Pioneer at 46

Burlington Gazette – History by Helen Langford

Pioneer at 46
Tues., December 6, 1977

Two weeks ago Augustus Jones, surveyor, was introduced and now it is time to relate him to Burlington.

Augustus was a very descriptive writer of his keen observations. It was likely that his glowing reports influenced his two sisters Mary and Susan to come to Upper Canada. Why else would a widow (Mary) and two teenage children tackle such a long arduous trip in 1790?

Mary Jones Gage lost her husband John during The American War of Independence leaving her with a son James and a daughter Elizabeth. Their story is typical of many of our early settlers and beautifully described by R. Janet Powell in Annals of the Forty. To get the full impact of the journey you need a map of New York State. With their few treasures loaded in a birch bark canoe, Mary Gage, aged 46, James 16 and Elizabeth 14, passed along the Mohawk River past Fort Stanwick, portaged to Wood Creek, through Lake Oneida to the Oswego River and into Lake Ontario and then along the shore to Fort Niagara.

Augustus would have been in Niagara often during his years as a surveyor – it was the administration centre for the Niagara district. The joy of the reunion with his sister and her family does not take much imagination!

Mary and the children went immediately to land in Saltfleet likely arranged for by Augustus. For a woman of 46 to begin a new life as a pioneer must have been such a challenge – and we think women’s liberation is a new idea! It was not until 1796 that both Mary and James were granted land officially.

Many of you know this farm at the foot of the escarpment in Stoney Creek. The house built many years later is known as Battlefield House. A trip to view the area is duo-fold for the monument to the Battle of Stoney Creek in 1812 is also there. 

Mary lived through the war, some of it being fought on her farm, saw her daughter married to Major John Westbrook and watched her son James (founder of Wellington Square) become a very influential trader and developer in Upper Canada.

Source: Langford, Helen. Burlington Gazette [Ontario], 6 Dec. 1977. Microfilm. Burlington Public Library – Central Branch. Reel 50.

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