The Tollhouse Tragedy
by Scott Forsyth  

   On Wednesday January 28th, 1857 a terrible incident occurred in the Tollhouse for the Hamilton & Waterdown Road Company. Back then the road was known as the Waterdown Road but today we now know it as the Snake Road. This tollhouse was located at the south end of the road east of the bridge that separates the Grindstone March and Burlington Bay. The exact location is not yet known. It could have been on either side of the Grindstone Creek.

The road to Waterdown (Snake Rd) courtesy Flamborough Archives

   The Hamilton &Waterdown Road was built for James Kent Griffin (1823-1910), son of Ebenezer, in 1854 and likely followed a pathway from years before. Plans for another road that is now known as the Waterdown Road located 2 miles to the east were first laid out in 1840 for Alexander Brown. It would run from Waterdown to the wharf below La Salle Park. The Hamilton & Nelson Road Company that ran the tolls along Plains Road was formed in 1850.


The following articles are all that can be found for what took place back on January 28th, 1857.
The first articles are from the Hamilton Spectator



The following articles are from The Globe newspaper. You will notice slight differences.

Jan. 30, 1857

   After extensive research there was not a lot of information to be found regarding the names mentioned in the articles. The most information available was for John Loree and his 2nd wife’s family.

   It should be noted that two different spellings of the name Loree were used by the two newspapers.  Neither of these names were found in Wentworth Co. during this time period.  There was another John Loree, who was the same age, living in Wellington Co. but he lived there all his life.

    It seems that John Hopkins was not related to the other Hopkins families living in the area. The heads of those families appear to be the same age as John Hopkins. Several searches for him have not been successful even though it was stated that he had an ailing wife and three children.

   Another confusing statement came from Anne Flynn saying that John Hopkins was her son-in-law, considering he was around sixty years of age. It is unsure if Anne & John Flynn were related. There is a John Flynn (1801-1884) and his wife Anne Finnamore-Flynn (1826-1877) buried in the St. Thomas Catholic Cemetery in Waterdown Ontario. They are not listed on the 1861 or 1871 Census’s for Wentworth or Halton Counties. If these are the same people Anne would have been 31 years old in 1857.

Tombstone of Ann and John Flynn

   There was one other Ann Flynn that lived in the area around Lot 13 on the 2nd concession. She was found on the 1871 Census being 78 years old and living with a 14 year old girl, likely a servant. In 1857 she would have been 64 which could also make her the right person except she too cannot be found anywhere else in Canada.

   As for the three witness’s John Smith, John Gilmore and the German, there is not a lot to be found for them either. There is a John and Margaret Smith living in the area on the 1861 Census along with two men of German descent. Their names were John Joice, 53 years old and August Bruce, 25. A John Gilmore was found on the 1861 Ag. Census having 6 acres on Lot 7, Concession 6 but I can’t confirm it is the same person. The 1851 General Census is missing and only the Agricultural Census is available. David Smoke (1827- August, 1860) who was to lend Hopkins an axe, lived on Lot 12 in the Broken Front with his parents & siblings. He died of consumption in early 1861.

   The mention of the man named Mr. Lottridge to whom was to have had a letter for the toll keeper was likely Robert Lotteridge (1807-1894). He was one of the first Directors of the Road Company along with Peter Carroll, James K Griffin, R G Darrell and George Abrey. Robert also owned flour, lumber and carpet mills in Waterdown.

   John Loree (1801-1878) was first married in 1825 to Elizabeth Sarah Drake (1804-Dec. 18, 1853) and they lived on 60 acres in Dumphries Township, Brant County on Lot 8, Concession 1, with 3 of their 7 children, David, Charles and Julia.  Their other children were Abraham, Marilla, Isaac, and Jacob who were in their adult years.

   Elizabeth Sarah Drake was the daughter of David Drake and Temperance Fergusson. Her parents and Brother Abraham also lived on this lot in 1851 having 40 acres. Lots were generally 200 acres in size. The remaining 100 acres of this lot belonged to Abraham Vansickle. He was married to Deborah Drake, Elizabeth’s sister.

    Seven months after Elizabeth Drake’s death, John Loree married the widow Annie Maria Little-Sealey (1807-1889) on July 12th, 1854. She was first married to Stephen Sealey (1802-April 19, 1847). He passed away on his 45th birthday and is buried in the Millgrove Cemetery with three of their children, James 1830-1850, Edward 1844-1845 and Charity 1845-1848.  Because of the size of the tollhouse or shanty I don’t believe that John or Ann Maria lived there.
   When Anne Maria Little was around 3 years old she sailed with her parents from Britain to America around 1810. Both of her parents died during the voyage and a family by the name of Adams took care of her while growing up in the Johnstown area of Montgomery County, New York State.  Anne Maria Little married Stephen Sealey on March 22, 1827 in the town of Gloversville. Both these towns are about 190 miles straight east of Rochester, NY.

   The Sealey family relocated to Canada around the year 1831. They first settled on the farm of Rees Tunis (1788-1865) in West Flamborough. The Tunis’s came from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to West Flamborough around the year 1811 and it is not believed that they were related. Rees Tunis had a few tracts of land so it is likely that the Sealey’s rented from him. Rees Tunis is recorded purchasing the property on Lot 13, Con. 2 of West Flamborough in 1815 which is likely where he lived. In 1829 he purchased Lot 14, Con. 2. Going by this date this could have been where the Sealeys first lived. They eventually moved closer to the village of Millgrove, Ontario, Canada purchasing Lot 20, in Concession 4.
   The family of Warren Adams, the family that adopted Anne Maria Little, also came to Canada and lived in West Flamborough. It is not known what year they arrived. The eldest members of the family that settled near Millgrove were Warren Adams (1782-1861) and his wife Mary McIntosh (1783-1861). They lived down the road on Lot 17, Con. 4. According to the Surtees Map from 1859 both families have moved a short distance away. The Adams’s are now on Lot 14, Con. 5, of West Flamborough with Warren’s son Joseph’s name being on the lot. The Sealey’s have moved across the line into East Flamborough.

   After her husband’s death the Census of 1851 shows us that the widow Anne M Sealey is still living on Lot 20, Concession 4 of West Flamborough with six children. They were Charles H. 25, William Alfred 20, Stephen 17, Sarah 15, Reese 13 and Johnathan 10.

   The eldest son Charles Henry Sealey (1828-1906) became a lumber dealer. According to a Waterdown Directory he was previously the proprietor of the Farmers Inn in the year 1857 but it is not believed that this venture lasted long. He married Mary Anne Eaton (1833-1905), of the pioneer Eaton family in Carlisle, in 1856. At this time they were living in Bakersville but eventually moved to the village of Waterdown at 13 Orchard Drive.


   On the 1875 County map he owned property just east of Waterdown along the escarpment on Lot 8, Concession 3. He was the first Reeve for Waterdown in 1883 and also a Justice of the Peace in 1885 & 1886. He also owned a Flour Mill in Freelton, West Flamboro in 1885.

   His son, William Oscar Sealey (1859-1940), was first a grocer in Waterdown when he was 16 years old and in the mid to late 1880’s he opened a private bank in Waterdown. It was the scene of a bank robbery on April 14, 1887. William and his wife, Agnes Forbes, were living upstairs and were awakened by the sound of explosives. Shots were fired but nobody was injured and the burglars escaped. William O Sealey eventually moved to Hamilton and was an Accountant there. In the 1890’s he became involved in his father’s lumber business. Along with his father and other capitalist’s, they tried to incorporate the Hamilton, Waterdown and Guelph Electric Railway but were unsuccessful. He sat in the East Flamboro Council as Reeve and also in the Wentworth County Council. He was also a Member of Parliament for Wentworth County from 1908-1911.



   It is interesting to note that two of Anne Maria Sealey’s grandchildren married two of Rees Tunis’s grandchildren. Charles Henry Sealey’s son, James Clarkson (1857-1927) married William Tunis’s (1816-1875, son of Rees) daughter, Elizabeth Magdalena Tunis (1856-1929) on Oct. 15, 1879. Charles’s daughter Sarah Jane Sealey (1861-1904) married William Tunis’s son John Wesley Tunis (1859-1941) on February 22, 1882.

   There is another connection between the Sealey’s and the Loree’s. John Loree’s youngest daughter Julia Loree (Sept. 10, 1839-July 21, 1861) was first married to Annie Maria Sealey’s second son William Alfred Sealey (1831- Oct. 2, 1906). They had one daughter, Theodotia (1861-August 11, 1862). Julia is also buried in the Millgrove Cemetery with her daughter.

   Four years after the Tollhouse killing John Loree can be found on the 1861 Census with his wife Anna Marie. There are two errors for him on this census. First his name is spelled “Looree” and second,his occupation is “Tool Keeper”. It is my conclusion that he was again a Toll Keeper but on a different road located 2 miles to the east. This road was built for and owned by Alexander Brown (1812-1880). It was conceived in the late 1840’s and runs from Waterdown to the wharf below La Salle Park. Looking at the other names of people on the Census above and below the Loree’s name, it is my conclusion that the toll gate must have been located at the north end of the road, just south of Smokey Hollow where the Grindstone Creek’s waterfall is located. On an 1867/68 Directory they are living on Lot 6 in Concession 3 as free holders (owners).

   On the Census from 1871 John and Anne are still living on Lot 6 of Concession 3 andJohn is listed as a Laborer. Directly below his name and in a different residence is Anne’s son William Alfred Sealey. He is now remarried to Margaret Gain (June 10, 1842-Jan. 11, 1913). They were married around 1865/66. There is a conflict between the Directory from 1867/68 and this Census as both parties are listed as tenants. John has 1 &   1/4 acre of land and William is living on 1/4 of an acre. With Anne’s son Charles being a successful business man it is possible that he may have owned these properties.

   John Loree passed away on January 27th, 1878. He is also buried in the Millgrove Cemetery sharing a tombstone with his daughter Julia and granddaughter Theadotia.
John Loree and Theadotia Sealey

   By 1881 his wife Anne is living with her son Charles and his family in Waterdown and is going by her former last name of Sealey. Annie Maria Loree died of old age on August 21, 1889. She too is buried in the Millgrove Cemetery with the inscription “Ann Maria, wife of Stephen Sealey”on her tombstone.

Ann Maria's headstone

   As mentioned before there are a few differences between the two newspaper articles. The Hamilton Spectator says that John Hopkins did not die immediately and The Globe mentions “a dead man”.
   The Spectator states that the letter that John Hopkins says he had in his possession was from “another Mr. Hopkins”. The Globe says that it was from Mr. Lottridge, the Secretary for the Road Company.

   Hopefully others will read this story and will be able to shed some light on this mysterious incident.

A special thanks goes out to the Flamborough Archives, the Special Collections Dept. at the Hamilton Public Library, Mr. and Mrs. Weldon from the Millgrove Municipal Cemetery and the people on Ancestry who have shared their information with me.
































































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