The Settlement that passed us by: Part 5 – Settling the land


Although Oxford Township, and later Wolford also, were originally chosen as the site for the Military Settlement planned by the Crown after the War of 1812, it was eventually moved north of the Rideau and became the Town of Perth instead. But many of the immigrants and discharged soldiers who received land under the scheme were settled in the area. In some cases, those people only stayed a short time, but others settled in the area permanently and their family names are still represented in local residents, roads and districts.

It is thought that the reason no military settlers were assigned lands in South Gower was because the location of the Township did not require military defense of the Rideau corridor. Hence, the Township was assigned only emigrants, fourteen in all, who arrived in 1817 and 1818. Four of these did not receive Patents before 1839, and of these James Eager, another settler, bought three of the lots involved.  Six other settlers were gone by 1860. Lot 11 in Concession 5 seems to have remained in the same family until 1914. James Eager’s property remained in his family until the 1970’s, and the family remains in the area today.

Of the settlers in Wolford Township, only three were migrants and two of them were brothers and were gone before 1839. The other sold his land in 1841. All three were from Scotland and arrived in Canada in 1817. Thirteen of the twenty-two discharged soldiers who were assigned lands in Wolford Township arrived in 1815. Of these two were Sergeants and the rest privates. This reflects the original intention of the Settlement scheme: the defense of the Rideau corridor by discharged troops. In 1816, three more soldiers were granted land, a private, a corporal and a sergeant. The six who arrived in 1818-1819 were all officers, officials or Sergeants.

One soldier had his land in Wolford exchanged for a lot in Elmsley, as the Wolford land was too bad for settlement purposes. Four others had left by 1839. Of the sixteen lots patented between 1820 and 1824, five had been sold by 1830, and another six by 1840. Two more changed hands in the 1840’s, one for tax reasons, and two more in the 1860’s. The last original soldier settler family sold their land in 1882.

Oxford Township was resurveyed in 1815-1816 in order to find land for soldier settlers, as that Township was being considered as a location for the Military depot to service the entire Rideau Military Settlement. Very little unpatented land remained in the township, however, aside from the Crown Reserves, and this, along with difficulties of navigating the Rideau between Merrick’s Mills and Burritt’s Rapids, led to the proposed Depot being located at Perth. Nevertheless, Oxford Township received the third-largest number of settlers under the Military Settlement project, and retains a number of the original families to this day.

Fourteen migrants were assigned land in Oxford-on-Rideau Township, all but two Irish and ten of whom arrived in 1817. The earliest patents were issued in 1824, one to Thomas Webster for a lot originally granted to Edward Elson. According to his patent, Webster had taken up the land very early as an “Emigrant settler”, and Elson probably never came to Oxford.  The Hobbs brothers shared a lot, but their location was cancelled in 1839. James O’Hara had 200 acres patented to him instead of the original 100 he had been assigned. He sold the land in 1830. One other sold in 1824, another two in the 1860’s. John Howay lost his land through a Power of Sale to the Incorporated Synod of Ontario in 1895. The family remained in Oxford until at least 1900. A number of the original families still reside in Oxford, or did until recently. These include the Tompkins, Bolton, Christie (of Christie’s Corners) and Main families.

Twenty-four discharged soldiers were also assigned land in Oxford. Of these, sixteen were located in 1815, and, as in Kitley and Wolford, there were fifteen privates and one sergeant. The eight who were located in 1817 and 1818 were all sergeants, except for one private, one ensign and an adjutant. Ten soldiers failed to receive patents, and the land went to others. Four others sold up in the 1820’s, and another six in the 1830’s. Another two lasted until the 1850’s before selling.  One lot, shared by two soldiers, went to the Finlay family who were related to one of the original settlers, James Quigley. The other original owner was Michael Kennan. Part of lot 3, concession 2, patented to Isaac Brown in 1820, was sold by the Brown’s in 1900 to the Haskins family, who retained it until around 1977.

In many ways, these were the first real pioneering families of North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford.


  1. Thank you for your work David. I am researching the Rathwell family who came to Wolford in the early 1800s. There is confusion as to when they came and how many. My great great great great grandfather Samuel brought his family to Wolford and bought land near Jasper in 1832. Did he have brothers? Who were his parents? There where so many Rathwell families between Brockville and Renfrew that it is difficult to sort them out. Searching for them in Ireland has proved fruitless. At the time they emigrated there were no civil records.
    I would appreciate your comments.
    Kind Regards
    Jim Baker


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