2003-2017 by Clayton J. Barker,
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THE FOUNDING OF BURFORD TOWNSHIP
- 1793 -
This Wikipedia page has linked to this page in
the footnotes. Click Below:
The Dawes Cabin ruins, cabin built c1805,
Photo © 1980 by C. Barker
(The following Article) Copyright © 2008- 2017 by
Clayton J. Barker
Abraham Dayton was the son of Abraham Dayton and
Abiah Beardsley and was born Sept. 14th, 1745 at New Milford Connecticut and
died Mar. 1st, 1797 at Burford. He married Abigail Coggswell (daughter of
John Coggswell) on April 8th, 1770 at Washington, Litchfield CT. Abigail was
born Aug. 13th, 1750 at Preston CT. And died Aug. 4th, 1843 at Gananoque,
It is said that Abraham remained loyal to the King (George III, Eng.) during
the American Revolution and became a member of a religious sect founded by
Jemima Wilkinson, ‘The Public Universal Friend’ – a mystical version or cross
between the Quaker religion and the New Light Methodist and Shaker movements.
In the Autumn of 1792 Abraham Dayton was appointed by the group to explore
the uncharted wilds of Upper Canada in search for a site for a “New
Jerusalem”. On behalf of the ‘Friend’ Abraham ventured to Upper Canada with
his son-in-law Benajah Mallory. They followed the ancient trail which extends
from the mouth of the Susquehanna River, Maryland, into Upper Canada and to
the western boundary of the Haldimand Grant (Six Nations of the Grand River).
They were pleased with the Country, and seeing that the Whiteman’s could
sustain milling they went to Newark to approach Lieut. Governor John Graves
Simcoe for a land grant.
On Nov. 24th1792, Simcoe, mistaking Dayton’s affiliates as a group of Quakers
(The Society of Friends which Simcoe admired), granted the whole Township of
Burford to Abraham Dayton with the condition that he would construct mills
and bring in as many Settlers as he could. The following year Abraham &
Abigail Dayton abandoned the religious sect and settled in Burford Township
and their daughter Abiah and her husband Benajah Mallory later followed.
Their original grant was revised and reduced to only a hand-full of 200-acre
Abraham became ill shortly after his entry into Burford Township and was
bed-ridden for the last two years of his life and was not able to construct a
mill, let alone “mills”. His son-in-law did however construct a large
commodious Inn for the weary traveller on the Detroit Trail, and also kept a
Tanning yard near the creek. Mallory was elected to represent Norfolk,
Middlesex and Oxford from 1804 till the war of 1812 and was instrumental in
the establishing of the first Methodist Church meetings in this area and the
first Militia group c1798.
Historical Plaque erected in the Burford Pioneer Cemetery,
during the Township’s Bicentennial 1993.
I initiated the idea of commemorating Burford’s 200th
year, while giving a talk at the local Historical Society in 1991. I wanted
the historical group to be at the centre of the celebration with a local
historical theme and not be entirely a commercial affair. This plaque was the
one project I did take part in, as I composed the text.
Prior to 1784, Settlement in Ontario was mainly
concentrated around the two main forts; Niagara and Detroit. Loyalists made
their way to the Canadian border by whatever means they could. Some in boats,
others in wagons or carts, but many on foot. In 1793 John Graves Simcoe
pursued an aggressive policy in laying out roads in Upper Canada. He was
responsible for the building of a road from the head of Lake Ontario to the
Thames River known as Dundas Street or “The Governor’s Road”.
Augustus Jones (Deputy Provincial Surveyor) was instructed by the Governor to
survey this road and a line was blazed as far as the Thames at what is now
Woodstock. Simcoe had employed troops from the Queen’s Rangers to chop out
and construct Dundas Street during the year 1793; however it was only
completed as far as a few miles west of Thomas Horner's settlement (now
called Princeton) and they were not able to construct a bridge where the Governor
wanted this road to cross the Grand River (present day Paris). West of
Horner's it remained merely a blazed line through a swamp until after 1824.
Because of the War of 1812-14, construction stopped
on the Dundas Street and travellers, settlers and the military were forced to
go by way of the original inland route across the peninsula, known as the
"Detroit Trail." Since this ancient path already existed, and with
war close on the horizon, making improvements to an existing road a more
expedient solution to the problem.
Though Dundas Street exists today, as the main
street of many Ontario towns and villages, and became one of the earliest
Provincial "King's Highways," (Highway #2) it was designed to pass
through some areas which were considered very difficult terrain even by 18th