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Memorial Tiles: James Canniff

CANNIFF, James: 1765 - 1851

Tile ordered and paid for by Wm. Canniff* July 1888

James was born on August 19, 1765 in Bedford County, Westchester, New York, to Jeremiah Canniff and his wife Annatje de Revier. Jeremiah and Annatje were married at the Dutch Church in Tarrytown, New York. The family arrived in Upper Canada as United Empire Loyalists in 1783. James and his brother John (1757-1843) who had supported the Loyalist cause, came to Adolphustown shortly after the original group of settlers in June 1784.(1)

James married Elizabeth McBride (1770-1837) and they had ten children: Jonas born December 28, 1789; John born November 18, 1791; Margaret born May 5, 1794; Sarah born April 27, 1797; Nancy born July 15, 1799; Mary born February 9, 1802; Letty born September 9, 1804; Cleo born February 25, 1806; Elizabeth born September 6, 1810; and Abraham born September 5, 1813.

James and Elizabeth lived on the third concession in Adolphustown where James is listed in the 1800 Adolphustown census as the head of a household of seven persons—one adult male, one adult female, two male children and three female children. James' brother John moved to Thurlow, north of Belleville, and by 1812, James had built a flourmill in the same area, later named Cannifton Village. After Elizabeth’s death, James married Jane, born in 1775 and she is mentioned in his will.

Jonas, the eldest son of James and Elizabeth Canniff, married Lettie Flagler and their son William,* born in 1830, became a medical doctor of some renown and Toronto’s first Health Officer.(2) He was a founding member of the Historical Society of Upper Canada, and in 1869 published The Settlement of Upper Canada, an important account of the history of Ontario.

Mary (1802-1856), the daughter of James and Elizabeth, married Ricketson Haight (1797-1840) on June 7, 1820. Their eldest son, James Haight, a chemist in Picton, was the author of Country Life Canada, published in 1885.

* William Canniff, MD, who sponsored this tile, was the grandson of James Canniff.


1. Research by Mildred and Lorel Wannamaker, 1974, in Belleville Corby Library and U.E.L. Resource Centre, Adolphustown.

2. “Canniff, William,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Vol. XIII.