Before 1800 …

Burlington Gazette – History by Helen Langford

Before 1800 …
Tues., December 20, 1977

Christmas was celebrated very simply and yet with great joy. It was a time for visiting, cooking special treats and for holding worship services in fog homes. The winter stores were in and the field labour was over for a few months. A special smoked ham or a few pheasants would be tenderly roasted over the open fire – perhaps a precious bit of white flour and sugar had been saved for this occasion.

For the children, there would have been treats like a pair of warm mittens, maybe a little maple sugar, and perhaps a simple toy fashioned from wood. Bible reading was a daily family habit. The Nativity story must have held a special significance heard around a glowing fire in a one room log shelter. 

By 1789, there were 10,000 settlers in Upper Canada; a few were new settlers from overseas, some were German mercenaries brought over to fight for England in the War of Independence but the bulk of the 10,000 were people of varying backgrounds who wished to live under English rule. Many of these loyalists left homes and good farms or businesses in the colonies. But, just as people today migrate, these settlers also came for greater opportunities for themselves and their children. 

By 1786, the Governor of Upper Canada had ceased the rations allowed new settlers, feeling that those who wished to remain loyal to England had had ample time to come across the border and get settled. Niagara was only one entry point but was most commonly used by our early pioneers. Government lists were kept which has made documentation of these people somewhat easier. 

Four to five thousand loyalists were shipped from New York City (York) in the spring of 1783 bound for New Brunswick. It is interesting to note that 1/3 of the adults were listed as black slaves. Another group of black pioneers settled near Chatham, Ont. on loyalist land grants. 

Some of our settlers were aboard the ships and received land grants in New Brunswick. George Chisholm and family settled near present day Shelburne. Phoebe Land and her children went to the St. John River area – she had given her husband Robert up for dead! 

Next week Robert Land will turn up! 

Source: Langford, Helen. Burlington Gazette [Ontario], 20 Dec. 1977. Microfilm. Burlington Public Library – Central Branch. Reel 50.

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