The Chaffey Family of Brockville

Benjamin Chaffey, Sr. (1779-1832)  was born in Stoke-sub-Hamden (5 miles west of Yeovil) and it is from Benjamin and his close relatives that the Chaffey surname flourished in Canada, the United States and Australia.

His father  Benjamin Chaffey (1749-1806), was in the wool stapler and woollen manufacturing business.  His grandfather was Richard Chaffey (1707/10-1795), and the the line has been charted back to Richard Chaffie of Stoke-sub-Hamden who died in 1631 and then to Richard Chafy (1475-1523).

Those in the family owned a stone quarry on Ham Hill overlooking Stoke-sub-Hamden and Norton, quarried for its golden stone for building since Roman times.  He married Frances Elswood (1785-1865) in 1804.

Prior to leaving Somerset, Benjamin had been sued by his older brother Richard  (1773-1828) for debts owed to Richard.  He emigrated from Somerset to Canada in 1816, with his wife Frances, and sons Benjamin Chaffey, Jr. (1806-1867), Mary Randall Chaffey (1808-1860), William Chaffey (1810-1890) and Richard Chaffey (1813-1852).    His brother Samuel Chaffey also emigrated with them.

In that year Benjamin obtained an Imperial Land grant at Perth, Ontario including an island since called “Haggart’s Island” on which they lived for a year in a cabin made of blankets. The grant was cancelled by Canadian officials.

Benjamin and Samuel moved to Brockville in 1817.  There they entered the mercantile trade as B&S Chaffey, set up a small distillery, and rented nearby farm and mills from Daniel Jones.

Based on their success, the Chaffeys were asked by settlers from the township of South Crosby to erect a mill there.  The brothers agreed and Benjamin secured a lease to the land for a suitable mill.  Construction began in the summer of 1820 under Samuel’s direction.

In one account Benjamin was reported to being charged by the British government for bringing in goods for sale in Upper Canada without paying import duties.  Sometime near 1818, Benjamin, deeply in debt, moved to Zanesville, Ohio, likely to escape his creditors or debts owed to the estate of Daniel Jones.  Here George Chaffey, Sr. (1818-1884) was born.

He and Frances also had other children all born in Brockville; Sarah Chaffey (1815-1855), John Chaffey (1820-1878), Susan Chaffey (1823-1917), Frances Chaffey (1826-1853), Elswood Chaffey (1827-1868) and Emily Chaffey (1829-1859).  There is some conjecture as to how long and for what reason Benjamin remained in the US.  It could have been until 1828. However, this would have meant that some of his children were born elsewhere.

After Samuel Chaffey died in 1827, Benjamin contested the property his brother owned at Chaffey’s Mills and Samuel’s wife petitioned Colonel By to resolve the issue.  Benjamin claimed ownership by virtue of the lease and his former partnership with Samuel.  Samuel’s wife, Mary Anne, contested as she was in possession and that the claim that her husband had made the improvements.

In 1828, Benjamin began a machine shop in Brockville, in which three of his sons, William Chaffey, John Chaffey, and George Chaffey, Sr. worked.

Benjamin Chaffey built tugs in his shipyard in Brockville for towing rafts to Montreal and a steam operated floating grain elevator that helped farmers and millers. However, he contracted typhus caring for Irish immigrants, and died in 1832.

Benjamin Sr.’s daughters married two brothers who were lawyers in Brockville. Susan Chaffey married Stephen Richards, Jr., who served as the Minister of Agriculture in the first cabinet of the Province of Ontario, and Frances Chaffey married Andrew N. Richards, the future Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

(from the Chaffey Family of California Genealogy)

(The ommision of the historical story of Benjamin Chaffey, Jr. is evident here in this edited selection. Benjamin Jr. did not move to California and died in Brockville in 1867.)


Frances Elswood Chaffey

(1785 – 1865)


George Chaffey, Sr.

(1848 – 1932)


Benjamin Chaffey, Jr.

(1806 – 1867)


William Chaffey

(1810 – 1890)

William Buell, Founder of a City

William Buell, who is generally acknowledged to be the first settler in Brockville, succeeded in putting this city on the map in the early 1800s.

Why Buell arrived at this specific spot on the river and then managed to obtain a grant of land here is not clear. Traditional tales of new arrivals drawing lot numbers out of a hat are recorded at other locations along the St. Lawrence. It is said that the present village of Johnstown, chosen at the beginning as a future town site, was where the disbanded loyalist soldiers of Jessup’s Corps stopped to draw their land tickets.

The land surveyors during the previous winter of 1783-84 had hurriedly laid out the side boundaries of each`river lot. We have learned that Thomas Sherwood, an ensign with the Loyal Rangers, settled with his wife and two sons in the summer of 1784 on what became Lot 1, Conc. 1 of Augusta Township.

William Buell may have come in 1784 to scout the country that was available by himself. It is more likely that he waited until the next year. His wife, Martha, had just learned of a new baby on the way after seeing their first-born, a daughter, die as an infant the previous year.  This second baby which they also named Anna, was born on January 19, 1875 at Lachine, Lower Canada. It is believed that Buell brought out his wife and new baby to the new loyalist land in the spring of 1785.

Buell located himself here at a spot which was a natural stopping place for river traffic ‒ a small bay which later became known as Buell’s Bay. He proceeded to build a rough log cabin before the winter arrived and continued to clear part of the land. On the far western side of this small bay was a projecting point of land covered with a grove of oak trees. This was the area which became known as Oak Point and was located at the foot of the present day Kincaid St.

His first cabin was located back from the shore in the area of Hardy Park. A small river or creek flowed into the St. Lawrence, a short distance west of Oak Point. The creek mouth never did become part of his land grant but further north it travelled through much of his land and was soon named Buell’s Creek for that reason.

The available government land on either side of Buell’s does not seem to have been settled until a few years had passed. In the 1790s, Daniel Jones, a loyalist with some saw milling experience, arrived and proceeded to construct a saw mill near the mouth of Buell’s Creek. He had for a number of years been petitioning the Land Board for mill sites in various other locations in eastern Upper Canada. He settled here, however, built this first mill, and received a grant of 100 acres which ran north from the shore and next to that given to Buell.

From the beginning William Buell worked hard to develop his property. He planted a large apple orchard from seed in 1786. He also built himself a larger, more permanent hewn-log home further north. This second house is indicated on an early map as being on the east side of Home St., north of Water St. As more immigrants arrived in this area he seemed willing to sell off town lots in the area of his home and along the King’s Highway, which eventually ran from Montreal to York. This soon became the main street of the developing village.

It is this resourceful management of his property which must be recognized as leading to his success. His rise from yeoman to gentleman was managed with skill as the opportunities presented themselves. William Buell was obviously somewhat of a promoter and he encouraged new arrivals, many of them from the United States, to settle on his developing town site.

He was a man with definite political ideals. He espoused the liberal ideas of reform at a time when “Yankee democracy” was not very popular in the new Upper Canada. In any case, the electors of the district sent him to represent them in the Parliament of 1801 and he sat in the early Legislative Assembly until 1804. During this period it appears that he removed his family to Pointe Claire in Lower Canada until his term was over.

Perhaps the most important event leading to the development of Elizabethtown (the government name for Brockville from 1810 to 1812) had taken place with the moving of the government offices of the Johnstown District to Buell’s location in 1809. A number of area residents in 1805 had petitioned the Assembly to abandon the Court House and Gaol in Johnstown.

Subsequently, it was decided in 1808 by the government that the Court House at the village of Johnstown was, in fact, located too far away from the western end of the District of Johnstown, an area which ran as far west as Gananoque. A more centrally-located site was sought in the district and the three main landowners at Elizabethtown were quick to respond. Daniel Jones, William Buell, and Charles Jones each offered the government a free plot of land on which to build a new court house and gaol.

After some consideration and a visit to the three sites, it was decided to accept a high piece of land belonging to William Buell. He executed a deed and signed the four acre plot over to the crown on May 16, 1809. This grant of land also included a 60 foot strip of property for a wide road leading down to the River St. Lawrence.

Now the future of Buell’s Bay seemed to be guaranteed. This would be the centre of administrative activity in the District of Johnstown from then on, in spite of bitter protests from residents of Edwardsburgh Township, east of Prescott.

By 1811, 26 years after his first arrival, William Buell was able to have a surveyed village plan drawn up by Jeremiah McCarthy, a senior deputy surveyor. This plan which used both the names, “Elizabethtown” and “Williamstown” was passed down in the Buell family. It showed 26 houses and other buildings and was marked with the names of 20 residents.

But the previously mentioned Charles Jones was ambitious too. He had been a young boy when William Buell was laying his early plans, but now he had come of age, was financially well-off and had powerful family and friends in government. His friends said why not call this growing community “Charleston” since Jones owned a lot of land to the east of Buell, and was willing to sell lots to newcomers. Those wits on the outside of this name-calling, thought that perhaps the name “Snarlingtown” would be more appropriate. The government, however, continued to officially use the name “Elizabethtown”.

Perhaps an appeal for outside help resulted in the fact that sometime in the summer of 1812 the village acquired the name of “Brockville”. The civil and military administrator of Upper Canada was at that time, Major General Isaac Brock whose name and prestige was used to settle this dispute. He was well-aware of the honour given to him in this way, but perhaps we will never know if he had a direct hand in it himself.

The first streets to be laid out in the hamlet of Buell’s Bay were on a rectangular pattern, much on the ancient Roman pattern. It was not the New England way but perhaps was dictated by the direction of the shore and the Kings Highway.

The names of some of these early streets are of interest. Broad Street was the name given by Buell to the wide road leading down from the Court House between the river and the main street. The name was not generally used by people who had never seen Buell’s 1816 map. Mostly it was referred to as lower Court House Ave. or as the road leading down from the Court House. Commercial Street which ran down to the river and passed in front of Buell’s house, later became Home St.

The road opened through Buell’s orchard below the main street became Apple Street. Buell’s Return Street soon became Congo Street named after the former slave and resident Cesar Congo. When this street was officially opened by the Brockville Police Board in 1835, it was named Kincaid Street after another long time resident on the street, Archibald Kincaid. St. Andrew Street may have been inspired by Buell’s father-in-law, Andrew Naughton or perhaps by his son-in-law, André Prévost who lived on the corner of King and St. Andrew Streets.

William Buell was now approaching the latter years of his life. He had three grown up sons to divide his land between, Andrew Norton Buell, Joseph Peters Buell and William Buell, Jr. He also saw an opportunity to help out the religious groups in Brockville who were without permanent quarters.

The Presbyterian congregation of Elizabethtown was the first to receive a donation of land for a church. The deed which he gave is dated 1816, and the land was located just west of the Court House property. They built their first building, a stone structure, possibly as early as 1816, according to Buell’s 1816 map which shows a large rectangular building and is noted “Presbyterian Church”.

The Methodists held meetings in the Court House in the early years as did the Church of England. Buell offered a piece of land, just east of the Court House property, to the Anglicans. Their leaders, including the Jones family, were not thrilled with Buell’s reform politics and instead accepted land in 1819 from the Hon. Charles Jones in the far eastern end of town. The land on the square remained available for a number of years and was eventually given in 1828 to the Methodist congregation who opened their first chapel there in 1830.

The Roman Catholics were also recipients of donated land from William Buell. This took place about 1824 when they built their first church building. This lot was located right on the western edge of Buell’s land. The R.C. parish also received additional land just to the west from the two sons of Daniel Jones about the same time.

William Buell may have had a vision of what his town would look like. A “Connecticut Yankee” by birth, he was quite familiar with the New England village green and was able to visualize such a re-embodiment of this in his new country. The flowing together of such circumstances, as occurred here, have created the pattern which developed into the town of Brockville. Any other landowner may have been content to farm his property and live out his life in a modest way.

William Buell had ambition and perhaps a few lucky breaks, but he managed to make a town out of land which others may have passed over in the initial selections in 1784. Many other people became involved in the development of Brockville, but to “the old squire”, William Buell, must go the credit for such a good start.

Early Property Owners

Early Property Owners in The Village of Elizabethtown

On William Buell’s land grant, from his map, dated 12 September 1811.

BUELL, Miss Sabina
BUELL, William
DAYTON, Abraham
DUNHAM, Charles
FLYNN, Mrs. Sabina
HALL, James
HUBBELL, Dr. Elnathan
JONES, Charles
KINCAID, Archibald
McNISH, Samuel
PREVOST, Mrs. Anna
SMITH, Andrew



Early Property Owners in The Village of Brockville

On William Buell’s Land Grant, from his map, dated, September 25, 1816

BUELL, Miss Sabina
BUELL, William, Sr.
BUELL, William, Jr.
CAMPBELL, Hon. William
CONGO, Cesar
DUNHAM, Charles
EASTON,  Roderick
FLINT, Billa
FLYNN, Mrs. Sabina
HUBBELL, Dr. Elnathan
JONES, Charles
KINCAID, Archibald
McDONELL, Alexander & Donald
MORRIS, Alexander & William
SKINNER, Stephen

Map of Brockville – 1816

Brockville, Upper Canada

Map of Village of Elizabethtown 1811

A Short History of It’s Beginnings

The founding of the settlement which became the village of Brockville has its roots in the first wave of Loyalist refugees displaced from their homes during the years of the British – American War of 1776-1783.

In the summer of 1784, the first of these disbanded soldiers and their families began to land all along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River including this area which had been known earlier to the French as, Toniata. The land on which Brockville stands was probably not the first to be chosen by the very first travellers who were more interested in land for farming, but they may have camped overnight near the natural bay which was protected by an oak-covered point of land east of the creek mouth.

In fact, it was this bay and Oak Point which attracted William Buell, a former officer in the King’s Rangers, one of the Loyalist regiments. Buell, a native of Hebron, Connecticut, was 33 years old and had spent the duration of the war in the service of the King. He had married in 1782, Martha, the 20-year old daughter of Andrew Naughton, a loyalist from Farmington, Conn. when they were living in one of the refugee camps south of Montreal.

To William Buell goes the distinction of being the first settler of Brockville. He took up his grant of land on this spot in 1785, and developed the land which he owned into a thriving village. Apparently he was able to interest others in settling here and purchasing land from him. Eventually the small settlement may have become loosely known as Buell’s Bay.

Just to the west, another settler, Daniel Jones, took up the piece of land containing the southern part of the stream we call Buell’s Creek. He built and established a saw mill just north of where this creek empties into the St. Lawrence. Jones was one of seven brothers who had similarly remained loyal to, and fought for the British side in the late revolution. Daniel Jones was eventually granted the west half of lot 12 and all of lot 13 in the first concession. This ran from Ann Street in the west over to Kincaid St.

William Buell’s grant of land was the east half of lot 12 and the west half of lot 11, from Kincaid St. almost over to West Market St.

The eastern portion of present-day downtown Brockville from Buell’s land over to Ford St. was purchased in 1805 by Charles Jones, the eldest son of Ephraim Jones of Augusta. This land comprising the east half of lot 11 and all of lot 10 was originally granted to the family of the late Lt. Peter McLaren who was killed before the Peace Settlement of 1783. Charles Jones went on to become one of the most influential men in eastern Upper Canada. A merchant and mill-owner in the area most of his life, he also gained appointment to the Legislative Council for Upper Canada. Similarly to William Buell, he was soon to capitalize on the continued desire of immigrants to settle in the village and was able to sell parcels of his land to newcomers.

It was thus that these three gentlemen became responsible for the pattern of the early development of our city, and share the honour of being the founders of Brockville.

In the early 1800’s, Elizabethtown was the name applied to both the village and the surrounding township by the government. The counties of Leeds and Grenville were part of the District of Johnstown and the regional administration for the District was set up in the village of Johnstown 15 miles east of Elizabethtown. It was there that the district Magistrates held regular courts and where a jail was kept.

By 1808, it was decided that a more central location was needed for the Court House and Gaol in the Johnstown District and a suitable site in Elizabethtown was sought. All three land owners here were eager to give a piece of land to the government to re-locate here. The high ground on Buell’s land, where the present Brockville Court House stands, was finally chosen and a deed was given by him on 16 May 1809. This proved to be perhaps the step which sealed the future prosperity of this settlement, as it seemed to doom that of Johnstown.

A large brick court house and gaol were erected shortly and a wide avenue was laid out down to the river, all on land donated by William Buell.

It wasn’t long before the inhabitants of the growing community began to seek a name which would be distinct from that of the Township of Elizabethtown. On a survey of land and lots owned by Buell dated 1811 was applied the name  Williamstown.

This was not universally accepted by the relatives and friends of Charles Jones, who may have thought that Charlestown would be more suitable. In any case, we find that locally, this village is referred to as Brockville as early as August 10, 1812 in a report sent to Major General Isaac Brock by Col. Lethbridge of Kingston who reported having just returned from Prescott and “Brockville“. Gen. Brock at the time was struggling with the administration of the province and the conduct of the war against American invasion. There is also some evidence as well that Charles Jones labelled some of his correspondence to the capital as coming from “Brockville”. The choice of such a name to compliment the Commander-in-chief in Upper Canada must have met with his approval and was starting to be used in Brockville before his untimely death shortly afterwards in October 1812.