William Bell letters re Hastings Militia 1798 - 1800

William Bell Letters re Hastings Militia

1798 - 1800

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Why I am interested in these letters.
It is a rare treat when Upper Canadian letters from the 1790's survive. These letters from Lt Col John Ferguson to Capt William Bell, give a first hand voice that paints a vivid picture of the issues and the people concerned. In this case, the letters below tell the story of the formation of the Hastings Militia, the first mustering of the Hastings Militia in February of 1799, the efforts to improve training practices and the ordering of officers uniforms.
We can feel the reluctance of the privates to attend Parade and the corresponding effort of the leaders to make things "convenient" and get the militia up and running.

I would like to thank Mark Davenport for assisting with the transcription and Gerry Boyce, well known Hastings historian, for locating Mohawk Village and Bob Campbell for further information about William Bell.

See the short segment about Officer's uniforms near the bottom of this web page.

William Bell and John Ferguson
William Bell, born in 1760, fought with the British Army during the American Revolution and came to Canada afterwards at the invitation of John Ferguson. Gerry Boyce writes that, "from 1796 to 1802, William Bell was the teacher at the Mohawk School succeeding John Bininger of Adolphustown who had been appointed the first teacher in 1792. Obviously it was the first school in Hastings County." In 1798, William Bell is appointed a Captain of the Hastings Militia and the letters below are addressed to him at Mohawk Village.  Boyce states that this is the landing area just west of current Deseronto. A transcription of the Bell's letters regarding being a teacher was published in Papers and Records, Lennox and Addington Hist. Soc., V5, 1914.

According to a report of commission dates, John Ferguson was appointed a Lieutenant in 1787. It would appear that little happened in forming an active militia in Hastings until 1798, when Ferguson is appointed Lt Col and is referred to as "Lieutenant of the County of Hastings." He quickly sets out to establish a functioning Militia. His letters to Wm Bell are all addressed from Kingston but he does own the farm at lot 33, Con 2, Sidney which is located just west of the Moira River.

Lt Col Ferguson passes on orders that he receives from the Lt Governor (referred to as the President) in York. Ferguson leans heavily on Capt Bell to organize the militia in Thurlow, Sidney and Rawdon Townships and the feeling of trust between the two men is very apparent. The first muster (below) of the men was in February 1799. The first Militia Act in Upper Canada was in 1787 and again in 1793 with many additions in later years.

In 1804, Bell is promoted to Major and in 1825 he succeeded Ferguson as Colonel. Bell formed a partnership with Ferguson, opened a store in Thurlow and later became Justice of the Peace and was the Coroner. He died in 1833.
Bob Campbell, a Bell descendant, has posted information about Bell and his descendants here on Rootsweb.

These letters are held in the William Bell Fonds
at the Lennox and Addington Museum and Archives and are usually found under Lennox and Addington Historical Society holdings. They were microfilmed in 1959 and copies are available at the Library and Archives of Canada, (RG9-D8-18, films M-210 and 211) and at the Archives of Ontario on films M-210 and 211.

© Copyright
Randy Saylor and Mark Davenport, transcriber, April 2011
Note: transcribed as written so spelling can vary from current practice. The letters have minor changes such as paragraphing to make reading easier. Dates have been moved to the top of each letter. The numbering system of the letters is shown.

The Letters
To M [torn]
[20 Nov 1798]
give notice to the in[hab]itants of this County of Hastings, that they are required to attend at a meeting of the Lieutenancy on Saturday  the eighth day of December next at 10 oclock in the forenoon at the house occupied by David Harris on Lot No 34 in the first concession of the Township of  Sydney for the purpose of Enrollment according to the Act in that case made and provided .
Given under my hand at Kingston this 20th day of November 179[8 - partly torn].
John Ferguson
Lieutenant of the County of Hastings

Kingston, 27th Nov 1798
Dear Sir
Having been appointed Lieutenant of the County of Hastings, and being ordered to enrol the Militia without delay, I must request you will immediately proceed with the inclosed Notices and cause them to be put up as directed, this is the beginning of Your Duty, as I have recommended you to be Sergeant, as well as captain of a Company, and I have the satisfaction of telling you that the President has assured me he will approve of my appointments. However you will say nothing about these matters untill I give you your Commission.
You will be so good as go up to Coverts as soon as possible and tell him from me that I mean to appoint him a Sergeant, and if he accepts it, he will of course be the first, and that I wish him to go immediately into Rawdon with the Notice, and warn the people. If he will not go up as far as Marsh’s? with the one for him - I beg you will sett off immediately on receipt of this, as you know my will some people will endeavor to take advantage, as I dare sey some of them will not like my having been appointed - I trust you will receive this time enough so as to be able to set off on Tuesday morning[.] I mean to leave this on Wednesday morning on horseback as I dare not run the risk  of the sleighing, and I hope to  meet you somewhere on Thursday or Friday.

You may hint to Fairman that I have appointments for some of his sons, and endeavor to get one of them to go up the Creek, and read a Notice to some of the People and warn them all - there are a few up the Creek in Sydney - they also must be warned - I think  that one Notice may be put up at the house of Artimus Ross., lest any of them may dispute the authority of Fairman, Covert of yourself  I enclose some orders, which you will give as they are directed - I do not know whether John or Robert Fairman be? at home, but of which of them go?, you will put his name in the order - there is two of Fairman Family appointed officers. I also ?? you extract from the Militia Act which you can read to such persons as you find who have any inclination not to obey the notice, it will shew them the consequence -
Now I beg you will have no time, in order to forward any ????, and keep this letter to yourself untill I see you - I enclose the notice for Marsh, and if Covert does not go that way, you will be sure to convey it to him immediately - the letters I enclose you will  also take care to deliver. I send Thomas up purposely with this to you. Be careful, if you go on horseback not to lose the papers.
Comp? to Mr Bell
I am DY?
Yours John Ferguson
Persuade Covert to accept the Sergeantry, and to begin this duty by going with the notice - this will of course insure him to be the first  -
[addressed to]
William Bell
Mohawk Village

[Note: a long piece of the left side is torn away.]
Copy Kingston Dec 13 1798
Dr Sir, Finding that it is an established ?? appoint the companies nearest to their respective [o]fficers, I am sorry that I could not leave you [torn] mpany as you have Chosen it, this I am  [torn] re you’ll readily ensure when you reflect [torn] at the Convenience of the People must be [torn]  ??? is far as is Consistent with our Duty: I have therefore enclosed you a list of your Company - I have exempted your brother Archy untill I know His Honour the Presiden[ts] pleasure - I must request you to appoint two Sergeants ??? let them be men who have at least a little education -

You are authorised by law to call out [torn] Company not exceeding four times a year as our militia is perfectly in its infancy [torn] this is about the Gd?list time the people have [torn] to desire you to have the goodness to call [torn] Company together once this season, where the most Convenient for them, and read ?? the Militia acts with which  they [smudge over two words] sooner this is done the better - and have the goodness to Report me the names of such persons as are absent and the reason, if any is given - Have at the [torn] of the List without being numbered need not [torn] warned to attend. I have Decided, the Captain [torn] deliver their reports to you, and you will [torn] the goodness to forward them to me.
As soon as I am authorized by [torn] Honor the Presidents approbation, I will [torn] have the pleasure of seeing you to presen[t] your Commission.
I am ??
Your very Humble
John Ferguson
Lieutenant  of the
County of Hastings
you will ab?? to give them ten day[s] notice

Major Alexander Chisholm

Kingston Dec 13 th 1798
En??????  [smudged] you have a list of your company of [large smudge] far? as number Eleven, I had [smudge] Gilbert Harris to take the th?? [smudge] would be too inconvenient for these people [smudge] attend meetings at so great a distance, and [smudge] to you to go to them. He will report to you and you to me as you will see by the enclosed letter to ?? which after you have read you will seal and place with the rest - You will appoint Old William Sherard? a Sargeant, he can well enough do all that is to be [smudge] which principally will ?? in warning [smudge]... to attend meetings. [illegible]
You [smudge] by Law to call your company [smudge] ?? your time a your [smudge] militia is perfectly in its infancy, and [smudge] as idle a time as the People hav? [smudge] to demise you will call Your [smudge] that is from No 12 / together once this season when it will be most convenient for them, and [smudge] to them all the Militia Acts, with whereon they are yet unacquainted the sooner this is done the better.

You will ?? to give ten days notice, and you will report to me the [smudge] all those who are absent, [smudge] if any is given. As Captain [smudge] Company is nearly contiguous to [smudge] would it not meet the convenience of the People of both to be assembled on the same day and at the same place - consult them on this, as the convenience of the People must be studied as far as consistent with the Duty. You will deliver your report [smudge] er Chisholm who will forward them [smudge] as soon as I have His Honor [smudge] ??dation I will have the pleasure [smudge] [y]ou to forward you your Commission [smudge] of your Subalterns. I am [smudge] Humble servt
[smudge] erguson
[smudge] of the County of Hastings
[addressed to]
Captain William Bell
of the Hastings Militia

806-807 [left side torn off]
Kingston 13 th Decr 1798
You will have the goodness to
[torn] the enclosed letters in a book to be
[torn] for that purpose, after which please
[torn] them and forward them by the first opportunity to their addresses.
I am Sir
Your very humble Servt John Ferguson
Lieutenant of the County of Hastings
[torn] tant William Bell
the Battalion of Militia
the County of Hastings
?? I send you papers for a book
[addressed to] Adjutant William Bell
of the Hastings Militia

17 th Jan 1799
[top part torn off]
the death of ??rim ?? Clark  ??
happened, I would have been up, But cannot now for some days. I came here to send an express to the Family,  ?? Fortune? ?? ?? - tell Lounsbury that I’ll be up for ?? wheat next week
Yours J Ferguson

Thurlow 30 th January 1799
The Lieutenant of the County of Hastings has directed that the respective Companies shall be called together by their officers, as soon as possible in order to make them acquainted with the Militia Acts. This is therefore to give Notice to my Company that I will attend them for the purpose aforementioned at the house of Sergeant William Sherrad in the 5th concession of Sydney at eleven oclock in the forenoon, and all persons belonging to the said Company are desired to give their attendance accordingly.
William Bell
Captain in the Hastings Militia

Kingston 10th Feby 1799
List of Officers of the Hastings Militia, as affirmed of by the Honor the President with the dates of their Commission.
John Ferguson     Lieutenant of the County           7 Nov 1798
Major                  Alexander Chisholm                  8 Dec 1798
Captain               William Bell                              8 Dec 1798
                           Samuel Sherwood                    9 Dec 1798
                           George W Meyers                  10 Dec 1798
Captain Lieutenant Mathias Marsh                       8 Dec 1798
Lieutenants          Gilbert Harris                            8 Dec 1798
                           John Stuart                               9 Dec 1798
                           John Chisholm                        10 Dec 1798
                           John Fairman Senr                  11 Dec 1798
                           Lenard W Meyers                  12 Dec 1798
Ensigns                David Simmons                        8 Dec 1798
                           Jacob W Meyers                      9 Dec 1798
                           Alexr Chisholm                       10 Dec 1798
                           Robert Fairman                       11 Dec 1798
                           Samuel B Gilbert                     12 Dec 1798
Adjutant              William Bell                              8 Dec 1798
Quarter Master  John MacIntosh                         8 Dec 1798
Signed     John Ferguson Liutenant of the County
A True Copy       William Bell, Capt & Adjutant

15th February 1799
Roster For Duty for the Volunteers and Drafts of Hastings Militia taken as the Act directs –
No. 1      Stephen Badgley
2                          John Badgley
3                          Archibald Chisholm Junr
4                          Moses Clarke
5                          Samuel P Cummings
6                          William Cook
7                          Sebastian Chard
8                          Jebez Davies
9                          Samuel Danforth
10                      John Frederick
11                      Martin Frederick
12                      Abel Gilbert
13                      Ephraim Gifford
14                      Josua Goldsmith
15                      John Henmire or Hennise [Hennesey?]
16                      Daniel Lawrence
17                      Charles Lounsbery
18                      Zachariah Lincombe
19                      Rosewell Livings
20                      Peter Lott
21                      Thomas E Mathews
22                      Daniel MacKinsie
23                      Alexander MacKinsie [McKenzie]
24                      John MacMichall
25                      William McMullen
26                      Daniel Ostrum
27                      Caleb Palmer
28                      David Parke
29                      Samuel Reed
30                      Artimus M Ross
31                      Aria Rose
32                      John Smith
33                      Henery Smyth
34                      William Sherrard Junr
35                      Nathan Sherrard
36                      Hormonas Simmons
37                      Area [Asa] Turner
38                      Herculas Vaughan
39                      Joseph Walker
40                      Eliakim Weller
County of Hastings
Signed John Ferguson
Lieut of the County
Abel Barnum
Not included in the above list. Volunteers

22 Feb 1799
"Ferguson, writing 22nd February, 1799, says 'It appears from the President's letter, that there is something brewing to the westward.' " This quote is from History of the Settlement of Upper Canada by William Canniff, 1869, page 547.

Canniff states that the source of the quote is from the letters that came from William Bell and these ended up in Canniff's possession and eventually became the William Bell Fonds. This letter is not found in the current Fonds.

[Two letters – one the original and one a copy. An amalgamated version appears here.]
County of Hastings 25 th February 1799
The Officers commanding companies in the Battalion of Militia of the County aforesaid are hereby required to cause the Volunteers and Drafts in their respective companies to assemble, with such arms as they may have, at the house of the Subscriber on lott Number thirty three in the first Concession of Sydney on Wednesday the Sixth day of March next at two oClock in the Forenoon, in order to be made acquainted with the Purport of a letter received by the Lieutenant of the County, from the Honorable Peter Russell Esquire  President Administrating the Governance of His Majesties Province of Upper Canada. The sergeants of the respective Companies are also required to attend at the same time and place. _______
John Ferguson, Lieutenant of the County of Hastings
The Adjutant will furnish to each officer Commanding Companies a Copy of this order J.F.

Kingston Feby 26 th 1799
His Honor the President having been pleased to approve of the appointments in the Militia of the County of Hastings. I have to request You will meet me at the House of Mr. Matthias Marsh in Sydney on Tuesday the fifth day of March next at ten oClock in the forenoon to receive Your Commissions-
I have the honor to be
Your very humble Servant
John Ferguson
You will give notice to this effort to your Subaltern? Officers
[addressed to]
Captain William Bell
Mohawk Village

Kingston 1 st March 1799
Dear Sir
As there is some appearances of the Militia being embodied next Spring, I have appointed you to take the Command of the detachment that will be taken from the Battalion of the County of Hastings, in case such as event should take place - I will make known to you as soon as possible who the subalterns will be, as well as the Sergeants - Please acknowledge the receipt of this, and Believe Me to be
Yours Sincerely
John Ferguson, Lieut of the County of Hastings
(Note on side of signature)
Dear Sir
You will therefore hold yourself in reddiness for the shortest notice should such an event take place. - J.F.
[addressed to]
Captain William Bell
Hastings Militia
Mohawk Village

Kingston 10 March 1799
On my return here from this County of Hastings, I have the Honor of receiving a letter from the President, a copy of which is as follows --
[dated] York 15 th February 1799
In addition to my letter of the 2nd instant, I am  to request that you instruct the men ordered to be selected for immediate service from the Militia underyour Command, in Loading and firing; and , in the evolution necessary for preserving this order of march - and deploying before an Enemy - you will likewise be pleased to cause the state of your Arms, and ammunition to be strictly inspected - and such repairs and deficiencies as appear wanting to be supplied
I have the Honor to be
Sir Your most [ob]edient Humble Servt
signed [Pe]ter Russell
His Majestys Lieutenant of the County of Hastings
From the above letter you will cause [hole] Judge of the necessity there is for assembling the Volunteers and drafts [hole] your company once a week, agreeable to His Honors request of the 2nd of February, and I have no doubt but they have public spirit enough  to do this cheerfully; I have therefore to request you will on your endeavour to assemble them on the Saturday intervening the training at Wallbridges, at the most convenient place in order to give them all this knowledge you can of the business proposed. I have directed the Adjutant to attend on any other Saturday, when the whole number of drafts and volunteers meet at Wallbridges to drill them - Please assure them that I have not failed to mention to His Honor the President, the ready attendance they gave on the 6th inst for which please return them my sincere thanks.
I am Sir
Your most obedient Hble Sert
John Ferguson Lieutenant
of the County of Hastings
Captain William Bell
Hastings Militia

Kingston 10 th March 1799
I have been honored with a letter from His Honor the President dated at York the 15th ??, a copy of which I send you - You will have the goodness to attend diligently to the directions therein contained by teaching the Volunteers and Drafts, who are assembled at Wallbridges every other Saturday / the Platoon exercise that is to say to Load & Fire with expedition and orderly, you will also teach  them the evolution necessary for preserving the order of march, and for forming before the Enemy - you will receive each day of training, from the Quarter Master a sufficient number of Muskets for the purpose of exercising and immediately after Parade you will see that they are again returned to the Quarter Master [.] You will be careful to see that the men do not break or otherwise injure them.

The subalterns for this Detachment are Lieutenant John Stuart and Ensign David Simmon - You will have the goodness to cause them take their stations with the detachment and teach them what is necessary[.] they  should know I have directed all officers to appear with side arms, on every Parade, and as now no officers, except Flank Companies, are allowed to carry fuses. I trust they will lose no time in processing forward. I am Sir
Your very Humble Servant
John Ferguson Lieut
of the County of Hastings
[addressed to]
Captain William Bell
Commanding the Detachment for immediate Service
from the Battalion of Militia of the Count of Hastings

Kingston 15 th March 1799
Dear Sir
In consequence of your message by Mr Fairman I have left the Command of the Detachment for immediate service to remain with you - it will as you will see by the orders be now attended with some trouble, however you sought it, and there can again be no change - as in Your Company there is no draft but Turner except in Rawdon - You need not mind him for the weekly meetings, but for the fortnight meetings at Wallbridges, He must either attend or send a substitute - You will see that it is nopay?

You enclose to Harris a copy of His Honors letter - the other order I will copy in your books, and send them only addresses only ?? them -  I have ordered some plates to be made for ten Cross Belts and in order to encourage them I will pay such a part of them  as will reduce the price to 7/6 each[.]  I ?? say? you could borrow a sword from Captain John untill you can [be] provided one.
I am Sir
Your very Hble Sert
John Ferguson
I believe it will not be necessary to take out the arms at the first training as only train them to march
For goods sake dont forget my stormworks? my house will certainly fall down -
[addressed to]
Mr William Bell

Kingston 13 th April 1799
The Officers of the Hastings Militia are desired to appear as the Quarter Sessions to be holden at Kingston on Tuesday the 23rd Instant, to take the Oaths of Alegiance, pursuant to the Act in that case made and provided, which states that they shall respectively take the said Oath of Alegiance, within six months next after their appointments, before the Magistrate assembled in Quarter Sessions - Should they pass the remaining sessions, the time limited by law will be elapsed and they will run the risk of being superseded, in consequence of such neglect. - The Officers will please inform the Volunteers and Drafts that it will not be necessary that they should meet [smudge] tending  the 11th day of May, as there will be a general meeting? on the Monday following, of the whole Battalion.  The Captains? are desired to inform their repective subalterns of ?? order. -
John Ferguson Lieutenant
of the County of Hastings
[addressed to]
Captain William Bell

11 th May 1799
Dear Sir
will you have the goodness to excuse Bass Chard - from attending Training this time as my mill Dam is likely to go off & am obliged ?? him to assist me & oblige [remainder of the letter is unreadable from a large ink smudge]
[reverse - in Bell’s hand] John Blacker Letter 11th May 1799

York 31 st August 1799
I am to request that you will by the first of January next send me a return of the exact state of the Militia of your County: specifying in distinct columns the numbers names and rank of the officers and priority - the number of stands of arms in possession of each Company and the quantity of ammunition - To whic you will add such other remarks as you may think necessary for my information -
Signed / Hunter
[in Bell’s hand]
Militia order
Colonel S Bennett
Rideau River
envelope lost

September 2 nd 1799
County of Hastings
By Order of the Lieutenant of the Council
The Companies of the Battalion of Militia of the County of Hastings are required to assemble at the usual place of rendezvous on the place near William Sherrard’s home in Thurlow, that part of Captain Bells Company living in Rawdon excepted, on the first Monday of the month of October next at nine oClock in the forenoon. Lieutenant Gilbert Harris will assemble on the same day the aforementioned part of captain Bells Company, at some convenient place. - The Sergeants are required to take notice that in case of their being absent on this or any other day of training without giving a sufficient reason, that exclusive of the fine imposed by the Act, such person will be no longer considered as a Sergeant.

It is expected that every person will have their Crossbelts well cleaned - the Militia Officers and men are desired to take notice that they come to Parade Armed agreeable to the Act, in that case made and provided, as no further indulgences can normally be expected by them and that head? - It will be necessary that the Captain and Officers Commanding Companies, will be prepared to deliver to the Commanding Officer of the Battalion on that day, exact returns and lists of all and any persons in that Company, in order, that the Lieutenant of the County may be enabled to comply with the Order of His Excellency
Lieutenant Governor Hunter.
[Col Ferguson to]
William Bell
[addressed to]
Captain William Bell
836-837 - missing.

Rawdon 12th October 1799
Report of part of Capt William Bells Company living in Rawdon together with Nmaes of all those who are absent –
                                                            Arms                Remarks
1          Sergeant John Weist                                         sick
2          Barce Chard                                                     gon to
united states
3          Samuel P Cummings                 1                      present
4          Pratt Chase                                                      gon to united states
5          Ebenzer Green                         1                      present
6          Solomon Harris                        1                      present
7          Nehemiah Hubble Senr             1                      present
8          Elijiah Hubble                                                   present
9          Nehemiah Hubble Junr             1                      present
10        Lisgon                                      1                      present
11        Garrier                                                             sick
12        Lisgunn?
1          Sergeant Jer? Covert                Removed from the 8th Township of Col Fergusons Company
2.         Sergt Samuel R. Bush               Ditto Capt George W Meyers Compy
3          John Baptist                              Ditto  Ditto Ditto
4          Cyrus Howard                          Ditto  Ditto  Col Fergusons Company

Rawdon Returns

Copy of letter to Artimis Mash? Ross Thurlow
Mohawk Village 31 st Oct 1799
As you have been fined for none attendance on the 16th Day of Feby at the House of John Frederick in the Township of Thurlow Eleven oClock in the forenoon of that Day and as Major Chisholm has issued an order, for all persons who has been fined to attend at the House of Caleb Gilbert Esqr on this Day to pay thier [sic] fines - in order to save the dissagreableness of having to col[l]ect them by the Rigour of the Law which in all such cases you know may be put in force - this is therefore to let you know that as you was not eq[hole] with the order of the major to give you another chance on the 31st Day of Octr you are in no case to neglect to pay to major Chisholm or same person authorized by him to receive the same the sum of ten shillings Hallx money on or before the 15th Day of Novr Next in Default of which payment you may expect no further indulgence
?? tours &ca &ca
William Bell
Captn in the Militia
Artimes Mash Ross

[in Bell’s hand] 1800
Promotion in the Battalion of Militia of the County of Hastings, appointed by His Excellency Lieutenant Governor Hunter
In consequence of Major Chisholms removal
Captain William Bell to be Major
Captn Lieut Matthias Marsh to be Captain
Lieut Gilbert Harris to be Captain
Ensign David Simmons to be Lieutenant
Ensign Jacob Walden Meyers to be Lieutenant
Mr Daniel Row to be Ensign
12  Jean Baptist ???
13 14 15 16 17  15 Hubbles
18 Chase
19 Mowerson
20 Capt Lieut Gilbert Harris
21 Lewis Rosebush
22 Solomon Rosebush
23 Old? Rosebush  {has sold and is now by the first slaying?
24 Saunders - lives at Harrises

11 Jan 1800
Militia Orders
The returns from the Officers commanding Companies in the Battalion of this County having been hitherto very incorrect and not according to any one established form, the Lieutenant of the County therefore directs that the following form of Returns and Rolls be made use of untill a form is established by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor. The Officers Commanding Companies are in no case whatsoever to neglect to delegate such returns and Rolls and every m[smudge] to the [smudge] mmanding the [smudge] in [smudge] may enable the [smudge] of the County to give such information for His Excellency as He may from time to time require. It is absolutely necessary that every man appear on Parade Armed According to the Act and that he be furnished with the quantity of ammunition therein prescribed, as no excuse in future can be admitted except such as allowed by the Act.

The Militia of the said County have now a year since they were had sufficient time to furnish themselves it being now a year since they were organized, It is necessary in the Returns and Rolls to distinguish the Arms belonging to His majesty from those that are Private and also to distinguish the real set[smudge] persons ??? ??? mostly transiant. The lieutenant of the County is extremely sorry to find that some of the Officers make very frivolous excuses for not attending on the Days of muster or training, which sets a very bad example to the Privates.
John Ferguson Lieutenant
of the County of Hastings

1 st March 1800
Province of Upper Canada County of Hastings
Whereas Monday is Whitsuntide week commonly called Penxtus, was appointed on this day on which the Militia of the said County should assemble Annually, for the purpose of Enrollment, but as that day happens this year to fall within one day of the fourth of June which would bring the two Militia meetings too near together.

The lieutenant of the County has thought proper to direct that a meeting of the Lieutenancy of the said County, for the Purpose of Enrollment, be held at the house of major Alexander Chisholm in Thurlow on Monday the twelfth day of May next, at ten oClock [covered] forenoon of which all persons concerned [covered] to take notice - A General meeting of the Battalion of Militia of the said County will also be held on the same day, at the same place, where it is expected every man will appear Armed and provided  according to the Act.

It is necessary to be advised that the Rolls will be called formally at Eleven oClock since any person who does not answer to his name will be deemed absent and fined accordingly. The captains or other Officers Commanding Companies are required to have their Field Returns ready to be delivered to the Adjutant on the Parade. The Adjutant is directed to send a copy of this order to Lieutenant Gilbert Harris for the information of the people of Rawdon.
John Ferguson Lieut
of the County
Kingston 23 rd Feb y 1800
D Sir
I enclose you an order which you will send a copy of immediately to the Officers Commanding Companies and Capt J. W. Meyers, Capt Lt M Marsh, Capt S Sherrard, and one to Lt G Harris
You want none yourself and I have enclosed one to the Majors. Excuse the haste - yours etc
J Ferguson
You’ll sign them underneath
A True Copy
W Bell Adj t
[addressed to]
His Majestys Service
Capt William Bell
Hastings Militia
Mohawk Valley
Forwd by Mr Fairman

Kingston 27 th April 1800
As there will be a meeting of the Battalion on the 12th of May for the purpose of Exercise as well as enrollment[,] you will direct the Officers Comanding Companies to furnish you their Returns agreeable to the directions they have received. You will be very particular as to the Arms being cleaned agreeable to the [torn] entered into. You will remark [hole] any [torn]vided with Arms and Ammunition according [to] the Act, and who does not. You will furnish [torn] with a State of the Battalion for for that [hole] as soon [as] possible.
I am your very hmbl [hole]
John Fergu[son] Coll
Commander Hastings Militia
Adjutant William Bell
Dr Sir
I send my Trunk up as far as your House and should you go by water or have a safe opportunity send it to Harrises as it may happen I should be obliged to go by land
Excuse haste
J Ferguson
[addressed to]
His Majestys Service
Captain William Bell
Hastings Militia
Mohawk Valley

[long letter 1 folio, 2 large mouse holes on fold]
County of Hastings  28 Aug 1800
Militia Orders
His Excellency Lieutenant Governor Hunter has been pleased to approve of the [hole] Promotions in the Battalion of Militia [hole] of Hastings VIZ
[hole] lliam Bell to be Major, viz Alexander Chisholm removed
Lieutenant Matthias Marsh to be Captain viz Bell promoted
Lieutenant Gilbert Harris to be Captain Lieutenant viz Marsh promoted
Ensign David German [Simmon], to be Lieutenant, in consequence of forming a Flank Company
Ensign Jacob Walden Meyers, to be Lieutenant viz Harris promoted
Mr Daniel Rose, to be Ensign viz Meyers promoted
The Commissions for the above Gentlemen will be [hole] as soon as possible, according to the [hole] Recommendations. It is with [hole]t the Lieutenant of the County is under [hole] of remarking that he has not yet [hole] Roll and Returns of each Company [hole] Bells excepted / for the fourth of June next, according to the times of the Act. He therefore directs that there Rolls and Returns be made out without loss of time and given to Major Bell who will immediately on receipt thereof transmit them to the Lieutenant of the County, who further directs that it may be advised/ that in future no excuse will be admitted for there not being delivered on the parade, on the fourth day of June each year. And His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor has directed that a Return be made to [hole] the fifth day of June annually.
The Following distribution of the Officers take place.
Lieutenant Colonel Ferguson Company [hole]
Captain Lieutenant Gilbert Harris - the same company as heretofore
Lieutenant John McIntosh - the same company as heretofore
Ensign Samuel Birdseye Gilbert - the same company as heretofore
Major Bells Company
Lieutenant John Chisholm - the company that was Major Chisholms
Ensign Alexander Chisholm - the company that was Major Chisholms
Captain Sherwoods Company
Lieutenant John Fairman - the same company as heretofore
Ensign Robert Fairman - the same company as heretofore
Captain Meyer’s Light Infantry [note: probably referring to Capt George W Meyers]
Lieutenant Leonard W Meyers - the same company as heretofore
Lieutenant David German [Simmon] - the same company as heretofore
Captain Marsh’s Company
Lieutenant Jacob W Meyers - the same company was Capt[hole]
Ensign Daniel Rose
In order to make it more convenient [hole] the Officers and Privates to attend the meetings of respective Companies. That part of Captain Marshs Company residing in and near Rawdon will hold their Company meetings in the most convenient place to them, while Captain Lt Harris will point out, and who will attend to them, except on  the days of General meetings, when He will attend his own Company[.] Marsh in like manner will attend to & Command Colonels Company except on general meetings will attend his own Company[.] Lieutenant Meyers will take charge of and Command of Captain Marsh’s Company on the [hole]ny near the settlement up the Creek [hole] as well as the few belonging to that [hole] in Thurlow. All reports of Company [hole] and those divisions of Companies to be made [hole] am Bell.
Sergeant major James Simpson is hereby directed to act as Adjutant to the said Battalion of Militia untill His Excellencys Pleasure is known and It it is expected that at the next meeting, which was ordered for the first Monday in October, every man will appear armed and provided according to Law, and that the Arms belonging to His Majesty, will be in [hole] order on the fourth of June last. It is [hole] that no person whatever will be absent, as [hole] of the County is determined to put this [hole]  to the last letter and in a case? of ?? [hole]pat them to His Excellency and recommend [hole] superseded them the Lieutenant of the County [hole] to add that He finds no Company meeting has been held this season. he begs the Officers to refer to the former orders on this subject as well as for the method of making out the Rolls and Returns.
You will take the earliest opportunity of making known the within order [hole] The Officers Commanding Companies in [hole] within mentioned Battalions of Militia
J. F. Lt
Mr James Simpson
Acting Adjutant
[addressed to]
Major William Bell
County of Hastings

Thurlow 7 th October 1800
We the following Officers of Militia of the County of Hastings having agreed to have uniform clothing  do empower John Ferguson. Samuel Sherwood, Matthias Marsh & John McIntosh agree with any  person? to furnish the making? & we will pay for it as agreed upon by the above persons - the uniform to be red coats with blue facings - long yellow button & white lining with shoulder straps - the Light Infantry to have coats with wings.
 [all signed]
John Ferguson
William Bell
John Chisholm
Daniel Rose
John McIntosh
David Simmon
John Fairman Sr?
Saml Sherwood
Mathias Marsh

9 th October 1800
Mohawk Village
Memorandum for Major Bell
Inform the Officers who subscribed for getting uniform costs, that I think the best and cheapest method, will be to apply to James Dawson at Kingston to make them all, in order that they may be alike, which is absolutely necessary, and that he may make a calculation of what the whole trimmings etc will cost, when ready made, and find out when they all can be finished, and when they must be paid for. - I would also propose that each person give his note of hand for the same untill paid-
John Ferguson
memorandum about regimental costs
J Ferguson
Wm Bell
S Sherwood
M Marsh
Jn Fairman
J McIntosh
D Simmon
Robt Fairman

Bob Campbell, a descendant of William Bell, and his wife Annabel, wished to dress in period attire during historical events acknowledging the 200 year anniversary of the War of 1812. Bob wondered what kind of uniform William Bell would have worn. The two 1800 letters directly above give a good idea of what may have been made for these officers. Whether they would have been wearing the same uniforms 12 years later is a good question.

Bob made an inquiry to the War Museum in Ottawa and was informed of the book A scarlet coat: uniforms, flags and equipment of the British in the War of 1812, René Chartrand, Ottawa: Service Publications, 2011.

On page 138 of the book is the following text:
“The scarlet uniform was officially confirmed in general orders for Upper Canada on 21 June 1814. It stipulated that ‘all officers on duty shall appear in a scarlet jacket with dark blue facings, yellow buttons, gold lace around the collar and cuffs only, and plain gold epaulettes according to their rank, grey pantaloons or trousers, &c.; cap [shako] according to H.M. regulations for regiments of the line; but where such cannot be provided, round hats will be permitted, with a regulation feather, cockade, &c. on the left side. The jacket to be made according to the King’s order for corps of the line.’ This applied to both the sedentary and incorporated infantry units, reinforcing the previous order of 1793 with added details, notably the gold lace at the collar and cuffs and the headdress. It is likely that most sedentary militia officers would have had round hats.

For all that, the Upper Canadian Militia was not always uniformed. After the war, a British field officer who had served in the eastern part of the province recalled that ‘some had red coats and blue or red facings, some had green coats, but most of them had no coats at all.”

Jane Naisbitt of the War Museum went on to write that "According to the historians working on our upcoming War of 1812 exhibit, most of the soldiers in the Upper Canadian Militia did not have uniforms but, since your ancestor was an officer he more than likely had a uniform."

[dated 1801 in later writing at the top of the letter but should be 1804 since Ferguson is now a Col and note the militia is now called the "Fisrt Regiment of Hastings Militia".]

You are truly required to transmit to me soon as possible the date of the following Commissions the Hastings Militia
Francis Vandervoort, Ensign
Archibald Chisholm, do
Seth Meachum, Surgeoncy
John Thompsons, Adjutancy, 6th Nov 1804 [date written later]
I am Sir
Your Obedt Hble Servt
John Ferguson Coll
Commanader of Regt
Lieut Coll Bell
H.M. Thurlow
[addressed to]
Lieut Coll Wm Bell
1st Regt Hastings Militia
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