IREDELL, ABRAHAM, surveyor and office holder; b. 29 June 1751 in Philadelphia County, Pa, third child of Robert Iredell and Hannah Luckens; m. Hester (Hetty) Marsh; d. without issue April or May 1806 in Chatham, Upper Canada.
Prior to the American revolution Abraham Iredell lived near Philadelphia. He owned more than 1,000 acres of land in Northumberland and Westmoreland counties, and was employed as a deputy surveyor in Northampton and Northumberland counties under the authority of Surveyor General John Lukens, who was probably a relative. Although of Quaker parentage, Abraham and at least one brother took an active part against the rebels after the outbreak of the war. Abraham joined the army in 1777, and both brothers eventually became lieutenants: Abraham in the Guides and Pioneers, and his brother in the Company of Armed Boatmen. The brother was killed in the taking of the Toms River blockhouse in New Jersey. Abraham, one of three members of the Iredell family who were subsequently attainted of high treason by the state of Pennsylvania, was taken prisoner at the time of the British evacuation of Philadelphia in June 1778 but was exchanged a few months later. Nothing is known of his activities during the remaining years of the conflict.
Iredell seems to have taken leave of his wife, Hetty, in late 1783, possibly to go to Britain, but he planned to return to the United States the following spring. Some time later, apparently in 1784, he and his wife immigrated to New Brunswick, settling in Saint John. Here he was commissioned a deputy surveyor under George Sproule, surveyor general of the province, and received a grant of land along the Kennebecasis River.
By the spring of 1793 Iredell had removed to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Upper Canada, and that June he was sworn in as a deputy to Surveyor General David William Smith*. Iredell’s first duty as a surveyor in Upper Canada was the completion in 1793 of the survey of Hope Township in Durham County. In June 1795, after surveying William Berczy’s grant just north of York (Toronto), he moved to Detroit to succeed Patrick McNiff as deputy surveyor of the Western District. Within the next few years he conducted surveys throughout Kent County; the more notable were those of the town plots of Sandwich (Windsor) and Chatham, the latter being the projected site of an important naval arsenal, and a tract of land at the forks of the Thames River which Lieutenant Governor Simcoe had chosen as the location for the capital of Upper Canada. Side by side with his accomplishments, however, were the difficulties he created by adjusting the boundaries of lots which he believed had been illegally enlarged. Confronted by an avalanche of protests from settlers in the region, Smith ordered all boundaries left as they were. Nevertheless, the confusion produced by Iredell’s actions lasted until the 1830s, when commissioners were appointed to arbitrate boundary disputes.
With the relinquishment of control over Detroit by the British in the summer of 1796, the Iredells temporarily settled along the left bank of the Detroit River, but in December 1797 they removed to the town plot of Chatham. Nothing ever came of plans to build a naval arsenal in Chatham, and for many years Iredell and his wife were the town’s only legal residents. In 1798 they built a log house near the Thames River, on the southeast corner of Water and William streets, and soon afterwards they planted one of the first apple orchards in Kent County.
In 1800 Iredell, William Harffy, and François Baby* were appointed commissioners for administering the oath of allegiance to persons claiming land in the Western District. That same year Iredell and Walter Roe actively supported William Jarvis, Prideaux Selby, and Matthew Elliott as possible representatives for the riding of Essex in the House of Assembly. Iredell was also the returning officer for the riding of Kent in the elections of 1800 and 1804, his house in Chatham serving as the polling station. Commissioned a justice of the peace for the Western District in 1796, he continued in this office until his death.
There is a possibility that Iredell’s life, like that of his one-time contemporary in the Western District, William Robertson, was shortened by an excessive consumption of alcohol. He died in possession of more than 2,000 acres of land scattered about the province, goods and chattels valued at roughly £390, and a legacy left by his late father.
AO, RG 1, A-I-1, 31, 42; A-I-2; CB-1, Maiden Township; RG 22, ser.6–2, Essex County, will of Abraham Iredell. “Abraham Iredell,” comp. L. V. Rorke, Assoc. of Ont. Land Surveyors, Annual report (Toronto), 1935: 96–103. John Askin papers (Quaife). “Petitions for grants of land” (Cruikshank), OH, 24: 81–82. “United Empire Loyalists: enquiry into losses and services,” AO Report, 1904: 200–1, 221–22. F. C. Hamil, The valley of the lower Thames, 1640 to 1850 (Toronto, 1951; repr. Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1973).