BURCH (Birch, Buck), JOHN, craftsman and local official; b. 1741 in England; m. c. 1779 Martha Ramsey, a widow, and they had one son; d. 7 March 1797 at Chippawa (Niagara Falls), Upper Canada.
In 1772 John Burch emigrated from London to New York City, where he advertised himself as a “Tin-Plate Worker and Japanner” with a large stock of tinware for sale. He was a successful tradesman and purchased an estate at Papacunk (N.Y.) on the east branch of the Delaware River. When the American revolution broke out Burch “was prest to sign an Association which he refused & retired to Albany to avoid it,” leaving New York in 1775. He set up shop in Albany and undertook construction of a grist- and sawmill at Woodstock, but he was forced to remain on his farm as the disturbances increased. In 1778 Burch gave supplies to John Butler’s rangers, as did his neighbours with his encouragement. In retaliation the rebels sacked his estate three times before razing it entirely and confiscating all his known property. His losses exceeded £4,500.
Burch was forced to flee to Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.), where, unfit for active service, he was appointed keeper of the Indian stores and sutler to Butler’s Rangers. In 1783, at the end of the war, he and his wife settled on land on the west bank of the Niagara River. Burch received several lots in what became Stamford Township and established his home at the mouth of Chippawa Creek (Welland River). A few miles to the north, beside the Niagara rapids, he constructed a grist- and sawmill in 1785–86. Its workmanship and the ingenious log flume were admired by travellers of the period. After his death, Burch’s mill was sold to Samuel Street*, his former partner in a company for carrying goods over the Niagara Falls portage.
As a reward for his loyalty and enterprise Burch was appointed to several positions of local importance. In June 1786 he was made justice of the peace for the Niagara region and in 1791 he was named to the Nassau District land board. The following year Burch was appointed to the board for Lincoln County. He was further rewarded with land grants, including 500 acres for his services to the rangers. He later petitioned as a magistrate for an additional 700 acres but received less. By the time he died Burch had risen from craftsman to gentleman and squire. In 1785 one traveller described him as “a very sensible, well-informed character, his conversation pleasing and instructive and his communications very novel.”
PAC, MG 24, D4; E1; RG 1, L3. “The arts and crafts in New York, 1726–1776: advertisements and news items from New York City newspapers,” N.Y. Hist. Soc., Coll., [ser.3], LXIX (1936), 204. PAO Report, 1904, 992–94, 996, 999–1000, 1281; 1905, xcvii, 132, 211, 302–6, 313, 316, 334, 339, 344; 1928, 50, 160; 1930, 42, 79, 107, 137. “Records of Niagara . . . ,” ed. E. A. Cruikshank, Niagara Hist. Soc., [Pub.] (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.), 38 (1927), 69; 39 (n.d.), 21, 41, 115, 119; 40 (n.d.), 62; 41 (1930), 96, 111, 112, 117–34, 138. R. C. Bond, Peninsula village: the story of Chippawa ([Chippawa, Ont.], 1964), 12–13, 18, 21–22. H. C. Mathews, The mark of honour (Toronto, 1965), 53–54, 63, 128, 130, 134, 137. Janet Carnochan, “Inscriptions and graves in the Niagara peninsula,” Niagara Hist. Soc., [Pub.], 19 ([2nd ed.], n.d.), 67; “Names only but much more,” ibid., 27 (n.d.), 2.