LAMB, HENRY, farmer and businessman; b. probably in Pennsylvania; m. and had four sons and a daughter; d. 22 Jan. 1841 in Beverly Township, Upper Canada.
Of Scots descent, Henry Lamb was considered a loyalist by historian Robert Kirkland Kernighan, although what part, if any, he played in the American revolution is not known. According to Richard Beasley, a Barton Township magistrate, he came to Upper Canada in 1799 and settled at the head of Lake Ontario. In June 1803 he applied for a land grant but this was denied the following year because he had gone back to the United States during the winter. After his return to Upper Canada he lived in Beverly and Flamborough townships and in the Grand River area. Lamb seems to have bought land, cleared and improved it, and then sold it to settlers with sufficient cash to pay for his effort. He thus accumulated capital, and by 1821 he had settled permanently in Beverly.
Lamb’s land was located on the edge of a large swamp along the road from Shade’s Mills (Cambridge) to Dundas. The Beverly Swamp was a fearsome place, complete with unfriendly Indians, wolves, and quicksand, but Lamb nevertheless opened a tavern near by. His success was considerable. In 1821–22 he built his great house, a two-storey timber structure measuring 20 by 40 feet and enclosed by a stockade, within which he kept cows and pigs. By 1825 he had built a sawmill and had become the wealthiest landowner in Beverly, a position he maintained until his death.
Lamb was clearly a promoter. In 1829 he wrote to Peter Robinson, the commissioner of crown lands, to ask for a contract to cut a road from Guelph to the proposed Waterloo turnpike in Beverly and thus shorten the route between Shade’s Mills and Guelph by 11 miles. Though he did not get the contract (a road had already been cut, Robinson explained), he continued to write to the colonial government. He stressed the fact that he had encouraged a better class of settlers to come to Beverly and asked for support in the form of information on crown and clergy reserves that might become available.
In the early 1830s he attempted his largest promotion, a planned community, to be called Romulus, centred on his land in concession 6 in Beverly, at a site west of the present village of Rockton. Romulus was to have Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals. Free land and building materials were to be available for any other denomination. A market-square, cricket-ground, and race-track were also planned and the town would boast a theatre, concert-hall, and ballroom. Lamb advertised in English newspapers for artisans and tradesmen, promising free housing, firewood, and no municipal taxation for 25 years. Part of his promotional material was a map which showed the settlement at the centre of the civilized world. Romulus, however, was a complete failure. Only two settlers arrived, both in 1834, one to start a store and the other to farm. None of the public buildings was ever built. Nevertheless, for local residents, Henry Lamb was Mayor Lamb, a recognized leader in the area. His sawmill and tavern seem to have continued successfully, and in 1837 he established a grist-mill. A year later, by which time he had accumulated 1,250 acres in Beverly, he sported the only “pleasure wagon” there.
Lamb was a man of some mystery to his contemporaries. His wife claimed aristocratic lineage in France. He was reputed to have had a secret room in his tavern where gentlemanly strangers met in masonic rituals. Now he is viewed as an Upper Canadian enthusiast who saw opportunity in the soil of Beverly Township and who tried to create a city in the New World. A pragmatist he nevertheless was. His only known comment on life, made after fighting off an attack by Indians, has come down through the folklore of Beverly: “A man might as well lose his life as his pork.”
AO, RG 1, A-I-6: 7662–65; C-IV, Beverly Township, concession 5, lot 12; RG 21, Wentworth County, Beverly Township, assessment rolls, 1821–34, 1837–39; RG 22, ser.204, reg.F (1840–43): 149–52. PAC, RG 1, L1, 26: 32; L3, 286: L9/1. Wentworth Land Registry Office (Hamilton, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Beverly Township (mfm. at AO). “Index to The pioneers of Beverly by John A. Cornell,” comp. Faye West (typescript, Edmonton, 1980; photocopy at AO). J. A. Cornell, The pioneers of Beverly; series of sketches . . . (Dundas, Ont., 1889; repr. [Galt (Cambridge), Ont., 1967]). Johnston, Head of the Lake (1958). The Khan [R. K. Kernighan], “A city that was not built” and “Legends of Romulus,” Pen and pencil sketches of Wentworth landmarks . . . (Hamilton, 1897), 118–20, 121–23. M. F. Campbell, “Romulus recalled: wolves integral part of Beverly’s history,” Hamilton Spectator, 7 Dec. 1954: 25. “Mouldering ruins only vestige of Beverly dream city . . . ,” Hamilton Spectator, 15 July 1946. Passerby, “Here and there in Wentworth,” Hamilton Spectator, 28 Aug. 1933: 18.