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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chapter Three Continued: Family Burdens

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

After burying her husband, the government of Upper Canada seized all the "Colonel's" possessions, with the exception of the home and cleared acres, which had been put in the name of Susanne and her children.

In a patriarchal society the eldest son is generally the heir to all property, but in the case of Constant Louis, the eldest son of Anthony, he was forced to become a surety, assuming his father's massive debts*.

But Susanne had learned to accept the highs and lows of a grifter's life, and was determined not to let this setback ruin the prestige their name, or at least someones name; had lent to the region. With eight grown children, all able-bodied, she put everyone to work. Their family clung to the story that the "Colonel" had been wronged and they were working to honour him in death by restoring his reputation. Susanne insisted that everyone call her 'Madam'; a self-appointed, not inherited, title.

In 1845, Constant officially registered the hamlet of Egmondville and in 1847, built a large brick house on his property, which still stands today, and is open to the public as a museum. Claiming that the reason Tucker-Smith was so slow to develop, was because the Canada Company had fallen behind in its obligation to build roads and bridges, churches and schools; he made a pledge to change that.
In 1849, he donated land for a church and burial ground. The church was built entirely by volunteer labour and with donated materials, and was open for business on July 21, 1850. He then had his father's body moved to the adjoining cemetery. (1)

When the Heffler family arrived in 1851, the area was bustling with activity, much of it guided by the Van Egmond family, under the direction of the family matriarch.

Ironically, Susanna and Sophia Heffler would have a lot in common; yet they would spend their remaining years in near solitude. "Madam", who had moved into her son's new home, had become increasingly paranoid, and in fact would spend the last fifteen years of her life in bed. The burden of the "secret" had overwhelmed her.**

Sophia's solitude on the other hand, would not be self inflicted, but the result of having to raise her children in the backwoods, where she too drove her family, out of necessity, to work hard and make the most of their unplanned circumstances. Arriving with nothing, they no doubt had accumulated debts that had to be paid off.

Her first home was probably little more than a log shanty, built from the trees her family had to fell themselves. At the time, there was very little assistance offered from the government of Upper Canada. They believed that their only duty was to make sure that roads were built that would enable settlements in the vast wilderness. The rest was to be handled by the private enterprise of the Canada Company, and since their only motivation was profit, most families were left to their own devices.

Also the barrier of distance, aggravated by the condition of most of the roads at the time, did not make it easy for a social life. But two communities would grow up around them: Egmondville and Seaforth, and the Aberhart name would be linked to both.

Continue to Chapter Four: William of Mecklenburg


* Estate of Anthony Jacob William Gilbert Van Egmond, Huron County, File 290, MFNO: 1156, March 20, 1838.

** In 2009, a well known psychic, Annette Sullivan, visited the Egmond home, and confirmed that it was haunted. “Egmondville is a storehouse for psychic energy - you’ve got generations connected to the Van Egmond House and a family that was done wrong by the Canadian government. They never got paid - that’s why they’re still there.”

Of course they were not wronged by the government, but had perpetrated a hoax. However, this confirms that Susanne and her children did an excellent job of continuing a lie that began with Antonij's fake identity. Sullivan also states: “This lady will not rest until the items that belong to the family are tagged with the Van Egmond crest...” If Susanna is having trouble resting in the after life, it has nothing to do with a crest that did not belong to her, but a fabricated life and a "lie" that she thought she took to her grave.


Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, 1836-1850 (Volume VII), By: W. J. Van Veen

Egmondville and Van Egmond House, Heritage of Huron East, Virtual Tour

The Canada Company and The Huron Tract, 1826-1853, By: Robert C. Lee, Natural Heritage Books, 2004, ISBN: 1-896219-94-2

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