Grand River Branch

United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada





Selected Reprints from the

Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches

"The Changing of Native Lands to Settlements Along the Grand River - PART III"

Angela E.M. Files, February 1994, Vol.6 No.1, Pages 21-22


   Prior to the arrival of Native and non-Native Loyalists in the valley of the Grand River, the British military officials, fur traders and explorers marked the area "Indian lands".  The first transaction of this land, dated May 22, 1784, was the purchase of the whole region from the Mississauga Indians, in the name of King George III.  The next, dated October 25, 1784, and named the Haldimand Proclamation, granted the Grand River Valley to the Six Nations.

  Recognizing that a country could not be prosperous without settlers to populate it, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, advocated large scale immigration to the province, despite the fact that the closest source was the United States.  He offered free land to Americans and he also encouraged European immigration.  Sections of the Native land along the river valley were settled by the Six Nations allies, then by Loyalists and new arrivals from the United States and Europe.  These people initiated the development of the first communities -- Mohawk Village, Brantford, Paris, etc.

  Some of the 675,000 acres of Indian lands of the Haldimand deed, were divided into blocks and sold to private individuals.  The six large, unequal tracts of land were blocks one, two, three and four, located along the upper Grand River and blocks five and six, located on the lower Grand River, near Lake Erie.  As early as 1795, the 94,035 acres of block one, were deeded to Philip Stedman of Niagara for 8841.  He gave the Indian trustees a mortgage for the full amount, which was unpaid at the time of his death in an American prison.  The title to the land passed to his sister, Mrs. John Sparkman, who signed over her share to wealthy merchant, Thomas Clarke of Stamford.  In 1816, Mr. Clarke sold the land to the Hon. William Dickson (1769 - 1849) for a little over one dollar an acre.  With the dedicated assistance of land agent, Absalom Shade, Scottish people were encouraged to migrate to the Dumfries area.  The settlements of Ayr, Branchton, Glen Morris and St. George arose from the efforts of these early pioneers.

  On November 27, 1840, Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Samuel P. Jarvis, posted a notice concerning certain lands on the north side of the Grand River, in the Gore and Niagara Districts belonging to the Six Nations.  The inspection and valuation of these lands had been completed, in agreement with an Order-in-Council, and the said lands were for sale.  Resident settlers were allowed to be the first applicants to purchase the land by paying one-third of the value of the land within six months and the other two-third payments were to be paid in three equal instalments, with interest.  The land within these tracts designated the Johnson and Martin Settlements, the Oxbow and Eagle's Nest, were to be leased for an amount equal, as nearly as practicable, to the interest which might be earned from the land.

  These four tracts of land, the Johnson Settlement, the Martin Settlement, the Oxbow Bend Tract and the Eagle's Nest Tract, all mentioned in the public notice of Samuel Peters Jarvis, indicate that small colonies or settlements were established on the Six Nations land along the Grand River.

Click on map to enlarge; opens in a new window.

The Johnson Settlement

  The Johnson Settlement (part of Brantford Township), was named in honour of George Johnson, son of Molly Brant and first teacher in the Native settlement north-east of Brant's Ford.  This was one of the earliest settlements on the Johnson Tract, north of Cayuga Village, on Fairchild's Creek.  The early settlers were an enclave of Loyalists.  Benjamin Fairchild and Alexander Westbrook had served under Chief Joseph Brant during the American Revolution.  They moved to the Johnson area in 1788.  In 1793, Isaac Whiting leased "for 999 years", a farm on Fairchild's Creek.  Gordon Chapin, Isaac Whiting's son-in-law and David Phelps settled shortly thereafter.  Phelps acquired a lease by 1801.  On February 5, 1798, six hundred acres of the tract was sold to "Dutch Green", or Peter Green, on concession two.  A number of non-Native men had received 999-year leases from Joseph Brant, who hoped that they would teach the Native residents improved methods of farming.  The leases had not been approved by the authorities and were not valid.  Ezra Hawley, who described himself as the "son of a Loyalist", was farming in 1811.

  In 1841, it was decided to permit all Six Nations people who wished to move, to cross the Grand River and settle on the Reserve.  Before departure, they were required to collect a fair payment from any white men living on their lands, with the money being returned to the Native funds.

  In 1850, Brantford Township was organized as a municipality.  The first Council was composed of David Christie, Reeve; Herbert Biggar, Deputy Reeve; Benson Jones; Councillor; James Cockshutt, Councillor and Edward Vanderlip, Councillor.

The Martin Settlement


  The Martin Settlement was located about two miles south-east of the village of Cainsville.  It was founded by Mohawk Chief George Martin (Onh-yea-tech) (1766 - Feb. 8, 1853) and his Dutch wife Catherine Rollston (Wan-o-wen-teh).  During the American Revolution, thirteen year old Catherine was captured by Teyonhahkweg, "Double Chief", a Confederacy Chief of the Six Nations.


  Chief George Martin built his house on a high precipice facing the Grand River.  The Martins belonged to the Salt Spring Methodist Mission and members of the family are laid to rest in the burial grounds about the church.


  The daughter of George and Catherine Martin was Helen (Nelly) Martin (b. 17 Feb. 1798, d. 27 Mar. 1866).  She married Chief John Smoke Johnson (Sakayenquaradoh), and they were the grandparents of poet, E. Pauline Johnson (1861 -1913) and Dr. Peter Martin (1841 -1907).  Dr. Martin (Oronhyateka), "Burning Cloud", married Irene Hill, great granddaughter of Chief Joseph Brant and his first wife Peggy, the daughter of an Oneida chief.


  The Martin house and settlement was a hospitable haven, in inclement weather for Natives travelling up and down the Grand River.  Government issue of gunpowder, lead for bullets, knives, blankets, etc., were also distributed at the Martin home.  When the Martins and other Native people moved to the Reserve, the buildings and land were sold to non-Natives.  In 1910, the Martin house was struck by lightning and destroyed.


Oxbow Bend Tract

  The Oxbow Tract was a scenic peninsula shaped by the meandering course of the Grand River.  One of the resident families in the Oxbow Bend Tract was that of Robert R. Bown, who came from Highbury Terrace, Parish of London, England to settle in Brant County.  Robert Bown purchased a large tract on the Oxbow and also a tract on the Eagle's Nest, about a mile down the Grand River.  His three sons, Dr. Edward T. Bown, Dr. Walter Bown and John Young Bown, M.P. for North Riding, also became owners of extensive tracts of land in Brant County.  One hundred acres of Bown land was sold to the Honourable George Brown, publisher of the Toronto Globe.  In 1865, George Brown purchased one thousand acres in the Oxbow Bend and established the famous "Bow Park Farm", which became the agricultural centre for breeding shorthorn cattle, Clydesdale horses, sheep, pigs and poultry.  Farm workers were recruited from Scotland and visitors from all over the world were entertained at the farm.  the present Dominion Headquarters of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada is located on the fourth floor of the George Brown House, 50 Baldwin Street, Toronto.

Eagle's Nest Tract

  On this large tract of land, the eagles used to nest in the tall elm and sycamore trees.  the Tutela Indians lived in the northern area of the tract, facing the Grand River.  Their Council House was opposite the Bell Homestead and their burial ground, south-west of the Homestead.  The epidemic of Asiatic cholera exterminated many of the Tutelas in the area.

  Captain Ruggles and Captain Stuart, local colonial militia officers, who lost all their holdings during the American revolution, received six hundred acres of land each in the Eagle's Nest Tract.

  By 1875, the Astons, Birketts, Davis, Elliotts, Griffins, Waterhouse and Waterous families owned tracts of land.  In 1882, the area was subdivided again into building lots.  Later, the Eagle's Nest was incorporated into the City of Brantford.