WILLISON FAMILY VIGNETTES

Introduction

The intent here is to give the reader a sense of the family. My mother's family were Canadian luminaries and I have included some of Sir William Johnson's ancestral background. The O'Neills intermarried with my father's Welsh ancestor Princess Nesta's relatives, and their were many intermarriages with the Scots, so the Mackenzie and Willison lines overlap. I use the term grandparent below and throughout this site to indicate a direct blood relationship, rather than a separation of only two generations. This data is intended for my family and I have deliberately aimed at their parochial interest, rather than general academic, or historical interests. The kings of Ireland reach back to at least 1200 BC and various of our lines reach back that far, but I have limited ancestral claims to people with direct pedigrees - not missing any generational links.

Grianan of Aileach

 

Aed Findliath macNeill Caille, King of Ireland & Ailech. Aed (White Hair) was born c833 and married Princess Mael Muire, daughter of Kenneth MacAlpin, King of Scots. Evidently Aed was a warrior king. A great victory was gained by Aedh, son of Niall, in 854 over the Gall Gaeidheala, in Gleann Fhoichle, where he made a slaughter of them. The plundering and devastation of Meath by Aedh Finnliath, the son of Niall Caille in 859. Aedh Finnliath, son of Niall Caille, and Flann, son of Conang, went with the lord of the foreigners to plunder Meath, and committed great depredations there in 860. Aed acceded to the kingdom of Ireland as Ard Ri (High King) the 168th monarch of Ireland, in 862. Mael Muire is also related to us through Edith Matilda, who married Henry I, of England, and David I, of Scots and the Huntingdons. Aed Findliath is also an uncle. and some of his descendents married FitzGeralds. You will notice that he was both king of Ireland and Ailech. Ailech/Aileach was a kingdom in the north-west of Ireland. Donegal, the location of the circular stone-age fortress (or Grianán), was the seat of those Ailech kings. The fortress was an historical centre of culture and politics during the rule of early Irish chieftains (c 80.-1200 AD).[1]

 

 

O'Neill Arms

 

Art O'Neill, King of Ulster, Prince of Tyrone. Art was king during 1509-1514 and he was assisted in holding his territory of the Fews against the English by 'his cousin king Conn Mor O'Neill' in 1487. His grandson Henry O'Neill, Lord of the Fews was living in 1563; Henry married Joan, widow of Ferdorcha O'Neill, 1st Baron of Dungannon, and mother of the Great Red Hugh, daughter of Cuconnaght Maguire, dynast of Fermanagh and by her had a son Turlough (or Terence) O'Neill, Lord of the Fews. Turlough was succeeded by his son Henry of the Fews who left issue (with a younger son Shane - or John), father of Thomas 'Johnson" (John's son) from whom the Johnson baronets of New York claim descent. The O'Neill kings were the mainstay rulers of Ireland and their pedigree extends back to c400AD. Not to be outdone by the Mackenzies, the O'Neills appear to have identified their descent from Adam and Eve: more reasonably, the O'Neills claim a migration from Spain. Much of the Irish aristocracy later fled English depradations in Ireland (the Flight of the Wild Geese) to soldier in France and Spain.

Catherine Weisenberg. The first of Sir William's unmarried wives, she was a very good-looking German peasant girl, who had emigrated to America from the German Palatinate. Two Phillips brothers bought her for £5 as an indentured slave at the New York wharf. She was sold to Johnson in 1739, who had her run his household and by whom he fathered three children. We descend from the eldest, Ann, who was called Nancy. Catherine's children were baptised under her own name and despite Johnson's later attempts to legitimise them by suggesting there had been a marriage, it is accepted that there was no marriage. Catherine wore an Indian ring however, made of gold and containing an Indian-mined diamond and human hair. This ring must have been given by Johnson and it has been handed down through our senior female line (Indian societies were often matriarchal) and was with cousin Nina Elmsley when last identified. The younger woman, the Indian Molly Brant, supplanted Catherine, although the two lived in Johnson Hall simultaneously! Molly outlived Catherine by 37 years and retired to Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Sir William’s January 1774 Last Will refers to Catherine as ‘my beloved wife’ and he requested that she be reburied with him in his Johnstown crypt. (This was not done and Johnson's own body was later moved from the crypt after his adjacent church burned, and his body was itself reburied.) However, King George III did accept Catherine's eldest son John as the succeeding Baronet. Sir John was actively involved in British military command during the American Revolution and his successors were active in the early Lower Canadian Legislatures and debates on the future of The Canadas. Sir John's descendants now live in Montréal.

Catherine Claude Wilks. Catherine married a Toronto Haywood who was also killed in WWII and she later re-married to Garth Thompson a Toronto stockbroker and legally adopted her parentless niece Toni Willison. ‘Auntie’ Cay, who was my Godmother, lived near her former 20,000-acre estate called Langdon Hall. When Cay became engaged to Garth Thompson, we attended a tremendous party there. Toni and I were then still children and became bored early and explored the house. In the attic, she showed me the 23 different bells for servants (each having a different sound to be memorised). Langdon Astor had built an enormous home! Granny Wilks presided over meals and servants served quietly on an ocean of silver and white. Amongst other amusements, Toni and I used to ‘ride’ a great Dane at Langdon Hall, which was fitted out with a small saddle! Cay and her husband Garth sold the place and helped the new owner (who has refurbished it into a hotel) by lending many family paintings for character. The original sundial marble stand is still in the garden, sadly unrecognised and used to show off flower baskets.

Charles Arckoll Boulton, Senator, Major. Charles exploited his family position. He purchased a commission, hired a bagpiper, recruited 20 men and joined the 100th Prince of Wales Royal Canadian Regiment. After 10 years in Britain, Gibraltar, and Malta, he left the British army and in 1869 headed for the Canadian 'Northwest'. He participated in both the Mètis and Riel Rebellions and wrote a book about his exploits.[2] He was in a Canadian survey party, which upset the Métis and caused Louis Riel to occupy Fort Garry (now Winnipeg). Boulton helped organise the settlers and later raised and commanded Boulton's Scouts in the 1884 Rebellion. He married Augusta Latter in February, took the new railway to Fort Garry and helped Major General Middleton crush the Métis at Batoche in 1885. He was a Member of Parliament for Marquette and was appointed Senator in 1889. At one point in 1870, events became dramtic and Boulton was captured and tried by Riel's court - although Riel later pardoned him.

'About a quarter-of-an-hour after I was placed in my room, a guard came in and put handcuffs and chains on my legs. I was given an old buffalo robe to lie down on and a pitcher of water and a piece of pemmican were placed by my side. Shortly after this I heard the door open and Riel looked in. Without entering, he said, "Major Boulton, you prepare to die to-morrow at twelve o'clock." I answered, "Very well," and he retired. I was now left to my cogitations, which were not of the most pleasant description.'[3]

Christopher Aylmer, 1st Baronet Aylmer of Balrath. Sir Christopher came from a well connected naval family and lived at Balrath in Ireland. He was created baronet in 1662, during the Civil War and his estates were briefly seized. His son ,Admiral Matthew Aylmer, was a successful naval man and was created Lord Aylmer.

Colin Campbell

 

Colin Campbell, GCB, KCB, Field Marshall, 1st Baron Clyde. Lord Clyde married Mary Johnson, grand daughter of Sir William and had two children Jane and General Sir Guy Campbell. Through Jane, he was grandfather of Margaret Nielina Fortye. Lord Clyde was born at Glasgow, Scotland as Colin MacIver, but changed his name to follow his uncle into the army. He joined the 9th Regiment of Foot (now the Royal Norfolk Regiment) and fought in every campaign of his time. Lord Clyde served as a Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, but was peerless as a leader in the Crimea, where he commanded the Thin Red Line at Balaclava and the Highland Brigade. It was this man who brought the Relief of Lucknow. He fought in Portugal, China, Pakistan, the Crimea, India, and served in Canada. He finished his career and gained his barony by relieving Lucknow, when it was besieged in 1858, during the Indian Mutiny. The Mackenzie Seaforth's fought under him in at Balaclava in the Crimea and at Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny.

Daniel Claus, Lieutenant Colonel, Deputy Superintendent of Northern Indian Department. Daniel Claus was born in Wurtemburg, Germany and then emigrated to New York. He acted as Sir William Johnson’s aide and foreman in Indian and military affairs. He served in the 60th Regiment (Royal Americans) as a captain. He worked for the Indian Department without pay during the Revolution, when the commission was held by Guy Johnson. Guy Carleton commissioned Daniel and he accompanied Colonel Barry St Leger's 1777 ill-fated Oriskany expedition against Fort Stanwix, where Claus saw some hard, close-fighting. Claus gave his opinion that failure resulted from the lack of siege artillery to deal with the re-furbished fort. He married Sir William’s daughter Ann, called Nancy and wrote a history of Joseph Brant in 1778. (The portrait is in the National Archives of Canada)

D'Arcy Boulton the Elder, of the Grange, The Honourable. D’Arcy was admitted to the English High Court in 1784 and was appointed a Judge in Upper Canada in 1803. His family were charter members of the 'Family Compact' in Upper Canada and continued class privileges in Canada. He built an estate, called The Grange, at York, now Toronto. He was appointed first Solicitor General for Upper Canada in 1805. While sailing to England, his ship was fired on by the French and he was wounded, taken prisoner and incarcerated at Verdun. During this time John Beverley Robinson was appointed Acting Attorney General. (Robinson was a former student of Bishop Strachan, the moral leader of the Family Compact.) On Napoleon’s defeat D’Arcy was released and on his return to Canada in 1814, D’Arcy was then made Attorney General. D’Arcy was imprisoned in France during Major General Dearborn's 26 April 1813 American invasion of ‘Muddy’ York. His wife Elizabeth Forster was the York social 'Grande Dame' of her day.

D'Arcy Boulton, the Younger, of the Grange, The Honourable. The eldest son of D'Arcy senior, he was the Auditor-General of Canada and made money selling land. Like three of his brothers he was a lawyer and they controlled Upper Canada and were The Family Compact.

Elizabeth Vivyan Willison. My mother was born into a Victorian family and was a good looking, witty, Toronto debutante and socialite. She was educated to be decorative at private girl’s schools in both Toronto and Switzerland. One of her close life-long pals was Joyce Tedman who was God-mother to my sister Liz. Betty inherited her mother's imagination and she recounted the most marvelous stories. She was always a popular fixture at parties and had a good sense of fun. She coped with WWII, moved to Montréal and New York and then tried to settle with my father Alan in Oakville. For mother, Oakville was pretty close to frontier life. Mother liked to be at the centre of things and loved parties, intrigues, and VIPs. She was fascinated by titles and researched the family relationship to Catherine Weisenberg and Sir William Johnson through the Dickson/Boulton Bible. A lovely ‘Auntie Mame’ a type of sparkling personality she always bubbled and soon outgrew domesticity. After an operation and 10 more brave years she died of cancer in Toronto. She did get to see both her daughters married and her sons established. She had always inspired others, giving life her best shot.

Betty and Penny visited Brock at Ashbury in Ottawa

 

Brock started school young

 

...and Liz started swimming early

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane Atholl Campbell

 

Fortye, Major. He married Jane, daughter of Field Marshall Lord Clyde and was a serving British soldier during the Napoleonic Wars. During the 1801 Battle of the Pyramids, probably after being landed by Lord Nelson, he was wounded and lost an arm. Jane had a daughter, Margaret Nielina Fortye, who married James Boulton and one of their son was named Frederick Campbell Melfort: I believe that Melfort was a family home of the Fortye's and that Jane lived there as a Campbell daughter. My aunt, Birch Hotz, has visited rhe Campbells at Melfort and they are quite proud of their Campbell ancestors. My suspicion is that these Scots will have descended from Jane's unidentified siblings. (The small portrait of Jane Campbell is at my Aunt, Birch Hotz home, near Frederick, Maryland.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colonel Guy Johnson

 

Guy Johnson, Colonel, Superintendent of Northern Indian Department. Sir William Johnson's nephew was also married to Mary, the youngest of Sir William's three children by Catherine Weisenberg. Guy was born to Sir William's younger brother Peter in Ireland and was trained in the army. He became a Colonel in the New York militia and a member of the New York Assembly. Sir John Johnson, Daniel Claus, and Guy each commanded a New York Tryon County loyalist regiment during the American Revolution. Guy and his two brothers-in-law were driven from New York into Canada. Guy's talent was as a diplomat and he became the Superintendent of The Northern Indian Department during the Revolution gaining allegiance from the Iroquois in 1775. Guy actively worked to support the Indians throughout the Revolution. (This picture hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.)

Henry Boulton, CP, Esquire of Moulton. This Henry Boulton of Moulton began a family legal tradition; he was a commissioner of peace (a Justice of the Peace today in Canada) for the counties of Rutland and Lincoln and a member of the ‘Green Cloth’. This Henry Boulton had difficulty with wives and his third wife was Mary, daughter of D’Arcy Preston, of Askham in nearby Yorkshire. They had three sons: Henry who inherited Moulton, George who became the Anglican rector at Oxenden in Northamptonshire and D’Arcy who became a Judge in Upper Canada.

Henry Boulton, Esquire of Moulton. He was Henry of Stixwold’s eldest son and he married his cousin Alice Bolton and by her acquired her family’s large Moulton estate in Lincoln. Their eldest son was also a Henry.

Henry Boulton, Esquire. Henry was born in Stixwold, in Lincolnshire about 1595, into a family of property. He married Elizabeth Bryan of the powerful home area of Henry of Bolingbroke, in Lincolnshire.

Henry John Boulton, The Honourable. Son of D'Arcy the Elder, he demonstrated the breadth of Boulton influence, as he was both Attorney General of Canada and Chief Justice of Newfoundland. He made considerable money out of his social position and his wife Elizabeth Jones set York standards in their 'Holland House'.

James Harold Elmsley, Major General, CB, CMG, DSO. He was shot through the heart and declared dead in the Boer War, at Lilliefontein in South Africa, on 7 November, 1900. While being carried to the rear on a caisson he revived and he lived another 60 years. He was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Dragoons, serving in South Africa, Europe and Canada. After commanding 8 Canadian Infantry Brigade on the WWI Western Front, he served as the Canadian Army Adjudant General, in 1921-1923. But he earned his spurs in 1918-1919 as the Canadian Commander of an Expeditionary Force to Siberia. He made his headquarters at Vladivostok and in a complicated arrangement with Britain, he commanded 16 Canadian Infantry Brigade. It had: four infantry battalions (two British); supporting cavalry - B Squadron of the Royal North West Mounted Police (now renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police); a field artillery battery; and seven minor units. He also dealt with the Russian Kolchak regime, initiating a Canadian ‘honest broker’ role and contended with a war! A relative by marriage, he was a real war hero and was awarded British, Belgian, Czechoslovakian, and Japanese decorations.

John Claus, Captain. Like his father (William) and grandfather (Daniel). John joined the British army and then he became a member of the 1st Lincoln Regiment in Ontario and was a brother officer with both Robert and Walter Dickson. Captain Claus was promoted in 1825 and transferred to the infantry in 1829. Robert and Walter Dickson followed John sequentially through promotions.

John Johnson, Major General, KCB, 2nd Baronet of New York. Sir John fought for the monarchy and led the Loyalists of New York. His father had exceptionally arranged that John was knighted, while Sir William was alive to ensure his recognition and succession. Sir John organised several New York, and later Montréal militia regiments, and carried the fight until the Battle of Johnstown on 25 October 1781. All Loyalist property had been siezed on 22 October 1779 and Sir John had moved his family to Kingston and then Montréal for safety.

Sir John Willison's Memorial plaque at Goderich

 

Great Grandchildren

Toni Willison, Peter Mackenzie, George Hotz in Oakville, 1942

 
       

Willisons in Toronto

 

 

Lady Rachel Willison

 

 

John Steven Willison, KB, LLD. Sir John was born in 1856 in Hills Green, in Huron County north west of Toronto to immigrant English parents. Sir John married Rachel Wood Turner in June 1885 in her hometown of Tiverton, Ontario. He taught himself the art of writing and critical journalism. In 1900 he was elected president of the Canadian Press Association and became a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He was awarded an honourary LLD degree from Queen's University. He joined the Board of Trustees of Queen's University and later was a Governor of both the Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto. He worked as an editor of the Globe and then the News. He was friends with Canadian Prime Ministers Laurier, Borden, and Mackenzie-King.

He was knighted by King George V on 1 January 1913, for his political analysis and reportring and journalism and for establishing the Toronto Globe (later the Globe and Mail) as a serious national newspaper. I have an engraved copper plate presented to Lady Willison that was made from copper pieces of Nelson’s flagship Victory. Sir John wrote extensively about Canadian politics and was both a liberal and publicist. Rachel (Lady Willison) died in 1925.

Maynooth Castle tower gate

 

Maurice FitzGerald, Baron Lanstephan. Called 'The Invader of Ireland', Maurice was the eldest son of Gerald FitzWalter and Nesta. Maurice landed near Waterford, Ireland with Earl Richard, joining Robert le Gros and Milo de Cogan, who had arrived in May 1169. Maurice, Robert, and Milo are all our relatives through Princess Nesta, and all three were heroes in the winning of Dublin from the Viking and Irish defenders (Earl Asgall, John the Wode, and King RoryO'Connor). Robert and Milo took the fortress by direct attack; Milo cut up the Vikings who later attacked the fortress; and Maurice led the successful charge against King Rory. King Henry II granted Maurice the Barony of Offaly in Ireland. He married Alicia, daughter of his father’s mentor Arnulf de Montgomery, and he was a senior lieutenant for Richard de Clare, Strongbow, the Earl of Pembroke, who led the subsequent Norman conquest of Ireland. Maurice FitzGerald’s son, Lord Gerald, was created Baron Offaly, and his son William was Baron of Naas. Strongbow granted the manor of Maynooth to Maurice who erected a castle for protection against the native Irish and initiated the FitzGerald line in Ireland. In 1426, John Cam FitzJohn FitzGerald, VI Earl Kildare enlarged and rebuilt the castle, which became the centre of FitzGerald power. In 1229, Maurice's grandson, also called Maurice, was made Lord Justice (Viceroy) of Ireland by King Henry III, and built mediaeval castles at Armagh and Sligo in Ireland. Gerald of Wales noted that the vigorous FitzGeralds were Crusaders and established one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Maurice is related to the Johnsons via marriage through Anarawd Ap Rhodri Mawr, King of Gwynedd.

 

 

 

 

 

The Rock of Cashel

 

Oilioll Oulomm MacMoga Nuadat, King of Munster. Olioll, or Aiill is our grandparent, whose father was Eóghan Mor, a king of Ireland (the Irish termed this distinction 'High King'). Munster is a province in south-west Ireland and Eóghan gave his name to the Eóganachta tribe, which dominated their neighbours as kings. Oilioll was the first king of Munster who died in 234, and in c350 his successors chose the large limestone rock of Cashel as their court. Cashel became the location for a fort and the place where the Munster tribes paid their annual tribute. Cashel was given to the Bishop of Limerick in 1101 and the cathedral dates to the thirteenth century. The name Munster is derived from the Gaelic Goddess, Muman and some kings were also known as the king of Muman.

 

 

 

 

Vice Admiral Sir Peter Warren

 

Peter Warren, Kt, Vice Admiral of the Red. Sir Peter was a Commodore in 1745, when he was appointed to command a fleet intended to attack Fort Louisbourg. He joined Sir William Pepperrell's land forces from Boston, in Casco bay, on 25 April, with four ships, carrying 180 guns. On 1 May the siege was begun and on 18 May, they captured a French man-of-war of 64 guns and 500 men. Warren's fleet was re-enforced by three ships from England and another three from Newfoundland, and, serious breaches were made in the walls. The French surrendered the fortress on 16 June. By the capitulation, about 4,000 agreed not to bear arms against Great Britain during the war. Seventy-six cannon and mortars, and a great quantity of military stores, were also taken. Warren was promoted to rear-admiral, 8 August, 1745 and aided in defeating a French squadron off Cape Finisterre in 1747, capturing the greater part of it, and in the same year was elected to parliament for Westminster. Sir Peter married Susan, eldest daughter of Stephen De Lancey, of New York, and was the owner of a valuable estate in the Mohawk valley, which he placed in charge of his nephew, William, afterward Sir William Johnson, Bt. (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England.)

 

 

Rachael (Birch) Willison. The youngest of her generation of Willisons, she joined her brother Bill in the British military and selected the Royal Air Force. She married George Birchall (a Toronto RAF pilot) who was killed early in WWII, over the North Sea, near Norway. She then met and remarried another pilot, an American, Bob Hotz. They have both been achievers and she has owned her own antique store and managed a museum. George and I were close as children and shared holidays at family homes and in the Georgian Bay, a holiday area off Lake Huron. Neither George, nor cousin Toni, ever met their father, due to Herr Hitler. All the Hotz's live in the United States of America, but they all travel extensively.

George Birchill, Birch married Bob Hotz

 

George (L) sailed around the world and Lee (R) writes

 

Robert Bergman Hotz. During WWII, he flew with General Claire Chenault in China, in the 14th US Air Force, called the Flying Tigers, and wrote about his experiences. Uncle Bob married my Aunt 'Birch', whose husband George Birchill had been killed over the Norweigan Sea. They have four sons: George, Mike, Harry, and Lee. Bob made a world bible of the US magazine Aviation Week, which he joined in 1946 when it was called Aviation News. He changed the magazine name again to Aviation Week and Space Technology and scooped the world press with Paris air show revelations about Soviet aircraft developments. Uncle Bob published U2 spy plane photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba, as well as the first picture of the U-2 itself. Bob was editor of Aviation Week from 1955 until 1979 and he made it the foremost magazine in the military industrial community. A continual achiever, he was a US Government advisor and Bob was appointed by President Reagan as a Commissioner into the US Shuttle Disaster. Bob was unknowingly my model for a career in intelligence as he was always embarked on secret, exciting missions.

Robert Hamilton Dickson, Assistant Superintendent of Northern Indian Department. This was in the Michigan Territory in 1813 to 1815. He probably began his career at Kingston and was in the shipping trade with Queenston. In 1812, Robert was a diplomat and fighter, who raised a force of colonials and Indians and was critical to the seizure of the strategic US Island of Mackinac at the mouth of the Lake of Superior. This red-haired fur trader Robert (called Mascotapah by the Indians) and his brother Thomas were Loyalist allies with Brock. Robert's ally in the Michigan and Erie areas was the Indian Chief Tecumseh. The Indians supported Robert against America and diverted US attention to give Brock his chance for success. Robert married To-To-Win, a Sioux Indian, and helped Lord Selkirk found the Red River colony, which was later to become Winnipeg.

Somerled MacGillebride, Lord of The Isles, VIII Thane of Argyll, King of The South Isles. Somerled was born in Scotland during the Viking era. Although he had defeated the Norwegians in battle in Argyll, he was not strong enough to take on Olaf The Red, King of Man and the Isles. Somerled neutralised Olaf by marrying his daughter Regnhilda. In 1154, Olaf was murdered and was replaced by his son, a bully. The locals asked Somerled to help and he defeated the Norwegians, becoming King of the Isles in c1156 by conquest. Although Somerled was killed in a battle with Scotland's Malcolm IV, in 1164, he had broken Viking control in the Isles. Somerled's success against the Vikings enabled Alexander III to win at Largs in 1263 and thus brought prominence to Gerald FitzGerald, I Baron of Kintail. Somerled is considered a Scots' hero and is a direct ancestor of William Johnson through Brian Cathan an Duin O'Neill, King of Ireland.

Thomas de Bolton, Sheriff. Thomas was sheriff of Stixwold in Lincolnshire in the 56th year of Henry III in 1263. A sheriff’s appointment was political and the political issue was then the Crusades. At age nine, King Henry III succeeded his father John who conspired with the nearby Sheriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood saga. Henry lived to 1272 and his son Edward I (Longshanks) was himself crusading when Henry died. It seems probable that Thomas and the Boultons had some Crusade connections. The returning crusaders brought rats and diseases to XIII century England; and the Black Death had lowered the population by approximately 40%, from about 4.5 million to about 2.5 million in 1377. This had a corresponding impact on the merchants, farmers and general economy. Constant fighting for power amongst the nobles would have kept Thomas busy.

Thomas Dickson, Captain. In 1812, Thomas was a militia captain who spied out Major General Van Rensselaer's American positions before the battle of Queenston Heights. Major General Sir Issac Brock commanded in Upper Canada and was killed during the battle. The Monroe doctrine and Henry Clay's fiery speeches urged continental destiny and propelled Americans to invade the lake Erie and Niagara regions.

Turlough O'Neill, Kt, Lord of the Fews. The Fews is a barony in South Armagh, corresponding to Creggan parish. Turlagh MacHenry O'Neill was chief of the Fews at the time of the 1602 Census. Turlagh was half-brother to Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, by his mother. The Pale bordered the Fews to the south in Co. Louth. The English had already encroached on the portion of the Fews that extended into Louth. Hugh O'Neill was to the north and waging war against the English. Turlagh was trying to stay a middle course to keep from being overwhelmed by his stronger neighbors. Turlagh played both sides. He accepted money from the English and fought against them with Hugh. In 1602 Turlagh received an English pardon for his entire clan. This pardon was the reason for the 1602 census of the Fews, to identify the clansmen who were being pardoned. It is the earliest Irish census that is still in existence. Turlough is a direct ancestor of William Johnson.

Vivian Willison, Alf Moore, and Mervin Armstrong watch me perform, c1943

 

Vivian, Alice Boulton. Granny was brought up in a stern family to excel and she became rebellious. She was bright and energetic and after running away from home to join a ballet company she was put in a nunnery. She was a powerful matriarch, of the Grande Dame tradition. Her family was Toronto society and she knew everyone and introduced me to cousins and relatives. The epitome of a provincial Victorian lady, she married off her children in the best débutante traditions. She herself grew up in a smaller Toronto and confused me by referring to places as in the country that were actually ‘down town’. Proud of her elite Toronto family she tried to maintain a disappearing Victorian lifestyle. She told me that she was born at the Grange. Imperious by nature, she was a member of the Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire. Her credo was 'We'll teach them tolerance, if we have to beat it into them!' Her advice was 'Do anything, but be the best'. She died in Toronto of diabetes and stroke.

Walter Hamilton Dickson, Honourable, Senator. Walter was William's son; he married Augusta, daughter of Catherine Claus and Captain Benjamin Geal of the Irish Regiment, who fought in the War of 1812. A captain in the 1st Lincoln Regiment himself, Walter retired from the army in 1839. Walter was a lawyer and Member of the Upper Canada Legislative Assembly in 1844-1852. In 1855 he was appointed a life member of the Legislative Council and in 1867 to the Dominion Senate of Canada. Walter was a significant political force, allied with the Boultons, in the dealings between Upper and Lower Canada leading to Confederation.

 

 

 

 

Walter Willison was a WWI War Correspondent

 

Walter Abraham Willison. My grandfather was a Toronto Globe and Mail WWI war correspondent. He and his twin William were schooled at Upper Canada College and Granny Willison (Vivyan Boulton) told me they fought against one another for a College boxing title. I have my mother’s scrapbook, filled with his articles and newspaper pictures - often of her as a debutante. He held his family together in the face of his wife’s intemperate outbursts. I have a single recollection of him at his Toronto home and my assessment is that he was a quiet, good Briton and a professional journalist.

William Archibald Willison. Uncle Bill was a tall good-looking man, who also went to Upper Canada College. Bill then joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police until he moved to London on his honeymoon just prior to WWII. He married Marion (Winkie to the family, because of a nervous tritch) Wilks, an Astor-fortune heiress, fathered Toni, and joined the British infantry. Bill trained with the elite Scots Guards for the pre-empted WWII army commando invasion to aid the Norwegian resistance. Posted to the Royal Norfolk Regiment, he was sent to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. In May 1940, Second Lieutenant William Archibald Willison, # 121561, was a platoon commander in the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolks, and like other units they were pressed into the Dunkirk pocket, being organised by the BEF Commander General Lord Gort. The Norfolks were part of the BEF 4th Infantry Brigade, of the 2nd Division, commanded by Major General Lloyd. Unlike most of the other units they were ordered to create and defend an outer perimeter in the flat dunes on the northeast side of the town to help allow their comrades time to escape. The sea evacuation began on 26 May, with the men wading out to the 800 little boats. Happily, Hitler denied his army commander, Captain General Heinz Guderian (a panzer blitzkrieg expert), authority to attack until 338,226 British and French troops had been saved. Sadly, Uncle Bill was killed defending his platoon area on 27 May 1940. He died a hero: but there is a story, which went unknown until my cousin Lee Hotz investigated - see a following page. Bill's name is on the British Commonwealth War Graves Commission monument (on column 43 to the right-rear of the monument). Somewhat disconcertingly, in her last years his mother (my Granny Willison) called me "Bill".

 

 

Bill Willison rode in the RCMP

All Astors ride

Marion Wilks lived in a 20,000 acre estate called Langdon Hall at Blair, Ontario near Galt and riding was necessary

       

Marion taught Toni

Toni still rides in a French Hunt

Toni taught me to ride in Oakville

William Claus, Colonel, Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Grandson of Sir William Johnson he emigrated to Canada with his father Daniel to follow Johnson’s loyalties. William married Catherine Jordon and joined the British Colonial Indian Department. He worked with both Tecumseh and Robert Dickson and commanded the garrison at Fort George on the Niagara River in Newark. On 27 May, 1813 he followed Brigadier John Vincent's order to pull down the flag and blow up the Fort George magazine in the face of the American invasion by Major General Dearborn. William’s granddaughter married Walter Hamilton Dickson c1833. Colonel Daniel Claus and Ann (Nancy) Johnson were married at Johnson’s mansion and emigrated to Canada with Molly Brant after Sir William Johnson died. Like Sir William,Daniel Claus worked with and knew the Indians. They trusted him as they did his mentor Sir William; and Claus made a career out of balancing their interests in the Indian Service. These Clauses were the first of a series of military Claus families dedicated to supporting the British Empire. The Clauses were central to the later War of 1812, when Colonel William Claus acted at Fort George and with the Indian Tecumseh. Captain John Claus was called up during the Fenian raids of the 1860s.

William was a POW

 

William Dickson, The Honourable. The eldest of three brothers (with Thomas and Robert) was William, a lawyer. The Dickson family was probably connected with Scots border raids and a Thomas Dickson is mentioned at Wittoun, Scotland in the 1500s. The Dicksons noted here were born and well educated in Dumfriesshire, Scotland and left the post-Culloden Scottish upheavals emigrating to Canada in 1785. William was a member of the Upper Canada Legislature. During the War of 1812, William defended the Niagara home front and was taken prisoner when the Americans attacked Fort George in June 1813. They sacked and burned the capital of Upper Canada, Newark (now called Niagara-on-the-lake), in December 1813 and this led to the reprisal burning of Washington. William's wife Charlotte was hauled out of her home on her sickbed mattress into the snow and forced to watch her home and the largest library in Canada burn. (This first burning was a reprisal for William's killing the American William Weekes in the last legal duel on the continent.) As a prisoner of war, although ill, William made imperious demands (‘better wine, more service’, etc) and was eventually released. He resettled in Niagara-on-the-Lake and called his home ‘Woodlawn’, after which my mother named our Oakville home. His portrait was in our Oakville home. William's eldest son had large estates at Galt and was thus a peer of my cousin Toni's ancestor Colonel Walter Langdon, who married John Jacob Astor’s daughter, Dorothea. Langdon settled in Southern Ontario. Dickson is the second named in the 1813 Prisoners of War list below. (Sir William's portrait is now with my aunt, Birch Hotz, in Frederick, Maryland.)

William H Draper, The Honourable, CB Upper Canada Chief Justice in 1850s. When his daughter's husband, William George Dickson, died Draper adopted the two two children Emma Augusta and Casimir to ensure they could be raised properly, without stress to his daughter Emma Georgina. Emma Augusta was my great grandmother.

William Henry Boulton, Member of Parliament, The Honourable. William was the grandson of D’Arcy the Elder and one of the two Boulton mayors of Toronto in his generation. He was also a long-time Canadian Member of the Parliament in Montréal. In 1847, he defended British rule and class privilege against Sir Robert Baldwin. William was defeated in 1848 in Baldwin’s successful reform for Responsible Government. Although an angry mob then burnt the Montréal Parliament in retaliation, William helped shape Confederation and set British values in place.

 

Sir William c1756

 

Sir William helped build America

 

William George Johnson, Major General, Mohawk Baronet, Superintendent of the Northern Indian Department. One of only three American colonial baronets Sir William was "A man of strong character, a colossal pioneer..." He emigrated from Ireland in 1737 to manage the New York property of his uncle, Admiral Sir Peter Warren. He took colonising seriously and is reported to have fathered more than 100 white and Indian children. He owned a half million acres of land in the Mohawk River valley.

He won British, colonial and Indian respect as a fair man. He learned several Indian dialects and was Indian Agent and Crown Superintendent of the Six Nation Indian Confederacy. He built two churches, a courthouse and jail, and three homes all of which are still in use. A trusted, skilled colonial advisor, he was a large, imposing, persuasive man, who thought on his feet. In 1747, Governor Clinton stated that he could only muster about 20 Indians to help protect the colony; but Johnson mustered 1,000 French Indians while supplying Fort Oswego.

First commissioned as a British army colonel, on 16 April 1755 he was also appointed a Provincial major general by Governors Shirely and Delancey (Massachusetts and New York).[4] Johnson organised and led an expedition to reduce the French presence at Crown Point at the head of [now] Lake George. He was to have led 5,200 men in what would have required a siege. He was advised by proefssionals he needed 10,000 men, but only received 3,400.[5] (Although promised for May, the 400-man New Hampshire Regiment did not arrive until late August.) He had to scheme to get his colonial troops and, being militia, they felt free to walk off the job. He built Fort Edward for 300 men, with a hospital and sheds for stores, plus a road to the lake to enable his guns to be brought in.

Sir William was a New York Privy Counselor to Sir Danvers Osborn in 1753, but he owed his elevation to a feud between Governor Clinton (1743-1753) and Lt Governor Delancey (1753-55 & 1757-60). Johnson, Clinton’s favourite, was created the Mohawk Baronet (UK) by King George II in November 1755. Johnson had received £10,000 from Major General Braddock (before Braddock was killed at the Battle of Monongahela) to secure the Indians' support. As Commander-in-Chief of the provincial troops Johnson defeated the French Major General Baron von Dieskau on 8 September, 1755. Dieskau had brought about 3,000 men to Crown Point on Lake George and he led about 1,400 against Johnson at the same time Johnson had sent forces groping for the French., Dieskau had thought to attack the new Fort Edward, but the two reconnaissance groups met and the French drove the Colonials back. Von Dieskau pursued the Colonials to log breastwork and gave Johnson's troops time to organise when he ought to have charged straight through. The delay was caused by the French Hurons and Canadian allies who refused to attack the fixed defences.

The French were thus caught between Johnson's breastwork and main force, and a rescue force from Fort Edward to their rear, mobilised at the sound of fighting and which had followed the French. Being immediately wounded Johnson's command passed to his second-in-command, General Lyman from Connecticut. The French lost less than 200 dead, but all of their credibility and momentum with the Indians. A superior organiser Johnson made a decisive contribution to Britain's Seven Year War with France by organising a defence, rallying the Indians and commanding the fire at the Battle of Lake George. Braddock's defeated remnants returned in October. Johnson later fortified Fort William Henry and the French built Fort Ticonderoga at the other end of the Lake. Sir William was called Warraciyagey (he who accomplishes much) by the Mohawks and Iroquois, as he spoke, thought and hunted like an Indian. Both Fort William Henry and Sir William were depicted in James Fenimore Cooper's fictional book The Last of the Mohicans. Sir William later aided Wolfe’s capture of Québec by capturing Fort Niagara by siege in 1759 and simultaneously defeating a combined French-Indian relieving army.

Although he never married by European standards, among Sir William’s assumed wives, the Indian Princess Molly Brant, who kept him young, seems by far to have been his favourite. Sir William had the Bible translated and published in Mohawk and sent many Indian children to school. He was trusted and loved by the Indians and established central conferences (he held one for all the Indians at Fort Stanwix, now Rome) and planning. He founded Rogers' Rangers, organised New York trade, and is personally credited for gaining much of Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee for the Colonies. There is scarcely any act of the time, which he did not influence, from founding King's College in 1754 (now Columbia University) and supporting Dartmouth College, to working closely with George Washington and exchanging letters with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. America would not have developed as it did without him and his interventions. 'He was the darling of his age.'

ENDNOTES

1             http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ailech.

2             Boulton, Charles Arkoll, Reminiscences of the North-West Rebellions. Grip, Toronto, 1886. Online text at http://wsb.datapro.net/rebellions/index.html. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Campbell%2C_1st_Baron_Clyde

3             Ibid.

4             William Hill, Old Fort Edward, p. 68.

5             Ibid, pps. 69, 79.

home · introduction · genealogy · background · maps · bibliography · search · contact