Uncle Billy | One of Norfolk’s first Settlers

Uncle Billy | One of Norfolk’s first Settlers

I came across this hand written document when going through “the family bible” it contained the story of man called “Uncle Billy,” I thought it would be fascinating to share! Who knows maybe a distant relative?


In 1791, a British Act of Parliament for the Province of Upper Canada, (now Ontario) was passed to facilitate the “dividing of said Province into as many counties as the Governor (John Graves Simcoe) might think fit.” From this Act came the County of Norfolk in which Windham Township was located.

Prior to 1791, no settlers had established residence in the Norfolk area, however historical data indicates that a man by the name of William Smith, affectionately nicknamed “Uncle Billy” in his day, journeyed to the area in 1786 and lived with the natives “from whom he learned and excelled at many new skills.” Smith was probably the first white man to have placed a foot on Norfolk soil (after Champlain of course). He was a man with unbelievable power and would often use his ability to awe the Natives by performing tremendous feats of strength.

As settlement developed in the area, Smith took up residence with his family. They had travelled to the area from Fort Erie in 1793, and built a log cabin on what became Lot 15, 5th Concession, Charlotteville. Uncle Billy would often use his strength to win bets and make extra needed money for the house hold. On one occasion, while at Gustin’s Mill, which was located just south of Vittoria, Smith “offered a wager that he could write his name on the side of the wall with a sixty-pound weight hanging to his little finger. He won the wager in the presence of several men. He was the champion back-hold wrestler in the settlement but seldom exercised his great strength on hand-to-hand contests with fellow-beings. This was not through lack of courage, for there was not a cowardly hair on his head, but by reason of exceeding his good nature. His physical powers were brought to bear on things inanimate, thereby injuring no one, except, quite possibly, himself.”

Uncle Billy eventually married, settled in Charlotteville and fathered four sons, the youngest of whom, Joseph, became one of the first settlers in the Township of Windham. Joseph K. Smith and his wife Sabina, (nee Sinden), lived on Lot 22 in the 13th Concession of the Township. “He was a deacon of the Fredericksburg (a) Baptist Church for a good many years, and not one of Windhams pioneers led a more consistant Christain life, or left a cleaner record of life’s work behind him than Deacon Joseph K. Smith.”

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