Military Settlers in Peel

Amos Willcox, Veteran of the War of 1812 and the 1837 Rebellion, from the 1877 Historical Atlas of Peel County

In Volume 109 of The York Pioneer, the venerable magazine of the York Pioneer and Historical Society, we read about Mary Jane McCartney, the worthy daughter of a Raeburn ancestor, who in 1873 married at 21 to 33-year old Samuel Westwood Smith, owner of the hardware store in the village of Caledon. Smith was the ninth child of John Smith, Colour Sergeant to Major General Sir Isaac Brock in the War of 1812 , and who was one of many soldiers in that war who were subsequently (in 1819) granted land. In his case it was located in the newly surveyed wilderness taken over by the Crown from the Mississaugas (Anishinaabeg) as a result of Treaty 19, the bicentennial of whose signing falls in 2o18.  John Smith’s 100 acres were in Albion Township close to Caledon East in what was a huge tract of land all then called York County that stretched away north and east as far as the shores of Lakes Simcoe and Scucog.

Samuel was brought up in the log cabin his father built in Albion. Buying the store in Caledon with his father’s help, young Smith was successful financially, and he and his new wife lived in a large flat above his premises. Late in his life he moved his family to Toronto, although his eldest daughter Ella, who had been born in Caledon, returned there to teach.

Another 1812 veteran who settled in what later became Peel County and whose history is known is Amos Willcox, whose grave can be found in the historic Dixie Union Cemetery in Mississauga, said to be Peel County’s first formal burying ground and dating from 1810. After the war in 1819 at the age 26 Amos obtained his own farm in Toronto Township (now Mississauga), at what is today the southwest corner of Eglinton Avenue and Hurontario Street. He fought for the Crown again in the 1837 Rebellion, but throughout his life he declined offers of an official military commission and chose to pursue farming. His farm was considered one of the most successful farms in Peel. He died in 1886, and his wife, Ann, and seven of their children are also buried in the Dixie Union Cemetery.

Amos Willcox gravestone

The location of other veterans from both the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars located in what is now Peel Region is as yet poorly researched. These pioneers were undoubtedly an important component of Peel’s founding population and some of the buildings they constructed are still with us. Those readers who know they are descended from such veterans may perhaps want to comment below.

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