2007 Lecture Series
Ethnic Subterfuge in the Rideau Corridor
by Glenn J Lockwood
August 19, 2007

Following the War of 1812, the British presence in Canada was far from secure, at least in the eyes of military administrators. Of great concern was the “Americanism” exhibited by the large number of immigrants from the United States who settled mainly along the St Lawrence River from 1792 until 1812. There was apprehension that their presence was due more to opportunity than to loyalty to Britain. In light of this concern, the challenge of the British was to guard against future American invasion while at the same time, securing the lasting loyalty of the recently arrived American immigrants. The construction of the Rideau Canal and the establishment of unquestionably loyal British enclaves such as at Perth and Richmond, as well as the placement of decommissioned soldiers and loyal British subjects along the newly opened Rideau territory were intended to accomplish the first challenge. More subtle was the plan to convert into loyal British subjects the opportunistic colonists who had flocked to Canada before and after the war of 1812. The subtle plan was to submerge them in a clearly loyal British population and let marriage and assimilation do the job.

In the sixth Rideau 175 Lecture, “Ethnic Subterfuge”, Glenn J Lockwood delved into his personal family history to demonstrate this largely unspoken, British subterfuge. His two very different family forebearers , the Edgar’s and Lockwood’s both arrived into the Rideau region just as Rideau canal was being built. On one side, the Lockwood’s were American Methodists with republican instincts and little love for the perceived tyrannical monarchy. On the other side were the Edgar’s – Ultra loyal members of an established church from Ireland, who valued the British connection and ultimately assimilated the Lockwood’s thoroughly.

In his presentation Dr. Lockwood’s described the struggles of these two families and their eventual union. Garnished with a few precious surviving family articles, his presentation spoke to social life on the Rideau at the time: a sherry glass with Masonic symbols from Ireland, pieces of china from the Edgar hotel, books and journals and most poignantly, a single brass candlestick retained by Elizabeth Lockwood having given its mate to a departing friend as a symbol of lasting friendship.

James Edgar and his pregnant wife arrived from Ireland with few possessions, victims of the depression in the wool market following the Napoleonic Wars. They were typically hard working enterprising and resilient people who scrimped to obtain a down payment on a poor piece of land in the backwoods of Kitley township. Through persistent and pragmatic effort, and timely land acquisition, by time of Confederation in 1867, the family could be said to represent the classical Irish immigrant success story.

In contrast, Justus Lockwood and family arrived from upstate New York in 1816, just as the British were closing the border to immigration from the U.S. They settled in the area of Merricks Mills and later Kitley. In spite of their experience in frontier agriculture stretching back to the 1660s, the Lockwood’s struggled but eventually became typical of the small farmers along the Rideau Corridor. By the time son Isaac Lockwood reached marrying age in 1867 he found himself in a township, Kitley, where fully 75% of the people claimed to be of Irish origin. Reality dictated that Lockwood marry Irish and, surrounded by the Irish conservative Orangemen, the Methodist Lockwood clan was absorbed into the Rideau Irish society.

In his highly interesting and entertaining presentation Glenn Lockwood demonstrated through the personal experiences of his own family how the British subterfuge succeeded. The “Americans”, outnumbered by the “Irish”, within a few generations had signed on to the British (read Irish) social systems and allegiances and the threat of insurgency was over.

Glenn J Lockwood- photo by: Heddy Sorour   John Cowan & Glenn J Lockwood - photo by: Heddy Sorour

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