Joseph Wixson my great-great-great-great-grandfather

Friday, March 27, 2020 2:28 PM

Consider for a moment the trying circumstances of the life of my great-great-great-great-grandfather Joseph Wixson. He was born in Dutchess County New York on the 25th of January 1779, in the middle of the American Revolutionary War. His father (greatx5-grandfather)  Solomon Wixson, was born on the 10th of August 1751 in Yarmouth, Barnstable, Massachusetts. Solomon  served with the Minute Men under Colonel Jacobus Swartwout, in The 7th Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia during the Revolutionary War. His ancestor Robert Wixom had emigrated to America in 1630 from England.

In the spring of 1790 Solomon relocated to the Finger Lakes district of New York state, and built a log cabin on the west side of the outlet of Waneta Lake. In the spring of 1791, Solomon and his family, including Joseph who was 12 at the time, moved to their new home. Solomon purchased 200 acres on Lake Waneta, near Wayne, Steuben County and there he raised his family. They built a homestead called the “Old Homestead”, which was still extant in the 1920s. This put them just 140 miles from the Canadian border at Niagara.

Joseph Wixson married Deborah Townsend on 20 May 1798 in Wayne, New York, the year before they moved to Ontario. They were to go and have 10 children, their  third being Mary, my great-great-great-grandmother.

While we do not know of his motivation but Joseph and his brother Joshua emigrated from their home in Steuben County, New York to Ontario in 1799. Was it because he had some sense of loyalty to England? Did this cause a disagreement with his father in New York? Or, did his father agree with his two eldest sons? I need to locate the petition for land made by Joseph for the property in Pickering.

Joseph lived in York (Toronto) and several other places for a couple of years before relocating to Pickering Township.  Joseph and Joshua were the first settlers in Claremont, which was located in Pickering Township. On the 7th of December 1802 Joseph received a free grant of land in Pickering Township, being lot 18 in concession 9. In 1803 they moved onto their lot. In March of 1811 Joseph was appointed Poundkeeper. In 1813 Joseph purchased lot 17 concession 9. Joseph operated Pickering’s only grist mill about a mile east of his property. Joshua and Joseph were involved in establishing the Baptist church in Claremont.

In May 1815, my great-great-great-grandfather, John Udell “the hunter” purchased the south one half of lots 32 and 33 in the 9th concession. The Udell’s and the Wixom’s were next door neighbours.

Meanwhile more neighbours, the George D. Spencer family, had moved into Claremont and George D Spencer had married Mary Wixson, born in 1802 in Claremont. Their first child was  my great-great-grandmother Eunice Spencer born there in 1819. Reverend William Jenkins marriage register records the marriage of John Udell and Eunice Spencer on the 23th of December 1840.

I wonder what Joseph and Joshua Wixson were thinking as the possibility for war was approaching between the U.S.A. and Brtian in Upper and Lower Canada at the end of the first decade in the 1800s. ? It must have caused no end of concern, given their father’s family were still living just 140 miles away in New York state.

In any event Joseph served on the Canadian side during the war of 1812/13; in the 3rd York Militia, from 25 November to 24 December 1812 and from 14 April to 24 April 1813 in Captain Rideout’s Company; from 25 September to 3 October under Lieutenant Thomas Mathews; from 12 November to 16 November, he was employed repairing roads between the Town of York and the Township of Darlington under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin of the 1st Durham Militia, from 25 January to 3 February he was employed in public served at York in a detachment under the command of Ensign Edward William Thomson and from11 July to m24 July 1814 he served in Captain Duncan Cameron’s Company. 

After the war of 1812/13 Joseph was registered in the Militia in 1828/29 in the 3rd Company, 2nd Regiment in East York. He was appointed a commissioner in 1836.

Then the potential for further conflict arose due to dissatisfaction in the 1830s, primarily by the farming community, due to the lack of representative government and the undue influence of the “family compact”.  So the Mathew, Spencer, Wixson and Udell families were all neighbours living in Pickering, mostly in concession 9. Joseph, and other members of the family, were involved in the Rebellion of 1837/38.  Joseph and other members of the family accompanied Peter Mathews to the key event at Montgomery’s Tavern on the 7th of December 1837 where a battle took place with the militia that had come north from Toronto on Yonge Street.

On the 15th of December 1837, a warrant was issued for Joseph’s arrest, however the charges were dismissed because the grand jury ignored the indictment based on the dubious character of the witness. Peter Mathews was hung following the event. His son Thomas Mathews was married to Margaret Spencer, a younger sister of my great-great-grandmother Eunice Spencer. Also five other members of the Wixson family were captured and arrested. One son, Randal, was found guilty and was sentenced to transportation to Van Dieman’s Land for 14 years. According to history Randal had a long association with William Lyon MacKenize, including editing the Colonial Advocate in 1832 when McKenzie was in England. Randal was taken to England and placed in Newgate Prison. As I have reported elsewhere Joseph Udell was one of about 120 people who were arrested and put in Jail following the event at Montgomery’s Tavern.

After these conflicts several members of the family including  Randall, Asa and Joel were reportedly banished from Canada and went to live in Michigan. Joseph and Joshua stayed in Claremont. Many of the Wixson, Spencer and Udell relatives moved to Michigan following the Rebellion of 1837/38, including my great-great-grandfather John Udell.

Joseph and Joshua stayed in Claremont and Joseph was a Town Warden from 1839 to 1854.

John Udell “the hunter” was still living on his property in Pickering on the 9th concession in 1837. In November of 1845 John Udell sold the southwest ¼ of lot 33 in the 9th concession to my great-great-grandfather John Udell “Junior”.

Joseph died on the 14th of February 1855 and is buried, along with his brother Joshua,  beside the Baptist church in Claremont that they were so prominent in establishing.

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