The Gaffield Family

There is an extensive write-up in “How Firm a Foundation” on Nathaniel Gaffield (ca. 1755-ca. 1838), the first owner of the land north of the modern King Street West in Colborne. He was born Nathaniel Garfield at Bridgeman’s Fort in southeastern Vermont. Think of how “Garfield” would be pronounced with a New England accent, and you can see where the spelling “Gaffield” probably came from. According to the story, Nathaniel’s father was killed and baby Nathaniel and his mother were kidnaped by Indians on 6/27/1756, during the French and Indian War. Mother and son were separated. She escaped and returned to the American Colonies and he remained a captive.

Actually, the raid occurred in 1755, not 1756. I have found a few further details as well: Nathaniel’s father Benjamin Garfield and two others were surprised by a party of twelve Indians while returning from hoeing corn across the river from the Fort. One of his companions was killed outright, the second escaped, and Benjamin drowned in the Connecticut River while trying to get away. The Indians then attacked and burned the Fort and abducted the wives and children of all three men, including Nathaniel’s mother Eunice and a sister, also named Eunice. Nathaniel may have been kidnaped or his mother may have been pregnant with him at the time. At least some of the captives were sold to the French at Montreal, including Eunice senior (there is no further reference to Eunice Jr.). She was later transported to France, then eventually made her way back to the Colonies by way of England.

Nathaniel was supposedly recovered at about the age of eight (i.e. in about 1763) by an English soldier named Ferrel. The story is that when he was finally reunited with his mother as an adult, Nathaniel had come to prefer the wilds to civilized life (she had remarried and was living in Massachusetts).

Ferrel’s commanding officer was Sir Goeffrey Amherst, and apparently because of this the next time Nathaniel appears it is under the name of “Amherst O’Ferrel” as a member of the Albany County militia fighting on the American side during the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. This is the same battle during which I think Ann Schuyler met Matthew Goslee, as I have written elsewhere. Nathaniel eventually switched sides and enlisted in Jessup’s Loyal Rangers in December 1781. This is after the British surrender at Yorktown, but before the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war. It would be interesting to know the story behind this change of allegiance.

Nathaniel Gaffield didn’t immediately move to Canada after the war. He married Martha Cochrane (ca. 1755-?) some time before 1784 and appears in the census for Saratoga County, NY in 1790. The Gaffields moved to Canada in 1796 and first appear in Cramahe Township records in 1797. They brought with them five children: Eunice (1784-?), Sarah Ann (1788-1869), James (1788-1813), Jonathan (1787-1881), and Phoebe (1794-?). A sixth child, Oliver (1799-1873) was born in Cramahe.

Gaffield sold Concession 2, Lot 32 to Joseph Keeler (1763-1839) on 1/23/1806, but apparently continued to farm there for most of the rest of his life. The eldest Gaffield child was 12 when the family moved to Canada, so presumably all of the kids were resident on the property at some time or another. Eunice married John Mix in about 1799, Sarah married Joel Halstead in 1804, James married Anna Reddick in 1808, Jonathan married Phoebe Ann Hubbell in 1810, Phoebe married Nathan Hubbell (Phoebe Ann’s brother) in 1819, and Oliver married Rhoda TIpets in 1822.