Saturday, September 25, 2010

The War of 1812-14 in Southwestern Ontario: The Battle of Malcolm’s Mills

Backus-Page House summer term employee Jackson Stanley was asked to compose a submission for the autumn edition of the Tyrconnell Heritage Society newsletter "The Pioneer Press". Due to space limitations we were not able to include the entire composition in the issue. The complete work, along with research resources listed, can be found below.

The War of 1812-14 in Southwestern Ontario: The Battle of Malcolm’s Mills

November 1814

Mathias Saxton grimaced with a dull pang of rising anxiety. He took in his surroundings in full regard for the first time, and saw only a swarm of ordinary lives. Five-hundred lives to be precise he reminded himself, as he had overheard Colonel Salmon estimating the number gathered as he was confessing his doubts on a successful counteroffensive to one of his forward commanders. Saxton, however had an undying faith in his superior, a fierce will to protect his property, and as he had volunteered for the position he was in now, he was bound to whatever fate he met.

In fact, at this moment, five-hundred local volunteers had all assembled in Waterford, a place of appointed rendezvous. In the weeks previous, calls from Port Talbot to Brantford had been made with the clear intent of requesting able-bodied men ready to face their duty. Masses of men came, raw to the business, void of acceptable discipline, and armed with nothing less than muskets, which all needed to be charged from the powder horn, bullet pouch, and wadding (a slow process against cartridges). The men were to make a rapid advance to Malcolm’s Mills, a location where, according to circulating rumours, the American forces had recently assembled themselves.

Now, when it seemed that all willing men, capable or not, had answered the call, they were finally ready for the march.

A crisp and potent bark ripped through the dead air. “ATTENNN…HUN!”

The men snapped erect, and remained motionless, as if their muscles had all seized up at exactly the same moment in time. Mathias did not dare blink, and he soon found that his eyes had come to rest on a rather large walnut tree.

The orders from a senior drill sergeant continued to cut through the thick silence.

The men without any hesitation lurched forward as a single mass, and began their march to Malcolm’s Mills.


The militia arrived at Oakland Township, a part of Brant County several days later and had been camping out at Malcolm’s Creek and mill pond. The men had spent two days fortifying a good-sized hill, which overlooked the surrounding area. Below them was a planked bridge over a swampy marshland. Mathias was proud of his militia’s strategy, as they had designed their armaments in such a way that any American troops going over the bridge and past their encampment toward Longwoods would most surely be held fast by their impenetrable barricade.

The next morning, Mathias’ once towering confidence in his militia began to slowly wane away. His fellow men were becoming increasingly uneasy, and had a look about them as if they knew of some impending doom. Of course with being at war, the inevitable fate of battle was always looming for a soldier, but for some reason Mathias felt a gnawing fear at the pit of his stomach, that he could not fully explain.

A few hours past and Mathias Saxton’s fear was soon exposed for what it really was.

The men, who were already on edge, almost jumped out of their skins when an officer ran past their encampment informing them that the Americans, the ones whom they had been waiting for these many days, were finally upon them.

Encouraged by his neighbours and friends…the militia, Mathias grabbed his weapon and following his commanders orders, marched toward the enemy with his brethren. As he surged forward, Mathias could begin to see the Americans alarmingly close in their battle formation below the hill. It was evident that his militia’s laborious work at barricading the bridge above the marshy creek had been for naught, as the Americans had simply forded through it. Mathias finally came to a stop and entered into a line. He could see now that his enemy outnumbered him with vast numbers, and now to his own and the militia’s utter surprise, the opposing army had begun to corner them by flanking them on either side of the hill. Mathias blinked in shock. He thought of himself, ‘So few against so many, I am surely to die.’ He thought of his wife and children, ‘If it is God’s will that my life be taken up so that they may live, then I shall give it.’ He thought of his commanding superiors, ‘I will put up a good fight for them. We, mere farmers and merchants will make them proud of their last charge.’ He thought of his home, ‘Canada.’

Mathias Saxton took a deep breath of crisp autumn air into his lungs and began to load his rifle…


As you have been reading this story, you have been seeing the events of the Battle for Malcolm’s Mills unfolding before the eyes of Mathias Saxton, and therefore yourself. Although the character of Mathias Saxton is a conjuring of fiction, the Battle described therein was completely genuine. In November of 1814, as part of a series of the War of 1812, five-hundred men from various locations across southwestern Ontario marched to Brant County to be met by an overwhelming force of American cavalrymen lead by Brigadier General Duncan McArthur. The opposing military force soon overran and scattered the small force of Canadian militia.
The resulting skirmish left the Canadian militia suffering the loss of several dead and many wounded, while they fled from the panic and pandemonium that ensued.

Although an undeniable loss for the Canadians, the ferocity of the soldiers and their utter resolve in the face of impossible odds at Malcolm’s Mills is honourably commendable. With a love of their homes, livelihood, leaders and nation, the men of Canadian militias during the War of 1812 were a different breed then those of their enemies. These men, neighbours, friends, family members, and brothers, fought for a sense of righteousness. They shed blood for the hope that their great land, Canada, could continue to be a beacon of prosperity for them, but more importantly, for their future generations.

J.Q. Stanley

-Oakes, Garrett. Garrett Oakes: Tales of a Pioneer. Ed. Thorman, George, Clarke, Frank. London: Frontline Publications, 1991.

-Stott, Glenn. Greater Evils: The War of 1812 in Southwestern Ontario. London: M&T Instaprint.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Heritage Farm Show Views

This year's Heritage Farm Show was a great success despite a rather blustery Saturday. Approximately 500 guest chose to visit the site for fun, food and farming demos. Check out these aerial shots sent to us by John Bennetto!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Honey Harvest Festival @ Clovermead

Honey Harvest Festival @ Clovermead

Every Saturday in September. Sept. 4, 11, 18, 25th

Celebrate the Honey Harvest with us! Events continue throughout the day which include beehive opening demonstrations, honey harvesting and dipping your own beeswax candles. Experience a farm wagon ride and bee barrel train ride! Bee beard demonstration at 2:30 PM, (weather permitting).

Live music from 1:00-4:00 PM.

Enjoy the farm attractions like Pedal go-carts, Zip line, Black Hole Slide, duck racing, a giant sandbox with diggers, trails, straw bale mountain, straw jump and friendly farm animals.

$7 (+tx) admission per guest $30 (+tx) per family/group of 5

11302 Imperial Road

Aylmer, ON, Canada

N5H 2R3

Tel. (519) 773-5503

Fax (519) 773-5868

Buzzing With Excitement!

Ontario’s Farm Marketer 2010

Ontario’s Outstanding Farmer 2008

Premier’s Award for Innovation in Agri Food 2007