Grand River Branch
United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada
Selected Reprints from the
Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches
"Squatter Loyalists: The Early Settlement of Ancaster Township, Wentworth County"
Angela E.M. Files, November 1998, Vol.10 No.1, Pages 14-18
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, July 19, 1998, local, devoted historians Harold and Betty Lampman gave an interesting discourse about the early settlement of Ancaster Township to the Grand River Branch, United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada. Ancaster Township is located southwest of the city of Hamilton. Today the Town of Ancaster has a population of 24,000 and an area of 67.39 square miles.
After the Native era ending in 1784, the genesis of inhabitation to Ancaster Township commenced with the arrival of squatter-Loyalists and other white settlers in 1789. Their nearest communities to this area were Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Grimsby, Queenston and St. Catharines. Brantford, Burford, Dundas, Hamilton, London and Woodstock had not yet become defined areas of settlement.
The earliest known record of squatters' petitions was known as "The James Wilson and Associates", 1783, a list of 22 petitioners who had been encouraged by the Land Board and Acting Surveyor to settle upon these lands four years before they were surveyed and considered reserved lands for Crown Patents.
In the next 30 years, Ancaster became the third most important community in Upper Canada besides Niagara-on-the-Lake and Frontenac (Kingston). By the 1820's the development of water power in Dundas made it a greater community than Ancaster and by 1826 the opening of the Burlington Beach canal and the development of Hamilton outgrew Dundas.
In the year 1791, partners James Wilson and Richard Beasley built a grist mill and sawmill on the site of Ancaster community. Three years later the mills were sold to Jean Baptiste Rousseau (1758-1812), a trader and businessman. Settlement grew around these mills! About 1800 the names of the settlements, Wilson's Mills and Rousseau's Mills became known as Ancaster after a village in Lincolnshire, England.
1796 - 1798 : Dr. Oliver Tiffany was the first physician in Ancaster.
1796 : Mr. Richard Cockerell, first public school teacher, taught at the Union Hotel.
1803 : Mr. Marlatt taught by public subscription in a log school house.
May 1814 : Bloody Assizes of Ancaster : Marauding bands of renegade settlers who defected to the U.S. were indicted for high treason. Fifteen of the nineteen prisoners were convicted on July 20, 1814. Eight of them were executed at Burlington Heights and the remainder were sent into exile.