Our First Settlers – Part Seven

Burlington Gazette - History by Helen Langford

Our First Settlers - Part Seven
Tues., November 29, 1977

If it was not Joseph Brant, then who settled first in our vast area of present day Burlington?

Logically, the land closest to the water was the first. The Mississauga reserve from the Purchase Line to the Humber was holding up colonization and did so until 1806. So, our first settlers of necessity had to be those who managed to get land along the north shore of the Burlington Bay - or as it was known, East Flamborough Township.

All of these lots were either grants for service to England, or Reserve Lots. The earliest maps that we have are called patent maps and were kept over many years with names of settlers added as the patents on the land were granted. Normally to receive a patent, the settler had to clear five acres of land, built a house 16’ by 20’ and clear half of the road along one end of his property - all within two years! Can you visualize yourself (without a chainsaw) clearing five acres, let alone the rest of the duties?

Family records state that David Fonger settled in 1783 (about the same time as Land and Beasley in Hamilton) on land that was later granted to a military man. Presuming Fonger was using the land, this early, poor David would have had some anxious moments until he could negotiate a legal purchase.

William Applegarth, direct from England, George Chisholm and Charles King, both from the United States, settled early in 1790 on large tracts extending from the bay front to the escarpment. Applegarth received his land as a grant but both Chisholm and King bought their property. They did not like their original grants. Who wouldn’t be attracted by the park-like forest of oaks along the bay!

At this period of time, Joseph Brant was busy with his tribe on the Grand River and in 1792 was living there very comfortably. Also in 1792, Mary Gage was settled in Stoney Creek. A year later the Davis and Ghent families came to Stoney Creek as her neighbours. Many of our original land owners grew up in the Niagara Peninsula - The Pettits and Nathanial Bell (surgeon) to name only few. 

Great changes were occurring - John Graves Simcoe was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, a man already knowledgeable of the provincial problems through his service as commander of the Queen’s Ranger. As part of Simcoe's communication and fortification plans, King’s Head Inn at the south end of the beach was built and soon brought us another family, the first of the Bates’ -William.

Source: Langford, Helen. Burlington Gazette [Ontario], 29 Nov. 1977. Microfilm. Burlington Public Library - Central Branch. Reel 50.