Big Island, Sophiasburgh Township

Big Island, Bay of Quinte

Sophiasburgh Township

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Records of the Bay of Quinte

Why I am interested in Big Island
Big Island is in the centre of the map. I have no connection to Big Island but the 3 petitions below tell an interesting story and name a lot of petitioners. The Lt Governor and the Executive Council controlled the settlement of land and they were quite thorough in checking out requests through the Attorney General's office for legal matters and the Surveyor General's office for land matters. 

The petitions below were in 1798, 1807 and 1816 and all were denied. A later 1824 account of the island is also included.

Please let me know if you have information to add.

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Copyright: Randy Saylor, transcribed Feb 2008 and May 2009

1807 Map
The Library and Archives of Canada (LAC) in Ottawa has an 1807 map of Big Island. The description reads, "A Map of Peninsula, or Tract of Land, situate and lying on the south side of the great Bay and near the North Shore of Sophiasburgh... Surveyed the 24 day of February 1807 at the request of Mr. Alexander Robertson and others by Henry Smith, L. P. Sur." This ties in with the 1807 petition below. Thanks to Virginia Hannay for finding this (May 2014).

Source: Upper Canada Land Petitions, RG 1 L3, Leases and Licences of Occupation, 1798-1838, V555, #18, AO, C-2983

To His Honour Peter Russell Esquire President administering the Government of the Province of Upper Canada etc etc etc In Council
The petition of Philip Dorland, Thomas Dorland, Ruben Bedell, Alexander Van Alstine and James Barker
Humbly Sheweth
That your petitioners are desirous of obtaining a lease of a large Island lying in the Bay of Quenty above Green Point and opposite lots number from twenty eight to fifty four
Wherefore your petitioners pray that the same may be leased to them on such terms and conditions as to your Honour may seem meet
And your petitioners are duty bound will ever pray
[signed] DMG Rogers
Attorney for the petitioners
York 13th July 1798

[On the fold] Recd 14 July 1798
This island has not been reserved for the 2/7 th & therefore not within the scope of the reference made to the Sur Genl [signed] D Smith

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Source: Upper Canada Land Petitions, 1806-08, V426, R8/28, AO, C-274

[page 28]

To His excellency Francis Gore Esquire Francis Gore Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Upper Canada etc etc

In Council - The petition of Alexander Robertson, distiller of Sophiasburgh in the Midland District of Upper Canada

Humbly Sheweth, that your petitioner is desirous of leasing 200 acres of land, being part of the peninsula situate on the north side of Sophiasburgh, containing about 4000 acres - and is required by a number of his neighbors, (a list of whose names are here to subjoined) to request they may also be inserted for 200 acres each if the said land is to be leased, or for grants, if to be granted - said peninsula extends from lot No 33 to lot No 45 of Sophiasburgh and is connected to the main land by a dry marsh of near one half a mile in width and three miles in length, should it be his Excellency’s pleasure that this peninsula be granted or leased your Memorialist prays, he may have the earliest notice possible - with such instructions as may enable him and his neighbors to make legal applications - and your Petitioners in duty bound will ever pray
Alexr Robertson York 19th of June 1807

[page 28a]
To His Excellency Frances Gore Esquire Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Upper Canada etc etc In Council

The petition of Thomas Dorland, John Howell, Philip Dorland, Paul Trumpour, Reuben Bedell, James Cotter,  and Reuben Cronk, of the different talents in the Midland District and Province aforesaid
Humbly Sheweth, that they themselves and associates, to wit, John Stickney,  Richard Morden, Edward Barker, George Fairman, Benjamin Smith, Enoch Cronk, John Gorsline, James Barker, Joseph Foster, Mathew Cronk, John Covent?, William Foster, Israel Tripp, Samuel Peack, Samuel Shaw, Frederick Mason, Richard Howell, Robert Fairman, John Fairman, Joseph Morden, Isaac Cole, Abram Cronk Junr, and Robert Vaughan of the above towns and district ---

Humbly Sheweth that whereas there is an island situated in the Bay of Quinty opsit the Town of Sophiasburgh and District aforesaid, now laying waste, tho the soil is Equal to any Town in the District besides many other Natural advantages to render it one of the most delightful settlements in the Province - and where as your Humbel Petitioners and there to assosiates understand the whole of the above island is to be let on easy leases -your Humbel Petitioners pray that your Excellency will be pleased to Grant your Petitioners a lease for the whole island, under such restrictions and conditions as your Excellency in Council shall think Good and your Petitioners will as in duty to pray
Sophiasburgh January 20th 1807

[pages 28b & c]
[signed]                                  John Covart
John Stickney                         Benjamin Way
Reuben Cronk                        Reuben Bedell
John Howell                            Daniel Bedell
James Cotter                          John Dorland
Abraham Cronk junr               Thomas Dorland Junr
Isaac Cole                              James Noxon
Richd Howell                          Matthew Cronk
Edwd Barker                          John Clapp
John Gorsline                          Enoch Ismond??
Israel Tripp                             Gorge Cronk
Joseph Foster                         Durland? Clapp
John Brooks                           Abrem Cronk senr
James Rainey                          James Way
Joseph Morden                      Cornelus Peck?
Benjamin Smith                      Henery Williams
Enock Cronk                         John Cronk
Peter Holmes                         Richard Morden
Robert Vaugan [sic]               James Barker
Samuel Peack                        John Fairman junr
                                             Gorge Fairman

[page 28d – notation on exterior of folded petition]
Petition for the Island in the bay Quinty
Mr Dorland member left this at the Council Office 19 Feb 1807 to be filed with other applicants in the within Island*
J. Small

*See Petition of Alex Robertson & others
Read in Council Januray 27th 1807

[page 28e]
To His Excellency Frances Gore Esquire Lt Governor of the Province of Upper Canada etc etc
In Council
May it Please Your Excellency

[side note] Entered in Land Book G pages 217, 18
In Obedience to Your Excellencys order of reference to us, to report upon the petition of Alexander Robertson.

We humbly state to your Excellency that the Tract applied for by the Petitioner, & others referred to in his petition, appears by the Plans in this Office, and by the Plan of the Midland District, to be an Island, containing about 4000 acres of land, situated in the Bay of Quinty, north of the Townhip of Sophiasburgh, and Distant from thence about half a mile –

All of which is humbly submitted to your Excellencs wisdom
Chewett & Ridout
Actg Surveyr Genl with petition

Surveyr Genl Office
27 January 1807

[page 28f]
List of Names reffered to in the within Petition –
[side note] Entered in Land Book G pages 217,
Solomon Huff
Charles Huff
James Huff
Danl Vancleft
Paul Peterson
John Peterson
Willm Williams
Edward Fyfeld?
Mattw Wiley
Peter Cole
Martin Foster
Egbert Davies
David Johns
Willm Huff
Elizabeth Huff
16 – James Mosher

[page 28g endnotes on the fold]
Alexander Robertson

Lt Governors Office
York 22 Jany 1807

Referred to the Executive Council By order of the Lieut Governor.\
Wm Halton Secretary

Received from the Lieut Govr Office same day
J Small

Read in Council Jan 27th 1807
Referred to the Sur Genl to report
Thos Scott
Entered in Land Book G pages 217, 18

Read in Council Jany 27 1807
As the lands prayed for by the within Petition are stated by the Surveyor General to be an Island, the prayer of the petition cannot be granted, as being contrary to His majesty’s Instructions
Thos Scott
Francis Gore
Lt Governor
Source: Upper Canada Land Petitions, 1806-08, V426, R8/28, AO, C-274

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Upper Canada Land Petitions, 1816-19, V422, Q11/2, AO, C-2739

[pages 2h & i]

To His Excellency Francis Gore. Esquire, Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Upper Canada etc etc etc In Council
The Petition of Alexander Robertson of the Township of Sophiasburgh, Distiller, -
Humbly Sheweth
That on the 19th of January 1807 Your petitioner applied to your Excelleny in Council for a Lease, or Grant of Two hundred acres of land being part of a Peninsula said to contain about 4000 acres, situated on the North side of the Township of Sophiasburgh, and received for Answer on the 27th of the same month, that as the Lands prayed for were stated by the Surveyors General to be an Island, the prayed of his petition could not be granted being contrary to His majesty's Instructions -- which Answer induced your Petitioner to get it ascertained by respectable Persons whether or not the said tract could be considered as an island and also to get the same Surveyed by one of the Provincial Surveyors, which Testimony and a plan of the said survey your Petitioner now Humbly leave to lay before your Excellency earnestly soliciting your Excellency to take his former petition into consideration And should your Excellency be pleased to grant him a favourable Answer to his petition aforesaid for himself and others, he furthe rbegs leave to add that he is prepared to pay the whole of the Patent and survey fees under the regulation acted upon the 6th July 1804
And pettioner with ever pray
[signed] Alexr Robertson
York 14 March 1807

[page 2i & k]
To His Excellency Francis Gore. Esqr. Lt Governor of the Province of Upper Canada etc etc etc In Council
May it please your Excellency
In obedience to your Excellency's order of reference to us, to report upon the Petition of Alexander Robertson, relative to an Island (by him called a peninsula) in the Bay of Quinty, north of Sophiasburgh

We respectfully state to your Excellency that this Tract has always been understood to be an Island, at this Office, and altho at this time, when the waters of Lake Ontario are uncommonly low, and in the Drought ??? Summer the communication between it & the Township of Sophiasburgh, may in some places be passable on foot yet it is apprehe??? that in the spring of the year and at all times when the Lake is of its general height, the the said Tract, will appear to be an Island.

In the year 1801, Thomas Dorland Esqr and others applied for a lease thereof, stating it to be an Island but as it does not constitute any part of the Two Sevenths reserved for the Crown & Clergy, the prayer of the petition was not granted

It has been stated by Mr Dorland, that the Mississaga Indians occupy the before mentioned Island, and have cornfields thereon and that they have leased part of it --
All which is humbly submitted to your Excellency's wisdom
[signed] Chewett &Ridout
Actg Surveys Genl
Surveyor GenlOffice
York 18th March 1807

[page 2b]
This may certify that the Inhabitants of the Long Island in the Bay of Quinte are generally men of good Fame have done their duty as Loyal Subjests during the late war with the United States and have afforded considerable supplies of provisions for the use of the Service through the said war.
Sophiasburgh 26th January 1816
[signed] James Cotter JP
[signed] Ebenr Washburn JP
[signed] Stephn Conger JP

[pages 2 & 2a]
The Humble Petition of the under signed inhabitants of the large Island in the Bay of Quinty fronting Sophiasburgh west of Green Point.

The Excellency's Petitioners having addressed a Petition about nine years ago to your excelleny Praying that Your Excellency would be pleased to allow them a grant or lease for the Island .... [unreadable] .... paid then rent for the same untill now that your Excelleny's Petitioners thinks their situation very precarious. Wherefore your Excellency's Petitioners humbly prays that your Excelleny would be pleased to take their case in consideration and Grant them such relief as your Excellency in his Wisdom may deem miet? And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever Pray.
Sophiasburgh 25th Jany 1816

[all signed]
H Williams
Jeremiah Ellison [could be Allison]
Peter Cole
Joshua Hity?
Peter Berger
Luke Moran
Samuel Peack [Peck or Pake]
James Cenedic??
Jack Alyea
Samuel Peack Junr
William Parliament
Cornelius Fuller
Samuel Wilamy or Williams
William Haslow? [could be Haslitt]
Jacob Tremper [likely Trumpour]
Cornelius Granlief? [could be Greaves who owned lot 1]
John Reede?
Samuel Shaw
Frederick Meason? [Menson?]
Garrat Westervelt X sold to an American
Alexander Robertson

Lt Governor Office, York, 10 Feb 1816
Referred to the Surveyor General to report upon by order of the Lt Gov.
Edw MacMahon in absence of W Leef? Halton

[Note: "Some of the above are my Ancestors and Big Island was were I was born. Samuel Peck and Samuel Shaw, Brothers in Law, were the very first ones to settle the Island.   Here are some of the names listed in the above petition. Jeremiah Allison, and Luke Moran.  Peter Cole 1775 to abt. 1834  (my 4th great grandfather), his daughter Hannah m. Eleazer Williams and his daughter Mary married  Peter Barrager, son of Peter Barrager and Elizabeth Huff. Samuel Peack (Pake) the elder married Julia Parliament. Samuel Shaw married Abigail Parliament sister of Julia and William Parliament. John Alyea b. 1743 married Rachel Smith. Their son John Alyea m. Maricha Bonter, sister of Letty Bonter who married Samuel Peck Jr. b. 1787, my 4th great grandfather ( He was not the son of the first Samuel Peack (Pake) but the nephew.) Cornelius Fuller m. Elizabeth Westervelt daughter of Garret Westervelt and Elizabeth Davis. Alexander Robertson b. abt 1794 married Rebecca Roblin 1794- 1872.  The others are unknown."
Source: email from Janice Peck Bradley, April 2008]

[pages 2d, e, f]
To His Excellency Francis Gore. Esquire, Lieu
t Governor of the Province of Upper Canada etc etc etc
May it please your Excellency
In obedience to your Excellency's order of reference to me to report upon the petition of the Inhabitants of the large Island in the Bay of Quinty fronting Sophiasburgh west of Green Point -
This is a large Island, containing about five thousnad acres of Land, by estimation situate in the Bay of Quinty opposite the Township of Sophiasburgh, and constitutes a part of the County of Prince Edward; About the year 1801, Thomas Dorland Esqr and others applied for a Lease thereof. The report on their Petition stated, that “this island had not been reserved as a part of the two sevenths and therefore within the Scope of the reference made to the Surveyor General”

On the 18th March 1807 upon an order of reference upon the Petition of Alexander Robertson, a Report was made to your Excellency in Council, relative to the foresaid Island -
Whether it has or has not been ceded to His majesty by the Indians, I am unable to state to your excellency -
From an entry in a book in this office taken from the Quebec Book (presumed to be in the Council Office) page 158 – it is there said – that late in the fall of the year 1787 The Deputy Surveyor General, attended at the Head of the Bay of Quinty to assist Sir John Johnson in the purchase of the Lands from the Mississagas – but that he was silent to the extent of the purchase

All that is humbly submitted to yours Excellency's wisdom
[signed] Thos Ridout
Surveyor Genl

Surveyors Office
York 12th February 1816

[written on the fold] The Petition of Sundry Inhabitants of the Large Island in the Bay of Quinte fronting Sophiasburgh West of Green Point with the report of the Surveyors General thereon dated 12th February 1816 – Entd in Land Book J page 425
Read in Council 12th September 1816
As there are orders from Home directing that no Island be Granted or leased the prayer cannot be granted

1816 Land Book
Source: Upper Canada Land Books, RG1 L1, Book J, V28, 1816-1819, AO, C-103, p 425
Q2, Sundry Inhabitants of the Large Island in the Bay of Quinte fronting Sophiasburgh West of Green Point with the report of the Surveyors General thereon dated 12th February 1816
As there are orders from Home directing that no Island be Granted or leased the prayer cannot be granted

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Source: From Civil Secretary Correspondence, Upper Canada Sundries, RG5A1, pages 36700 to 36736703[?], transcription by Eric Bowler and posted with his permission, Aug 2014.

Sophiasburg 9 Dec 1824
Dear Sir,
In your favour of 27 Ult you requested I would give you some information respecting the Big Island, I shall now endevour to do so.
The Big Island is from 6 to 7 miles long, and about 2 miles wide. We commonly distinguish the two sides of the Island by calling them, the bay-side, and marsh-side. Commencing at the N. E. End of the island, there is a line run from the marsh-side to the bay-side, cutting off about 200 acres on which a man of the name of Graves lives. From thence proceeding along the bay-side to the S.W. the farms extend half way across the Island. The first farm is Sprague's 50 acres, then Badgely 150, Veda (?) 400, Jas. Peack 75, P. Cole 200, G. Cronk 150, Widow Greenleaf 200, Benedict and Cronk 200, Josh. Huff 200, Barager 150, Jos. Allison 200, L. Cole 100, Robinson 200, Millar 200, Thompson 50, Delong 150, this is the head of the island. From thence descending the marsh-side to the N.E., the first farm is L. Williams 50 acres, Wm. Williams 300, Widow Weese 200, Wm. Vere 200, Bolter 100, Barton 100, Jas. Howell 100, Carter 100, Jere (?) Allison 300, L. Peack Jr. 200, Widow Howell 200, Moran 300, opposite to this farm there is an island in the marsh consisting about 50 acres which would be excellent meadow or pasture land. The next farm T. Peack Senr. 200 acres, L. Shaw 200, Fairman 150 which joins on Graves'. The quantity of acres no doubt on an accurate survey would exceed this estimate. The value of the land I should suppose on the bay-side to be worth four dollars, on the marsh-side it is much better and I think it worth about six dollars an acre. The people on the marsh-side are generally better off than the bay-side settlers, who are mostly great drunkards.

If it should be determined to sell the Island, in the first place, I think it would be proper to give a long notice, say 10 or 12 months previous, because the Islanders altho' they raise a good deal of grain generally spend it all before the year comes round, having no assurance (?) of tomorrow, they think only of today, therefore at a short notice there would be few of them who would be qualified to become purchasers, but by giving them timely notice, many of them would economise and endevour to prepare themselves for the day of sale. In the next place if it is sold, I should suppose the purchase money would not be required to be paid immediately as in that case I believe none of Islanders would be able to purchase and here I must remark that I do not approve of the plan on which the Mohawk land was sold, that is; no definite period for the payment of the purchase money. I think it would be better to have the purchase money paid by installments, say in 8 or 10 years, as in that case after a man has paid the interest in advance for a year or two with the installments, it would be for his interest to keep the land in good order, otherwise he might after paying the interest, only for a year or two, sow all the land he possibly could with grain in a slovenly way (which would exhaust the land and fill it with weeds) and after harvest abandon it. And on the lands being resold, there would be a drop in price. Also I think it would be proper if the land was sold in this way, that the interest and installments should be rigidly enacted, because if one year was allowed to pass by, they would hope for the same indulgence the next, and live accordingly Perhaps it might answer to let them pay only the interest in advance the first year, the next year one of the annual installments with the interest in advance on the remainder of the purchase money.

S.W. of the Big Island is an island commonly called Solomon Huff's Island, because a fellow of that name lives upon it, but I believe the island has never been granted, Huff is a squatter. The length of this island is about three miles and one mile broad. I understand it is very good land. There was formerly a prodigious quantity of fine oak timber on this island, but Huff has cut it all. There is another island called Laguin island containing about 60 acres of very good land, covered with beech, maple and hiccory, which no doubt in a few years would be valuable for fire wood.
If there be any other enquiries on the subject which you wish to have answered, I shall be happy to give you all the information in my power and remain always

Yours sincerely
Orton Hancox

A note from my personal file on Orton Hancox - Eric Bowler
Orton Hancox (6 Nov 1780-4 Mar 1864) was an Englishman who came to Canada in 1814 and settled at Sophiasburgh. He had considerable business ability and many influential friends. He married Mary Hall McKenzie, daughter of Colin McKenzie Jr and Mary Howard in Kingston on 12 March, 1825. The McKenzie family were well-known, prosperous and politically important Loyalists, based on Amherst Island. Hancox and his wife moved to Bath in 1832 and with the help of his wife’s family was soon a leading citizen. The town of Bath was in the 1830’s an active thriving community and at that time, appeared ready to outstrip both Kingston and York (Toronto) in size and importance.

Hancox was a mortgage-broker, moneylender and private banker. In a profession that was not noted for ethical behavior he was considered unusual in that his business was conducted with honesty and openness. Many of his business ventures were taken in co-operation with Benjamin Seymour (who was later to become one of the first of Canada’s senators). Seymour was the husband of Sarah McKenzie (Mary Hall McKenzie’s cousin) and between the two of them they financed the development of the community and carried mortgages on many of the homes and farms of Bath, Ernestown and Fredericksburg.

Mr. Hancox also had a liquor-sellers license, then as now, a sure moneymaker. He took a great interest in military matters and was appointed Major in the First Addington Regiment of Militia on 23 April 1838.
They lived on Church Street in Bath; town lot #11, in a large house with half an acre of grounds and a separate building that was used as an office for financial transactions. This house was built in 1832 and is still standing today. (For those who may be interested, a book called “The History and Architecture of the Village of Bath, Ontario”, by Arif et al, published by Queen’s University, is highly recommended.) They always had servants, and to one of them, Mary White, (who seems to have been more of a friend and a confidant than a servant), Mrs. Hancox was to later leave her pianoforte and one thousand dollars. They had no children who survived to adulthood.

Mr. Hancox was for many years a Justice of the Peace for the town of Bath and a most important and influential member of St. John’s Anglican Church. He had contracted for the very lovely stained glass window in St. John’s Church installed in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Hancox. This window was destroyed in the 1925 fire. Mr. Hancox died in 1864 at age 83. He seems to have been a very intelligent and interesting person, certainly at his death in 1864, the importance of the village of Bath declined sharply. It is Ontario’s loss that no one has attempted to write a memoir or biography of him and his influence in the County of Lennox and Addington.
Mary Hall Hancox lived to be 89. In June of 1885 she fell and broke her thigh. She never recovered and passed away on June 23rd of that year leaving an estate valued at $53,000.00.

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