Happy 225th Birthday! Pandemic-delayed bash marks county's founding

·2 min read

More than two centuries after James Fleming set sail from Ireland to become Elgin County's first settler, local museum officials want to invite his descendants to celebrate the county's 225th birthday.

While some of Fleming’s descendants are known, says Angela Bobier, head of Wallacetown's Backus-Page House Museum, she believes many more are scattered across Southwestern Ontario. Bobier hopes to invite them to a summer exhibit to honour the anniversary of the founding of Elgin County and the municipality of West Elgin, an event that was sidelined last year due to the pandemic.

“As we're getting closer to the event, I'm hoping to find a few more descendants,” Bobier said. “We have found some, and they're super excited that somebody's honouring their ancestors, but I know there are more people out there.”

Some, she said, live in Chatham-Kent, Lambton County and as far as England. “People have moved around, so we're hoping to find them, and any pictures and family history that they have. And of course, we want them to attend.”

It was about 1793 when Fleming was believed to have joined then-lieutenant-governor John Graves Simcoe on an expedition, sailing to Port Stanley or Port Talbot and then from Muncey, along the Thames River to Detroit.

Impressed by the land along the river, Fleming, with his wife and their two little girls, left Fort Erie in 1796 and staked out the northwest corner of what would become Aldborough Township, now the municipality of West Elgin, about seven years prior to the landing of Col. Thomas Talbot.

“Their nearest neighbours would have been the group of First Nations who settled at Moraviantown years before, in 1792,” Bobier said.

Fleming and his wife, Barbara Windecker, are buried in the Fleming farm cemetery on their original land grant.

Part of the museum’s annual summer event, called Life in the Talbot Settlement, the June 25-26 event will feature an exhibit of photographs and artifacts about the descendants of the county’s first settlers and heritage.

A War of 1812 camp and skirmishes, a food truck, kids activity zone, music, and tours of the museum and agricultural centre also will be featured at the weekend event funded by the federal government and West Elgin. Admission is $10 a person, free for children 12 and younger.

Those with lineage traced back to the first settlers, Fleming and Windecker, are asked to contact the Backus-Page House Museum at info@backuspagehouse.ca or 519-762-3072. To learn more about the event, visit www.backuspagehouse.ca.



The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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