Treadwell Family of Plattsburgh, NY and L’Orignal, Ontario

Iain Bruce, member of the NYG&B Board of Trustees, is studying toward a Master’s degree in history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He plans for his thesis to examine two generations of the Treadwell family in order to study how ordinary Americans and Canadians living along the border experienced the War of 1812 and the period leading up to and following the war.

Nathaniel Hazard6 Treadwell (Thomas5, Timothy4, Thomas3, John2, Edward1) (see Record 43:4:380-81) of Smithtown and Plattsburgh, acquired in the 1790s a seigneurie at L’Orignal, Ontario, on the Ottawa River. Settling there with his wife Margaret Platt, daughter of Charles and Caroline (Adriance) Platt, Treadwell established a mill, sold land, and managed his properties, but ran afoul of Canadian authorities upon the outbreak of the War of 1812. Unwilling to take an oath of allegiance to the King, Treadwell found his lands sequestered and himself exiled from Canada, and returned to Plattsburgh where he established a sawmill. In the 1820s, Nathaniel’s son Charles Platt Treadwell returned to L’Orignal and re-established the family’s possession of their lands. Nathaniel ultimately returned to L’Orignal around 1840. (See the entry for Nathaniel in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.)

Nathaniel and his son Charles represent a common phenomenon in the late eighteenth century of Americans seeking economic opportunity in the area along the Ottawa River. The family’s lives and livehlihoods were severely disrupted by the War of 1812 and the actions of the Canadian government, yet they nonetheless returned to Canada after the war to re-establish themselves and become, in effect, the founding family of the village of L’Orignal. Their experience may offer insight into how Americans and Canadians experienced the war, how they and the governments involved viewed and defined and enforced loyalty, how their businesses and assets were affected, and how families coped with such severe and personal events and circumstances.

There are various Treadwell-related documents at the expected archives: Archives of Ontario, Library and Archives Canada, Bibliotheque et Archives Nationale de Quebec (Montreal), and in L’Orignal, as well as one or two other locations, including the Queen’s University Archives. Iain anticipates, however, that there will be gaps in the archival record, particularly regarding the family’s correspondence and business dealings. He therefore would like very much to hear from Treadwell or Platt family researchers who may be in possession of, or know the whereabouts of, family papers related to the Nathaniel Hazard or Charles Platt Treadwell families. Papers of interest could include such items as letters, diaries or journals, business or legal records, and the like that would not be found in the government archives noted here and would potentially offer insight into the family’s life experiences at this time. The family’s cross-border lives may have left papers in both the US and Canada, and researchers of the family may have located documents of interest in either country.

If you are researching Nathaniel or Charles or their families and may have access to or know the location of potentially relevant family papers, Iain would be most grateful to hear from you at

Lumber Raft Ottawa River 1890, Wm. Notman & Son, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lumber Raft Ottawa River 1890 - Wm. Notman & Son, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons