The history of the Soverein—Sovereen—Sovereign family is involved in vague traditions. It is said that during the troublous times of Maria Theresa there lived in Germany four Protestant brothers named Soverein. One of these brothers enlisted in the “King’s Life Guards” under Joseph II., and died single. The other three emigrated to America about the middle of last century, and settled in the colony of New Jersey, in the County of Morris. Soon after settling here two of the brothers, who were young men and unmarried, died from the effects of drinking too freely of cold spring water while engaged in harvest work and being in an overheated condition. The surviving brother, whose name was Frederick, married Lavinia Culver in New Jersey, and raised a large family; and when the war of the Revolution broke out it is said he espoused the Loyalist cause.[1]

Another tradition, said to have been dictated by Rev. George Sovereign, son of Frederick, son of the original Frederick, in his old age, is quite without the possibilities, as every student of German history will readily perceive. According to this story, Frederick, the grand ancestor, served all through the Thirty-Years’ War, and when it closed he returned to the old home and finding his parents dead, his brothers gone to sea, and the little ancestral home in the hands of strangers, he resolved to leave the country and seek his fortune in the New World. He embarked on an “American” vessel, and after he arrived in New Jersey he married an “American girl.” Comment on this wonderful story is unnecessary, as the studious reader will remember that the Thirty-Years’ War came to a close in 1648 by the signing of the treaty of Westphalia. According to the list of Frederick’s children appearing in the record dictated by his grandson George, Anna was the tenth child and the only one whose birth date—March 1st, 1765—is given. From this we might safely infer that the old ancestor was married somewhere about the year 1745;[2] but according to the tradition, this wedding must have occurred not many years after the close of the German Thirty-Years’ War, which would make old Father Frederick a youth whose tender brow had been exposed to the snowy blasts of more than a hundred and forty winters when he led his New Jersey bride to the hymenial altar. There are many traditions current among our old family descendants that do as much violence to the possibilities as this, but as this one is given such high credit by some distinguished members of the family, it is the only one occupying space in this series of sketches.

Traces of the old Sovereign home on Schooley’s Mountain, New Jersey, still exist. Here the ancestral parents spent about fifty-five years of their married lives; and during this time thirteen children were born to them, and all had grown up and married. In the closing years of the century the Sovereigns migrated to Upper Canada, settling in Norfolk County. The party consisted of twelve families, including the Henry Beemer, Clouse, Heath and Searls families. Frederick Sovereign and his wife were well advanced in years, and pioneer life for them was of short duration. In 1802 the old man was at the pioneer home of his son Frederick, in Charlotteville, where he rendered some assistance in laying up a rail fence around a turnip patch. This was the man, remember, who had served in the Thirty-Years’ War previous to 1648; but if another reference is made to that tradition the reader will shock his intelligence by concluding that the old veteran must have enlisted seventy or eighty years before he was born. He was an old man, however, when he died. In the early years of our century little children were taken by their parents to view two mounds which marked the spot where he and his aged wife were buried. One of these little children is now the aged Mrs. Job Slaght, of Port Ryerse, who says they were the first graves she ever saw. The site of those mounds is now marked by a clump of elm trees standing about thirty feet north of the palatial edifice known as the Dr. Bowlby residence in Waterford.

In the original Frederick’s family were nine sons—David, Jacob, Leonard, Henry, John, Frederick, Philip, Morris and George; and four daughters—Catherine, Elizabeth, Anna and Eva.[3]

David Sovereign settled on the Round Plains. He had four sons—Henry, John, Anthony and Lawrence; and five daughters—Anna, Elizabeth, Catherine, Mary and Sophia. The first-named son in this family is the notorious Henry Sovereign, whose well-known criminal act shocked the inmates of every home in the land. He was always perverse in disposition and extremely obstinate and self-willed. It is said that when a boy his mother upbraided him for excessive butter eating, and it threw him into such a terrible rage that he swore he would eat no more butter while he lived. It is said he kept his oath inviolate. David’s daughters married, respectively, into the Glover, Smith, Lefler and Beemer families.[4]

Jacob Sovereign, second son of Frederick, forms the subject of a separate sketch entitled, “Jake Sovereign, the Pioneer Tavern-keeper.”

Leonard Sovereign, third son of Frederick, was born in 1763, and settled at Waterford, where, with his brother Morris, he developed a milling business and founded the village.[5] He died in 1823, in his 60th year. In their family were five sons—William, Philip, Joseph, David and Leonard; and five daughters—Phoebe, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine and Ruhamah. These daughters married, respectively, Jacob Langs, Adam Bowlby, Ezekiel Foster, Oliver Blake and Josiah Smith. William, the eldest son, married Diana Bloomfield, and settled on the Round Plains, where he raised a family of three sons—Horace, Jeremiah and Leonard; and three daughters—Mary, Eliza and Jane.[6] Philip settled at Oakville.[7] Joseph died in 1850, in his 49th year.[8] David studied medicine and became an M.D.[9] Leonard married Sarah Ann Fluelling, and succeeded to the old homestead. He was a shrewd business man, and amassed considerable wealth. He was enterprising and liberal-minded, and the evidences of prosperity everywhere abounding in the beautiful village of Waterford are due in no small degree to his broad, progressive ideas and persevering industry. He was one of Norfolk’s solid citizens, and the fine village home, with its background of broad, fertile fields, which he left behind him, constitute one of the most valuable and mot pleasantly situated homesteads in Ontario. Mr. Sovereign died quite recently at an advanced age. He left one son, Louis L., and two daughters—Mary F. and Alice, who married, respectively, Leamon Becker and J. E.York, both of Waterford. The son succeeded to the homestead and is one of Waterford’s leading citizens at the present time.[10]

Henry Sovereign, fourth son of Frederick, died in New Jersey. He left two sons—Richard and Joshua; and one daughter, who married into the Harpingdon family.[11]

John Sovereign, fifth son of Frederick, married a daughter of Joseph Culver, and settled near his brother Frederick.[12] His name appears in the grand jury lists in the record of the first London District courts held at “old Fort Monroe” before the close of last century. In John’s family were three sons—Robert, Freeman and John; and two daughters—Nancy and Elizabeth.[13]

Frederick Sovereign, sixth son of Frederick, was about twelve years old when the war of the Revolution broke out. In about the year 1786 he married Patience, daughter of Henry Brown, of New Jersey. Mr. Brown had served as a private in the British army, and had come out with General Wolfe and participated in the capture of Quebec. Frederick had four or five children when the move was made to Long Point settlement. He took up Lot 24, 6th concession of Charlotteville. Both he and his wife were tall and muscular, and were endowed with irony constitutions. Frederick died in 1860, in his 97th year—having survived his wife four years.[14] In their family were six sons—Morris, John, George, Solomon, Thomas and Louis; and three daughters—Nancy, Elizabeth and Sarah. It appears from the data furnished that the daughters were the eldest, and were born in New Jersey. Nancy married John Gustin, and died young. Elizabeth married in the Martin family, and Sarah died young and single.[15]

Morris, the eldest son, was born in New Jersey in 1794. He married Phoebe, daughter of Abraham Powell, and settled in Illinois. He died in 1864, in his 71st year.[16] John settled in the western States also. George was born in 1798, and was, probably the first baby born in the pioneer home.[17] He was a Methodist preacher, and died in the States in 1890, in his 93rd year. Solomon had a twin brother, who died in infancy. He was born in 1800, married Jane, daughter of William Smith, of Charlotteville, and settled in the western States. He died in 1896, his life being nearly measured by the nineteenth century. Thomas was born in 1801, and died in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1888, in his 87th year. Louis, the youngest son, was born in 1812, became a doctor, and settled in Illinois, where he died in 1887, in his 75th year.

Philip Sovereign, seventh son of the original Frederick, married a daughter of Joseph Culver, and was also one of the grand jurors that attended the courts held at “old Fort Monroe.” In this branch were three sons—Charles, Philip and William; and five daughters—Amy, Mahalie, Elizabeth, Mary and Nancy. The latter died young.[18]

Morris Sovereign, eighth son of the original Frederick, was a baby in New Jersey when the colonies threw off their allegiance. He settled at Waterford and operated with his brother Leonard. He was one of Norfolk’s pioneer Freemasons, and in sketch “Pioneer Freemasonry” an account is given of the burning of the Sovereign mill during the war of 1812, and his narrow escape from hanging on that occasion. This old pioneer died in 1835, in his 60th year; and his wife, Lydia, died four years previously, in her 52nd year.

According to the family genealogy dictated by Rev. George Sovereign in his old age, there were seven sons in the Morris branch—namely, Abraham, David, Vincent, Samuel, Leamon, Morris and Lawrence;[19] but according to data gathered at Waterford, five sons only were named—Samuel, Leamon, Morris, Lawrence and Daniel. There were two daughters in the family—Elizabeth and Harriet, who married, respectively, James Green and Barton Becker, both of Waterford. Samuel married Amy Robbins, and settled in Windham, where he raised a family. Leamon married into the Culver family, and settled in Simcoe, where he established a reputation for originality in merchandising methods. He was a well-known character in his day, and when death released him from his labors no man was ever more generally missed on the streets and in the business circles of Simcoe. He left two sons—Sylvester and Charles, and two daughters.[20] Morris settled in the States; Lawrence settled on Round Plains; and on an old tombstone in the old burying ground at Waterford we learn that Daniel died in 1857, in his 52nd year.

George Sovereign, ninth and youngest son of the original Frederick, also settled at Waterford. It is said that the Sovereigns operated a distillery in connection with their other business; and that it was here where the Turkey Point Indian, known in old times as “broken-nose Jo Injun” met with the experience that gave him this distinguishing mark, Jo was fond of “fire-water,” and spent a large portion of his time loafing around the distilleries, where he put his injun-uity to practical account in devising ways and means of securing an occasional drink. One day he visited the Waterford distillery and showed a disposition to help himself. George Sovereign objected, and a fight ensued, and in the melee the bridge of Jo’s nose collapsed under one of George’s sledge-hammer blows.

In George’s family were five sons—William, Hugh, Daniel, George and Morris; and four daughters—Charlotte, Sarah Ann, Polly and Margaret. As the Rev. George does not name a Daniel in the family of Morris, this Daniel in George’s family may be the one buried in the old ground at Waterford.[21]

Catherine Sovereign, eldest daughter of the original Frederick, married Henry Beemer, and settled at Waterford. Her children are enumerated in the Beemer genealogy.[22]

Elizabeth Sovereign, second daughter of the original Frederick, became the pioneer mother of the Clouse family. She had three sons—Jacob, John and Abraham; and four daughters—Anna, Mary, Sarah and Elizabeth. These daughters married, respectively, in the Hunter, Messacar (two) and Slaght families.[23]

Anna Sovereign, third daughter of Frederick, married John Heath, in New Jersey, in 1792, and settled in Townsend. Her children are enumerated in the Heath genealogy.

Eva Sovereign, fourth and youngest daughter of the original Frederick, married Ephraim Searls, of New Jersey, who came to Norfolk with the Sovereigns. In her family were three sons—William, Philip and Moses.

The Sovereigns are noted for their frank, off-hand manners, their persevering industry, and their physical robustness and tendency to long life.


[1] The first record of this ancestor was as “Friedrich Zofrin” when he purchased forty acres of land in the Ebenezer Large Survey above Naurightville, Morris County, New Jersey. He sold this land to Garret Lake on 21 May 1801. In his first Norfolk record, as Frederick Sovereen, he served as a Grand Juror of the London District Court on 14 Jun 1803.

[2] The name of Frederick Sovereen’s first wife has not been learned. According to family tradition recounted in Sources in Collver/Culver Genealogy by William R. Yeager, Frederick married second in New Jersey to Lavinia/Leannah Collver, a sister of Timothy Collver of Woodhouse Twp. Frederick’s oldest child David, born to the first marriage c. 1757, suggests that the wedding might have been about 1755. Anna was actually the fifth child, not the tenth.

[3] Born to the first marriage were oldest son David (c. 1757), Jacob (1759), Leonard (1763), Frederick (1764), Anna (1765) and Elizabeth (c. 1766). To the second marriage were born Henry (c. 1769), John (c. 1770), Morris (1775), Catherine (1776), Philip (1778), Eva (1779), George W. (c. 1780).

[4] David signed his surname “Sovereen”. His oldest daughter Elizabeth married Andrew B. Smith. Second daughter Anna married Francis Glover. Third daughter Catherine married Jacob Lefler. Fourth daughter Mary married Joseph Beemer. Fifth daughter Sophia married Philip Rozell Beemer.

[5] Leonard signed his surname “Sovereen.” Later, some of his family took the “Sovereign” spelling. On 17 Feb 1804, Leonard purchased the Averill Mill at Waterford and operated it with his brother Morris until selling to Job Lodor in 1816, the transactions recorded in the Abstracts of Deeds Register of Townsend Twp.

[6] William and Diana Sovereen settled in South Dumfries Twp., Brant Co. and were buried in Paris Cemetery in that township.

[7] Philip Sovereen married Lavina Jenne and settled first in Trafalgar Twp., Halton Co. near Oakville. He lived later in South Dumfries Twp., Brant Co. They were buried in Paris Cemetery.

[8] Joseph who adopted the “Sovereign” spelling married Clarissa ________ and farmed in Lot 7, Concession 1, Windham Twp. where his widow was recorded in the 1852 Census.

[9] David Sovereign married Sarah Ann Bowlby and operated a medical practice at Port Dover, recorded in the 1867 Gazetteer of Norfolk County.

[10] Leonard Sovereen’s daughter Alice married on 1 Oct 1884, Isaac Edward York, according to the Townsend Township Clerk’s records.

[11] This family is not well known to the Canadian Sovereen/Sovereign researchers to whom I have spoken. Henry was said to have come to Upper Canada in 1799 but then returned to New Jersey. His son Richard lived in Woodhouse Twp., Norfolk Co. for a time, recorded in the 1829 Assessment then moved to Plato, Illinois. Second son Joshua remained in New Jersey and was buried in Mt. Olive Cemetery, Olive Twp., Morris Co. There is said to be another brother Robert. Henry’s daughter Polly married _______ Harpingdon. Dollie married William Burnett and Clarissa married Nathan Bennett/Burnett.

[12] John signed his surname “Sovereen” for a time, then changed it to “Sovereign.” He married first in New Jersey on 8 Jun 1799 to Mary Lawrence (New Jersey Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 4, p. 121). His second marriage to Joseph’s daughter Phoebe Culver occurred after he came to this province. When he first came to Upper Canada in 1799, John lived in the Gore of Woodhouse Township, just across the township line from his brother Frederick’s Charlotteville property. On 1 Mar 1800, he purchased from Edward McMichael 165 acres of land in Lots 22 and 23, Gore., recorded in the Abstracts of Deeds Register of the township. On 28 Aug 1804, he purchased from William Collver, Lot 19, Concession 1, Charlotteville Twp. and lived there for a time. On 10 Mar 1807, he purchased 120 acres in Lot 5, Concession 11, Townsend Twp. and moved there.

[13] In John Sovereign’s first family were: Henry, born on 16 Mar 1800 who lived at Millgrove, Ont.; John, born c. 1800; Daniel Freeman, born 13 Sep 1803; Jacob, born 1807; and Nancy. In the second family were: Elizabeth, born 1817 and Robert, born 1819.

[14] According to the gravestones of Frederick and Patience Sovereen in Vittoria Baptist Church Cemetery, Charlotteville Township, Patience, who died on July 18, 1852, survived Frederick, who died on August 10, 1851.

[15] The will of Frederick Sovereen dated September 25, 1840, mentioned his wife Patience and children Morris, John, George, Solomon, Thomas, Elizabeth, Lewis, and the children of his deceased daughter Ann. The latter would be Nancy Sovereen who married Charles Gustin, not John. Charles was buried beside his wife in Vittoria Baptist Church Cemetery. Elizabeth married John Martin and settled in Bayham Township. Sarah was living at the time of the 1852 Census, single. According to their various records, the daughters were not “eldest”, their births intermixed with the sons.

[16] Owen has confused Morris Sovereen son of Frederick, with his cousin George Sovereign, Jr. who married Phoebe Powell and went to Illinois. Morris married Hannah Wood and settled in Bayham Township, Elgin County, recorded in the 1861 Census.

[17] The father Frederick does not seem to have come to Upper Canada until after the time of George’s birth. Frederick’s first record was a purchase on July 2, 1803 of Lot 26, Concession 6, Charlotteville Township from Duncan McCall.

[18] Philip Sovereign’s daughter Nancy, died in 1840, but was certainly not young. She married Heath Kitchen and their first of many children was born in 1819.

[19] Morris signed his surname “Sovereen”. No record has been found of an Abraham or Vincent Sovereen in his family. The David written here should be Daniel.

[20] Leamon spelled his surname “Sovereen”. He married first on December 26, 1841, Jane Collver who died on February 17, 1850. Leamon then married second on August 30, 1852, Sabrina Cynthia Harris. These marriages were recorded in the Talbot District Marriage Register. Leamon had a much larger family recorded with him in the 1852 and 1861 Censuses of Simcoe than that reported by Owen. By his first wife he had: Sylvanus Morris Sovereen, born September 19, 1842 and Lemon G. Sovereen born on March 28, 1845, died on April 26, 1863. By his second wife he had: Andrew Hinton, born on June 6, 1853, died on August 16, 1854; Charles Grant, born on July 2, 1855; Nelson Lawrence, born July 5, 1856, died 22 Apr 1858; Naomi Loeza, born on August 19, 1857; Angeline Elizabeth, born October 5, 1860; A. E. W., born c. 1861; James, born June 19, 1863; and Lillian. The children who died young were buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Simcoe.

[21] Most of George Sovereign’s family left Norfolk County before the 1852 Census. Morris Sovereen was confirmed to have a son Daniel when his oldest son and heir of that name filed for Letters of Administration over the deceased father’s estate on 25 Apr 1837 (Probate Court of Upper Canada). One Daniel Sovereen received a tavern license in 1841 and was recorded at Townsend Twp. in the 1852 Census. His widow Eliza was recorded in the 1861 and 1871 Censuses.

[22] According to her gravestone in Greenwood Cemetery, Waterford, Catherine was the third daughter of Frederick Sovereen, was born on April 29, 1776, and she was a child of his second marrieage.

[23] Elizabeth Sovereen married Leonard Clouse. Their daughter Anna married David Hunter and was buried beside him in Old Windham Cemetery. Mary Clouse married Matthew Masecar; Sarah Clouse married John Masecar and was buried beside him in Greenwood Cemetery, Waterford. Elizabeth married John Slaght.