brick wall

Brick Walls – Questions about the Cashions

When I first started asking questions about my family, my Dad said that his family were Loyalists from Mohawk Valley in New York, and that after the American Revolution they settled in Glengarry County, in Ontario. Within this same family group he also hinted that there was Aboriginal blood – Iroquois or Mohawk.
When pressed for details, and not actually having any, my Dad had a tendency to fill in the blanks with what were essentially imaginings: stories about camp followers, derring-do and the like. One of his major assumptions was that these ancestors were Leitches.

In researching my paternal line I have had to confront the stories my father told me, and ferret out the truth from the fiction. For a while I felt great anger at the lies he told, and mentally threw them out as I tried to figure out my ancestry. I would have preferred a “I don’t know” to something I would eventually find out was not actually true. The first thing I found out was that the Leitches were not Loyalists, but have moved to the Glengarry area from Scotland in the 1830s.

A lesson learned from doing a lot of historical research, is that oral tradition, while not necessarily the most reliable of sources, can often provide clues, or bits that are true. You have to ask yourself, where did Dad come up with the Loyalist narrative, was it from thin air, or did he hear it, but not completely understand its source, or to whom it was referring to. Could his stories then of Loyalists and Indians be based on some kind of truth? And if so, where do these people enter my line.

After a lot of research and thought, I have come to believe that it was through the Cashions that the Loyalist/Native descendancy might be possible. Dad’s Grandmother Mary Jane Cashion might have told him these stories. He knew her quite well, as she lived very near him throughout his childhood and died when he was an adult. He might have thought they were Leitches because she was his father’s mother.
So to the Cashions! Mary Jane Cashion was the daughter of Daniel Cashion and Jane Burton. Thanks to an enormous grave monument in the cemetery of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Williamstown, Ontario, along with excellent BMD material from the same church that I have been able to trace her family back, and a lot of the information has matched up to the documentary evidence.

Views of the Cashion Monument, Williamstown
Views of the Cashion Monument, Williamstown

But were the Cashions loyalists? This is where things get murky. This is my brick wall.
I know that the Cashions settled in Charlottenburgh (west of Williamstown) in a place known as Cashion’s Glen, in the 1780s. I have documents in the county’s land books, where John Cashion and his neighbour John Grant are trying to get recognition of their ownership of lands close to the “Indian Lands”. He states that he purchased the land in 1788. He did not receive a Loyalist land grant. [RG1, Vol 23, Reel C-102, Upper Canada Land Books, 9 Nov 1802, page 140-1, Library and Archives Canada] Another document I have is a list of Revolutionary Soldiers [The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada by the United Empire Loyalists, 1784-1884, the Celebration at Adolphustown, Toronto and Niagara, Toronto, Centennial Committee, Rose Publishing, 1884, page 153] This lists John Cashion as a soldier serving in the 84th Regiment, and living in East Charlottenburgh.

Another article, written in 1896, in describing the settlement of his son in Argenteuil, states that John Cashion, the father, “was a UE Loyalist who resided in Mohawk Valley, New York; on the breaking of the Revolutionary War, he with his wife, walked to Martintown, Ontario. He afterward joined the British Army, in which he held a commission, and took part in the War of 1812 and was present at the Battle of Chrysler Farm.” [History of the Counties of Argenteuil, Quebec and Prescott, Ontario from the Earliest Settlement to the Present, by Cyrus Thomas, Montreal, John Lovell and Son, 1896, pg 632]. Since I have his church burial record, which I am inclined to believe as true, which states he died in 1807, I do question the accuracy of this source.

Now when I did some research at the archives held in the Johnson House in Williamstown there was this history of the area that stated emphatically that the Cashions were not Loyalists. A recent visit to a website hosted by the United Empire Loyalist Association lists a John Cashion, but states that he was “Expunged” in 1802. The term strikes me as rather severe, and might be a result of some kind of procedure. There are no details provided which shed any light on this.

So what do we make of all of this? What I do know is that John Cashion was an early settler in Charlottenburgh – 1788 – which puts him smack dab in the middle of the Loyalist settlement period in Ontario. Was he a Loyalist? I would say likely yes, but the sources conflict. I need more information on where he was born, did he really serve, and more about his wife Mary Courtney.

The Chart:
John Cashion & Mary Courtney
b. 1757
d. 1807 Stormont Co

James Cashion & Mary McDonald
b. 1788 b. 1796, Williamstown
d. 12 Dec 1850 Cashion’s Glen d. 26 Jan 1879, Williamstown
[daughter of Angus Down McDonald and Margaret Grant]

Daniel Cashion & [1854] Jane Burton
b. 10 Apr 1832 Cashion’s Glen b. 16 Dec 1834, Williamstown
d. 1916 d. 11 Feb 1911
[married with dispensation of the 3rd degree] [daughter of Arthur Burton and Sarah Grant]

Mary Jane Cashion & William Christopher Leitch
b. 11 Sept 1868, Cashion’s Glen
d. 4 May 1960, Montreal

Now as to the stories of an Aboriginal heritage, well this also very hard to deal with. It is very hard to prove this through the written record. It is all about how the sources are produced, their purpose, the author, and the participation of the subjects in the production of them. There are some sources that state that an individual is an “Indian,” sometimes their tribe is mentioned, and their original native name, then again there are other times that they are listed with their European name, and there is no way to know where they came from, be they European or not. Sometimes the person writing the document (such as a baptism or marriage entry), do not know of their ancestry, do not care, or do not feel the need to put in extra information. And of course there were some who hid their ancestry from officialdom. Being native was not always socially acceptable and it was to their advantage to be treated as “white” so as to protect their interests, and that of their children.

In the 1851 Census for the district, Daniel Cashion is listed as Scottish and Roman Catholic, in 1861 he is listed as Irish and Roman Catholic, and in 1871 he returns to being Scottish. A history of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, where he is buried with other members of the family, states the family was Irish. What to believe. The question of his origins linger.

So what kind of evidence can I look at to see if this rumour pasts the litmus test? There is a preponderance of individuals in this line, in our family photographs, who conform to the stereotypical native features of straight black hair, high cheekbones, darker skin and brown eyes, but really Aboriginals in Eastern Canada are not the only group in the world who can say that this is a typical physical characteristic, so it proves nothing. We can take a DNA test, and see if the rumour is true in the general sense, but then the question begs – who on the family tree does this come from?

So I am at a brick wall.