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We do have our Daniel Boones


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Part I of 3 Part Series

We Canadians are normally very reserved about our heroes, but we do have our Daniel Boones and our George Washingtons. We have our quiet heroes, who were Statesmen, Soldiers, and Freemasons. One such man Metropolitan Toronto, and several other Ontario Communities honour on the first Monday in August, by proclaiming that day a Civic Holiday, Simcoe Day.

John Graves Simcoe was born on the 25th of February 1752, at Cotterstock, Northamptonshire, the son of Captain John Simcoe, R.N., and Catherine Stamford. Captain Simcoe and his wife had moved to Cotterstock shortly after their marriage on the 8th of August, 1747. It was in Cotterstock that their four sons where born. The first two, Paulet William and John, died in infancy and the fourth, Percy William, was drowned in 1764. John Graves was the third son, was named after his father and his godfather, Admiral Sir Thomas Graves. In 1757 Captain Simcoe joined H.M.S. Pembroke, as Commander, with the famous explorer Captain James Cook as Master, and in 1759 sailed for Canada in the fleet under the command of Admiral Saunders. Captain Simcoe was not to reap the rewards of his years of service, for on the 15th of May 1759, while H.M.S. Pembroke was nearing the island of Anticosti, he died of pneumonia. Mrs. Catherine Simcoe then moved to Exeter, where she had many friends and where she would be better able to educate her two sons.

The future Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada received his primary education at the Free Grammar School in Exeter, and in 1766, his fifteenth year, he entered Eton. In 1769 he went to Merton College, Oxford, but does not appear to have graduated, for in the years 1770-1771 he was at his mother‘s home in Exeter under the guidance of a tutor. These years were spent in acquiring a general knowledge, and especially in studying military tactics, for he had been promised an ensign‘s commission from friends of his mother in the War Office.

The muster rolls of the 35th Foot show that Simcoe entered the army soon after his eighteenth birthday, for on the 27th of April 1770 he was gazetted an Ensign in Captain William Gaull‘s company and stationed at Plymouth. In 1773 while back in Exeter, Adjutant Simcoe was initiated into Union Lodge No. 307 E.R.[M]. The Lodge record reads as follows.

Towards the end of 1773, several fresh candidates were admitted. Amongst them was Peter Davis Foulks, Esq., Sir Wilmot Prideaux, Mr. Savery and Mr. John Graves Simcoe; also Henry Brown, Esq., 20th Regiment, was proposed, balloted for and accepted, and being a case of emergency was made E.A. and F.C. &c.

As a matter of interest this Lodge is the oldest Lodge in the Province of Devonshire, and has worked since 1732. The Lodge has had various names, Union Lodge, St. John Lodge, and its final and present name, which it has held since 1821, St. John the Baptist Lodge, No. 39. As a matter of fact, our Past Grand Master, M. W. Bro. John Ross Robertson secured the gavel that was used at Bro. Simcoe‘s initiation, and it was used by M. W. Bro. Augustus T. Freed, when he opened our Grand Lodge at Niagara in 1909.

Simcoe now progressed steadily through the ranks of the military until the 27th of December 1775, when he was promoted to the rank of Captain and permitted to purchase command of the Grenadier Company of the 40th Foot; with it he sailed for Halifax in March of 1776. Early in July 1776 he landed on Staten Island, New York, and with his Regiment took part in the military operations in Long Island and the Jerseys, winning many commendations for his services.

While in winter quarters at Brunswick, in 1776-1777, he went to New York to see Sir William Howe, to ask for the command of the Queen‘s Rangers, then vacant. Unfortunately his ship was driven off course by a severe storm and was delayed, and on his arrival in New York he found that the post had been filled. With his ambition for an independent command unsatisfied, he wrote to General Grant under whom he was serving, and asked if Grant would use his influence to secure for him a command similar to that of the Queen‘s Rangers, should such another corps be raised. Shortly afterward he led his company at the Battle of Brandywine and received a wound from which he never fully recovered, although he was able to resume his duties.

At last his ambitions were realized, for on the 15th of October 1777, Captain Simcoe was appointed Major-Commandant of the Queen‘s Rangers and on the 18th joined his new command, then encamped near Germantown, just to the north of Philadelphia. In June 1778, he was granted the provincial rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and on the 19th of December 1781, his rank was made permanent in the Army.

At about this time, an advertisement was printed in Rivington‘s Royal Gazette, which read:

All Aspiring Heroes.

Have now an opportunity of distinguishing themselves by joining The Queen‘s Rangers Huzzars, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe. Any spirited young man will receive every encouragement, be immediately mounted on an elegant horse, and furnished with clothing, accoutrements, &c., to the amount of Forty Guineas, by applying to Cornet Spencer at his quarters, 1033 Water Street, or his rendezvous Hewitts Tavern, near the Coffee House, and the depot at Brandywine on Golden Hill.

Whosoever brings a Recruit shall instantly receive Two Guineas.

Vivant Rex et Regina.

In December 1781, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe returned to England and on the 30th of December 1782 married Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim, then in her seventeenth year, at the church of St. Mary and Giles in the parish of Buckerall, Devon. On the 14th of January 1783, Simcoe was released from his parole which he had give to the United States when he was captured in 1781. The released was granted by Benjamin Franklin, the Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States, to the Court of France.

On the 18th of November 1790, Simcoe was granted the rank of Colonel in the Army, and during the same year was elected to Parliament as member for the borough of St. Mawes in Cornwall. During his brief political career, he was able to take an important part in the debates culminating in the passage of the Constitutional Act of 1791, which divided Canada into the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. In the same year he received a commission as Lieutenant-Governor of the new province of Upper Canada, and in accepting the post of Lieutenant-Governor, he asked that troops be allotted to the new province. He was then instructed to reorganize The Queen‘s Rangers. Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, accompanied by his wife and two of their children sailed for Quebec, on the 26th of September 1791 on board H.M.S. Triton. Before sailing he was offered by the War Office the rank of Brigadier-General, but for various reasons he declined; one reason was his disinclination to have seniority over the King‘s son, the Duke of Kent, then in command of the 7th Fusiliers at Quebec.

H.M.S. Triton arrived at Quebec on the 11th of November 1791, and on the following day Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe delivered the various commissions with which he had been entrusted, to the acting Governor-General, Major-General Alured Clarke. Major-General Clarke was acting as administrator during the absence of Lord Dorchester, who was in England. The official proclamation and the text of the Act dividing the old province of Canada, into the new provinces of Upper and Lower Canada was issued on the 18th of November 1791, and was published in the Quebec Gazette of December 1st.

In December of 1791 Simcoe had paid a short visit to Montreal but he went no farther west. On the 8th of June 1792, with his wife and children he left Quebec, Lower Canada, for Kingston, Upper Canada, in a bateau. They arrived in Montreal on the 17th, left on the 27th, and reached Kingston on 1st of July. On the 8th of July, Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe was sworn into office by Chief Justice William Osgoode.

From Kingston Governor Simcoe and his family sailed on the Government Schooner Onondaga for Newark [Niagara], where they arrived on the 26th of July. Pending completion of repairs to Navy Hall, the Governor and his party were housed in marquees pitched on the hill above the Hall.

In February of 1793 the Governor visited the western parts of his province. The party proceeded to a Mohawk village on the Grand River, [Brantford], then to the Moravian settlement of the Delaware Indians, [Moraviantown], and returned by the way of the present site of London Ontario, which at a later date Simcoe recommended as a proper place for the capital of the province. However, on the 2nd of May he visited the site of Toronto for the first time. He returned to Navy Hall on the 13th and spoke in praise of the harbour and "a fine spot near it covered with large oaks", which he intended as a site for a town. This fine spot was on the bay front, east of the present George Street extending as far as Berkeley Street.

The Upper Canada Gazette of the 1st of August, 1793, has the following.

"A few day ago, the first division of His Majesty‘s Corps of Queen‘s Rangers, left Queenston for Toronto [now York], and proceeded in a bateaux round the head of Lake Ontario, by Burlington Bay, and shortly afterwards another division of the same regiment sailed in the King‘s vessels, Onondaga and Caldwell for the same place. On Monday evening, His Excellency, the Lieut.-Governor left Navy Hall and embarked on board His Majesty‘s schooner, Mississauga, which sailed under a favorable gale for York with the remainder of the Queens Rangers on board. "

Mrs. Simcoe in her diary under the date of the 30th of July 1793, wrote:

"The Queen‘s Rangers are encamped opposite to the ship. After dinner we went on shore to fix a spot whereon to place the canvas houses, and we chose a rising ground divided by a creek from the camp, which is ordered to be cleared immediately. The soldiers have cut down a great deal of wood to enable them to pitch their tents. We went in the boat two miles to the bottom of the bay, and walked thro‘ a grove of fine oaks, where the town is intended to be built. A low spit of land, covered with wood, forms the bay, and breaks the horizon of the lake which greatly improves the view, which indeed is very pleasing. The water in the bay is beautifully clear and transparent."

Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe wrote on the 23rd of August 1793:

"I have determined to hut the Queen‘s Rangers, and probably to remain this Winter at this place. It possesses many eminent advantages, which I shall do myself the honor of expatiation on, by the 1st opportunity, and expatiating on such places as appear necessary to me for permanent barracks, and fortifications to be erected, adapted to present circumstances, but which may be increased, if it shall become necessary, and, at a less expense, be rendered more impregnable than any place I have seen in North America."

Later in the year, on the 20th of September 1793, he wrote:

"Upon the first news of the rupture with France I determined to withdraw the Queen‘s Rangers from the unhealthy vicinity of Niagara where they were encamped and to occupy York. I submitted to the Commander-in-Chief my intentions and desired his sanction to authorize me to construct a block house to defend the entrance to the Harbour."

William Jarvis, Substitute Provincial Grand Master of Upper Canada E.R.[A], and the first Provincial Secretary of Upper Canada had previously granted a warrant [even though he was not authorized to do so] for Lodge No.3 The Queen‘s Rangers, 1st American Regiment and they had held meetings at Butler‘s Barracks, in Newark. This warrant was a traveling warrant, and was now transferred to York, with the Queen‘s Rangers.

In December of 1793, Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, communicated the fact of the removal of the Rangers to York. The document, addressed to Lord Dorchester, the Governor-General, is as follows:

"Should I have the pleasure of seeing your Lordship at this place, I make no doubt but the arrangement of the log huts for the Queen‘s Rangers, and the public store I shall build the ensuing Spring on Pt. Gibraltar, will be such as, in your Lordship‘s estimation, with a due proportion of artillery and an equal garrison, will appear to be more defensible that Detroit, and scarcely less so than Niagara.

J. G. Simcoe."

The log huts for the Rangers were erected on the left side of the eastern entrance to the present fort at Toronto. It was in one of these log huts that the Queens Ranger‘s Lodge No. 3 met. It is said Simcoe did not look with unfriendly eyes on the meeting of Craftsmen which took place month after month in his regiment, even though he could not himself attend the meetings, as he was a member of the "Moderns" Grand Lodge, and Lodge No. 3, Queens Rangers was warranted under the "Ancients" Grand Lodge. It is interesting to note that this site is where the Toronto Historical Board has recently unearthed fragments of clay tobacco pipe bowls this is not in itself unusual, but these fragments are fragments of clay tobacco pipe bowls with Masonic designs. On the left side of the bowl there is the Square and Compasses, with a letter G in the center, five pointed stars, a pentagram, and laurel leaves or acacia leaves. On the other side of the bowl is a standing bird with either one or two wings outstretched. [See Below] [From my personal collection]

Click picture for larger version

The Governor-General, Lord Dorchester, and Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, where not the best of friends, and the friction between them did not cease until both of them left Canada in 1796. Indeed it looked as if Dorchester had determined to make Simcoe‘s life as uncomfortable as possible. Official correspondence shows that Dorchester seized every opportunity to clog the wheels of Simcoe‘s government, and often in a manner most mortifying to Simcoe. Simcoe had not forgotten "the unjust, humiliating and disgraceful" order, as he termed it, of Sir Guy Carleton, [as Dorchester was in 1783], concerning a charge made against the Queen‘s Rangers as being guilty of "plundering and marauding" on Long Island Sound during the War of Revolution, a charge, by the way, that was without foundation. The continued friction between the two led to the resignation of both in the usual form of "leave of absence". The Simcoes said farewell to Upper Canada on the 21st of July 1796, and on the 10th of September, they sailed from Quebec on H.M.S. Pearl for England.

At this time the British Government wanted an officer to take charge of the forces in San Domingo. Lord Simcoe who had been gazetted Major-General on the 2nd of October 1794, and was now offered the post if he would prefer it to retaining his appointment in Upper Canada. Simcoe accepted the new position and on the 3rd of December 1796, was appointed Civil Governor and thought he was to be Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in San Domingo. Simcoe was disappointed for he had expected to succeed Sir Ralph Abercrombie as Commander-in-Chief of all the forces in the Island, but now found that Abercrombie retained that office. In a letter to the Duke of Kent, he refers to this disappointment and also points out that his "services in Canada had been slighted in that as Lieutenant-Governor he had a fair claim to the command of the Royal Americans in preference to General Hunter." The same letter further shows that he had been promised the position of Governor-General of Canada and also a peerage.

In 1797 General Simcoe proceeded to his new post, with instructions to aid the French in restoring, if possible, order to the island. While the General did excellent work in his command, he became wearied of the kind of warfare in which he was engaged and after eight months he returned to England, either to procure an adequate force for the work or to abandon the effort altogether. From the 18th of January to the 18th of June 1798, he was Colonel of the 81st Regiment and on the latter date was appointed Colonel of the 22nd Foot, which appointment he held until his death in 1806. Lord Simcoe did not return to San Domingo, and on the 26th of February 1798, he was appointed Lieutenant of the County of Devon, and in the following October was gazetted Lieutenant-General.

Owing to the fear of invasion by Napoleon, the forces of England were strengthened in 1799, and on the 21st of November of that year Lieutenant-General Simcoe was appointed to the command of Plymouth. On the 1st of January 1801, he was appointed to serve on the Staff of the Army in Great Britain, and in the same month was commissioned to command the Western District, which included the Counties of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. On the 14th of May 1803, he was again appointed to the Army Staff in Great Britain.

In July, 1806 General Simcoe was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in India, and at once began preparations for departure to his distant command. While in the middle of packing, an entire change of plan came from the authorities in London. Information had been received that Napoleon was contemplating an invasion of Portugal. The fleet under Earl St. Vincent, then cruising off Brest, was ordered to the Tagus, while Lord Rosslyn and General Simcoe were ordered to join the Earl at Lisbon.

Simcoe had been in poor health for some time, and it was only by exercising the greatest care that he was able to cover the great amount of work assigned to him in the Western District. He was so confident of his physical strength that he did not hesitate to accept the command in India when it was offered. Indeed it was expected that after completing the negotiations he was to carry out in Lisbon, he would return to England and then sail for India.

He took ill on the voyage to Lisbon and had to return to England. After some delay he sailed on 26th of September, 1806, on H.M.S. Illustrious, and on the 21st of October, landed at Topsham. The next day he was carefully driven to the house of his friend, Archdeacon Moore in Exeter. He was too ill to make the journey to Wolford, and the following Sunday the 26th the General passed to the Grand Lodge above.

The body was embalmed and kept in Exeter until the 4th of November, in order that the funeral arrangements might be perfected. It was an imposing funeral and every mark of respect was paid by the civil and military authorities alike. Along the fourteen miles between Exeter and Wolford the cortege passed between lines of the militia of Devon. At the third mile a squadron of Dragoons was drawn up and escorted the remains to Wolford. At six o‘clock in the evening the burial took place by torchlight in the presence of his widow and family and the leading men of the country. The remains were interred at the east end of the private chapel, erected by the General on his estate. The inscription on his monument reads:

"Sacred to the memory of John Graves Simcoe, Lt. Gen. in the Army and Col. of the 22nd Regt. of Foot, who died on the 26th day of October, 1806 aged 54.

In whose life and character the virtues of the Hero, the Patriot and the Christian were so eminently conspicuous, that it may be justly said he served his King, and his Country, with a zeal exceeded only by his piety towards his God."

I can find no record of Masonic Funeral Honours being paid to our Lieutenant-Governor.

Thus ended the life of this great man, hero of the Revolutionary War, the Founder of Ontario, Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, Statesman, Soldier and Freemason. We do well to recall his exploits in loving memory every August.


Bill Smy

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Simcoe was so unhappy with his employment that he asked to transfer to Butler‘s Rangers.

Caldwell‘s company of the Rangers defeated a rebel force commanded by Boone at the Battle of the Blue Licks.