James Charles Bolton (1781 – 1840)

Location Tickets detailed the required settling duties before settlers could obtain title to the land: build 16 x 20 ft dwelling, clear at least 5 acres, clear half the road allowance, completed in 18 months, submit a signed affidavit and pay a patent fee

  • James Charles Bolton (1781-1840) was born in Worlingworth, Suffolk England in 1781 to James Bolton (1746-1818) and Judith Mann (1750-1834).  He was their eldest son and the eldest of six.  He grew up with his family in the neighbouring village of Tannington 1
  • He and his siblings were educated and he became a carpenter, like his father
  • James was the first of the Bolton clan to arrive in Canada in 1818 along with his wife Lucy Cupper (1784-1823) and their seven children: Harriet born in 1802, Charles in 1804, George in 1806, Henry in 1810, James Cupper in 1812, Maria in 1815 and Samuel in 1816.  He is considered to be the clan’s founding father in Canada 
  • A carpenter and builder by trade, he built the first grist mill at Weston as well as others in the general vicinity 2
  • Not surprisingly, four of their sons were named following the family convention: George, James and Samuel as well as William who was born in Canada in 1819.  The repetition of first names has created confusion and divergent stories about who did what in the early days of Bolton         
  • James applied for land and was issued a Location Ticket on November 15, 1819 for 100 acres: Lot 14, Concession 9 in Albion Township 3.  It backed onto what is now the King-Caledon Town Line just below Castlederg Sideroad 4
  • As a skilled millwright, James was instrumental in the founding of Bolton by guiding his younger brother George (1799-1869) and helping him build his grist mill and dam along the Humber River
  • Because of the 18 year age difference between James and George Bolton, some accounts have referred to them as ‘relatives’ or as uncle /nephew
  • James and his family encountered tragedy with Lucy’s untimely death in 1823 at age 39.  She may well have been the first burial in what is now called the Godbolt Cemetery 5.  She left behind eight children, three under the age of eight
  • James continued to build mills and, with the help of his sons, managed his farm
  • He was an eloquent writer and by 1837 had become a vocal supporter of William Lyon Mackenzie’s goals for reform, some of which included the need for good schools, navigable roads and accessible churches
  • Mackenzie’s 1837 Rebellion in opposition to the ruling ‘Family Compact’ was quickly quelled but James along with two of his sons were marked as ardent Mackenzie supporters
  • Rather than risk death or imprisonment, they fled to the USA.  James and Samuel went to Indiana and his son George ended up in Rochester NY
  • For James, the price paid for ideals and reform was high.  He died in 1840 in Lafayette, Indiana, a sadly disillusioned man 6
  • His son George returned from the Rochester NY area around 1844 7
  • His son Samuel returned to Bolton in 1846 after a general amnesty
  • While in hiding in the Cold Creek valley before fleeing to the USA, James penned a remarkable letter which has been passed down to Bolton family members. The full text is available here
  1. Marjorie Bolton, ‘A Family Named Bolton’, a family genealogy completed in March 1979
  2. Historical Atlas of Peel County 1877, published by Walker & Miles, p.66
  3. Township Papers, Albion Township, Location Ticket #1373, dated November 15, 1819, Region of Peel Archives
  4. The farm would be at what is now 14829 Mount Pleasant Road
  5. Godbolt Cemetery: 14686 Caledon King Town Line
  6. Marjorie Bolton, ibid.
  7. Historical Atlas of Peel County 1877, Walker and Miles, p.65