Captain James Dittrick, commanded the Flank Company in Colonel Robert Nellis’s 4th Regiment Lincoln Militia. Of all five brothers who served in the flank companies of the Lincoln Militia during the War, James’s career is the most thoroughly documented. His “Reminisces of the early years of settlement in Niagara and St. Catharines” was published in the “Loyalist Narratives” compiled by British author George Coventry in 1860 and reprinted many times since; most recently by the Champlain Society. He was also interviewed by Benson Lossing who reported this meeting in the Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812 published in 1869. Being a contemporary, and neighbour of William Hamilton Merritt, he is mentioned several times (often competitively) in the Biography of the Honouable William Hamilton Merritt, authored by Merritt’s younger son. James is also recorded in the ”Merritt Papers” preserved by the Archives of Ontario.
James was the son of Sergeant Jacob Dittrick (former Indian Department Ranger, and later Sergeant, in Captain Walter Butler’s Company of Butler’s Rangers), His mother Margaret Dittrick, was daughter of Butler’s Ranger, William Pickard, also a UE Loyalist.
According to his “Reminisces” James was born on the Niagara River Lot 1, today known as MacFarland Park (Ontario Archives MV 4374 Merritt Family Papers, Env.4 Feb 7, 1860 p.). This lot was the first farm south of the Niagara Military Reserve, the site of Navy Hall, and later (in 1796) Fort George, among other establishments. This site was allotted to Butler’s Ranger Captain John McDonald in 1781.
In 1783 McDonald returned to his family estate in Williamstown on the Rasin River. He was later appointed first member of the Legislative Assembly for Glengarry. Before departing Niagara, McDonald arranged for Jacob Dittrick (by then a disband pensioner and father of James) to manage his Niagara estate in his absence. In return for this service the Dittrick family were permitted to reside in Captain MacDonald’s wooden framed dwelling and remained there until taking up their land patent in St. Catharines on the 12 Mile Creek in 1786.
It was during this period that James was born on the 29 Aug 1785 (Births & Deaths in the Dittrick Family Bible 1755-1863; also see Loyalist Narratives, Coventry, 1860, Merritt Papers, OA). The estate was later sold to John MacFarland.
The original dwelling was burned to the ground by the occupying American army in December 1813 after John McFarland was captured by the enemy and imprisoned at Greenbush, NY. This dwelling was replaced with assistance of a “War Loss Claim” by son James who constructed the fire-proof brick structure now known as McFarland House. This brick house was built in the 1820’s and based upon the Regency, and early Empire style molding profiles as indicated by Ontario Restoration architect, the late Peter J. Stokes (1971-2014, pers. com Stokes/Jouppien). McFarland House is currently curated by the Niagara Parks Commission as a period house museum and living history site.
James appeared on the muster of the Lincoln Militia as early as April 1808 (R.G. 9 1B1. vol. #1). As a flank company member he received his basic training at Fort George. Initially commissioned as a Lieutenant (C.R.G. 8 “C” Series, vol.1701, doc. 204) than Ensign, James served as “duty officer of the day” at the Fort George Guard House, the Mississauga Point Light-House, 4 Mile Creek, among other strategic locations (C1203 Y2 M119-1 p31, 36.41). He also served as a juror for several dozen militia court-martial trials at Fort George (P.A.C.; R.G.8, C Series p.117, 168, 184, 170, 172-179).
His performance at the Battle of Queenston Heights resulted in favourable mention in the British Officer’s returns (Alan Holden, 1981″ Lincoln Militia in the War of 1812″, Mayholme collection) and resulted in his appointment as Captain. His commanding Officer Captain Thomas Butler, youngest son of the late Colonel John Butler was ill and missed the opportunity. This circumstance allowed, James Dittrick to command the company under the direction of General Roger Hale Sheaffe. The defending Canadian line consisted of John Norton’s Mohawks, a dozen Black volunteers, other militia, and what remained of the British Forces. This forlorn little army took the Victory, that had evaded the main British contingent earlier and resulted in the loss of the “Hero of Upper Canada”. Ernest Cruikshank illustrated the position of Jame’s company within the victorious line formation which managed to outflank the Americans and win the battle. (E. Cruikshank (1902) Documentary History Part 1, Lundy’s Lane Historical Society. p 7).
Years later James reported to Benson Lossing that he commanded the Flank Company 4th Regiment Lincoln Militia at Queenston, Fort George, Lundy’s Lane and arrived minutes after the surrender at Beaverdams. Lossing continued that:
“(James) was active on the frontier and over the peninsula during the whole of the war.”
(Lossing: 1869 p 624)
His obituary stated:
“The deceased was one of the old heroes of 1812 and was engaged in almost every battle during that campaign”.
(St. Catharine’s Constitution October 1863, p,3)
James continued in the militia until tendering his resignation April 19, 1831 due to the inconvenience of having to travel the 40 miles to Grimsby to muster with his Regiment.
Subsequent to the war he was granted a Prince Regent Land Grant in the “new territory” for his Flank Company service (P.A.C. application No.610) but he continued to reside in St. Catharines. As in the case of his four brothers, he contributed to the erection of both the first and second Brock’s Monument at Queenston Heights. In the early 1860’s he was a member of the committee appointed to plan the itinerary for the visit of the Prince Wale’s Canadian Tour in which the Prince placed the cornerstone of the new Brock’s monument and provided the first recognition of Laura Secord .
After the war James worked as a butcher, and an inn-keeper. In 1816 he was involved with William Hamilton Merritt, and several others and in moving the Spectator, a weekly newspaper to St. Catharines.
James died of natural causes on the 29 Sept 1863 (Dittrick family bible) and was buried at the Victoria Lawn Cemetery in St. Catharines, Ontario.
This narrative was prepared by his great, great nephew Jon K. Jouppien UE.
Veteran SummaryJames Dittrick
Captain, Flank Company 4th Regiment Lincoln Militia
Place of Birth
St. Catharines, ON, CAN
Place of Death
St. Catharines, ON, CAN
Died on: 29 SEP 1863
Reason: Natural Causes
Location of Grave
Victoria Lawn Cemetery, Victoria Lawn Cemetery
St. Catharines, ON, CAN
Latitude: 43.161769N Longitude: -79.201565