Historical Tidbit – Captain Thomas Wood
Posted on March 11, 2020
Captain Thomas Wood had prospered since his arrival at New Credit in 1851. He had been born in England and had immigrated to Canada when he was about 12 years old. Little is known about his early life, although it is known that “he came among the Mississaugas of the Old Credit” when he was 15 or 16 years old. In 1841, he married Pitiwasinoqua (Betsey McLean of the Mississaugas of the Credit and the couple would have three children- James, Sarah, and Elizabeth before the Mississauga Band moved to New Credit in 1847. While the Mississaugas established themselves at their new home, Captain Wood and his family would remain behind at the Old Credit as Wood was the Captain of the Mississaugas of the Credit’s schooner, the Credit Chief. The sale of the schooner in 1850 or ’51 meant that the Woods could move to New Credit and rejoin the friends and relatives that had went on before them. Captain Wood, in 1888, described how he acquired the land and improved the land he on which he lived:
When I first came here [New Credit] the Mississaugas gave me S ½ of Lot 9 Con 1 Tuscarora, but it was so far as in the woods that I did not like to move on it and Chief Smith and Chief Anthony of the Six Nations told me to wait until the put the squatters off the Oneida land and they would give me a lot there near the plank road [Highway 6 today]. After the squatters were removed a Six Nation[s] Indian had possession of S ½ , Lot 5, Con 1 Oneida, I bought his possession for $40. The late Chief Joseph Sawyer told me to buy the possession of[f] Brant because good-will was better than ill-will, that I might possibly take the land without buying it but it was best to buy it. I did buy it as stated above, and settled on it with the approval of the late Chief Joseph Sawyer and have occupied it ever since. I have made valuable improvements on it, have 85 acres cleared and fenced and all necessary farm buildings and a valuable orchard on it. I bought out Brant in 1850 in the fall and took possession in 1851. … I had a large family by Captain McLeans’s daughter of whom four boys and three girls are now living. The boys are James Wood, Oliver Wood, William Wood, and John Mclean Wood. The daughters are Mrs. Sarah McDougall, Mrs. Elizabeth Jones, and Susannah Kergan. I made all the improvements on my place except 15 or 20 acres which were partially cleared when I got it.
After 23 years of marriage Betsey died in 1865 at the age of 43. The Captain remarried again three years later to Rachel, the daughter of Chief David Sawyer, but unfortunately the couple’s infant son died a little over a year into the marriage. A little over six months later death visited Captain Wood again with the death of his wife. Undeterred by the loss of his first two wives, the good Captain was married for a third time, in 1871, to Margaret Roulston, a widow from Haldimand County. The marriage to his third wife would last almost 23 years until his death in 1894.
The death of the Captain led to a series of unfortunate events that caused great deal turmoil in the Wood family. The Captain’s will left the entire estate to his son, James McLean Wood, and made no provision for any of his other children. The angry siblings disputed the will arguing that their father, a non-band member, had no legal right to “will” his farm on Indian reserve land to anyone. They rightly pointed out that the land should belong to heirs of their mother, the Captain’s first wife and member of the band, Betsey McLean. The Indian Department agreed, but no peace came to the family as the children squabbled over how to best to divide the estate in an equitable manner. The problem was eventually solved, but a residue of bitterness would remain in the family for years to come.
There are still many descendants of Wood family still on the Mississaugas of the Credit Band list, although only a few actually have the Wood surname. Interestingly enough, the house at New Credit were Thomas and Betsey Wood raised their children still stands just outside of Hagersville and many band members will know it as the home of the late Lloyd S. King.