Saturday, July 23, 2016

Timothy Soper

For a long time I have wondered how it would feel to find an ancestor who had fought against my country in a war. Every veteran of WWI or WWII thus uncovered in my family fought either for the U.S. or one of its allies, and my Civil War ancestors have all been on the side of the Union. There are even a few Revolutionary War patriots hidden in the branches of my family tree. But now I have finally stumbled across an ancestor—a direct ancestor, too—who fought against the United States.

The line goes like this: my Grandpa Jack’s father was Francis Albert Hoyt, Sr.; his mother was Parmelia “Minnie” Nelson; her mother was Maria Dianna Soper (who surprised me as the first Canadian in my direct line); her father was Harley Soper; and his father was Timothy Soper, the subject of this post.

Timothy Soper may have been born in Vermont; more research will be necessary to untangle all the various Sopers. At this point, the earliest period I can confidently identify Timothy, he was living in Kitley, Leeds county, Ontario. Thad. W. H. Leavitt’s History of Leeds and Grenville Ontario recounts this anecdote:

For a long time Mr. Soper acted as a general agent for the settlers, in bringing in supplies, doing to milling, etc. Upon one occasion he had taken a grist to Merrickville for Thomas Connor. Returning with it in the night, he left it beside the main road, at a point where the path leading to Mr. Connor’s house diverged. Having a piece of chalk in his pocket, he wrote upon the sack:--

Here I lie upon my back,
My name it is an Irish sack;
Touch me not, upon your honor,
For I belong to Tommy Connor” (Leavitt 117).

I must say that is one of my favorite extracts regarding an ancestor I have yet come across, illustrative as it is of his playfulness and sense of humor, even if not, perhaps, of his diligence.

In June of 1812, America declared war on the British. The Americans expected to be welcomed by their neighbors to the north, but the Canadian colonists saw the Americans as an invaders. By September of that year, Timothy Soper had joined up with the Militia of Leeds county, to be specific, Captain John Howard’s Company in the 1st Regiment Leeds Militia. Although this company does not appear by name in Officers of the British forces in Canada during the war of 1812-15, the volume does state that the 1st Regiment of Leeds Militia fought against the American raid on Elizabethtown/Brockville (the village was in the process of being renamed in honor of a commander in the war) and it took part in the attack on Ogdensburg (Irving 50). Both locations are less than 40 miles from Timothy’s hometown of Kitley.

After the war, Canada headed (though not necessarily intentionally) toward independence of British rule. An early agitator, if that is the word for it, was Robert F. Gourlay. When Gourlay held a meeting in Kitley in 1818, Timothy Soper was a member of the committee (Leavitt 43).

Timothy Soper died on 12 Dec 1847 and was buried in Soper’s Cemetery in Kitley. As you can see, there is still much research to be done to flesh out Timothy’s life. And this will be my first serious foray into Canadian genealogical resources, so there is much to learn!

Selected Sources:

CanadaGenWeb's database and images, Canada GenWeb's Cemetery Project (accessed 13 Jun 2016); entry for Timothy Soper, buried in Soper's Cemetery, Ontario.

Christine Beek, OntarioGenWeb, War of 1812 Paylist Rolls  (accessed 17 Jul 2016), Timothy Soper included in a list of Capt. John Howard's Co, citing Folios 349-351, microfilm T-10381, North York Public Library, Yonge St., Toronto.

Irving, L. Homfray and Canadian Military Institute, Officers of the British Forces in Canada During the War of 1812-15 (Welland Tribune Print, 1908).