The King’s Mills in Niagara-on-the-Lake (1784-1794)

Hi all, it’s been a while since my last post so it’s time I give an update on my research!

Things are slowly coming together here; my data set is growing and my analysis of Niagara’s early economy continues to develop. I’ve made a few ArcGIS map drafts now, and I’ll post the latest one here in this blog so you can see what I’ve been working on. Keep in mind that these maps are continually developing and still need fine tuning, but they’ve been useful so far in revealing a few things about local development that I hadn’t really considered before.

Continuing with the Servos accounts that I had written about in previous posts, I wanted to visualize these patterns of local exchange, specifically in the markets of lumber and flour which were two of the province’s main staple products during the 19th century. For the sake of brevity I’ll only discuss Niagara’s wheat economy in this blog post. Because this analysis investigates a span of only one decade (1784-1794), the results are somewhat limited; my conclusions are tentative as I continue to collect data for the next two decades. This analysis, albeit narrowly focused, reveals valuable information about Niagara’s early economy. By looking at this market I considered some of the questions commonly discussed in Canadian economic history such as:

  1. Agency, or the question of who held power within society, and how was it manifested? What does this map tell us about the choices made by farmers in Niagara, the level of British investment or the influence of merchants?
  2. What does the quantity of product and its movement through the region reveal about Niagara’s skilled labour force, reaction to market fluctuations, or the overall demand for the product? Who was involved in this supply chain and how?
  3. What was the impact of geography on settlement and rural trade patterns?

Method:

This map is a projection of the data found in Volume 1 of Niagara miller Daniel Servos’ account books, recording transactions at the King’s Mills in Niagara-on-the-Lake from the years 1784-1794. For more info on Servos and the King’s Mills, see my last post. I created an Excel spreadsheet with the name of the customer, their township of residence, the quantity of flour they had milled, and its value in shillings. Then, using historical maps of Niagara townships I determined the location of the individuals’ farms and entered the appropriate X and Y coordinates into the spreadsheet.

This method is time consuming yet rewarding, one of my main issues being the fact that not every account can be accurately pinpointed. Some names are indecipherable, some don’t appear in any maps, censuses or archival references, and some owned multiple pieces of land in different townships. These X and Y coordinates are the result of weeks of research and provide a general picture of farm locations in Niagara with a few possible outliers, which can’t be avoided when dealing with incomplete amalgamations of sources.

The GIS contains a few historical maps of Niagara townships in the late 18th century, a modern soil map, the flour and lumber sales per year, and the peninsula’s very first saw & grist mills. If you click on the arrow on the left side of the map a legend will appear and you can toggle the layers for each of the years to see who interacted with Servos at the King’s Mills, what they were selling, the quantity, price, and where their home farm was located. I’ve embedded the map below, but it is easier to work with from the ArcGIS Desktop App if you click on this link: https://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=14b75b69233c4b078ae4d1e5efafea14

Map Analysis: What Does it Mean?

Communities in Niagara were centered around saw and grist mills as an economic junction where production and consumption took place. Historian Joshua MacFadyen talks about this concept in his book on Canada’s 19th century flax industry, saying that a flax mill was “a place where former slave owners, Unionists, and escaped slaves worked together, not equally, and not exactly cheek by jowl, but together.” [1] The Servos accounts show a similar union of people from all walks of life; ex-slaves like Peter Long, prominent Mohawk women like Molly Brant and merchants like Samuel Street and Robert Hamilton intersected at the King’s Mills, forming a web of social and material interactions.

The King’s Mills brought people together from within Niagara township, but the map shows that for the first few years people had to travel great distances to mill their wheat and corn. In total, 65% of the 179 people that held an account with Servos between 1784-1794 lived within 10 miles of the mills. You can see this more clearly by clicking on the King’s Mill Buffer in the legend. The other 35% came from other parts of the Niagara peninsula, spanning as far west as Grimsby and as far south as Fort Erie and Port Colbourne. The escarpment didn’t prevent people from bringing their crops down to the King’s Mills, and some of these journeys would take 2-3 days. Why was this the case?

At first it was out of necessity. The map shows that in the years 1784-1789, Servos had a few customers come to NOTL from Clinton and Grimsby Townships, but they stopped coming by 1790. This was because at first there were no other gristmills in the peninsula for the settlers of these districts to use, and thus they had no other options but to travel the far distance. Once the mills on the Thirty and Forty Mile Creeks were built in 1789, Servos no longer saw those customers.

The King’s Mills brought together people from different townships within the Niagara district, forming social connections that spanned regional boundaries. When Grimsby farmer Jacob Glover came to Servos with wheat and corn, he left with a milled product but also brown sugar and rum. [2] Servos also charged him for one night’s lodging, making rent income a byproduct of his milling enterprise. People who brought pine logs to Servos would leave the mills having also bought flour for their families. The exchanges in these early days are not terribly complex, but they show the formation of a greater community in the Niagara peninsula… one that did not discriminate based on class, gender or ethnicity. The map forces us to think of these people spatially and take into account the unique transportation challenges many faced.


I plotted the other mills that appeared in Niagara between 1783-1792 onto the map as well. According to Surveyor General D. W. Smith, there were 14 sawmills and 10 gristmills in the Niagara peninsula in 1792. [3] I added an escarpment layer to the map and when activated we can see that 15/24 of the mills were built atop the escarpment. While this natural feature was in many ways an impediment to transport, the settlers were still able to harness its natural power to their benefit.

Like the King’s Mills, these other mills interspersed throughout the Niagara region each functioned as a hub of socio-economic activity for their individual townships. Burch’s Mills at the top of Niagara Falls serviced the entire Stamford & Willoughby townships. We can see in the map that the King’s Mills only had two customers from that area, even though Stamford and Niagara Township bordered one another. Both the King’s Mills and Burch’s Mills annually serviced the same 10-40 families within a 10-mile radius during this first decade, creating invisible lines that formed distinct communities.

Loyalist settlers required permission from the authorities if they wanted to build a mill, but half of the mills in this first decade were built without permission. Having multiple options for milling in these communities fostered competition, exemplified in Niagara Township as there were three different families operating mills on the Four Mile Creek by 1792. If you turn on the 1784 Niagara-on-the-Lake map layer and the Secord Mill buffer, you’ll see that the northern half of the Niagara district interacted with the King’s Mills more so than the lower half.

What this means is that the Secord Mills were likely taking those customers. If you turn on the Secord Mill Buffer and turn on all of the flour sale layers post-1787 there are only eight customers living within a 3-mile radius of the Secord Mills that chose to have their products milled at the King’s Mills. The other 80% of the King’s Mill customers in the Niagara district came from the northern half. Servos’ accounts show between 11-44 customers using the King’s Mills in the first decade of settlement. This doesn’t seem like very many people, especially since some of them only came to the mill once or twice in a year, but the Secord Mills could have been getting the same number of annual customers which would mean there was actually a lot more business going on in Niagara at this time than the account books suggest. Since I don’t know of any Secord account books in existence to support this hypothesis, I am making an assumption through the map projection that they provided a significant contribution to the settlement at Niagara, especially for a few years when the King’s sawmill was out of commission.

Having three different millers (Servos, Secord & Lutes) operating in this small area within the period of a decade show the population growing at a pace that required more than one miller to process the amount of wheat, corn, and lumber being brought in. Competition is a good thing because it pushes each person to produce the best quality outputs and offer fair prices to consumers. These milling developments in Niagara indicate rapid growth, accessibility, and allowed each person to make their own choice when investing in the economy.


ArcGIS maps are useful to spatial histories in their ability to combine elements of geography and history. Topographical studies of the Niagara region including field surveys and remote sensing are generated by modern researchers but can also apply to historical analyses. For example, if you turn on the 1989 Niagara soils layer it provides another dimension to this study. How did the quality of farmland affect settlement?

Another reason why the King’s Mills received fewer customers from the southern portion of Niagara township could be because it contained poorer soil than the north. There are a multitude of soil types in the Niagara peninsula ranging from sand to hard clay, and there are not many places where someone couldn’t grow a crop… especially the hardier crops like corn, wheat, rye, and buckwheat. One would think that Niagara-on-the-Lake would be prime farmland, being known for having a microclimate conducive to growing tender fruits. However, there are parts of Niagara-on-the-Lake that have hard clay soil (indicated as light and dark green areas), especially in the southwestern portion, that make crop growth more difficult than in other areas. Hence why the land is now home to the Niagara airport and not another vineyard! I think that extending this analysis another two decades will really indicate whether soil was the issue in that part of Niagara, pushing people to engage in other forms of labour or to sell the land and move further west.

Some historical maps of Niagara provide hints of what the soil was like. If you turn on the 1818 Francis Hall map layer, it shows the Louth/western Grantham area as “Black Swamp.” There was a distinct lack of customers from these areas throughout this entire period, which might have been intensified by land drainage issues. These lands on the Lake Ontario shoreline are described in primary sources as being extremely wet; people tried methods of building dams and digging trenches to dry out the ground. Elizabeth Simcoe even wrote that the Iroquois trail that ran along the bottom of the escarpment, now known as Hwy 8, was often obstructed. [4]

“The Governor thinks the country will derive great benefit by opening a road on the top of the mountain (where it is quite dry) from Niagara to the “Head of the Lake,” [Burlington] instead of going a most terrible road below, full of swamps, fallen trees, etc.”

When studying rural economies it is important to understand the geographic factors that affected settlement. In Niagara we know that the escarpment hindered north-south transportation, but historical & modern maps can show the greater extent of these issues. A snowball effect took place as wet land meant poor road construction, which meant limitations on transportation, which meant people often only went to the King’s Mill in the wintertime, which meant it was important to build good quality sleighs and own healthy oxen, but also that participation in the economy was limited by geographic features. One’s wealth and status did not matter; the playing field was leveled by these shared obstacles. Living near to a mill or waterway was a huge advantage, and these early lessons learned by Loyalist settlers formed the framework for roads that we still use today. Historian Andrew Burghart says that in Niagara the towns created the roads, not vice versa. [5] He means that although the Iroquois trail was formed by Indigenous peoples that hunted and traveled through Niagara, it was not always a viable route for a settler economy that relied on the movement of wagons with heavy bulk goods like grains and lumber. Therefore, north-south roads developed along the creeks in response to the needs of the new settlers.


The map also shows that it took at least ten years for a farm to become well-established in Niagara to the point where it could produce beyond subsistence and sell flour in bulk to merchants. Isaac Horton’s accounts provide a good example of these static numbers over the years, as he had 355lbs of flour milled by Servos in 1787, 394lbs in 1791, and 241lbs in 1794. There was a gradual rise in the number of customers at the King’s Mills per year, from eleven people in 1786 to thirty in 1793. The number of customers tripled within a decade, as did the amount of flour being milled, but the growth was not exponential. The price of a counterweight (112 lbs) of flour in 1793 was worth half of what it was worth in 1786. This meant that even though people were milling around the same quantity of flour each year, they were actually earning less as time went on.

It’s also noteworthy that during the “hunger winter” of 1787-88, Servos milled more flour than he had in previous years. Although first-hand accounts mention a poor crop yield that season, the famine cannot be completely attributed to a lack of food in Niagara. Rather, this was the year that the British government stopped sending rations to the area, resulting in a winter of rough adjustment for the Loyalists.

King’s Grist Mill Annual Figures

YearNo. of CustomersFlour Produced (cwt)Average Price per Cwt (s)Value of Flour Milled (£/cwt)
17861119.16360.1
17872027.536.650.3
17882230.834.252.7
17891820.541.742.7
17902222.440.245.1
17913063.732101.9
17922769.926.592.6
17933065.02994.1
179444Incomplete Data29.7Incomplete Data
Data gathered from “Account Book Volume I 1785-1795″. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario

The ArcGIS map also hints that a large portion of the Niagara peninsula was still uninhabited by 1794, which slowed development. Although the entire peninsula had been surveyed & assigned to settlers, and many 100-acre plots had even changed ownership, much of the land in these districts were owned in bulk by retired officers of the British military. Surnames like McNab, Bradt, TenBroek, Butler, and Hare are seen often, some of them owning 1000-2000 acres. According to a 1783 census there were 46 families living in the district of Niagara with each family owning one or two 100-acre plots but each family cultivated only an average of 10 acres per year. If families could only improve that small amount of land, that means that hundreds of acres along the Lake Ontario shoreline were not being used.

Political reformer Robert Gourlay’s 1822 Statistical Account of Upper Canada shows that this was still an issue much later, land speculators buying thousands of acres and letting them lay bare for decades. Governor Simcoe and other provincial leaders encouraged settlement in Niagara, but saw the danger of having so many families in the peninsula originate in the American colonies, despite their oaths of loyalty to King George III. Gourlay argued that for Niagara to prosper it required a larger unskilled labour force to work on the farms and heighten agricultural production, but the way in which land was initially distributed retarded the potential for success as it slowed road construction and isolated localities. [6]


In this analysis the ArcGIS map suggests that farmers were greatly impacted by their geographical location both on a large and small scale, and they made choices that facilitated growth during this first decade of settlement. The developments in local milling indicated settler agency. Farmers chose who to trade and work with, made land improvements and developed capital assets without always asking for government assent. They saw the potential that Niagara had to offer including the gravitational benefits of the escarpment, a moderate climate and plenty of space for growth.

Government rations were only handed out for the first 3 years, so the people supported themselves very early on, but were aided by the fact that their taxes were low and they didn’t have to pay for their land, received restitution from war loss claims, and some got half-pay as officers in the military. These benefits provided a foundation for the farmers to work with, however, they still needed money to purchase seed, pay for milling services and other farm help, as well as farm tools & miscellaneous household items. Since cash was scarce, this resulted in the debt economy for the first few years as people paid each other back mostly through exchange of goods and labour. The government also controlled the influx of people settling in Upper Canada and their initial distribution of titles for land. Some of these decisions created long-term challenges that effectively slowed progress until the mid-19th century industrial period.

Merchants were not making a profit off of the work of Niagara’s settlers quite yet. Robert Hamilton made a lot of money during this decade, but it was not because of his ties to the local market, rather his other enterprises with the portage and his connections to partners in Detroit and Kingston. Hamilton’s interactions with Servos in these ten years only indicate that Servos delivered 35 loads of unspecified goods to him between Feb-May 1787, earning a total of £3.5 for this work. If merchants were buying large quantities of flour from settlers, it would have showed up in Servos’ accounts as bulk sales in the credits section.

The typical narrative of economic historians for Upper Canada during this period focuses on the importance of either staple materials themselves or the economic relationships in forming our nation’s socio-political structures. Joshua MacFadyen suggests a social constructivist approach regarding the flax industry where “all societies set out ‘paths and diversions’ to establish terms by which objects are circulated and exchanged.” [7] It certainly seems that Niagara in the first decade of settlement adhered to the latter theory as farmers exhibited this agency in many forms. We are not seeing specific products dominate the local market or societal classes form based on commercial links. As the analysis continues and flour production ramps up, I am interested to see how these patterns develop.

Sources:
[1] Joshua MacFadyen, Flax Americana: A History of the Fibre and Oil That Covered a Continent, (Monreal & Kingston: McGill-McQueen’s Press, 2018), 35.
[2] “Account Book Volume I 1785-1795″. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. No. 42. MS 538. Archives of Ontario.
[3] Ernest Cruikshank, Notes on the history of the district of Niagara, 1791-1793, (Welland: Welland Tribune Print, 1914), 49, accessed from Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/notesonhistoryof26crui/page/n6/mode/2up.
[4] “The diary of Mrs. John Graves Simcoe, wife of the first lieutenant-governor of the province of Upper Canada, 1792-6,” ed. J. Ross Robertson, (Toronto: W. Briggs, 1911), 319, accessed through Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/diaryofmrsjohngr00simcuoft/page/318/mode/2up.
[5] Andrew Burghardt, “The Origin and Development of the Road Network of the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, 1770-1851”, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 59, no. 3 (1969), 435, accessed January 2020, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2561724.
[6] Robert Gourlay, Statistical Account of Upper Canada, (London: Simpkin & Marshall, 1822), 428, accessed from Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/statisticalaccou02gouruoft/page/n6/mode/2up.
[7] MacFadyen, Flax Americana, 18.

Life In Niagara: The Servos Family Enterprises (Analysis)

A Primary Source Analysis of the Servos Mill Accounts 1785-1816: Part 2

To read Part 1, click here. To recap, this blog post is based on the contents of Account Books I-IV and the Personal Account Book of Daniel Servos in the Servos Mill Records (1785-1826) collection found in the Archives of Ontario.

“Account Book Volume I 1785-1795″. Index. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario

Question

What drove Niagara’s Loyalist Era economy?”

Analysis

In reading these sources, I will identify (5) main points concerning what drove Niagara’s Loyalist era economy.

  • 1. Niagara was operating a debt-based economy.

One constant throughout these records is the fact that the people who owed the Servos mills money could take 5 or more years to make their payments. For example, in 1785 Henry Young was charged £1-13-0 New York Currency (NYC) for Servos’ services of grinding wheat into 50 lb of flour but Young did not make a payment until July 2, 1790.

“Account Book Volume I 1785-1795″. No. 26. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario

This pattern occurs throughout the accounts, with men and women piling up debts and not paying them off until much later. What has been extremely frustrating to me is the fact that there was often no record when, how, or if these debts were paid. The Credits section on the right hand page, which is typically meant to show payments by the customer, is often left blank or incomplete. This makes it difficult to figure out the patterns of local exchange since we don’t always know how people paid for the services that Daniel Servos provided in milling their flour and lumber. Since many of the Loyalists in Niagara came in groups from the colonies and knew each other previously, this would have made it easier to trust one another. In fact, 54% of the settlers in Upper Canada were originally from Tryon county in New York, and thus the Servos brothers would have known and trusted many of the people in the Niagara community. [1] While they had moved to a new part of the world, they were not completely isolated.

  • 2. People cared about building wealth, not gathering income.

Other historians have made this argument before, and it is quite evident in the Servos accounts. Canadian historian Douglas McCalla argues that the economy of Upper Canada in the late 18th century was not a subsistence economy. A subsistence economy is not based on money, but is a system “in which buying and selling are absent or rudimentary though barter may occur, and which commonly provides a minimal standard of living.” [2] McCalla says this is so because of the high levels of immigration, the region’s ability to survive substantial fluctuations in wheat prices, to produce commodities on a regular basis and to adapt to market concerns. [3] The Servos accounts confirm that the Niagara region was definitely functioning beyond mere subsistence.

So how did settlers in the Niagara region envision growing and prospering? Because the Servos family and other labourers operated in debt for so much of their lives, they were motivated to work towards building capital assets over a long period of time, rather than accumulating income. This meant stability for the future despite market fluctuations of staple exports. We also know that cash was scarce at this time, so debts were usually repaid via barter or personal labour. This is not to say that there was no money to be found… in fact, most Loyalists acquired money from the British government approximately 5-10 years after the war, helping them invest in capital projects like building mills, houses, shops, etc. [4] This included money from war loss claims, officer’s half pay, and annual salaries of Indian Department officers. However, Daniel Servos did not receive his war loss claims payout or his half pay for his wartime duties in the Indian Department until 1788, and his parcels of land in Niagara township were not officially granted until the 1790s. This made the first 5 years in Niagara very difficult for him as a middling-status miller, until he acquired some of this cash and started investing it in building small-scale commercial enterprises.

Daniel Servos’ farm with 50 cleared acres was one of the Niagara settlement’s top producers of wheat in 1787. [5] He also milled flour and timber for the people of Niagara from the King’s Mills, which were the first mills to ever be built in the region, and built a second set of mills by 1791 after the old ones had been destroyed. He built a shop and exchanged goods such as tobacco, rum, cloth, & dinnerware for his work in milling wheat and timber, acquiring such goods via wholesale markets. He rented his teams of horses and oxen to people to carry loads away from the mills, and he rented land to people for animals to pasture. He operated a blacksmith shop, and built items like sleighs, ploughs and farm implements. He made bags and shirts, meaning he provided weaving and sewing services as well. These were clearly all family ventures. Although it is not stated outright in the accounts, it can be inferred that his wife and children participated in this work and were vital to the family’s success.

Charges made to Street & Butler for sewing services in June & July of 1784. “Account Book Volume I 1785-1795″. No. 6. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario
  • 3. Flour sales were one of the main drivers of Niagara’s early economy.

Flour was not the sole driver, but it was definitely a driver. In the first 10-15 years of settlement, flour exports from the Niagara region were insubstantial. Production was erratic due to bad weather, poor roads and communication. Excess flour produced in Niagara was sent to the local military garrisons such as Fort Erie, Fort Chippewa, Fort George, and Fort Niagara. The British government would pay high prices for Niagara produce in an attempt to aid the local economy in these nascent years. The American garrisons also provided a small market for flour, specifically Fort Niagara in 1797 which was the first summer that the Fort was in the hands of the Americans, being given to them by the British in the 1796 Jay Treaty. The third market that was not advantageous until at least 1800 was the Lower Canadian market. In the early 1800s the Niagara region became very involved in the export of this commodity, aided by [6]:
a. lower shipping costs
b. British crop failures
c. high flour prices in Quebec.

I looked for these market trends in the Servos accounts, and saw that they established a partnership in the late 1790s with William and James Crooks, lining up exactly with the Lower Canadian market trend. The Crooks brothers imported goods into Niagara and exported products such as flour, timber, potash, and furs from Niagara and beyond. Their partners in Montreal were Auldjo & Maitland, who were connected to manufacturers in London. [7] In the early 1800s, Servos’ relationship with the Crooks brothers proved advantageous as he sold flour to them in large quantities. Niagara’s settlers depended on merchant relationships to connect them with these external markets.

The Servos accounts also reveal major fluctuations in wheat prices from 1784-1816. At this time millers would normally take 1/12th of the quantity of flour milled as payment for their services, but Servos instead charges a fixed rate of anywhere between 2-7 pence per 1lb of flour he milled. The currency being used here was the standard “pound, shilling, pence (£sd)” system used by Britain where there were 12 pence in a shilling, and 20 shillings in a pound. Therefore, if we assume that this 2-7 pence/lb is 1/12th of what the total quantity of milled flour was worth, we can estimate that the government price of flour fluctuated between 2-7 shillings/lb during these years. These estimates line up with the rise and fall in national wheat prices that McCalla records in his research.

Douglas McCalla, “The “Loyalist” Economy of Upper Canada, 1784-1806,” Social History 16 no. 32, 1983, 288.

As we see in the graph above, a downturn in flour prices around 1800 incentivised Niagara farmers and millers to send their flour to the Lower Canadian markets which were buying for more than double what British purchasing agents were offering in Niagara. There are two major spikes in Servos’ price for milling flour, from 1788-1790, and from 1795-1799. Alternatively, Servos was charging low prices from 1792-1794, and from 1802-1804.

If we think back to my post on Upper Canadian wheat sales in 1797-1799 based on the Russell accounts, recall that the government was irritated with the farmers and merchants in Upper Canada for selling their flour to the Americans who were offering a price 5 – 10 shillings higher than the British. In March of 1798, Niagara merchants were making demands of up to 31.5 shillings per counterweight (1 cwt = 112 lbs), and British purchasing agent John McGill felt this was outrageously high [8]. Instead, he sent cheap flour from Quebec to the British garrisons near Niagara, forcing Niagara merchants to sell for less, fearing they might not otherwise sell it at all. McGill only paid between 20 – 22.5 shillings/cwt for Niagara’s flour in 1798. The table below shows all of the prices listed in the Russell accounts.

Flour Purchase Prices 1797-1799
DatePrice (Shillings per Cwt)LocationCountry
1797-07-1420KingstonBritish
1797-07-1522.5KingstonBritish
1797-07-1625KingstonAmerican
1797-07-1727.5NiagaraAmerican
1798-02-2422.5NiagaraBritish
1798-02-2522.5NiagaraAmerican
1798-05-0822NiagaraBritish
1798-05-1220KingstonBritish
1798-05-2322.5NiagaraBritish
1798-05-3020DetroitBritish
1798-06-0520DetroitBritish
1798-06-0620KingstonBritish
1798-06-2426NiagaraBritish
1798-06-2526DetroitBritish
1799-02-1820KingstonBritish
1799-02-1922.5NiagaraBritish
1799-02-2022.5DetroitBritish
Servos Milling Prices 1797-1799
DatePrice (Shillings per Cwt)LocationCountry
1797-03-1540.3NiagaraBritish
1797-12-2544.8NiagaraBritish
1798-03-1340.3NiagaraBritish
1798-04-1540.3Niagara British
1798-10-2044.8NiagaraBritish
1798-12-1044.8NiagaraBritish
1799-01-0344.8NiagaraBritish
1799-02-0244.8NiagaraBritish
1799-02-2240.3NiagaraBritish
1799-04-0140.3NiagaraBritish
1799-09-0129.1NiagaraBritish
1799-12-0129.1NiagaraBritish

If we compare the British accounts to the Servos accounts, we see that in 1798 Daniel Servos was charging his customers 40-45 shillings per cwt. for milling their wheat into flour. After the flour was milled, it was packaged in bags or barrels. Servos charged 9 pence per empty bag, which is equal to three quarters of a shilling. [9] Prices around 40-45 shillings are some of the highest amounts Servos ever charged his customers, and it looks like farmers were only getting half of that back from the government. This means that they could not turn much of a profit on flour sales, even in years with the highest government purchasing prices.

Before 1800, the flour could then be:
1. Taken back by the customer for their own consumption, or for them to sell.
2. Sold directly to someone else. For example, Robert Hamilton paid for 300 lbs. (or 3 cwt.) of flour to go to John Hainer on April 14, 1787. In this way, the mill also acted as a grain distribution centre.

Account with Robert Hamilton, April 14, 1787. “Account Book Volume I 1785-1795″. No. 47. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario

After 1800, Servos’ partnership with William & James Crooks steadily grew. Flour was transported by land to the brothers’ storehouses at the site of present-day Fort Mississauga, about four miles east of the Servos mills, or it was loaded onto their vessel at the Four Mile Pond and sent from there down the St. Lawrence to the Quebec markets.

Account with Wm. & J. Crooks. Charges for transport of flour to their vessels in April, 1801. “Account Book Volume 3 1798-1816”. No. 27. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario
  • 4. Labour and goods in Niagara were expensive.

Since Niagara was so far from the ocean, it makes sense that imported goods cost more, due to the price of transportation. To acquire enough money or credit to pay for these goods, the price of produce in Niagara had to be a higher as well. Comparing the prices of a few commodities that appear regularly in the Servos accounts, we can see the relative value of these goods. Here are the average yearly prices on a few commodities over two decades.

Price of Goods in Niagara
ItemUnit (shillings)1787 Price1797 Price1806 Price
Flourper cwt. (112 lbs.) 32.83824
Wheatper bushel8107
Cornper bushel1085
Branper bushel422
Oats per bushel654
Tobaccoper pound455
Rumper gallon162420
Oxper oneN/A300280
Pigper oneN/A50N/A
Calfper oneN/A24N/A
Shoesone pair of men’s41014

These numbers show a decrease in the price of grains such as wheat, corn, bran and oats by the mid 1800s. The market trends that affected the sale of flour, such as lower shipping costs and higher prices in Quebec had the same affect on the sale of these commodities. After 1800, Servos sold grains in larger quantities to the Crooks brothers to send to Lower Canada so they could take advantage of this market.

Account with Wm. & J. Crooks. Charges to the customer for various items 1808-1810. “Account Book Volume 3 1798-1816”. No. 114. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario

The accounts also show how important animals were for the survival of a family farm. A yoke of oxen cost around 600 shillings, which is equal to £30. Teams of oxen were used by Servos to transport goods by land across Niagara, often to merchants located along the Niagara River. The loss of cattle or horses in peak season, especially before 1800, was a great impediment to any family’s development.

The price of labour is more difficult to chart because it relies on multiple factors such as the type of work, gender of the labourer, their skill level, if they required lodging, or what season they were in. Here are a few examples of labour that appear in the Servos accounts:

YearType of LabourPrice (Shillings)Unit
1784Making a fine shirt10per shirt
1784Making a calico shirt4per shirt
1786Unspecified work4per day
1791Cutting wood4per day
1791Transporting corn12per day
1791Work in the shop6per day
1794Thrashing wheat4per day
1801Work at the sawmill4per day
1803Splitting rails62per 1000 rails
1803Unspecified work3per day
1805Making a long coat24per coat
1806Cradling oats6per day
1806Carding wool 80per cwt
1807Work in hay8per day
1807Work on the roads6per day
1808Unspecified work6per day
1808Weaving linen1per yard
1808Cradling wheat8per day

Putting this data into a line graph will not tell us much about the price of labour over time because each type of work is different. However, what this data does show is that working could earn someone between 3-12 shillings per day. Usually, Servos records men and women working for a few days or weeks in a row, doing so to pay off the debts that they owed him. Having a large family helped to divide these types of labour in the colonial period. When Daniel Servos took over operation of the King’s Mills in 1785, he had a wife and three children under the age of 12, so it was a while before he was able to rely on his family for help. However, I have read a story online by a local woman that a black man named Robert Jupiter worked with Servos, and it is unknown whether he was slave or free at this time. He is buried in a little cemetery next to the Four Mile Creek. I did not see this full name anywhere in the Servos accounts, so I do not know what to make of their relationship. However, I have seen at least three references to a “Bob” which could very likely be Jupiter.

Account with William Claus. Mention of a delivery to Claus by “Bobb the Negro”. “Account Book Volume 2 1797”. No. 2. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario

It also helped to have a variety of skills, to work hard, and to work smart. By working smart, I mean that new settlers seemed to invest in equipment and machinery to make their work more efficient. In 1785 Servos made two sleighs and a plough. In 1804 he sold part of a stove for £2-8s. In 1805 he sold a packing machine for £5-12s.

What all of this tells us is that Niagara’s Loyalist era economy depended on local exchange, labour, and investments. Yes, Niagara’s entrance into the Lower Canadian market after 1800 shows that economic development still required external inputs in the form of British government expenditures, commercial credit from merchant firms in Montreal, and export earnings, BUT external forces were not enough to establish successful farms and businesses in Niagara. People like the Servos family invested external funds into building capital in the form of mills, blacksmith shops, roads, etc., and they created links between neighbours through local exchange. The Servos accounts support McCalla’s arguments about the importance of household production for economic development in the Loyalist era.

  •  5. The days before the arrival of Governor Simcoe in 1792 could be exploited to the people’s advantage.

It can be argued that since Daniel Servos took more chances under an absent government, this allowed him to establish a solid foundation of enterprises for his family to build on throughout the next few decades. So what are the steps that Daniel Servos took to determine success in his enterprises? What “chances” did he take?

He ignored government regulations on the building of mills, erecting a saw and grist mill on lands in 1791 that were technically not yet owned by him. In fact, four of the six mills on the Four Mile Creek in 1792 were not authorized by the government, who had been contending with settlers over the last ten years in an attempt to establish a seigneurial system wherein settlers could not legally own the mills on their land. [10] Servos also dammed a section of the Four Mile creek, cutting a passage of water through properties he did not own, without asking permission to alter the landscape. I see this as a reflection of the republican lifestyle he had growing up in Tryon county, believing in inherent principles of individual liberty. No doubt he was also frustrated by the British government’s inability to keep their word; the lands reserved for the crown between Lake Ontario and the first survey line were meant for the building of mills for the settlement, but the government did not make this a priority. Many other sources show frustration from settlers in the 1780s over the fact that they could not construct these facilities without the proper equipment, constantly waiting for supplies from Quebec. Servos felt that an “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission” approach was his best option, for the good of his family and the people of Niagara.

By 1792, Daniel Servos had built a new house on the west side of the Four Mile Creek, nearer to his new mills. He and his family operated the mills, tannery, store, weaving facility, and blacksmith shop. A potash works was added later, and by 1799 another potash works was begun on the Fifteen Mile Creek. In 1797 he acquired legal title to the mills he constructed. Entrepreneurial activities like these were key for success in Niagara’s Loyalist era economy. His legacy left throughout the 19th century reflect the initial choices he made in the Loyalist era.

Notes to Conclude with:

1) It was not loyalism or patriotism that motivated Daniel Servos in his business dealings. He was worried about survival, about establishing a good life and thriving businesses for his family. He disregarded many British mill regulations, fought against land ownership laws throughout the 1790s, and demanded high prices for his services. We could assume that his children carried these same values, but his eldest son John Dease Servos mysteriously wrote “God save the King” four different times in one of the volumes. He would have been in his early twenties. Why did he do this? Perhaps being raised and educated in Upper Canada would have made him subject to patriotism more than it did his father who had been raised in a different environment.

2) There seems to be a disconnect between the elite operating the Niagara portage (Robert Hamilton), and the middling folk operating small businesses on their own property. Distance was not an issue, as Hamilton lived in Queenston which was not far from the Servos mills, yet the two don’t really cross paths more than once or twice in these accounts. The Crooks brothers were middle men for many people in Niagara, reaching between the Niagara River and Ancaster, operating a distribution business that connected the people to external markets. Hamilton was part of a much larger system that reached beyond Niagara into the continental interior, but he too had merchant shops in the region that allowed him to trade with locals. The Servos-Crooks connection shows us that elite merchants did not have a monopoly on Niagara’s exports. Instead, farmers and millers were able to make choices about who they wanted to partner with.

Sources:
[1] J. Anthony Doyle, “Loyalism, Patronage, and Enterprise: The Servos Family in British North America 1726-1942,” PhD diss., (McMaster University, 2006), 10.
[2] Webster’s Definition. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subsistence%20economy.
[3] Douglas McCalla, “The “Loyalist” Economy of Upper Canada, 1784-1806,” Social History 16 no. 32, 1983, 303.
[4] Doyle, “Loyalism, Patronage, and Enterprise,” 222.
[5] Ibid., 183.
[6] Bruce Wilson, The Enterprises of Robert Hamilton: a study of wealth and influence in early Upper Canada, 1776-1812, (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1983), 83.
[7] Doyle, “Loyalism, Patronage, and Enterprise,” 196.
[8] Compiled by E. A. Cruikshank, and Andrew F. Hunter, The Correspondence of the Honourable Peter Russell : With Allied Documents Relating to His Administration of the Government of Upper Canada during the Official Term of Lieut.-Governor J. G. Simcoe, While on Leave of Absence, Volume Two, (The Ontario Historical Society, 1932), 126.
[9] Charges made to Street & Butler for sewing services in June & July of 1784. “Account Book Volume I 1785-1795″. No. 6. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario.
[10] Doyle, “Loyalism, Patronage, and Enterprise,” 278.

Life in Niagara: The Servos Family Enterprises (Intro)

A Primary Source Analysis of the Servos Mill Accounts 1785-1816: Part 1

I’m back! Since my last post, I’ve been working with a quite a few more primary sources, and I’d like to give an update on one particular collection of accounts that deal with an area of what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake, near the mouth of the Four Mile Creek. This collection I’m referring to are the milling records of the Servos family.

Background

The last blog post I wrote was based on a collection of writings by the Hon. Peter Russell, looking specifically at the supply of the British garrisons in Upper Canada in the mid-late 1790s and how communities like Niagara were involved. The Servos collection is quite different and allows for more of a “bottom-up” approach towards this part of Niagara’s history. The Servos collection exists as one of the best kept collections of early Loyalist records in the Niagara region. The Niagara Historical Society Museum holds 544 archival items and 309 artifacts relating to multiple generations of the Servos family here in Niagara! [1] Brothers Daniel and Jacob Servos and their families came to Niagara in 1785 as some of the area’s very first farmers and millers. During the American Revolution the Servos family lived in Tryon County in New York, eventually becoming divided in loyalties and the brothers forced to relocate.

So how did they come to settle in Niagara?

In May of 1781 the British government purchased from the Chippewa and Mississauga peoples a strip of land on the west bank of the Niagara River four miles wide and stretching from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. The intention was to have a few families settle there and farm the land to provide for the growing refugee population at Fort Niagara. The very first saw and grist mills dubbed the “King’s Mills” were built in 1783 under the supervision of Lt. David Brass at the mouth of the Four Mile Creek on the east bank, and Daniel Servos was appointed official mill operator in 1785. These mills were destroyed by a freschet in 1790 and Servos built a second set of mills on the west side of the Four Mile Creek in 1791.

To better understand the area we are talking about here, take a look at the images below. Figure 1 is an historical map of Niagara Township circa 1784, courtesy of Brock University’s historical map collection. In Figure 2, I’ve added highlighted the land belonging to Daniel Servos (green) and Jacob Servos (yellow), and mapped the locations of the two mill sites in question (blue). I’ve also made the historical map semi-transparent so that you can see it georeferenced on the present day map of Niagara-on-the-Lake, making it easier to understand the Servos family properties in a modern day context.

Figure 1 (Click to enlarge)
“Niagara Township, plan A.” (1784) Historical Maps of Niagara. Brock University Map, Data & GIS Library.
Figure 2

Method

Fortunately, some record of the Servos mills still exist today and make great sources for studying economic activity on a rural scale in Niagara’s pioneering society. I had first heard about the Servos account books from the helpful ladies at the Friend’s of Lincoln’s History archives in Vineland. They kindly offered me a digital copy of Servos Mill Account Book Volume I 1785-1795, however, the pages are quite dark and difficult to read. A week later, I went to the Archives of Ontario (AO) at York University in Toronto and made my own digital copy of this account book. The original microfilms at the AO are still difficult to read, but I did manage to make lighter copies.

At this point I realized there was more than one account book in existence, so I ended up copying five of the account books from the microfilm reel, omitting only Vol V because the dates 1824-1826 are not relevant to my time period. This blog post is based on the contents of Account Books I-IV and the Personal Account Book of Daniel Servos. Being one of the most complete existing sets of late 18th century Niagara business records, my hope was that these volumes could tell us more about what drove Niagara’s economy in the Loyalist Era.

Account Book Volume I 1785-1795″. Index. Daniel Servos Records 1779-1826. MS 538. Archives of Ontario

As I worked my way through these account books I collected the following:

  1. QUANTITATIVE INFORMATION. I entered statistical information into an Excel spreadsheet so I can later use that data for visualizations. This includes the names of specific accounts, dates of transactions, commodities purchased and sold, quantities, units, prices, currency, and forms of labour.
  2. QUALITATIVE INFORMATION. I considered questions like:
    a. What do these accounts reveal about the types of people farming in Niagara (class, gender, ethnicity) and how they each contributed to the early economy?
    b. What did the building of capital assets look like during these first few decades?
    c. What was the reaction to market price fluctuations in commodities like wheat?
    d. Were business transactions driven by internal or external economic factors?
    e. Do we see any political motivations within business transactions?
    f. Do we see evidence of British paternalism?
    g. What was the relationship like between farmers/millers and larger merchant enterprises?

Question

Every so often I need to re-focus and think back to this over-arching thesis question: “What drove Niagara’s Loyalist Era economy?”

Analysis

I will post the results of my primary source analysis over the next few days. I still need to fine-tune a few notes before releasing them publicly. Besides, this blog post is already long enough! Stay tuned…

Sources:
[1] J. Anthony Doyle, “Loyalism, Patronage, and Enterprise: The Servos Family in British North America 1726-1942,” PhD diss., (McMaster University, 2006), iv.

Primary Source Analysis: Learning about Wheat, Peas & Corn in 1790’s Niagara

It’s been a while since my last post! I just thought I’d share some insight on a primary source collection that I’ve been working through lately, and what its been teaching me about Niagara’s Loyalist-era economy. Upon suggestion by my supervisor, I have been reading through some of the personal correspondence of the Hon. Peter Russell as compiled in three volumes by E. A. Cruikshank and A. F. Hunter for the Ontario Historical Society in the 1930s. These papers reflect a period of Russell’s life when he was appointed to fill in for Upper Canadian Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe during a leave of absence in the late 1790s. The province of Upper Canada only becoming established in 1791, this was an important position still in its infancy. These volumes contain not only the correspondence of Peter Russell, but also letters that reflect the workings of the British administration in the early days of this colonial province. This means that letters from people like Joseph Brant, Governor Simcoe, John MacDonnell, and even Minutes of the Executive Council are included. While the sources themselves reflect a host of topics, primarily discussions surrounding land purchases and the relationship between the British administration and the people of the Six Nations, there is still much that can be gleaned from conversations about economic policies and matters of military supply.

These writings reflect crop growth and the distribution of wheat, peas and corn in the late 1790s, routes of transport via crude roadways and the Great Lakes network, relationships between farmers, merchants and administrators in Upper Canada, and their interactions with Americans in new neighbouring states. This information can be used to either support or contradict arguments from historians like Harold Innis, who believed that at this time the trade of furs & timber and exports of wheat & flour were fundamental to the growth of the province of Ontario, and Canada as a whole. It does the same for arguments from more recent historians like Douglas McCalla, who believes that the primary sources we draw from can change the way we understand this part of our nation’s history. He states: “the vast majority of the settlers, who actually made the new economy, necessarily invested their lives and funds into smaller projects ad specific places. When we look at the economy from their perspective, most of the patterns, timing, and momentum of development are not explained by the staples approach or the specific political events that it highlighted.” [1] Considering Peter Russell’s elevated position, are these sources more likely to support an Innisian thesis? How might the authors’ decisions about what letters to include or exclude in these volumes affect how we interpret these years in Canada’s history? These were just some of the questions I had in approaching these documents.

So, do you want to keep reading?

Just Kidding…

What I learned from these letters:

  1. The British government’s paternal relationship with Niagara farmers is a complicated one. When incentivising settlers to come to Upper Canada from the former American colonies, the British had to make a lot of concessions that did not necessarily help them financially, but was worth it because it meant they were getting the people they wanted for this new province. In the 1790s the government financed and built storehouses and wharfs in Queenston, Chippewa and Fort Erie for the purpose of bettering the Niagara River Portage route, they provided the majority of vessels used in shipping across the Great Lakes, they continued to buy the local produce from Niagara farmers despite the low quality, erratic supply & high prices being demanded, AND they even would pay for the cost of transport! [2]

    However, there are clear moments of frustration with Niagara farmers in the late 1790s. John McGill who was the purchasing agent for the Province of Upper Canada reveals these issues in his letters. In the spring of 1798, McGill anticipated not being able to fill the quota of flour he was required to purchase for the army storehouses in Upper Canada. In a letter from March, he wrote to James Green, Military Secretary in Quebec, estimating he would not get more than 1000-1200 barrels of flour from the Midland & Eastern districts, which was much less than he had received from those areas in previous years. [3] This was not because of any crop shortage; in fact the Niagara peninsula had actually produced a good crop that year. The reason for this low estimate was because the farmers expected to get a price for the flour that McGill felt was way too high. The price is not specified, but that same month he mentioned getting an proposal from Detroit farmers of thirty-one shillings and six pence Canada Currency per counterweight in barrels, and this being outrageously high. McGill’s suggestion to rectify this Niagara issue was for Green to order “a few hundred Barrels or even a few Bateau loads of Flour” [4] to be shipped to Kingston from the Commissary General in Quebec, being convinced that “it would have a very good effect not only in preventing a rise in the price of this Article, but likewise induce the Farmer to bring forward his Store in proper time.” [5] Two months later, McGill ordered 50 barrels of flour at twenty-two shillings per cwt. to be delivered to Fort George. As it turns out, McGill’s idea to flood the market with cheaper flour from Lachine was successful in forcing the hand of the farmers to sell their produce at a lower price, for fear of not being able to sell it at all if there was going to be other flour available. McGill wrote to Green that after getting word in April about the expected arrival of this flour, he made the news public in Niagara and “in a day or two afterwards declared that I would not give more than Twenty shillings per cwt., cask included. 296,800 pounds of flour have since been purchased on those terms, with 637 Bushels of Pease at five shillings a Bushel in Barrels, the whole to be delivered to His Majesty’s Magazines in Kingston on or before July 1.” McGill still expected to receive even more flour than this.

Thus, these letters show the complicated relationships between administrative and military bodies, merchants and farmers. While the British administrations were paternalistic, the middle men like McGill and Green were constantly struggling with how to profit in their individual roles. Roadblocks resulting from the growing pains of this new society are evident in McGill’s DCB biography where we read:

“he was often frustrated by a jurisdictional quarrel between the civil authority of the lieutenant governor in Upper Canada and the military authority of the commander-in-chief at Quebec, a quarrel which also raised similar if lesser difficulties for the surveyor general and the deputy superintendent general of Indian affairs. McGill was held accountable to the commissary general at Quebec, John Craigie*, although he and Simcoe had expected otherwise. Contracts to supply troops in the upper province were awarded over his head from Quebec, and he was ordered to limit his purchases to requisitions sent from there. Worse, his complaint about the profiteering of merchants and about irregularities in supplies from Lower Canada finally drew the rebuke from the commander-in-chief, Lord Dorchester [Carleton*], “that anything further on that head is unnecessary.” Simcoe protested in vain that McGill was being reduced to “a public Accountant without Power.”

The primary sources in these volumes sources show us that policies towards Niagara farmers, and high-level visions for the purpose and future of Upper Canada were not black and white. Administrators often disagreed with one another and the paternalism that Niagara farmers enjoyed was inconsistent.

2. Another important theme in these letters is that there were evolving relationships between farmers in the Niagara region and the Americans in New York. Historian Alan Taylor argues that late Loyalists, or those who came to Upper Canada after 1792, were often viewed with suspicion by the United Empire Loyalists who came over in the previous decade, immediately after the end of the American Revolution. [6] The reason for this is because many UELs felt that the latent ideas of republicanism that late Loyalists had grown used to in the spirit of the American Revolution impacted how they thought about relationships between governments and their people. As Taylor puts it: “Americans looked to a republic to safeguard their liberal aspirations. To their north, the British designed Upper Canada to discourage such aspirations- except within narrow bounds carefully patrolled by executive power.” [7] So what do these primary sources tell us? Well, these documents seem to suggest that the farmers were not totally loyal to the British government, supporting Taylor’s arguments.

In the spring of 1797, McGill complained that the farmers in Niagara were selling their flour and peas directly to the Americans at Fort Niagara who offered much higher prices. This was the first summer that the Fort was in the hands of the Americans, being given to them in the 1796 Jay Treaty. This was the first time the British had to deal with this new economic threat and McGill was not impressed that the farmers were choosing money over loyalty. In one conversation from May of 1797, McGill wrote to Green: “The Farmers in these settlements have been exceedingly backward in bringing forward their produce.”[8] Similar issues were taking place in the Western districts as Fort Detroit and Fort Mackinac went to the Americans in the same Treaty. There are a few reasons that these farmers give for why they are selling to Americans before their own countrymen. One argument was that there were not enough small boats available to take the wheat to mills, and then to the merchants like Robert Hamilton in Queenston or Richard Cartwright in Kingston. They also argued that the existing mills were in a poor state of repair and many of them were not running at that time due to lack of water. One final big argument was that the rumours of impending war between the French and the United States in the late 1790s would induce people to move from the States to Upper Canada, meaning extra demand and consequently they could rise the price of their wheat, peas and corn.

Despite the continual support of the British government, the Niagara farmers seemed to leave for greener pastures the moment they saw the opportunity. In the short run, the choice to supply American garrisons instead of British ones makes some sense; poor roads made it difficult for farmers to store, process, and transport their produce, while the Americans organized their own system of collection of produce and paid the farmers well. This cut McGill out of the picture, as well as merchants like Robert Hamilton who could not hope to compete with American prices for Niagara’s local produce. Alan Taylor believes that [Governor] “Simcoe had been only half successful in recruiting Upper Canada’s settlers. He had enticed families who did not particularly care for the republic, but he had not attracted people who cared deeply for the empire.” [9] The minimal taxation and easy access to land that these settlers enjoyed was expected to be met with a level of subordination to their provincial government, but this clearly was not the case in 1797. However, since McGill only refers to the “farmers” in Niagara as a whole, it is still possible that some of the early farmers were the ones selling to McGill, and it was only the later loyalist farmers who had arrived after 1792 that were selling to the Americans. A further investigation of primary sources on the local level will be necessary for understanding more specifically these divided loyalties.

3. A final important theme in these primary sources is that they support McCalla’s arguments about regional production being vital to economic development of Canada as a whole. I still need more data in order to fully prove this point, but the stats for 1796-1799 as shown in these letters already reveal that production for initial consumption was crucial in Niagara. This argument is made in opposition to the Innisian staples thesis that states the importance of the eastward movement of staple exports like furs, timber and flour. In February of 1798, McGill complained that there would not be enough flour to supply the garrisons by July 1 that summer because “The Quantity of Wheat in the settlement I am informed is considerable, and were it not for the stills, which consumes much of this article, there is great reason to believe, that the supplies required for the use of Government might be obtained upon more reasonable terms.” [10] Whisky as a popular commodity was driving up the price of flour in the region, showing the importance of settlers, as McCalla says, “investing their lives and funds in smaller projects and specific places.” [11] Similarly, in March of 1798 McGill estimated how much flour he had left over to give to the Upper Canadian garrisons, after “reserving what may be sufficient for the consumption of the Inhabitants in the settlements at, above, and below Kingston.” What exactly was the amount of produce being reserved here in McGill’s mind? Whatever the percentage of wheat being consumed in Niagara and Upper Canada, Niagara’s export to markets in Lower Canada in these years do not seem to be as big of a priority as was supplying the more local garrisons in Upper Canada (and New York). This then contradicts Innis’ idea that staple exports to larger markets out of the interior were the main facilitators of economic development. The decision of local farmers to sell to the American forts in 1797 also shows a powerful human agency, separate from the control of the British administration.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Stay tuned for more primary source analyses. Thanks for reading!

Sources:
[1] Douglas McCalla, “The Ontario Economy in the Long Run,” Ontario History 90 no. 2 (1998), 97.
[2] Bruce Wilson, The Enterprises of Robert Hamilton: a study of wealth and influence in early Upper Canada, 1776-1812, (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1983), 76-78.
[3] Compiled by E. A. Cruikshank, and Andrew F. Hunter, The Correspondence of the Honourable Peter Russell : With Allied Documents Relating to His Administration of the Government of Upper Canada during the Official Term of Lieut.-Governor J. G. Simcoe, While on Leave of Absence, Volume Two, (The Ontario Historical Society, 1932), 127.
[4] Ibid., 126.
[5] Ibid., 127.
[6] Alan Taylor, “The Late Loyalists: Northern Reflections of the Early American Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic 27, no. 1 (Spring, 2007), 19.
[7] Ibid., 2.
[8] Compiled by E. A. Cruikshank, and Andrew F. Hunter, The Correspondence of the Honourable Peter Russell : With Allied Documents Relating to His Administration of the Government of Upper Canada during the Official Term of Lieut.-Governor J. G. Simcoe, While on Leave of Absence, Volume One, (The Ontario Historical Society, 1932), 175.
[9] Taylor, “The Late Loyalists: Northern Reflections of the Early American Republic,” 29.
[10] Cruikshank and Hunter, The Correspondence of the Honourable Peter Russell Volume Two, 100.
[11] McCalla, “The Ontario Economy in the Long Run,” 2.

Library & Archives Canada – June 2019

Hi all, here’s an update on my research! Last week I went to Ottawa to look at some documents in the national archives. My first time ever going to the archives, I had to navigate the process of finding collections, requesting them, filling out various permission forms and finally getting to read through the materials. Being able to touch these documents from the late 18th and early 19th centuries is just one of the things that I love about getting to do a thesis… it creates a closer connection to the people that I’m learning about.

The Documents:

This week was all about the Hamilton family. As I’ve mentioned a few times already in past blog posts, Robert Hamilton was Niagara’s most prominent merchant during the Loyalist era, especially in the late 18th century. Unfortunately, a tidy set of Robert Hamilton’s papers does not exist in any archives, so I had to look through a few different collections while in Ottawa.

“There is now no substantial group of documentation that could be called the Robert Hamilton Papers nor is there a major set of papers for any of his Niagara contemporaries before 1812. On the other side of the coin, there is a distinct lack of census data, detailed parish registers, assessment rolls or any broadly representative collection of will dockets on which quantified studies of Niagara society could be securely based. Even significant runs of newspapers and that traditional mainstay of the historian, papers of administrators and colonial politicians are mostly prominent by their absence.”

Bruce Wilson, The Enterprises of Robert Hamilton, (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1983), 3.

Examining a few different collections throughout the week, I took approximately 800 photos! I look forward to reading through the material more closely over the next few months and adding the people, places, and things that R. Hamilton makes note of, into my data set. Some of these materials include:

  1. His three-part census of settlers in Niagara in 1787, which is one of the earliest available listings of households in Niagara post-Revolution.
  2. His day book from 1807-1809
  3. His ledger from 1806-1809
  4. His will, wherein he divides his land and possessions between his children, listing where he owned property and explaining what roles his sons will have in the family business after his passing (in March 1809)

I also accessed some of Hamilton’s correspondence by looking at the Francis Goring fonds and John Porteous fonds, as these men both had close ties with Hamilton in Niagara. Goring was a clerk at Fort Niagara from 1779-1781 and secretary to Hamilton from 1800-1809. Much of his work involved riding around the Niagara region and collecting debts owed to Hamilton. One particularly interesting document titled “Statement of Facts of business done for the late Hon. Robert Hamilton” provides us with an explanation of Goring’s role in Hamilton’s life for those last nine years (see document and transcription below). Similarly, Porteous was a merchant in Detroit who also had routine correspondence with Hamilton as they regularly traded goods.

Statement of Facts of business done for the lat Hon. Robert Hamilton Esq. by Fras. Goring
“My first commencement to do business for Mr. Hamilton was in 1800. Mr. Hamilton asked me if I could make it convenient to assist him, and he would make it worth my while, to which  I complied, he then held a Bond against me for £ 51-9-3 N. Y. Cy. dated Jan 11th 1798 (Note). Interest is charge me on bond from Nov. 1st 1799 until Nov. 1st 1808 which is a certain proof I could not be in debt. 1 Years Interest to Nov 1st 1810 is afterwards charged me by the Estate.
For the Three first years, that is, 1800 1801 & 1802 my employment was to write the accompts and letters to those indebted to him, dating the amount of their accompts and other writing business; the letters directed within 12 miles I mostly delivered and received their answers- which I entered in a memorandum book I kept on purpose, the distant letters were send in packets to someone in the different neighbourhoods to be distributed. After doing the above business for Mr. Hamilton Three years, and he finding by sending those letters by indifferent persons they frequently miscarried and he received no answer, he asked me on the fourth year, after writing them if I would undertake to deliver them myself, which I Promised to do, and procured their answer to Mr. Hamiltons satisfaction. This business I followed for Eight years, besides frequently writing for him at his House three and four weeks at a time and once in particular six weeks.
The first six years I traveled on foot and it being always in Winter made it very tedious, the Inclemency of the weather never stoped me, except Rain during the whole time, tho I must own I frequently suffered much. The usual time it took me was generally Six weeks in distributing between 5 and 600 letters and procuring answers with my own remarks (for at Mr. Hamiltons request I kept a Journal of all occurrencies). I have on one Winter traversed over Twenty two Townships, and have traversed to Ancaster twice in one Winter. (I say traversed for I was seldom on the direct road.) I have even in Harvest left my own to attend on Mr. Hamiltons business, and obliged to hire an other in my stead.”

Library and Archives Canada, MG 24 – D4, pg. 171, microfilm reel H-1.

Most of the Hamilton collection at the national archives is dated after Robert’s passing. From 1809 onward, his sons George and Alexander tried to collect the debts that were owed to their father, evident in the stacks of invoices and receipts found in one of the folders. According to historian Bruce Wilson, £16000 of the £69000 owed to Hamilton was unrecoverable. £23000 was still outstanding as late as 1823.

Dozens of records of money owed to the Estate of the late Robt. Hamilton Esq.

I was still able to examine one day book and one ledger that date pre-1809. Day books contain entries of accounts with multiple people in the same day, while ledgers contain entries on individual accounts over a period of weeks and months. These books were written in by Robert and his sons, since both books extend into November and December of 1809. The day book was from his Queenston store and records the purchase of material goods like tobacco, beef, and tea, payment for farm labour, and the portage of barrels of flour up the Niagara river to Chippewa and Fort Erie.

Library and Archives Canada, MG 24 I 26 Volume 24.

When reading the names of the customers in this day book, I note the variety of people that interacted with the Hamiltons in this burgeoning economy. Scattered amongst the dominantly male Anglo names were accounts like “Polly servant girl” who ordered 5 yards of cloth, a cash payment for “5 Frenchman hoeing Corn”, “1 pair shoe packs” for “Black Tom” and a hasty note that says “paid Indian for sugar” (costing 4 shillings). It is important to see how these figures fit into the story of economic and material development in Niagara’s Loyalist era and I am excited to dig deeper into these connections.

As I continue to work through these photos and scans, stay tuned for a future post on my discoveries from the Hamilton papers!

The last time I was in Ottawa was about 8 years ago. When I wasn’t in the archives, I was able to see some of the city… Ottawa is beautiful in the summer!

Jess Goes to the Digital Humanities Summer Institute

Here’s a little post about what I did last week.

Since my thesis includes a spatial history element, I have been slowly learning how to use ArcGIS and how it can be used specifically for the humanities. Scholars in the humanities have been incorporating digital technologies into their research for the past few decades now, and one of the fantastic results of these advances is the Digital Humanities Summer Institute held annually at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

What is the DHSI? Well, according to their website:

“The Digital Humanities Summer Institute provides an ideal environment for discussing and learning about new computing technologies and how they are influencing teaching, research, dissemination, creation, and preservation in different disciplines, via a community-based approach. A time of intensive coursework, seminars, and lectures, participants at DHSI share ideas and methods, and develop expertise in using advanced technologies. Every summer, the institute brings together faculty, staff, and students from the Arts, Humanities, Library, and Archives communities as well as independent scholars and participants from areas beyond. Described by one participant as an event that “combines the best aspects of a skills workshop, international conference, and summer camp,” the DHSI prides itself on its friendly, informal, and collegial atmosphere. We invite you to join the DHSI community in Victoria for a time of focused practice, learning, and connecting with (and making new) friends and colleagues.”

I attended the DHSI last week in order to gain some intensive, hands-on experience with ArcGIS. The classroom setting allowed me to ask questions and learn from experts about how to use GIS for visualizing both quantitative and qualitative data, and as a form of exploratory analysis for identifying patterns that help us understand our data on a spatial level. I signed up for Lancaster University professor Ian Gregory’s course on how to use GIS in the Digital Humanities and it has given me a deeper understanding of how to use the program, and a much better idea of the potential that GIS holds for my research. I now have a little more direction as I head into the archives this summer. You can check out the wide range of courses offered here.

We learned a LOT in five days. Through daily lectures and tutorials, I learned how to produce high quality maps, use tabular data and join tables, and properly format Excel spreadsheets to input my data into ArcGIS. I learned overlay and buffering techniques for integrating data from different sources, how to find coordinates for place names and convert them into shapefiles, how to georeference historical maps, and how to create 3D visualizations of our data with Google Earth. The best part was that we were encouraged to use our own data by the end of the course, so we could work with our new skills to produce some basic maps specific to our research. Brock University has some great resources in their map library where I have learned a few of these things already over the last year, but the DHSI classroom format was something that I think pushed all of us to the next level in our research.

The DHSI is not just about going to class though; there were a ton of opportunities for us to collaborate, share knowledge and make new acquaintances. There were participants there from every continent but Antarctica! Opportunities included the Conference & Colloquium, offered in a variety of formats from oral and poster presentations to mini workshops during the lunchtime “Unconference.” I presented on my thesis one evening and felt very welcomed by the event organizers and those who attended the talks. Although I was not sharing research conclusions as many other presenters were, this shows the versatility of the DHSI in that they offer a chance for academics at all levels to share knowledge and ask questions. I was approached by a few people after my talk and was given helpful titles of books and papers to read, people to connect with, interactive mapping software, and GIS tools & techniques to try.

I listened to a number of interesting presentations throughout the week. A few people in my GIS class shared the work that they’d completed in the course with their own data, and others spoke about their research during the evening lightning talk sessions. I heard from people in history, english, music, education, and more. During one lunchtime workshop I even learned how to create a virtual museum tour, which I thought could be useful for the work that I do locally with Nelles Manor.

I am thankful to everyone at the DHSI for organizing the event and allowing me to be a part of it, and am especially grateful for the tuition scholarships they offer that helped with this process financially. I definitely recommend the DHSI to anyone interested in learning more about the digital humanities. The conference runs for two weeks, so you can follow along with the attendees for week 2 if you’re interested by checking out the #dhsi2019 and #dhsi19 hashtags on Twitter.

PS: UVic’s campus is beautiful and this was my first time ever visiting B.C. I also got to visit my brother who recently moved out there and do some sightseeing… Here are some non-conference pics!

Analyzing Textual Data with Voyant Tools

The second half of this assignment for my Visualizing Historical Research class is a textual analysis of a book that pertains to my research, using a program called Voyant Tools. Voyant Tools is a web-app that uses interactive analytical tools to facilitate a more efficient reading of groups of text. By showing the frequency of the use of certain words as well as where they appear in the text, one can gather a general idea of what a corpus is about without having to read everything from cover to cover. I wanted to analyze a text I have not yet read, and that would further my understanding of Niagara’s economic history. The book that I chose to analyze is titled The correspondence of Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe: with allied documents relating to his administration of the government of Upper Canada.

John Graves Simcoe was the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791-1796, and this book reveals much of his influential work as the British administrative foundations of the Niagara region took shape. It is a collection of primary sources from 1789-1793, compiled by Canadian historian Ernest Cruikshank in 1923. Cruikshank was A Brigadier General in World War I, influential in the establishment of Ontario’s Bureau of Archives, and originally from Fort Erie. Placed in charge of the province’s military documents for a few years, but never formally trained as an historian, he wrote a number of brief histories about the Niagara region during the Loyalist era. Cruikshank’s archival expertise is evident in this work, as he selected particular letters either written by or addressed to Simcoe, to be included in the corpus.

By downloading the full text, copy and pasting it into Voyant Tools and clicking “Reveal”, this is the resulting initial output. In the following paragraphs, I will explain my analysis of this text using Voyant Tools.

1. Cirrus & Terms

Below, you can see the word cloud that Voyant Tools has created based on the words in this text. The more frequently a word appears in the text, the larger it appears in the word cloud. Digital humanists Geoffrey Rockwell and Stefan Sinclair, the creators of Voyant Tools, describe the Cirrus tool as follows:

“One gets the impression of a birds-eye view of all the important words. Words appear next to other words serendipitously, which can rightly or wrongly suggest combinations to explore. The word cloud provides a different visual synthesis of the information. It has different affordances for interpretation.” [1]

So what does this visualization tell us about Simcoe’s correspondence? Well, the word “simcoe” is the most frequently used term in this corpus. This is not surprising, considering the text we are working with, so we can move on to other words. To maximize the efficiency of this tool, one of my suggestions for best practice is to switch the view from “Cirrus” to “Terms.” This lists the terms in order from most used to least used.

A few of the terms that immediately stand out to me are the terms “Indians”(#4) and “Indian” (#16). The words clearly hold value to Simcoe; he is either writing about Indigenous peoples or he is receiving information about them. The frequency of the word alone does not tell us their meaning in context, but some assumptions that could be made are that:

  1. Lt. Governor Simcoe is discussing land agreements. The American Revolution had ended less than a decade prior, and the British government ceded traditional lands of their Six Nations allies, mainly the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga and Seneca nations, to the new United States. As white Loyalist families were resettled in the Niagara region and elsewhere in British North America, Simcoe and British officials also tried to resettle their Indigenous allies into new regions around Upper Canada.
  2. Lt. Governor Simcoe is discussing military alliances. Although the British were not at war between 1789-1793, Simcoe might have thought it wise to discuss the strategic benefits of placating specific Indigenous people groups in order to further their military alliances.

Another best practice that I suggest for using Voyant Tools is to look for the names of people and places as a way of determining a few key themes from the text. Thus, I typed in some of the names of individuals that pertain to my study. The name “Hamilton” appears a total of 83 times, but considering the popularity of this surname, I cannot assume that all mentions are with specific reference to Robert Hamilton the Niagara merchant. Alternatively, “Robert Hamilton” appears 14 times throughout the corpus. Similarly, the name “Richard Cartwright,” one of Kingston’s most prominent merchants, appears 14 times, and the full name of Detroit merchant “John Askin” appears 59 times. This is good news for me, since I now know that there are references to some of the individuals that were heavily involved in the economic development of Niagara during the Loyalist era.

Some of the most common places mentioned in this text include: Detroit(289), Quebec(231), Britain(208), Niagara(207), America(125), Erie(125), Ohio(99), Philadelphia(95), Kingston(81), and Ontario(58). What stands out to me here is the emphasis on the southwestern peninsula of Upper Canada, the doubly frequent mention of Lake Erie compared to Lake Ontario, and the prevalence of American cities like Detroit and Ohio. Lt. Governor Simcoe was a staunch British patriot who at one point had tried to make London the capital of Upper Canada, and was interested in facilitating trade towards the interior regions of the continent in the ultimate goal of colonial expansion. [2] The frequent mention of these central locations further substantiates their importance to Simcoe.

2. Contexts

While the Cirrus and Terms tool can show the frequency of word usage, they do not reveal the contexts in which these terms are used. In this way, the Voyant Tools’ Contexts pane takes textual analyses to the next level. By viewing certain words in their contexts we can determine their meaning within the corpus. For example, the words “Indian” and “Indians” actually hold very different meaning when contextualizing them. “Indian” is often used as a reference to government roles like an Indian Agent, the Indian department or the Superintendent of Indian affairs. This shows the intended use of the word as a reference to a British institution, rather than an example of actions by or references to Indigenous peoples.

The term “Indians,” however, holds a much different meaning. The term clearly incites fear for a few individuals. For example we read:
“of fighting in which the indians Excell [sic]”
“expert & more savage than the indians themselves”
“the Wabash or other hostile indians”

At times we see mentions of violence towards them:
“he will get the indians out of the way”
“of awing and curbing the indians in that corner”
“hope we shall give the indians a thorough drubbing this summer”

The term is also often used in the context of British paternalism:
“distribution of Presents to the indians”
“deficiency of Presents for the indians in Public stores”
“British officers in furnishing the indians with arms & ammunition”

Due to the disjointed format of the text, we are seeing divided opinions about Indigenous peoples. One particularly intriguing sentence was written to Lt. Gov. Simcoe by none other than Robert Hamilton as he discussed the impact of the American Revolution on colonial trade as a new national border was created and both European settlers and Indigenous peoples were shifted into new territories. Suggesting what was likely an unpopular opinion at the time, he writes:

“In extending their Territory in this quarter, some degree of moderation and justice has been shown in the purchase of the lands from the Native Indians, however inadequate the sum paid may be to the value.” [3]

In a similar vein the word “women” is only mentioned 21 times throughout the text, and the Contexts tool reveals that this is almost always conjunction with “and children.” In this particular analysis, showing the context of certain words demonstrates the official attitudes towards particular groups in society. The mention of Indigenous peoples and women reveal their relative value to the colonial administration, and how they are made useful in the bigger picture of expanding empire.

In addition to Voyant’s Contexts, tapor.ca is a site that holds hundreds of web tools for similar textual analyses. If you are not satisfied with the Voyant Tools version of contextual visualization, TAPoR 3.0 lists a number of alternate tools such as KWIC (Key Word in Context) and concordance TAPoRware that perform similar functions in detecting specific words anywhere in an HTML document. The concordance is not a new concept, as Rockwell & Sinclair discuss in their book Hermeneutica: Computer-Assisted Interpretation in the Humanities. The concordance is actually one of the innovations that influenced the development of their tools, as “its roots reach back to the Bible.” [4] They argue that context analyses developed by focusing on keywords as opposed to the earlier focus on key concepts, which was popularized by biblical indexation.

3. Bubblelines & Trends

Bubblelines is a useful comparison tool that visualizes the frequency of use of certain terms throughout a corpus, also showing the places in the text where they are mentioned. Bubblelines does not work well with corpora that have multiple documents because there are too many trends to accurately chart, so considering the fact that this text is a compilation of letters written by different individuals, this tool is not the best choice for analyzing this specific type of text.

Click “Separate Lines for Terms” to see a better output.

The results are similarly skewed in the Trends tool. As a best practice, I suggest using tools like Bubblelines and Trends only when analyzing one or two specific sources.

Conclusions

Voyant Tools has other options that could be used to explore this text, but so far I have learned that Lt. Governor Simcoe is focused on establishing trade networks in the southwestern regions of Upper Canada, whilst also managing the sensitive relationships between British officials, Loyalist immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and their new American neighbours. By doing this distant reading, one gathers a general sense of how Simcoe and those writing to him felt about certain groups of people. Many of these authors did not fully respect Indigenous people as human beings, but rather saw them as tools of empire or impediments to progress.

Voyant Tools can also be used to compare two or more texts. This means that this analysis could go a step further by comparing this text with, for example, a compilation of primary sources from the succeeding Lt. Governor of Upper Canada Peter Hunter who served from 1799-1805, or Francis Gore who served from 1806-1811. This is, of course, assuming that such compilations even exist. One could compare their correspondence with Simcoe’s, exploring what was important to the British government at different times, what legislation was implemented, who held power in colonial relationships, and how society was being formed from the “top down.” Voyant Tools provide useful visualization techniques for digital humanists. While the traditional close reading of a book holds its own value, it is important to recognize alternative forms of scholarly interpretation. Why not choose a text and try it yourself?

Notes:
[1] Geoffrey Rockwell and Stefan Sinclair, Hermeneutica: Computer-Assisted Interpretation in the Humanities, (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2016), 35.
[2] Mary Beacock Fryer and Christopher Dracott, John Graves Simcoe 1752-1806: A Biography, (Toronto, Dundurn Press, 1998), 120.
[3] Ernest A. Cruikshank, The Correspondence of Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe: With Allied Documents Relating to his Administration of the Government of Upper Canada, vol 1, (Toronto: Ontario Historical Society, 1923), 98, accessed from the Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/correspondenceof01simc.
[4] Rockwell & Sinclair, Hermeneutica, 47.

Visualizing Historiographical Data

Hi there, it’s been a while. This semester is coming to a close and thank goodness we are finally getting some spring weather!

This post and the next one are a little different from all of my posts so far in that they are also assignments for a required course I am taking at Brock as part of my Master’s thesis. The course is entitled Visualizing Historical Research and the aim is to work with different tools of data visualization to engage with history in a way that we as historians are not quite as familiar with. This course fits neatly with my current research as I work to visualize the spatial relationships between colonial settlers in the Niagara region, and I have learned a few useful things from this course this past semester.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that over the past six months I have been studying the scholarship of Canadian economic history, and now I need to organize the historiography in a clear manner. Of course, I could do this textually by simply writing down names and titles of books, describing the themes and categories that have appeared over the past century, but another helpful way of organizing such information is by using visualizations. This first blog post will discuss the benefits and limitations of the Timeline and the Venn Diagram when presenting historiographical information.

In his 2006 paper on the history of data visualization, American psychologist and statistician Michael Friendly states that the timeline was first used as an educational tool by natural philosophers and physicists of the 18th century, namely men like Joseph Priestly and Jacques Barbeau-Dubourg. [1] They were used to chart the progression of an individual’s biography, indicating the most noteworthy moments in the person’s life. Timelines are a good way of showing influential moments, and thus I thought it might be a good idea to create one that shows the different categories of historiography that appeared over time, pertaining to my area of research. Using Microsoft PowerPoint and aided by Carl Berger’s The Writing of Canadian history: Aspects of English-Canadian Historical Writing since 1900, I organized some of who I felt were the most influential historians into distinct categories. The result looked like this.

Click to enlarge

Timeline Overview
As you can see, I began with the 1930s and Harold Innis, a scholar that I have written about multiple times already in this blog. I grouped Innis, Creighton, Lower, and Careless into the category of “traditional economic history,” since the staples thesis and the Laurentian thesis largely form the basis for contemporary studies of Canadian economic development. Economic history became overshadowed by political biographies, and eventually became popular again by the 1960s when historians like W. L. Morton began to look at economic developments as regional studies, understanding that patterns of growth and decline are subject to their own environments. This is clearly important for my study, since I am putting a regional focus on these questions of enterprise and transfers of commodities. Out of that came work influenced by the Annales school, and a re-emerging interest in political economy, and eventually social history. Histories involving a closer look at ethnicity, gender, sexuality, labour, and religion gave another dimension to how we view Canada’s past. However, as Canada entered into a new millennium, fragmentation within the study of Canadian history had reached a crisis point. Ian McKay eventually wrote the essay “The Liberal Order Framework” which argues that historians should approach Canada “not as ‘an essence we must defend or an empty homogenous space we must possess,’ but rather as an ongoing ‘project of liberal rule.’”[2] In other words, instead of looking at Canada within its geographical boundaries, this framework investigates how liberalism as a specific worldview affected the way in which colonial peoples interacted, made decisions, and saw the world. Finally, one of the most popular ways that we approach history today is with a post-colonial consensus that Indigenous people are integral to any study of Canadian history; that we should not just view them as victims but rather try to understand how they displayed agency through their daily choices.

Issues
Although I used colour coding techniques to match the authors with their categories and produced a timeline that I felt adequately reflected some of the most basic moments in the historiography of Canadian economic development, I found the timeline visualization to be problematic when demonstrating the existing scholarship of my more specific topic. This timeline shows the viewer a basic categorization of developments over time, but it is far too broad to help me visualize the nuances of my Loyalist-Era, Niagara based project. One problem is that placing an historian into rigid, one-dimensional categories assumes that they are incapable of exploring more than one topic in their writing; an absurd presumption. For example, I placed Allan Greer under the category of “Annales school” even though he could also fit under the umbrella of “Regionalism.” I began to realize that imposing a specific beginning or end date to these categories does not accurately reflect the hundreds of people who might adhere to tenets of “Regional” or “Social” or “Traditional” histories outside of the boundaries I had prescribed here. Am I not currently in 2019 working on a regionally focused history of my own? Am I not also basing some of my assumptions on “traditional” theories?

A timeline’s singular categories do not permit engagement with multiple groups, but they also do not take into account the wide variety of economic and communication theories that historians have created and adapted over time. Scholars placed in different categories, while focusing on different topics can still share theoretical approaches to studies of economy. For example, both Ian McKay and Allan Greer display Marxist approaches to their writing of history. This timeline does not show these authors’ theories about how trade functioned, who held the power in economic relationships, and what drove the business networks in a certain place at a certain point in history. These categories alone show nothing of historians’ engagement with theories of environmental determinism, materialism, Marxism, economic determinism, or liberalism.

Another issue that arose was with the broad categorization of “social history.” From around the 1960s onward, gender history, Indigenous peoples’ histories, labour history, histories of religion, and more were all becoming more prominent in academia and despite their vast differences are all grouped under the same category. Ultimately, I realized that the timeline is far too general, squeezing historians into one-dimensional categories and ignoring their multi-faceted approaches to history that encompass a variety of geographical areas and time periods. Because of this, I wondered if there could ever be an ideal way of visually presenting historiographical information.

Solution
However, dealing with the issue of overlapping categories made me consider the solution of using a Venn Diagram. I wanted to show how my thesis fit into existing scholarship, so I substantially narrowed my focus. While researching the historiography of my topic, I realized that historians have studied Canadian economic development, the Niagara region, and the Loyalist era before, but few have studied all three simultaneously. This diagram shows the three areas that my project covers in terms of space, time period, and category of analysis. Canadian historians have always been fascinated by Loyalist history, many publishing studies of loyalism in Ontario, but these studies are mostly socio-political in nature, discussing the structural development of Upper Canadian government, the Family Compact and the tensions leading to the 1837-38 Rebellions. A general trajectory of Canadian economic history has developed over time, encompassing the growth of trade networks, migration patterns and industrialization throughout the large geographic area, but does not accurately reflect the economic development of Niagara itself. Finally, those historians that do look at the economic history of Niagara in most cases study the area in its early industrial years, focusing on the building of the Welland Canals and the railway system. These historians are completing their studies upon scholarship that has a weak substructure. There is a clear need for more in-depth studies of the very economic foundations of the Niagara region.

Placing the work of Canadian historians within classifications of:
1) Space (Niagara)
2) Time (Loyalist era)
3) Category of Analysis (Economic)

This Venn diagram eliminates the issue of singularly categorizing historians, allowing them to fill as many as three categories here. By looking at this diagram, you can see that there are a lot of Canadian historians who have studied Canadian economic history in the colonial period, but studying the Niagara region in a more specific lens is less common. You can also see that there are a couple of historians that do analyze all three areas. Bruce Wilson especially has contributed to this area of study in his 1983 book about the enterprises of Robert Hamilton, who was Niagara’s most prominent merchant in this time period. There are still issues with a Venn diagram, like the fact that it only allows for three categories. However, it is possible to make more complicated Venn diagrams with four or five circles if you want to get really specific.

What is a Mind Map? Taken from iMindMap.com

Other Ideas
There are many other ways that historiography could be visualized. Mind mapping is another effective way of organizing one’s thoughts, showing the relative importance of each point based on its size or location on the page, and showing how the points relate to one another.

Check out this video featuring Tony Buzan, the inventor of the Mind Map, as he explains some of the best practices for creating your own.


Notes:
[1] Michael Friendly, “A Brief History of Data Visualization,” in Handbook of Computational Statistics: Data Visualization, eds. Chen, Hardle & Unwin (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2006), 7.
[2] Jean-Francois Constant and Michael Ducharme, “Introduction: A Project of Rule Called Canada,” in Constant and Ducharme eds., Liberalism and Hegemony: Debating the Canadian Liberal Revolution, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 4.

Mapping New Knowledges Conference

Last Thursday, Brock University held its 14th annual Mapping the New Knowledges Student Research Conference, where graduate students from all departments are welcome to share their research in either oral or poster presentations throughout the day.

I was pleased to present my poster, share my research, and gather advice throughout the day, making it a successful first-ever conference appearance for me.

My fellow MA history students shared their work as well. It was a great way to meet new people and form new connections in a trans-disciplinary atmosphere. Thank-you to Brock’s Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Students’ Association for organizing the conference!

Navigating the Historiography Part 2

Okay, another round of secondary sources, here we go.

Last month I was working through some of the more traditional economic histories of early Canada that most Canadian history buffs are familiar with (Innis and Creighton). This month, I’ve read some more recent work that puts the focus on regional studies. In the process, I learned the importance of understanding history in a more localized context, and not always viewing the past with a broad lens.

Two of the authors discuss similar histories, focused on rural nineteenth century Nova Scotia, and one author provides a gendered approach to this subject which has been traditionally dominated by studies of men.

Bittermann, Rusty. “The Hierarchy of the Soil: Land and Labour in a 19th Century Cape Breton Community” Acadiensis 18, no. 1 (1988): 33-55. https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/Acadiensis/article/view/12258/0.

Morgan, Cecilia. Public Men and Virtuous Women: The Gendered Languages of Religion and Politics in Upper Canada, 1791-1850. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.

Samson, Daniel. The Spirit of Industry and Improvement: Liberal Government and Rural-Industrial Society, Nova Scotia, 1790-1862. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2008

Rusty Bittermann and Daniel Samson study the history of rural Nova Scotia, and each tackle topics of power dynamics in society, examining how farmers responded to industrialization, capitalism, shifts in labour and demographics in the mid 1800s. (Danny Samson also happens to be my supervisor… which made our discussions about these books easier in some ways, and harder in other ways, haha). Bittermann argues that the settlement of Middle River, NS experienced differentiation of wealth and influence over time. The initial distribution of resources to colonists created divisions that just became deeper throughout the 19th century. As people born into slightly more privileged circumstances put that wealth into investing in resources like land, tools, and labour, they created assets that could be passed onto future generations, therefore entrenching the wealth disparity (p. 34). Samson argues that the development of rural economies in Nova Scotia is slightly more nuanced, seeing farmers not as proletarians succumbing to the inescapable confines of capitalism, but as men and women who occasionally achieved success by other means. In this book we see examples of both successful farmers and poorer “backlanders” making choices that allowed for improvement within society (agricultural, educational, etc.), therefore suggesting that social stratification was fluid rather than entrenched.

These arguments have clear ties to my own research of 18th and 19th century Niagara, and showed me that these types of regional studies hold lot of potential for valuable discovery. Did the same social stratifications exist between farmers in Niagara? Did wealth disparities become entrenched or was equality easier to obtain? How did geographical features like the “Black Swamp” on the south shore of Lake Ontario (see map above) affect settlement patterns and subsequent crop growth? In a similar vein, how did merchants interact with farmers, and what was the role of paternalism in their relationship over this short but turbulent time period? Doing these readings has brought up a lot of new, but important questions that I hope to answer as I begin looking through primary sources.

Cecilia Morgan’s book provides an interesting look at Upper Canada from a more socio-political standpoint, dismissing the traditional argument that men and women of the nineteenth century operated only within their own public and private spheres of life. She examines gender roles throughout the century, arguing that masculinity could be defined both at home and in the workplace, and that females exerted influence in public places like temperance parades and church bazaars. She relies heavily on newspaper accounts for evidence, which I thought was a fascinating avenue of understanding the politics, religion, and social standards in this time period. I am currently TA-ing a Post-Confederation Canada history course at Brock where just this past week the students completed an assignment that forced them to think about the ways in which newspapers can prove useful to historians… well here’s another good example!

Thanks for reading!