The following is an excerpt from The Green Pastures of Old Brock by James Gordon.
Shortly after Brock Township was surveyed in the year 1817, settlers began to arrive as they wanted to take advantage of the free grants of land. The practice of giving away land as a means of attracting newcomers ended in 1827. From that point on settlers were required to purchase land outright, or alternatively they could enter into a lease agreement either with private landowners or with the powerful church of England — holders of land referred to as Clergy Reserve. By 1837, Brock had 305 adult men, 251 adult women and 684 children under sixteen years of age.
Approximately 2% of the population were from the United States (ie. United Empire Loyalists) while the rest were either from other parts of Canada or from the British Isles.
The first settler in Brock Township was James Reekie, a native of Dundee, Scotland, born in 1797. Seeking adventure, he left home at age sixteen and joined the Royal Navy where he remained for three years. After hearing about the opportunities being offered on the other side of the Atlantic he decided to emigrate to Canada, arriving in Brock Township on 10 Oct 1817 where he spent the first night sleeping under a large pine tree on Lot 3 Conc 4, almost opposite the spot on which St. James Church presently stands. Now that young James, age twenty-one, had responded to his urge for travelling to a new country he set about clearing his land — a task that would take several years before completion. For weeks at a time he would not see any other white people and there is no doubt that loneliness became a major concern. However, in time, he met a young lady by the name of Mary Hume and following their marriage in 1824 they started a life together raising twelve children of nine sons and three daughters.
The Reekie family were all Presbyterians and did much to support the work of the church in the area. The land of promise was not as James Reekie and others had envisioned it. Having left his place of birth with the hope of finding chances for advancement, he was disappointed to discover that many of the old laws and restrictions in Scotland which made it virtually impossible for anyone but the aristocrats to prosper were, in fact, currently being enforced by the government in Canada. Disappointment led to dissatisfaction — dissatisfaction led to unrest and unrest eventually ended with the rebellion of 1837.
These were turbulent times. Opposed to the government’s bureaucratic attitude, men began to organize meetings in various parts of the province to determine what action should be taken. In Brock Township, a group referred to as the Brock Reformers led by James Reekie and Randall Wixon, petitioned the government for major changes — most of which were long overdue in the eyes of the reformers. Refusal on the part of the Tories to take any action ultimately led to the Rebellion.
For some reason, James Reekie’s name does not appear on the list of Brock Reformers. It may have been that he assumed a lesser role as the rebellion developed. James Reekie eventually became a Justice of the Peace for the Home district. Remembering the early days when he lived alone, he and his wife welcomed new settlers into their home on arrival and made every effort to help them adjust to a new way of life. Their assistance to others became legendary. Brock Township is indeed, justified in being proud of its first pioneer settler, James Reekie, a man of unlimited strength, courage and determination.
Veteran SummaryJames Reekie
Seaman, Royal Navy
Place of Birth
Murroes Parish, , Scotland
Place of Death
Sunderland, ON, CAN
Died on: 04 DEC 1877
Reason: Reason for death is unknown
Location of Grave
Bagshaw Cemetery, Conc 9
Sunderland, Brock Township, ON, CAN
Latitude: 44.289166N Longitude: -79.132045