Margaret Dinah Nelles

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About Margaret Dinah Nelles

Reminiscences of Mrs. Edward Pilkington

Reminiscences of Mrs. Edward Pilkington, daughter of Col. Nelles, Grimsby, left as a

legacy to her granddaughter, Annie Kelland, copied from the original manuscript by Miss Harriet Ruthven granddaughter of Col. Nelles (20th Nov., 1874.) Probably written in 1848. We have printed the exact language, but omitted several passages merely of family interest and are delighted to be able to give the reminiscences of one of the early settlers of which we find so few. Statements of where they landed when they came, how they traveled and what were their hardships in coming, and through the early years of hewing down the forest and through the “Hungary Year”, such statements are almost entirely lacking, so that we are the more pleased to be able to print this through the kindness of Mrs. Alfred Ball, nee Ruthven. – Ed.

My little granddaughter, Elizabeth Anne, is this day nine years old. Taking a retrospect of

the years of my pilgrimage, what cause I have I for thankfulness and to say with the Psalmist, “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.” Should it please my heavenly Father to spare this little one, she will often think of grandmama and perhaps wonder who she was and what was her history. For her dear sake I will note down a few dim recollections of bygone days. After the Revolutionary War when the United States obtained their independence, my grandfather, Henry William Nelles, by his loyal adherence to his rightful Sovereign, sacrificed a noble property in the beautiful valley of the Mohawk in the State of New York, and literally taking up his staff after the war was over an d he could return with safety, brought his family hundreds of miles into the backwoods of Upper Canada, then almost an uninhabited wilderness. My grandfather and his family after many hardships in their journey through the woods, crossed the Niagara River and halted on the shore of Lake Ontario about thirty miles distant from the Falls of Niagara. Here he pitched his tent like the Patriarch of old, not knowing whether he went. He took his son to reconnoitre the woods, he was pleased with the locality and said, “my son we had better chose this spot for our inheritance, the country will never be settled farther u in our time.” The British government, as a reward to men who sacrificed their property by their adherence to the King of England, gave a certain portion of wild lands in lieu of the smiling and cultivated homes left behind in the United States.

My grandfather and his sons and a black servant, who followed the fortunes of his master,

act to work to fell the trees and erect a habitation which they accomplished in three months, thus making their first settlement in the township of Grimsby, County of Lincoln and District of Niagara. About the same time several families of the U. E. Loyalists followed the same course, choosing rather to suffer hardships with the loyal subjects of the King, than the pleasures of wealth and the comfort of good properties in a cultivated and settled country. Amongst the number of these devoted patriots was the family of Judge Pettit from the state of New Jersey, a sister of whom married my maternal grandfather, John Moore, of a good family in the usual acceptation of the word. These families having all settled near each other lived in almost patriarchal friendship united by the ties of mutual suffering, endurance, religion, and political principles. My father became attached to my mother, the daughter pf the above named john Moore, a young lady of a refined and cultivated mind the great personal attractions and also a deeply religious nature.

My first recollections are of the dark blue waters of Ontario and pine covered hills of

Grimsby. The wilderness had given place to a cultivated and smiling neighborhood, peace and happiness dwelt in the abodes of the little loyal band and happy children whose hopes and wishes were bounded by the little world around them, had no aspiration beyond that simple society. How ell I remember the scenery, April mornings when flocks of pigeons of interminable length formed highways in the air lovely orchards in full bloom, the beautiful scarlet bird perched in the snow white blossoms of the cherry tree. It was truly a lovely spot, a good land, a land of brooks of water, fountains and depths that spring out of the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and Indian corn of peach trees and melons, a land of milk and honey, a land wherein thou shall eat bread without scarceness, a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.

My father’s place lay at the foot of a richly wooded mountain on one side and bounded on

the other by the crystal lake; the trees were magnificent have never seen anything to gibe me such an idea of ages gone by as the woods of these primeval forests, the gigantic oak, the tall pine, the beautiful chestnut the white flowering dogwood, the elm, ash, maple; dear, dear, trees, how I loved you and how much like old friends you seemed to my memory.

We had no clergymen but my uncle, Andrew Pettit, took the lead among the little society of

Episcopalians, and for many years (twenty) they assembled at each other’s houses on the Sabbath day and he read the church service, the lessons and a sermon of some old divine, after some time the Methodists, those pioneers of the backwood, sent missionaries amongst us, but my dear old uncle would not allow id to hear a dissenter, he was just as particular as any of the country clergymen in England, still I sometimes strayed off and I remember with love the Methodist Missionary and his simple and impassioned eloquence, but my love for all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ has not made me love our own form of worship less. Time marched on and in 1812 we got a clergyman and my father gave land and money to build a church which was called St. Andrew’s, more, I verily believe, in honor of my old uncle, Andrew Pettit, than of the apostle of old.

The year 1812 was memorable too, as the breaking out of war between England and the

United States. I could write a history on this subject, but I will confine myself to a few particulars concerning myself, of how we were frightened at the declaration of war and how awfully the canon sounded and what a fearful time it was when my father, who was Colonel, and my brother an officer in the same regiment had to go out to defend the frontier, and of the glorious battle of Queenston Heights, and yet me heart recoils at the words, “glorious battle,” of the carts of wounded brought home, of our dangerous allies of the northwest, thousands of these redmen were encamped on our place, Indians; what fearful friends who seemed to have the tomahawk suspended over the hands of friends as well as foes. In this year my mother was called to her everlasting rest and I was left to take charge of her dear children. The two following years were eventful ones in y life, but I have but a confused recollection of the stirring events, the battles and cannonading and takings and retakings of forts, burning of towns, marching and countermarching, advances of the British and again retreats, then the American army taking possession of the Niagara frontier and marching through the country to the march of “See the conquering hero comes” with their scabbards flung away and then more battles and more retreats, but for a history of those times my little girl must get one and read it. Amongst all the confusion I have a very vivid remembrance of many brave and intellectual officers high in rank in both armies who have their names enrolled in the annals of fame. If my little girl can find history of the taking of Fort Niagara in 1813, she may read about her grandfather Pilkington, who bore a conspicuous part in that brave and as it turned out almost bloodless conquest.

In the summer of that year my brother, Captain Henry Nelles, asked to introduce to me a

very particular friend of his, a Major Pilkington, a fine noble generous hearted man with a fine person and commanding air, blue eyes and brown hair, such eyes, suffice to see him as to love him and love but him forever. In February, 1814, I was married to him. I accompanied my husband to the wars, our honeymoon was spent in a cottage on the river above the Falls and in sight of the American shore. I traveled in Canada until 1816, in that time I lived at Fort Erie, at Fort Niagara, at Montreal, at Sorel on the banks of the Richelieu and at Chambly. After the battle of Waterloo the army was called to England and I returned to my native place, Grimsby, where we took up our abode and with my son Edward Harpon and my twin daughters Mary Anne and Elizabeth Maria I passed my time in peace being surrounded by my father, brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins who were all of fond of me. My sister Elizabeth married Rev. Brook Bridge Stevens, chaplain of the forces and evening lecturer of Montreal. My brother the Rev. Abraham Nelles is now the Rector of the Mohawk church at the Grand River. In 1827, my beloved husband, Edward Pilkington, received a letter from the Rev. Mr. Webb, the clergymen of his native parish in Ireland written at the request of his mother, Mrs. Pilkington, wishing for his return home and that she would give her estate of Urney upper half Baron of Phillipstown, King’s County, which he acceded to. It was a trying time the parting from that home of love. Oh how my heart bleeds when I think of that last farewell. My father brought me in his carriage the first sixty miles on my way through the United States, but “come it slow it come it fast, the parting time must come at last.” My aged, my much lived father must we part and part forever? and we never did meet again for my revered father was called to his everlasting rest in 1842.

We traveled through the States and sailed from New York on 8th July and landed in

Liverpool 1st August.

My first impression of England were glorious, my imagination had never pictured a world so

fair, the green verdure is what first strikes on the heart of a dried up American as something like enchantment, but this I cannot dwell upon. Read Washington Irving’s description pf his first visit to England and you will read one of the most beautiful things in the English language. We reached old Urney about he 12th of August, what a happy meeting between Edward and his aged parents. His mother did not know her son, but we soon had a bonfire and great rejoicings and we lived with the old lady who was a very fine specimen of the old school till her death in 1832. She left her property to her son Edward and his children. My dear husband lived only two years after his mother’s death. My son succeeded to the property. His mind was fixed in the church and we went to Dublin to live where he completed his education at Trinity College. My daughter Elizabeth Maria, your mother, became acquainted with the Rev. Philip Kelland, Senior Wrangler in Queen’s College, Cambridge. They were married in 1838. He became the Professor of mathematics in Edinburgh University. In 1841 your mother took a trip to the continent for heath which seemed for a time to be restored, but in 1844 she sank into a rapid decline. She was attended by Dr. Abercrombie. I thought if she could be taken to the south she might recover; about three weeks before her death we all cane to your aunt Maria’s at Greenwich, but nothing could arrest the hand of death. When she left Edinburgh Dr. Abercrombie paid her a farewell visit with tears in his eyes, in two months after he too entered into his rest.

Dear auntie came from America the next day after her death, not knowing of the death of her

sister ad it was a great shock to her. Your mamma was buried in the churchyard at Greenwich. May you my precious child walk in her steps and die as she died trusting in a Savior’s love. M. PILKINGTON

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Margaret Dinah Nelles's Timeline

December 12, 1793
Grimsby, ON, Canada
April 1816
Age 22
September 1817
Age 23
Grimsby, Niagara Regional Municipality, Ontario, Canada
September 1817
Age 23
Age 54
Age 54