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Oliver Prentice

This information was provided by David Phillips.

by David Phillips - 2018-11-22

Oliver Prentice came to Upper Canada[1] from Rensselaer County, New York, in 1801, with his wife, Lydia Delong, and two children, Dorothea (b. 1797) and Jacob (b. 1799), residing first in the household of Lydia’s father, Jacob Delong. Oliver (b. circa 1773) and Lydia (b. circa 1778) were married on 16 November 1796 at Pittstown, New York. The marriage record appears in a “badly water-stained notebook,” the account book and ledger of Simeon Button, justice of the peace and merchant. Oliver and Lydia had twelve children, four born in the United States and eight in Upper Canada.[2]

On 8 August 1801 the Crown granted Oliver 200 acres of land (Lot 3 in Concession 7) in Markham Township, York County.[3] It is unclear at this writing when Oliver settled his family on this land or exactly how long they stayed, but according to the Berczy Papers, he and his family were living on Lot 3 in 1803 when a census was taken of families in Concessions 2 to 10 of Markham Township. This census lists all family members and includes families that are not part of the German settlement. Oliver Prentis (29), Lydia (24), their daughter Dorothea (5) and sons Jacob (4) and Hiram (2) appear on the census, with interesting spellings of some names: Olivier, Lidia, and Hieram.[4] Their fourth child, Solomon, who came along 22 February 1804, was most likely born in the township of Markham.

Oliver et ux. (and wife) sold the East ½ of Lot 3 (100 acres) to Benjamin Harrington 13 October 1804.[5] On 19 January 1805 Oliver purchased Lot 31 in Concession B of Etobicoke Township (110 acres) from John Gamble, the original patent holder.[6] Oliver et ux. sold the West ½ of Lot 3 to Martinas Badgerow 21 October 1805[7] and were likely established on Lot 31 well before the birth of their daughter, Sabrah, on 23 February 1806.

Eleven years after Oliver brought his family to Upper Canada, the province was at war with the United States. The War of 1812 began 18 June 1812 when the U.S. went to war with Great Britain and shortly afterwards invaded Upper and Lower Canada. The ensuing conflict lasted two years and eight months, ending 18 February 1815.

In 1813, a Jacob Anderson of the township of York, for all intents and purposes, accused Oliver of treason. Anderson’s deposition, dated 18 August 1813 and sworn before Justice of the Peace Thomas Ridout, asserts “that Oliver Prentiss of the Township of Etobicoke Yeoman sometime in the beginning of last winter endeavoured to persuade the deponent to desert to the Enemy and carry some papers across in him offering him a horse and fifteen dollars to do it and to assist in getting him over.”[8]

In September of the same year, Oliver was charged with high treason by the legislature of Upper Canada for the above offence. His name appears on a list dated at York (Toronto), 29 September 1813, signed by Thomas Ridout, John Strachan, William Allan, and D. Cameron.[9]

As a result of this charge, Oliver moved his family to Ohio, sometime before 1815. His son David was born in Painesville, Geauga County, Ohio, on 2 January 1815.[10]

Moving his family to Ohio was no mean feat, the war notwithstanding. Oliver and his wife, Lydia, who was possibly pregnant with David at the time, would have made the journey with seven of their eight children: Jacob (15), Hiram (13), Solomon (10), Sabrah (8), Hannah (6), Sabrina (4), and Oliver, Jr. (1). Dorothea, the eldest, who wedded Henry Lemars on 19 May 1812 at age 15, would have stayed in Upper Canada with her husband.[11] Oliver’s and Lydia’s tenth child, Alpheus, with a birthdate of 18 May 1817, must also have been born in Ohio.

It would seem that Oliver and family returned to Upper Canada about four years after David's birth. The family does not appear in the Ohio 1820 census index, and in the 1900 Federal Census of the U.S., DuPage County, Illinois, David's younger brother, Benjamin (age 81), states that he was born 23 February 1819 in Canada (Upper Canada at the time).[12] Land Registry records confirm that Oliver's family was back in Upper Canada by the fall of 1818, for certain, once again residing in Etobicoke on Lot 31 in Concession B.[13]

Interestingly, on 14 June 1815 with a Quit Claim deed, Oliver and Lydia sold Lot 31 to Jacob Nill. Then, on 15 June 1815, it seems that they took back a mortgage with Jacob Nill. Further research at the Archives of Ontario is required to sort out what was actually happening here. The mortgage was discharged on 13 October 1818, the same date that Oliver’s son, Jacob, purchased Lot 31 (all 110 acres) from Jacob Nill.

Eleven years later on 19 February 1829 Jacob Prentice sells the W ½ of Lot 31 (50 acres) to his brother Solomon and the E ½ to his mother Lydia. On 22 May 1849 Jacob sells all but 2 acres of the E ½ of Lot 31 to Richard Tibb.[14]

Oliver Prentice, Sr., appears in the 1837 edition of The City of Toronto and the Home District Commercial Directory, as landholder/householder of Lot 31 in Concession B in the township of Etobicoke.[15]

Lydia Prentice, in a letter to her son Benjamin dated Etobicoke 6 February 1841, mentions that “your father is feeling much better at present” and that Oliver, Jr., and his brother Solomon are also in Etobicoke living on Lot 31 with her and Oliver.[16]

Brown’s Toronto City and Home District Directory, 1846-7 lists Lydia Prentice as landholder/householder of the same lot in Etobicoke.[17] Presumably, Oliver died sometime after 6 February 1841 and before the publication of this directory in 1846.

Lydia Prentice likely died before 1851. She does not appear in the 1851 census of Canada West. At this writing it seems that she may have died as early as the spring of 1849, at about age 70, sometime before 22 May 1849, the date her eldest son, Jacob, sold her property in Etobicoke, the East ½ of Lot 31 in Concession B.


1. An act of the British parliament created the Province of Upper Canada effective 26 December 1791, and it existed as such until it became Canada West on 11 February 1841, which became the Province of Ontario in the Dominion of Canada on 1 July 1867.

2. Linus Joseph Dewald, Jr., ed., “Oliver Prentice of Pittstown, NY,” summer 2001; revised 13 Oct. 2016, prenticenet.com, accessed 3 July 2018, entry 1. Oliver [1] Prentice; entry 2. Jacob Prentice; entry 2.5 Benjamin Prentice. See also: The Account Book and Ledger of Simeon Button, Justice of the Peace, Marriages, available on the website of the Pittstown Historical Society, pittstown.us, entry for Prentiss, Oliver.

3. Oliver Prentis patent, 8 August 1801, Land Patent Book HB, Folio 255, Home District, 1803-1805, RG 53-1, Archives of Ontario, Toronto, microfilm MS 5787.

4. Isabel Champion, ed., Markham 1793-1900, Appendix C, Berczy’s census of Markham settlers, 1803 (Markham, Ontario: Markham Historical Society, 1979), p.327.

5. Land Registry Office, Abstract/Parcel Register Book, Markham, Book 128, Con. 7, Lot 3, available online at www.onland.ca, accessed 5 July 2018.

6. Ibid. Etobicoke, Book 1683, Con. B, Lot 31, available online at www.onland.ca, accessed 7 July 2018.

7. See note 5.

8. “Information of Jacob Anderson against John Chilson, Oliver Prentiss, Jacob Clock & Edward Philips,” 18 August 1813, pp. 6589-6592, volume 16, Upper Canada Sundries, Library and Archives Canada, microfilm C-4508, digital version of this microfilm available at Heritage Canadiana, as Upper Canada Sundries, microfilm C-4508 image 399, heritage.canadiana.ca.

9. "Oliver Prentice charged with endeavouring to persuade one of his neighbours to desert & carry intelligence to the enemy. No. 33," 29 September 1813, Information on Disaffection, pp. 6674-6679, volume 16, Civil Secretary’s Correspondence for Upper Canada RG 5 A1, Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-4508, digital version of this microfilm available at Heritage Canadiana, as Upper Canada Sundries, microfilm C-4508 image 483, heritage.canadiana.ca.

10. See note 2.

11. “Marriage Register, 1800-1835,” Cathedral Church of St. James Fonds, Archives of the Diocese of Toronto, Anglican Church of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The wedding of Dorothea and Henry would have taken place in the original church, a plain frame building, built with the help of the garrison at York. This first “church at York” was in use by 1807 and construction was completed within the next two years. The church was used as a hospital during the War of 1812. It was dedicated to St. James in 1828. In 1833 the wooden church was taken down and a neo-classical stone church built. In January of 1839, the stone church burned; in August, Reverend John Strachan was consecrated the first Bishop of Toronto; in December, St. James became a cathedral church (seat of the bishop).

12. See note 2.

13. Land Registry Office, Abstract/Parcel Register Book, Etobicoke, Book 1683, Con. B, Lot 31, available online at www.onland.ca, accessed 7 July 2018.

14. Ibid.

15. George Walton, The City of Toronto and the Home District Commercial Directory and Register with Almanack and Calendar for 1837, Part II: Townships of the Home District, Etobicoke, p. 79, reprinted (Toronto, Ontario: Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, 1987), entry for Prentice, Oliver, Con. B, Lot 31.

16. Lydia Prentice letter, 6 February 1841, to son Benjamin, among Prentice documents held in the private collection of Beverly (Keefer) Dow.

17. Brown's Toronto City and Home District Directory. 1846-7, Part III: The Home District Directory, Etobicoke, p. 27 (Toronto, Canada West: George Brown, 1846), entry for Prentice, Lydia, Lot 31, Con. b.

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