William Ward, eldest son of career soldier, George Ward, grew up on the banks of the Thames River in an area called Paint Creek, Longwoods. Much later this area was named for his father and mother, George Ward and Margaret (Shaw) Ward. Both parents were born in Ireland but arrived in this area of Upper Canada as a soldering family. At the request of Lieutenant Governor John Simcoe, George Ward was appointed to command a block house on the Thames River as well as four gun boats. George Ward was also to establish a public house (halfway tavern/inn) in the Paint Creek area.
Daniel McAfee was born 4 Aug 1791 in New York State, the son of Lieut. Dudley McAfee. By 1812 he had crossed the Niagara River and was living in the Niagara Peninsula. He served as a Sergeant, serving under Captain Samuel Hatt’s Flank Company, 5th Regiment Lincoln Militia, from 1812 to 1814. Daniel was at the taking of Detroit and at the Battle of Queenston Heights. He was taken prisoner by the Americans while conveying prisoners down the lake to Toronto and confined at Greenbush, near Albany, digging himself out and escaping. He was discharged at Queenston. His service is well-documented in 1812 Upper Canada Returns, Nominal Rolls and Paylists, RG 9 1B7. In 1876, when the Dominion of Canada presented the veterans of the War of 1812 with an annuity, Daniel is 84 years old and applied for this annuity from Galt in Waterloo County.
Benjamin Gilman Willson was born near Fort Erie in 1796, the first boy after two girls in a family that grew to 12 children. Benjamin G.’s father and grandfather had had roles in public affairs in Bertie Township. His father, Gilman, was a farmer, a land assessor and a captain in the Lincoln Militia; his Willson grandfather, Benjamin, was a farmer, and a justice of the peace.
In 1811, the Willsons took up a land grant farther west in a fledgling settlement called Port Talbot on Lake Erie. Their land would have been virgin forest so the winter would have been spent clearing land to build a house and planting crops in the spring. The War of 1812 to 1814 broke out shortly after the family arrived. At first it affected the Port Talbot settlement very little, though a defense was raised. On February 12, 1812, Benjamin G.’s father Gilman was commissioned Captain in the 1st Regiment Middlesex Militia. Thomas Talbot, the founder of the settlement, was commissioned Colonel and placed in charge of the Middlesex Militia and Supervisor for the District of London. Benjamin G. was on service in the militia from 1812 at which time he was about 16 years of age. He was a private during the war, serving to protect his community under Captain Leslie Patterson and Captain David Secord.
By 1813, the British had lost control of Lake Erie and the Thames River, and had been driven back from the area. Consequently, the whole area was left undefended except for the local militias. There were numerous raids on the Talbot settlement by groups of American marauders. One document in the Talbot Papers records the activity of Benjamin G. Willson during such a raid.
On May 20, 1814, Port Talbot got a half-hour notice of the approach of a raiding party from the north. Two groups of local militia started to convene from different points along Talbot Road. It is documented that Benjamin G. was with one group of seven men until his father, Captain Gilman Willson, took him away, perhaps to help him guard the mills that were essential to the settlement. Therefore, the first group decided to wait for reinforcements. The other group of seven men did not manage to meet them until it was too late. When the raiders arrived, the settlement was deserted, except for those on guard there. The guards were overpowered and taken prisoner. On reflection, the militia commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Mahlon Burwell, felt the first group could have challenged the raiders if Benjamin Gilman had been allowed to stay.
Another raid occurred on September 9, 1814 by an army under General McArthur and Andrew Westbrook numbering as many as seven hundred. The militia was fighting elsewhere. Port Talbot was completely destroyed. Mills, homes and barns were burned, animals killed or driven off, and the stored supplies ruined. The settlement never truly recovered.
The War of 1812 ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814 and life started to return to normal. For his service, Benjamin G. was granted 200 acres in the neighbouring township of Southwold. He put in a petition for Lot 25 Talbot Road East, North Side on the 18th of July 1817. On November 27, 1819 they received the patent for their property. The 1864 Tremaine Map shows a house on the east half of the property near the road. This is probably the location of the family home.
On May 21 1818, he married Elizabeth Kitchen. Very little is known about Elizabeth. According to the 1861 Census of Canada West, she was born August 31, 1797 in the United States. Family lore states that it was Pennsylvania, and that her parents were John Kitchen and ___ Miller. Family lore also says they were married in Dunwich Township by Mahlon Burwell. Other than those few hints to her life, there is nothing else that can be documented at this time.
Benjamin G. and Elizabeth’s children were:
1. M. Gilman Willson, born April 17, 1819, died December 23, 1902, a carpenter joiner in Fingal, later becoming a Methodist Minister and moving to Egremont Township and on to Bracebridge, Ontario.
2. John Kitchen Willson, born September 19, 1821 and died May 11, 1906, a harness maker and farmer who settled first at Morpeth, Howard Township, Kent County, and then Harwich Township in 1853.
3. Philo Willson, born September 20, 1823, died young.
4. Ann Willson born December 27, 1825 married George Burt, moved to Michigan.
5. Edward Samuel Willson, born March 17, 1828, died February 1, 1925, a saddler in Fingal, and later a farmer in Aldborough Township, Elgin County and Howard Township, Kent County.
6. Eliza Jane Willson, born August 23, 1830, married Hiram Bell, in Southwold October 11, 1852, living in Nebo, Kent County after marriage. Died February 19, 1911.
7. Sarah Willson, born November 12, 1833, married Nelson Welter September 13, 1859. They lived on Jabel Robinson farm, Southwold, went from there to near Glencoe where he died and was buried, (The Commemorative Biographical Record of 1904 says Sarah was married to William Welter and lived in Nebo, Kent County.) They had two sons and one daughter – Charles, William Isaac and Alice. Sarah Willson Welter and children went away to her brother who lived at ______.
8. William B. Willson, born November 8, 1835, died January 31, 1860, at 24 years of age, buried in Fingal Cemetery.
9. Charles Benjamin Willson, born July 1, 1838.
10. Elizabeth Williams/Willson grew up in the Willson household. Family lore says she was an adopted daughter. Her parents were George R. and Ann Williams. Elizabeth married Israel Morse and died in 1917 at 76 years of age.
In the 1820s, Benjamin G. and his brothers were granted more land. Two possible reasons for this could be because the family were supporters of Thomas Talbot, the founder of the settlement, or that as sons of Loyalists they were entitled to claim land. At this time the rich farm lands of Kent county were being settled. Along with others from Elgin County, Benjamin G. and two of his brothers, Crowell and Edward, became original patentees in Howard Township, being granted 100-acre lots clustered together along Middle Road. Benjamin was the first to qualify for his patent (1838), however, he sold that property and continued to live in Southwold Township.
As time went by, discontent arose in Upper Canada over how officials and politicians were using their influence to reward their own through land grants and positions. This discontent culminated in another conflict, the Rebellion of 1837/1838. On October 24, 1838 a militia was formed. Being Tory supporters, Benjamin G. and his oldest son M. Gilman signed up for active service that day in the St. Thomas Troop of Cavalry. Both were privates, and were additionally assigned to be “dispatch riders”. The pay rate for a private was 1 shilling 5 pence per day. There was a separate pay list for “Rations and Forage” of 3 shillings per day and a further pay list for “Horses and Horse Furniture” at 2 shillings and 6 pence per day. Those who were dispatch riders received an extra allowance. In February of 1838 privates were supplied with blankets valued at 10 shillings each. Benjamin G. does not appear on the pay lists after April 1839. A branch of the Willson family owns a sword that probably belonged to Benjamin G. Willson. Family lore says the owner of the sword fought in both the War of 1812 and the Rebellion of 1837. Benjamin G. was the only one to fight in both wars.
Once into his fifties, Benjamin Gilman was involved in Southwold affairs. He was made a constable in 1853. By the 1871 census he was listed as a bailiff of the Third Division Elgin County Court. One incident highlights this part of his life.
In January of 1859 with none of their offspring intending to farm the land, Benjamin G. and Elizabeth sold the old homestead and moved into the nearby town of Fingal.
In 1875, the Canadian Parliament voted to distribute the sum of $50,000 in $20 increments to all Canadian militia veterans of the War of 1812 who were still alive and residing in Canada. Surviving veterans were invited to apply. Benjamin G. at age 79, was listed as a recipient.
Finally, in 1875, Benjamin G. and Elizabeth moved to Kent County to spend their remaining days with family. In 1878 at 80 years of age, Elizabeth died at the Cedar Springs home of their son, John Kitchen. Benjamin G. died at the home of their son, Edward Samuel, in Troy in 1885, aged nearly 90 years. By then there were few Willsons left in Elgin County and many of Benjamin G. and Elizabeth’s siblings, children and grandchildren had died or gradually moved away from Kent County, as well. There is no recorded burial, but, according to family tradition, Benjamin G. and Elizabeth are both buried at Cedar Springs in Harwich Township, perhaps on John Kitchen Willson’s farm.
For more information on the Talbot Settlement on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, see the following Veterans elsewhere on this site and linked here:
Family Link: Gilman Willson
Lieutenant-Colonel Mahlon Burwell 1783-1846
“Monday, 21st May 1827. Surveyed the line towards Lake Huron, Six Miles and thirty chains — were as industrious as possible, but were not able to make our way through a cedar, Black Ash, Pine and Hemlock Swamp, in the centre of which we encamped without shelter, and it rained in the night. One of the men caught a fever to day.”
Captain Gilman Willson (1771-1836)
At 39 years of age, Gilman Willson was described by Samuel Street, J.P. as “an honest, industrious man and — a respected inhabitant,” of Bertie Township, Niagara. More than 20 years earlier, in 1787, his Loyalist family had come from New Jersey and settled along the Niagara River, seven miles north of Fort Erie. Now, in 1811, Gilman was preparing for another move, this time to a wilderness settlement at Port Talbot on the north shore of Lake Erie, 150 miles further west.
Alexander Clark(e), was born in Brownstown, Michigan, on 10 May 1800. Alexander’s father was Thomas Alexander Clark(e) who died c 1840 and his mother was Catherine Brown who died c 1802.
After Catherine’s death, Thomas married Catherine’s sister, Mary Brown (d 1863). Alexander’s family remained in Brownstown until he was four years old, when the Huron Indian chiefs in council granted his father a tract of land on the Canadian side, now known as the Clarke Grant and he and his parents moved there in 1804.
Colonel Titus Williams, born Long Island, 22 November, 1790, son of Captain Jonathan Williams, of the British Army. Received Ensign’s Commission in the 2nd Regiment Norfolk Militia. Volunteered on 27 June 1812, the day of the war’s outbreak, appointed Lieut., in Left Flank Company. Commanded a detachment of Norfolk men at Detroit. Became Captain and Adjutant of the 2nd Regiment Norfolk Militia at Detroit some time later. Was afterwards captured by Americans on Niagara River, sentenced to be executed, but was liberated in May, 1814. Immediately appointed Adjutant of the 4th Regiments Norfolk Militia and was at Lundy’s Lane. Then placed in command of the 103rd Regulars at Dover and Ryerse.
John C Garden joined the 5th Company Royal Newfoundland Regiment commanded by Captain John T. Whelan, 16 Dec 1807, his brother James joined the next day both as Junior Officers. Their father was William Henry Garden (1749-1812) UEL.
Biography for Alexander Thom
41st regiment of Foot (1775-1845)
Alexander Thom, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, on October 26, 1775, served in the War of 1812 with the 41st Regiment of Foot, of the British regular army. Following the war, he remained in Upper Canada, in the newly-created Perth Military Settlement, to which he made a substantial contribution. To quote one biographer:
“Alexander Thom was a force in assuring the survival and growth of the town (of Perth).”
Colonel Christopher Myers CB
Christopher John Myers was born c 1774 in County Dublin, Ireland. In August 1799, as a captain in the 40th Regiment of Foot, Myers was wounded at the Battle of Bergen in what is now Holland. Isaac Brock, then a Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 49th Regiment of Foot, participated in the same battle.