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THE  NAMING OF WHITEMAN'S

CREEK

 

 

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An abandoned main branch of the original Whiteman’s Creek. When grist milling operations began in the mid-1800’ in the Burford area the meanders of the original creek were cut off and the creek straightened to speed the flow of water to the mills. This original portion is the portion Governor Simcoe would have seen during his trip here in 1793.

Photo by C. Barker, 2008

 

The Various Villages of Burford, Part 1:

Copyright © 2017 by Clayton Barker

(Published June 1st, 2017 in The Burford Times)

 

Starting with the creek

At the end of what some people refer to as the “Ice Age,” A large river was created which flowed west to east, cutting its way through newly-formed moraines and sand plains and emptying its waters into a glacial lake, or freshwater sea, east of what is now Bishopsgate. As the volume of water lowered, it became a smaller river that meandered within the larger channel that it had originally cut. Because the material it was cutting through was, by the most part sand and gravel, it quickly chewed away at the sides of its original basin and created a much wider basin, which can still be seen today just north of the village of Burford where it measures over 2.5 km, at its widest point.

    

     This process took a very long time, and archaeological evidence shows that the creek, or river as it may have been, was still very powerful and with wide meanders as late as about 5000 years ago, when it cut through a very high bank (over 15m high) and the top portion of a large archaic encampment was removed. By this time, the watercourse no longer emptied into a glacial lake, but emptied into another newly-formed river, which is now the Grand River. The Whiteman’s Creek watershed, which includes Horner and Kenney creeks, drains portions of western Brant County and eastern Oxford County into the Grand River, which is about 8 km east of Burford.

 

     It was originally referred to as a “Salt Lick Creek,” especially near the area later known as “Victoria” (Rag Town) where the Kenny (Kinny) Creek and Horner Creek come together, near the 6th concession road. It looked like a “salt lick” to the early surveyor’s (Augustus Jones in 1793 and John Stegmann in 1798) because the ground was very wet and trampled looking there. At real salt lick’s, animals come to lick the minerals from the soil. At the area near Kenny Creek, east of the present-day Cathcart, the creek channel is not defined, and the vegetation consists of mainly swampy grasses and very few trees. Later on it was referred to as “Brant’s Creek” and then “Burford Creek.”

     It wasn’t until Victorian times that it was actually referred to as “Whiteman’s Creek...”

 

The Various Villages of Burford, Part 2:

Copyright © 2017 by Clayton Barker

(Published June 15th,2017 in The Burford Times)

 

The Village of Burford basically sprang up where it did because of its close proximity to Whiteman’s Creek, and also because the main inland trail between Niagara and Detroit, known in the 1790’s as the “Detroit Trail,” came close to the Whiteman’s Creek near this location. All the necessities for a village seemed to be readily available near this place, from an early settler’s standpoint. The solid pine forest to the west, and a mixed deciduous forest of walnut, hickory, ash, elm, maple, oak and beach that flanked the creek drainage basin, would supply the settlement with all the timber needed for buildings. The early settlers also took note of such things as bog iron for iron production and blacksmithing, and clay deposits for potential brick manufacture and tableware.

    

     There are several stories of how the creek got its name, which all appear to have stemmed from one story. The basic story is that the first “white” man (Caucasian) to settle in this area, settled at the mouth of the creek, sometime in the late 1700’s. Some variations of this say that his name was “Whitman” and that he drowned in the creek.

   

      The story, as told to me by the late Joyce Smoke, is that a white boy, who had been adopted by a Seneca family (the family of Mary Jamieson) was raised by the Seneca’s and continued to live at the junction of the creek and the Grand River (now Five Oaks) where the Jamieson’s and other American Revolution refugee families had settled. They had come up from the Susquehanna River in the U.S.  However, by the 1840’s most of the native peoples had moved either onto the reserve (Six Nations of The Grand River), or returned to the U.S. as did Mary Jamieson and some of her family. Still others, remained as squatters near the junction of the Grand River and Whiteman’s Creek.

 

Mary Jamieson (or Jamison as it is sometimes spelled) was born aboard a ship from England, her family was Scotch / Irish and settled in Eastern United States, New York State. She survived a fierce attack on her family home; a savage massacre perpetrated by the French and their Native allies during the French-Indian War. She was taken into the Seneca tribe and adopted and later married and spoke fluent Seneca. She had many children of which some were from a Cayuga father. One of her sons was Thomas Jamieson. The children traditionally took their mothers name back then. One time Thomas, during his travels along the Susquehanna and Ohio Rivers (prior to the American Revolution, in the U.S.) came across a boy who was playing beside the river and Thomas became concerned for the boy’s safety. The boy was fair-haired with blue eyes, like Thomas’s mother, so he felt in order to protect the child from potentially drowning in the river, he’d take the boy with him back home to his mother. He was given a Seneca name and raised by Mary and her family.

     

     His Seneca name was De-ha-na-ge-reh-gwenk though he also had an English surname of Hill. It was told to me by descendants of Mary Jamieson that he got into a scrap with a neighbour and was drowned in the creek. During his lifetime, he had gained the nick-name of “Whiteman” in the settlement, due to his Caucasian features and later on, he was even referred to as “Old Whiteman.” Therefore, it is believed that he would be quite elderly at the time of his demise.

 

     According to the survey notes by Pioneer surveyor Lewis Burwell in the 1820’s and 30’s along the Grand River, he noted the location of “Old Whiteman’s old home,” which was on land later known as “Strathmore Farm” which was the Griffin family estate in the middle 19th century [Tremaine’s Map of The County of Brant, 1858].

 

     In the 1840’s the majority of Six Nations people were sent to the reservation and these settlements along the creeks and rivers were no more. De-ha-na-ge-reh-gwenk’s descendants did likewise. In the 1883 Warner and Beers History of Brant County his son Abraham Hill is mentioned along with other relatives who were “born at Whiteman’s Creek” but were living on the reserve during the late 1800’s. Abraham Hill was born at Whiteman’s Creek in 1805 and married Mary Longfish and had 5 children including Josiah (married Nancy Hill) and Richard. Some others mentioned in the same book as having been born at the settlement at the Whiteman’s Creek were James Jamieson and his sons James and David.

 

     It is also said that Catherine Hill lived on this property as late as the early 20th century while it was owned by the Pottruff family. There is now a plaque to recognize the Hill’s and Jamieson’s having been a part of the history of this place, which was erected 2008, near to this site.

 

     As well as the Seneca and Cayuga settlement that were at the mouth of the Whiteman’s Creek, there were several other satellite villages or encampments, along the Grand River, as noted by the early Land Surveyor Augustus Jones c1791, and also further up the Whiteman’s Creek in the early 1790’s. This was prior to Governor John Graves Simcoe’s tour through Upper Canada in the winter of 1793 and prior to the arrival of our founding settlers, Abraham Dayton and Benajah Mallory in 1793/94. It is said that one such encampment was located near what is now App’s Mill, and another near what is now the Art Cadman Lion’s Park, north of the village of Burford. These were perhaps temporary encampments for hunting and fishing. The story goes that Thomas Jamieson, Mary’s son, would plant apple trees from seeds from the apple trees of Thomas’s birthplace, in the United States, at the various locations where his family stayed.

 

      It’s interesting to note that my Great, Great Grandfather’s sister Annie Givens, came to Canada from Berwick-on-Tweed, Scotland, about 1865. She worked as a housekeeper for a man named James Miller who owned much of the land around Five-oaks. His first wife had died however, later he married Annie and had a son George. He built a very large house overlooking the creek adjacent to what’s now Five Oaks. It was to be Annie’s “dream home.” Later it also became part of the Pottruff estate and recently has been demolished. It seems that I became interested in the stories Joyce told and the area of Five Oaks and App’s Mill because many of my ancestors were connected to this area too.

 

 

 

    

    

 

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