1807 Heriot

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 established.

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.



See Also:

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.