. Many of James’ descendants are still on original homesteads and have not only been successful in their endeavours but have contributed a great deal to their local communities in a variety of ways. Not all descendants have carried on the farming tradition, but have worked in occupations and vocations necessary for a society to succeed, such as railway employees, private businesses, entrepreneurs, trades, nurses, ministers, teachers, lawyers. As well, many have served in their communities as municipal councillors or been active participants and volunteers for other community organizations and boards, while enjoying what this great land has to offer. Many family members followed in James’ footsteps by answering the call of duty and enlisted for military service in WWI and WWII.
All of this can be credited, in part, to James Sedgwick who enlisted in the military, served his country when called upon to do so, and then, after his military career ended, emigrated from Ireland to become a pioneer in this land of Canada that we call home.
Thank you, Grandpa!
Private James Sedgwick was my 3x great-grandfather.
Note: On a few documents, Sedgwick may be spelled Sedgewick. The second ‘e’ is not used by the majority of family members. Since James could not write his name, it is likely that officials and others simply spelled the surname the way it sounded or as it had been viewed or known to them.
Veteran SummaryJames Sedgwick
Private, 89th (Princess Victoria's) Regiment of Foot, 2nd Battalion
Place of Birth
Magheragall, Antrim, Ireland
Place of Death
Peterborough, Ontario, CAN
Died on: 07 FEB 1875
Location of Grave
Little Lake Cemetery, 915 Haggart St
Peterborough, ON, CAN
Latitude: 44.29N Longitude: -78.3