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- 1793 -



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The Dawes Cabin ruins, cabin built c1805,

Photo © 1980-2020 by C. Barker




(The following Article)

Copyright © 2008-2020  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, Ont. Can.

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 lots:

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 Century standards.










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