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The Ancaster Bloody Assize of 1814

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Oxford Dictionary: Assizes = hist. Court periodically administering civil and criminal law.

Although the majority of the inhabitants of Upper Canada fought for the English in the War of 1812,  there were men in almost every section of the province who favored the Americans. Some openly joined the invading American forces, while others crossed the lakes and rivers and entered the United States.

In November and December of 1813 the English Norfolk militia conducted two successful operations against American raiders, one commanded by Colonel Bostwick. The other, led by Lieutenant Henry Metcalf, surprised a group of marauders in a house near Chatham. Among the prisoners were fifteen residents of the province.

All the prisoners who lived in Canada were sent to York (Toronto) by Lieutenant Metcalf. Later Colonel Bostwick sent more prisoners to York, all were to be tried in the court for High Treason.

On May 23, 1814 the court opened in Ancaster. The nineteen men that were in custody were officially charged with High Treason, charges were also read for fifty men who were still at large. On June 7th the trials began with the following results.

June 7th 1814 Luther McNeal appeared before Chief Justice Thomas Scott and was acquitted.

June 8th 1814 Jacob Overholtzer appeared before Justice William Dummer Powell and was found Guilty.

June 8th 1814 Robert Loundsberry appeared before Justice Campbell and was acquitted.

June 9th 1814 Aaron Stevens appeared before Chief Justice Thomas Scott. Loundsberry confessed to being a spy and was found Guilty.

June 9th 1814 Garrett Neill appeared before Justice Powell and was found Guilty.

June 10th 1814 John Johnston appeared before Justice Campbell and was found Guilty.

June 10th 1814 Samuel and Stephen Hartwell appeared before Chief Justice Thomas Scott and were found Guilty.

June 11th 1814 Dayton Lindsey appeared before Justice Powell and was found Guilty.

June 11th 1814 George Peacock Jr. appeared before Justice Powell and was found Guilty.

June 15th 1814 Isaiah Brink appeared before Justice Campbell and was found Guilty.

June 15th 1814 Benjamin Simmons appeared before Chief Justice Thomas Scott and a jury and was found Guilty.

June 16th 1814 Robert Troup appeared before Justice Powell and was acquitted.

June 16th 1814 Adam Crysler appeared before Justice Campbell and was found Guilty.

June 17th 1814 Isaac Petit appeared before Chief Justice Thomas Scott and was found Guilty.

June 17th 1814 Jesse Holly appeared before Justice Powell and was acquitted.

June 18th 1814 Cornelius Howey appeared before Justice Campbell and pleaded Guilty.

June 20th 1814 John Dunham appeared before Justice Campbell and was found Guilty.

June 21st 1814 Noah Payne Hopkins appeared before Chief Justice Thomas Scott and a jury and was found Guilty.

After the trials the judges met and agreed to delay carrying out the sentences until July 20th to give all a chance to get Royal Mercy.

The Attorney General along with the Justices met with the Executive Council and after carefully weighing all the facts decided that seven of the men would be saved from death. These seven were Samuel and Stephen Hartwell, Cornelius Howey, Isaac Petit, Jacob Overholzer, Garrett Neill and John Johnson. These individuals were to be transported to Kingston pending removal to Quebec. The prisoners, eight in all now, as Dr. Calvin Wood was added to this group, were turned over to the Sheriff of Midland District at Kingston.

On the evening of July 31st they reached Smith's Creek (known as Port Hope today). Approximately at midnight, Sergeant Montgomery and the small detachment of militia escorting the prisoners locked them in a hut. In the morning it was discovered that four, Dr. Calvin Wood, Cornelius Howey, Samual and Stephen Hartwell had escaped. All but Stephen Hartwell were quickly captured, Stephen Hartwell was never recaptured.

Near the end of winter that year a type of typhus fever broke out in the jail, some of the prisoners became ill. Three died from the fever, Garrett Neill March 6th, Jacob Overholzer March 14th and Isaac Petit March 16th 1815. The other four prisoners received pardons on the condition they abandon the province and all possessions of British life.

However, Dayton Lindsey, Noah Payne Hopkins, John Dunham, Aaron Stevens, Benjamin Simmons, George Peacock Jr., Isaiah Brink and Adam Crysler were all to die.

On July 20th 1814 at Burlington Heights the executions were carried out. Death by Hanging. This ended the Ancaster "Bloody Assize" of 1814.