John Applegarth 1784-1854

Originally Published in Heritage Happenings, May 1988
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Born in Durham County, England in 1784, John Applegarth emigrated to Canada in 1801, joining his older brother William at the Head of the Lake.1

The two brothers built a Grist Mill on the Grindstone Creek, near Aldershot in 1807, the second mill constructed in the Flamborough area. Originally built of wood, fire destroyed the Applegarth mill at least twice. It was rebuilt in 1812, and again in 1823. By the time the 1861 census was taken, the Applegarth mill was described as a flour mill, of two storey, built of stone, employing two men and valued at $12,000.00.2

The Assessment, or Tax Rolls for Hamilton, confirm that John Applegarth also owned property in the town between 1835 and 1843.3 By 1838, his property on John Street includes a Merchant Shop, possibly a grocery or bakery store. In 1843, when Hamilton bakers boycotted Applegarth’s flour, and were charging exorbitant prices for their bread, the merchant store was offering bread at reduced prices and Applegarth did an excellent trade for many years, as he was still listed in business a decade later.4

He also, together with his brother, owned a sawmill in Waterdown, and produced much of the lumber used in the area during the early years. In George Douglas Griffin’s Historical Recollections of Waterdown, the approximate location of this mill is given.

Below the flour mill which E. C. Griffin sold to Heywood and Abrey, he had about 100 feet of waterfall, and 30 acres of land and free-stone quarries on each side of the stream. Of this, he sold about sixty feet to Trumbull and Tracey, who built a sawmill. Afterwards, William Stock and Henry Graham bought it and they sold it to Mr. John Applegarth.5

Applegarth served in the Militia throughout the War of 1812. He is listed as a member of Captain Hatt’s Company of Volunteers6, serving at Detroit, and with the 5th Lincoln Militia at the Battle of Queenston Heights. He was in the Stoney Creek area on June 5, 1813 just prior to the Battle of Stoney Creek. An account of the Battle, narrated by J. H. Land was reprinted in the Hamilton Evening Times,7 recalling that, following the sighting of a Yankee vessel landing reinforcements of 1,000 men for the army at the Creek, Captain Elijah Secord and John Applegarth were assigned duty on the brow of the mountain. Stationed not far from where the extension of Barton Street joins the Stoney Creek road from the Beach, they

“spent hours on watching the enemy, until the sound of the firing, telling of the attack begun, aroused them.”

“On returning to Flamborough after the war, Applegarth missed the large iron gudgeons (metal pivots at the end of an axle on which the mill wheel turns) that had belonged to his mill. During the years of his absence, a man named Peters had built a small grist mill lower down the stream. Applegarth went down and looked into the mill and presently said to Peters, “those are my gudgeons you have there”. Peters replied that they were Mr. Applegarth’s, and made some explanation as to how he became the owner!8

About 1823 John Applegarth built another mill on the site of the first one. It was a large two run of stone mill, constructed of Buhr stones from Paris, France. Unfortunately just after the mill was finished, it was burned again. All the machinery was destroyed, but the stone walls, owing to their strength, remained standing. The mill was immediately rebuilt, and John Applegarth engaged in milling again.

John Applegarth encouraged and organised Hamilton’s First Board of Trade. In August 1836, when the Gore Bank opened its doors for business at the corner of King and Bay Streets in Hamilton, John Applegarth was among the prominent stockholders9, listed with ten shares.10 He once wished to contest the Riding of Halton11 in elections for the Legislative Assembly, but the other candidates ridiculed his education as inadequate and he withdrew!

John Applegarth was married to Jane Clarkson, they had several children. He died 31 August 1854, and was buried in the Hamilton Cemetery, York Street.

  1. Another brother, Joshua, supposedly accompanied John to Canada, but no further information on him has been found. “Wentworth Historical Society Journal and Transactions”, Volume IV, page 25, The Griffin & Kidner Co. Ltd., Printers. Hamilton. 1905.
  2. Personal Census. Ward 1, (Broken Front/Concession 1) East Flamborough Township, Canada West.
  3. Hamilton Assessment Rolls 1835-1841 record John Applegarth as paying taxes (1835 – 1 Lot; 1837 – 1 Lot; 1838 – 1 Lot and Merchant Shop; 1839 – 2 Lots & 3 Homes on John Street; 1841 – 1 Lot and 1 House; 1843 – Same)
  4. John Applegarth, Flour Merchant – 57 Upper John Street “1853 Supplement to the Canada Directory of 1851”. Edit R. W. S. Mackay
  5. Transactions of the Wentworth Historical Society. Volume 2 Page 60. Griffin and Kidner, Printers. Hamilton. 1899.
  6. Original List. Special Collections. H.P.L. Among the names of local residents from the Flamborough Area are: William Chisholm, Peter and Michael Van Every, William Shannon, James Ryckman and John Young. Applegarth’s name is written as Aplegarth, one of many ways his name appears in records.
  7. Hamilton Evening Times, 6 June, 1900.
  8. Reminiscences of S. H. Ghent of the Surrogate Court of Hamilton, rewritten by his son H. Allan Ghent, Sunset View Farm, West Flamborough – Vertical Files of Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society.
  9. Johnston, Charles M.: The Head of the Lake. A History of Wentworth County. Pages 184, 185. Wentworth County Council 1967.
  10. Ibid Page 319.
  11. East Flamborough Township was part of Halton County until 1853.

© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1988, 2021.


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