A Grand Fraud: The Stedman Deed

“Rare Slit Barn” located in Cambridge (formally known as Galt)

What is the commonality between a Slit barn and Onkwehonwe Crown Allies?

They both sit within the Haldimand tract found in our ancient dish with one spoon territory Sewatokwat’tshera’t (not to be mistaken with the 1701 Montreal Peace or 1701 Nanfan), then you would be correct.

Scottish immigrants William and Mary Young built the Slit barn sometime in the 1840s; the literature found on the Barn indicates that it is modelled after German and Scottish barn styles; however, these barns’ origin is England. Constructed from locally quarried limestone, The Barn would have housed grain while also providing space for threshing the grain-The slats serving as ventilation.

Approximate location of Slit barn within the tract

Now the home to the Every Child Outdoors program, it is is perched above the Grand rivers flood plain, which is approximately 200ft from the natural edge of the once-mighty Grand River. It has been renovated and provides a beautiful backdrop to weddings and conferences. But as beautiful as the Barn is, it comes on the hoofs of a story of greed and theft. Situated at the northern edge of “Block 1,” the Barn sits on a small part of the Phillip Stedman Sr deeded land. 

A sprawling 94,035-acre portion of the Haldimand territory was to behave sold in 1795 for 8841£. With what would be $2,069 249.53 in today’s money. More impressive yet, Phillip Stedman of Niagara would have been extremely wealthy to make this purchase at one time rather than the standard practice of 30-year mortgages post-war. He had also “purchased” several other plots of land at the same time within the Sewatokwa’tshera’t. 

Joseph Brants Signature

Stedman supposedly had convinced Joseph Brant to depart from both his usual and eloquent manner, that of the statesmen he had become. Instead, he placed himself at risk of infection by cutting himself to put a bloody fingerprint on the document to validate the sale in this only known instance. The Qin dynasty used the uniqueness of fingerprinting to identify as early as 200 BCE  in China. Still, English immigrants did not popularise the practice until the late 1800s to identify a person in business transactions in North America.

At first glance, It would appear that Phillip Stedman had made the deal of a lifetime even with the purported inconsistent behaviour of Joseph Brant himself. Phillip Stedman was said to have died shortly after this purchase; We now know that he died in England in 1820. 

Phillip Stedman Senior then appointed his great-nephew Phillip Stedman Sparksman (Jr) to inherit his wealth. Had it not been for Phillip Stedman’s penchant for filing fraudulent land claims in Niagara, perhaps this deed would not have raised much attention. 

I will be giving Phillip Stedman Sr far too much credit if I say he acted alone in this case, By all accounts, his Brother John Stedman may have amassed the means that would possibly be available for purchasing the land mentioned in the “Stedman deed.” His last will registered in 1786, two years before the deed in question. Records indicate that he was selling furniture just a month before his death, suggesting he struggled for money. The last will proves that John illegitimately included his “claimed” Niagara Messasauga lands, which are then referred to as Seneca lands, in his nephew Phillip Stedman Sparksman’s petition years later.

Whatever happened to that land? 

Stedman was the Savage! What The Stedman’s had done in an instance of greed has undoubtedly impacted not only his future generations but ours too. This writer could not find this deed in Upper Canada Sundries: Correspondance of the civil and provincial secretaries chronological inventory for 1766-1841. 

It looks like Onkwehonwe here, as Allies of the crown, own a fancy barn.

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