BUELL, WILLIAM, miller, jp, and politician; b. 5 Oct. 1751 in Hebron (Marlborough), Conn., son of Timothy Buell and Mercy Peters; m. first 10 March 1782 Martha Naughton (Norton), and they had ten children; m. secondly 31 March 1827 Margaret Barnard, née Berkley, and they had one child; d. 8 Aug. 1832 in Brockville, Upper Canada.
William Buell was a member of a moderately influential family which lived for several generations in Hebron. In the early 1770s Timothy Buell moved to Fort Ann on the Hudson River in New York. When the American revolution broke out, he initially refused to take sides and, when his family was persecuted for his neutrality, he went to Charlotte (Washington) County on Lake Ontario. William Buell, a cooper like his father, supported the British and moved to Montreal shortly after the start of the revolution. He held the rank of assistant quartermaster in Major-General John Burgoyne*’s army when it surrendered at Saratoga (Schuylerville, N.Y.) on 17 Oct. 1777. Subsequently Buell joined Robert Rogers*’s King’s Rangers, raised in 1779, as an ensign; he was later promoted lieutenant. During the war, he also served as a courier and was captured twice, although in both instances he escaped. The unit was disbanded in 1783 and Buell went on half pay.
Following the revolution, Buell was joined by the remainder of his family, then in New York, and located briefly at Lachine, Que. In 1784 he moved to Township No.8 (Elizabethtown) in western Quebec and claimed 505 acres on the bay shore where Brockville ultimately emerged. There he built the first house in the vicinity. That same year he was rejoined by members of his family; eventually his father, brothers, and sisters all owned land in the same area. Buell, in 1793, also added 1,200 acres of land, to which he was entitled for military service, in Oxford Township near present-day Kemptville.
William Buell farmed the land in the Brockville area and during the 1790s opened a mill. He also became involved in a series of quarrels with the families of Justus Sherwood and Daniel Jones, both settled in the same area and both competing for economic and political influence. The three families, easily the most prominent in the locality, could not even decide on a name for their community, which was usually known as Elizabethtown but was dubbed “Snarlington” because of the acrimonious debates. Finally, in 1812, the issue was resolved and the name Brockville was chosen.
William Buell was commissioned justice of the peace for the Luneburg District on 24 July 1788 and for the Midland District on 15 July 1796. In 1800 he was elected to the House of Assembly representing Leeds County. He did not attend the assembly frequently, however; he missed the sessions of 1802 and 1803 altogether, and arrived late and left early in 1804. His voting record tended to be against the administration, thereby starting a reform tendency that would be continued by later generations of Buells.
Buell contributed significantly to the development of early Brockville. About 1809 he opened the first school, taught by Joseph Pyle, in his home, where it remained for several years. In 1811 he subdivided his land and by 1820 most of the approximately 60 houses in Brockville were located on his property. Out of a sense of public duty and a desire to attract development near his holdings, Buell donated land for the court-house, and the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, and Roman Catholic churches. In 1820 he built the first stone house in Brockville, an impressive home in the centre of the village.
In 1823 Buell helped his son William* to purchase the Brockville Recorder, a newspaper that became an important organ of reform in eastern Upper Canada, and a financial success for the family. During the 1820s he spent most of his time attending to his mill or working on a farm north of the village, owned by his son William. Rather remarkably he fathered his last child in 1828 when he was more than 75 years of age. He died from cholera during the epidemic of 1832.
AO, MU 275, A. N. Buell, draft of inscription for monument to William Buell and his wife Martha Naughton, n.d. PAC, MG 24, B7; B75; RG 1, L3, 32: B5/44. History of the Buell family in England, from the remotest times ascertainable from our ancient histories, and in America, from town, parish, church and family records, comp. Albert Welles (New York, 1881). T. W. H. Leavitt, History of Leeds and Grenville, Ontario, from 1749 to 1879 . . . (Brockville, Ont., 1879; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972), 181, 196–97. Ruth McKenzie, Leeds and Grenville: their first two hundred years (Toronto and Montreal, 1967), 36–37, 114–15. Ian MacPherson, Matters of loyalty: the Buells of Brockville, 1830–1850 (Belleville, 1981).