GAGE, JAMES, farmer and businessman; b. 25 June 1774 in Greenbush, N.Y.; m. 1796 Mary Davis, and they had four sons and six daughters; d. 15 Feb. 1854 in Hamilton, Upper Canada.
Although there is some controversy surrounding the identity of James Gage’s father, it appears certain that he was James Gage, a private in the New York militia who was killed in 1777 fighting the British at the attack on forts Clinton and Montgomery, N.Y. About 1790 his widow, Mary, moved with her two children to the head of Lake Ontario, where her brother, Augustus Jones*, was already working as a surveyor. The Gages took up land at Stoney Creek in Township No.7 (Saltfleet) and began farming. Though the homestead remained in Mary Gage’s name until 1835, James gradually took over responsibility for the family and in 1796 married Mary Davis, a member of a loyalist family from North Carolina.
Gage’s “commodious” farmhouse became the principal stopping-place for travellers by land between Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake) and York (Toronto). Over the years prominent Methodists, including Elizabeth Field* and itinerant preachers such as James Coleman, William Case, Joseph Sawyer, and Nathan Bangs*, were welcomed particularly warmly by Gage, a devout Methodist. His farming activities and reception of visitors were interrupted by the War of 1812, during which he and his son Andrew served with the 5th Lincoln Militia. In June 1813 the adjoining farms of James and his uncle William Gage were the scene of the decisive battle of Stoney Creek, in which the American forces were halted by Lieutenant-Colonel John Harvey. James’s house was occupied as a barracks by the British; as a result of American and British depredations, by the end of the war he had suffered extensive losses of crops, flour, whisky, livestock, timber, and fencing, for which he received some compensation in 1823. The Gage residence is now a museum known as Battlefield House, and the farm a park.
Following the war Gage resumed farming but he also developed other interests. In 1810 he had bought 338 ½ acres at the northern end of Burlington Beach from Augustus Jones and Catherine Brant [Ohtowaˀkéh-son*], the trustees of the estate of Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea*]. Gage is credited with laying out the first town-site in that part of the Brant tract. Known as Wellington Square (Burlington) after 1815, the settlement prospered; Gage built a sawmill, a shingle factory, lath and stave mills, a warehouse and wharf, and, elsewhere in Nelson Township, flour and feed mills. He sold land to his employees for houses and supplied them with building materials and flour. His sons, notably James Philipse, managed these business ventures while their father remained at Stoney Creek, where he had established a general store.
In 1835 Gage moved to Hamilton in order to pursue his business affairs with greater ease. Among these was the Gore Bank, of which he was a stockholder and a director in the 1840s and 1850s. He was fully aware too of the commercial potential at another flourishing port, Oakville, and his entry into business there was probably facilitated by his relation through marriage to the influential Chisholm family (his wife’s sister had married John Chisholm, a collector of customs and brother of William*). Gage set up a general store in Oakville in 1841 and, concentrating on buying and shipping grain, entered into partnership with Benjamin Hagaman, an American merchant. The firm opened a branch at nearby Bronte (now part of Oakville) the following year, traded extensively in the United States through Hagaman’s connections in Oswego, N.Y., and quickly became one of Oakville’s largest retailers and grain handlers. Gage and Hagaman were joined by the latter’s cousin Worthington Ely Hagaman in 1852; on Gage’s death two years later his interests were taken over by his son James.
In a lengthy obituary in the Christian Guardian, the Reverend John Saltkill Carroll*, a family intimate, observed that “though a man of safe judgement in matters of business and of industrious habits,” Gage “was by no means a bustling man of the world.” Carroll regretted above all that the church had lost a true and valuable “friend,” one who had been famous for his hospitality and liberal contributions to Methodist institutions. On 2 April 1854 a memorial sermon to Gage was preached by the Reverend William Ryerson*.
Gage was highly respected as a pioneer and as a useful citizen, but he lived quietly, did not seek public office, and was content to exercise his talents in commercial dealings which served the needs of a developing society.
AO, RG 22, ser.204, James Gage. Halton Land Registry Office (Milton, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Nelson Township, vol.B: 52 (mfm. at AO, GS 3387). HPL, Clipping file, Hamilton biog. PAC, RG 1, L3, 203: G1/34, G3/34; RG 19, 3746, claim 447. Victoria Univ. Library (Toronto), Peter Jones coll., Eliza[beth Field] Jones Carey papers, diary, 13 Sept. 1834. Wentworth Land Registry Office (Hamilton, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Saltfleet Township, concession 4 (mfm. at AO, GS 1627). Christian Guardian, 26 April 1854. Daily Spectator, and Journal of Commerce, 17 Feb. 1854. “Gage families, part two: the English–Irish–early American and Canadian families,” comp. C. V. Gage (typescript, Worcester, N.Y., 1965; copy in AO, MU 3298, no.11). Genealogical and historical records of the Mills and Gage families, 1776–1926; 150 years, comp. Stanley Mills (Hamilton, 1926). Westbrook–Gage miscellany: a souvenir of the Westbrook–Gage reunion, Stoney Creek, Ontario, July 1, 1909 ([Thamesville, Ont.], 1911). Carroll, Case and his cotemporaries, 1: 42–43; 2: 304. Claire Emery and Barbara Ford, From pathway to Skyway: a history of Burlington (Burlington, Ont., 1967). C. M. Johnston, Head of the Lake (1967). H. C. Mathews, Oakville and the Sixteen: the history of an Ontario port (Toronto, 1953; repr. 1971). V. Ross and Trigge, Hist. of Canadian Bank of Commerce, 1: 216. Saltfleet – then and now: 1792–1973 (Fruitland [Stoney Creek], Ont., 1975). Stanley Mills, “The Gage family,” Wentworth Hist. Soc., Papers and Records (Hamilton), 9 (1920): 17–18.