Around 1778, Ebenezer Blair was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Both Ebenezer’s land petition in 1824 and later his grave marker in 1860 recorded him born in Glasgow. The Scottish history below has him born about 1779, the 1852 Census about 1777, and his grave marker about 1778. The notes at the end of this history detail some of our research and discoveries about Ebenezer’s parentage.
The Rev. Dean’s eulogy for his daughter Miss E.H. Dean on Apr. 8, 1927 recorded that William (Ebenezer) Blair completed an apprenticeship as a millwright and soon after joined the British Navy for two years. A millwright in the navy would probably have served time in a port such as Glasgow. We have been unable to substantiate that Ebenezer’s first name was William or that he was a millwright or a sailor. “William” was also reported to have been a member of the “York Volunteers” during the War of 1812 and to have been at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.
In 1803 Ebenezer immigrated to Cornwall, Upper Canada as a cabinet maker. This information came from Ebenezer’s land petition of 1824.
Graycie Henry of Battle Creek, Michigan, a great-granddaughter, of the family of Janet (Blair) Henry, recorded that it took Ebenezer 22 weeks to sail across the Atlantic. The passengers ran short of food and water and thought that they would perish. They survived by eating fish caught in the ocean. She also reported that Ebenezer was an astronomer!? Ships at that time generally took 6 to 8 weeks to cross the Atlantic. The ship may have landed at Quebec, however ship arrivals reported in the Quebec Gazette did not always list passenger names.
Marriage Bonds of Ontario 1803-34, by Thomas B. Wilson: “BLAIR, Ebenezer, cabinetmaker, and Jennet Young, spinster, both of Cornwall, Stormont Co. Bondsmen John Frederick Lesser, merchant and Aaron Brown Sr., innkeeper, both of Cornwall; 21st August, 1806 at Cornwall. Witnessed by J.L. Farrand.”
On Sept. 2, 1806 (Reg.), Ebenezer married Janet Young at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Williamstown, Glengarry Co., Upper Canada. The pastor was John Bethune, ancestor of Dr. Norman Bethune. Janet was born on June 25, 1788 in Lancaster Twp., Glengarry Co. to James Young and Hannah (Anaatje-Anna) Snyder. James was a United Empire Loyalist from the Mohawk and Hudson River area of New York who fled to Canada after the war ended in 1783. A number of family histories from Janet’s family appear in the Appendix. Some of her relations moved to communities where Ebenezer and Janet later lived.
The baptisms of three of their children, Agnes, William, and Catherine, were registered at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Williamstown by the same pastor. Janet was baptized there as well, again by John Bethune, on June 25, 1788.
The Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada before Confederation, Volume 2, by Donald Whyte: “BLAIR, Ebenezer, born ca 1779 to Glengarry Co. possibly before 1820, settled in Lancaster Twp., married Janet, born 1788, daughter of James Young of Lancaster and Hannah Snider.”
On May 17, 1807, Agnes was born in Charlottenburgh Twp., Glengarry Co. and was baptized in Williamstown on June 17, 1807. Around 1828, Agnes married James Jones, probably in Albion Twp., Peel Co.
On Oct. 16, 1808, William was born in Charlottenburgh Twp. and was baptized in Williamstown on Dec. 29, 1808. In 1832, William married Jane Brock in York Co.
On Oct. 9, 1809, Janet petitioned Francis Gore, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, for a grant of land as the daughter of a United Empire Loyalist. The petition was made from Lancaster where the family was living. A recommendation for a grant of 200 acres was made on Nov. 20, 1809 on Con. 2, Lot 1, Napean Twp., near Ottawa. Patent dated Mar. 6, 1810. No evidence of residence there has been found. The land grant was listed in Index to the Upper Canada Land Books Volume 3, Jan. 1806 to Dec. 1816.
On Aug. 30, 1810, Catherine was born in Charlottenburgh Twp. or Lancaster Twp., Glengarry Co. or in Cornwall, Stormont Co., and was baptized in Williamstown on Apr. 7, 1811. In 1830, Catherine married Robert Brock in York Twp., York Co. Robert was the brother of Jane Brock who married Catherine’s brother William.
On Apr. 7, 1811, the family was living in Cornwall.
Around 1811-12, Andrew was born. In 1840, Andrew married Frances Henry in Albion Twp.
Ebenezer served as a private with the 2nd York Militia during the War of 1812. Donald E. Graves, in his history of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane in 1814, stated that the 2nd York Militia, in which Ebenezer served at that time, was composed of men from the Burlington Bay area. This area was at that time the West Riding of York County and the townships later became part of the counties of Halton, Peel, and Wentworth.
The regiment was commanded by Col. Richard Beasley and Major Titus Geer Simons and was active at the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. Most men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to report for militia duty, with a musket, in the communities in which they lived. As well as being called out to answer general alarms the militia also supported the military by manning defenses and in building and maintaining defense works and roads. On June 4th of each year, on King George III’s birthday, regiments would turn out for annual training. The day was spent attempting to perform simple maneuvers, listening to general orders, and taking part in a shooting contest. The day often ended “in a general jollification and brawl.”
A private’s pay was 6 pence (half a shilling) per day. A labourer could earn 3 to 5 shillings a day or up to 10 shillings per day for assisting with the war effort. There was a shortage of money and food and other supplies during the war. Commanders had to balance the need for defense against the need to keep workers on the farm. At the time of the war 1 to 2 shillings would buy a bottle of wine, 4 would by a bushel of oats, 5 or 6 would by a bushel of potatoes, and 45 a barrel of flour.
A number of men who served in the 2nd York Militia also served in the 5th Lincoln Miltia. Captain Samuel Hatt of the 5th Lincoln Militia commanded a combined force of men from both militias during General Isaac Brock’s attack on Detroit on Aug. 16, 1812. Ebenezer Blair was not recorded on that muster roll.
Ebenezer’s name did appear on a number of other militia payroll documents. All militia were called to active duty by General Isaac Brock just prior to the Battle of Queenston Heights on Oct. 13, 1812 but it is unclear where Ebenezer was stationed. Some histories have a detachment of the militia in Queenston under Capt. Ryckman but others may also have been stationed at Fort George or elsewhere during the battle. Some members of the 2nd York Militia were wounded on that day at Queenston. Ebenezer would have been actively involved somewhere in the area. Most of the British infantry were withdrawn from the fort to engage the Americans and its defense was left in part to militia regiments.
From Oct. 17 to 24, 1812, Ebenezer served under Capt. Hector S. Mckay (Payroll 217).
From Oct. 25 to Nov. 24, 1812, Ebenezer was on furlough from Capt. Hector S. McKay’s company (Payroll 220).
From Oct. 25 to Dec. 19, 1812, Ebenezer served in the same company (Payroll 224).
From July 6 to 15, 1813, “Ebenr” Blair served under Col. Richard Beasley (Payrolls 313, 319, and 324).
From Sept. 21 to 24, 1813, “Abner” Blair” served Sept. 21 to Oct. 20, under Capt. Samuel Ryckman (Payrolls 121 and 329).
From July 4 to 24, 1814, Privates Ebenezer Blair served with a detachment under Col. Richard Beasley stationed at “Hutes Hause” (probably the home of Adam Hutt and Dorothea Ball) near St. David’s (Payrolls 152, 156, and 166). Around the end of this pay period four of the 2nd York officers were captured by the Americans while having dinner in one of the homes in the area.
From July 25 to 30, 1814, Ebenezer was stationed at Burlington Heights (Payrolls 147, 159, and 169). On July 25th, the regiment fought at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. They exchanged musket fire with the Americans and later helped recover the wounded during lulls in the battle. They also helped clean up after the battle and disposed of the dead during the day.
In December, 1814, he was employed as a joiner by John Chambers to work on the officer’s barracks at Burlington Heights. One night the tools were stolen by the soldiers and without his tools John lost his contract and had to lay off his employees, including Ebenezer. In 1816 Ebenezer certified John Chambers’ war claim, for lost tools and wages, as a resident of Ancaster Twp. Ebenezer would have been exempted for militia service while employed by the British military. His signature was clear on War Loss Claim 641, Microfilm t-1131, pages 694 and 695, Library and Collections Canada.
Ebenezer was not recorded in the 1816, 1818, or 1819 Ancaster Twp. Assessments. Either he did not own taxable property or livestock or he had moved out of the area. The assessments were found on the Ontario Archives microfilm MS700 Reel 1.
Around 1813, James was born near York. At that time York County extended to the Niagara Peninsula. Ebenezer was living at the Head of the Lake. However James’ son’s death certificate recorded that James was born in Albion Twp, Peel Co. In 1843, James married Anne Dailey/Daley in Albion Twp. Ebenezer and Janet had made sure that their first three children were baptized in Williamstown. Andrew and James were probably both born during the War of 1812 when the family was living in the sparsely populated area along the western shore of Lake Ontario. We have found no record of their baptisms. Nelson and Palermo United Churches, The First 30 Years, 1808-1838 by John Shearman, Palermo, Ontario, 1982, reported on page 10 that the Methodist circuit-riders dispatched from the Niagara area and throughout Upper Canada were given there one year assignments by the Genesee Conference in New York. As communications across the border were not possible during the war and the American ministers were not well trusted, they stopped circuit riding and each took up residence in a community in their riding. People living in rural areas no longer had access to a minister. It was possible that Andrew and James were not baptized for that reason.
Sometime between 1816 and 1824 Ebenezer moved his family from the townships at the Head of the Lake to Vaughan Township and would have traveled along Dundas Street. Dixie, Orchards to Industry by Kathleen A. Hicks, The Friends of the Mississauga Library System, Mississauga, Ontario, 2006, reported that in 1816 a stage coach ride from York (Toronto) to Niagara along Dundas Street, then a corduroy road, took about 17 hours. By 1835 the trip from York to Hamilton took about 11 hours and cost less than 3 shillings.
The family later may have lived in Pickering or Vaughan Township in York Co. where the Rev. Dean believed Ebenezer built or helped build several grist mills. No historical evidence has been found for this work. The marriage of both children, William and Catherine, to Brock siblings of York Co. suggests that they were acquainted with Vaughan Twp. either by Ebenezer’s family having lived in the area or through the Presbyterian Church who had ministers traveling into Albion Twp. from that area.
Around 1818, Hannah was born, possibly in Vaughan Twp. In 1835, Hannah married John Dean in the Toronto.
Around 1819, David was born, possibly in Vaughan Twp. In 1849, David married Mary Ann (Nancy) McColl in Chinguacousy Twp., Peel Co.
In 1820 Militia Grants were available for veterans of the War of 1812 but Ebenezer was not qualified for one of these grants. Albion Twp. in Peel County was purchased from the Mississauga in 1818, surveyed in 1819, and settlement had started before the end of 1820.
In 1824, Ebenezer applied for a land grant under the government regulations of Jan. 31, 1824. In February, Ebenezer had the lot below investigated by the Deputy Surveyor. Ebenezer petitioned the Lieutenant-Governor on May 6, 1824 as a member of the 2nd York Militia. The petition read:
“To His Excellency Sir Peregrine Maitland ICCB Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Upper Canada (Major General Commanding His Majesty’s Forces therein etc. etc. etc.
In Council The Petition of Ebenezer Blair of the Township of Vaughan Cabinet Maker
That Your Petitioner is a Native of the City of Glasgow, Scotland, from whence he emigrated in 1803; has resided in Upper Canada about 18 Years and served in the Militia during the late War as will appear by the annexed Certificates; has taken the Oath of Allegiance, and never before applied for Land from the Crown. That Your Petitioner has a Wife and 7 Children, is desirous and of ability to improve a Location of the waste Lands, and to settle thereon.
Wherefore Your Petitioner humbly prays Your Excellency will be pleased to grant him 200 Acres of Land as a Settler, paying fees, And your Petitioner will ever…ing
York 6th May 1824”
The petition was recommended on May 6, 1824. He was allotted 200 acres, Con. 3, Lot 16, Albion Twp., Peel Co. to which he received patent on Dec. 14, 1847. The Ontario Archives Computerized Land Records Index listed the lot as a Free Grant for which an administrative fee was paid. The grant was at the corner of Boston Mills Rd. and the Gore Rd. The property changed hands within the family a number of times in later years. In the year 2000 the property had a barn and 5 houses on it.
A number of other early settlers in the area were related to Janet Young or later married into the Blair family. These included the Youngs, Mulloys, Jones, Deans, and McColls. There were also Squires, Quinns, and Dwyers related to the Thomas Mulloy family. Thomas Mulloy operated saw mills and hosted community meetings. Support for the 1837 Rebellion was probably discussed.
The Directory for the Home District and Toronto 1836-37 recorded Ebenezer Blair on Con. 3, Lot 16.
In 1838, Presbyterian services began in Albion Twp. outdoors and in homes and barns. Later services were held in Caldwell School and in the Goodfellow’s barn on the 6th line and 5 Sideroad, the corner of Coleraine Drive and Healey Rd. From 1835 to 1855, the Rev. David Coutts traveled from Vaughan to Albion to Mayfield and then to Claude, presumably by horseback. Ebenezer was therefore readily able to communicate with his daughter and friends in Vaughan Twp. The Story of Albion by Esther Heyes, page 126, recorded that in 1856 the Albion Presbyterian Church was erected with labour and materials given freely by such pioneer families as the Goodfellows, Caldwells, Rogers, Dicks, Mitchells, Foresters, Munsies, Blairs, MacDougalls, Allans, and Smarts. In 1876 the congregation moved to the Caven Presbyterian Church in Bolton.
On May 15, 1846, Janet wrote from Albion to John Young, her brother. The letter mentions family members’ health and the good crops in 1845 with the exception of potatoes. They expected to have a good crop of wheat in the summer. There is a transcript below.
The Directory of 1846-47 recorded Ebenezer at the same site, Andrew Blair on Con. 4, Lot 15, David Blair on Con. 8 (3?), Lot 16 and William on Con. 3, Lot 16. The Directory of 1850 recorded David and William on Con. 3, Lot 16, Andrew on Con. 4, Lot 15, and James on Con. 3, Lot 23.
The 1851 Census, Albion Twp., Peel Co. recorded Ebenezer as a farmer, 75, Jannet, 65, David, 32, his wife Nancy, 24, and their children Daniel, 3, and Mary, 1, all Presbyterian, living in a one-storey log house. Daniel by his age would be Donald Joseph. Ebenezer’s son, William, and his family were recorded on the same page.
On Apr. 8, 1858, the land record indicated the sale of Con. 3, Lot 16, 100 acres to David Blair for $1000. Ebenezer gave David a $1200. mortgage on the property.
On Jan. 29, 1859, Ebenezer granted an indent on Con. 3, Lot 16 to his granddaughter’s husband, John Cockburn Allen, for $1000. As Ebenezer had granted him a mortgage of $1000. on 50 acres on the same day, this would have been a sale.
On Aug. 23, 1859, Ebenezer granted at indent (sale) to David Blair of 16 2/3 acres of Con. 3 Lot 16.
The 1859 Tremaine’s map had Ebenezer on Con. 3, Lot 16, lower half and David on the upper half.
On Mar. 28, 1860, Ebenezer died in Albion Twp. His will was registered on his land record on Apr. 20, 1860. Both Ebenezer and Janet were probably interred in the Old Presbyterian Cemetery south of Bolton but there are no markers left standing. The cemetery was adjacent to the Albion Presbyterian Church at that time. The Ontario Genealogical Society transcript recorded that Ebenezer was buried in plot 31 and there was once a stone that read, "Ebenezer Blair died 23 March, 1860, age 82 years, native of Scotland".
The 1861 Census, Albion Twp., recorded Jennett, 74, living with her son James and his family on Con. 3, Lot 16. Her religion was F/C.
On Mar. 10, 1863, Janet died in Albion Twp. At the time she held a $1000. mortgage on 50 acres, Con. 3 Lot 16, which was owned by Agne’s daughter Hannah and her husband John Allen. Janet’s Feb. 27, 1862 will was recorded on the land record on Apr. 7, 1863.
One family source recorded him as a sailor and millwright while documents in Upper Canada recorded him as a cabinet maker in his younger years. A number of sources recorded him as of Scottish descent and gave approximate birth dates. Don Blair hired a professional researcher in Glasgow in 1992 who provided us with some inconclusive results. No Ebenezer was recorded in the Glasgow Burgesses and Guild Brethren where a millwright might have been listed, in the Incorporation of Wrights where a cabinet maker might have been listed, or in the IGI and County Index of Renfrewshire and Dunbartonshire. No Ebenezer appeared in the Passenger and Immigrants Lists Indexes and Supplements, 1782-90. However if Ebenezer had been a sailor/carpenter, possibly he worked his way across the Atlantic and left ship after arriving here. Emigration from Scotland was banned in 1803 when Ebenezer arrived here. Possibly he had sailed from Ireland or England.
The search for likely parents was done in the Old Parish Records (OPRs). No Ebenezer Blair was recorded born about 1778. However this does not excluded his birth in Scotland. First some records were lost or damaged over the years and second, not all births were recorded.
If we speculate that Ebenezer was a common name in his family we do come up with some likely parents. Ebenezer Blair, a carver in Glasgow, married Jean Brown, daughter of Malcom Brown, a portioner. The bands were posted Oct. 2, 1771. The OPRs also record the birth of their first two children. Malcolm Blair was born Sept. 17, 1772 and baptized in Camlachie (a weaving village that became incorporated into Glasgow) on the 22nd. Ebenezer Blair was born Mar. 21, 1774 and baptized in Camlachie on the 22nd. Both baptisms were witnessed by Malcon and James Browns. As baptismal witnesses were usually close relations and neither was a Blair, the researcher speculated that Ebenezer Sr. was probably not from the Glasgow area. Glasgow High Church Burials recorded the death of both boys. Malcolm on Sept. 23, 1772 and Ebenezer on Mar. 23, 1774. Note that both boys were baptized when their death was imminent. Jean died on Oct. 25, 1775. Ebenezer did not remarry and died on Feb. 26, 1791.
Where does that leave us? We have confirmed that in this one particular family Ebenezer was a name passed down to sons. If our Ebenezer was born about 1778, then Ebenezer and Jean, by this reasoning and the likely date, could be his parents. No later children were recorded by this couple. Perhaps they were not baptized because they were healthy. Scottish tradition at the time was to name later children after a child who died in its infancy. We can see this clearly in the case of some of Ebenezer’s grandchildren. May our Ebenezer have learned his cabinetmaking skills as the son of a carver, a skill employed in cabinetmaking?
In the late 1990s I tried an Internet search for the elusive parents. The OPRs for the Blair surname were available free on the Internet. I came to the same conclusion as the researcher in Glasgow. I have a collection of other less likely records on file.
From the OPRs I also found a likely set of parents for the Ebenezer Blair who married Jean Brown. An Ebenezer was born Mar. 14, 1776 in Alva, Stirlingshire to Ebenezer Blair and Anne Miln.
As our Ebenezer’s mother may have been Jean Brown and as one of our Ebenezer’s bondsmen for his marriage was Aaron Brown, was there a family connection between the two Browns? By the baptismal records above we can see that the family had a close connection to the Brown family in Glasgow. Did Ebenezer settle in Cornwall, Ontario because he had relations there? Who were Aaron Brown’s parents? In May, 2002, I received a reply from Karan Zucal of Missourri about one of my queries on Aaron Brown. Aaron and Cossinda Brown had 3 sons, Frederick born 1802, Gwynne Owen Redford born 1804, and Richard while in Cornwall. Aaron moved in 1809 to Augusta Twp., Leeds/Grenville Co. Another son, Loyal was born. Aaron died between 1817 and 1819. Richard married Eleanor Norton in 1823 and moved to Kent Co. in the 1840’s. Aaron’s ancestry and any possible relationship to Jean Brown, Ebenezer’s possible mother, are still unresolved.
Another line of research that has not proven rewarding is the possibility that one or more of Ebenezer’s children were named after his parents. If we exclude names that appear in Janet Young’s family we are left with the names William and Agnes. Were either of these the name of one of Ebenezer’s parents? The Rev. Dean, above, had thought that Ebenezer’s first name was William. However this was unlikely as few people had two personal names in the early 1800s and the name was not recorded anywhere else.
Transcribed by Fred Blair, November 16, 2016
[This is a transcript of a photocopy of a letter written by Janet (Young) Blair to her brother, John Young. There was a note attached to the letter, written by Agnes (Young) Dumoulin, and a second note written by Yvette H. Dwyer of Texas, who corresponded with Don Blair of Saskatoon. I received a photocopy of Don’s copy in February, 1999.]
Albion 15th May 1846
We received you letter of the 26th March last and it gave us all great pleasure to hear that you were still in the land of the living although not in such good health as we would have wished. Your Brother James is in very bad health with his old complaint and his wife has been very ill this spring and it is not ever expected she would get better but she the last time we heard of her she was a little better. Our family are all in good health and all our children and their families are likewise in good health. You did not mention in your letter whether Mary’s Husband had ever come back her or not or whether she had ever got any accounts of him since he left her. You should have mentioned in your letter when your Son John was still in Pickering but I heard a few days ago your Sister Hannah was back with your Son John in Pickering where he lived. I got an account of your Brother David, he went to the States the summer you left us hear but he has never wrote to me.
We have nothing more of any consequence to mention to you. We had good crops last year with the exception of the potatoes and a great appearance of a good crop of wheat this year. Be sure and write soon after you receive this and when you write let us know how Thos. Ross’s Family are and his sister-in-law Christian Youngs she has turned quite a serious and religious Woman.
You mention in your letter that it is not likely that we should ever meet again in this world but if it is the will of providence that we should not We hope through the forgiveness and mercy of God we shall meet in a better.
Your affectionate Sister and Brother Janet Blair Ebenezer Blair
[There appeared to have been something written below Ebenezer’s signature but my photocopy was not legible.]
Agnes (Young) Dumoulin’s Note
I have the original letter in the family bible. It was written to my great-great grandfather John Young (brother of your Thomas) by his brother-in-law Ebenezer Blair, who married John and Thomas’ sister, Janet Young. (You will note Young is spelled Youngs.) John was now a widower and had returned from a lengthy stay with his widowed sister, Hannah, who had married Jacob Snyder Junior and who also resided in Albion. Jacob Snyder Junior died as a young man in the War of 1812.
Comments of Agnes (Young) Dumoulin written to Lt. Col. Harold Young, descendant of Thomas Young.
[Although Agnes wrote that the letter was written by Ebenezer, the handwriting was consistent with Janet’s signature. Jacob Snyder Jr. was serving in the 1st Regiment of Glengarry Militia at the time of his death.]
Yvette H. Dwyer’s Note
The Mary mentioned in the letter is the daughter of John Young and Susanna Snyder. Her husband William Richardson left her. In the 1891 Census she mentioned that she was a widow.
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