Benedict Arnold – A Canadian connection

Revolutionary, spy, and wily businessman.

benedict arnoldBenedict Arnold (January 14, 1741 – June 14, 1801)was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on January 14, 1741. A member of the Sons of Liberty, Arnold rose to the rank of general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He subsequently became a spy for the British, plotting to arrange a siege of West Point. When the plans came to light, Arnold defected to the British side.

When word of British surrender reached New York, Arnold requested leave to return to England with his family, which he did in December of 1781. Over the following years, he repeatedly attempted to gain positions with the British East India Company and the British military, but was unable to find a place for himself.

Canadian Connection

In 1785, Arnold and his son Richard moved to Saint John, New Brunswick, where they speculated in land and established a business doing trade with the West Indies. Arnold purchased large tracts of land in the Maugerville area, and acquired city lots in Saint John and Fredericton. Delivery of his first ship, the Lord Sheffield, was accompanied by accusations from the builder that Arnold had cheated him; Arnold claimed that he had merely deducted the contractually agreed amount when the ship was delivered late. After her first voyage, Arnold returned to London in 1786 to bring his family to Saint John. While there, he disentangled himself from a lawsuit over an unpaid debt that Peggy had been fighting while he was away, paying £900 to settle a £12,000 loan he had taken while living in Philadelphia. The family moved to Saint John in 1787, where Arnold created an uproar with a series of bad business deals and petty lawsuits. Following the most serious, a slander suit he won against a former business partner, townspeople burned him in effigy in front of his house as Peggy and the children watched. The family left Saint John to return to London in December 1791.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIn July 1792, Arnold fought a bloodless duel with the Earl of Lauderdale after the Earl impugned his honor in the House of Lords. With the outbreak of the French Revolution, Arnold outfitted a privateer, while continuing to do business in the West Indies, even though the hostilities increased the risk. He was imprisoned by French authorities on Guadeloupe amid accusations of spying for the British, and narrowly eluded hanging by escaping to the blockading British fleet after bribing his guards. He helped organize militia forces on British-held islands, receiving praise from the landowners for his efforts on their behalf. This work, which he hoped would earn him wider respect and a new command, instead earned him and his sons a land-grant of 15,000 acres (6,100 ha) in Upper Canada, near present-day Renfrew, Ontario.

Heritage in Canada

Canadian historians have treated Arnold as a relatively minor figure. His difficult time in New Brunswick led historians to summarize it as full of “controversy, resentment, and legal entanglements” and to conclude that he was disliked by both Americans and Loyalists.  However, Arnold’s descendants ended up establishing deep roots in the country, becoming leading settlers not just in Upper Canada, but later in lands further west, where they established settlements in Saskatchewan. His descendants, most of all those of John Sage, who adopted the Arnold surname, are spread across Canada. His long woollen British scarlet military jacket with a buff lining continues to be owned by descendants; as of 2001, it was held in Saskatchewan. It has reportedly been passed in each generation to the eldest male of the family.

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Samuel Lount, Martyr or Traitor?…

“Be of good courage boys, I am not ashamed of anything I’ve done, I trust in God, and I’m going to die like a man.”

samuel lount - monument

Samuel Lount (September 24, 1791 – April 12, 1838) was a blacksmith, farmer, magistrate and member of the Legislative Assembly in the province of Upper Canada for Simcoe County from 1834 to 1836. He was an organizer of the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, for which he was hanged. His execution made him a martyr to the Upper Canadian Reform movement.

Lount was born in Catawissa, Pennsylvania, United States, in 1791. The Lounts and the extended Hughes family emigrated from Cape May to Catawissa, Northumberland, Pennsylvania about 1790, then to Whitchurch Township in Upper Canada in 1811, and in 1815 he married Elizabeth Soules in 1815, by whom he had seven children.

He briefly kept a tavern in Newmarket while doing work as a surveyor, but spent most of his adult life as a blacksmith in Holland Landing. Lount was also on the Committee of Management for the company that built the first steamboat on Lake Simcoe, “The Colborne.” In much of his business, he worked as an agent of his youngest brother, George Lount, a prominent Newmarket merchant; their partnership ended in 1836.

samuuel lount - historical plaqueLount first became politically active after the unjust expulsion of William Lyon Mackenzie, the elected Reform representative for York County from the Provincial Assembly by the “Family Compact.” In 1834, he was elected to the 12th Parliament of Upper Canada representing Simcoe County. In the Legislature, he sat on the committee to incorporate Canada’s first farmers’ co-operative, the “Farmers Storehouse Company”, managed by Samuel Hughes. Lount, like many reformers, was defeated in the election of 1836 due to widespread electoral fraud and violence. Charles Duncombe, who was another leader of the Rebellion, carried a Reform petition on the electoral irregularities in Lount’s case to London but was refused an audience by the British Colonial Office.

In July 1837, just after the death of King William IV, William Lyon Mackenzie began organizing a “constitutional convention.” Delegates would be selected by Reform associations around the province, who would meet to defend Upper Canada’s constitution. The Tories refused to call an election after the death of the king, as the constitution required, making the Tory dominated House of Assembly illegal. At a meeting held in Newmarket in August, Samuel Lount, Samuel Hughes, Nelson Gorham, Silas Fletcher, Jeremiah Graham and John McIntosh were selected as delegates. All but Hughes and McIntosh were among the primary organizers of the rebel farmers who were to march on the city of Toronto on 7 December 1837.[7] Lount organized the volunteers from the Children of Peace community in Sharon to join a planned march on Toronto and joined the rebel group gathered at Montgomery’s Tavern.

samuel lount - hangingWhen the rebellion fell apart, Lount attempted to flee to the United States, but was arrested and accused of treason. Despite a petition signed by 35,000 Upper Canadians demanding clemency, Lount was hanged on April 12, 1838 in the courtyard of the King Street Gaol at King and Toronto Streets in Toronto. Peter Matthews, another public-spirited farmer who participated in the rebellion, was executed alongside him.

Lount had intervened to try to get medical aid for loyalist Lieutenant Colonel Robert Moodie and had stopped Mackenzie from burning the house of sheriff William Botsford Jarvis. However, the Executive Council of the province had felt that they needed to set an example. Lount was accompanied by Matthews.

Lount’s last words were recorded: “Be of good courage boys, I am not ashamed of anything I’ve done, I trust in God, and I’m going to die like a man.” These words are replicated on a historical plaque near the site of the jail where he was executed.

Source: Wikipedia –

Piper James Richardson

 “Wull I gie them wund [Will I give them wind]?” 

PiperIt’s not uncommon for histories of the First World War to focus on the big picture and skim over individual stories. Often, though, these individual stories can mean more to someone than retellings of statistics and comparisons of battles. Local archives hold hundreds of records that can connect us with the individuals behind all the numbers.

Some pieces in the collection serve to connect researchers with the stories of local heroes, such as that of Piper James Richardson, VC. His birth certificate and a December 1915 letter home are housed in the archives.

On 8 October 1916, Richard was detailed for duty in the Quartermaster’s stores, but upon learning that his company was to attack Regina Trench (a German trench on the Somme battlefield), he earnestly pleaded with his commanding officer to take part in the attack. During the attack, Richardson waited for an order from Major George David Lynch to begin playing the pipes, but the order never came: Lynch had been killed in the advance.

Richardson asked Company Sergeant Major William D. Mackie if he should play his pipes, “Wull I gie them wund [Will I give them wind]?” Mackie answered in the affirmative and Richardson began to patrol the front line playing his pipes, inspiring his company to the attack.

Mackie gathered some men together, fought through the wire, and entered Regina Trench. Richardson joined in the trench fighting, running along the parapet bombing the trenches and attending the wounded. He escorted two prisoners to the rear, bringing with him a severely wounded Sergeant Major MacKay. He realized he’d left his pipes in Regina Trench once he reached safety and went back to get them. He never returned.

For his actions, Piper James Richardson was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.


Source: Canadian History Magazine:

farmer sewing seed

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Marilyn Bell – September 9, 1954

“The Sweetheart of Lake Ontario”


In 1954, The Canadian National Exhibition sponsored a swim across Lake Ontario to be completed during the annual fair. As part of the reward the CNE would give the successful swimmer a lifetime ride pass. Marilyn Bell’s and Cindy Nicholas two of the Granddaughters are still using their passes today.

Marilyn Bell (from Wikipedia)

marily bell - waveOn September 9, 1954, Bell started her swim across Lake Ontario from Youngstown, New York to Toronto at virtually the same time as world famous American long-distance swimmer, Florence Chadwick. The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto had offered Chadwick $10,000 to swim the lake as a publicity effort for the annual exhibition. Bell, who felt the offer snubbed Canadian swimmers, took on the challenge without pay. After several hours, Chadwick was forced to give up with stomach pains and vomiting while 16-year-old Bell became the first person ever to swim the thirty-two-mile (52 km) distance when she arrived in Toronto the next day. (A third swimmer, Torontonian Winnie Roach, also attempted the swim at this time but failed.)

marilym Belle - G&MBell swam for 20 hours and 59 minutes under grueling conditions before she finally reached a breakwater near the Boulevard Club, west of the CNE grounds. The planned route straight across the lake was 51.5 km (32 mi), but she actually had to swim much further because of strong winds and the lack of modern navigation equipment. Waves that day were almost 5 m high, (up to 15 ft), water temperature was 21 °C (65 °F) and lamprey eels were attacking her legs and arms.

Bell kept up her strength with Pablum, corn syrup, and lemon juice with water, along with heroic encouragement from her boat crew and her coach, Gus Ryder. Radio stations broadcast hourly reports of her progress and rival newspapers published “extra” editions throughout the day. When she finally arrived at about 8:15 p.m., a crowd of 300,000 people gave her an emotional welcome at the Sunnyside waterfront.

The CNE decided to give Bell the $10,000 prize and Bell was later given numerous gifts including a car, television, clothing and furniture.

In 1955 she became the youngest person to swim the English Channel and in 1956 she swam the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the Pacific Northwest coast. She retired that year from swimming.