November 12, 2014

Distressed for many days – the last duel fought in Canada

During the war, John Norton and his warriors played a pivotal role in defending Niagara and Upper Canada. When the War of 1812 ended, John Norton and his wife Catherine sailed for Britain in the summer of 1815. The couple first went to Scotland where Catharine took English lessons and by many accounts she was a “very keen student” who could “hardly be prevailed on to quit her Spelling book and writing for anything else.”

In 1816, the Nortons returned to Upper Canada and settled on the Grand River where John Norton received his land grant for retired officers. John and Catharine’s life together appeared to be going well until 1823 when their life together ended. John Norton writes that a young man, who he fostered from childhood and who fought with him during the war, had “offered her [Catharine] the grossest insult a woman can receive.” Apparently, Catharine had succumbed to the young man’s charms, causing John to force both Catharine and her lover to leave the property.
John Norton

The young man returned to John’s home and challenged him to a duel. Pistols were chosen as the weapon for the duel, John Norton writes, “I told him that when he took aim at me and I saw him ready to fire I would treat him as I did my enemies.” John Norton shot and killed the man. “When I saw the poor young man stretched on the ground and the recollections of past times crowded into my mind,” John Norton writes, “pity succeeded to every other feeling and to a much higher degree; I was so much distressed for many days.”

After the “last duel fought in Canada,” as it became known, ended John Norton decided to turn himself in, was found guilty of manslaughter and fined £25 and discharged. Norton refused to see Catharine again but left her a share of his pension. Catharine wrote Norton begging his forgiveness, but Norton refused to see her. Norton decided to head for American territory where he is believed to have died in the 1830s.

As for Catharine, she made her way to Fairfield on the Thames River where missionaries reported that she died in 1827. The woman described by John Norton to be beautiful and the apple of her husband’s eye had become by one account a “dirty old squaw.”

If you want to find out more about John Norton, you can read his journal online. Click here for the website.

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