Dictionary of Canadian Biography speaks of Colonel Samuel Smith in his retirement years – as the first settler landowner in Long Branch, following his years of service in War of the American Revolution

David Juliusson of Long Branch, whom I first got to know around 2010 after I had learned the Toronto District School Board was going to sell the school property formerly known as Parkview School, has shared with me an entry from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography concerning Colonel Samuel Smith.

A previous post about the colonel is entitled: My interest in colonial and military history began with a study of local history in Toronto.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry highlights what little is known about the colonel. I have posted the text in its entirety below.

Some of the details in the text I am not certain about – these are things I’d like to ascertain.

For example, the entry says Smith had taken up land in 1796 in Etobicoke Township. It’s my understanding from other sources (although I will need to check on this) that he received a land grant in 1793 and built his log cabin in 1797.

As well, the year 1756 as year of birth has been questioned. In her archaeological report of 1984, Dena Doroszenko offers evidence suggesting that 1760 is the more likely year of birth. The latter archaeological report was based on a preliminary dig at the site in Long Branch where the colonel had built his log cabin.

A previous post provides background about the preliminary dig: Whatever happened to the Colonel Smith homestead artifacts found in 1984?

Colonel Samuel Smith – Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Anyway, here’s the entry from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:

SMITH, SAMUEL, army officer, politician, and colonial administrator; b. 27 Dec. 1756 in Hempstead, N.Y., son of James Smith, a Scottish immigrant; m. 21 Oct. 1799 Jane Isabella Clarke at Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Upper Canada, and they had two sons and nine daughters; d. 20 Oct. 1826 in York (Toronto).

Samuel Smith joined the Queen’s Rangers as an ensign in 1777, rose to captain in 1780, and was among those officers who surrendered at Yorktown, Va, in 1781. After the war he settled briefly in New Brunswick, and in 1784 went to England. Commissioned a captain in the second Queen’s Rangers on 20 Dec. 1791, he was first stationed at Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake). In August 1794 he led the detachment sent to York. He commanded the regiment from 1799, was promoted lieutenant-colonel in 1801, but went on half pay when the Rangers were disbanded in November 1802.

He retired to the land he had taken up in 1796 in Etobicoke Township, where other disbanded Rangers joined him. It was a settlement that was to remain isolated from the town of York for another 20 years. Smith had 1,000 acres there, but could not afford the grand schemes that he entertained for their improvement. On his retirement his circumstances were modest enough to make his notably pretty sister Anne seem a poor match to the ambitious Joseph Willcocks*. Smith lived at Etobicoke without any public office for more than a decade until on 30 Nov. 1813 he was appointed to the Executive Council, on which he sat until the year before his death.

On 11 June 1817, as the senior councillor who was neither a Roman Catholic like James Baby nor the holder of another office like John McGill or William Dummer Powell, he was sworn in as administrator of the province, Lieutenant Governor Francis Gore* having left Upper Canada. He served until 13 Aug. 1818 and again, during the absence of Lieutenant Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland*, from 8 March to 30 June 1820.

As administrator he shelved the problem of granting land to American immigrants. His instructions were to administer the oath of allegiance to them (which Gore had raised a storm by refusing to do), but to require seven years’ residence before granting them land and to dispossess those who did not qualify. Instead he accepted the advice of his Executive Council not to disturb the security of land titles by raising the question, which was not settled until the Naturalization Act of 1828 validated all grants up to 1820. His inaction was sensible, but it did leave the council “sleeping over an Office choked with applications,” as Maitland put it.

Smith failed with the House of Assembly, which after its prorogation by Gore on 7 April 1817 was in no mood to be conciliatory. It quarrelled with the Legislative Council over the latter’s amendment of money bills, refusing to vote supply except by an address directly to Smith, without the council’s participation. It also demanded an accounting of civil expenditures and voted to repeal its original grant of 1816 when it found that, of £2,500 voted, £800 had gone to a pension for the former chief justice, Thomas Scott, and £400 to a salary for the speaker of the Legislative Council. After two months, despairing of any cooperation between the two houses, Smith prorogued the assembly on 1 April 1818.

Smith received most criticism for the ineptness of his attempt to cope with Robert Gourlay*. Gourlay wrote that “as a President he is nothing.” John Strachan* thought him “feeble,” and “without energy or talents.” Yet it was Smith, without consulting either Powell or Strachan, who had decided in April 1818 that Gourlay must be arrested if there was a law to allow it; and, after Gourlay’s acquittals for libel, Smith still sought advice on the possible illegality of Gourlay’s York convention. Smith’s tory abhorrence of sedition was restrained by the law, not by indecision. When Maitland arrived to take over Gourlay along with the other problems of government, there were expressions of relief in the province. It is likely that Smith, from his retirement in Etobicoke, shared them.

  1. R. Mealing

[The published sketches of Smith in Chadwick, Ontarian families, and D. B. Read, The lieutenant-governors of Upper Canada and Ontario, 1792–1899 (Toronto, 1900), are not very revealing. The basic sources for his public career are his official correspondence in PRO, CO 42, and the journals of the legislature. Contemporary comments are in Statistical account of U.C. (Gourlay), vol.2; Strachan’sLetter book (Spragge); and in the papers of William Dummer Powell (at the AO, MTL, and PAC), Peter Russell (AO and MTL), and John Graves Simcoe (described in the bibliography accompanying his biography, DCB, vol.5).  s.r.m.]


David Juliusson has shared additional resources that can help us to learn about the life of Samuel Smith

A Dec. 14, 2011 post is entitled: “David Juliusson has shared a list of valuable resources for helping us to position Samuel Smith as a historical figure.”

For ease of reference, here is the text from the latter post:

We owe thanks to David Juliusson, Program Officer, Historic Fort York, City of Toronto, for sharing some great resources regarding the history of warfare it relates to the story of Colonel Samuel Smith:

Crowder, Norman K. Early Ontario Settlers, A Source Book. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1993.

Fernow, Berthold, ed. Documents relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York. Albany: Weed, Parsons and Company, Printers, 1887. XV, State Archives, V.1

Roberts, James A., comptroller. New York in the Revolution as Colony and State. Albany: State of New York, 1897)

David Juliusson comments further that:

– One of the best people to contact is Gavin Watt who has written extensively about the American Revolution and is also a military re-enactor of the period; his book The Kings Men, available at Fort York, is especially good reading.

– Carl Benn is a foremost expert on First Nations warfare.

– Another good group to contact are the United Empire Loyalists. Their Toronto branch is at 40 Scollard St., Suite 300 (Third Floor). 416-489-1783. They have a good collection on the Loyalists.

“Since little is known of Samuel Smith,” David Juliusson adds, “concentrate your research on the Queens Rangers. There is quite a bit known of them. Also there is much written on the Jarvis family and Aeneas Shaw. They were his contemporaries and much of their life would have been his too.”

Some links of relevance include:







Comment regarding the power of Greta Thunberg’s climate-change rhetoric

A December 2015 Atlantic article is entitled: “The Accidental Patriots: Many Americans could have gone either way during the Revolution.”

I read part way through the latter article until I grew weary of reading it. I will someday perhaps finish reading the article.

I find the Atlantic, New Yorker, and New York Times of interest to read from time to time but as a steady diet the conceptual framework – or perhaps I can say the linguistic framework – is alien to me. I like the facts but the frame of reference is of another time and place; I do not feel at home in such a framework.

In this context, I think as well of the thwarted American attempt during the War of 1812 to annex Upper and Lower Canada..

As I understand, the failure of the attempted occupation stems in part from the prowess of Indigenous warriors fighting on the British side, to whom many thanks are owed but who received no thanks whatever when the ending of the War of 1812 was negotiated.

Two posts in particular come to mind when I think about the early 1800s.

One concerns the Battle of Crysler’s Farm (where both sides fought bravely but the outnumbered British had the strategic edge).

The other concerns warfare in Europe during which one of my paternal-side ancestors participated as a soldier in Napoleon’s ill-fated 1812 march on Moscow:

John Boyd committed his infantry before his artillery could properly support them: Battle of Crysler’s Farm, Nov. 11, 1813

After his defeat in Russia (1812), Napoleon Bonaparte lost for a final time at the Battle of Waterloo (1815)

Original Plan of the Toronto Purchase, 1787-1805. The image, which by way of copyright details is in the public domain, can be located at the Toronto Public Library website by doing a search for “r-125.jpg.” The plan is part of the J. Ross Robertson Collection of maps. Link:

A related topic concerns the role that cadastral mapping – within metaphorical as well as within material realms (in my view, the two realms are closely intertwined) – as outlined by James C. Scott in Seeing Like a State (1998), played in setting the stage for Colonel Samuel Smith’s landowner presence in what is now South Etobicoke. The Original Plan of the Toronto Purchase, 1787-1805 (see image on right) serves as illustration of what cadastral mapping entails.

Another related topic concerns my interest in learning about the First Nations peoples who
grew corn and later also squash and beans on the floodplains at the mouth of Etobicoke Creek, who created the trails through the forests along the shoreline of Lake Ontario, and who lived by the Credit River near the Lake Ontario shoreline before the arrival of the settler society that gave rise to their displacement.

Indigenous history is of much interest to me.

Still another related topic concerns neoliberalism as a conceptual framework by which a particular intersection between storytelling and materiality has achieved prominence (and has also met with resistance) since the 1970s and which assists us in understanding potential linguistic avenues for addressing climate change.

The storytelling occurs on several levels. One is the level of storytelling based on evidence. Another level is storytelling (which may or may not be based on evidence) at the level of the blurb, the slogan, the advertisement, and the talking point.

A level of particular interest to me includes elements of the two above-noted levels of storytelling – a level that bears similarities to the borderland between the genres of fiction and nonfiction.

The potential linguistic avenues for addressing climate change are in particular evident in Greta Thunberg’s impressive eloquence, as outlined, for example, in an April 24, 2019 New Yorker article entitled: “The uncanny power of Greta Thunberg’s climate-change rhetoric.”

I like many people draw strong inspiration from Greta Thunberg’s analysis of the current climate crisis and the possibilities open to us, by way of addressing it.

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