30 June 2010

George Porter Part 3: The Rifleman; The Blacksmith

The circle widens around my target, George Porter—George Porter the Prisoner, that is. We don’t know anything about his family and almost nothing about his associates. But there are several what I call Persons of Interest in the same time period and areas. A prior posting for background information is here. More musings ...

The Rifleman
On 12 October 1794, Thomas Small reported to Alexander McKee of the British Indian Department that a rifleman called Porter, “native of Pennsylvania,” had been brought to McKee at Swan Creek.[1] The Americans and the British were still engaged in territorial hostilities up until 1796. The man Porter had information about The Glaize (Indian confederacy headquarters; now Defiance, Ohio) and Fort Defiance. Porter was to be transferred as a prisoner under the care of “Tuscarora George” to Brownstown where Upper Canada’s Lieutenant Governor Simcoe and McKee were due for a meeting with Indian allies. Simcoe had left Newark on 17 September for Detroit and points south to attend. Brownstown was in today’s Wayne County, Michigan, across the river from Amherstburg, Upper Canada.

The Person of Interest Part:
We don’t know this Porter’s first name. After his meeting of 1794 with a reported 2,500 Indians, Simcoe returned to Newark at the end of October. Did Porter accompany Simcoe back to Newark? He was not described as a deserter on either side, so as a civilian perhaps he usefully redeemed himself. Riflemen and other frontiersmen were frequently familiar with Indian tribes and languages. Could he have been hired by military commander Colonel Gordon at Newark after this incident in October 1794? That is, could he be the George Porter later jailed in 1814, or related to him somehow ... the George Porter who was associated with Indians in the western district? He was unlikely to be our George the Carpenter who in 1794 was building his first house in York. There is no George Porter as a head of household in the 1790 census of Pennsylvania.

The Blacksmith
Lebbeus Porter first appears in Newark in 1795, requesting an Upper Canada land grant.[2] He is described as a blacksmith in various documents. On 29 December 1799 he married Ann Adams in Newark.[3] By 1800 he had received a grant in Oxford Township (“Oxford on Thames”) but was having a conflict of claims with Ebenezer Cook.[4] In 1802, he was living in Queenston along the Niagara River.[5] The dispute re land ownership must have been resolved, because Lebbeus sold the south half of lot 15 concession 1 Oxford West Township in November of 1805, when he was a resident of Onondaga, New York.[6] After that, he seems to disappear from the Upper Canada scene. He was apparently one of the petitioners to establish a Masonic Lodge in Salina, New York, in December of 1807.[7]
The Person of Interest Part:
If Internet dabbles are to be believed, men called Lebbeus—and yes, there are several of them—are accounted for in families that expanded from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Superficial exploration does not reveal a Lebbeus with a brother George, nor a space on the multi-branch Porter family tree this particular man would fill.[8] Yet his presence on the Canadian side of the Niagara River coincides closely with George Porter the Carpenter. Lebbeus’ marriage date could mean he was a contemporary in age. So it’s a distant possibility that Lebbeus’ family origins could be George’s origins, probably being no closer than cousins. Nevertheless, George the Carpenter still does not “fit” into known New England families. A weak and undeveloped hypothesis but perhaps deserving of more attention.

NEXT Persons of Interest: The Surveyor! The Doctor! (... hiatus in series till further notice).

[1] E.A. Cruikshank, The Correspondence of Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe (Toronto: Ontario Historical Society, 1931), vol. 5, 113-114. Cruikshank was citing Claus Papers, vol. 6, 229-231. 
[2] Upper Canada Land Book A, 1792-1796, p. 232; LAC microfilm C-101.
[3] Dan Walker and Fawne Stratford-Devai, Vital Records of Upper Canada/Canada West, Vol. 1, Part 2, Niagara District, 1792-1849 (Delhi, Ontario: NorSim Research and Publishing, 1999), 114; citing St Marks Anglican (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) register of baptisms, marriages and burials,1792-1815. The original register is also available on AO microfilm MS 545 reel 1. 
[4] Upper Canada Land Petition, P bundle 5, no. 54, Lebbeus Porter; LAC microfilm C-2489. 
[5] Upper Canada Land Book D, 1798-1802, p. 775; LAC microfilm C-101.
[6] Oxford County Deeds, Old Series, nos. 100 and 101, Porter to Nichols; AO microfilm GS 2458.
[7] R.W. Gary Heinmiller, History of Masonry in Onondaga County ( : accessed 18 June 2010).
[8] Joseph W. Porter, A Genealogy of the Descendants of Richard Porter, Who Settled at Weymouth, Mass., 1635, and Allied Families (Bangor, ME: Burr & Robinson Printers, 1878), digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 19 June 2010).

© Brenda Dougall Merriman, 2010

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