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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

‘Historical Research Partners’ categorizing 21,000 Maidstone Land Deeds

by Sylene Argent

Over the past several weeks, local history buffs, Kirk Walstedt, Tim McGuire, and Ed Byrne, who also happen to be long-time friends, have been spending time at the Essex & Community Historical Research Society (ECHRS) to organize and categorize the around 21,000 Maidstone Land Deed documents this local historical club has recently obtained.

  The Maidstone Land Deed documents date as far back as to the 1860s and, collectively, preserve around a century of land ownership in that area.

  Walstedt explained the documents were recently provided to ECHRS through the Town of Tecumseh’s registry office. The Maidstone Bicentennial Museum, he added, helped in getting the files to ECHRS.

  Over the past several years, ECHRS has received many historical land deeds from area townships. Volunteers have worked to organize, categorize, and digitize the documents.

Walstedt, Byrne, and McGuire, all of the Maidstone area, volunteered to work on the newest land deed documents as their families have lived in that area for a very long time. In fact, the trio noted, even their great-grand parents knew each other and were friends.

In many instances, they noted, the stories of their ancestors overlapped one another, and those stories all took place within a three-mile range.

  The trio took on the project to see if they could find any more information about their ancestors, and they have not been disappointed with what they have found.

  McGuire noted he found a Land Deed that transferred property from one of his great-great grandfathers to another one of his great-great grandfathers. Eight years later, a son from one of the grandfathers and a daughter of the other would marry. This property, he discovered, was only 500 feet away from the house in which he grew up. 

  “This is the closest I’ll get to being in the same room with them,” McGuire said of his ancestors. “These are documents they actually had in their hands.”

  Byrne noted in many cases, those buying properties in the earlier years signed their Land Deed with a “x” or a mark as they were unable to read or write. Some of the Land Deeds they came across were also made out to former reeves or mayors of the area.

The Trio, which was self-named as the “Historical Research Partners,” noted many of the older documents were for property still designated as Crown Land.

  In 1852, they noted, a big chunk of Maidstone was still Crown owned. In some instances, the Refugees’ Home Society would obtain blocks of land from the Crown and sell them to escaped slaves fleeing the US through a Deed of Conveyance.  

A deed that stood out to the trio was one that noted 42 acres in Maidstone was sold to a John Walls, who the group noted would be John “Freeman” Walls, for the site now dedicated to the historic site of the same name. The land was sold for $306.

They also found the 1874 Land Deed for the property the Maidstone Town Hall would be built upon, which is now home to the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum. Other Land Deeds highlighted when chunks of land were sold to make roads still used today.

Seeing the documents attributed to the roads made the three volunteers appreciate all the work their ancestors had to do to prepare to travel in inclement weather or farm with the equipment of the day.

  Several of the Land Deeds made reference to the “Peches River,” which the volunteers were not aware of. One 1871 Land Deed cleared up the mystery as it noted that river was also known as “Pike Creek.”

Another interesting fact that came out of the Land Deeds is that some of the properties were paid with American or Canadian currency, while others were paid with British pounds as late as 1874, a few years after Confederation. They also noted many of the buyers were of Michigan, which led them to theorize some of the Maidstone properties were purchased as cottage properties.

Some of the Land Deeds were written on cheaper paper, while others were prepared on better quality, which is still in great shape, they noted.

  Cataloguing the Land Deeds will make it easier for those researching their own ancestry or property’s history easier. Volunteers of ECHRS will later digitize the documents as well.

  The project was important to compete in further preserving local history, they agreed.


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