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POSTCARD MEMORIES: The courage of Moses Hayter

Hayter came to the rescue of friend's wife, kids in Holland Landing during 1837 Rebellion

In a recent Postcard Memories, we met Moses Hayter, a man known for many things, including for being the first jailkeeper at the Barrie Gaol and building the first sawmill at Big Bay Point.

His finest moment, however, came during the 1837 Rebellion.

Hayter was a close friend of Samuel Lount, the Holland Landing blacksmith who was prominent in the ill-fated uprising. Several years earlier, Hayter was a starving settler and Lount had supplied him with flour to see his family through the winter.

Hayter had a chance to repay him a few years later.

William Lyon Mackenzie’s brief rebellion was crushed at the Battle of Montgomery's Tavern. In its aftermath, Lount was forced into hiding.

Hayter happened to be in Toronto when the rebellion broke out. Riding home, he stopped to check on the well-being of the Lount’s wife, Elizabeth. He found her cowering in fear, having learned a mob was on its way to burn the home and throw her and her children out into the cold.

Hayter promised no harm would come to her. He then armed himself and awaited the vigilantes at the door.

“Do you call yourselves Englishmen?” he challenged the mob when they arrived.

They were 20 or 30 in number, each carrying a flaming torch.

“I must sacredly declare that before you enter this house, with the intention of burning it down over the head of a defenceless woman and her children, you will have to walk over the dead body of an Englishman, but not before I will take good account of at least one of you.”

A murmur went through the mob. Courage began to fail them.

“If you only knew the character of the man whom you are seeking for his life as well as I do, you would retire in shame,” Hayter continued. “Once he saved me and my family from starvation when that fate stared us in the face. And hundreds can testify that he has reached out a helping hand to those who were in great need.”

Whether moved by his speech, or simply afraid of facing an armed man instead of a helpless woman, the vigilantes seemed to lose their lust for vengeance and turned for home. Elizabeth Lount and her children were safe.

Sadly, there was no saving Samuel Lount when he was later captured. He was hanged on April 12, 1838.