Edgeworth Ussher

Edgeworth Ussher was the second child of John and Mary Ussher, born in 1804. John was a Captain in the militia and Mary was the daughter of the Street family, an influential and wealthy merchant family in Chippawa. The Ussher family farm was located at the extreme south end of the Battle of Chippawa battlefield and was known alternately as Milford Lodge and ‘Grove Farm’. 

Edgeworth Ussher married Sarah Thomson of Grantham Township (in what is now St. Catharines) and was commissioned as a Captain in the 3rd Regiment of Lincoln Militia, commanding the left flank company) in 1831. He had four children.

Accounts of Assassination

There are two different accounts of what happened the night Ussher died (November 15, 1838):

1)            From Captain Drew’s (Ussher’s friend) later writings:

He was the original target, but the militia scared the men away and the rebels took out their anger on another person (He does not mention Ussher by name, or give any indication that he knew the person murdered).

2)            From local history:

A group of rebels attacked a neighbours house, demanding $500.00 or they would burn down his house, which they attempted to do.  After this they marched him at gunpoint to Usshers house, a few miles away and forced him to lure Ussher to the door, where he was shot through the side window. Taylor was then thrown into a pond and the murderers escaped back across the Niagara River.


The inquest held into the death, presided over by Dr. Mewburn, seems to corroborate the second version (Here I quote from a letter summarizing the official inquest):

“About 2 o’clock on the morning of Thursday last (November 1838) Mr. Taylor, an intimate friend of Mr. Ussher, was called out of bed; when he opened his door he was seized upon by two armed men, who putting a rifle and pistol to his head; demanded instantly the sum of $500, threatening if he refused, to burn his house, and those of his neighbours, ‘the tories.’  After thus exciting his fears for the personal safety of himself and family, and after attempting to fire his dwelling, they insisted that he show them the way to Mr. Ussher’s house a mile or two distant.

Having dragged him to the door of Mr. Ussher’s house, they compelled him with renewed threats to call upon his friend, who, in answer to the loud knocking at his porch door, replied by calling ‘that is (Taylor).’  Unfortunately, Mr. Ussher brought a light in his hand; and after a few minutes conversation, one of the wretches fired through the side-window and shot him through the heart.  The assassins then giving vent to a diabolical expression of gratified revenge, hurried Taylor away to the houses of his neighbours, Dobie and Miller, and compelled him to get $10 for them with which they crossed the river and escaped pursuit”

Obituary and Funeral

A newspaper, “The Palladium of British North America and Upper Canada Mercantile Advertiser” described Edgeworth Ussher this way “A more inoffensive individual, or more generously esteemed by all who knew him, he had not left behind him.”

A man by the name of Benjamin Lett is largely believed to have been responsible for this murder, but he was never charged.

The funeral procession began at his house and processed to Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Chippawa where the funeral took place.  Reverend Leeming preached from Romans 12: 19 “Dealy beloved avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath, for it is written Vengeance is mine, I will repay saith the Lord”

Holy Trinity Church was destroyed in a fire less than a year later - Benjamin Lett is also blamed for this crime, but again was never held responsible.  It was rebuilt in the 1840's, and that building is still an active church today.

The funeral procession then continued to the Drummond Hill Cemetery, with the NCO’s, privates and regimental band of the 43rd Regiment leading the way playing ‘The Dead March in Saul’ and other appropriate music.  Edgeworth Ussher is buried in Drummond Hill Cemetery, beside the Battle of Lundy’s Lane monument.

His epitaph reads (it is too worn to read now) “Here rest in hope of a joyful resurrection the mortal remains of Edgeworth Ussher, Esq., whose devotion to his sovereign, and exertions in the cause of his country, at a critical period in the history of Canada, marked him out as an object for the vengeance of the enemies of peace and good order, by whom he was assassinated in the night of the 16th of November, 1838, in his own house near Chippawa at the early age of 34 years, leaving a wife and four young children to mourn their irreparable loss.”

Edgeworth Ussher's Grave Marker. White monument, square base, stands about 8 foot tall. An obelisk design, which means that it comes together to a point at the top, forming a triangle; these were popular in the neo-classical period of the 19th century due to findings in Egypt. It was taken in Drummond Hill Cemetery, there is a grounds-keeping building in the background of the image.

John Ussher, a brother of Edgeworth, inherited the house and went on to be Reeve of Willoughby Township in 1850 and 1858.  The widow moved to Toronto, where she lived to old age, receiving a pension from the government.

Benjamin Lett was arrested by American authorities in 1840, after trying to burn a steamship in Oswego.  Convicted of arson, he was sentenced to 7 years hard labour, but escaped while being transported to jail.  He was re-captured in 1841 and spent 4 years in solitary confinement (subject to frequent abuse according to his brother).  He was pardoned due to his ill-health and released.  He went to live with his brothers and sisters in Illinois.  He died after a brief illness in December of 1858 while on a trading expedition on Lake Michigan.  He was rushed to hospital in Milwaukee, where he died.  An autopsy showed he died of strychnine poisoning (which his brother blamed on government agents).  His epitaph reads “The records of American partnership in the case of Benjamin Lett - they are like a Christian hell without a Jesus Christ - No escape.”

The Burning of the Caroline is another part of the Rebellion of 1837, so is Navy Island.

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