Grand River Branch

United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada

 

 

 

 


Selected Reprints from the

Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches



"History of the Indian Loyalists Along the Grand River",

"An Exhibit of Loyalist Village at Woodland Cultural Centre - Brantford  Ontario"

 Angela E.M. Files, June 1989, Vol.1  No.2, Pages 15-16

 

  During October 1989 the Grand River Branch, United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, hopes to open a permanent exhibit: "The History of the Indian Loyalists Along the Grand River", at the Woodland Cultural Centre (formerly the Woodland Indian Cultural-Educational Centre), located at 186 Mohawk Street in Brantford, Ontario.

  Through a generous grant from the Ministry of Culture and Communications, via the Ontario Historical Society and the Multicultural Historical Society of Ontario, and with the support of the Grand River Branch UEL's under the guidance of Mr. Tom Hill, curator of the Woodland Cultural Centre Museum, this exhibit will become a memorial to the Indian Loyalists of the Grand River.

  The Woodland Cultural Centre is a part of the former Mohawk Institute.  The buildings and part of the surrounding 300 acres were located on the fringe of Loyalist Village, west of the Mohawk Chapel.


Loyalist or Mohawk Village

Inhabitants lived in the area around the Mohawk Chapel.  Mrs. Ethel Monture wrote in her book entitled 'Famous Indians' that in early times, the village was known as 'Loyalist Village' and later it became known as 'Mohawk Village'.

  The 'Loyalist Village', or 'Mohawk Village' was located within an arc, one-half mile around the middle of the oxbow-shaped bend of the Grand River.  It was situated on a high gravel ridge above the flood plain where corn could be easily grown by the Indians..

  Lower Mohawks of Fort Hunter, New York, led by Captain David Hill, and Upper Mohawks of the Canojaharie Castle, New York, led by Captain Joseph Brant, settled in Loyalist or Mohawk Village after the American revolution.  White people and some black slaves also lived in the village.

  Her Majesty's Chapel of the Mohawks was built in 1785 and was the first Protestant church in Ontario.  The timbers were cut at Paris and floated down the Grand River.  In 1788, the Chapel was dedicated by the Reverend John Stuart, a former loyalist missionary of the Mohawk Valley, New York.  The area of Her Majesty's Chapel, including the Council House and the home of Joseph Brant, was the focal point of the village overlooking the Grand River.

  The Mohawk Institute was organized in 1830 by the New England Company for the education of Indian youth.  The Institute was located across from the Royal Chapel, but in 1859, it was moved westerly and a new three-story brick structure was built for $4000.  Connected to it was an industrial farm of approximately 300 acres.  Indian boys and girls were educated to train their own people.

  In the mid-1960's, the Mohawk Institute was closed and the Woodland Indian Cultural-Educational Centre was officially opened in October, 1973.  The classrooms of the junior grades were converted into a museum; the senior grades building was removed from the grounds and the red brick centre edifice is now used for a library and educational centre.  The rectory of the Anglican clergyman-principal still stands on the left side of the entrance road.

  The Indian Loyalist exhibit will bring back a flood of memories to many people!  Prior to attending university, I taught senior grades at the Mohawk Institute and boarded in the teachers' apartment in the centre.  The rows of single cots in the dormitories seemed so impersonal and lacked privacy.  Through the walls, I could hear the children crying themselves to sleep because they could not comprehend being away from the freedom of home and being sent to a regimented school atmosphere.  The self-expression of these lonesome students could be seen in their art form and heard in the melodious voices of their singing.  I was proud of my choir when it won at the Brantford Musical Festival.  Attending service every Sunday at the Mohawk Chapel reminded them of their loyalist heritage, because the Mohawk Prayer and Hymn Book and Communion Set were tangible objects of their ancestors' flight from New York.

  Most of the students had been taught their loyalist history by their parents.  'Bread and Cheese Day', was their favourite occasion.  It was on that day that the story of Queen Victoria's concern for her Indian people was symbolized by receiving the gift of bread and cheese on that special May day.  English monarchs dealt with their loyal Six Nations in treaties which must not be broken!

  There is no more fitting place for an Indian Loyalist exhibit than in the Woodland Cultural Centre, which is situated on the fringe of Loyalist or Mohawk village.