It cannot fail to interest the people of Oshawa, and the County of Ontario, to follow with considerable diligence, anything that may be written of Benjamin Wilson. The story of the “first settler” will continue to engage the curiosity of a neighborhood when the history of “the most distinguished son” is literally forgotten. Benjamin Wilson, a stalwart Vermonter, was without question our first settler. He came with his family in 1794 ; he settled on the lake shore at the mouth of the Oshawa Creek. His first house was the . deserted log cabin once used as a trading post by the French previous to the conquest of Quebec. It was located just east of the little burying ground, now visible for some distance in almost all directions on the lake front. His wife appears to have had two husbands previous to her marriage with Wilson. In each case she accompanied her newly acquired husband into some uninhabited section of the country with a view of carving a home from the primeval forest. In one case while in the United States it is said she was compelled to look on while, in cold blood, her husband was tortured and brutally murdered by Indians before her eyes. In connection with the incident related in another chapter respecting the attack upon the early home of Wilson by the indians, a story is told which in some respects illustrates the peculiar mental characteristics of the Red man. The Chief, upon hearing of a theft committed, called his tribe together, and to them exhibited a bundle of small sticks. The number of sticks in the bundle corresponded with the latest census of the tribe. The old Chief, surrounded by his followers, stood in serious attitude before them and taking one stick at a time he cast it violently upon the ground. When the bundle was very much reduced in size, he seized the balance and hurled them viciously in every possible direction.
The meaning which the old chief intended to convey by this strange pantomine was that unless the Indians treated the white man fairly, one by one, their little band would be reduced until by some final blow they would all be exterminated. It is now 1921, just one hundred and twenty-seven years since Wilson and his little family “paddled their canoe” along the Lake Shore in search of that deserted trading post ‘which was no doubt described to him by Governor Simcoe as a most desirable location for any one who cared to take advantage of the bounty then offered by him to intice settlers into Upper Canada. (A deed of 200 acres of land and three years’ provision from the nearest fort were among the inducements held out for purposes of colonization.) One feels that he is treading upon historic ground as he pays a visit to that spot where, the “first settler” thus pitched his lonely tent; where the first white woman was born in the County of Ontario ; and whose marriage to the son of a later colonist was fruitful of the family of Pickells whose descendants are still familiar figures in this district. Even to this day a visit to the Site cannot but impress the most casual observer of the many reasons which must have influenced Wilson in his choice of location. The ready access to the lake as a means of reaching the nearest fort, then York, for the promised supply of provisions ; the old cabin deserted by the French ; the beautiful elevation which gave him a commanding view of the lake and the land for miles around ; all contributed to the selection of lot No. 5, as the home of this sturdy pioneer. No trace of the old homestead is at this time to be found, but old residents, such as the veteran Thomas Henry, who had lived nearby for eighty years, point to the very spot where once stood these interesting old landmarks. The top of the hill is surrounded by a row of evergreens within which, as an enclosure, there is laid to rest many of the old settlers of the Broken Front. Several monuments of attractive design guarantee the respectability of many of the descendants of the honored pioneers of those early days. A neglected and time worn slab next the fence, along the northern border, will never fail to interest the visitor to this quiet home of the dead. It bears this inscription “In Memory of Capt. Benj. Wilson, who died Mar. 5th, 1821, in the 89th year of his age.” By its side a similar slab is seen which tells its own story “James Wilson, died, May 17, 1863, Age 73son of Benj. Wilson.” Another son was named David, and of him a well authenticated story is told to this effect, that at the time of the war between England and United States in 1812, his sympathies being on the side of his fatherland, and fearing enlistment by the British, he shaped a craft from a pine log, and with no other compass than the glimmer of the northern star he steered across the lake and remained in Uncle Samuels domains until the close of the war, when he returned to his father’s home. The branch of the family which appears to have left the most enduring trace of its existence is that which sprang from the only daughter, Nancy, who married a pioneer named William Pickell. We have already referred to the fact of Nancy having been the first white woman born in the County of Ontario. There are those who say she can claim this distinction over a much larger area than that, even embracing the whole territory between Toronto and the Bay of Quinte. She appears to have clung with commendable patriotism to the romantic spot that gave her birth, for upon the old homestead she settled down with her husband, William Pickell, to whom she was married April 21st, 1811, and there raised a family of seven sons and seven daughters. It is of interest to observe, as showing the drift of the early population of parts of Ontario, that of these fourteen children all but two, Benjamin and Nelson, found their way back to the United States. Benjamin married Amy Stone, and Nelson married Cynthia Coryell. Benjamin had two daughters, Sarah and Emma, who married and spent a life time in the neighborhood of Oshawa; the former as wife of Capt. G. Farewell, and the latter as Mrs. H. Baker of Harmony. Nelson Pickell, whose old homestead on the northern part of lot No. 7, East Whitby, is now regarded as one of the old land marks of Oshawa, was a man of commanding appearance, and well known to a large circle of friends and relatives. His children were : Abraham, of U. S. ; Jessie, of Wingham ; William, died ; David, Celina St., Oshawa ; Debora, m,. G. Coleman ; Minerva, m., Walter Wilson, on the old homestead.