George Heriot (1759-1839) was born in Scotland. He was the Deputy
Post Master General of British North America. He made frequent visits
to places within his jurisdiction looking for ways to improve mail
service. Heriot's is one of the earliest books to describe landscape
from the point of view of the picturesque.
The strait for a considerable way upwards, is divided into two channels by Grose isle.
A low, narrow and marshy island, near four miles long, next presents
itself: and on the eastern coast of the main land the town of Sandwich
is situated, which was laid out for the reception of British settlers
and traders, who, agreeably to the treaty of commerce and navigation,
concluded between the government and Great Britain and that of the
United States, made their election of continuing subjects of the former.
This place has increased in population and improvements with wonderful
rapidity. The jail and district court-house are here erected: and as
lots were distributed gratis to the first persons who constructed
dwelling-houses, the town soon became flourishing. On the banks of the
strait the settlements are frequent, particularly on the western or
American border: adjoining to almost every house there is an orchard.
The improvements are extensive, and executed with taste. Peaches,
grapes, apples, and every other species of fruit, are here produced in
the greatest perfection and abundance. The lands on either side yield in
fertility to none on the continent of America: and this territory may
not improperly be stiled the garden of the North. In passing through the
strait, when the fruit-trees are in blossom, the scene is gratifying
and rich. In the vicinity of Sandwich a mission of the Hurons is
The old town and fort of Detroit, which in 1796 was
transferred to the government of the United States, is situated on the
western border of the river, about nine miles below Lake Saint Claire.
It contained upwards of two hundred houses; the streets were regular;
and it had a range of barracks of a neat appearance, with a spacious
parade on the southern extremity. The fortifications consisted of a
stockade of cedar-posts: and it was defended by bastions made of earth
and pickets, on which were mounted pieces of cannon sufficient to resist
the hostile efforts of the Indians, or of an enemy unprovided with
artillery. The garrison in times of peace consisted of about three
hundred men, commanded by a field-officer, who discharged also the
functions of civil magistrate. The whole of this town was lately burnt
to ashes, not a building remaining except one or two block-houses.
In the month of July 1762, Pontiac, a chief of the Miamis
Indians, who preserved a deep-rooted hatred to the English, endeavoured
to surprise the garrison of Detroit, with an intention of massacring the
whole of the inhabitants. But an accidental discovery having been made
of his plot, he and his people were spared by the commandant, who had
them in his power, and were permitted to depart in safety. Far from
entertaining any sentiment of gratitude for the generous conduct which
had been shewn him, Pontiac continued for a considerable time to
blockade the place: and several lives were lost on both sides by
frequent skirmishes.. . .
A village of Moravians, under the guidance of four
missionaries from the United Brethern, is placed twenty miles above the
intended site of Chatham. They established themselves in that situation
with a design of converting the Indians: and their conduct is peaceable
and inoffensive. Their chief occupation is in cultivating their
corn-fields, and making maple sugar. A chapel is erected in the village.
Not far from hence there is a spring of pretroleum.
From: TRAVELS THROUGH THE CANADAS, CONTAINING A
DESCRIPTION OF THE PICTURESQUE SCENERY ON SOME OF THE RIVERS AND LAKES;
WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE PRODUCTIONS, COMMERCE, AND INHABITANTS OF THOSE PROVINCES by George Heriot, Esq. Philadelphia: M. Carey, 1813: 189 -193.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography 7: 400-403.
Finley, Gerald. George Heriot: Postmaster-Painter of the Canadas. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983.
Greening, W. E. Some Early Recorders of the Nineteenth Century Canadian Scene. Canadian Geographic Journal 1963 66 (4): 124- 129.