1792 - 1862 (70 years)
||Absalom Shade |
||, Wyoming Co., Pennsylvania [1, 2, 3, 4]
||Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada 
||41 Beverly St., E., Cambridge, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada 
||41 Beverley St., Cambridge, Ontario
constructed for Absolam Shade about 1851, possibly stone walls
||Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada 
||Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada 
||Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Reeve of Galt |
||Trinity Anglican Church, Cambridge, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Parish Hall |
- The first Parish Hall was built in 1855 through the generosity of Mr. Shade. When Mr. Shade died in 1862 his Will provided funds for the construction of a Rectory along with an endowment fund to provide for the rector's salary.
||business, building, life story, pioneer, bridge, distillery, public service, politics |
||Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada 
||Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada 
|church of England |
|Eby ID Number
||15 Mar 1862
||Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada [1, 3, 7]
||Trinity Anglican Cemetery, Cambridge, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada 
||29 Sep 2019 |
||Isabella Jemima Davidson, b. 1808, , Scotland , d. 19 Aug 1876, London, Middlesex, Ontario, Canada (Age 68 years) |
||16 Mar 1837
||, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada [5, 8]
||30 Sep 2019 |
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
||Catherine Kimball, b. CALC Mar 1786, d. 27 Nov 1833, Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada (Age ~ 47 years) |
||16 Sep 1823
||Hopewell, , Ontario
The Repository, Canandaigua, New York Paper
||30 Sep 2019 |
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
|Born - 1792 - , Wyoming Co., Pennsylvania
|Residence - 1837 - Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Married - 16 Mar 1837 - , Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Historic Building - Abt 1851 - 41 Beverly St., E., Cambridge, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Occupation - Gentleman - 1851 - Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Religion - Episcopalian - 1851 - Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Elected Office - Reeve of Galt - 1852 - Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Gift - Parish Hall - 1855 - Trinity Anglican Church, Cambridge, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Occupation - Gentleman - 1861 - Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Religion - church of England - 1861 - Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Died - 15 Mar 1862 - Galt (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Buried - - Trinity Anglican Cemetery, Cambridge, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
- Absalom Shade Inducted 1995
Absalom Shade was born in Wyoming County Pennsylvania in 1793, the youngest son of a large family. He was trained as a carpenter and later took up residence in Buffalo, New York. He was twice married, first to Catherine Kimball, a widow from Canandaigua, New York who had two children from a previous marriage and, following her death, to Isabella Davidson. Mr Shade had no family by either of these marriages.
It was his skills as a carpenter that brought Mr Shade to the attention of the Hon. William Dickson. Mr Dickson required a competent builder to erect a sawmill and a grist mill in the new community he was planning in his lands along the Grand River. He offered the job to Mr Shade, whom he had met in connection with Mr Shade's failed bid to win the contract to build a court house and jail in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
In 1816 both men travelled to the new lands and selected for the townsite the place where Mill Creek flows into the Grand River. After examining the site and satisfying himself as to its potential Mr Shade reached an agreement with Mr Dickson to build the mills and to act as Mr Dickson's general agent in the township. He departed for Buffalo, settled his affairs there and hired a crew, led by chief millwright Thomas Taylor of Balkirk Scotland. By the time the crew arrived with their materials, including the mill stones, Mr Shade had completed building the sawmill so that the lumber for the grist mill could be cut at the site. The grist mill, named Dumfries Mill, was completed and operational in 1819. These mills and Mr Shade's store and house were among the first buildings to rise in the new settlement which was first named Shade's Mills in his honour.
In 1819 Mr Shade completed a bridge over the Grand River near the building that served as both his home and a store. This was followed in 1820 by a distillery that Mr Shade built beside the Dumfries Mill. In 1824 he built what became known as the Red Store, a credit/barter store at which framers could trade produce for items they needed for themselves and their farms. The mark-up on goods at the Red Store has been estimated at 50 to 100 percent -- which points to a hefty profit. However since farmers purchased goods at the store with produce rather than cash, there was a greater possibility of spoilage and therefore of loss. The Red Store was built at the south east end of the bridge and had a staircase down to a pier at the riverbank. It was from this pier that Mr Shade, beginning in about 1829, loaded his fleet of barges -- known locally as the "Arks" -- with produce intended for markets on Lake Ontario. His plan was to float the barges down the Grand River and through the newly completed Welland Canal to markets on Lake Ontario. The plan was not a complete success and was abandoned in the early 1830's.
It has been said that Mr Shade was the embodiment of industry and this is readily evident in his involvement in nearly all aspects of the early development of Shade's Mills and Galt. In addition to his involvement in the building of the mills, bridge and store, mentioned earlier, Mr Shade was named Postmaster in 1825 and contracted with John Galt to build a part of a road from Galt to Guelph which was intended to open up the lands of the Canada Company. Part of the contract was to supply lumber, flour, pork and other provisions for the crews building the road. The contract proved extremely lucrative and provided the basis for much of Mr Shade's fortune.
In 1832 Mr Shade built a second store known as the White Store across the street from the Red Store. The White Store sold goods for cash at a somewhat lower price than the Red Store which continued to operate. Mr Shade's building projects were not confined solely to his business interests. He was a staunch supporter of the Anglican Church and in the 1830's, with others, petitioned the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to send missionaries to Dumfries. When an Anglican Church was finally established in Galt with the arrival of Rev. Michael Boomer in 1840, Mr Shade contributed significantly to the building of the church and, in 1855, built at his own expense a "handsome school house adjoining the church." The church also found a prominent place in his will.
In 1838 Mr Shade was asked by the Hon. William Dickson to purchase the Dumfries Mill, a mill that he had been managing for a number of years. Mr Shade, showing the astute business acumen for which he was known, agreed to the purchase only after Mr Dickson agreed that for a stipulated period of time, no lots would be sold in the village that might be used for mills, stores or other businesses of a competitive nature with Mr Shade's enterprises, thus ensuring him a mercantile monopoly in the settlement.
As Mr Shade's fortunes grew, he became associated with a Hamilton company in the formation of the Gore Bank in 1835. In 1852, again in company with his Hamilton associates, he became an incorporator and share holder in the Galt and Guelph Railway. Mr Shade was always a strong Tory in politics and served for two terms, without any particular distinction, in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. He was first elected in 1831 taking the place of James Crooks who had been elevated to the Legislative Council. Mr Shade was defeated in 1834 and elected again in the violent election of 1836. He held his seat until 1841 but declined to run in elections thereafter. During the 1837 Rebellion led by William Lyon Mackenzie, Mr Shade acted on the local commission of the peace to examine suspected rebels.
On the local political scene, Mr Shade held virtually every nominated and elected office over an approximately thirty year period ending in 1852. After local government was organized in Dumfries in 1819 Mr Shade served as Chairman of the township meetings as well as holding the offices of pound keeper and assessor. In 1828 he was named a magistrate for Gore District and represented Dumfries' interests at the Gore District quarter sessions. Mr Shade was named the first reeve of Dumfries Township Council at its inaugural meeting held on 21 Jan 1850 and, in 1852, was elected as the second reeve of the newly incorporated Village of Galt. After 1852, Mr Shade retired from public life and devoted his time to managing his business affairs. He died on 15 Mar 1862 following a short illness and is buried in Trinity Church Cemetery.
Waterloo Hall of Fame website
SHADE (Galt) - The funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon at 2 o'clock. The body, enclosed in a coffin covered with black cloth with silver handles and nails and lined and stuffed inside with white satin, was placed upon a upon a very tasteful new bier into which it fitted nicely, and drawn by four horses it proceeded to Trinity Church. Beside the coffin walked Dr. Belts and Dr. Stinson wearing crepe scarfs. On each side of the body walked the pall-bearers being the following gentlemen: Judge Miller; Richard Jason. Esq.; Thomas Reid, Esq.; Dr. Hamilton; Ewd Adams, Esq.; A. Buchanan, Esq. Immediately following the body came the chief mourners John Davidson, Esq., Alex Harvey, Esq. Behind these came an exceedingly numerous body of people from all parts of the Province, including the following: Rev. Dr. Thomson, Rev. Mr. Palmer, Rev. Mr. Hebden, Rev. Mr. Stinson, Rev. Mr. Acheson, Rev. Mr. Mesmore, Rev. Mr. Adams, Rev. Mr. Werther, Sheriff Thomas, William P. McLaren, George Stanton, James Colquhon, Thomas H. McKenzie, and James Webster, Esqs.
Letters were received from Hon. J. Fergusson Blair, Isaac Buchanan, Esq., M.P.P., Sheriff Grange, and many others, expressive of their regret at not being able to attend.
Some time before the procession was arranged, all the stores and places of business in town had been closed and the procession solemnly wended its way to Trinity Church amidst the most intense silence, broken only by the fitful tolling of the bell. On reaching the church, the body was carried forward to near the reading-desk, and the pall being removed, there for the last time was seen by the mass of people the coffin containing all that was mortal of Absalom Shade. The church being beautifully hung in black and the people habited in like costume, the silver mounting of the coffin stood forth in painful brilliancy and brought tears to many an eye in in that vast assembly. Immediately that the coffin was placed on the tressles and uncovered, the Bishop of Huron and Dr. Boomer took possession of the reading-desk, and the Bishop commenced to read the funeral psalms.
Dr. Boomer read the sublime lesson commencing "Now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that sleep". The church, which was intensely crowded, was hushed in the gloomiest silence whilst the funeral service was proceeding, and at its close, the procession was re-formed and proceeded to the grave where the remainder of the service was read by the Bishop and Dr. Boomer, and the body of Absalom Shade was consigned to its parent dust.
Hamilton Spectator 24 Mar 1862
Trinity Anglican Church
An Anglican missionary, Rev. Michael Boomer, arrived in Galt in 1840 to organize the community's first Anglican congregation. Services were held in the Township Hall until the fall of 1844 when a new stone church was completed. The building was opened and consecrated in October, 1844 by Dr. Strachan, Bishop of the Diocese of Toronto. Land for the church had been donated by the Dickson family and the cost of the building was assumed largely by the Dicksons and by Absalom Shade. The first Rector of Trinity Church, Rev. Michael Boomer, was to minister to the Galt congregation until moving to London in 1872 when he became Principal of Huron College and Dean of the Huron diocese. Dean Boomer was followed by Reverend Canons Brock (1872-1873), Curran (1873-1877), Hinks (1877-1886) and Rev. Canon Ridley who was rector from 1886 until his sudden death in November 1915.
The first Parish Hall was built in 1855 through the generosity of Mr. Shade. When Mr. Shade died in 1862 his Will provided funds for the construction of a Rectory along with an endowment fund to provide for the rector's salary. The church was enlarged in 1856, and in 1868 the Parish Hall was made larger. The interior of the church was altered in 1885-1886 and the Norman Tower was added during the same time frame through the generosity of Matthew Wilks. Work began on rebuilding the Parish Hall with the laying of the cornerstone on July 17, 1911. Electric lighting was installed in 1916. The Parish Hall was further enlarged in 1956; the new Chapel of the Holy Trinity was built about the same time.
Canon Ridley established a Mission in Preston in 1888. Construction of St. John's Anglican Church in that community was begun in 1889 with dedication services held in 1890. St. James Anglican Church in Hespeler also began as a Mission of Galt. Work began in 1919 on St. David's Mission at the corner of Pollock and Chalmers Street in Galt. The Mission, which began as a Sunday School, was dedicated by Archbishop Williams in April 1920.
Waterloo County Churches A Research Guide To Churches Established Before 1900 By Rosemary Ambrose
SHADE, ABSALOM, businessman and politician; b. c. 1793 in Wyoming County, Pa, reputed to be the youngest son of a farmer; d. 15 March 1862 at Galt (first called Shade's Mills, now part of Cambridge), Canada West. He married first, Mrs Andrews of Canandaigua, N.Y., and secondly, Isabella Davidson of Galt; there were no children by either marriage.
Absalom Shade trained as a carpenter in his youth and followed that trade in Buffalo, N.Y., until 1816. In that year he submitted a tender for the contract to build a court house and jail at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Upper Canada. Although Shade's tender was rejected, the young man so impressed William Dickson*, a member of the Legislative Council, that he hired Shade to manage and superintend the settlement of his lands in Dumfries Township, Gore District.
In July 1816 Shade and Dickson journeyed to Dumfries to examine the lands, and after an extensive survey chose the site of what became Galt as the nucleus of the projected settlement. Shade went to Buffalo to arrange his affairs, and returned that autumn with his wife and two stepchildren to take up permanent residence on the site. By winter Shade had repaired and completed for himself a combined saw and grist mill which had been abandoned by an earlier settler, and built a two-storey log house which served as both a dwelling and a shop.
Tradition has it that when Shade arrived in Dumfries Township he possessed only $100 and a chest of carpenter's tools. He soon amassed a large fortune. The key to his success was the monopoly he enjoyed over a wide spectrum of business activities. Cash was scarce, and with Dickson's financial backing Shade built up a large credit business at his store, where he charged a mark-up of 50 to 100 per cent on credit sales. When Dickson built the "Dumfries Mill" in 1818, Shade became its manager, ensuring a continuation of his control of milling. In 1820 Shade built a distillery adjacent to this mill and operated both businesses.
Because of Dickson's active campaigns to recruit settlers in Scotland and the United States, Shade's Mills expanded and prospered in spite of its distance from a good market for grain and the area's bad roads. As the population grew Shade's many businesses flourished. In 1824 he erected a large general store and grain handling depot on the banks of the Grand River. In 1827 when a post office was established at Shade's Mills, the village was renamed Galt. Shade became the postmaster and retained that position for 25 years.
In 1827 Shade bid for and received several large contracts to supply lumber, flour, pork, and other provisions to John Galt* and the Canada Company, then engaged in building roads through the Huron Tract. So profitable were these contracts that within a year Shade was able to purchase the Dumfries Mill from Dickson. As part of the transaction Shade received a guarantee that Dickson would not sell land to any other miller, distiller, merchant, or grain dealer who might compete with Shade. In 1832, Shade built a second store across the street from the first. At the original "Red Store" Shade conducted his credit business, while at the new "White Store" he dealt at somewhat lower prices for cash. His monopoly of Galt's mercantile trade secure, Shade now turned over the management of his many enterprises to James Fargis, his nephew, and James K. Andrews, his stepson. He then devoted his energies to public office, the promotion of transportation projects, and the management of numerous farming properties and a large mortgage and money-lending business.
Shade's many mercantile enterprises and his land dealings gave him a life-long interest in the improvement of transportation. In 1819, for example, he had initiated a subscription campaign to build a bridge across the Grand River at Shade's Mills. When subscriptions fell short, he underwrote much of the cost himself. In the early 1830s Shade undertook the daring experiment of building several large (18 x 16 ft) flat-bottom barges on the Grand River. In the spring, even though the high water was dangerous, he loaded the barges with barrels of flour, grain, pork, and other produce intended for export, and floated them down the Grand to Dunnville. The barges were then towed by horses via the Wetland Canal to Port Dalhousie (St Catharines) where both the produce and the raft-timber were sold. As a natural outgrowth of this endeavour, Shade became an active promoter and one of the original incorporators of the Grand River Navigation Company, which was chartered in 1832 to improve navigation on the river, there being no good road from Galt to Dundas.
As Shade's fortunes grew and his business interests broadened, he became associated with the Hamilton business community in the founding of the Gore Bank in 1835. In 1852, in company with his Hamilton associates, he became an incorporator and shareholder in the Galt and Guelph Railway. He was also an active promoter of both the Preston and Berlin Railway and the Berlin and Stratford Gravel Road Company.
Always a strong Tory in politics, Shade served two terms in the House of Assembly. In 1831 one of the two sitting members for Halton County, James Crooks*, was elevated to the Legislative Council. Shade was elected to the assembly in Crooks' place and served out the term. In the election of 1834 Shade and his running mate, William Chisholm*, were defeated by James Durand and Caleb Hopkins*, but in the violent election of 1836 Shade and Chisholm were returned. Shade served without particular distinction until 1841 when he retired. Although he was frequently mentioned as a possible Tory candidate, he henceforth refused nomination. During the rebellion of 1837 he acted on the local commission of the peace to examine suspected rebels, and helped organize a detachment of militia for service on the Niagara frontier.
On the local political scene Shade held almost every nominated and elected municipal office over a 30-year period. After local government was organized in Dumfries Township in 1819, Shade frequently served as chairman of the township meetings, as well as holding such offices as pound keeper and assessor. In 1828 he was named a magistrate for Gore District and ably represented Dumfries' interests at the Gore District quarter sessions. When elective municipal government was established in 1841, Shade was elected a township councillor, and in 1852 was elected as the second reeve of the newly incorporated village of Galt.
In 1852 Shade retired from public life and devoted his time to managing his estate and numerous local charities. He died in 1862 after a short illness.
Leo A. Johnson
Cambridge Public Library (Galt, Ont.), Miscellaneous historical papers. PAC, MG 24, D16, Shade to Isaac Buchanan, 18 July 1854, 20 Feb. 1856; E1, Shade to Merritt, 14 March 1833, 25 July 1845, 17 March 1849; RG 1, L1, 18-39. PAO, Dickson (William) papers. Correspondent and Advocate (Toronto), 1836. Dumfries Reformer and Western Counties Agricultural and Commercial Advertiser (Galt), 19 March 1862. Galt Reporter and Waterloo County Advertiser, 21 March 1862, 1870-71. B. M. Dunham, Grand River (Toronto, 1945). R. S. Hamilton, The early history of Galt, 1816-1866, ed. A. W. Osborne and A. W. Taylor (Galt, Ont., 1956).
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online 2000 University of Toronto/Université Laval
Pressed by increasing supplies of farm produce, which were mostly obtained in exchange for goods out of the 160 store, Mr. Shade determined about 1831 to endeavor to find an outlet to Lake Ontario by means of the Grand River. Through the enterprise chiefly of the late Hon. William Hamilton-Merritt, the spirited project of connecting the waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario by means of the Welland Canal, had been accomplished four years previously. Mr. Shade conceived the idea of taking his produce down the river to Dunnville, towing it through the canal to Lake Ontario, and then shipping it from Port Dalhousie to its destination.
When this project was announced, it became the event of the season. The farmers, not less than the villagers, were all agog, and a good many doubting Thomases shook their heads wisely. But Mr. Shade quietly proceeded with his plans. He built several flat-bottomed boats which were called "Arks." These were each of sufficient capacity, being eighty feet long and sixteen wide, to carry about four hundred barrels of flour. They could only be used during the spring floods, and it was an exciting time at the little wharf at the end of the bridge when they were being loaded.
The cargo consisted chiefly of wheat, coarse grains, flour, highwines, pork, and furs, and was of considerable value, embracing a large portion of the results of the year's business. Each Ark was in charge of several men, one of whom had special control, when Mr. Shade, who always accompanied them, was not on board himself. The boats were difficult to manage, and in consequence of the rapid current, numerous islands, and occasional shoals especially between Galt and Brantford, they required as skilful navigation as their great prototype to which the whole human race is so greatly indebted,
The Arks, as a freight line, could hardly be called a success, though it must be admitted they served to tide over a pressing difficulty. They were only used for three years, and as evidence at once of the difficulties of the navigation and the energy of Mr. Shade, the mishap which befell the last expedition may be mentioned.
Seven Arks started from the Galt wharf, all well laden. Everything went smoothly until a short distance below the village of Glenmorris. At this point the boat on which Mr. Shade himself was, ran upon a rock, and narrowly escaped becoming a total wreck. By great efforts, however, the flour with which it was laden was removed to an adjacent island, as quickly and with as little injury as possible. Mr. Shade immediately returned to Galt, worked almost night and day till a new Ark was made, started clown to the scene of the accident, took on hoard the flour, and caught up to the first and only fleet which Galt ever possessed, at Port Robinson, about the middle of the Welland Canal.
Whatever the reasons may have been, this was the last occasion on which the Arks were used. Possibly a dove had returned with a sprig from Beverly swamp.
Reminiscences of the Early History of Galt and the Settlement of Dumfries in the Province of Ontario, by James Young, 1880 Toronto: Hunter, Rose
"THERE'S a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will." So at least it is said, and so it appeared, at all events, in connection with Mr. Dickson's new enterprize. He occupied at that time the position of chairman of the Quarter Sessions of the Niagara district, and, in conjunction with two other Commissioners, was empowered to take steps to secure the erection of a courthouse and gaol in the village of Niagara. They advertised for tenders, and among those who applied for the contract was a young carpenter named Absalom Shade. His residence at this time was the town of Buffalo, where he was engaged in following his calling as a builder, but he was a Pennsylvanian by birth, having been born in Wyoming county in that State, in the year 1793. His father was a farmer, and Ab-salom was the youngest son of a numerous family.
There are some men upon whom nature has left such an imprint that once seen they are seldom forgotten. Sometimes we are attracted, at other times repelled, but a man of unusual energy and force of character generally carries some of their insignia about him, and seldom es-capes the notice, and even memory, of close observers.
Absalom Shade was a man of this description. His appearance was striking. He was tall and wiry, straight as an arrow, with regular and sharp features-more par-ticularly the nose-the whole face being lit up with the sharpest of bluish-grey eyes; in short, he possessed a temperament and formation of body and head rarely disassociated with mental and physical strength and acuteness. He was then in the full flush of early manhood, and looked every inch of him the typical "live" Yankee, minus the dyspepsia, slang, and tobacco.
Young Shade failed to get the court-house contract, but it proved a fortunate failure. The chief Commissioner, Mr. Dickson, whose mind was then full of schemes for the opening up of his Indian lands, was so attracted by the appearance and enterprising spirit of the young contractor, that he determined to make an effort to in-duce him to expatriate himself to the wilderness of Dumfries, in the hope of carving out a fortune as settlement advanced.
The only settlement in the neighbourhood of Dumfries at that early period, was in the adjoining Township of Waterloo. Some years, previously a few families had come in from the State of Pennsylvania. Amongst the earliest of these were, Messrs. Samuel Betzner, Joseph Sherk, the Bechtels, John Bear, Benjamin Rosenberger, the Reicharts, and George Clemens, the two first-named of whom arrived in the summer of 1800. (A correspondent writes us that, " In 1799 Samuel Betzner and Joseph Sherk came from Pennsylvania to Ancaster. In the spring (1800), they came up to Waterloo Township, and settled on the Grand River, opposite Doon. The farm is still in possession of the family. The same year (1800), Christian and John Reichart, and their families, settled near the old toll-bridge. In 1801, seven families were added to the number, George Bechtel, wife and seven children, Abram Bechtel and wife, Jacob Bechtel, wife and four children, Dilman Kinsey, wife and one child, Ben. Rosenber ger, wife and four children, John Bear and family, and George Clemens, unmarried. These families settled in the neighbourhood of Blair and Preston. In 1802, there came in Jacob Bechtel, first Mennonite preacher, the Sararas, Livergoods, Salyerds, Cornelis, Ruylers, &c., &c.) The foregoing families, with the Shontzs, Bowmans, Erbs, Sararas, Cressmans, and other early Pennsylvanian settlers, must forever remain associated with Waterloo and Wilmot, for they were the Pioneers of these fine townships, and their names have ever been synonymous, except in rare cases, with all that is industrious, honest, and law-abiding. Not a few of these early Pioneers came all the way from Pennsylvania in their own waggons. The trials and difficulties of such an undertaking can only be fully understood by those who were acquainted with the wilds of Upper Canada at that early period. Their first clearances were on the Grand River, opposite where the village of Doon now stands, and in the neighbourhood of the old toll-bridge.
With the exception of the lands settled upon by these Pennsylvania settlers, the entire surrounding country, including the Township of Dumfries, was unbroken forest. A few persons had, indeed, squatted here and there along the banks of the Grand River, but their attention was chiefly given to hunting and trapping. The work of settlement had, consequently, to be begun ab initio. The plan resolved upon by Mr. Dickson was, to found a village at some suitable and convenient point, by the erection of grist and saw-mills, and make this the centre of operations for populating and utilizing his lands. And it was this difficult task, as well as the duty of acting as his general agent, which Mr. Dickson asked young Shade, after a few days acquaintance, to undertake.
Ready for any enterprise which promised success, Shade promptly offered to visit the township and "prospect," in other words to judge for himself. It was consequently arranged that they should make a joint visit of inspec-tion, Mr. Dickson himself knowing very little of the quality of his lands, except what had been learned from published reports, or from the statements of other per-sons. Shortly afterwards, during the month of July, they set out together upon what proved to be an im-portant journey for both of them.
They proceeded westwards by way of the Governor's road, which was the only leading thoroughfare to the western part of the Province in those days. They reached the Grand River, near where the pleasantly situated Town of Paris now stands. Here an Indian guide became necessary. Under this escort they proceeded up the east side of the river by the regular Indian trail, which in many places a single pony and rider had difficulty in making their way along. As they proceeded leisurely northwards, they examined the country from various elevations, and especially the points where streams inter-sected the river, and which promised to be suitable for commencing operations.
Where Galt now stands was then a forest solitude. Huge pines, cedars, and elms, intermingled freely with oaks, and occasionally with beeches and maples, studded the valley and surrounding hills. Close to the river's banks, cedar predominated. This was particularly the case where the waters of Millcreek join the river, the cedar being very dense and the ground swampy for a considerable distance up the former stream.
When the travellers reached this point they dismounted, tied their horses, and Mr. Shade proceeded to examine the creek, sufficient water-power for a grist mill being always borne in mind as a necessity to the embryo vil-lage. Near where Mr. James Scott's planing mill now stands, he encountered a small, dilapidated frame build-ing, the only semblance of civilization to be found. This ruin has sometimes been spoken of mysteriously, and apochryphal stories of an old grey-haired trapper, his mysterious disappearance, and the aversion of the Indians to visit the ruin, especially at the full of the moon, have at times had a fitful and misty currency. Careful inves-tigation, however, has taken the romance out of this promising legend. There is no longer reason to doubt that, years before, one Alexander Miller, of the Niagara district, had bargained with the Indians for several hundred acres of their land, composed of the site of Galt and its immediate neighbourhood. He erected the little frame building, the remains of which were found by Mr. Shade, with a view to do rough gristing, and part of a shaft which remained adjoining the structure, indicated that a rude saw mill was either in operation a short time, or had been contemplated. (It was currently rumoured when the first settlers came in, that the In-dians had, whilst fishing with torch lights on the river, either wilfully or negligently set fire to the woods near the mouth of Mill-creek, and that the proposed or actual saw-mill, and some timber, were in consequence destroyed. There is no reason to doubt that a fire occurred, and in all probability it originated in the manner stated.) The weight of evidence favours the idea that neither of them were ever completed, and that Miller, finding out that his Indian title was worthless, abandoned the enterprise shortly after it was begun.
Passing on from this point, Mr. Shade followed up the stream as far as the present stone bridge at the bead of Main Street, and no doubt was tempted to ascend the adjoining eastern bluff, the better to observe the surrounding landscape.
The natural beauty of Galt and its surroundings, has been much admired, and seldom fails to arrest the atten-tion of strangers. It can boast little, perhaps, of the grand, or sublime in Nature, but its scenery may be described, nevertheless, as strikingly picturesque and pleasing. As Mr. Shade surveyed the scene stretched out before him during that July afternoon in 1810, it must have ap-peared infinitely grander than at the present time. The gently-sloping, oval-shaped valley at his feet, the waters of the Grand River (* The Grand river, spanned as it now is by three handsome bridges, with massive stone piers, is one of the most attractive features of the Galt land-scape, the stream itself, as it flows over its rocky bottom, being one of the prettiest in Canada. The beauties of the river have excited the muse of local Poets on various occasions. The following verses from the pen of " Jeanie Bell," a well-known native of Galt but now resident in Scotland, are deemed worth preserving ) passing-like a broad band of silver - straight through its centre, the graceful hills encircling around, and the luxuriant profusion of summer foliage rising from the centre, tier above tier, until the highest peaks of the sombre pines upon the bluffs were reached -these peculiarities of the landscape, so suggestive of a vast natural amphitheater, must have made up a striking and beautiful picture. It must have looked like an immense Colisseum in leaves
Shade evidently lingered over the scene, for, before he returned to Mr. Dickson and the guide, they began to wonder, and even to express some concern, at his prolonged absence. The emphasis with which he declared, however, that this was the place suitable above all others he had yet seen for a village, soon put his companion in good humour, but the practical difficulties in the way of their enterprise were too many to induce fanciful pictures of the future, even if the gentlemen had been more poetic and less matter of fact than they were.
They were soon mounted and on their way again, following the Indian trail up the same side of the river. As sunset drew near, they sighted a clearing about three miles up the stream, the curling smoke arising from which gave them a thrill of pleasure. It indicated the existence of some human habitation, however humble, and helped to solve what was fast becoming a perplexing question-how they were going to find shelter for the night.
After some difficulty they succeeded in fording the river, when they found the clearance belonged to an adventurous settler named Nathaniel Dodge , a Pennsylvanian by birth, who had located on the flats forming part of what is now known as Cruickston Park. He heartily welcomed them, and "old Dodge," as he was long afterwards called, found in future years that he had lost nothing by keeping the tired travellers, and treating them to the best of the humble fare which he possessed.
The next day they returned to the junction of Millcreek with the river, and reexamined the location. Their first impressions were strengthened, more especially after ascertaining the water-power which could be obtained from the river, with a moderate outlay of capital and skill. Both felt satisfied that the selection would be a good one, but Shade desired to prospect further, and so they parted for a few days at this point, Mr. Dickson to make his way as best he could to Flamboro' by what was known as the Dutch trail, and his companion to visit the more eastern and western parts of the township.
Shade first struck out in the direction of what is now the pretty Village of St. George, and from thence south-west until he reached the Grand River again. This he followed until a small tavern and ferry were sighted in the neighbourhood of what is now the City of Brantford. Assisted still by a guide, he next proceeded through the woods to Smith's creek, in the neighbourhood of Ayr - which was the westerly limit of Mr. Dickson's lands-ex-amining the country as much as possible as he went along. After satisfying himself as to its character, he determined, aided by his compass, to take a straight course eastwards to the river, hoping to come out opposite Millcreek, more than ever satisfied with his first impressions of this particular locality.
At sundown the river was sighted, but three miles farther down than was expected. Shelter was obtained for the night in a solitary little log shanty, on the east-side of the stream, traces of which could be seen on the Campbell farm, near the road-side, until a few years ago. The occupants were one Ephraim Munson and his wife. They had sailed down the river from Waterloo in a boat some time before, and, attracted by the fine spring entering the river at this point, determined to erect a shanty and locate. They had very little to offer their unexpected visitors for supper but seine suckers which Munson had caught during the afternoon. These fish were, however, fresh and abundant, and Mr. Shade frequently declared afterwards that he had seldom relished anything better in his life.
Taking a last look at the site of the proposed village, Shade rejoined Mr. Dickson at Flamboro', fully prepared to make the venture pressed upon him. Satisfac-tory terms were soon, agreed upon between them, and after visiting Niagara and Buffalo, and making as com-plete arrangements as were possible under the circumstances, Absalom Shade returned to make his home in the wilderness, (When Mr. Shade made this venture, he possessed only $100 and a chest of carpenter's tools. At least, such was the common report throughout the settlement for many years afterwards.) and begin what was destined to become an important town, in the centre of one of the richest agri-cultural districts of Ontario. And thus Galt was founded!
Reminiscences of the Early History of Galt and the Settlement of Dumfries in the Province of Ontario, by James Young, 1880 Toronto: Hunter, Rose Pg. 19-28
- [S266] Funeral Card - - Funeral Card Notices of Waterloo County Volume 2.
Died, At Galt, on Saturday, the 15th Instant, at two o'clock, A.M., Absalom Shade, Aged 69 Years. Funeral, On Tuesday, the 18th Instant, at two o'clock, P.M., from his residence to Trinity Church Cemetry [sic]. Galt, 15th March, 1862
- [S313] Census - ON, Waterloo, Galt - 1851, Pg.34.
- [S7] News - ON, Waterloo, Kitchener - Berliner Journal (1859-1917), 20 Mar 1862.
Absolom Schade died 15 Mar 1862 in Galt, 69 yrs old.
- [S1838] Census - ON, Waterloo, Galt - 1861, Galt 1861 Div. 2 Page 32.
- [S9] News - ON, Waterloo, Kitchener - Canada Museum und Allgemeine Zeitung (1835-1840), 4 May 1837:21.
16 Mar 1837 Absalom Shade, Esq, MPP, village of Galt, m. Miss Isabella Jemima Davidson, daughter of James Davidson, Woolwich, late of Aberdeen, Scotland.
- [S1034] Book - City of Cambridge Local, Architectural Conversevation Advisory Committee Local Building Inventory, Report on 41 Beverley Street East, Cambridge - pg 15.
Constructed for Absolam Shade possibly stone walls, converted with siding. Two stories, built about 1851
- [S505] Cemetery - ON, Waterloo, Cambridge - Trinity Anglican (Galt) CC#4497 Internet Link .
Absalom SHADE/ died/ 15th March 1862/ aged 69 years
- [S26] Lower Canada Marriage Bonds (1779-1858), C-6789.
Name of Future Husband: SHADE, Absalon Res: Dumfries Township, Halton County Name of Future Wife: DAVIDSON, Gabella I. Res: Woolwich Township, Halton County Reference: RG 5 B9 Volume: 37 Bond Number: 6689 Date: 1838-03-13