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CHAFFEY, SAMUEL, businessman; b. 4 Feb. 1793 in Norton sub Hamdon, England, son of Benjamin Chaffey and Sarah —; m. 25 Dec. 1821 Mary Ann Poole, originally from Somerset, and they had a son, Samuel Benjamin; d. 26 July 1827 at Chaffey’s Mills (Chaffeys Locks), Upper Canada.

Samuel Chaffey was the fifth son of a Somerset wool-stapler and woollens manufacturer. The economic slump in England which followed the Napoleonic Wars was probably a factor in the immigration of Samuel and his brother Benjamin to Upper Canada in 1816. They settled for a time at the Perth military settlement, but about 1817 located in Brockville, where they entered mercantile trade as B. and S. Chaffey, set up a small distillery, and rented (under Benjamin’s name) the nearby farm and mills of Daniel Jones Sr. While preparing these mills for operation, the Chaffeys were asked by settlers from the rear township of South Crosby to erect a mill there. The brothers agreed and in April 1820 Benjamin secured a lease to lot 17, concession 8, a clergy reserve lot with a suitable mill-seat. Construction began that summer under Samuel’s direction.

The Chaffeys were in business at Brockville for about three years, dealing frequently with wholesalers and lumber merchants in Montreal and Quebec City. The firm soon was seriously indebted, principally to the estate of Daniel Jones. Benjamin fled to the United States in late 1820 to escape prosecution but Samuel remained behind to extricate their interests, in which effort he was not altogether successful. Creditors won judgements against him for £155 7s. 6d. in 1822 and for £186 9s. 2d. the following year; yet in 1827 the former partnership was still owed more than £1,060 on outstanding notes. Samuel nevertheless retained, in his brother’s name, the interest in the mill-seat in South Crosby, where, by the time of Benjamin’s flight, a sawmill had been partially erected.

About 1822 Samuel moved to the township, began farming, and pushed ahead with the construction of a large milling complex, which by 1827 contained the sawmill, a grist-mill, a distillery, and carding and fulling machinery. Although he had attempted with others in 1823 to have a road surveyed to Chaffey’s Mills in South Crosby, there was no efficient system of roads or water-ways to serve this “barren and rocky country” and his products were probably consumed locally. Nevertheless, reports in 1829–30 of the annual income of the Chaffey enterprises by Mary Ann Chaffey (£205), Lieutenant-Colonel John By* (£300), and the township assessor (£457) revealed an operation of moderate value. John Mactaggart, clerk of works on the Rideau Canal, estimated the total worth of this self-sufficient industrial hive to be at least £5,000.

In 1826 work had begun near Chaffey’s Mills for a lock on the proposed Rideau canal. The site was one of the unhealthiest on the entire water-way because of the prevalence of malaria, known also as swamp fever or ague. Its symptoms were later described by Mactaggart: “They generally come on with an attack of bilious fever, dreadful vomiting, pains in the back and loins, general debility, loss of appetite. . . . After being in this state for eight or ten days, the yellow jaundice is likely to ensue, and then fits of trembling. . . . For two or three hours before they arrive, we feel so cold that nothing will warm us . . . and then the shaking begins. Our very bones ache, teeth chatter, and the ribs are sore, continuing thus in great agony. . . . This over, we find the malady has run one of its rounds, and start out of the bed in a feeble state.” Many survived such attacks, but Samuel Chaffey did not – he died of the fever on 26 July 1827.

His widow and Benjamin Chaffey, who returned from the United States in 1828, contested the rights to the mill complex. Benjamin claimed ownership by virtue of the lease and his former partnership with Samuel, Mary Ann by possession and the claim that her husband had made the improvements. She was supported in her claim by two other immigrants from Somerset, John Rowswell, a neighbouring settler, and Benjamin Tett, her future brother-in-law. After much dispute, a compromise was announced in June 1829 and Mary Ann and Benjamin Chaffey submitted a joint payment on the lease. Meanwhile the mill-site had been incorporated into the plans for the canal in order to simplify its layout and to effect savings in construction costs. After negotiations with By similar to those he engaged in for other lands along the canal route, in October 1829 Mary Ann and Benjamin Chaffey assigned the lease and other lands in the township to By for £2,000. Over the next two years the mills were dismantled and replaced by a lock-station, named for Samuel Chaffey, which soon formed the nucleus of the present-day community of Chaffeys Locks.

David Roberts

AO, ms 393, A-2-c(i), box 2, envelope 1; RG 1, C-IV, South Crosby Township, concession 8, lot 17; RG 21, United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Elizabethtown Township, assessment rolls, 1816–21; South Crosby Township, census records, 1815–25; assessment rolls, 1816–30; RG 22, ser.131, 1: ff. 82, 86; ser.176, 1: 156. Leeds Land Registry Office (Brockville, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, South Crosby Township, vol.1 (mfm. at AO). PAC, RG 1, E3, 8: 12–18; L3, 108: C15/103; 146: C leases, 1819–36/157; RG 5, A1: 19743–44, 23611–14, 23857–58, 24073–75, 24082–85, 56945. QUA, Tett family papers. Somerset Record Office (Taunton, Eng.), South Petherton Independent (Congregational), reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials. “Journals of Legislative Assembly of U.C.,” AO Report, 1913: 298. John Mactaggart, Three years in Canada: an account of the actual state of the country in 1826–7–8 . . . (2v., London, 1829). “Parish register of Brockville and vicinity, 1814–1830,” ed. H. R. Morgan, OH, 38 (1946): 83. Karen Price, “Construction history of the Rideau Canal” (National Hist. Parks and Sites Branch, Parks Canada, Manuscript report, no.193, Ottawa, 1976). Sights and surveys: two diarists on the Rideau, ed. Edwin Welch (Ottawa, 1979). J. A. Alexander, The life of George Chaffey; a story of irrigation beginnings in California and Australia (Melbourne, Australia, and London, 1928). Hearth and heritage: history of Chaffeys Lock and area, 1800–1980, comp. Laurel Fleming (Kingston, Ont., 1981). R. W. Passfield, Building the Rideau Canal: a pictorial history (Toronto, 1982).

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Cite This Article

David Roberts, “CHAFFEY, SAMUEL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 22, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chaffey_samuel_6E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chaffey_samuel_6E.html
Author of Article:   David Roberts
Title of Article:   CHAFFEY, SAMUEL
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1987
Year of revision:   1987
Access Date:   September 22, 2023