Grand River Branch

United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada





Selected Reprints from the

Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches

"Loyalist Settlement Along the St. Lawrence River in Upper Canada"

Angela E.M. Files, February 1996, Vol.8 No.1, Pages 9-12



    In the year 1784, military and loyalist claimants began to settle on land located on the newly-surveyed townships along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River.  Most Canadian historians agree that this early settlement was the largest loyalist enclave in Upper Canada.1 

Approximately eighty percent of the Loyalists were settled east from the Bay of Quinte while eighteen percent were based on the Niagara Frontier which Butler's Rangers had called home since the beginnings of the war and where some had started to farm in 1781.  Another two percent shared an earlier settlement of French inhabitants in the Windsor-Detroit border region.  By 1785 Chief Joseph Brant and 1,843 Loyalist Six Nations Indians had settled in the Grand river Valley and Mohawk Chief John Deserontyn with about 200 Fort Hunter natives had settled on the Tyendinaga reserve on the Bay of Quinte.2

   The re-settlement of Loyalists and disbanded soldiers from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other American colonies along the St. Lawrence, was due to the fervent concern and work of Sir Frederick Haldimand (1718 - 1781),  Governor of Québec, who was responsible for feeding, clothing and colonizing some 6,000 Loyalists along the St. Lawrence River in the western region of Québec during the spring of 1784.

  Realizing the importance of re-settling disbanded soldiers and loyal refugees on British soil.  Governor Haldimand ordered surveyors and deputy surveyors to be sent into each area where settlement was intended.  Their duties were to survey townships of about ten miles square wherever possible and to distribute lots to persons who were to receive them.  After purchasing a tract of land between Gananoque and the Trent River from the Mississaugas, Haldimand appointed Samuel Holland (1728 - 1801) to supervise the survey along the north side of the St. Lawrence in preparation for the arrival of the loyalist emigrants.

  The Settlement of Royal Townships

  In the spring of 1784, two ranges of townships were laid out, the first range: the Royal Townships running from the seigneury of Longueuil, consisted of nine townships; the second range, the Cataraqui Townships, running from Fort Frontenac (Kingston), containing five townships, to the eastern part of the Bay of Quinte.  Five additional townships , west of the Bay of Quinte, were settled at a later date.  The original townships were numbered and later named for some of the fifteen children of King George III (1760 - 1820).

  At their own request, settlers were divided by "nationality" and religion, which gave a certain continuity to the patterns of settlement along the St. Lawrence River.  Catholic Highlanders, Scottish Presbyterians, German Calvinists, German Lutherans and Anglicans were generally assigned to certain areas of townships of Charlottenburg, Cornwall, Osnabruck, Williamsburg, Matilda, Edwardsburg, Augusta and Elizabethtown.  "the military claimants tended to settle in groups also so that certain regiments were closely associated with the early history of specific localities".3

  The first five Royal townships on the Upper St. Lawrence were settled by Sir John Johnson and his First Battalion of King's Royal Regiment of New York4 and the other two townships by this regiment and Jessup's Rangers.  Sir John Johnson raised a force of 800 strong of his own neighbours and dependants from the vast Johnson estates located on the Mohawk River.  This regiment was also known as the "84 Royal New York" or the "Royal Greens" and many were of German and Scottish origin.  At the conclusion of the American Revolution, the 84th were stationed at Isle aux Noix on Lake Champlain.  Late in 1783, these refugees passed down the Richelieu to Sorel, Québec, where other troops and Loyalists were also waiting for land.  Swampy Lancaster Township was settled at a later date.

  Shortly before the evacuation of New York by the British on November 25, 1783, two ships with a cargo of Associated Loyalists5 entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence for Sorel, Québec6.  Captain Michael Grass (1732 - 1813) led one party and Captain Peter Asselstine another.  At a meeting in July 1784, at Fort Frontenac, Captain Grass was given the first choice of land.  He selected Township One or the Kingston area.  Township Two, named "Ernesttown" was allotted to the Second Battalion of King's Royal Regiment of New York, James Roger's King's Rangers, Peter Van Alstine and his Associated Loyalists, and Dutch farmers from New York.

  Colonel Rogers also shared Township Three, Fredericksburg, with the rest of the Second Battalion of KRRNY.  The New York Party, under Major Van Alstine, obtained Township Four or Adolphustown.

  The fifth township, known as Marysburgh, was partially settled by Colonel McDonnell and his disbanded men of the 84th Royal Highland Emigrants.  In 1785, a group of Hessian mercenaries, who had stayed in Lower Canada, took up the remainder of this township.

  The second range of townships -- Winchester, Mountain and others, were settled by the sons and daughters of the UE's who were entitled to 200 acres of land at the age of majority (21 years).

  In examining the maps and records of the loyalist settlement along the St. Lawrence River, one realizes that about 70% came from the three northern counties of New York, and that about 24% were Scots; 30% were Germans; over 20% were recent immigrants to America, and the rest represented other nationalities: Dutch, English, Irish, French, etc.  Like the other Loyalist settlements in Upper Canada, the St. Lawrence communities helped to lay the foundations for the Province of Ontario.

 James Peachey :' Loyalists at New Johnstown (Cornwall)' - June 6, 1784

James Peachey : "Loyalists at New Johnstown (Cornwall)"

June 6, 1784

National Archives of Canada : C-2001


1Tracy, Frank Basil, The Tercentenary of the History of Canada, Vol. II (New York: Collier & Co., 1908), 652.   The beginnings of this emigration into what is now Ontario were in 1786, there were only 4,487 settlers here, with the first large settlement in Kingston area.

2Humber, Charles J., Allegiance, the Ontario Story (Mississauga, Ont.: Heirloom Publishing Inc., 1991), 80.

3Lamb, W. Kaye, Canada's Five Centuries (Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1971), 88.

4Humber, Charles J., Allegiance, the Ontario Story (Mississauga, Ont.: Heirloom Publishing Inc., 1991),  The King's Royal regiment of New York had roots deep in the Mohawk Valley.   The largest of all loyalist provincial corps in any of the departments of the war, they settled in seven of the first eleven townships, created for disbanded soldiers and Loyalists.

5"Associated Loyalists" refers to companies or parties assembled from civilians and unattached soldiers.

6Sorel, Québec is located at the mouth of the Richelieu River on the St. Lawrence.  It was a refugee camp to hundreds of Loyalists, mostly women and children, who were housed in tents or huts and fed by government officials.  It was abandoned in the spring of 1784 as Loyalists moved and settled along the St. Lawrence.


Mr. Don Smith UE kindly pointed out the error of the above labeling of the Loyalist Settlements.  The labels for the New Johnstown Settlements and New Oswegatchie Settlements are reversed in the above map and have been correctly identified in the graphic provided by Mr. Smith below.

Despite its error, in the interest of maintaining the original sourcing of the map above -- as well as provide a comparison to discuss -- both maps have been presented here.

The original article as it appeared in the 1998 Branches newsletter (above) has been left intact for archival purposes.   DKHM UE:: 29 JAN 2016