If we were to travel back in time nearly two centuries, to late November of 1837, we would have found our region awash in conspiracy and wrought with tension. Rebellion was afoot, and our area was the epicentre.
Most of us learned in school how Holland Landing farmer and reform politician Samuel Lount gathered a small army of discontents and marched down Yonge Street to overthrow the conservative, and in some ways corrupt, government.
What history classes don’t generally share is the time when an armed mob descended on the Lount property, threatening Elizabeth and intent on burning the home. The vengeance-seeking rabble were only dissuaded after a tense showdown with one man, Barrie resident Moses Hayter.
Hayter hailed from London, England, where he was struggling grocer by trade. Coming to Canada in search of a better life, Hayter was in for something of a rude awakening. Settling near Big Bay Point on Lake Simcoe, he soon found himself in dire straights and facing starvation. Desperate, he wrote a letter to Lount, who, he was told, often extended a helping hand to settlers in need.
In response to this desperate plea, Lount immediately sent two barrels of flour. Thus was the beginning of a lasting friendship.
Hayter was in Toronto when the Rebellion broke out. Riding home along Yonge Street, he stopped in to see his old friends, finding Elizabeth Lount cowering in fear. She had learned that a mob was on its way to burn her home.
Hayter armed himself and met the vigilantes at the door.
“I must sacredly declare,” he bellowed at the mob, “that before you enter this house, with the intention of burning it down over the head of a defenseless woman and her children, you will have to walk over the dead body of an Englishman, but not before I will take good account of at least one of you."
Hayter changed tact at this point.
"If you only knew the character of the man whom you are seeking for his life ... you would retire in shame,” he said. “Once he saved me and my family from starvation ... and hundreds can testify that he has reached out a helping hand to those who were in great need".
Whether moved by his speech, or simply afraid of facing an armed man instead of a helpless woman, the vigilantes seemed to lose their lust for vengeance.
Slowly, in singles and pairs, they turned for home.
Hayter remained for a time before taking his leave, passing through Bradford – restive in the chaos of the rebellion’s aftermath – and on to Barrie.
Elizabeth Lount was safe for the moment, thanks to his brave stand. Sadly, she faced new challenges when her husband was hanged for treason, leaving her alone and in despair.