The battle over annexation of County of Brant land in Tutela Heights and the Johnson Tract into the city of Brantford rings a very familiar note for those knowledgeable in the true history of Brantford and the Township of Brant.
Peering over the Tutela Heights embankment that towers over the flats below towards Brantford, one has to look over Eagle Place. This was just one of the village communities between the river and the town plot.
There was also the village of Parkdale, which sat between Erie Ave, Eagle Ave, Huron Street and Cove Road. Bell View to the south west of this and there may have been others. All eventually expropriated into Brantford proper.
They were not part of the original Town Plot of Brantford, one might wonder how a large part of the former Mohawk Village and hunting lands along the Haldimand Proclamation lands got into the hands of settlers in the first place.
When posing that question the first thing to consider is the political and social climate of the turn of the 1800s. The second is to seek an order in council from the Six Nations Chiefs or minutes of Confederacy meetings that would show they allowed the full and unrestricted transfer of Haldimand Deed lands, and for what compensation.
Whether this land was given freely, stolen, purchased or leased to accommodate the rapid growth of Brantford is an issue still requiring much research, however, how the annexation of small hamlets of early settlers that surrounded the town was received by those who had built their homes outside the town plot, is available in the pages of old newspaper articles from the Brantford Courier and the Weekly Expositor of the day.
We begin our research by looking at the 700 or so acres of land released for sale by the Six Nations Chiefs for the town plot of Brantford, or Elgin as it was once known. This was written about in last week’s Two Row Times.
In this article we will look at the annexation of small hamlets by a town pushing desperately to become a centre of commerce with a target of increasing its population to 50,000 residents and officially become a city.The 1830 Brantford Town Plot is where it began. Right off the get go, there was fraud and deceit brewing when it came to dealing with Six Nations Haldimand Lands. As explained last week, this was not a gift as today’s revisionists want to believe, it was only given the right to sell or lease the lots on Six Nations behalf with proceeds from those transactions to go to the Six Nations Trust Fund which the Crown was obligated to administrate as Six Nations wished. This did not fully happen with only a small number of settler money ever made it into the Fund. This is a fact accepted as true by the Brantford Weekly Courier News of 1890. It lists the first purchasers of town lots followed by the statement, “A number of these sales subsequently lapsed on account of the purchase money not being forth coming.”
Like his father before him, John Brant was an astute and well educated man, familiar with both the language and the laws of the British Crown. He actually assisted with the surveying of the town plot and as such would have been intimately knowledgeable of the terms and conditions of the surrender and its boundaries.
Most of the older families to the area came along with the Mohawks or soon thereafter to take possession of the promised Haldimand Tract. Joseph Brant was happy to offer 999-year leases to United Empire Loyalist families who fought with Brant in the American Revolution.
Other shorter leases and life leases were also afforded UEL individuals and families. Intermarriage between settlers and members of Brant’s family and other prominent Six Nations families also brought land grants, leases and gifts to many settlers so married. Such was the case of the 7,000 acre Johnson Tract.
Records also show that it was because of the nearness to the reserve, that many merchants and industrialists came to this area in the first place having a large and ready market for their wares already in place just across the river. The same was the case in the early settlement of Caledonia.
By the mid 1830s, the Six Nations reserve system had been introduced as a means to help the government enforce removal of all non-Natives without a Brant Lease or bill of sale from the Haldimand Tract and to protect Six Nations from land thieves and squatters. But as history proves, the acceptance of that plan was akin to leaving the fox to guard the henhouse.
Among the tsunami of white settlers that came to the region were carpetbaggers and thieves, unfortunately many of which were also lawyers and government officials using their office to cheat Six Nations out of large portions of the Tract for personal gain.
It was also a time when Six Nations Confederacy Council was being threatened from within by “dehorners’ wanting to dispose of the traditional council of chiefs and institute an British style of elected officials like their white neighbours.
By the 1850s small settler communities began to spring up in the Eagles Nest, like the villages of Parkdale, Bell View, Newport. Parkdale, and Holmdale to the west across the river, among others.
Brantford Township were predisposed on gobbling up these hamlets under its wing to cash in on the taxes these residents were not paying to the Township and to increase their population considerably.There were two newspapers at the time in a bitter competition for readership and advertisers. And they didn’t hide that fact. The Expositor was on the side of the town’s annexation practices, while the Courier sided with those in resistance to it.
In the Oct. 18th edition of the Courier, appears an editorial about the high handed style the town fathers of Brantford were using in pushing through the annexation of these villages that sounds eerily familiar to the Tutela Heights land transfer process.
Brant Courier News 1890
The Expositor makes fun of the meeting held by the people of Eagle Place in protest of the annexation scheme. The organ (meaning Expositor) seems to think that the residents of the community in question have no business to have any rights of their own, and that it is just like their impertinence to attempt to have the slightest say in the matter. “They are only an insignificant little bit of a minority,: says the organ in effect. “Let us force them into an annexation whether they want it or not.”
This sort of argument might do very well in Russia or some other equally autocratic country, but it will not answer in a land where every man has a perfect right to be heard.
The principle of extension under favourable circumstances is alright enough, but for the city to assume more responsibilities at a time when the taxes are already so high would be nothing themselves should properly be consulted, and the suggestion as advanced in the Expositor, that they ought to be over-ridden roughshod, is not to be tolerated for an instant.
There is much, as a matter of fact, to be urged on the side of these settlers. On the outskirts. Many mechanics, for instance, finding property in the city to be held at a high rate, have purchased lots of their own just outside the boarder where land is comparatively cheap, and the taxes are low.
Under these favourable circumstances they have built up their own houses and have established homes for themselves which they would never have been able to possess if confined to the city limits.
The Expositor tells these people that as they go to and from work, they use the city sidewalks and all the other advantages of city streets, and therefor, they ought to be ashamed of the fact that they are escaping pay for them. This doctrine that no man has a right to use a public street unless he has contributed something towards its maintenance certainly a decidedly novel one. On this basis, all of Brantford’s thoroughfares ought to be enclosed and farmers and other visitors should not be allowed to go down any one street without first rendering suitable pay for the privilege.
The prosperity of a community does not in any sense depend upon the pro-rata contribution of the residents toward the maintenance of this, that or the other walk and our cotem’s (sic) argument is in roality (sic) untenable and absurd.
As a matter of fact, the residents of Eagle Place and the other sections do all their trading in the city and there is not a merchant but will agree that a man having his own piece of property, even if it is outside the limits is a far better individual to do trade with than the same man would be if he never had the chance to acquire a definite interest and standing among his fellows.
These little settlements exercised a healthy influence. They have proven an undoubted boon to the working men, and to stretch out the hand now and drag them in, willing or unwilling, is a proposition not to be tolerated.
In due time the necessities of a water and gas service and of fire protection will lead them to seek annexation themselves and in the meantime the city cam afford to wait without arousing any such antagonism as that proposed.”
Some things just never change.