In 1796 James Fleming and his wife Barbara Windecker settled on Lot 6 1st Concession, broken front of what would become Aldborough Township, Elgin County. Land on both sides of the Thames River were owned by Fleming descendants until 1871.
So who are James and Barbara? Where did they come from? How did they ended up on the shore of the Thames, 7 years before the Talbot Settlement and how was their relationship with their nearest neighbours the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown and Moravian Church missionaries?
James was born in 1760 in Bleachgreen, Londonderry, Northern Ireland to Andrew Fleming and a woman whose name is unknown. James left Ireland for Philadelphia, in the year 1786. He brought a Shipload of Merchandise with him and started a store in that city. On account of his love for the British Government he became objectionable to his fellow townsmen and thought it best to go to Canada. He settled at Black Rock, near Ft. Erie, in the vicinity of Niagara Falls and he became a dry goods merchant of that town. In 1796, or near that period he was chosen by Lord Simcoe who was the Lt. Governor of Upper Canada, at that time to be one of his Party on an excursion to Western Ontario, in the vicinity of Windsor and Detroit and the mouth of the Miami River. James acted as the boatman. On this same trip was Thomas Talbot who you can learn more about in Episode two. They came in a boat to Port Stanley or Port Talbot on Lake Erie and portaged across country to Munceytown down the Thames River by canoe or row boats. Members of the Munsee branch of the Lenape (Delaware) nation arrived in the area in the eighteenth century and were encourage by Simcoe to settle in this area previously named by French explorers “River La Trenche.” Simcoe, Fleming, Talbot and the rest of their party camped for the night on a beautiful spot on the riverbank in Elgin County, which attracted my Grandfather’s admiration to such an extent that he decided after his return home to Black Rock across the Niagara River from Fort Erie he would return and purchase this. He did the next year by taking his wife and two daughters (an infant and toddler) by passage on a vessel to Detroit and then skirting Lake St. Clair in a canoe to the mouth of the Thames and up the river 50 or 60 miles. The land in the area was so ripe with wildlife, massive timber and natural drainage that this new world offered all one could ask for just outside the cabin door. This could explain why James and Barbara’s family flourished during these early years of quiet solitude.
James had married Barbara Windecker at Fort Erie in 1793.
Barbara was born July 19, 1774 in Snyder County, Pennsylvania or on the banks of the Mohawk River, New York State to parents Hendriech (Henry) Windecker a United Empire Loyalist and Dorothy Pickert. Henry Windecker, was a British Loyalist, who served under Butler’s Rangers in the raids of the Mohawk Valley, Montgomery County, New York (1781), was in the Wyoming Valley (Luzerne County) Pennsylvania, and ultimately removed to the Niagara Region, Upper Canada, after the American Revolution. He received a land grant as did Barbara in 1820 when she petitioned to be given 200 acres Lot 17, 4th Concession in Dawn Township, Lambton County. She died aged 88, on September 7, 1862 in West Elgin and is buried at the Fleming Farm cemetery. At her death, Barbara had 71 grandchildren and many great and great great grandchildren. We are looking for all those living descendants for the family reunion in 2022. James passed before Barbara on September 8, 1838 in what is now West Elgin at age 78. James was buried on the Fleming farm.
Barbara told a story of the first tree her husband James felled. “He asked her to come into the woods to see his first effort in that direction, and she remembered carrying her baby in her arms and leading the other child by the hands. These two daughters were born at Fort Erie, one on May 5, 1794, the other November 25, 1795.” Their names were Hannah and Dorothy or Dolly.
Henry Fleming, was the first settler child born in Aldborough and Elgin County on March 23, 1798. James Fleming was well educated for the time in which he lived. He was a Christian and trained his family religiously according to his Presbyterian training.
Andrew Fleming, the second son, was born on the Fleming Farm in Aldborough March 24, 1800. He made a written statement in 1852 that he was on the battlefield the day after the Battle of the Thames and was around 13 years of age.
Other children were Samuel, George 1804 – 1883, Mary, Rebecca, James Hr. 1811 – 1848 and Anne. In the wilderness, education was difficult but Mr. Ward also known as Commisary Ward was engaged for this duty. James, the youngest son also spent 2 years at school in Chatham. He was the first to introduce short horn cattle family of cattle to the area after he inherited his parent’s farm. He married Ann Gibb, daughter of Captain James Gibb of Scotland who came to Mosa Township, Middlesex County in 1830.
The Fleming farm was raided in 1813 by General Harrison buring the War of 1812 the house and contents was burned with the family fleeing.
After his death, James left Barbara in care of his youngest son, James Junior listing in his will the house and young orchard. He was part of the Episcopal Church, the American version of the Anglican Church. Barbara identifies herself as Methodist after a visit in 1804 from Rev. Nathan Bands to their homestead. Daniel Springer provides Barbara Fleming, widow, with a declaration that James Fleming did his duty in the militia.
When you move to the wilderness as the Flemings did having neighbours means something much different then what we think of today. I can see a house on each side of mine and some across the street. For the Flemings they were miles from the nearest people. Below, on the river Thames, there were, besides the Moravian mission, other settlers at rare intervals – Carpenter, a sailor, the Dolsins and others- who had come in before the advent of Simcoe, access from the older settlements about Detroit being comparatively easy. According to the survey made by one, McNiff in the fall of 1790 there were 28 log houses below the site of Chatham together with properties to the North and West in the names of Surphlet, Charon, Merry, Peck, Field, Newkiry Williams, McCormick, Dolsen, Holmes, Meldrum, Park and Sarah Aisne.
I know I’m interested in the history of the Moravian Mission of Indigenous Peoples I just mentioned and I bet you are too. A group of Munsee, displaced from their origins in New York State including Manhatten Island was converted to Christianity by missionaries of the Moravian Church in Pennsylvania; these persons and their descendants are known as the Christian Munsee by governments but use their own language to describe themselves. They moved to Ohio Country, under pressure from European settlers in the east United States. Vibrant Moravian Christian First Nations settlements were established in Schoenbrunn, Gnadenhutten, Salem, Petquotting and Goshen.[ After many of those in Gnadenhutten and Salem were murdered by American colonial militia in the Gnadenhutten massacre of the Moravian Christian Martyrs on March 8 1782 during the American Revolutionary War, the remaining Christian Munsee in Ohio gathered in Sandusky and led by Moravian missionary David Zeisberger, departed towards the Thames River. At first temporarily settling near present-day Amherstburg, Ontario, in 1792, Zeisberger obtained permission from the British colonial authorities for the community to inhabit a site on the Thames River, near where it is located today. These were the closest people living near the Flemings.
From their website – “The Delaware Nation at Moraviantown is one of the oldest settlements in the region, as it was founded in 1792. Our community played an integral part in the War of 1812, as we stood next to Tecumseh and other allied forces, both First Nation and British to hold our ground against invading American soldiers. But we would pay a price for our allegiance, as our original village, located on the north side of the Thames River, was burned to the ground by retreating American soldiers at the close of the war. Today, our community is located on the south side of the river, however some of the first buildings rebuilt after the war continue to stand today; a mission church and home stand as testament to our resiliency.” I recommend visiting Fairfield on the Thames National Historic Site on Longwoods Road near Bothwell in Lambton County. You can read interpretive signs describing how the Delaware, Ojibwa, and the Iroquois joined forces with the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh to make a final stand against the invading American calvary . During the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States, the Battle of the Thames took place near the community. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh, an ally of the United Kingdom, was killed by invading United States forces. Following the battle, before the US cavalry left the area, it burned the entire Christian Munsee community to the ground. Many people died. The community rebuilt on the south side of the Thames in their present location.
To conclude with some descendants of James and Barabara, here is a short history copied from the book “Romantic Kent” published in 1904
“ James C. Fleming, Treasurer of the county of Kent, was a son of Andrew Fleming Senior. Andrew Fleming, the second son of James Fleming Senior, was born in Aldoborough in the County of Elgin, March 24th 1800, and there remained until his majority after which he relocated on a farm in Mosa Township, where he remained until 1866. He moved to Chatham Township in the County of Kent, where he remained until his death on 5th December 1884. In April 1827 he married Frances Ward who became the mother of twelve children, four sons and eight daughters … they were: 1. Mary married James Banning and both are now deceased, leaving a son Andrew who is a successful merchant in Red Bluff, California. 2. Ann is deceased. 3. George, who is unmarried, was formerly a Superintendent of \mines in California, but is now living on his ranch in Brentwood California. 4. Peter, with his sons, Clifford and Burton, is an extensive manufacturer of farm implements in Huntsville Missouri. 5. Andrew Miles farmer living in Los Angeles California. 6. Sarah \j., widow of William Merritt, is living in Chatham. 7. Maria, Mrs. Allen, is deceased. 8. Elizabeth and Magdalena (9) are twins. Magdalena died in childhood Elizabeth married Augustus Thrasher who died at the age of 30, leaving two children Walter A. (who is a practising lawyer in Chatham) and Eva (wife of William Singer Junior of Chatham). 10. Amanda M. (Mrs. Dollins) is the mother of three children, A.F. Dollins, D.D.S. of San Francisco, California; Mrs. John Fleming of Raleigh Township and William with his parents in Dover Township. 11. Melissa, Mrs. Seward, is a widow living in Chatham. 12. James C. Fleming was born January 27th 1846 on the old homestead in Mosa Township, County of Middlesex. When he was 21 years of age the family moved to Chatham Township, in the County of Kent. He was the youngest of the family and remained on the farm caring for his parents during their declining years. In 1885 he was elected a member of the council of his Township and a representative to the County Council, which position he held until 1887 when he received the appointment of Clerk of Kent County. He ably filled this position until November 1902 when he was appointed Treasurer of the County. Mr. Fleming has always taken an interest in educational matters. While on the farm he was a member of the local school board, and since coming to Chatham he has been a member of the high school board of that city. Socially he is a member of the K.of P. and politically he is a Reformer. In 1895 he was united in marriage to Miss Mary Margaret Rutherford and of this union came three children, Margaret Francis born March 2nd 1896, Andrew James born 1897 and Jean Isabel born 11th January 1902. Mr. and Mrs. Fleming are members of Victoria Avenue Methodist Church. Their pleasant home on Victoria Avenue where the usual hospitality of the Fleming family abounds. Mr. Fleming was Treasurer of the Church and also a member of the Trustee and Quarterly Boards.”
If you are a descendant of James Fleming and Barbara Windecker, we are looking for your information to add to the family tree that is being created. Anyone willing to assist with organizing the event June 24-26, 2022 or wanting to attend please contact Angela Bobier, Cultural Manager firstname.lastname@example.org