x. Time nor Distance

Joel Stone, Leah and their surviving child William were finally reunited in 1787, and made the journey together up the St. Lawrence to the ramshackle refugee camp of New Johnstown (now Cornwall, Ontario). Ever reliant on his family, his half-brother Stephen came up to assist Joel. Along with him came eleven other men from Litchfield, all eager to take up lands in the new province. Stone once had high hopes in this new land, even petitioning Sir Guy Carleton to make him “Deputy Surveyor General.” Stone would receive no such government office upon arriving in Canada. Instead he wrote to his father, “I have begun making malt brewing beer and distilling spirituous liquors from wheat, barley, rye etc…” [1]

The Loyalist Settlement of New Johnstown, Courtesy National Archives

The Loyalist Settlement of New Johnstown, Courtesy National Archives

Coming from the urban setting of New York City and accustomed to comfortable living, supplying alcohol to soldiers and woodsmen was hardly what Leah Moore Stone would have desired. She gave birth to a girl named Mary in 1788, while still living in a tent, and despite Stone’s hopeful assertion that she was “much more reconciled and I hope will make herself happy with what I am able to provide,” the marriage deteriorated. As historian Janice Potter-Mackinnon has shown, the society that the loyalists built in Upper Canada was even more conservative and restrictive for women than in the United States at the time. The many pressures were simply too much for Leah, and she departed New Johnstown for Montreal, where their son was at a boarding school. While she was there however, Joel Stone received troubling news from one of his acquaintances, Dr. Pomeroy, who wrote him that “I am informed your quondam wife is…endeavouring to place you in debt wherever she can find that you have any credit.” He also informed Stone that he had heard she intended to leave for New York with William. [2]

Upper Canada's Main Districts before 1845

Upper Canada's Main Districts before 1845

The Stone family was very much involved in the marital breakdown, just as Joel was still very much entwined with life in Litchfield. Dothe refers to Leah in her diary as “the evil ---“ and Leman calls her “the RIB OF THE DEVIL.” In any event, Stephen Stone Sr. wrote to his sons in March of 1789 imploring Stephen Jr. to return to Litchfield and take over the family farm. The patriarch stated that although “I am no more in love with this Constitution then I was… [Yet] in as much I can’t move…it may be wrong for the family to be divided.” Stephen Jr., on his return trip, conveyed Leah to Albany, and from all accounts she never saw Joel or her children again, dying four years later in New Johnstown, perhaps attempting to return to her former husband.[3]

Another matter emerged in January of 1790. Dothe recorded in her diary that Jabez Bacon, Joel Stone’s former partner, had “attached my father’s farm on the old bond given by my father to Bacon when my brother Joel Stone went into partnership…with him…I fear the consequences.” The next entry was on April 18, and she wrote that Bacon had withdrawn his action. It is very likely that since Bacon owed Joel some £1 500, some arrangement had been made between the two.[4]

Having lost his wife, Stone requested that one of his unmarried sisters should come and look after his children and domestic affairs in Canada. It seems that the family was reluctant to part with yet another member of their family, and it was decided instead that Joel should bring his children to live in Hartford with his sister Rene. Joel returned to Connecticut in February of 1792, and Dothe once again gives us a hint of what the family thought of their exiled brother. “Europe or Canady [sic] does not alter him much, true he is older, but his word, looks, and manners are all the same.” Her sincere attachment to her long absent brother is articulated in the next passage, “So good a man, so unfortunate, O my Brother, Nancy [her daughter] bade him good-bye, went to school, said Momma would cry when uncle went away.” Two years later his children were still in Hartford with their aunt Rene, who wrote to Joel advising him that she thought it best that his son should return to live with his father, and thus avoid, “bad company or…trifling away his time…in a town like this…that would unman him forever.” She suggests that it might be possible to send Rachel, one of his sisters, to live with him, but “I would have a thousand fears for her in that wild world.” She concludes her letter by stating that “time nor distance has…power to diminish our affection for you.” Although his sister never made the journey to Upper Canada, his children eventually did and they too kept in contact with their family. William would make several trips to Connecticut and acted as Joel’s agent and representative. As late as 1803, Stone was still vainly seeking to acquire some measure of satisfaction regarding his book debts.[5]

Surveyor's Map of Gananoque, 1787, Courtesy of National Archives of Canada

Surveyor's Map of Gananoque, 1787, Courtesy of National Archives of Canada

Between 1789 and 1791, Stone managed to secure 700 acres of land about 20 miles east of Kingston at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Gananoque Rivers. Although hotly contested by the prominent Loyalist and crown official, Sir John Johnson, Stone embarked on his new enterprise. This was not done alone. Again, Stone’s former connections were vital in his work and he leaned on them heavily. It appears from a copy of a letter dated January 29, 1789, that a man named Oliver Landon was planning on settling 40 families around the Gananoque River area. As Landon himself was a loyalist settler from Litchfield, it is probable that he and Stone knew each other. This may have enticed Stone to attempt to place himself once again in the business of a merchant, providing those families with supplies and luxuries. Stone’s plan was to harness the power of the falls at the mouth of the Gananoque and open a saw mill to supply lumber to Kingston and the region as far east as Montreal. While all the commotions of his family life forced Stone to expend much of his time in travel, a number of Litchfield men were employed in building the mills and structures that would become the village of Gananoque. Some of the names are familiar – Giles Kilbourn, (whose name appears as the father of one of the Litchfield men that rode off to meet up with the British in 1777). Daniel Throop, Luther Bishop, and David and Phineas Baldwin, were all from Litchfield. [6]

The St. Lawrence River Frontier, Upper Canada

The St. Lawrence River Frontier, Upper Canada

The following is an account of the arrival of Captain Joel Stone who is said to have arrived in Gananoque in early 1792. Edith McCammon recorded the traditional story from a Mrs. Jamieson, the oldest living resident of Gananoque in 1854. It is the perfect example of the sort of Loyalist myth that coloured the early history of English Canada for generations:

He was left alone in the wilderness and fastened a white handkerchief to a tree in a conspicuous place on the river shore and awaited events. It so happened that a Frenchman named Carey, with a few Indians was living on Tidd’s Island (Tremont) which faces the Gananoque waterfront. Carey noticed the signal and sent two Indians over in a canoe to ascertain who had raised the signal and for what purpose. Captain Stone went back to the island with the Indians and remained there for a few days. Then he and Mr. Carey formed a temporary partnership, removed to the mainland, built a shanty and prepared to traffic with all who passed up and down the river. They secured two cows from near Brockville, the milk from which was exchanged with bateaux men for biscuit, and then bartered with the Indians for fish, game and fruit.[7]

This is considered Gananoque’s founding moment.

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Notes

  1. Donovan, 140,141, Petition to Sir Guy Carleton from Joel Stone, April 18, 1786, and Letter from Joel Stone to Stephen Stone, January 25th, 1788, from Hawke, 19-20,38.
  2. Letter to Lewis Moore from Joel Stone, Oct, 1787, Hawke, p.33, Janice Potter-Mackinnon, “Loyalists and Community: The Eastern Ontario Loyalist Women” from Robert M. Calhoon, et al, ed.: Loyalists and Community in North America, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994):175. Letter from Dr. Pomeroy to Joel Stone, dated from Montreal, June 8, 1789, in Hawke,34.
  3. Dothe’s Diary, Oct. 17 1789. Letter from Leman Stone to Joel Stone, Dated from Litchfield, June 14th, 1789, Hawke, 34. Letter from Stephen Stone Sr. to Stephen Stone Jr. and Joel Stone, Dated from Litchfield, March 16, 1789, The Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library, Litchfield Historical Society. Donovan,141.
  4. Dothe’s Diary, Jan 16, 1790 and April 18th 1790. Donovan, 130.
  5. Dothe’s Diary, Oct. 15, 1789, 28 Feb.19, 1792, March 1, 1792. Letter from Rene Stone Hopkins to Joel Stone, Dated from Hartford, Dec. 13, 1794 Queen’s University Archives, Joel Stone Papers, Coll. 3077 Misc. Docs. Hawke, 58 (from a paraphrased letter from Joel Stone to Leman Stone).
  6. Donovan, 141. Letter from Joel Stone to Isaac Ogden, dated January 29, 1789. Akenson, 64. The names of Daniel Throop, Giles Kilbourn and Luther Bishop are all found in Hawke, p.48. An undated copy of a letter from Luther Bishop to Joel Stone asking if there is need for a blacksmith in Upper Canada is housed in the Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library, Litchfield Historical Society, Litchfield, CT. David and Phineas Baldwin both appear on the census records from 1803 for the Front of Leeds and Lansdowne (transcribed copy from the Leeds Historical Society) and the names match those found in extracts provided by the Litchfield Historical Society.
  7. Hawke,48.