The Memoir of Adiel Sherwood (1779-1874)

.The following detailed record was written about 1868 by the former sheriff of Leeds and Grenville at the request of Dr. William Canniff of Toronto who was writing a history of the province entitled, History of the Settlement of Upper Canada (1869). Dr. Canniff, however, chose not to use Sherwood’s paragraphs in that book.

Later, the material written by Adiel Sherwood was used and heavily edited in the 1879 publication of the History of Leeds and Grenville by Thad. W.H. Leavitt.  The Leavitt version is printed below.  The unedited original is only accessible in the collection of the Library & Archives Canada, MG24 165 – The Adiel Sherwood Papers.


At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, in 1783, the first settlers of Upper Canada were residing in Lower Canada, at and between Quebec and Montreal. Two Provincial corps deserve especial notice; they were stationed at St. Johns, about 27 miles from Montreal, on the south side of the River St. Lawrence. One was commanded by Major Jessup, the other by Major Rogers, the forces under their command being actually the very first settlers of Leeds and Grenville.

About the first of June 1784, they came up, and located along the bank of the St. Lawrence, commencing a short distance west of the Provincial line, and extending even to the Bay of Quinte. The total number of new settlers who entered the Province in 1784 was computed at 10,000.

The river was ascended by means of small boats, called batteaux. These barques were built at Lachine, and were capable of carrying from four to five families each. Twelve boats constituted a brigade. Each brigade was placed under the command of a conductor, with five men in each boat, two of whom were placed on each side to row, with one in the stern to steer. It was the duty of the conductor to give directions for the safe management of the flotilla. When a rapid was ascended, part of the boats were left at the foot, in charge of one man, the remaining boats being doubly manned, and drawn up by means of a rope fastened to the bow, leaving four men in the boat, with setting poles, to assist. The men at the end of the rope walked along the bank, but were frequently compelled to wade in the current, upon the jagged rocks. On reaching the head of the rapid, one man was left in charge, and the boatmen returned for the balance of the brigade.

The Loyalists were furnished rations by the Government, until they could clear the land, and provide for themselves. The seed given consisted of spring wheat, pease, Indian corn, and potatoes. Farming and other implements were provided, consisting of axes, hoes, augers, etc., and, in some instances, a kind of metal mill, in which to grind the corn and wheat. I am not aware that any of the mills were distributed in Leeds and Grenville. Commissioners were appointed to issue the rations and other supplies.

At that time, the country was a howling wilderness. Not a single tree had been cut by an actual settler, from the Province line to Kingston, a distance of 150 miles. By the original survey, the lots were designated by a post planted, plainly marked with the number of each lot.

The following is a short list of the actual first settlers in the County of Leeds, whom I remember:
First was my father, Thomas Sherwood, who was the first actual settler in the counties. He located on lot number one, in the first concession of Elizabethtown, about the first of June, 1784. My father was one of a family of three brothers, named Seth Sherwood, Thomas Sherwood and Adiel Sherwood. Thomas was born at Old Stratford, in the State of Connecticut, in the year 1745. He emigrated to the State of New York, where he located on a beautiful farm, situated about five miles north of Fort Edward, and but a short distance from the spot where General Burgoyne surrendered. Both of my fathers brothers settled in the same neighbourhood.

At the commencement of the Revolutionary Bar, my father remained loyal to the British Crown, and as soon as he could escape, made his way, via Lake Champlain, to St. Johns, Lower Canada, where he found assembled a large number of British troops. He was at once employed in the Secret Service, going into the States and enlisting men to serve His Majesty King George III. His family remained in the States until 1779, when they removed to St. Johns, and he was appointed a subaltern officer in Major Jessup’s corps. Both of his brothers entered the Continental army as officers.

My father was frequently called upon to run the side lines of the lots for the first settlers, and to show them the location of their land. Though not a legalized surveyor, he had the instrument, and understood its practical use. He was ever ready to give his assistance and advice to the new-comer, and rendered great service in promoting the settlement of the county. He was made a captain in the first regiment of Leeds, becoming a magistrate when the first commission was issued. At that time, magistrates were legally qualified to perform the marriage ceremony; and he probably united in the holy bonds of matrimony more individuals than has ever fallen to the lot of any clergyman in the United Counties, with the exception, perhaps, of the Rev. William Smart.

I have frequently heard him mention the circumstance of a young man asking him to perform the ceremony, at the same time confessing that he had no money, but promising to make a good wheat fan. The offer was accepted, and, in due time, the fan was delivered. An old man once came on the same errand, his offer being a corn basket, with oak splints, and so compactly,,that it was ‘warranted to hold water.’ It is needless to say that he was made happy.

My father lived on the farm on which he first pitched his tent, and died there in 1826. I am happy to say that he lived in comfort, and died in peace.

SHERWOOD -Adiel (ca 1850 by Lock) sepia

Adiel Sherwood in a painting by Frederick W. Lock ca.1850

The following are the names of a many of the early settlers in the County of Leeds: Joseph White, Asa Webster, David Kilborn, Reuben Mott, Henry Mott, Conrad Peterson, Jonathon Mills Church, Edward Leahy, Henry Elliott, Bartholomew Carley, Levius Wickwire, Jonathon Wickwire, William Buell, Bemsley Buell, Jonathon Buell, Samuel Wright, William Wright, Abraham Elliott, Adam Cole, John Cole, Jonathon Fulford, Captain Joseph Jessup, Six Mutchellore, Ensign Thomas Smith, Enoch Mallory, Elisha Mallory, Joseph Buck, Asa Landon, Sr., Alexander Bernard, Henry Manhard, Lieutenant James Breakenridge, Ruggles Munsell, Matthew Howard, Stephen Howard, John Howard, Peter Freel, Terence Smith, James Miller, Daniel McEathron, John McEathron, Daniel Shipman, Joseph McNish, Levi Hotchkiss, Robert Putnam, James Cooney, Henry McLean, Robert McLean, Alan Grant, Joseph White, Jr., William Clow, John Munroe, and Levi Comstock.

The distance from the Province line to my father’s farm, three miles below Brockville, was 95 miles, and to the port this side of Kingston, 50 miles. At the end of each mile was planted a red cedar post, having marked on it the number of miles from the Province line. This line of road was made some years after the first settlement, but I have forgotten the year.

For many years, the first and only legalized clergyman, within a hundred miles of this part of the Province, was Parson Stuart, who was a member of the Episcopal Church. The next clergyman, I believe, was the Rev. Mr. Bethune, a Presbyterian clergyman, who settled near Cornwall. Next was the Rev. Mr. McDowell who located on the Bay of Quinte. He came from the United States, about the year 1800, and on his way stopped in the neighbourhood of Brockville, where, at that time, I was teaching a common school. I believe that the first public prayer he ever made in Canada was at an exhibition of my school, on the day of his arrival.

In 1811, the Rev. William Smart arrived in Brockville, being the first minister of any denomination to settle in that place, or, for that matter, within fifty miles of it.

The first doctor was Solomon Jones, domiciled about seven miles below Brockville. He was one of the early settlers, and the first in point of education and respectability.

One of the first magistrates, and after some time, Judge of the District Court, was Samuel Sherwood, who had studied law with Lawyer Walker, in Montreal, for two or three years. He was the first lawyer appointed in the District of Johnstown; Jacob Farrand, the first in the eastern District; McLewen, of Kingston, and the father of the late Judge Hagerman, the first in the Bay of Quinte. The lawyers were all appointed by authority vested in the Lieutenant- Governor of the Province, authorizing him to appoint a certain number of persons, such as he considered qualified to discharge their duties― hence arose the by-words, “Heaven-born lawyers.”

School teachers were often employed for three or six months only, as boys could not attend in the summer.

I recollect seeing pigeons flying in such numbers that they almost darkened the horizon, and so low, often, as to be knocked down with fish-poles. I saw where a near neighbour killed thirty at one shot.

When I was a boy, probably about thirteen or fourteen years old, I went, in the autumn, on a fishing excursion, to a place called Sandy Creek, on the south side of Lake Ontario, being in company with four men, in a Canadian batteaux. At that place, I saw ducks flying in immense numbers, round and over a marsh; when they rose, they made a noise like the roar of very heavy thunder.

Not many years since, I rode out with a gentleman to Temperance Mills, situated near Temperance Lake, where a small spring keeps open all winter. The fish resort to the spring in the coldest weather. During our visit we actually caught a large number of fine fish, scooping them out with a long-handled frying-pan.

I will now detail to you a short history of myself, and some personal observations of an early date.

I was born on the 16th day of May, 1779, on a farm near Fort Edward, New York. I was brought to St. Johns, in Lower Canada, while at my mother’s breast. When I was five years old, my father removed to the banks of the St. Lawrence, coming up with the first brigade of batteaux. I saw the first tree cut in the United Counties by an actual settler; the first hill of corn and potatoes planted, – but alas!- where is the axe, or the man who did the work? Not a single individual, that I am aware of, is now living of the first settlers, but myself.

While many difficulties were encountered in the early settlement, yet we realized many advantages. We were always supplied with venison; deer were very plentiful, partridge and pigeons in abundance, plenty of fish for all who wished to catch them, no taxes to pay, and an abundance of wood at our doors. Although deprived of many kinds of fruit, we obtained the natural productions of the country — strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, and plenty of red plums. The cranberries were found in abundance in the marshes.

The only animal which we brought with us was a little dog named Tipler, that proved almost invaluable in hunting.

After the first year, we raised a supply of Indian corn, but had no mill to grind it, and were, therefore, compelled to pound it in a large mortar, manufacturing what we called “samp” which was made into Indian bread, called, by the Dutch, “suppawm.” The mortar was constructed in the following manner: we cut a log from a large tree, say, two and a half feet in diameter, and six feet in length, planted it firmly in the ground, so that about two feet projected above the surface; then carefully burned the centre of the top, so as to form a considerable cavity, which was then scraped clean. We generally selected an ironwood tree, about six inches in diameter, to form the pestle; and many a time have I pounded at our mill, until the sweat ran merrily down my back. Although this simple contrivance did well enough for corn, it did not answer for grinding wheat. The Government, seeing the difficulty, built a mill back of Kingston, where the inhabitants, for seven miles below Brockville, got all their grinding done. In our neighbourhood they got along very well in summer by lashing two wooden canoes together. Three persons would unite to manage the craft, each taking a grist. It generally took about a week to perform the journey. After horses were procured, kind Providence furnished a road on the ice, until the road was passable by land. What is wonderful is, that, during the past fifty years, it has not been practicable for horses and sleighs to traverse the ice from Brockville to Kingston, such a way having been provided only when absolutely necessary for the settlers.

Lieutenant Breakenridge, who I believe, was a lieutenant in Major Roger’s corps, was appointed at an early period as Lieutenant of the County of Leeds, being authorized to make arrangements necessary for the formation of the militia, commissioning the respective officers and organizing the force. I received an ensign’s commission in the First Regiment of Leeds Militia, under his command as colonel. At that time I was but seventeen years of age. From Francis Gore, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, I received a commission as adjutant; by General Brock I was created a captain; by Sir Peregrine Maitland, a major, In 1830, Sir John Colborne conferred upon me the rank of Colonel of the First Regiment of Leeds. In June, 1813, I was appointed Paymaster of the Eastern and Johnstown Districts; the same year I became Treasurer of the District of Johnstown, and was placed on the commission as a magistrate. In 1815, I received the appointment of D.F. Clerk of the Crown for the District. In 1816, I was made Commissioner for the Branch Roads in the same district. In 1819, I was appointed a member of the Land Board; and in 1829, Sheriff for the District of Johnstown.

After fifty years service as a militia officer, I resigned, and was gazetted as retiring with the full rank of colonel. After my appointment as Sheriff, I resigned my office as Treasurer, which I held for twenty-five years; and, last of all, I resigned my situation as Sheriff, having officiated in that capacity for thirty-five years.

Adiel Sherwood

Old Court House 2 1879

Sheriff Adiel Sherwood worked for many years in the old Brockville Court House, as depicted in this old drawing.

In addition the following shorter letter was written by Sheriff Sherwood to Dr. Canniff:

Brockville, March 10th 1868

Dear Sir:

In answer to your letter, as regards slaves, I only recollect two or three who were settled in the District of Johnstown. One coloured man, in particular, named Caesar Congo, was owned by Captain Justus Sherwood, the grandfather of Mr. George Sherwood, County Judge at Belleville. Captain Justus Sherwood came, with his family, in the same brigade of boats with my father, and located two miles above Prescott. I recollect distinctly Caesar Congo, then a stout young man. He often took the late Mr. Justice (Levius P) Sherwood (who died at Toronto) (and was a son of Justus Sherwood) and myself on his back, to assist us in walking, while the boats were being drawn up the rapids. The boys used to call Caesar, Scippio. Caesar was sold to a half-pay officer, Mr. Bottom, who settled about six miles above Prescott. After twenty years’ service, Mr. Bottom gave Caesar his freedom. Caesar then married a free coloured woman, and settled in the Town of Brockville, where he lived many years, and died. Daniel Jones, Esq., father of the late Sir Daniel Jones of Brockville, had, at one time, a female coloured slave. There were also a few more slaves residing in the District, but so far from my residence that I can give no account of them from personal knowledge.

The first Lodge of Free Masons that I am aware of, was held in the Township of Elizabethtown, near Brockville. I am unable to give the precise date. The members consisted principally of half-pay officers, who were located along the bank of the St. Lawrence. I understood that they met under a travelling warrant. It was some years after the settlement of the Province that the regular organization of the fraternity took place. I believe it was accomplished by Mr. Jarvis, who came out as Secretary of the Province, and acted under the appointment of the Duke of Sussex, then Grand Master; Mr. Jarvis assuming the duties of Provincial Grand Master, and issuing the necessary warrants.

Adiel Sherwood



Sherwood Adiel

Adiel Sherwood in 1872

Adiel Sherwood retained his position as Sheriff of the District for 35 years until he gave up the job in 1864. He had married Mary Baldwin (1882-1854), the daughter of Stephen Baldwin, a native of Conn., on October 11, 1801. Their family consisted of one son and seven daughters. They were Julia, William, Mary, Sophia, Maria, Caroline, Amelia, and Harriet. He died in Brockville on March 25, 1874 having almost attained the aged of 95.

The Brockville Railway Tunnel


The Laying of the Foundation Stone

for the Brockville Railway Tunnel

September 1854

Copied from the original newspaper article in the Brockville Recorder of 21 September 1854.


The Tunnel

The second important event of the week was that connected with laying the foundation stone of the Brockville Tunnel. This great event took place on Saturday, when the town was well filled by a great number of visitors from the country.

As the Free Masons had been requested to take charge of this important ceremony, according to ancient custom, a number of brethren from Perth and other places were in

attendance, with banners and other regalia. Invitations had also been sent to the Mayor and Corporation, the Ministers of the town, the members of the Bar, the Brockville Lodge of Oddfellows, the Sons of Temperance, the Knights of Jericho, and the Firemen; while the Brockville Amateur Band, like a band of noble fellows, headed by their leader, Mr. Gilbert, came forth gratuitously to cheer the march of the procession with their enlivening strains, and made the welkin ring again with “The Merry Masons. ”

At a little after twelve o’clock, the procession formed on the Court House Square, in the following order, No. 2 Fire Company taking the lead in their neat uniform, under the command of Capt. Amos Abbott; Fire Company No.1, we are sorry to say, having declined to take part in the proceedings, although several of the members joined themselves to other bodies in the procession.

After the Grand Marshall had his arrangements completed, the procession started in the following order:

Grand Marshall, Hiram Fulford,

Queen Fire Company, No.2,

The Knights of Jericho,

The Sons of Temperance,

The Bar and Medical Faculty,

The Clergymen of all Denominations,

The Mayor and Town Council,

Independent Order of Oddfellows, juniors walking first,

The Masonic Lodges, according to rank and seniority, juniors first,

The Band,

Two Tylers with Drawn Swords,

Brethren not members of any Lodge, two and two,

Brethren of the Lodge, two and two, juniors going first,

Architect and Builder, with plans,


Directors of the Railroad,

Cornucopia with corn, borne by a Master, supported by two Stewards,

Silver Vessels with corn and wine, borne by two Masters,

Grand Director of Ceremonies, Dr. Ashton of Bath,

Grand Superintendent of Works, with plate to be deposited in the stone,

Sword Bearers,

Deputy Grand Marshal,

Grand Secretary, with Book of Constitution,

Grand Register, with his bag,

Grand Treasurer, bearing box containing coin, records, &c. &c. , to be deposited in the stone,

Visitors of Distinction, two and two

The Corinthian Light, by the Master of a Lodge,

The J. G. Warden with plumb rule,

Steward    –    Banner   –    Steward

The Doric Light, by the Master of a Lodge,

The S. G. Warden with Level,

The J. G. Deacon,


Grand Chaplain, with Holy Bible,


Deputy Grand Master with Square, William B. Simpson

The Ionic Light, borne by the Master of a Lodge,

Brother of Eminence, bearing a Mallet,

Steward   –   Standard    –   Steward

Grand Sword Bearer,

Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Adiel Sherwood,

The Senior Grand Deacon,

Two Grand Stewards,

Grand Tyler.

The procession walked along Church Street to Perth St.   down Perth St. to the Main St.   along Main Street to Park Street   down Park Street to Water Street, and along Water Street to the site of the Tunnel where the foundation stone was to be laid.

Along the whole line of Procession the streets were filled with gay and happy people, but the scene which met the eye on arriving at what will be the mouth of the Tunnel, was of the most interesting nature. The banks of earth thrown up on each side of the opening were crowded by a dense mass of ladies and gentlemen   all eager to witness the solemn Masonic ceremonies connected with laying the foundation stone. As these ceremonies, however, took place in a spot where those engaged in the Holy Work could not be seen, the masses were unable to witness the performance.

When the acting Grand Master, Adiel Sherwood, Esq., reached the spot, he was met by the contractors, John and David Booth, Esq., to whom the various officers who were to take part in the ceremony were introduced. The Grand Chaplain, the Rev. William Smart, then offered up an impressive prayer, asking God’s blessing on the work, and desiring that the workmen employed in constructing the Tunnel might be guarded from hurt either in life or limb.

The acting Deputy Grand Master, William B. Simpson, Esq., then read a list of the various documents to be deposited in the stone   among which were a parchment stating by whom the stone was laid, and for what purpose, with the names of the Masonic officers officiating, and those of the Committee of Management; a copy of the Act of Incorporation of the Railway Company; another parchment containing the date of organization and the names of the present officers of the Oddfellows Lodge; also a copy of the Recorder and one of the Monitor, also several coins, and a plate bearing the following inscription, being laid over the whole:

Chief Corner Stone of the Brockville and Ottawa R.R. Tunnel, in the Town of Brockville, was laid with due Masonic Honours, by Acting Deputy Grand Master, Adiel Sherwood, this 16th day of September, A.D. 1854, in the year of Masonry, 5854.

These articles, being placed in a tin box, were then deposited in a cavity beneath the Stone; the stone was then lowered into its position, when the Level, the Square and Plumb Rule were applied to it, and the Corn, the Wine, and the Oil poured upon it, the Master of the Ceremonies, Dr. Ashton, of Bath, repeating after each pouring, the appropriate Masonic prayer, the brethren responding, “So mote it be.”

Mr. Sherwood then took the mall and gave the Stone three knocks, invoking while doing so, the blessing of the Grand Architect of the Universe, to which the brethren again responded   “So mote it be.”

The stone having been laid, the bank struck up God Save the Queen, after which Lieut. Kincaid brought the Artillery Ordinance into play and fired a Salute of fifteen rounds. The Rev. William Smart, in consequence of the illness of Mr. Sherwood, who unfortunately was compelled to retire as soon as the stone was laid, addressed the assembly as follows:

(The speech Itself Is omitted from this copy. It is a long, and rambling effort and would require almost four pages to reproduce it here.)

After Mr. Smart concluded, three cheers were given for the Queen; three for Mr. Sykes; three for the Tunnel; three for the Sheriff; and three for Mr. Smart An invitation was then given to all persons who joined in the procession to retire to Mr. Willson’s in order to partake of a dejeuner.

Having been requested by the Railway Directors to act as a steward on the occasion, the writer was prevented from taking notes, consequently our readers must be content with a few random recollections of what occurred at the Hotel.

When we entered the room, we were more than astonished at the appearance of all things around. Mr.Willson, it is well known, never does things by halves. When he puts his best foot foremost, people generally know what the result is likely to be, and in all his undertakings of this nature, he is well and ably sustained by Mr.Brennan. On the present occasion, everything was prepared in the most superb, yet substantial style, and when we state that about 250 persons partook of the good things provided, some idea may be formed of the extent of the preparations required for as large an assembly of able men with good appetites. The only regret felt by Willson was that after the first company was satisfied, sufficient time was not given for properly loading the tables with a second supply, consequently the articles for the second company had to be sent up in the order of Brockville lampposts  – one here and one there – without regularity.

The Mayor (John Crawford) presided for some time, after which Ormond Jones, Esq., took the chair. The first toast proposed was given by the Mayor. It was “Mr. Sykes, and good health to him. This toast was rapturously received, and to which Mr. Sykes appropriately replied in a few brief sentences. On the conclusion of his speech, he gave The health of Sheriff Sherwood,” and regretted that from indisposition the worthy Sheriff had been forced to retire so soon to his home.

The Mayor then gave “The Masons and Oddfellows,” Dr. Thomas Reynolds, the Provincial Grand Master, replying for the Oddfellows, and William B. Simpson, Esq., Acting Deputy Master, returning thanks on behalf of the Free and Accepted Masons.

Many other toasts were given, but we were unable to note them from the arduous duties the writer was compelled to perform as a steward. Suffice it to say   the proceedings terminated about five o’clock p.m., in the most harmonious manner, not one ,jarring or angry word having escaped a single person present.


In the evening we had the pleasure of attending another very interesting party at Willson’s. This was a dinner given to the workmen employed on the tunnel by the contractors   Messrs. John and David Booth. At this party there were upwards of thirty, the chair being occupied by Mr. John Booth.

If the public wish to know the character of an employer, he will best gain his object by talking with the employed. The Messrs. Booth are strangers to Canada, yet they have recognized the building of a very important __?__and character they bore elsewhere is, therefore, of some importance to the community. Being present on the occasion referred to, we derived some knowledge of the estimation in which the Messrs. Booth are held by their workmen, many of whom were employed by them in England, and have, at the invitation of their employers, left “Old England on the lee” in order to try their fortunes “in this here Canada.”

One of the workmen, Mr. George Scott, a very intelligent man, and a really good speaker, toasted the health of the Messrs. Booth. In doing this, he laid down in a clear manner, how important it was for employers and employed to understand each other. Like those around him, he said he was a son of toil, and as such it was his duty, as it was the duty of each of them, to render a day’s labour for a fair day’s wages. Their present employers were men whom they know, and knowing could trust, and he hoped they would excercise the same justice towards their workmen as they had ever done. The toast was then done amid great applause.

Mr. Booth returned thanks and stated that many of them had left their wives and families behind them, he thought they ought in their rejoicings to remember them. He gave a statement in accordance with the spirit of that remark, which was replied with __?__ three and one more.

Mr. Scott then proposed “The Press” concluding it with the name of Mr. Wylie. In doing he passed a few excellent remarks on its __?__ power. Mr. Wylie returned thanks, and gave Mr. Scott, and the sons of toil,” to which Mr. Scott responded.

After enjoying themselves for an hour or so in the greatest harmony, the party separated, and so ended the public proceedings connected with laying the Foundation Stone of the Brockville Tunnel.


Brockville Railway Tunnel

Brockville Railway Tunnel – ca. 1895