History of Tree Lane


Its Owners

During the American Revolutionary War, colonists who remained loyal to the King ("Loyalists" to Canadians; "Tories" to Americans) formed territorial or militia regiments that fought on the side of the British. In the latter stages of the war, many of the members of these regiments and their families had moved North to Quebec and settled temporarily near Montreal. After the Treaty of Paris ended the war in 1783, large groups of these Loyalists moved inland to what was to become Upper Canada and, later, Ontario.

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Henry Simmons

In 1783-84, Lt. Henry Simmons led a group of the men of the Jessup's Loyal Rangers and their families up the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Ernestown Township on Lake Ontario, just West of Kingston.

Henry Simmons, unlike many, chose land slightly more removed from the lake. The land he chose lay North, along what is now known as Wilton Creek. While he claimed, began to work and, indeed, sold off parts of his land, he did not receive legal title until later. At that time, de facto grants of land were made by the Crown, but not registered until improvement and occupancy covenants had been fulfilled by the grantees.

It was not, thus, until November 26, 1803 that the Crown formally granted Henry Simmons his 1300 acres in the 6th Concession (including Lot 40 on which Tree Lane Country House stands). By that time, he had already sold much land and focussed on commercial activities, including his Inn and his saw, flour and feed grain mills where the creek crosses the road which now bears his name. The creek was at that time known as "Big Creek" and the community that grew along the road was known as "Simmons Mills". It was only in 1832 when another Loyalist, Sidney Warner, applied for and received authorization to open a post office that the community became "Wilton". It is not generally known that Henry Simmons' middle name was Wilton.

Wilton map

(The Simmons' grant, as mapped in 1876, identifying the then owners)


The Pultzes

On July 9, 1805, Henry Simmons sold 50 acres of the North part of Lot 40, to David Henry Pultz for £25. (This transaction was not recorded until February 24, 1824, long after David had died. The original deed now hangs, framed, in the hallway between the two gust bedroons.)

David Pultz and his wife Catharine came to Canada sometime during or after 1800, from Rhinebeck, in Duchess County, New York. David, born in 1775, was the fourth child of Bastian Pultz who in turn was the third son of Johann Michael Pultz, a Palatine emigrant who came to North America and settled in New York in 1737 or 1738. Unlike Simmons and many others, the Pultz's were not Loyalists.

David and Catharine (born 1773) married in 1796 and had one child (Anna, baptized in New York in July 1800) before they came North. There is no record of why David and Catharine came to Canada. There was apparently still lots of good farmland available near Rhinebeck at the time. Family connections is a possible reason: Catharine's father, John Sager (also spelled "Seger"), was a Loyalist who had settled in Ernestown Township.

Whatever the reason, they came with ample financial resources. Pultz family tradition ensured that all children were well set up with a farm when they married. David had the £25 to pay for the 50 acres he bought from Henry Simmons, and another £25 to pay Jacob Stover for the 50 acres of the East part of Lot 40 which he bought later in 1805. (The £ Sterling of the time was the equivalent of approximately $5.00 in colonial currency, and worth many, many times that in current dollars, Canadian or American.)

David and Catharine had two more children: Margaret, born in 1804 or 1805 and Henry, born in 1811. David Pultz died in 1813. Ownership of the land passed to Catharine and/or the child Henry. There is no record of David's Will or of the actual transfer of title to Henry.

Nor is there further record of David & Catharine's daughter Anna other than an entry in the John Collins Clark Diary which notes her on the Wilton school register in 1810. Anna had at least one daughter, because Henry's Will refers to two nephews by marriage (James Bell and William H. Neilson), each one a son in law of a different sister. The 1851-52 census notes Margaret as Seth Irish's wife, with three children, including the daughter who married William Neilson. (See below.)

Henry married Eliza Warner (born in 1816, daughter of Zadok Warner of Pennfield, New York), but we have no record of the date. We believe this coincided with construction of the 1½ storey limestone house which local oral history dates to 1836. Henry was then 25 years old and he had the financial resources needed for such a project.

We have the original of an 1836 mortgage for £70 (also now hanging, framed, in the hall between our guest bedrooms) which he obtained from Sidney Warner, who we believe was a relative of Eliza. In that year, Henry also sold the Southeast Quarter for £100. (He bought it back nine years later for £50!).

The censuses of 1851 and 1871 both have Henry's occupation as farmer and tradesman. Local oral history also describes Henry's profession as the Ernestown Township Clerk sometime in that period as well.

The first official reference to the house is the census of 1861, where it is referred to as "1½ storey stone".

Local oral history also records that the house burned in 1883. Of the original beams, still visible in the basement, one or two are charred, so there was, indeed, a fire in the house at some time. There is no fire damage to the stonework and the original internal bearing walls are intact. A fire and subsequent repairs or changes would account for some discrepancies between the present floor layout and parts of the house referred to in Henry's Will. It lists a parlour, a sitting room, a dining room and three bedrooms on the main floor.

The combination of a fire in 1883 and Henry's death in 1884 would help explain the relatively unfinished and untouched state of the house when purchased by the present owners. (Few significant changes were made by later owners or occupants: there was no indoor plumbing until the 1980's; only a part of the second floor had been made into a bedroom; and, few walls had more than one layer of paint or wallpaper.) Henry's death would have meant he was not there to supervise work. And, because his Will confused the issue of legal title, there was ample reason for Eliza or the other two executors of Henry's Will to avoid making any but the most urgent of repairs to the house.

Henry and Eliza had no children. Henry's Will, written in 1879, gave the limestone house to Eliza for her use until she died, and the use of the farm as well as of another house (which Henry owned in lot 39, now 201 Simmons Road) to his nephew William H. Neilson and his wife, Jane Irish, for their lives. (Jane was the daughter of Henry's sister Margaret.)

Henry's Will stipulated that after the decease of Eliza and of William and Jane Neilson, title to the properties and the funds in his bank accounts were to go to the trustees of the Presbyterian Church in Wilton.

These trustees were to manage the farm and financial resources to support the activities of a "Benevolent Fund of Henry Pultz", intended "for the benefit of the deaf and the dumb and the blind". It also authorized the "establishment of an institution for the benefit or the instruction of either of the classes named."

The Will also directed that, if the Presbyterian church should cease to exist in Wilton, the property and attendant responsibilities should go to whatever congregational church might exist or be established in the village.

There is no record of any of Henry's directions with respect to the fund ever having been carried out. It is possible that funds had been used, instead, for repairing the house and associated costs, expenditures that would have been unforeseen when the Will was written.

More likely, this was due to the fact that, in 1887, Eliza Pultz challenged some of the terms of Henry's Will in court and was declared the sole Trustee and Executor. (The will had made her a co-trustee with William Ovens and Isaac Shibley.)

Eliza also contested the clauses of Henry's will that gave her (and William Neilson) life tenancy only. Although Eliza died in 1895, this challenge was continued by the Executor of her Will and culminated in the transfer of title to William Neilson in 1896.

Pultz Headstone - Wilton Cemetery

(The Pultz headstone, Wilton Cemetery)

The Burts

On October 25, 1902, William Neilson sold the property to Sarah Elizabeth Burt (née Guess, widow of James Burt). Sarah and her family had lived in Wilton since 1888, in another house on Lot 39 (now 211 Simmons Road).

The Pultz property cost Sarah $4,400: She sold her Lot 39 house to Neilson's wife Jane Irish for $800, got a $2,700 mortgage from Neilson and paid the remaining $900 in cash.

On November 18, 1913, Sarah sold the land to her son James Earl for $1.00, subject to his providing her support, etc., plus cash in the amount of $50.00 per year.

On April 28, 1958, James Earl Burt subdivided the property, selling the Southwest corner to his oldest son, Donald (and his wife Dora) and the rest of the property, the farm itself, to his youngest son, Bruce (and his wife Lucille).

James Earl lived in the house until he died in 1983. At one point, fifteen members of the Burt family, spanning three generations, lived in the house.

Some of the Burts

(Some of the Burt girls, late19th or very early 20th century)

Donald & Dora Burt sold to Martin & Nancy Lewis on July 30, 1992.

The Lewises rented the house out before moving in for a short time themselves.

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On April 30, 2001, John & Elna Licharson bought, and have carried out a virtually complete restoration and renovation of the house.

There is no record of any porch on the front (Southwest) of the house, even though it always has had large French doors which just begged for a place on which to open. So, we decided to build one and John began some 1:1 modelling. Between September and late November, 2002, he became known to the children (and not a few of the adults) of the village as "the crazy man on the roof of the big stone house". The results can be seen on the B&B portal page.

If you are interested, this is what the front looked like over a hundred years ago.

Unidentified Burts

(A young James Earl Burt and his wife Paula, late 19th or early 20th century)

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Bruce Burt, who was born in the house and is now 88 years old, still keeps a close, protective eye on it from the neighbouring property.

Bruce & Shannon

(Bruce and our granddaughter, Shannon, summer 2002)

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On July 25, 2004, our oldest, biggest Maple tree came down in a storm. We could make out 130 rings on the trunk, which made it at least that old. It really saddened us to have it go.

It took us the better part of two weeks to get the mess cleaned up and I could not have done it without the generous help of neighbours: Bob Bird got out his big chain saw and spent the better part of two days cutting the trunk and branches into manageable pieces and then began splitting them. Bill Hare came over and said splitting with an axe was crazy and got us a power splitter from a friend and helped finish the splitting in a matter of hours. Bruce also spent many hours helping move, cut, split wood and clean up branches and leaves.

The picture of the house as it now appears is on the Home page. We are working on replacing the tree without planting another tree in the same spot. Elna has planted a profusion of reblooming irises and countless lilies in the front garden, which will make for a nice splash of colour. We have extended the pond's area and deepened it in order to let the fish overwinter. I think a flagpole is in order, but that will have to wait a while yet.

The following are a couple of photos of the general appearance of the property before the storm and the day after the storm.

(May 2003)


(July 26, 2004)

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