W-MCP4-6.193 TO DR. CALVIN AND MARGARETTE MCQUESTEN from their cousins John and Catherine Fisher
Dec 7 1837
To: Dr. Calvin and Margarette McQuesten, Brockport, Monroe County, New York, U.S.A.
From: Hamilton, Upper Canada
We are in the beginning of a civil war.1 We shall probably deeply regret that we came to this province--& this morning sent the Children to Warsaw2 to Mother--Catherine remains at present--We have no mail from the east side of the Lake--Quebec Montreal Toronto &co they have robbed it once and now there is no one sent.--This was done by McKenzie on the night of the 6th--It is now reported that not a letter which has the least appearance of any importance is permitted to pass without being opened.
Our business is at an end--in a few days I shall stop work entirely unless things change of which there is no prospect. You will want to know something of our affairs probably more than I can write. I may be at Brockport in some days. I can do nothing more than put our accounts into notes and make them as secure as I can.--No one thinks of paying an account no more than if he had a receipt in full. I know not what will be the result--I would leave the place were it not the fear of losing our furnace by fire and having the property destroyed. In relation to Janes, he had sold all but 3 of the machines and I suppose his notes are as good as any and of the amount he expects. Mr. Backus will be rather concerned about his debt--We have a Cavalry force under arms day and night to guard us.
Parker--he lays in irons and [there?] is the determination to execute him.3 It requires more strength of nerve than I possess to speak of the transaction without giving utterance to language which might be thought very [subversive? suspicious?] He had been my best friend--Those direct from Toronto state that there was a hot engagement last night in which 30 riflemen were killed and 40 made prisoners. All is consternation.
Davis & Ford [engaged?] to be here by today and make some arrangement by which I should obtain some money. They have not yet written should they come--will start to Montreal unless some remain of our friends who are fleeing should present a favourable offer [?] to send--The Country is ruined for years and ages. There is not a $100. or 50 dollars to be received in all Hamilton. There is no credit for any thing with but few exceptions--each man is suspicious of his neighbour------.
[Page continues with a note from Catherine Blanchard Fisher to Margarette Lerned McQuesten.]
Dear Cousin Margaret,
These are troublesome times. Poor Mr. Parker lies in prison and his family are overwhelmed in sorrow. I write with an aching head and heart. My little children are on the road to Warsaw and you must know that I shall not spend many happy hours untill [sic] I get news of their safe arrival at Warsaw. We live under very unpleasant circumstances in constant fear that our lives and property are in danger. I cannot consent to leave without Mr. Fisher and he is determined to stay untill he is obliged to flee for his life. My poor little children riding over these bad roads in an open carriage my heart almost breaks at the thought. Do write to us as soon as you receive this. How is your health and your little one?
In haste affectionately yours
[Letter continues in John Fisher's hand.]
It is very doubtful when you receive this. There is no mail but by boat to Toronto via Queenston, Lewiston & on. When we will start no one knows-the direct mail is cut off, some expect Martial Law in a few days.
1 William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861) was born in Scotland and came to Upper Canada after the war of 1812. He published "The Colonial Advocate," a newspaper that was strongly pro government reform. In 1837, frustrated by Britain's refusal to begin democratic changes, he gathered supporters in an effort to overthrow the government. His dream was an American style democracy. After being defeated at Montgomery's Tavern and Navy Island, Mackenzie fled to the U.S.A. There he gathered sympathizers and began a series of cross border raids on Upper Canada. Mackenzie returned to Canada in 1849 where he received a government pardon and resumed his journalistic and political carreres, becoming MLA for Haldimand until retirement in 1857. He died in Toronto in 1861.
http://olivetreegenealogy.com/mil/can/1837/bios_mackenzie.shtml (CE 1271).
2 Warsaw is in New York state about 25 km East of Buffalo.
3 John G. Parker's role in the rebellion and a brief biography of Parker are noted in The Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, by Colin Read and Ronald J. Stagg : "John Goldsbury Parker (ca. 1796-1879) was born in New Hampshire and came to Upper Canada from Rochester about 1817. He settled first in Kingston, then in 1834 in Hamilton. There he and his brother Reuben became successful merchants and steamship owners, though by 1837 their fortunes were on the downward slide. A member of the reform-oriented Niagara Presbyterian Church, Parker was an enthusiastic dispenser of religious tracts and reform principles. In the fall of 1837 he wrote several people suggesting that he was at the centre of a vast revolutionary conspiracy. One correspondent, a Kingston resident, showed his letter to the authorities. This seemed to have prompted Parker's arrest on 5 December, but not before his wife had destroyed various papers of his. Parker petitioned under 1 Victoria, c.10 and was ordered transported for life. In August he and others escaped from the Kingston penitentiary, but was recaptured and transported to England. There he and eleven other Upper Canadian state prisoners were freed after lengthy court cases revealed that the British Government did not have the right to send them on to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). He then rejoined his family, settled in Rochester, New York, where he became a grocer." (p.103). On p. 373 "Reuben Alexander Parker was John Golsbury Parker's brother and both were arrested. Their store in Hamilton went under in 1838, perhaps because of the publicity." On p. 309 Dec. 8th, "Parker was arrested on a charge of high treason and there was the expectation that the court house and the prison would be burnt, that 1500 men were expected that night for the purpose of rescuing the prisoner and burning the public buildings." The militia was being called out (p. 103-04). See also W-MCP5-6.239n for Parker's incriminating letter.
4 John Knox Fisher was Dr. Calvin McQuesten's first cousin and business partner. He had some difficulty working with another of the foundry's co-founders, Mr. [Joseph] Janes, and was often concerned about the man's methods of conducting business. In 1838, Janes ran off, leaving behind his wife and thousands of dollars of debt. See W-MCP4-6.237. For more on Fisher, see W-MCP5-6.240.
5 It is not quite clear if the name Catherine should be spelled Catharine. Mrs. Fisher and her husband write Catherine. Minnes, however, uses Catharine in her biographical information on John Fisher. See also footnote 8 in W-MCP4-6.236.