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William Alexander Davis and Thomas Ghent

William Davis (b. 23 December 1741 in the colony of Maryland). His parents were Thomas and Mary Davis, of Welsh descent.

As a young man, William ventured off to Virginia where he met and married (1771) Hannah Phillips. They moved to North Carolina where William soon became a wealthy plantation owner with a large tract of land, a beautiful home, large distilleries and breweries and many black slaves.

Alongside the Davis’ plantation was the Gant (Ghent) family, also of Welsh descent; they became friends as well as neighbours.

When the troubles turned into War in 1775, William remained out of the actual fighting although he was a loyal supporter of the King. In 1779, General Cornwallis marched into Carolina with 2,000 soldiers, and in 1781 arrived at the Davis plantation where his men were sheltered and fed. The Gant plantation was the headquarters for Cornwallis. The soldiers consumed all the available food supplies on the land. Cornwallis gave Davis a DUE BILL for 10,000 pounds in recompense for the food consumed and the damage done to the plantation.

The British left and soon after the “Rebels” swept in and completely destroyed the plantations. The disheartened Davis Family fled to the Phillips’ home in Yorktown, Virginia. It is believed that Cornwallis retreated to this town also. During the stay, John Graves Simcoe (Queen’s Rangers) was entertained and cared for by the Phillips and Davis families. The war terminated in 1783.

The Davis family, along with Hannah’s ill parents, the Phillips, returned to Orange County, North Carolina and tried to re-establish the plantation. They endured a cruel barrage of abuse from the victorious rebels and the harsh taxes. When the elder Phillips died in 1791 the Davis family decided to seek opportunity and remain under British rule in Canada. Simcoe had been made Lt. Governor of the new Province of Upper Canada.

By this time Elizabeth Davis had married Thomas Gant (Ghent). The Davis story includes Elizabeth and Thomas Ghent. The young couple lived and worked with William and Hannah Davis. Everyone, along with much property, began the 800 mile journey from North Carolina to Newtown (Niagara-on-the-Lake). The party finally reached the mouth of the Genesee River (now Rochester area) and realized they could not go any further by land.

Thomas Ghent (husband of Elizabeth Davis) and Asahel Davis (oldest son of William Davis) set off on horseback to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) in search of John Graves Simcoe. They were received and Simcoe sent a government gunboat, the Bear, to bring the entire party to Newark.

At Niagara, William Davis presented Simcoe with the Due Bills that he had been given by General Cornwallis and Simcoe sent them on to London hoping for approval of a “Crown Grant” for Davis. However, the books for Loyalist claims had been closed in 1790 and since Davis had still been in the colonies until 1792 the application was turned down – too late.

Another setback at this time was that Hannah, William’s wife, died and was buried at Chippewa.

Simcoe felt compassion for the families and offered “choose as much land as you will”. Davis petitioned to London on June 19, 1793 stating he had arrived from North Carolina and had taken 200 acres in Barton Township for which he asked for a “certificate of location.” In the following year, 1794, he partitioned again and ultimately obtained 2,300 acres in Barton and Saltfleet Townships. The sons and daughters of William, including Elizabeth now a Ghent, received 200 acres each. This may have been part of the 2,300 acres above. Thomas Ghent obtained an additional grant of 300 acres adjacent to the Davis property.

The area of land we are talking about is Glendale Golf Club (Hamilton/Stoney Creek, Ontario) area and top of the escarpment at Mount Albion (Hamilton/Stoney Creek). Mount Albion owes its existence to William Davis and his family. “Harmony House” plantation of the north, a tannery, distillery, an orchard, a herd of Ayrshire cattle and a saw and grist mill on the Albion Creek were some of the accomplishments of this family. Davis also constructed a church “Auld Scotch Kirk” in an attempt to draw settlers to the area. Albion Mills served as a local hub of commerce and services for the rural countryside.

In 1804 Thomas Ghent purchased 205.5 acres of land from Joseph Brant. The land was very good for growing fruit trees. The families had brought fruit seeds from North Carolina and seedlings from the Mount Albion area were transported to Brant’s Block. They became part of the group of founders of the fruit growing industry in Burlington.

Around this time, Asahel Davis (who also purchased property in Brant’s Block) and his brother-in-law, Thomas Ghent, and their families, which included 12 pre-school children, moved near Burlington. They settled in “Freeman”. Freeman was near this cemetery. Asahel Davis’ second house was on site of the old Schwindt Engineering building at 1134 Plains Road East, east of Maple Ave..

William Alexander Davis died on February 3, 1834 at the age of 92, and was buried in the Loyalist cemetery at Freeman. Union Cemetery was honoured November 15, 2009 as an United Empire Loyalist Burial Site. There is a plaque near the Main Gate on Plains Road indicating “Loyalist Burial Site”.

This burial plot in 1834 would have been on Davis land that was provided later to the newly formed Union Cemetery Board in 1848 for the use as the local cemetery. There is no visible headstone for William Alexander Davis.

Thomas Ghent and his wife Elizabeth (Davis) Ghent are also buried in Union Cemetery. These headstones are visible in the cemetery.

(taken from chapter by John A. Aikman in history book prepared by the Hamilton Branch UELAC)

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