10 March 2013

Hello, George (Stay a little longer next time)


He surfaced again for a moment in time. George Porter was alive in 1805!

Big deal, you say? Yes!—a big deal to find a man to whom I bade a conditional, frustrated farewell over a year ago. A man who disappeared from Upper Canada records by 1800; a man who left behind four young children in the town of York; whose abandoned wife by this time was bearing the child of another man.

In prior research, we knew George received a location ticket for lot 5 concession 3 "east of the Don [River]" in 1795.[1] With diligent labour thereon, a man could expect to receive the crown patent (title deed) for the property in due course. The Index to Land Patents showed unexpectedly that the crown patent issued to Parshall Terry on 2 August 1803, presumably because George had defaulted due to his disappearance.[2] York Township Papers pre-dating the crown patent shed no light on George.[3] To all intents and purposes, he completely vanished after 1799 when he was last recorded living in York.[4] A wide range of sources did not turn up a convincing "likely" George Porter in the following years.

However, a search of the York Township Abstract Index to Deeds—a chronological index to post-patent transactions―uncovered a surprising truth. The search would normally be considered useless because each piece of property only begins with the patent owner. But, turn out the patent did issue in George Porter's name on 10 July 1801 (not August 1803).[5] Furthermore, George Porter "late of York, carpenter" sold the land to Parshall Terry―a regular "bargain and sale" between two individuals―on 17 September 1805.[6] Alas, the document copy does not contain any information as to money or consideration George might have received. 
Nor does the conveyance state where George was residing at the time! What the document does tell us is that George employed a man called Samuel Heron as his attorney to enact the sale for him. Heron was a Scotsman known to be in the towns of Newark and York at the same time as George; their marriages took place about the same year.[7] Their properties north of York town were not far from each other. Heron stayed in York and vicinity to become a merchant and a miller; business reverses left him in debt by the time he died in the 18-teens. Wherever George had betaken himself, he trusted Heron to perform the transaction for him. Both Heron and Terry must have known where George was.

If I want to find out what eventually became of George Porter, the new information adds some possibilities from Samuel Heron's timeline. But the total lack of clues to George's nativity is very hampering. Heron's Scottish origins in Kirkcudbright are a non-starter because no George Porter was baptized in Dumfries.[8] It's barely possible they met during Heron's brief stay in New York City. It seems certain they would have known each other in the small town of Newark where Samuel joined his merchant brother Andrew Heron in 1793.

Parshall Terry was another York pioneer; a Loyalist with Butler's Rangers, he finally settled along the Don River. He would have been well acquainted with his neighbour George. But I don't think he's going to help me because he died in 1808 while crossing that same river.[9] Unlike George (apparently), Terry and Heron were ambitiously entrepreneurial and acquired large tracts of land—for better or worse at times.
A scene on the Don; University of Toronto's collaborative Don Valley Historical Mapping Project http://maps.library.utoronto.ca/dvhmp/
 Now we know that George did not mysteriously die around 1799. Had he gone east to Kingston or Montreal? To the Western District? South to the U.S.? Where will he show up next?—there has to be a next time!


[1] Ontario Land Records Index, Listing by Surname, George Porter, location ticket lot 5 concession 3 York Township, 1795; Archives of Ontario (AO) fiche sheet 39.
[2] Index to Ontario Land Patents 1790-1912, Vol. 1, folio 82, grantee George Porter, issued to Parshall Terry 2 August 1803; AO microfilm MS 1, reel 6.
[3] York Township Papers, Lot 5 Concession 3; AO microfilm MS 658 reel 534.
[4] Christine Mosser, ed., York, Upper Canada, Minutes of Town Meetings and Lists of Inhabitants, 1797-1823 (Toronto: Metropolitan Toronto Library Board, 1984), 13; George Porter, three males and two females, 1799.
[5] York Township Abstract Index to Deeds, Lot 5 Concession 3 from the Bay; AO microfilm GS 6443.
[6] Old York County Copybook of Deeds, Vol. 3 (1801-1806), no. 647, Porter to Terry; AO microfilm GS 5906.
[7] W.T. Ashbridge, The Ashbridge Book: relating to past and present Ashbridge families in America (Toronto: The Copp, Clark Company limited, 1912), digital image, Open Library (http://openlibrary.org/books/OL19342016M/The_Ashbridge_book : accessed 19 February 2013), 87. The Heron-Ashbridge marriage 14 December 1794 was recorded in an Ashbridge family Bible and thus was not a source for George Porter's marriage. George's first child was born in York, May 1794, according to unconfirmed sources.
[8] "Samuel Heron," Dictionary of Canadian Biography (http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2459 : accessed 18 February 2013).
[9] Edith G. Firth, ed., The Town of York, 1793-1815 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962), 186. 

© 2013 Brenda Dougall Merriman


3 comments:

CallieK said...

Fascinating and full of helpful info as usual!

BDM said...

Thanks, Callie. It's nice to have a visitor!

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