* A Short History of Brockville, Ontario’s First Incorporated Town *


An Historical Sight

Brockville was first founded in the spring of 1785 with the arrival at this location of former ensign, William Buell, a 33 year old veteran of the British-American War of 1776-1783, who received a land grant as an United Empire Loyalist, for his service in the one of the British militia units.

William Buell had sold a number of town lots to new arrivals and was able to lay out a town plan by 1802. Soon there were a number of stone buildings erected here, using stone from local quarries. The new settlement may have been known as “Buell’s Bay” by some in those early days.

The government of Upper Canada recognized the important location of this small village in 1808, when they authorized the building of a district court house and gaol and established the administration of local government here for the District of Johnstown.

The new Court House was opened in 1810 and the surrounding open space was developed into what is presently Brockville’s Court House Green, one of the finest urban spaces in Canada.

A new town plan was published in 1811 which showed 26 buildings and a growing population. By that time the government was using the official name of “Elizabethtown” to refer to this village.

The first resident clergyman, the Rev. William Smart, arrived in 1811, and proceeded to establish a congregation of the Presbyterian Church. William Buell gave the land for a new church which was built shortly after on a site just west of the Court House.

The village of Elizabethtown was renamed “Brockville” in the summer of 1812 in honour of General Isaac Brock, who was the military and political leader in the first year of the War of 1812-14, until tragically killed on October 1812 at the Battle of Queenston Heights.

Brockville by 1830 was one of the few villages in the province that sent its own parliamentary representative to the Upper Canada Legislature. Brockville succeeding then in being the first community to be granted self-government with the passing of the Brockville Bill in 1832. ‘Isaac Brock’s Town” was the first to be allowed to elect village councillors, pass local ordinances, and raise money for local improvements by taxing its residents.

A visit to our small city on the St. Lawrence will lead to a discovery of the first Railway Tunnel built in Canada (1860) This tunnel runs under the city itself for a distance of one-third of a mile.

Outside of town is one of the most significant garden cemeteries, the Brockville Cemetery dating back to 1851. River travel was, from the first, important to communications and at one time, eight passenger steamers touched at the Brockville waterfront every day. The Grand Trunk Railway began operations by opening travel to Brockville from Montreal in 1855.

This is where “the past is still present“.




  • Jeff Broadhead  On 3 August 2009 at 9:32 am

    Mr. Grant,

    I very much enjoy viewing the photographs of historic Brockville that you’ve made available online.

    I recently learned that I’m related to the Buells, so a view into their past, particularly in Brockville is fascinating. My great granfather was William Buell Broadhead. His great grandfather was William Buell, Jr.

    One person I’m trying to find more information on is Colonel Elisha Buell. He married Jane Bowser, and they had a daughter, Rachel, who married my great great grandfather, William Howard Broadhead.

    Would you have any suggestions on how I might find out more about Elisha and his daughter, Rachel?

    At some point, I wish to visit Brockville, and it would be terrific if we could meet then.

    Best Regards,

    Jeffrey Howard Broadhead

    • Art Shaw  On 5 December 2009 at 1:11 am

      Jeff B;
      I am also on the trail of Colonel Elisha Buel, but for a different reason. He seems to have been a chairmaker, or maybe just a chair importer, but in either case he is included in my research on chairmakers in Canada. He is known for the paper labels that survive attached his chairs, but I can’t find any documentary evidence of his chair factory that would indicate when it operated or where it was located. There is a reference to him being in Hammond NY at some time, and he and Jane are burried at Brier Hill NY, so his factory might have been on the American side, although his label says “Brockville CW”. I am also looking for the connection between Elisha Buel and Stephen Kilburn, another chairmaker who came to upstate NY about 1828 and went on to Ohio about 1840. The chairs he signed show the same traits as Buel’s.
      He seems to have been still living in Brockville at the time of the 1861 census, which says his occupation is “Proffit” ???
      I would like to correspond with you to share our findings.

      Art Shaw

    • Alan Buell Hobler  On 27 December 2011 at 11:39 pm

      Colonel Elisha Buell was my great great grandfather. His son came out to Vancouver and started a hardware store. I have lots of information on him including pictures of CE Buell. Please email me directly for more information. bushmonkey_bc@hotmail.com. My mom knows about the Broadheads and has pictures of Rachel.

  • Carollyn Andrews  On 23 August 2009 at 12:38 pm

    wonderful, what a treasure

  • wesley turner  On 14 September 2009 at 10:04 am

    Mary B. Fryer tells a story of Brock on his way to Upper Canada stopping in Elizabethtown, hearing about a quarrel between the Buell and Jones families over the name of the village, and after eating a meal in a tavern, Brock suggested his name for the place. Thus, in 1810, Elizabethtown became Brockville. Is there any historical foundation for this story? My request comes out of my reserch on Isaac Brock for a biography that I’m writing. If I use your information, I would give appropriate credit.
    Hope you can help.

    • Gladys Mould  On 22 September 2010 at 6:33 pm

      Hi Doug,
      I noticed a photo of the home called “Waterniche” on Hartley Street in your histories. This was in the Recorder and Times 4 January 1936 giving the obit of Dr. Simeon Stephen Southworth, who with his cousin Mr. Thad William Henry Leavitt took control of the Recorder and Times for a time. Dr. S. S. Southworth was a dentist, whose parents were Mr. Stephen J. Southworth and his wife Diantha Stoddard. Dr. S. S. left Brockville and went to California, where he carried on with Dentistry and had a fruit grove. It states Dr. S. S. Southworth built a resident on Hartley St. called “Waterniche, which was acquired later by Mrs. Thomas Delahaye. I can send on the obit if you require this. Kind regards. Gladys Mould

    • Doug Grant  On 4 December 2010 at 1:22 am

      Sat., 4 DEC 2010


      Sorry to avoid answering your query for so long.

      There is nobody in Brockville that really believes that Gen. Brock ever visited the village of Elizabethtown in the years before his death in 1812.

      It seems like the leading citizens of this village simply decided to start calling it “BROCKVILLE” without any authority from the Upper Canada government.

      Glen Lockwood is convinced that Charles Jones, one of our leading “Family Compact” Tories decided too do this in the Spring and Summer of 1812, mostly by making reference to “Brockville” in his correspondence, and it stuck when Brock was killed in October 1812. It took the provincial assembly a few years to confirm this with a proclamation or a bill.

      I hope your book has not gone to press already.

      Doug Grant

      dmgrant (at) storm (dot) ca


  • Carol Davis  On 6 January 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for putting together this overview of Brockville. Very interesting. The photos are a real help. I have many ancestors from the area, and one of my closest childhood friends is a Buell. I’ll send her a link to your site.

  • Mark D. Franklin  On 27 August 2010 at 6:12 am

    Mr. Grant,
    I am researching my family geneology. I am related to a Thomas Franklin who was married to Ann Gillies and was a sailor on the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes and drowned between 1835 and 1845. Trying to find a list of shipwrecks and crew manifests for that period with no luck. I have found a marriage certificate and a listed place of residence being Brockville. We believe he is the brother of Lewis and Benjamin Franklin buried in Hammond, NY, but are trying to make that connection. His son Archibald Hammond Franklin was born in April 1835 and raised by the Billings Family outside Hammond NY, but later moved to Brockville and raised as many as 9 children, one being my Great Grandfather Archibald Edward Franklin. Any additional information or thoughts on where I can continue research on Thomas and family would be helpful. Sincerely, Mark D. Franklin

    • Doug Grant  On 4 December 2010 at 1:32 am

      Sat. 4 DEC 2010


      Sorry to take so long before replying to your note.

      In the Brockville area, the best source of family history information is the Leeds & Grenville Branch, of the Ontario Genealogical Society. You may have already been in touch with them. Their web site is: http://www.leedsandgrenvillegenealogy.com/

      Otherwise, I don’t believe I have any information to offer you.

      Doug Grant

      dmgrant (at) storm (dot) ca


    • Paul Franklin  On 19 February 2011 at 11:39 am

      Hi Mark,

      I am also looking for my Franklin history from Brockville and maybe there is a connection.

      Please email me at paulfranklin@rogers.com

    • Paul Franklin  On 17 April 2011 at 1:20 pm

      Hi Mark please email me as I am looking for family info that may be what you are looking for.

    • Paul Franklin  On 16 December 2012 at 4:35 pm

      Hi Mark,

      I have a new email please let me know what you have for your Franklin info and I will send you mine.



  • R. Madden  On 7 November 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Hello Mr. Grant,
    I’ve enjoyed your information and photos of Brockville, Ontario. I’m currently searching for information on John Brady and Bridget Cleary Brady. They
    arrived in Brockville around 1848 from Ireland.
    I’ve located the growth of the family from the Census of Canada. I now know names and ages but have no
    information on where they lived in Brockville, who they married etc.
    Any suggestion on where to look for more information?
    Thank you, R. Madden

    • Doug Grant  On 12 November 2010 at 4:42 pm

      To R. Madden:

      The best source of family history in this area is the Leeds & Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. They have been collecting the type of information you are looking for during the last thirty years.
      The web site for the Genalogical Society is:

      The average resident of Brockville in the 1800s is hard to trace in printed documents like city directories and newspapers. Only businesses and politicians seemed to leave a record of their activities.

      I checked the name “BRADY” in the earliest town directory that I have access to. It is dated 1904-05, and I found the following:

      Gertrude A.M. BRADY, teacher Separate School, lives on Abbott St., cor. Beecher.
      Mrs. Michael BRADY, grocer, on Abbott St., cor Beecher St.
      Theodore BRADY, baker at C.H. Buell & Sons, lives on Abbott St., cor. Beecher St.

      I guess that was the only BRADY family living in Brockville in 1903-04.


      Doug Grant

      • Doug Grant  On 4 December 2010 at 1:05 am

        Sat., DEC 4, 2010


        Can you perhaps take a photograph of it with your camera and send me a copy.

        I might be able to identify it. I know about a Birds Eye View of Brockville dated 1874.

        Is your map an original or a copy?

        Doug Grant
        dmgrant (at) storm (dot) ca

  • Pat Moreland  On 13 June 2011 at 9:43 pm

    My husbands family came from England to Brockville and their son Arthur Edward Moreland was born Sept.7 1868 and he married a Minnie Lahyna Holden July 22 1903 Grenville County. She was born 1874 in Merrickville to Charles Holden and Mary Scott.
    Arthur’s parents were Hardwick Moreland and Catherine West Snuggs.
    Daughter Elizabeth Katey born July 7 1871 and Lillian Fanny born Oct. 29 1873. By 1897 they had moved to Ottawa.
    I would love to know were they lived in Brockville and any other information. Thank you.

    • Doug Grant  On 13 September 2011 at 4:29 pm

      Tuesday, SEPT. 13, 2011


      It is hard to look up what street people would have lived on, from this distance in time.

      The earliest town directory I have, is dated 1904, and there is no family named “Moreland” listed in its pages.

      I looked up the 1881 Brockville census listing, and there is no family named “Moreland” on that list.

      Sorry, but I can’t trace any more than that.

      Doug Grant

  • Jonathan Pierce  On 27 June 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Hi! When exactly did it become Brockville? I ask because on February 07, 1813, when Captain Benjamin Forsyth’s Company of Riflemen attacked the town, it was still called Elizabethtown – at least by Americans. My 5th Great Grandfather, John Alexander Pierce, was on picket duty when he was shot by a musket ball fired from a nearby window. He was the only person wounded at the battle. John later lost his right leg. He returned to Surry Co., NC and later moved to Indiana. He died in Charles Town, VA on February 12, 1842 while traveling. Does anyone know who fired the shot? Thanks, Jonathan Pierce.

    • Doug Grant  On 13 September 2011 at 6:38 pm

      Tues. SEPT. 13, 2011


      Elizabethtown was the name of this village during the War of 1812-14, as far as most people knew it. A prominent local citizen, named Charles Jones, may have been the one who mostly promoted a change in name to “Brockville” in the summer of 1812, in his letters and correspondence.

      When Gen. Brock was fatally shot and killed during the Battle of Queenston Heights, the general’s fame and stature was at its height, and the first town to claim re-naming rights was in a favourable position to make it permanent. It still took a number of years before the Assembly of Upper Canada made it official.

      The night of the raid by Captain Forsyth, they crossed the St. Lawrence and invaded a quiet “Elizabethtown”, everyone was sound asleep. If anyone was awake to be shooting at the U.S. raiders, it has not been recorded here.

      One of the invaders did, however, fire at the home of Adiel Sherwood, and the musket ball was found in the paster wall inside. Mrs. Mary Sherwood was alone with her baby girl at the time, and refused to let anyone enter her home, until their officer arrived.

      There were no newspapers in “Brockville” at the time and the story remained only in the memories of those who took part in the non-battle.

      Doug Grant

  • Gary Brady  On 6 July 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Doug,
    I was wondering if you can send me a site on St. Francis Xavier cemetery. My grandparents & great grandparents are buried there.
    Thanks, Gary

  • Campbell D. Cossitt  On 12 October 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I am still looking for any pictures of the family of Newton Cossitt Senior b 1829 his wife Jane Ellen McCarter b 1834 and their four sons. In particular Leonard Randles Cossitt b 1876 and his wife Minnie Elizabeth Colcock b 1875. All are buried in Brockville. You have provided me a profile picture of Leonard Randles in his teens before but I have been unable to make any progress sourcing additional family pictures anywhere todate. Perhaps some of your readers may have ideas where to look. This branch of the Cossitt family were part of the G. M. Cossitt & Brothers Farming Implements manufacturing business from the late 1800’s.
    Thank you in advance for any suggestions you may have.
    Kind regards
    Cam Cossitt

    • Paul  On 20 November 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Can you tell me who Minnie Elizabeth Colcock family was

      • Doug Grant  On 21 November 2014 at 12:21 pm

        I have just looked up the name COLCOCK in a Brockville Directory published in 1905.

        It lists the following under ‘Colcock’:

        Neville B. COLCOCK, salesman, lives 15 Apple St.
        Thomas F. COLCOCK, sexton Baptist Church, residence 15 Apple St.

        Your relative ‘Minnie Elizabeth Colcock’ may be part of this family.

        Do you have any more information?

        Doug Grant

      • Campbell D. Cossitt  On 23 December 2014 at 2:51 pm

        Neville Bentley Colcock (1843 – 1919) among other things was a publisher. He was married to Susan Etwell . There daughter Minnie Elizabeth “Colock” Cossitt 1875 – 1925 was married to Leonard Randles Cossitt 1876 – 1930.
        Leonard was the youngest son of Newton Cossitt senior 1829 – 1911.

  • Rob Simpson  On 19 December 2011 at 11:49 am

    Wow, you have just done a remarkable job of preserving Brockville’s history. I stopped there regularly as a young truck driver going to Montreal, but never knew anything about the area, this has been a wonderful experience.

  • Pat Buell  On 3 February 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Sorry, typing on a phone. Anyways I have my family history on an external hard drive. The reason I happened upon this site is because I was looking for information on Colonel Elisha Buell. I have in my possession a very fancy match holder presented to him by the Lincoln Council on July 9th 1895, I would appreciate any information I can find on this. Thank You

    • Alan  On 4 February 2012 at 2:51 am

      CE Buell was my grandfather’s grandfather. I have some history on him including a story about a fire he lit. I wonder if that is related to the match holder.

      • Jeff Broadhead  On 5 August 2013 at 10:50 pm

        Alan – I’m very interested in any stories regarding CE Buell and his wife, Rachel. Sent you an email, as well (jeffbroadhead@hotmail.com). – thanks, Jeff Broadhead

  • Robert Nowak  On 6 October 2012 at 10:12 am

    Hi, I just acquied an CDV album belonging to Edgar Taylow Who is identirfied in the sblum About 90% of the Cdv Have A.C Mcintyre Brookvill C.W photograper on the baci including some Civil War Officers.Just wante to know if anyone for Ontario Seved in the Civil War ?
    Thansk, Bob

  • Campbell Dynes Cossitt  On 21 November 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Neville Bentley Colcock was my GG Grandfather and among other things was a Publisher. Minnie Elizabeth “Colcock” Cossitt was his daughterarried to Leonard Randles Cossitt son of Newton Cossitt.

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