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Lloydtown – Once a rebel stronghold

April 29, 2021   ·   0 Comments

The hamlet of Lloydtown is somewhat off the beaten path.

It is tucked in the hills behind the Town of Schomberg, in King Township, near the corner of Highway 9, and Highway 27, and is mostly filled with nice homes with large manicured lots and a laid-back country feel.

However, this picturesque and modern rural neighborhood has a very interesting past.

It was once a centre for a group of insurrectionists who were planning to overthrow the oligarchic government of what was then Upper Canada.

The town was founded when its namesake, Jesse Lloyd, an American and a Quaker who was born in 1786, arrived in the region in 1832 and purchased 60 acres of land.

Lloyd’s parents were United Empire Loyalists who had arrived in Canada earlier in the century.

Jesse Lloyd had made his way to Canada in 1812, after growing up in Springfield Township, Pennsylvania.

Jesse was an industrious man, establishing a sawmill in Tecumseth Township before moving to King Township.

During the early pioneer days, once a settlement was established it usually encouraged others to move to the area and that spawned the need for other services as more people arrived.

Over the next few years, Jesse sold portions of his property to new settlers.

By 1851, Lloydtown had become a bustling and thriving pioneer town.

It had a grist mill, a saw mill and a woollen mill. Businesses expanded to include two tanneries, as well as a general store.

The town was really on the map when a post office was established. Two churches were built to service the religious needs of the around 350 souls who then called Lloydtown home.

At the time, Upper Canada was governed by a small and closed group of men who held most of the economic and judicial power. The term used to define this situation was called the “Family Compact.” The men in power had their administrative roles intimately tied to their private business activities.

These men were quite content with the power structure and the way they governed, and were opposed to any type of democracy.

Many private citizens were not happy with the political structure and wanted it changed, even if it meant taking up arms and overthrowing the system by force.

Jesse Lloyd was one of the leaders of the insurrectionist movement and held meetings at his grist mill where citizens could vent their anger and frustration at the anti-democratic governing establishment.

In December 1837, the small group of rebels decided it was time to act.

Jesse and his men, about 50 in number left Lloydtown to march down Yonge Street in Toronto. They met up with other rebels along the way, eventually putting together a force of between 800 and 900 men.

Unfortunately, the group had no real battle training and were poorly armed – some held only pitchforks or sharpened blades.

The group met a force of about 1000 well-armed and well-trained Loyalist militia at Montgomery’s tavern in Toronto. It was a short battle that lasted less than 20 minutes leaving two rebels and one loyalist dead.

The rebels ran in disarray after the opening volley. Although they had noble intentions, they were farmers, not soldiers.

The rebellion was a failure, however it did eventually cause change in the system that led to responsible government.

Jesse Lloyd, as one of the leaders of the rebellion soon had a price on his head. Two other rebel leaders were hanged for treason. Many of the other rebels were later captured on their farms.

Jesse decided he would rather go into exile than end his life dangling at the end of a rope, which certainly would have happened if he had been captured.

He escaped to the U.S. and made his way to Indiana. Unfortunately, his time in exile was short.

He died only a few months later at age 52.

There is now an historic cairn built with the stones from the original Lloyd gristmill in the centre of Lloydtown commemorating the town and the participation in the rebellion.

Across the road, an impressive statue of Jesse Lloyd with his rifle is centred in a green park and memorializes Jesse and his group called the Lloydtown Pikemen.

Lloydtown has a become a modern and pleasant area but its roots lie in clandestine meetings held by candle light in a gristmill with a call to arms and a rebel spirit.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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