Kent Historian Recalls Tale of Notable Pioneer
The story of John McGregor, the outstanding figure of Chatham's pioneer days, was Chatham's first trader and industrialist, whose grist mill was the community's first successful industry. McGregor was three times elected M.P. for Kent, serving from 1804 to 1816.
The most active figure of the Kent militia, after his mill was burned down by the Indians in Proctors retreat, McGregor became leader of the "Kent underground" in a period of American occupation, organizing a small mobile force, the "Loyal Kent Volunteers" which persistently harassed invaders.
In the cold war following the British defeat at Moraviantown, McGregor was responsible for organizing a grape-vine telegraph which gave the settlers early warning of approach of American patrols and enabled them to hide their cattle and supplies and thereby saved the Lower Thames settlers from starvation.
In the field of active warfare, McGregor in co-operation with a detachment of Norfolk and Middlesex militia led by Lord Metcalf, surprised and captured an American Army, superior in numbers, which was stationed at McCraig house a few miles down the river from Chatham. This exploit is marked by a cairn on River Road in Raleigh Township. McGregor also took part in a fight at Battle Hill in March 1814.
Blake Huffman, M.P., said a movement, initiated by Dr. Fred Landon of the National Sites and Monuments Board resulted in the erection of a monument to an outstanding figure of the War of 1812 -- the celebrated Chief Tecumseh who was killed in the battle of Moraviantown in October 1813.
A memorial was established at or near Wallaceburg to the Earl of Selkirk, founder of the Baldoon settlement.
A new memorial plaque was also placed on the federal building commemorating the fact that on the same site in 1831, was erected the first public school in Chatham.
Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.