George Homesteads in Canada

By Christopher Bretz


William 'Canada' George's 1st Canadian Farm


Lot 3, Concession 1, Hamilton Township, 70 acres.

This appears to be the oldest George family farm in Canada, although very little is known of it. William George, the father of the George family in this country, was recorded living here by the 1843 Cobourg assessment. This was only a short time after the family arrived from Cornwall, if not the same year.

The lot was about 6 km east of Cobourg, and 3 km north of Lake Ontario in what today it still a heavily forested area.

The farm had 2 horses, 2 oxen, and 1 cow, and was said to have 70 acres under cultivation. It was worth £107 (at least $120,000 today).

This lot was seemingly owned by William George.

William 'Canada' George's 2nd Farm


Lot 6, Concession A, Hamilton Township, 200? acres Map it.

William George was recorded living here by the 1844 Cobourg census, his second farm in Canada that we know of.

Unfortunately the land records do not clearly find him to have been the owner of the land so he was possibly renting or leasing it. There are several sub parcels which were sold off and there is a gap in the records. More research is necessary.

It is also unclear how much of the land he owned as many farms on that year's assessment do not record that infomation. While the lot was 200 acres it seems unlikely that the Georges lived on all of it.

William apparently had 2 horses and 3 oxen at the time of the assessment, and the property had a framed house. It was worth £60 (at least $70,000 today).

William 'Canada' George's 3rd Farm


Lot 9-10, Concession 1, Hamilton Township. 50 acres. North end.

This record was found on the 1845 assessment and shows that the farm had 2 horses, 2 oxen, and 4 milk cows. There were 40 acres under cultivation, and 10 acres fallow. The assessment does not indicate a house on the lot (and the record seems complete in that regard) so it is possible the family lived elsewhere.

This lot was seemingly owned by William George. It was worth £86 (at least $100,000 today).

William 'Canada' George's 4th Farm and William Rush George's 1st Farm


Lot 5, Concession 1, Alnwick Township, 200 acres.

William 'Canada' George appears to have moved his family north to Rice Lake between spring 1845 and May 1846. He is first found here on the 1846 assessment and had 200 acres with 2 horses, 2 oxen, 1 milk cow, and 2 calves, although the record has his name misspelled as William Gorge. Next door to the farm were the Hoskins and Shearwin families, both of which were known to the Georges. While the Shearwins had been in the area for a few years, the Hoskins and Georges appear to have arrived at Rice Lake together in 1846. The families knew each other well from back in Cornwall as William's daughter Susannah had married James Hoskin in 1839. Perhaps they even made the Atlantic crossing together.

Rice Lake was just opening up for settlement at this time and land was much cheaper than around Cobourg. William George appears to have been one of the early group of settlers to the township, which when he arrived only would have had 40 or so families in the whole area. Alnwick was heavily wooded at this time and a small sawmill had opened in the next lot. The George farm was only a kilometre from the lake.

At the time of his death in May 1846 William was separately recorded living in Alnwick by parish records. It seems probable that he was residing on this farm as there are no other Georges to be found in the township.

The farm was worth £69 (at least $75,000 today) in 1846.

William's son, William Rush George, was first found on this lot on the 1847 assessment, after his father's death. It is not exactly known how he came by the lot from his father, but he was the eldest male child living in Canada at that time, so it is not unlikely that he was the aire. Youngest sibling, Hambley, was still a teenager. Sister Phillipa wouldn't marry until 1848. Younger brother Joseph was in his early 20s but would marry in December of 1847. Mother Sussannah would also have been there. Several others siblings were still in Cornwall and would not decide to immigrate for several years.

The assessment of 1847 mentions that the farm was still 200 acres, had 2 oxen, and that the land was worth £48 (at least $50,000 today), lower than the year before perhaps due to the sale of the animals.

The following year William was still found living here on the census with his newlywed wife Eliza, whom must have been pregnant at the time given the birthdate of their first child. The neighbors were still the Hoskins, who was also a witness at their wedding.

According to the census, the couple rented or leased the land now and did not own it, and were also found to have only 100 acres, so something had changed. Perhaps William split up the land or sold it to give his brothers their inheritance from their father. It is at this time when brothers Joseph and Edward George appear in Haldimand township with their own farms (see below).

Of the now 100 acres, only a portion was tillable due to hills and marsh. At the time of the 1848 census, William only worked 2 acres for wheat crops. The farm had 4 cows and 5 hogs.

William and his young family appear to have left this farm in 1849 and moved near his brothers in Haldimand, about 5 km distant. This land was owned by J. Roberts in 1878.

William Rush George's 2nd Farm

about 1850-1860?

Lot 20, Concession 8, Haldimand Township, 100 acres. Map it.

The 1850 agricultural assessment shows William's eldest son William George to have apparently just moved to this lot. He is next door on his south side to the James Curtis family, his brother-in-law. William would have just married three years before this census and only his wife and first few children are shown to be living here. The assessment also shows William to have had 4 cattle, 7 sheep, and 4 hogs.

The Curtis and George families would have known each other since just prior to the 1851 census was the marriage of William and Eliza in 1847, so it is likely they were in the area from around then. We know that William's sisters would take different paths away from Haldimand. All three would marry and live in far flung Ontario counties, while brother Joseph Henry George would later farm land just outside of Cobourg to the south. Only sons William and Thomas appear to have stayed in this area past 1870.

In 1851 William is recorded having used the land thusly; 50 acres for cultivation (30 for crops, 20 for pasture) and about 50 acres were wooded or wild. Of the crops 10 acres were used for wheat, and produced 100 bushels per year. There were also 4 acres devoted to peas, 5 acres for oats, 1 acre for corn, 1 acre for potatoes, 1 for turnips, 1 for beans, and 5 acres for hay. It also records 3 bulls/oxen, 2 cows, 10 sheep, 4 pigs. The farm also produced 38 yards of linen and flannel per year.

It appears that William sold this land and moved his family sometime before 1861 to the 50 acre farm near the Alderville Indian Reserve (below). This old George farm was owned by a J. Blezard in 1878. What the exact reason for the move was is unknown.

Joseph Henry George's Farm


South half Lot 15, Concession 9, Haldimand Township, 100 acres. Map it.

The 1848 census showed William 'Canada' George's son, Joseph Henry George, owned this lot. It appears there were 3 people living here at that time, Joseph, his mother Susannah, and his younger brother Hambley. As he was married the previous December, it is curious that his wife was not there at the time of the census.

In 1848 Joseph is recorded having used the land thusly; 20 acres for cultivation and about 80 acres were wooded or wild. He might have just moved to the farm as no crops are noted that year as yet, and there only 3 cows.

In 1849 Joseph's brother William moved his family to a farm just west of him.

On the 1851 agricultural census Joseph appears to have done quite well and is recorded having used the land thusly; 30 acres for cultivation (27 for crops, 3 for pasture) and about 70 acres were wooded or wild. Of the crops 10 acres were used for wheat, and produced 100 bushels per year. There were also 5 acres devoted to peas, 1 acre for potatoes, 0.5 acres for carrots, 0.5 for turnips, and 5 acres for hay. It also records 4 bulls/oxen, 4 cows, 3 calves, 11 sheep, 7 pigs. The farm also produced 40 yards of flannel per year.

Part of this lot later became home to Macklin's cemetery of Bethel United Church where a number of George family members are buried.

Joseph appears to have moved his family back near Cobourg before 1871. The lot is no longer in the family by 1878 and was owned by J. Harper.

Thomas Rush George's Farm


Part of Lot 17, Concession 9, Haldimand Township, 20 acres.

William 'Canada' George's eldest son, Thomas George, was a stone mason like his father and didn't seem to require much land in his trade. His lot was located on the same road as his brother's, halfway between their farms. However, it is possible that what is shown on the 1878 map is a remnant of a larger tract and Thomas sold off parts over the years.

Thomas did not arrive from Cornwall until around 1853-1855.

William Rush George's 3rd Farm


Lot 19, Concession 10, Haldimand Township, 100 acres. Map it.

William George Jr appears to have sold his land and moved his family to a 50 acre farm near the Alderville Indian Reserve sometime before 1861. It wasn't very far from the old lot, but was closer to the new hamlet of Fenella, which was just named in 1860. What the exact reason for the move was is unknown.

The lot is only about half usable for growing crops, with a large forested hill cutting through the property. The west half of the lot is much better situated, but was not available at the time.

Interestingly the family is still noted living next to the James Curtis family. This is because the census record lists all of the same neighbors as shown on a later 1878 map. In 1861 the farmhouse is described as being of log construction.

William Jr's five children would have grown up here through the 1860s. His youngest son William Curtis George appears to have stayed on the homestead in later years, but wouldn't officially take possession of the land until his father's death in 1909. In 1881 the census records it was only him and his father living there, just a year before his marriage to Mary Smith (which the marriage certificate notes that he was born in nearby Fenella). The 1891 census shows William and Mary and their growing family of soon to be nine children, with the elder William still living with them and the surrounding families as still very similar to those from the 1878 map. The same is true of the 1901 and 1911 census so it appears families didn't stray far from their roots.

This 1878 map also shows William Jr's brother Thomas had a farm nearby, although he worked mainly as a stone mason so it is not as large. North is to the right for clarity. Many of the surrounding names are familiar as families who intermarried with the Georges over the years. Note the Jewell family and the Smiths.

The family of William Curtis George's wife Mary lived just two lots west of the George farm (right side of above image). Her father, Matthew Smith appears to have moved his family there sometime during the 1870s. The two would have partly grown up together through their teen years before they married.

Our ancestor Arthur George would have been born on this farm in 1886. He, along with several other relations, would move to western Canada around the turn of the century presumably in search of cheaper land and more opportunities. Most of his siblings remained in the Haldimand area.

This farm bordered the lands of the Alderville Indians. They were a band of Mississaugas, a sub-nation of the Ojibwas, who had moved there in 1837 from Rice Lake. The band was converted by missionaries to Wesleyan Methodism in 1826. They numbered about 40 families, totaling 200 people. One of the Alderville Nation's more famous sons was Fred Simpson, a marathon runner who traveled to London in 1908 with the Canadian Olympic team. Fred was a contemporary of William Jr's grandson, Arthur George. Arthur George used to joke with his grandchildren that the family was descended from Indians and horse thieves.

William Jr's wife Eliza Curtis died in 1872 and was buried at the Bowmanton Cemetery, a few miles west of the farm. William never remarried and died in 1909. He was buried with his wife at Bowmanton.

Another reference towards the farm's location is the local cemetery population of Georges. It shifts from Bowmanton (south of this farm) for the older generation, to Centenary United to the north (north of this farm) for the younger generations.

Land records show that in 1877 William mortgaged his 50 acres (called the east half) of the lot to William Dundas for a term of 3 years and $150 (about $22,000). William himself also leased land from the Reserve at times during this period.

In October 1881 William purchased the 50 acres of the west half of the lot from Mulholland and Kennedy, giving him 100 acres of total land. The new land was much more desirable for farming and the purchase occured only a few months before his son William Curtis George was married.

Matthew Smith, father-in-law and neighbor to William Curtis, died in 1895, and his land was granted to a number of his descendants, including William, who helped care for his widow.

In May 1903 William purchased 3 acres off of his western neighbor's lot.

In 1914 a portion of the lot was released (sold) by the wishes of William George Jr upon his death. It lists a large group of female family relations, especially the Minifies, who should benefit from it. The Minifies was part of his daughter Mary Jane's family.

In 1923, relation William Edward George entered into a brief arrangement with neighboring James Curtis regarding his lot to the east.

The remaining lot passed from William Curtis George to his son Frank in 1937 for $2,700 ($90,000). Frank George had a portion of the land expropriated to the Department of Highways in 1951, but it is not known if the rest of the land remained in the family after that.

Today there is a mile long stretch of road called George Road on the south edge of the old property, named, like many roads in the area, for the early settlers.

William Curtis George and Thomas Curtis George's Farm


Lot 15, Concession 3, Alnwick Township, 75 acres. Map it.

Thomas George farmed this land as shown by the 1878 map, and the 1881 census. This is the first time the farm appears in records that we have found. Perhaps it was purchased by the family in the 1870s. The land was owned by both Thomas and a William George, but it is unclear if the William referred to was the father or the brother. Thomas' farm is also found on the 1901 census but it is unknown how long it remained in the family. Many of Thomas' descendants are buried in the nearby Centenary United cemetery.

William Edward and Thomas George's Farms


Parts of Lot 11,12,13 Concession 1, Hamilton Township, 280 acres. Map it.

From the 1878 county land map we can see that William Edward and Thomas George had large farms in this area near Cobourg. Perhaps these two sons of Joseph George split their father's farm?

Today highway 401 goes right through the former farms.



George Homestead Locations