Old Papers Recall Theresa

Man's Part In Patriot War

Include Pardon for William Sweet, Signed by Queen Victoria--Youthful Soldier Spent Days in Dungeon at Old Kingston Fort and Saw Brother Led to Gallows for Part in Outbreak.


Herewith The Times presents Part One of a series of articles by Ernest G. Cook on the life of William D. Sweet of Theresa, who fought in the Patriot War and the Civil War.


In looking through some old papers that have come down through the years in their family, Sidney Sweet of this village came upon some letters written by his father, William D. Sweet, when William was in the Union Army during the Civil War. Also, among these papers were other records of interest, for William D. Sweet had a most eventful life, colorful with adventures in two wars and some of the experiences he went through in his youth were exciting enough for a whole life-time. It was William D. Sweet who, from his dungeon-cell in old Fort Henry at Kingston, Ont., glued his eye to a little peek-hole he had made, to get a little hint of what was going on in the prison yard. It was from this peekhole that he saw his older brother, Sylvanus Sweet, led out, with others towards the grim scaffold. William shuddered, as he saw the little procession going out, for he knew what it meant. Four days before he had watched from that same peek-hole and saw Count Nils Szolrereky Van Schoultz, leader in the Patriot war and his staff, mount the same scaffold and give their lives for what they had thought to be a helpful cause. William knew that his brother was to face the same fate and turned aside, feeling that he might be the next to go. But there is a paper in the possession of the Sweet family of today that meant much for William D. Sweet when he was still a youth in the dungeon of Old Fort Henry. The paper is a pardon for William Sweet from Queen Victoria.

William D. Sweet was born among the Thousand Islands. His parents resided on Wells Island at the time of his birth, August 30, 1818. There he began his eventful life amid the stirring events of the islands during the time when much was taking place on the international border. Later his parents removed to the town of Alexandria near the village of Plessis. His was the life of a lad of the pioneer days and he was a hunter of no mean ability. Later came days at work on the farm with snatches of schooling at the Plessis school. Always of an adventurous nature and always ready to help where help was needed, be the danger what it might, Sweet became somewhat of a leader.

In much the same way, the older brother, Sylvanus, grew into manhood. Probably William was greatly influenced by his older brother and was always ready to lend a helping hand to any needy cause.

About this time there came a teacher to the Plessis school by the name of Hiram Hovey. This teacher had in him the spirit of freedom and gloried in the fact that the people of the United Colonies had bravely fought for, and won their freedom. He rejoiced greatly in the success of the United States in the war of 1812. He often said the war ended too soon and that Canada should have joined in and won her freedom at the same time. All this greatly interested the Sweet boys, who were patriots ready to defend their country. Often, in their home, the boys would ponder the words of their war-like teacher when the question of American freedom was discussed. The Sweet boys lived in their fancy the injustice of the manner in which the people of America had to live before they bravely succeeded in throwing off British rule. This fancy grew stronger and stronger in their breast until they were ready to fight if need be, to free any and all people.

To (several words unclear) ---ouldering flame within their breasts there came into Plessis one day a man with fiery-red hair and beard who talked long with the school master. He went away in quite the same mysterious manner in which he came and nothing more was thought of the matter. But this man returned and again had a long conference with Hiram Hovey, the school master. Later there came a mysterious gathering and William D. Sweet wondered what it was all about. Then one day the school master called the Sweet brothers (sic) one side and sounded them out as to how they would stand on a certain matter. Finding, as he was sure he would, that they were in perfect sympathy and full accord with him in the matter, he gave them the plan that was being worked out. Doubtless the Sweet brothers were much influenced by the acts of their teacher, whom they greatly admired. Later, they were further led along by some words of the red-headed and red-bearded man who had made some previous calls at Plessis.

According to the school master this stranger who had made a few calls upon them was none other than William Lyon McKenzie, a Scotchman was a fiery a temper as his hair was red and who had the spirit of liberty in every drop of his blood. The school master also said that McKenzie had a great and bold plan. It was to free Canada when the proper time should come. That McKenzie was working in secret on both sides of the border line to bring this freedom about. That others were working with him, the number being much greater than people even dreamed of. In fact few people had any true idea of what was going on. That down in lower Canada there was a leader and worker by the name of Louis Joseph Papineau who was doing the same work that McKenzie was doing in upper Canada. That everything was being made ready for the day when conditions would be most favorable and at that time there would come the secret signal and over night Canada would be free. The plan took in liberty loving people in the United States, men ready to do and dare for a brother, no matter if he did live across the international border line. It might be months, maybe years before the signal came, but everything was being made ready and when it came there would be one of the greatest surprises the world had ever known. That all who helped in such a great undertaking would be counted heroes and their names would be handed down through all history as leaders of a great and grand crusade. The Sweet boys were inspired by such words and were ready to go anywhere and do anything to help such a glorious undertaking.

But the school master explained still further. He said that all along the border were hundreds, yea, thousands, that wanted to help in this undertaking and were waiting for proper leadership to lead them on. That the plan evolved was to make use of this aid of so many freemen in America. They were doing in their communities what was to be done at Plessis.

In order not to arouse any suspicion in the minds of any body there had been worked out the scheme of secret lodges in about every community. These secret organizations were to be known as a Hunter lodge. It was to be told that they were organizations for those who liked to hunt, of which there was much to do in the wilderness lands bordering the settlements. That it was a social gathering of men mutually minded in the taking of wild animals and game of all kinds. That they could gather in this manner without any body mistrusting what was going on. Further, they would do a certain amount of target shooting to perfect them for the warfare, but to the public this practice work would be to perfect them in the better getting of game. As the Sweet brothers were good hunters and good shots, the school master argued and rightly, too, that the neighbors would think it only natural to have them join such an organization. And the Sweet brothers were only too happy to enroll. Theirs was the great mission to free the down trodden. With Sylvanus Sweet enrolled, it was but natural that the younger brother, William D. Sweet, some 17 years of age, should most willingly go in as a member.

And so during the weeks and months the members of the Hunter's lodge of Alexandria trained as expert marksmen. This was in the year 1837 that the lodge held its secret meetings and did much of its target shooting. The school master, whose home was in the town of Lyme, was active in his own town in getting a lodge started. His absence from Plessis did not matter so much now that the Plessis lodge was under full steam ahead. McKenzie made a call or two at Plessis and stopped at the home of the Sweet brothers and told that the organization had grown in a most wonderful manner. He was sure that when the proper time came they could do almost anything. He advised the continued training. And in the training Sylvanus Sweet stood out from all others in his ability as a marksmen. He was considered one of the best men with a gun in all the north. It was said that his record surpassed that of any member of any lodge in the United States. William was not far behind his brother in the ability to handle a gun. It was said that to give the Sweet brothers an even break with any foe their chances would be almost 100 per cent sure of a victory. No one could hope to stand before their deadly aim.

The school master confided in the Sweet brothers one sorrowing fact. It was the problem of what he was to do with Mollie Hustis. For he was dead in love with pretty Mollie Hustis and he was sure that Mollie was equally wrapped up in him. If the secret signal should come to the lodges to march away to battle he hardly knew what to do about Mollie. For Mollie had said she would not remain behind. She declared she would put on boys' clothes and march away with her lover. When the signal came that November day not a few in the company wondered about the fair youth who was carrying a gun beside Hiram Hovey. They never dreamed that the beardless youth was Hiram's sweetheart, Mollie.


Another article about the Sweets can be found on the Index.

As of May, 2003, with the help of Flower Genealogy Department volunteers, Alice Corbett and Terry Mandigo, all the articles have been found. I am deeply indebted to these talented researchers. (by Shirley)

Go to the second of Mr. Cook's articles concerning the Sweet brothers.