09-97    John Wellington Birdsall

09-97  John Wellington9, Andrew8, Samuel7, Samuel6, Jacob5, Samuel4, Benjamin3, Nathan2, Henry1

John Wellington Birdsall was born in 1850 to Andrew Melick and Elizabeth (Scott) BirdsallHe married Annie PowersHe died in 1914.

Diaries of John Wellington Birdsall

The following was written by Doris (Birdsall) Oatman and was published in Norfolks, Volume 26 Issue 4, pgs 8-9:


When Andrew Birdsall 1823-1914 married Elizabeth Scott in 1848 his father Samuel Birdsall gave him a farm of 300 acres in Canborough Township, Haldimand County. They had a family of ten children but three of them died when very young. The oldest son was Samuel Edsel 1849-1919. He received his M.D. from the University of Toronto and practised medicine in Courtland, Fenwick and Niagara Falls.

The next two sons, John Wellington 1850-1949 and William Hamilton 1853-1936 (called Hamilton) decided they would like to farm. Andrew agreed to help them with the down payment. It was after the Civil War in the United States and prices of farm products were at their highest for some years. Grain, horses and cattle had all been selling well, and Andrew had accumulated a considerable amount of money in American cash. With no easy access to banks in the late 1860s, and being afraid of theft, he placed the money in two wooden buckets and buried them in the garden.

Andrew's brother, Peter Birdsall, had moved from Canborough to a farm near Delhi in Norfolk County. He encouraged John and Hamilton to buy farms in Norfolk County with the sandy soils being much easier to work than the heavy clay land in Haldimand. Andrew, John and Hamilton came to Middleton Township to find farms for sale to be purchased with American money.

At this time American silver was discounted at eight percent, and the story was told that some owners of property that Andrew looked at would not accept his American silver at par. They found aproperty of 200 acres in Lot 13, Lot 14, and part of Lot 15 in Concession 3 South of Talbot Road in Middleton Township. The price was $11.00 an acre for a total price of $2,200.00 and the owners would accept American money at par.

Lots 13 and 14 were obtained by George Perkins from the Crown. From an article in the Farmer's Advocate by L. Dean Hatch in 1938 on the changing values of farm land wrote: "Duncan Campbell, lumber king of Simcoe, in a journal deal with an innkeeper, received 100 acres of Middleton (Norfolk County) land by payment of a barrel of whiskey". I had been told that there was a hotel on Lot 14, but I do not know the years it was open for business. The story was told to family members that the property had changed hands for two barrels of whiskey.

The Registry Office for Lot 13 shows:

  1854 Crown to George Perkins

1863 George Perkins to Duncan Campbell

1864 Duncan Campbell to Walter Turnbull and wife

1870 Walter and Susan Turnbull to Andrew Birdsall

1875 --Andrew Birdsall to John Birdsall


The Registry Office for Lot 14 shows:

1849 Crown to George Perkins

1863 George Perkins to Duncan Campbell

1864 Duncan Campbell to Walter Turnbull

1870 Walter Turmbull to Andrew Birdsall

1875 Andrew Birdsall to John Birdsall, 24 acres

1882 Andrew Birdsall to Hamilton Birdsall, 75 acres


The Registry Office records show that in 1893 Hamilton Birdsall sold some of Lot 14 to the North Walsingham Cheese and Butter Manufacturing Association. The cheese factory was in Middleton Township on the North Walsingham-Middleton Township line.

This land was on the Bostwick Road with the south part bordering on the Township line with North Walsingham. John occupied the 76 acres of Lot 13 and 24 acres of Lot 14, and Hamilton occupied the balance of Lot 14 and part of Lot 15, making 100 acres each. The deed is dated February 12, 1870.

The story was often told to family members that when Andrew returned to Canborough to secure his buried cash, he couldn't find it. The family garden to help dig up the buckets of money, and they finally located it little deeper than he thought he had buried it.

John Birdsall became a successful farmer. married Annie Powers in 1883, and built a large brick home on the farm in 1884.

Hamilton Birdsall farmed and also had a sawmill on the Venison Creek near the intersection with the Bostwick. In the early 1900s Hamilton had a box factory at the mill, making cheese boxes. In

1904 an item in the Tillsonburg newspaper reported that Mr. Birdsall was turning out 350 cheese boxes a day.

Hamilton drilled a gas well near Venison Creek in 1912, purchased pipes, and connected his home and John's home with gas. This enabled them to have gas stoves and gas lights all through the houses. This was at a time when rural farmhouses depended on wood stoves for cooking and coal oil lamps for lighting.

Hamilton Birdsall built a brick house in 1886 and it has been demolished. John's house built in 1884 and is still in use, but the property is no longer owned by a member of the Birdsall family. Charles Birdsall moved to Tillsonburg in 1972.

According to John Birdsall’s diary, he made an agreement with John Triggerson (called Doctor Triggerson) to keep him at the Birdsall house and tend to him in his old age, and in return John would receive 50 acres of land when Triggerson died.

John Triggerson had separated from his wife, Jane, in 1869.  A lengthy legal document was prepared at the time of the separation.  Charles Birdsall copied this when rewriting John’s diary.

Johon Triggerson had a steam bath which was moved to John Birdsall’s house.  An entry in the diary of May 7, 1899 states – moved Dr. Triggerson here today, January 23, 1900.  John packed up the Doctor’s things that he wanted to take with him to move to Bruce Mines to the home of his daughter.  John signed an agreement to send $50.00 a year to the daughter.

On June 6, 1905, John received word from Mrs. Coulter of Bruce Mines that her father had died.  John had paid $50.00 a year for five years, and now owned the 50 acres of Lot 21, Concession 2, South of Talbot Road.

John rented this farm to Jim Lade and John frequently pastured the young cattle there.  Alfred and Esther Powers moved from Toronto and the baking business – exact date is not known – but they were living on this property in February of 1905.  Esther Powers died on March 20, 1908.  Alfred continued living there for a few years and later moved to live with his daughter Annie and husband John Birdsall until his death in 1915.

Alfred gave the 50 acres to his daughter Annie in 1911.  John continued to use the land for pasturing cattle.  In 1920 John and Annie moved there and operated a farming operation until they retired to Tillsonburg.  John bought a house on the corner of London and Bidwell Street and lived in the addition.  John was now in his eighties but did considerable work on the addition.  John and Annie moved there when it was completed.  Annie died in 1939.  John and Edith both died in 1949.

Some relevant facts about John Birdsall:

Born May 12, 1850 at Canboro, Ontario

John attended elementary school in Canboro and when 19 years of age, his father Andrew came to Middleton to look for farms for John and Hamilton.  Two hundred acres was for sale in Middleton, Lots 13, 14 and part of Lot 15.  This was 200 acres and was bought for $11.00 per acre, a total cost of $2200.  The deed is dated February 12, 1870.

George Perkins had secured the land from the Crown in 1854 and the story told was that Perkins traded it to Mr. Campbell for three barrels of whiskey!  Campbell sold it to Walter Turnbull who sold it to Andrew Birdsall for $800 cash and a mortgage of $1400.

An account as recalled by Charles Birdsall:  The Civil War in the States was over and prices for farm products were at their highest for some years.  Grain, horses and cattle had all been selling well and Andrew Birdsall had accumulated $800.00, all in American silver.  Not many banking facilities were available, and the money was kept at home in two wooden buckets.

The family was afraid it might become known that they had this amount of cash and might be in danger of being robbed, so one night, Andrew took the buckets out to the garden and buried them.  When the money was needed for the down payment on the Middleton farms, Andrew couldn’t locate the buried money.  The family came to help dig and it was located a little deeper than he thought he had buried it.  This story was often repeated to family members.

At this time American silver was discounted at eight percent and the story is told that some owners of property Andrew looked a would not accept his $800 in American silver at par.  Walter Turnbull agreed to take the money at par.

John returned to Canboro for a short time and then settled on the land and lived in a small house that was there.  He had a yoke of oxen, a wagon and a plough.  He prepared his own meals but at times got his dinner and supper at Amos Bowman’s for one York shilling a meal.  He worked part of the time at Ben Mabee’s mill on Lot 8, Concession 2, STR.

On April 12, 1883, he married Annie Powers of Tillsonburg.  There are no detailed records of the period in the late seventies.  John started to keep a diary in 1884 which was an account of what he did each day as well as a cash book.  Every item purchased was noted such as on March 6, 1884, went to Tillsonburg, bought at Wilcox butter 49 cents, oil 25 cents, pepper 13 cents, tile 20 cents:  Caufield Druggist 5 cents.

Annie and John sold the farm to Charles in 1920 and moved to Lot 21 C 2 STR.  In 1931 they retired to Tillsonburg where Annie died in 1939 and John in 1949.

Some additional items in the lives of John and Annie Birdsall can be viewed here.

Additional pictures and documents were compiled by Doris (Birdsall) Oatman and can be viewed here.


Children of John Wellington and Annie (Powers) Birdsall:

10-80 Eva, b. 1884, d. 1956 m. Matt Dean

10-81 Etta, b. 1891, d. 1988 m. Lee Garnham

10-82 Charles Wellington, b. 1893, d. 1980 m. Eva Swinn





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