Surnames/tags: Military_and_War Canada
The Grey and Simcoe Foresters were formed from the 1936 amalgamation of the 31st Grey Regiment and the 35th Simcoe Foresters both originally gazetted on September 14, 1866. Following the 1837 Rebellion, the Government of Upper Canada retained in January 1838 one troop of cavalry and three militia battalions on active service along the Niagara River and in Toronto. One of these battalions was a composite made up of soldiers from the two Simcoe County battalions of that era. This composite battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Carthew, was known as the 1st Simcoe Incorporated Militia (Royal Foresters). This is the earliest known reference to the Simcoe County militia as "Foresters."
In 1795, the Simcoe District (then covering much of what is now Grey and Dufferin Counties) was created by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe in order to organize the area for military purposes. The District was sparsely populated for many years but by the outbreak of the War of 1812, there were enough men to provide at least a dozen to the York Militia and these fought at Queenston Heights. In 1814 other men went from North Simcoe with the Newfoundland Fencibles in time to save Michilimacinac and capture the two American schooners attacking that place and thus restored British Naval supremacy on the Upper Great Lakes. Several of them then went with Captain Bulger when he captured the American post at Prairie du Chien in Wisconsin. At the end of the War, the militia units were all disbanded and the Sedentary Militia resumed its normal routine.
The Mackenzie Rebellion in 1837 resulted in the formation of 2 loyal provisional battalions. These marched south as soon as the news of the rebellion was known and occupied the epicentre of the rebels in South Simcoe and North York Counties. Many of these men remained on duty in an incorporated battalion established in Toronto over the winter. This was known as the “Royal Foresters” and served in both Toronto and along the Niagara Frontier. When it was broken up, the most efficient companies were retained on active service in Penetanguishene until 1842 when the men were finally released.
It was not until late 1855, that the new Militia Act finally established an Active Militia, organized as local companies. The first of these in our area was the Barrie Rifle Company, authorized in December 1855. Soon others sprang up across both Grey and Simcoe Counties from Owen Sound and Leith to Cookstown and Bradford.
The first test came in December 1865 when the militia was called out as a result of the St Alban’s raid. The Barrie Rifle Company became part of the 2nd Administrative Battalion and served on the Niagara Frontier for about 2 months. In March 1866, more of the militia was called out to defend against the Fenians. Some of the Grey County Companies went to Sarnia while some of the Simcoe County Companies once again went to the Niagara Frontier. June 1866 saw the most significant call-up. The Grey County companies had never been sent home and therefore remained at Sarnia except for the Leith Company which eventually ended up at Cobourg. The Simcoe County Companies returned to Niagara where they remained on active service for nearly 2 months.
On 14 September 1866, the government finally authorized the formation of battalions. The companies in Grey County were organized into the 31st Grey Battalion of Infantry while those in Simcoe were formed into the 35th Simcoe Battalion of Infantry (soon to be re-named the Simcoe Foresters).
The North West territories saw the next two call-ups. In 1870 a number of local men volunteered to go with Colonel Wolseley to the Red River. Sam Steele is the best known but Captain Daniel Hunter McMillan also went and eventually became Lieutenant Governor (and was knighted) of Manitoba. In 1885, the Headquarters and 4 companies of the Simcoe Foresters combined with 4 companies of the 12th York Battalion to form the York and Simcoe Provisional Battalion and served in Saskatchewan during the “North West Rebellion”.
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