From Petition to Patent

Obtaining land from the Crown in Upper Canada began with a written petition to the Crown stating who you were and what you sought, and culminated in receiving the patent (as the deed was called) to the land.

In the summer of 1847 Alexander Fleming with his son James walked from Vaughan, near Toronto, north to the newly opened Derby Township in Grey County. Their purpose was to examine available lots and make a selection. Alexander likely submitted a petition to request Lots 9 and 10 in the 6th Concession, and , after paying the ₤ 157.12, received patents for the land 23 November 1847. We know from a copy of the receipt kept by the family that most of the payment was made in script, a type of voucher given to soldiers that could be redeemed for land or traded to others for money.

His next recorded purchase was Lot 6 Concession 9 in 1858, but we learn from papers Continue reading

A River Runs Through It

The Flemings ,on arriving in Canada West from Perthshire in June 1843, settled first in Vaughan Township, about twenty miles north of Toronto.  Alexander arranged to lease land from William Richard Grahame who had bought 1200 Acres  in 1833 from the Canada Company along the east branch of the Humber between Pinegrove and Kleinburg.  Under the agreement, Alexander was  to clear fifty acres in Concession 7 in an area straddling lots 17 and 18, pay Grahame $ 5 an acre, and retain rest of proceeds from their produce. Over the next six years they built a shelter, erected a barn, raised livestock, cleared the acres, and grew crops. Through hard work and determination, they were able to buy their own 200 acres in the newly surveyed Derby Township and move there in 1850.

Section of Vaughan Township – adapted from 1878 York County  Atlas

The story of their years in Vaughan  is part of family legend.  Roy, Alexander’s grandson, made more than one trip to the area in the 1930s to try to locate the exact area of the farm.  His aunt Jennie recalled some landmarks but finding the farm eluded them.  In October 2016 three descendants and I tried: Ruth Larmour, Roy’s granddaughter, Janet McNally, descendant of James Fleming, and Carol Danard, descendent of Isabella Fleming Finch.

We knew that Lots 17 and 18 would be roughly half way north from Rutherford Road to Major Mackenzie Drive, and that the farm should be east of the East Humber River and just west of Islington Avenue.   The William Granger Greenway passes through this area of the flood plain of the East Humber.

Our clues were: Continue reading

Life of Florence Alice Fleming

The trail began when we read in the young Roy Fleming’s diary an entry for July 3 1891 : “I hear that Florence Fleming has gone out of her mind. They read it in the Times.” Roy was only 12 years of age; his cousin Florence was 28. The Times article, titled “A distressing incident” was on microfilm in the Owen Sound Public Library. In as sympathetic a manner as possible, the Times  journalist reported that Florence, the “accomplished” daughter of Donald Fleming, on a voyage back from Manitoulin Island to Owen Sound, had attempted suicide by drowning.

Florence (standing) with her mother Esther c 1877

Donald had already suffered a great deal. In May 1882 he had admitted his wife Esther Flower to the Asylum for the Insane Toronto on Queen St W. Melancholia ran in the family. Esther’s father Samuel Flower had been considered insane, though there is no record of his being admitted to a hospital. Now Florence had succumbed to delusions and violent reactions – her father had no choice but to have her admitted as well. Eventually she was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.

The Archives of Ontario holds some patient records for the Queen Street Mental Health Centre. The series RG 10-271 provided summary information about Esther and Florence. No other details could be found. However, Florence was transferred to the asylum in Penetanguishene in August 1904 where clinical records and some entries have survived in RG 10-303 Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene.

Florence died in September 1939, at age 75, after spending over half her life confined to an asylum, and crazed by delusions. Fortunately, the records indicate she was fairly well cared for at Penetanguishene and had some contact with family. A fuller account of her life is given in Florence Alice Fleming: Patient [Word document].

To learn more about the lives and care of the mentally ill in Ontario from 1870 to 1940, see Geoffrey Reaume’s book, Remembrance of Patients Past: Patient life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940. University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2010.

Jennie’s early travels

Jennie Fleming, Alexander and Jean’s youngest daughter,  was 29 years of age in June 1869 when she boarded a steamer in

Jennie Fleming

Owen Sound to  Collingwood and then rode by train over very rough tracks to Toronto.  Her journal of this trip has survived containing the log of the stops on the rail line and the places they visited.  We presume she was travelling with another person though she does not reveal any names.

The trip had several purposes: to attend a Disciples convention in Bowmanville, to see some sites in Toronto, and to procure dry good supplies for the store in Kilsyth. You are welcome to read the full account as best we could transcribe it from this document in our Dropbox folder.

This same diary has a short account of her trip in September 1871 on the steamer Meteor from Marquette on Lake Superior in Michigan to southern Lake Huron.  Again – no companions are named but she might have been with her brother Charles and his new wife Eliza (Lyda) Warren. She doesn’t say whether the steamer took them home to Owen Sound, or they had to journey by train. The voyage, however, seems to have been  blissful – no storms, no accidents.

View Diary of Jennie Fleming 1869-1872


Small progress report

Although this blog has been very quiet we have been making progress in further research into the lives of  Alexander and Jean (Stewart) Fleming’s family.

Ruth Larmour was fortunate to have in her possession a journal written by Jennie Fleming of her travels from Kilsyth to Toronto by train in 1869, and to Marquette, Michigan by steamer in 1871. The diary has been donated to Grey Roots Museum and can be viewed there, but we will make the transcription and our notes available through this blog as well.


We are also pleased to announce that the Bruce County Historical Society will be publishing in the 2017 Yearbook Edition – The Fleming Family: Early Oliphant Campers  –  Ruth Larmour’s recollections and reminiscenses  of the many Flemings who camped in the Fishing Islands of the Saugeen Peninsula from 1885 to the present, and especially of  her cottage, Clan Stewart Camp, on Little Squaw established by Jennie Fleming and her nephew Roy in 1906.

From this point forward, we’ll post something about new work on the family history each month. Please send questions or comments.

Fleming Sports Day August 13, 2016

The Fleming Sports Day is being held at Leith, outside Owen Sound, in Grey County on Saturday August 13, 2016. This is an annual event (usually) at which descendants of Alexander Fleming (1799-1869 ) and his grandson, Christopher A. Fleming (1857-1945) of Owen Sound and their friends gather to partake in competitions, food, and friendship along the shore and at family cottages. It’s day long from 9 am to 5 pm.  If you’re a Fleming descendant or friend drive  into Leith and look for signs for Fleming, McKay, Lewis.

Ruth (Fleming) Larmour will be conducting tours of the historic Springfield House (originally in Derby Township) that is on the estate, and will be available to answer your questions  about the history and genealogy of the Fleming family of Derby Township.

Springfield House – Leith, Grey County