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
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.
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.