Mohawk Park: Something just doesn’t fit

BRANTFORD — Every 10 years or so, Brantford floats another balloon over the Glebe Lands looking for a route to finally link both ends of the Brantford Southern Access Route aka BSAR.

Like clockwork, Brantford is again assuming Six Nations will eventually loosen its jealous hold on that piece of property that was transferred back to Six Nations by the New England Company when no longer needed as a school.

But right next door to the Glebe Lands is what is now known as Mohawk Park. It was once known Lovejoy’s Marsh or Lovejoy’s Pond. Above it on a rise was Lovejoy’s Cove. It was eventually sold to the City of Brantford and became known as Mohawk Park in the late 1800s.

Looking back on the times before the canal and Mohawk Lake were built, speculation was common among those settlers with money to invest. Records show huge plots of land being bought and sold on the same day for huge profits. Others also had enough political will and commercial clout in the early days of town building in Southwestern Ontario, to always be in the right place at the right time.

John Lovejoy was one of those opportunists. He owned what is now East Colborne Street and charged a toll to travellers for its use.

One of the mysteries surrounding Lovejoy and his possession of a significant portion of the Mohawk Village is how that happened without any known instrument of surrender sanctioned by the Mohawks.

In the 1830s especially, there was great pressure being applied to the Mohawks of Brants’ Mohawk Village to remove themselves to the south side of the river and amalgamate with the others of the Six Nations in one “more manageable” location. This was being pitched as a way to help Samuel Jarvis and the Canadian government remove European and American squatters from settling on Six Nations’ Haldimand Proclamation land.

Brantford itself was a white-man reserve, so to speak. It was negotiated with John Brant, Joseph’s Son and Superintendent of Indian Affairs at that time, and approved by the sitting Six Nations Chiefs, to surrender 807 acres of Haldimand Tract land along the Grand River to relocate the squatters as they round them up. The proceeds from the sales and leases of the Brantford Town Plot were to be kept in trust for Six Nations posterity.

Much of the proceeds from these lots never made it to the Six Nations Trust Fund, including what is known as the Nathan Gage lands where the Casino and Civic Centre are now located.

There were also outright gifts of land made “legal” by government speculators to wealthy supporters families and friends, without the knowledge or approval of Six Nations, as required by the Canadian government.

To date, the first mention of John Lovejoy relates to land. Lewis Burwell’s mapped the town plot in 1833 and it included a large swath of the Mohawk Village.

In an 1832 town record shows John Lovejoy  “acquired” the eastern and northern portion of the Mohawk Village, from beside the Mohawk Chapel all the way to Colborne Street. His handsome brick family home was built at the corner of what is now Colborne Street and Park Street. It was once the office of Dr. Arnold Rose in the early1960’s. The house was torn down in the 1980s to make room for the BSAR but the project was stalled by politics and push back from Six Nations.

Records also show that the first public meeting to promote the Grand River Navigation Company was held at Lovejoy’s Hotel, another property owned by the speculator. It was not long after the project got enough backing to proceed, that a large stretch of Mohawk land was “acquired” by John Lovejoy. The path of the proposed canal would traverse Lovejoy’s land and offer significant commercial benefit.

But who was it “acquired” from and for what? And why are there no documents to show the Mohawks had indeed agreed with “giving” Lovejoy a hefty part of the Mohawk Village just to be nice?

Lovejoy’s swamp or pond was dredged to become what is now Mohawk Lane, as a turn-around and stopping point for commercial as well as passenger traffic on the Canal System. Lovejoy was in the right place at the right time. The “Indians” were distracted by the proposal of leaving the Mohawk Village to relocate across the River, under the Kings protection, while squatters were removed from Haldimand Tract land.

This, as history shows clearly, was a lie and a ruse to open up more land to speculators and settlers and was never intended to be of benefit to the Six Nations people at all. In fact, the architect of this and other open thefts of land and money got so blatant that Samuel Jarvis, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, was investigated twice by the government before finally removing him from office for fraud, misappropriation of Six Nations Trust Funds, incompetence in seeking the best for Six Nations, and using Six Nations funds to support a known gambling habit.

The fraud was recognized, Jarvis lost his job, but the land was never returned nor the proceeds replenished to the Trust Fund.

Without any document of surrender or transfer of Mohawk land into Lovejoy’s hands, one begins to question what has become the “official” story of Mohawk Park.

“On Dec. 15, 1827, a public meeting was held at Lovejoy’s Inn that drew people who were interested in improving transportation on the river, such as Absalom Shade of Galt, William Hamilton Merritt of the Welland Canal and various local millers,” according to records.

As mentioned earlier, Lewis Burwell was one of Canada’s best cartographers of the day and was the surveyor and mapmaker of choice for both the Colonial government and Six Nations in general. His skill is stunning to some archaeologists who have used his notes and maps to locate a number of historic sites in and around Brantford with pinpoint accuracy.

But there is a strange anomaly. The Western boundary of what is now Mohawk Park as mapped by Burwell is in the wrong place, judging by its proximity to the lake itself. In fact, a good part of what is called Mohawk Park is on what Burwell maps show as “School Lot”, which means it was also part of the Glebe lot and therefor not to be sold.

We know that Lovejoy got a Crown Deed for the land on Dec. 20th, 1836, but with no accompanying map or details as required by the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that have been located to date.

Lovejoy willed his land to his children and in that, Lovejoy’s Cove, of 55 acres, was leased to the Brant Railway System. That was later sold to the City to become Mohawk Park.

If John Lovejoy got a Crown Deed for that land, how was that possible when the New England Company was in use of that land at the pleasure of Six Nations until no longer needed as a school. Some portions of the original Mohawk Village remain recognized by Canada as Reserve #40B including the Glebe Land.

The first Mechanics School was established at Mohawk Village across throw the Mohawk Chapel. The Mohawk Institute was build further back, but what became of the School Lot that is now Mohawk Park?

If any of our readers can help clarify, please contact or email Jim Windle

I will publish with thanks and new information if it can be verified.

Lewis Burwell’s Brantford Map 1833. Note the relative position Mohawk Lake to Mohawk Park. For a well-acclaimed mapmaker, employed by both Canada and Six Nations, it appears Mohawk Park been reduced in size which begs the questions, when and why?

Related Posts