William Johnson Dease

Born in Vittoria, Charlotteville Township on June 15, 1807,[1] William Johnson Dease was a son of Richard William Dease (1780-1825) who served as a Clerk of the Peace and Clerk of the London District Court at the time. He was named for his father’s great-uncle Sir William Johnson who served as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in colonial Johnstown, New York.

William’s mother was Sarah Holmes (1781-1842),[2] a daughter of Loyalist soldier/hunter/trapper Asa Holmes who squatted on what became known as Troyer’s Flats on Long Point Bay.[3]

The first record of William Johnson Dease came in December 1830 when he mustered as a private in the 1st Regiment of the Norfolk County Militia.[4]

He married in Charlotteville Township on June 10, 1834,[5] Emily Stone a daughter of John Stone (c. 1794-1837) and Leah Manuel (1790-1871). Emily was born in Charlotteville Township on March 12, 1813.[6] Through her father’s mother, she was a great-granddaughter of Turkey Point pioneers Frederick and Lavinah (Pelham) Mabee.

A few weeks before his marriage, on May 23, 1834, William Dease purchased 300 acres of land in Lot 15, Concession 1, Charlotteville Twp. on Lake Erie near Normandale.[7]

William Dease then had a long business career in St. Williams, Norfolk County. In 1839, he purchased a 1-1/2 acre property in the south centre part of Lot 24, Concession 1, Walsingham Township[8] and built the Dease Inn on the Front Road south of St. Williams. He added to his property until he had 40 acres running from Long Point Bay across the Front Road. In addition, he opened a general store in the village and with his brother-in-law John McDonald operated a still in Charlotteville Twp. under license granted in 1843.

In the 1850 Assessment of Walsingham Township, William “Dase” had a household of 1 male under 16, 3 males over 16, 3 females under 16 and 1 female over 16. In the centre part of Lot 24, Concession 1, he had 24 acres cultivated and 11 acres uncultivated, a frame house under 2 storeys, 2 horses and  3 milch cows, all valued at £86.[9]

In the 1852 Census of Walsingham Township, William Dease was listed as an Innkeeper, religion Church of England 44 with his wife Emily, religion Baptist 39 and children Charles, an Innkeeper, 17, Jane Ann, Baptist 16, Martha M. Baptist 14, Emily M., Baptist 7 Emily M., Baptist 2, and Helen M., Baptist 2. They were all born in Upper Canada. The religion of William and his son Charles was given as Church of England. Emily and the rest of the children were Baptist. In the 1852 Agricultural Census, William was listed on Lot 24, Concession 1 with 40 acres, of which 30 acres were cultivated, including 20 in crops, 8 in pasture and 2 in gardens.[10]

              The Dease Inn built in 1839

The following tintypes of William Dease and his wife Emily might have been taken in the 1850’s or early 1860’s when William was aged in his forties or fifties and Emily was in her late thirties or forties. In pictures taken later William was bearded. On the cardboard frames are the names “William Dease Esq.” and “Emily Dease.” Comparison with other documents written by William Dease indicates this is in his own hand.

In the 1861 Census of Walsingham Township, Wm. J. Dease was listed as an inn keeper 54 with his wife Emily 49 and children Helen M. 10 and Charles J. W. 25 (farmer). All were born in Upper Canada. William was U. P. in religion and the rest Baptist.[11]

The tintype at the left depicts William Johnson Dease with a young child in his lap possibly Nancy Annie Belle, born in 1866, a daughter of his son Charles Johnson Watts Dease.


In the 1871 Census of Walsingham Township, William Dease was listed as a farmer 64 with his wife Emily 58, both born in Ontario. William was Presbyterian and Irish. Emily was Methodist.[12]

The following photographs of William and Emily are undated but would have been taken prior to William’s death in 1873.


William’s death certificate states that he died at Walsingham Township on April 18, 1873, aged 65 years, occupation farmer. He was buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Forestville.

After William died, Emily lived at St. Williams with her daughter, Helen Marr Woodward and was recorded with that family in the 1881 Census of Walsingham.[13] She died in St. Williams on April 29, 1883 and was buried beside her husband.[14]

The vital dates of William, Emily and their children were recorded on a family register kept by Emily Dease, now in the possession of R. Robert Mutrie.

At left another picture of Emily Stone Dease, year unknown. The
picture below hung in the Woodward-Mutrie farmhouse for a century.


The Dease Inn

The following is from St. Williams: The History by R. Robert Mutrie published in 1988 and reprinted in 2011 and includes the family lore of William Johnson Dease’s daughter Helen Marr Dease Woodward passed down to her granddaughter Madeline Woodward Mutrie.

In 1839, William Johnson Dease purchased the corner fifty-five acres where the Front Road takes its first and second bend west of St. Williams in Lot 24 Concession 1 Walsingham Township. Here he erected the Dease Inn, a two-story brick establishment. The tavern was well patronized by area residents who enjoyed the end of the day meetings with their friends and neighbours. The new settlers traveling along the Lake Erie shore on their way to Elgin and Essex Counties and the timber tracts of Michigan also stopped in.

There was a house rule at the Inn requiring all patrons to stand. The tavern had no tables or chairs and anyone who imbibed beyond their ability to stand were requested to quit the premises in short order.

Over the old Inn door hung a bog iron angel, the goddess of fertility, cast in the Van Norman Iron Works at Normandale, wishing the farmer patrons who passed under it good harvests. This, and a goblet and decanter were passed down to Madeline Mutrie, a descendant of the old innkeeper. A framed family birth, marriage and death register hung on the wall as well and this is in the possession of the author.

William Dease died on April 18, 1873 and his son C. J. W. Dease continued to operate the business until his death a few years later in 1876. It then became a residence for the Dease family, becoming first the home of Jennie Dease Woodward, a daughter of the old innkeeper and widow of brick maker and east end lighthouse keeper Harry Woodward. In 1900, she sold to her sister Helen Marr Dease Woodward and her husband, Hallum Woodward.  Their son Charles H. Woodward and his first wife Minnie lived there until 1902 after which the place was sold out of the family. The building burnt during the 1940’s and the land is now farmed.


The Old General Store

Established in 1841, everything from “soup to nuts” has been sold in the old General Store on the northwest corner of the main crossroads in St. Williams. Area residents could count on finding all their dry goods, groceries, farm produce, fresh meats, cutlery, hardware and even clocks within those busy walls serving the community for over a century and a quarter.

William Johnson Dease, keeper of the Dease Inn on the Front Road south of the village, started the General Store in 1841. He severed the village lot from William Gillaspy’s farm, built the store building and stocked it full of necessities for the area farmers and the new village’s residents. He sold it to Peter Rapelje in 1850.

[1] Family Register written by William Johnson Dease, in the possession of the compiler

[2] Ibid

[3] Certificate of sale from Asa Holmes to John Troyer dated December 27, 1790 in Walsingham Township Papers, Doc. No. 87

[4] Nominal Rolls of the 1st Regiment Norfolk County Militia, Dec 1830, National Archives of Canada RG9, IB1, Vol. 16

[5] London District Marriage Register

[6] Dease Family Register

[7] Abstracts of Deeds Register of Charlotteville Twp, Vol. A, 1800-1947, Ontario Archives GS 2554

[8] Abstracts of Deeds Register of Walsingham Twp., Vol. A, 1797-1883, Ontario Archives GS 2624

[9] The 1850 Assessment of Walsingham Twp., Regional History Collection, James J. Talman Room, Weldon Library, University of Western Ontario

[10] The 1852 Census of Walsingham Township, page 3

[11] The 1861 Census of Walsingham Township, page 13

[12] The 1871 Census of Walsingham Township, District 1, page 11

[13] The 1881 Census of South Walsingham twp. Dist. 1 p. 17

[14] Gravestones in Hillcrest Cemetery, Forestville, Charlotteville Township