The Pioneer Families of
Dawn Mills, Kent County, Ontario
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Welcome to my family history page on the pioneer settler families of Dawn Mills, Ontario. Dawn Mills is now a ghost town, but in the 19th century it was a thriving village located just east of Dresden in Kent County in southwestern Ontario. On this page I present family history information and links relevant to the families who were the first pioneer settlers in the village of Dawn Mills. If you have information you can add to this site please contact me.
This page is also a continuation of my family history website, as I deal in detail with the Taylor family of Dawn Mills who are ancestors of my wife. If you are just arriving here for the first time then you may wish to start HERE.
Please Note: This page is intended only as a narrative historical overview of this family. There is additional detailed information available for almost ever person presented on this page. To avoid the unnecessary work of double-entering some data, the additional information can be found in the accompanying GEDCOM database. Please make sure you click on the INDEX button at the bottom of the page so you don't miss out on potentially valuable additional information.
The research presented on this page is not mine alone. It contains information submitted by all the Fellow Researchers listed below. I am indebted to them for their generous contributions. This page is intended as a place for researchers to freely and cooperatively share our research with each other. It would be too cumbersome a task to reference each piece of data as to which researcher it has come from. The information shown on this page should be understood as a product of ALL of the Fellow Researchers. I am merely the editor and not the sole author. - Ryk
(The ghost town of Dawn Mills, Kent County should not be confused with its homonym, the town of Don Mills in east Toronto.)
Dawn Mills used to be a thriving village just east of Dresden in Kent County, Ontario. Today, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find any sign of Dawn Mills save for a road sign and a dot on a map. Today Dawn Mills is nothing more than a collection of a few houses. It is a ghost town, at least according to a recent television program on Ghost Towns of Ontario. However 150 years ago it threatened to eclipse Dresden as the major town of north-eastern Kent County.
The story of the rise and fall of Dawn Mills is intimately linked to the story of the village founder, Captain William Taylor.
William TAYLOR b: 11 APR 1794 in Manchester, Lancashire, England. William Taylor was born in England, probably in Manchester. It is believed that he was the son of Thomas Taylor and Alice Hulme who were married in Manchester on 11 MAY 1792 (according to an LDS member entry). No official record of William's birth has been found. (An erroneous baptism had previously been identified as 25 MAY 1794 Saint Mary, Bury, Lancashire, England however this same child is recorded as having died 6 JUN 1794.)
William immigrated to New York, USA sometime prior to 1815 when he is recorded as having married Sarah Chew in Rye, Westchester, New York, USA. Early census records and church records show no indication of any Taylor family in Rye prior to 1810, and post-1810 records imply only one family named Taylor resided in Rye prior to 1850. Careful interpretation of these records would appear to indicate that William probably came to the USA as a young boy with his parents and siblings and possibly an uncle. (A detailed analysis of these early records is presented below.)
In 1815, William married Sarah Chew whose family also came from Manchester, England. She had immigrated with her brothers and widowed mother sometime between 1810-1815. It is not known if the Chews and Taylors knew each other back in Manchester or not.
William and Sarah began their family in New York where they had their first four children, concluding with their son, William C Taylor who was born in 1824. Sometime shortly after William Jr's birth, William Sr and Sarah and their family (including Sarah's widowed mother Ann Chew nee Walker) removed from New York and came to Canada. According to a later biography they stayed briefly in "Toronto", however it is believed that "Toronto" should be interpreted loosely. Sarah Chew's brothers had settled in Weston, Ontario, Canada (present-day Etobicoke, a suburb of west Toronto), where they were prospering as pioneer settlers and had a thriving mill business. It is presumed that William Taylor and Sarah Chew stayed with Sarah's brothers in Weston.
On October 19, 1826 William Taylor acquired from Col. Talbot a land grant of 100 acres of undeveloped wilderness land along Bear Creek (present-day Sydenham River) in Kent county, southwestern Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) where he built a grist mill. The Sydenham waterway was the only transportation route from Kent county to the city of Detroit. The town of Dawn Mills, near present-day Dresden (not to be confused with Don Mills, near Toronto) grew up around the mill. William quickly expanded his land grants to an eventual 1000 acre area along the north shore of Bear Creek. As business at the mill prospered William opened a general store, a lumber mill, and a ship yard. He eventually added a fourth mill to his holdings. (Probably a wool and textile mill.)
By 1830 Captain William Taylor and his family were residing on their new land in Kent County where William appears to have been a entrepreneurial pioneer-extraordinaire. He is almost solely responsible for founding the village of Dawn Mills which grew up around his saw mill, grist mill, general store and other businesses. Not only is the Taylor family responsible for the birth of the village of Dawn Mills but also they are responsible for its subsequent demise. However, we will come to that later.
The following article from Romantic Kent -- The Story of a County 1626-1952 by Victor Lauriston, recounts the life of William Taylor:
"[The plentiful natural resources helped the early settlers in Camden West township] eke out a livelihood, all unsuspicious of the early advent of a man who was to change their lives.
"Captain William Taylor, born in England on April 11, 1794, settled in Toronto when it was still "muddy York". Whether his marriage to 18-year-old Sara Chew on March 30, 1815 took place before or after he emigrated, we do not know. [Although the author of the article did not know, it has now been confirmed that they were married in Rye, Westchester County, New York, USA, and their early children were born in New York.] He was still resident in Toronto when his fifth child and second son, Thomas Hulme Taylor was born on September 10, 1826.
"...About 1830, or perhaps a little earlier, Taylor moved to his new demesne. With James Smith he built a grist mill on the south bank at a bend in the river, where a series of rapids not merely marked the head of navigation, but provided good water power. Prior to that time settlers had gone to the Detroit River in canoes with their grain, the only nearer mills, on the Thames, being difficult to access through the forests and swamps. Taylor also established a general store and a saw-mill; and from these enterprises the resulting community took the name of Dawn Mills. He also engaged in shipbuilding, his craft, the 'Sara Taylor' and the 'Dawn', being operated as adjuncts to his business enterprises, not merely on the river, but on the upper lakes.
"New settlers came in, and a village gradually clustered around the mills. It was in 1835 that A. B. Baxter came. A year later he became partner in Taylor's store, the first in the community.
"In the rebellion of 1837, William Taylor was commissioned captain and raised a militia company in which young James Smith served as lieutenant...."
By the mid-1800s the railroad was transforming the transportation industry. No longer were waterways the means of travel. When the railroad lines were being considered for the Kent County area, the Taylor family campaigned vigorously to have the railroad come through Dawn Mills. They were not successful and the local business economy suffered badly as commerce followed the railway lines.
After the death of Captain William Taylor, his business interests passed to his second son, Thomas Hulme Taylor. Thomas made a valiant effort to maintain his father's businesses in Dawn Mills, at least while his mother remained alive. When Sarah Chew died Thomas Hulme Taylor sold most of his father's businesses and moved the woolen mill to Chatham where the Taylor Mills Company continued in the family until well into the mid-20th century.
Thomas sold one mill to his brother-in-law, Charles Prangley (below), and another to the McVeans of Dresden. (Coincidentally, it is interesting to note that one of the McVean descendants today is a colleague and best friend of the author of this work.) Today there is nothing left of the village of Dawn Mills except a few houses and the ruins of the foundations of the old mills.
William Taylor married on 30 MAR 1815 in Christ's Church Cathedral, Rye, Westchester, New York, USA to Sarah CHEW b: ABT 18 OCT 1797 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, England, daughter of John Chew and Ann Walker. William Taylor and Sarah Chew had the following children:
James became reeve of Camden and Zone townships in the new Kent County council. From 1852 to 1862 he was warden of Kent County. He was the longest serving warden in the history of Kent County.
Records conflict as to whether there were in fact two James Smiths, senior and junior. The senior who was a founding mill partner with William Taylor and fellow soldier, as well as warden of Kent County. And the Junior who married Taylor's daughter, Elizabeth. The approximate 20 year age difference between this James Smith and Elizabeth Taylor would favour the latter version.
Elizabeth Taylor and James Smith had the following known children (and probably others):
William C. TAYLOR b: 22 AUG 1824 in New York City, New York, USA. It is curiously noted that William C Taylor is not mentioned by name in the Taylor family biography in Romantic Kent. It also appears that William did not participate in his father's businesses. Even though William was the eldest son, the family businesses all went to William's younger brother, Thomas Hulme Taylor, while William C Taylor became a farmer. It's not known if William Jr was intentionally excluded from the family business by his father's choice, his younger brother's choice, or his own choice, or whether too much is being read into the evidence available to us. If William was deliberately excluded was this because his younger brother Thomas Hulme Taylor showed superior business abilities, or was it due to some form of paternal favoritism or sibling rivalry, or was William Jr simply more interested in farming than milling?
William C Taylor's name and descendants are not identified in the Taylor family tree nor in the biography in Romantic Kent. Otherwise William is only found in census records. William's children have only been identified through their own marriage records which record their parents' names and through census records.
In 1871, 1881 and 1891 William is found as a farmer residing in Chatham Township, Kent County (or Bothwell County, due to changes in county boundaries). In 1881 William had a 15 year old Hellen Birch residing with him. She was born in the USA. In 1901 William's widow and children are residing in Wallaceburg, Bothwell (Kent) County, Ontario, Canada. (Note: This William C Taylor should not be confused with a contemporary William C Taylor b 1840 in England who married Amelia Davidson and resided nearby in Harwich township, Kent County, Ontario, Canada.)
William C. Taylor is presumed to have married firstly to a woman named Jeanette (whose surname is unknown) although no record of their marriage has been found. They had the following children:
William Taylor's first wife Jeanette is believed to have died sometime between 1867-1875 although no record of her death has been found. William C. Taylor is believed to have married secondly to Laura ELEMS b: 15 MAY 1846 in Ontario, Canada, although no record of their marriage has been found. They had the following known children:
Thomas Hulme TAYLOR b: 10 SEP 1826 in Toronto (Probably Weston), York, Ontario, Canada. Thomas Hulme Taylor, son of Captain William Taylor, inherited his father's flour and saw mills in Dawn Mills. To these he added, almost immediately, a wool factory. As owner of the flour, wool, and saw mills, and part-owner of the general store Thomas Taylor was an important figure in the Dawn Mills community. When the Great Western Railway was coming through, he campaigned unsuccessfully to have it come through Dawn Mills; instead, in 1854, the railroad went to the nearby town of Chatham. Business in Dawn Mills began to migrate to Chatham. Because of his family's founding history in Dawn Mills, Thomas Taylor was reluctant to move his business interests to Chatham. When his mother died in 1858 that seemed to free him to leave Dawn Mills and move to Chatham where the Taylor Mills Company remained in the family serving Kent County until well into the mid-20th century. When Taylor moved to Chatham he sold one of his mills to Alexander McVean who moved the mill to nearby Dresden. (c.f. Alexander McVean's lineage for a later marital connection to Taylor's sister, Alice Prangley, and for a surprising connection to this author four generations later.)
Regrettably, Taylor's departure from Dawn Mills dealt a permanent economic blow to that once thriving village. Today the village of Dawn Mills no longer exists except as a dot on the map, a few houses, and the remnants of three dams where the mills once stood.
In Chatham "T.H. Taylor & Co. operated on William Street just north of the Taylor-Richards flour mills, their Chatham Woollen Mills, established in 1869. Capital was about $60,000, the plant employing some 30 hands and consuming annually about 50,000 pounds of wool." (Romantic Kent, p.522)
"The floating logs (on the Thames River)... formed a passageway over the rainbow-hued waters. The varied colors periodically tinging the creek came from the T.H. Taylor curing mill and dyeing works just around the creek bend, where blankets and many varieties of coating material were woven. Products of the Taylor Mill, then one of Chatham's foremost industries, were widely known for quality; Detroiters visiting Chatham on the excursion boats were extensive purchasers." (Romantic Kent, p.529)
Thomas Hulme Taylor married on 08 MAR 1848 in Kent County, Ontario, Canada to Maria Lent BOGART b: 25 JUN 1827 in Adolphustown, Quinte, Greater Napanee, Ontario, Canada, daughter of James L. Bogart and Deborah Trumpour. Maria's older brother, John Trumpour Bogart married Sarah Ann Taylor, sister of Thomas Hulme Taylor. Maria's younger brother Alfred Bogart married Thomas' niece, Elizabeth Baxter (above). Thomas Hulme Taylor and Maria Lent Bogart had the following children:
Cathedral, Manchester C005467/8
Thomas TAYLOR and Alice
Other TAYLOR/HULME marriages in Manchester Cathedral 1776-1802
William Taylor, b 1794 in England, m 1815 in Rye, NY (age 21), resided in NY to 1824, was in Weston in 1826. Therefore was in NY pre-1815. Likely travelled with parents. Only record of his suggested parents' marriage is an LDS submission. (Thomas Taylor (b ca 1767) and Alice Hulme (b ca 1771) m 11 MAY 1792 in Manchester - LDS member entry). It would seem likely that William Taylor came to NY with his parents.
All Taylor marriages in Christ's Church, Rye, Westchester, New York, USA 1791-1849
IGI has no births for any of William and Sarah's American children.
There are 13 Taylor families residing in Westchester County, NY in 1820. Including:
|Greenburgh (about 8 miles NW of Rye)||Ellithan Taylor||1||0||0||1||1||0||0||1||0||0|
|Greenburgh||William Taylor (9 away from Moses)||3||1||0||2||0||1||2||0||1||0|
|Mt Pleasant (abt 4m N of Greenburgh)||Samuel Taylor||1||0||1||3||0||2||0||2||1||0|
Yonkers (about 10 miles SW of Rye and 8 miles south of Greenburgh)
- Abraham Taylor
- Benjamin Taylor
- Gilbert Taylor
- Jacob Taylor
Bedford (about 20 miles NE)
- Elijah Taylor
North Salem (more than 20 miles NE)
Somers (more than 20 miles NE)
- William Taylor
Pound Ridge (just east of Bedford)
- Jonathan Taylor
- Nathan Taylor
There are 17 Taylor families residing in Westchester County, NY in 1820. Including:
|Greenburgh (about 8 miles NW of Rye)||William Taylor||1||1||1||3||0||1||0||1||2||0||103|
|Mt Pleasant (abt 4m N of Greenburgh)||Moses Taylor||1||0||0||0||1||0||3||2||0||1||001|
|Mt Pleasant||Ellethan Taylor||2||1||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||1||001|
|Mt Pleasant||John Taylor||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||101|
|Mt Pleasant||Thomas Taylor||1||0||1||1||0||1||3||1||0||1||00001|
Yonkers (about 10 miles SW of Rye and 8 miles south of Greenburgh)
- Abraham Taylor
- Gilbert Taylor
- Henry Taylor
- Jacob Taylor
Bedford (about 20 miles away)
- Elijah Taylor
- Jonathan Taylor
- Nathaniel Taylor
North Salem (more than 20 miles away)
- Ezekiel Taylor
Somers (more than 20 miles away)
- Benjamin Taylor
There are 24 Taylor families residing in Westchester County, NY in 1820. Including:
James TAYLOR, b 1795 in USA, fisherman, wife Phebe b1800 in USA
Cornelius TAYLOR, b 1822 in USA, residing with James and Janet (b1820) Travis
John W TAYLOR, b 1823 in USA, carpenter, wife Electra b 1825 in USA (and Rachel Purdy, b 1772 in USA mother in law?)
Harriet TAYLOR, b 1797 in USA, residing with widow Maria HOAG, b 1794 in USA
John S TAYLOR b 1836 and Charles S TAYLOR b 1839 (14 and 11) at school
Tamer TAYLOR, b 1810 in USA, residing with Maria SHERWOOD b 1801 in USA
Unknown (William?) TAYLOR, b ca 1740 in England.
Even though William Taylor built the mills of Dawn Mills, it is his son-in-law Charles Prangley whose name was associated with the remaining mill, known as Prangley Mill. And it is Charles' name that is preserved in the local geography. Although the mills no longer exist, the road leading up to them is called Prangley Road.
Charles Prangley's family came from Wiltshire, England where their roots can be traced back to the 17th century. Charles Prangley married Alice Ann Taylor, the daughter of Captain William Taylor, and became a partner in Taylor's mills in Dawn Mills.
The Chew family were not actually a Dawn Mills family. They were pioneer settlers in Weston, York County, Ontario, now part of Etobicoke -- a borough of Toronto. However this is the birth family of Sarah Chew, wife of Captain William Taylor, founder of Dawn Mills and provides more background on the Taylor family above.
The Origin Of The Name Chew
The Chew family ancestry can be traced back to the Norman conquest of 1066, making them the second most ancient traceable family of all the branches I have researched. The name Chew, although oriental in its appearance and sound, is actually Norman French in origin. It is believed to have originated as a geographic surname coming from the name of the manor Chew Magna, on the banks of the River Chew in Somersetshire, or possibly from the name of the river itself. The manor originally belonged to Godwin, Earl of Wessex, in the 11th century.
The word Chew is believed to mean "winding water", the "ew" being a variant of the French eau meaning "water". The word chewer is a western dialect for "a narrow passage" and chare is Old English for "turning". The River Chew that runs through Somerset to the River Avon is a narrow, twisting river of water. Many believe that the name Chew began in Normandy as Cheux, and came to England with the Norman Conquest during the 11th century. The earliest record of the name Chew is in the Domesday Survey where the name Chew appears as Chiew when it states that the Bishop of Wells holds Chiew. The city of Wells is in Somersetshire about forty miles from the Devonshire boundary, and the belief is that Chiew in the Domesday Book refers to Chew Magna located about fifteen miles to the north. It's also worth noting that Devonshire is where our Chew ancestor, Le Cu, was granted land (bounded by Somersetshire to the northeast). The name also appears as Chyu in 1164 at Bath, and Keu in 1260 at Suffolk and as Chewe as far North as Lancashire in 1430. It isn't certain when the surname Chew or Chewe became permanently adopted, but it was about the last half of the 14th century. There is a John Chewe at Salisbury in 1383. Nothing is known about the history of our Chew family except that they are descended from the Chews of Lancashire.
John and Samuel Chew, below, were particularly noteworthy for their pioneering contribution to early Weston. More information is known on this family than is presented here as they are not actually a Dawn Mills family. For readers who wish to learn more of the Chews, please contact me.
John Chew was born 5 May 1771 in Ashton-Under-Lyne, Manchester, Lancashire, England and died in 1809 in Lancashire. He married firstly in 1792 in Manchester to Mary Hibbert They had one child:
Mary Hibbert died during the birth of John Jr. John Chew (Sr) married secondly in 1794 in Manchester to Ann Walker. Ann Walker came from Boston in Ashton-Under-Lyne, Manchester, Lancashire, England. John and Ann had seven children. John Chew Sr. died in 1809 in England. Sometime prior to 1815 Ann (also known as "Nanny") Chew, along with at least four of her children, left England and immigrated to New York. It is presumed that the other two daughters also came with her. Ann (Walker) Chew settled with her daughter Sarah in Dawn Mills, while her son Samuel and step son John settled in Weston, and her son Thomas settled elsewhere in Canada. Nanny Chew is buried in Dawn Mills with her daughter Sarah and son-in-law William Taylor. The children of John and Nanny Chew were:
John Holme and his wife Eliza Craft were among the early settlers of Kent County, Ontario. Family story has it that John Holme was born in England and came to Canada with two brothers, one who went further up the Sydenham and one who went to the States. More information on this family can be found here: As the surname "Hulme" is a known corruption of "Holme" (or vice versa) it is remotely possible that the Holme family may have been related to the mother of Captain William Taylor above.
If you have information on other pioneer families from Dawn Mills please contact me so that I can add their information here.
If you are researching families from Dawn Mills and wish your name added to the fellow researchers' list, please contact me.
|Hamilton, Ontario||all branches of this family|
|Dawn Mills page at Ontario Ghost Towns||Dawn Mills Ghost Town|
|Ontario Ghost Towns main page||Ontario Ghost Towns - Graveyards & Abandoned Places|
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This page was last updated on June 12, 2011