Amherst Island Militia, 1838

Amherst Island Independent Company, taken from the Pay List and Acquittance Roll for the Months of November and December, 1838, available from the National Library and Archives of Canada. (Transcribed by Lesley Gavlas.)

Question: This seems to be just a list. What can it tell us?

The Officers:

John Cummins, Captain
Nathan Hale, Lieutenant
John Hitchins, Lieutenant
Robert Burleigh, Sergeant
William Gibson, Sergeant
James Preston, Sergeant
Hugh Spring, Sergeant
Samuel Smith, Corporal
James Strain, Corporal
James Scott, Corporal
Hugh Patterson, Corporal

The Privates:

Edward Allen
James Arnett [?]
Jacob Baker
Phillip Baker
George Beaulieu
Thomas Bibby
David Boyd
Joseph Boyd
John Brookmire
Samuel Buzy
William Clark
James Costelle
William Coulter
George B. Cousins
Thomas Cousins
William Cousins
William Craig
Patrick Darby
Henry Davy
John Duzenbury
Andrew Findlay
Robert Findlayson
James Finney
James Finnigan
John Finnigan
William Gelston
John Gibson
John Glen
Samuel Glen
Charles Gonio
William Gwidden
Joseph Hamilton
Augustus Hayter
Henry Heldenby
Daniel Hickey
Hugh Higgins
James Hobbes
William Irvine
Anthony Ivers

William Kinshee [?]
Pascal Laland
David Larke
John Larke
Antoine Lavernois
David Lawson
Patrick Little
John McBean
John McCabe
James McFadden
John McKenty
John McLinlick
Francis McMaster
Hugh McMath
James McMath
Samuel McMath
Aneas McMullen
Hugh McMullan
James McQuoid
John McQuoid
John McTaggart
John McWaters
Samuel McWatters
Thomas Murray
William Patterson
John Pendland
David Preston
Francis Quintele
Matthew Renshaw
Thomas Shew
Alexander Speers
John Tindel
Thomas Treleven
Stephen Tugwell
Archibald Wallace [?]
John Weller
John Wemp

John Cummins: Member of the Legislative Assembly representing the City of Kingston, 1825-1828.

The Prestons: James (born 1804) and David Hiram Preston (born 1820) were two of the sons of Isaac Preston featured in the story below.

The Militia Roll. The privates on this list should be aged 19 to 39. The officers could be older. The men on the list were to be resident in the municipality. Sons of men who owned or rented property were the prime candidates. Excluded were civic officials, physicians, clerics, half-pay pensioners from the British armed forces, schoolmasters, active seamen, ferry operators, those held in gaol for an offense, one miller per mill and those of dissenting religions. Not stated, but likely was the exclusion of those who were ill. Your ancestor may have been on the Island at the time, but might not appear here.

The term "independent militia" appears to originate in the United States, where it is more common. To 21st century ears, the word "independent" suggests a private army. However, although quality of training and equipping a company of militia owed much to the resources and personal magnetism of one or more of the officers, the so-called "independent" militia were raised under the authority of the laws set down by the colonial government of the Canadas. The term "independent" is usually applied to companies raised in municipalities which were too small to support a battalion of five companies. Sources: Bruce Elliott, "Men of Upper Canada" (1995); W.S. Wallace, ed., "Militia", The Encyclopedia of Canada Vol. 4 (1948); work of Richard A. Preston on internet; also sources at Library and Archives of Canada.

An outrage on Amherst Island. In 1828, men from Amherst Island served with men from Ernesttown in the 1st Addington Militia. Why in 1838 do we find the Island forming its own company? The answer lies in the location of the Island at the southern border between Canada and the United States, vulnerable to the rebels and pirates who were part of the political unrest at the time. The Kingston Chronicle and Gazette, Saturday, June 9, 1838 (p.3) reported one of the "outrages" which terrified Lennox and Addington. In the middle of the night a group of men crossed from the American side to Amherst Island and entered the home of Mr. Isaac Preston. They pulled Mr. Preston from bed and struck him on the head in an effort to extort from him the location of valuables. Mr. Preston fought back vigorously and one of the invaders fired his gun. He missed Mr. Preston, but wounded his son. Meanwhile, another of the Preston boys attempted to come to his father's defence and was knocked senseless. During the fracas, Mrs. Preston bravely escaped and ran some distance to the neighbours, who came to the aid of the family but not before the invaders had made off with $180.00, two silver pocket watches, two guns and the bed clothes. The robbers then went to the home of Mr. Patterson "an old, infirm yeoman", and robbed him as well. Mr. Patterson's son followed them down to the shore and wanted to shoot at them, but his neighbours prevented him from doing so, saying, "they will come back and burn our houses".

Isaac Preston was born in County Armagh, Northern Ireland on January 1st, 1777. The brave woman who raised the alarm was his wife, Sarah Porter, whom he had married in Ireland in 1801. The family emigrated to America in 1806, to Amsterdam, New York. In 1818, the Prestons moved on to Canada, to Ernesttown township. In about 1820 they settled on Amherst Island. Isaac Preston had six sons who survived to adulthood but only the youngest (David H. Preston) remained on the Island.

Version May 25, 2007

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