Captain William Francis was born about 1750 and was a member of the Kings American Dragoons during the American Revolution.
He came to Canada as a Loyalist after the revolution, settling first in Nova Scotia, then Upper Canada where he petitioned for land in 1793, receiving 2,000 acres mostly in Woodhouse Township. By the time of the War of 1812 he had sold most of his land in Woodhouse and was living on Lot 20, Concession 1, Walpole Township, now the location of the Selkirk Provincial Park. Francis was murdered at that place in mid October 1814. At that time Walpole and Rainham Townships were still part of Norfolk County.
One of the last acts of the War of 1812 in Norfolk County was the murder of Captain William Francis in retaliation for his part in apprehending and testifying against some of the men who hung at Ancaster as a result of the Bloody Assize.
North Erie Shore Historical Society is sponsoring a plaque in his memory to be placed at the entrance to Selkirk Provincial Park which now occupies the land he owned where his cabin and buildings stood.
After his death, his son Thomas Francis inherited this land and apparently lived there long enough to marry Electa Waggoner on Sept. 15, 1815 at Long Point and have a child or two.
We are looking for descendants who might be interested in attending the dedication of the plaque on Sunday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. at Selkirk Provincial Park, 151 Wheeler Road.
Thomas received a land grant of Lot 4, Concession 2, Bayham Township in Elgin County, and they moved to New Sarum in 1820. Thomas Francis and Electa had 12 children, and we’ve been able to find 10 (and their spouses), and are hoping through this list someone may be able to discover they are descendant if they don‘t already know.
They are 1. William, born 1817, who married first Matilda Doan, second Ellen Hepburn and third Jessie Davidson; 2. Elizabeth, born 1820, married Hamilton Emery; 3. Foster W., born 1821, married Rebecca Deo; 4. Electa, born 1823, married Calvin Atherton; 5. Jane, born 1825, married George Wilcox; 6. George, born 1827, married first Matilda Jane Woolley and second Elizabeth Wood; 7. Thomas, born 1828, married Lucy Moore; 8. Emily, born 1833, married Adams Robins; 9. Catharine, born 1834, married first Jabez Kitchen and second John R. McKinley; 10. John W., born 1839, married Charlotte Aldritt.
Barbara Roadhouse and Helen Bingleman have been researching the story for 20 years and think it’s noteworthy how three events tie together – The Battle of Nanticoke, The Bloody Assize, and The Murder of Captain Francis. American sympathizers had been plundering the countryside between Sugarloaf and Port Dover, and captured William Francis, taking him along with six of his cattle to Buffalo.
The Norfolk Militia met at Port Dover and decided to march to Nanticoke where the marauders were rendezvousing at the cabin of John Dunham. They did so early in the morning of Oct. 13, 1813 capturing some of the rebels, and others were taken later. The eight men who hung at Burlington Heights on July 20, 1814 as a result of being found guilty at the Bloody Assize were Dayton Lindsay of Sugar Loaf, Benjamin Simmonds of Burford, George Peacock the Younger of Clarence, formerly of Peacock Point, Adam Chrysler of Rainham, Noah Payne Hopkins of Queenston, Isaiah Brink of Fort Erie, John Dunham of Long Point and Aaron Stevens of Niagara.
William Francis had captured Isaiah Brink and testified against him along with Adam Chrysler and Isaac Pettit at the Assizes. His son Thomas testified against some of the men and according to Elizabeth Green Dickson’s deposition would have met the same fate as his father had he been home at the time the Dickson gang came to the house.
Isaac Pettit, Garrett Null and Jacob Overholtser were found guilty but didn’t hang, though they died in gaol of the ague or jail fever. John Dickson was a brother-in-law of Isaac Pettit and it was he who led the gang who would murder William Francis and burn his house with him still in it.
Catherine Hoover Swarts told of going as a young child with her father the next morning to see his charred remains buried under a pine tree on the bank of Spring Creek, just above the house.
Since the Bloody Assize and The Battle of Nanticoke have Provincial Plaques recognizing them, we think it completes the circle to place a plaque in memory of the Murder of Captain Francis, and brings recognition to the area where several of the men who were tried at the Bloody Assize were living at the time of the War of 1812.