Hamilton Farmers’Market Genesis - Andrew Miller Land Deed History 1837-1856
Who was Andrew Miller?
Andrew Miller was born in Rochester. Like many early settlers at the Head of the Lake, they came from the United States. They were United Empire Loyalists, proud of their British heritage and determined to retain it. He held strong Reform views and was arrested for involvement in the 1837 Rebellion - it is said he stored guns for the rebels in his tavern basement – and his eventual return to native Rochester, suggests that he never abandoned the republican politics of his birthplace. His nickname “Yankee” Miller was no accident. A tavern keeper, land speculator, presented himself as a land surveyor. He was a typical frontier businessman like others; he put his talents and energies to work in more than one field. Politics and business were a natural combination.
About the land;
The first mention of the market site occurs in the Crown land grants of 1801, when Farm Lot 15 in the Second Concession of Barton Township was deeded to a John Haskins or Askin. This large piece of land changed hands a few times until 1823 when Andrew Miller purchased a little over seven acres of it. This piece of land was a grove of apple trees. Triangular in shape and ran North on the west side of James Street. It was an addition to Miller’s already thriving business the Steamboat Hotel located next door. The Steamboat Hotel opened for business in 1819 on the northwest corner of King and James Streets. A prime strategic spot, the site of today’s main entrance to Lloyd D. Jackson Square.
The seven acres of land was only one of a number of town lots that passed through Andrew Miller’s hands in the1820s and 1830s. Located right at the centre of town, and with the town already developing north-ward from Main Street to Burlington Bay buying the orchard made excellent business sense.
In 1832 the local economy was booming. Immigration quickly increased the town’s population from 200 to more than 2,000 residents. Andrew Miller was elected to the Board of Police, the town’s first local government. The town became an Emporium of Trade. A market was needed.
One of the first actions taken by the Board of Police after incorporation in 1833 was to conduct a poll of the town’s taxpayers to canvas the opinion on the best site for a market. The majority of the electors preferred Gore Park; others opted for a location further north on James Street, especially those farmers coming into town along York Street from the west. The preferences of the farmers and electors were only part of the equation. Taking into account the commercial and political rivalries among the town’s leading citizens the result was several months of haggling among the town’s main landowners, but in 1837 the town finally acquired the land needed. Other offers had been considered, but were rejected. The terms of the agreement with Miller and his wife were negotiated several times before the Board agreed to pay each 5 shillings in consideration of their rights to the property. The Millers ceded only a fraction of the lot they had acquired in 1823, a little over half an acre.
The foundation for the market therefore was laid through the generosity and fore though of one of the town’s citizens, who was able to realize the advantages to the municipality of a central buying place where producers and consumers could meet for their mutual benefit. Thus on April 14, 1837, Andrew Miller deeded to the town a small triangular piece of property at York and James Streets. It was a small piece of land, but ample for its purpose in those days.
Miller’s indenture assigning the land to the town was accepted by the President of Police of the town of Hamilton a few days later, but it was registered almost a year later on the 16th.day of February , 1838, as transaction No. 643. The parcel of land had a frontage of about 150 feet on James Street and extended westward towards Mac Nab Street.
The reservations, limitations and conditions set forth in this memorial of bargain and sale were: “That the said party do adopt and use the said parcel of land as a public market ground, and as soon as an Act of the Provincial Parliament has been obtained for the erection of the market on the said ground, proceed to build and finish on this ground a market house of stone or brick, measuring not less than 40 by 60 feet on the ground floor and not less than two storey’s.”
According to the deed the land contained two rods, ten perches, and its boundaries were described as being; from a post situated at James Street, West side, and York Street, North Side, North 18 degrees, 30 minutes to a length of two chains and 25 links, thence 71 degrees 30 minutes westerly to a length of five chains to the North side of York Street, and East on the North side of York Street to the starting point, the property being part of lot 15, concession 2, in the township of Barton.
Without any obstacle to the town’s plans to develop a new market council went ahead and arranged a loan from a George Harvey within two months of Miller’s deed and a Market House was built. Hamilton’s first major building contractor, William Hardy, won the prize of 7.10 pounds for the design of the new Market House. A new wooden structure not of stone or brick, contrary to Miller’s whishes, but quite pretentious for those days, was built. It was completed in 1839 and in June the council adopted a set of regulations governing market commerce, effective July 1, 1839. The rules were amended and published by the town clerk the following September. The Market House for 19 years sufficed the Hamilton public for market purposes.
The transaction was in fact was a great deal more complicated. It suggests a strong element of political intrigue behind the apparently simple facts.
When Miller signed the indenture deeding the land to the town there was an outstanding writ against his property, which was “placed in the hands of a William Munson Jarvis Esq., then Sheriff of the District of Gore (area were most people wanted the market to be built), to be executed in due form of law” on February 9, 1837. No mention of this writ arose during Miller’s negotiations with the town, nor did it arise during the Board’s deliberations. Why not? In fact, the writ was allowed to lie dormant for more than two years, even though the “due form of law” called for its execution within weeks. On March 2, 1839, Sheriff Jarvis finally after having duly advertised said lands according to law did expose and offer said lands and tenements for sale at public auction at the Court House of the Town of Hamilton to the highest bidder.
The “lands and tenements” were sold for the paltry sum of three (3) pounds. The winning bid was entered by Judge Miles O’Reilly, chief justice of the Gore District Court and President of the Board of Police. Does that seem to you has total transparence and above board?
Ten years later (1849), Miles and Jane O’Reilly signed a new indenture transferring the land bought at that auction to the town. Both the Sheriff’s sale and the indenture involved the same triangular piece of ground from Andrew Miller’s apple orchard.
In the deposition of facts in O’Reilly’s deed of 1849, he explained that Miller’s original transfer of the land was “inoperative and void” because the town lacked the “power and authority in the law in the said Corporation to purchase, take or hold lands for a second market in the said Town of Hamilton.” Moreover, argued O’Reilly, Miller’s lands had already been seized by the Sheriff and were no longer in his possession to transfer. Moving then to the heart of the matter, O’Reilly declared:
Before the passing of the statute, among other things, and to enable the said Corporation to take and old lands for a second market in the said Town of Hamilton…the said Miles O’Reilly by the advice and at the request of the members of the said Corporation, and in order to secure to the said Corporation the use and benefit of said lands, and as soon as might be the title to the same, bought said lands at Sheriff’s sale, and the Corporation now styled the City of Hamilton are desirous that said lands should be conveyed to them in due form.
In short, O’Reilly simply acted for the good of the town by circumventing Miller’s Legal problems and the further legal difficulty caused by the lack of enabling legislation.
The evidence suggests that Miller was victimized for his politics and his nationality. It seems that O’Reilly’s played both sides against the middle. On one hand, as chief justice of the district court and President of the Board of Police, he was a pillar of the local establishment. But he also dabbled in Reform politics to the extent of defending a dozen accused rebels at the treason trial in Hamilton in 1838.
It is clear that the lack of enabling legislation presented no serious obstacle to the town’s plans to develop a new market due to the fact that council went ahead with the construction of the Market House immediately after Miller deed the land.
In 1839 to appease Tory anger and anti-American sentiment in the wake of the Rebellion Andrew Miller was offered up as a sacrificial goat. He didn’t suffer irreparable harm. He did endure considerable economic losses in 1839-40, but his business was sufficiently resilient to allow him to move the Steamboat Hotel to a more prosperous location at the corner of MacNab and York Streets. Miller evidently did not lack nerve. The new tavern was called the “American Hotel”. He was reelected to council in 1847 and in 1853 he cast the deciding vote which gave the mayoralty to William Kerr. For reasons unknown by 1856 Miller had returned to Rochester but he continued to own substantial blocks of property in Hamilton.
In 1856 business in Hamilton had outgrown the original Market space, city council was determined to expand the market grounds. The natural direction for growth was north and west, towards MacNab and Merrick. Seven individuals owned this land and one of them was Andrew Miller so the city council sent a delegation to Rochester to arrange to acquire his Merrick Street property. Miller demanded and obtained the highest price, 125 pounds a foot, more than three times as much as Thomas Morton asked for an adjoining property.
This transaction produced another lengthy legal document. Once again, Miller stipulated conditions. The most interesting clause in this deed has caused considerable debate down the years. Miller reiterated that the land in his original deed, the apple orchard, “shall remain an open square and forever remain such for the public benefit, to be used as an appurtenance to the said new Market and for Market purposes forever according to the purport and intent of the original grant.”
The Market Committee reported to council that “Miller’s offer is advantageous to the City as it leaves space for an open Gore and the City can proudly boast of having two open Gores which are not to be found in any other City in the Upper or Lower Province.” The deal was completed a year later. The City bought six (6) parcels of land for 19,915 pounds, British currency was used in those days, or $100,000.00 – of which Miller received about a quarter. The market ground was increased to 25 times its original size.
The properties were secured as follows; From James G. Davis and Jonathan Davis, on October 6; for 3,250 pounds; from David Dewy, for 3,650 pounds; from Thomas Morton, for 1,600 pounds, from John Bradley, for 1,250 pounds; from Jasper T. Gilkson, for 3,915 pounds; from Andrew Miller another piece of land, for 5,000 pounds; and from Allanson Blackmer, for 1,250 pounds.
In view of the necessity for increased Market accommodations caused by the rapid growth in population and wealth prior to the crash of 1857 a new Market building was proposed and finally erected in the early 1860’s. This Victorian urban complex would last as the heart of the City for almost a century.
The Market was vital to the City’s life.
In a deed dated July 31, 1874 and registered on August 1, 1874, George W. Miller, surviving executor under the will of the late Andrew Miller, for valuable consideration, released the City from all the claims under the limitations and reservations as set forth in the memorial of bargain and sale. This is 18 years after the sale. Who did this action benefited? Certainly not the interests of the Market! Was it legal? Did George have the legal ability as an executor to do that. Considering all that has been talked about in the past apparently not. It’s time to find out!
March 27, 1969 – The way was cleared for Hamilton to pluck its 132-year-old downtown market out of the path of progress. The private bills committee at Queen’s Park gave Hamilton council the right to shift the market to make way for civic square development.
Historical reflection: The Patriots was the name given after 1826 to the PARTI CANADIEN and to the popular movement that contributed to the REBELLIONS OF 1837-38 in Lower Canada. The primarily francophone party, led mainly by members of the liberal professions and small-scale merchants, was widely supported by farmers, day-laborers and craftsmen.
The Rebellions of 1837 took place in both Upper and Lower Canada. In LOWER CANADA the rebellion was in large part an expression of a resurgent FRENCH CANADIAN NATIONALISM. The French Canadian majority constituted the overwhelming majority in the locally elected Assembly established by the Canada or CONSTITUTIONAL ACT, 1791. By comparison the UPPER CANADA (Southern Ontario) rebellion was a more limited affair. There was growing discontent with the network of officials, erroneously described as the FAMILY COMPACT, who dominated the administration of the government and controlled the distribution of patronage throughout the province. Popular opposition developed over land-granting policies, particularly the setting aside of large blocks of land as CLERGY RESERVES, the education policies of the government and its economic priorities, and the general favoritism shown to the Church of England and its supporters and to recent emigrants from Britain. This discontent was strongest among the American-born settlers who had migrated prior to the War of 1812 - the so-called late loyalists - and their descendants, nonconformist in their religious views and somewhat republican in their political sympathies, who were denied political rights during the struggle over the ALIEN QUESTION in the 1820s. Although the settlers of American origin constituted a declining proportion of the population as British immigrants flooded into Upper Canada in the early 1830s, the oligarchic form of government which had been established by the CONSTITUTIONAL ACT of 1791 came increasingly under attack, and the nascent Reform Party won control of the Assembly in 1828 and again in 1834
Upper Canada officially existed from 26 December 1791 to 10 February 1841 and generally comprised present-day Southern Ontario. The geopolitical prefix “upper” in its name reflected its geographic position higher up the river basin or closer to the headwaters of the St. Lawrence River than that of Lower Canada or present day Quebec to the northeast. Upper Canada included all of modern-day southern Ontario and all those areas of northern Ontario in the pays d’en haul haut which had formed part of New France, essentially the watersheds of the Ottawa River, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. It did not include any lands within the watershed of Hudson Bay.
This is not an extensive study on the land deals of Andrew Miller, but it will help many to better understand what took place and possibly inspire some to search further and help the Market to receive the consideration it deserves.
Source Hamilton Public Library – Historical records Michael Quigley book – On the Market
Posted by The-Original-Farmer
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