To many present day residents of East Flamborough, the lower concessions that were once part of the Township, are an almost forgotten part of its history. Originally the Township of East Flamborough stretched from Burlington Bay northwards to the boundary with Wellington County — a total of fifteen concessions. The lower concessions (the Broken Front1 and Concessions One and Two) were annexed by the City of Burlington in 1958, and the East Flamborough boundary moved to the Third Concession, or Mountain Brow Road. These concessions were the first to be surveyed and settled — as the earliest inhabitants were attracted by the proximity of water for easy travel and therefore sought to obtain land along the northshore of Burlington Bay. The great value of these lots resulted in them being awarded almost entirely for service to England during the American Revolutionary War or as Reserve Lots as shown by the Crown Patents2.
Almost certainly the first settler in East Flamborough was David Fonger Sr. who in 1783, squatted on the Indian Trail, which ran from the Mississauga Indian Reserve to Burlington Heights. Fonger’s land was granted to Lord Peter Russell, but eventually he was able to purchase it. The original log home of this pioneer family stood just east of Longo’s Fruit Market, and was demolished for the construction of White Oak Plaza. In 1791, William Applegarth arrived from England and settled on Lot 6, Broken Front. His farm stretched from east of the present day La Salle Park Road to west of the present Towers Plaza and down to the Bay. Early in 1792, George Chisholm and Charles King, both from the United States Settled on large tracts extending from the Broken Front to the Escarpment. William Applegarth received his land as a grant, but both Chisholm and King bought their property after they did not like their original grants.
Many of the early land transactions were not without problems as the following land petition reveals.3
To His Honour Peter Russell, Esquire, President administering the Government:The petition of Charles King and George Chisholm.
Humbly Sheweth:That your petitioners, finding themselves aggrieved and at distance from every prospect of relief by the ordinary course of redress, report to your Honour in the full confidence of being heard and obtaining such remedy as the Royal Prerogatives can extend to the case which is as follows.
“On the 12th. of July 1793 your petitioners acquired by purchase from Robert Kerr, Esquire, 600 acres of land lying on the north side of Burlington Bay, being whole of what he possessed there for which your petitioners paid him in hand the purchase money of 150 pounds, New York currency. Your petitioners bought the land jointly although the Deeds of Sale recites only the name of Charles King, his heirs and assigns. Immediately after the purchase, your petitioners removed with their families upon the land sold them, and having made equal division, began to cultivate and improve the same.”
“Sometime after being in possession a question arose respecting Mr. Kerr’s title and to quiet the minds of your petitioners, he declared in a hearing of many persons that he would warrant and defend your petitioners, delivering his statements on that occasion in these impressive words: “If I knew the times when any person would go to ward them (your petitioners) off the lands, I would be there in person to defend them”. These words were spoken in the house of Charles Depew within view of the house and buildings and improvements of your petitioners.”
“After being sometime in possession, your petitioners understood that it was necessary for the proprietor of lots upon navigable waters to petition for broken fronts; when such amounted to any considerable extent and consequently your petitioners drew up a petition to His Excellency the Fourth Governor-in-Council, praying for a Grant of the broken fronts of the lots which they occupied.”
“Their petition was transmitted to John Chisholm of Stamford, the brother of one of your petitioners, who on his way to present the same at Newark, communicated it to Mr. Kerr. He observed that it was his promise to discuss your petitioners in their lands, and that he would save them the trouble of the application by applying himself and securing their possession to them, and in the impression of this assurance, John Chisholm withheld the petitions.”
About twelve months have passed and your petitioners understood from Rev. Robert Addison that he had become the purchaser of some land from Mr. Kerr, which was about 400 acres, lying immediately behind your petitioners land and which 400 acres had been granted to Mr. Kerr, subsequent to his sale to your petitioners. —- Sometime afterwards Mr. Addison prayed for a road through your petitioner’s land to pass to his own, this being granted. He next solicited building plan upon the Bay, nursing a denial, he seems to have changed his mind of compassing his ends, without having at all abated to their extent, for he now lays claim to the houses and buildings and improvements to your petitioners without the trouble of expense of building and clearing.”
“Your petitioners were slow to harbour any suspicions of lying of Mr. Kerr and Mr. Addison, both magistrates, and the latter entitled to a hand of confidence on the serving of his professional obligations to God and man.”
“Later, well grounded surnames intimidated your petitioners to enter into a covenant, in the secretary’s office to the stay of issuing any deeds for their lands which they occupied and tilled until all claims should be heard. Nevertheless your petitioners are informed that His Majesty’s Deed has issued to Mr. Addison for the half of your petitioner’s lands, including the same partition of their buildings and improvements. Under these circumstances, with large families and advanced in life, your petitioners feel themselves equally injured and distressed.”
“Wherefore, your petitioners pray, Your Honour has satisfied himself in the truth of all the assertions, Your Honour will give such instructions to the Crown Lawyer as may be effectual revoking His Majesty’s Deed, improvidently issued and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.”
Signed … Charles KingGeorge Chisholm
York 18 April 1798
Rec’d 20 April 1798 and reported to the Examination and Consideration of the Honourable Executive Council.
Signed … Peter Russell
Read in Council 20 April 1798. A copy of the petition was sent to all parties and requested that they attend the Board on the day the Legislature meets.24 May 1798
Both parties concerned, having been heard before the Board, it is having been recommended to them to accommodate to their differences amicably. They counselled together, answering the Board, Declared that they had agreed to settle the matter amicably, according to certain stipulations laid before the Board. This Council has ordered as redress of that the deed for Mr. Addison for Lot #1 in Broken Front and cancelled the deed to Robert Kerr, Esquire in the said township.24 May 1798
It is hereby agreed by and between the parties whose names hereunto subscribed that the deed for Lot #1 in front of the 1st. Concession of Flamborough Township shall sign to George Chisholm and the deed for Lot #2 in 1st. Concession of said Township shall issue to Charles King. And that the remaining part of Lot #13 in the 1st Concession of said township with broken front and Lot #11 in 3rd. Concession shall issue to Rev. Robert Addison. All parties paying the expense of their own deeds.
Witnessed this Day of our Lord.29 May 1798
Robert Kerr (1764?-1824) was the physician and surgeon to the Indian Department, stationed at Niagara. During the 1790s he was appointed Magistrate of the Surrogate Court of Upper Canada. Rev. Robert Addison (1754?-1829) came to Upper Canada in 1791 as a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. He settled at Niagara, his parish included the whole Niagara Peninsula, and as far west as the Mohawk Village on the Grand River.
George Chisholm Sr. (1745-1842) immigrated from near Inverness, Scotland to New York State in 1773. He fought for the British Crown during the Revolutionary War, after settling first in Nova Scotia and then in East Flamborough Township.
Charles King (1765-?) born in Morris County, New Jersey, came to Upper Canada in 1785 after service to the British Crown.
Editor’s Note:Recent research on the origins of the Fonger family now reveals that the story of his early arrival — the year of his birth, was almost certainly an oral tradition handed down through several generations of the family, only to have the facts slowly changed over the years. David Fonger was born in New Jersey in 1783, so it was impossible for him to be squatting on land in Flamborough by that date. David actually arrived in the area when he came with his father, grandparents, uncles and siblings to settle in East Flamborough in 1804, when his grandfather John Fonger Sr. purchased 600 acres from the Hon Peter Russell.
The Longo’s Fruit Market where the Fonger log cabin was located close to is now occupied by DOT Furniture.
Originally published in Heritage Happenings, January 1988.
© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1988, 2021.