Major William Read, United Empire Loyalists – Our People, Our Heritage

Major William Read, United Empire Loyalists and settler in Kitley Township

Major William Read came to America from his native Ireland as a young man and settled on Bison Creek in the Parish of St. George, Queensboro Twp, Province of Georgia. The Reads, Lyles and Russells all had come from Ulster in the northeast part of Ireland (capital city Belfast). Young William Read arrived in Savannah on the ship “Hopewell” in 1769.

There, William, in true pioneer spirit through toil and the sweat of his brow cleared the land and built himself an increasingly prosperous farm. There he also met and married Jennet Russell the daughter of his neighbours David Russell and Jennet Lyle and soon began a family of his own.

When the war broke out in 1777 William, an outspoken young man, identified by the rebels as a danger to their cause, eventually sought refuge in east Florida where his father-in-law David Russell was already in exile. There he joined Colonel Brown’s Florida Rangers and stayed with them until Georgia was taken over by the British army. He served at the siege of Savannah following which he was discharged from the Florida Rangers. He was then commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Georgia Militia and was later granted a captain’s commission by Sir James Wright. He remained in the King’s service until the evacuation of Savannah and then went to St Augustine. During the war he was taken prisoner once and clothing and arms valued at 12 pounds were taken from him. His lands and possessions were confiscated and sold.

Loyalists Arriving in Canada

In 1784 he took his family to the Gut of Canso in Nova Scotia, arriving on the good ship Argo where he attempted to farm for several years. Finding the land too inhospitable, he abandoned his hopes for success there and set off first for Quebec where he applied for land in Hinchinbrook Twp but didn’t stay there long. William Read in response to Governor Simcoe’s proclamation about new lands available in Upper Canada for settlement then moved his family to Leeds County about 1897, first to Yonge Twp, then Elizabethtown Twp, Augusta Twp, Bastard Twp & Kitley Townships. He and his family finally settling in Kitley Township on Lot 27 Con 8 near the village of Frankville.

There William Read built a home for himself and his family from a clearing in the forest and began to prosper once again. He and his wife Agnes (Nancy) Russell (daughter of David Russell and Janette Lyle) eventually had a total of 13 children. The Rev William Bell, a dour Scottish Presbyterian minister, seems to have been quite friendly with William Read as he is referred to a number of times in Rev Bell’s journal.

The Read home was located about halfway between Brockville and Perth so a likely stopping point for travellers. His father-in-law David Russell, who had fought beside William Read in Brown’s Rangers, died of a fever in St Augustine in 1782. In 1783 his widow Janet Lyle returned to Ireland with her five dependent children.

Loyalists Arriving in Upper Canada

As early as 1807 William Read began to gather volunteers for a militia anticipating that there might be future troubles. In 1812 William Read once again found himself taking up arms to defend his country when the War of 1812 broke out serving as second in the 2nd regiment of the Leeds County militia commanded by Colonel Joel Stone.

William Read’s daughter Elizabeth married a gentleman by the name of William Magee in 1822. Their two eldest daughters Euretta and Marinda both married Kirks. The Kirk and Magee families lived in Leeds until the 1840’s when they migrated to the Huron Tract and settled northeast of London along with many other Leeds families. The Kirk family lots became the village of Kirkton in Usborne Twp. Huron County, Ontario. The Magees settled nearby and had 13 children of their own.

After his death in February of 1828, at 79 years of age, William Read was buried on his farm near Frankville in Kitley Twp. Line 8. His life a testament to the indomitable will of the Loyalists who survived the losses and hardships of pioneer life to forge the foundation for a nation.

This story was copied from the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, the information is from Donna Magee UE


Clearing the land for settlement

This story is of interest to us because Major Reid, resided in Kitley Township and is buried in the Montgomery Cemetery. There is no headstone for his grave. His story makes up  part of our history and our heritage. Unfortunately no pictures exist of Major Read.

For information on the Montgomery Cemetery go to our post on Cemeteries in Kitley