Sunday, February 02, 2014

52 Ancestors: Jonathan Butler, A Black Man from Pennsylvania

Upper Canada Land Petition
Jonathan Butler

Amy Johnson Crow has a new challenge for geneabloggers called Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Amy challenges genealogists to write about one ancestor once a week. I'm having fun with this and I hope you are too!

Since February is Black History Month I've decided to talk about my black ancestor, Jonathan Butler. It's been a challenging search for Jonathan. Here is what Lorine McGinnis Schulze of Olive Tree Genealogy blog and I have been able to discover:

ca 1808 Jonathan arrives in Upper Canada (present day Ontario), possibly coming directly from Pennsylvania (as per his land petition) Whether he came as an adult or a child with parents is not known.

March 1816. Jonathan is found in Etobicoke (just west of the city of Toronto), possibly leasing land from Col. Samuel Smith (as per Character Certificate). Jonathan was almost probably at least 21 years of age at this time, thus a very rough estimate of his year of birth would be 1795 or earlier.

March 1819. Jonathan is a farmer with 50 acres in Toronto Township (as per his land petition). Toronto Township has the Etobicoke River on its eastern boundary. I believe this is possibly land he leased from Col. Smith.

April 1819. Jonathan is granted 100 acres of land in the Wilberforce Settlement (black settlement area) in Oro Township. (as per Land books) It does not appear he actually settled there (as per Gary French)

ca 1822-1838. 2 sons and 3 daughters are born in this time period. Names are not known (as per Assessment records)

1824. A son Allen is born in Toronto Township to Jonathan and wife Elizabeth Jenkins or Ginkins (as per 1851 adult baptism in Waterloo)

ca 1829 A son Harry aka Henry is born, location unknown

1832. A son George is born in Toronto Township. 

1834, 1837, 1838, 1839, 1840: Jonathan is found with 100 acres in Woolwich Township, Gore District which was part of the Queen's Bush settlement area for blacks. He lives "west of the Grand River" and may be on Lot 88 (as per Assessment Records)

Miscellaneous Details

We find no trace of Jonathan after 1840. It is not known when his wife Elizabeth died and the only record of her is the mention in the 1851 baptism of their son Allen. 


Anonymous said...

I, too, have been tracing this family for many years. I think I have some connections and extensions that might interest you.

Roger Miller

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been tracing this family for many years. I think I have some connections and extensions that might interest you.

Roger Miller

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Roger - I'm interested! Can you contact me at

WOuld like to share info.

Wil Zee said...

Curious if the name john jackson comes up in any research. Wilmot township.

John Raynor said...

From the work that I have been doing on Ancestry Johnathan Butler is my 3rd great grandfather but I have little to go by past that. One thing that I did find was a list of settlers from the Queens Bush settlement and no Butlers appear on that list. see -,+1839-1865&source=bl&ots=8JkXeGM90C&sig=TV-INxL2d17VQunlqI7WWJydJU0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9xe-sm-_YAhVswYMKHcVIB6I4ChDoAQhDMAY#v=onepage&q=The%20Queen's%20Bush%20Settlement%3A%20Black%20Pioneers%2C%201839-1865&f=false

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

John - Jonathan may not be on the list you saw but that does not negate the fact that he IS found in the assessment records I provided in my blog post. He lived just west of the Grand River, near Floradale. We could disagree on whether or not that was part of the Queen's Bush settlement but we can't argue with the fact that he lived in that area :-) However I went to the link you provided and it is only ONE page (some surnames beginning with A)

I searched further and in fact HENRY BUTLER and LEWIS BUTLER both appear on the list of black settlers in the Queen's Bush Settlement. I cannot add the screenshot here but you can click on this link to see the names's%20bush%20petition&f=false

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

John I neglected to add that Henry Butler named above as a black settler, was Jonathan Butler's son.

Please also see my articles on Olive Tree Genealogy Blog Search for BUTLER and BUTLER FAMILY to view all the posts

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Here is reference to our Jonathan Butler in the book you cited

Page 29

John Raynor said...

Thank you for your diligent follow up Lorine. I started this project looking for details on my grandmother, Mary Ellen Butler. I never met her as she died when my mother was about 3 yrs old. Mary Ellen's father tracts back to John Diebolt Butler who tracts back to Jonanthan Alexander Butler and then back to our hard to trace Johnathan Butler. Ironically I live just outside of Midland about 25 km north of the Wilberfore settlement. I also know Gary French fairly well as we served together on the board of the Huronia museum. I'll have to buy The Queen's Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers 1839-1865 and find some time to visit Gary. I am also involved in archaeology and hope to get someone up here to talk about the Black church in Oro where an archaeological assessment was done last year. Pleasestay in touch.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Hi John - that's very interesting - what a small world :-)

Jonathan was granted land in Wilberforce but it seems he never settled there. I have done a lot more research since this article on my husband's blog (AncestorsatRest). Much of it is published on my Olive Tree Genealogy blog.

Gary sold me my 2nd great-grandfather's coffin plate that he rescued from an antique store in Barrie. We have chatted via email but I can't say I know him very well although we have a relationship of sorts through our Vollick-French lineage

My goal is still to find Jonathan in Pennsylvania AND to find out what happened to him after the last assessment in Woolwich. I believe he left the area, perhaps for Bruce Co. but sadly there is no 1851 census for that area.

I'm presently trying to find him on the new online Abstract Indexes to Deeds but so far no luck

John Raynor said...

I am looking a little more closely at what I see in this post and have some questions:
1- 1808 is referenced as "Arrival date" for Jonathan. What is the source for that?
2- 1816 is the date for the "character reference" given by J. Smith of Etobicoke, but where does Col. Samuel Smith come into this equation? Yes, he was a notable figure with major land holdings in Etobicoke but I believe that he would have signed a character reference using his full name and rank rather than J. Smith.
3- 1819 (March) is the "Petition for land". Why do we assume that he was leasing land from Col. Samuel Smith. Neither the Petition nor the character reference note Jonathan as as tenant. I assumed that he owned the 50 acres that he was farming.
There is a map of an early survey of the township of Toronto where the names are written on the lots. I am trying to find a copy of this map that is more readable than the one online to see if I can find his name on a 50 acre parcel. Sometimes these notations indicate if the person was an owner or a tenant.
4- 1819 (April) The "Land Grant" for 100 acre on Wilberforce St. in Oro township was not referred to as the Wilberforce Settlement but I certainly agree that there is no indication that he settled there. What is unclear to me is how he acquired his land west of the Grand in the Queens Bush? Did he sell his land in Oro or trade that grant for one in the Queens Bush?
These questions are not meant to be critical of the post, they are just my attempt to sort out speculation from documented facts in the hope of finding additional leads in the search for my ancestor.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

John, I'm glad you are asking questions. It's always helpful to look over earlier research and ensure I've covered all my bases. However I would urge you to go to my blog and read what I have there for Jonathan. The post you are commenting on her is 4 years old.

I wrote several detailed posts about Jonathan over at Finding a Black Ancestor Using Circumstantial Evidence, Part 1

Several of your questions are answered there. For instance the 1819 petition gives the number of years Jonathan has been in "the Province". We can then extrapolate an approximate year of arrival.

The Character reference is signed "S. Smith" not J. Smith. I compared signatures on other documents which Samuel Smith signed and in my opinion the writing is the same. I could be wrong - further research is of course needed.

Re the land grant - if JB never settled there (and I do not believe he did) he was not the entitled owner and could not sell it. There were requirements which you can look up for clearing x number of acres, etc in order to take full title. I suspect he simply took advantage of the free land being offered in Queen's Bush in the government's attempt to settle black settlers there.

John Raynor said...

Thanks Lorie; - I did re read the petition and see the reference to JB being in Ontario for about 11 years. I missed that when I first read it so 1808 work for an approximate date of arrival and hence answers Q#1.
As to Q#2 - I will accept your inspection of the signature on the character reference as being S Smith but I am surprised that he didn't use his full signature on a letter of reference.
I also noticed in that petition that JB purchased the 50 acres in the township of Toronto so that answers Q#3.
As to Q#4 - I am aware of the conditions attached to grants and yes, you are right, he did nothing with the land and therefore did not fulfill the conditions of ownership and therefore did not have the right to sell the land. On the other hand, he would not have been granted land in the Queen's Bush while he was in possession of the grant for the acreage on Wilberforce Rd, Oro.
There should be some documentation regarding his release of the Oro grant and another petition and grant for his land in the Queen's Bush. I hope to see Gary French on another matter and see what he may know about how a land swap like this may have taken place. I'll let you know if I learn anything from Gary.