The Story of Daniel Daverne

Who was Daniel Daverne?

Daniel Joseph Daverne (1784-1830) was born in Ireland. His family moved to London England following the Irish Rebellions of 1798. The Davernes arrived in the Quinte area in 1804 and farmed at Hallowell (Picton) until 1815 when Daniel purchased the 200 acre Adolphustown farm for his father.

At the commencement of the War of 1812 he entered the Quarter Master General's (QMG) department at York where he was actively employed until the Americans attacked. He was commanded to destroy "The Brock" and all naval stores before accompanying General Sheaffe to Kingston. He remained at Kingston until 1815 when he was appointed by Major General Sir Sidney Beckwith to the position of first secretary and storekeeper at the newly created Perth Military Settlement under superintendent Alexander McDonnell. He later became postmaster, then acting superintendent from 1817-1819.

His duties included locating land and providing guaranteed supplies for over 6000 immigrants in a huge area what would be known as Lanark, Leeds, Grenville and Carleton counties. Daverne was directly accountable to the QMG department in Quebec. In Perth, he was responsible for coordinating the activities of surveyors, tradesmen and teamsters who answered to other departments, plus directing the affairs of his own office employees. He dealt daily and personally with clients and officials whose conflicting demands and criticisms of the settlement system and his own handing of affairs placed increasing pressures on his ability to perform all the tasks assigned to him.

Col. Cockburn relieved him of his position in July of 1819 after a hastily convened court of inquiry. He was charged with peculation (embezzlement) and abuse of government powers. The Duke of Richmond cancelled all his land grants in the Rideau area - about 800 acres in all. This included the present day Conlon Farm, Links of Tay Golf Course, Rideau Ferry and large sections of Murphys Point Provincial Park on the Rideau River.

He "escaped" to the United States, but returned in 1821 to take over the family farm in Adolphustown. He died of cholera in 1830, never cleared or convicted of the charges brought against him.

A curious side note is that Col Cockburn’s older brother George was part of the British military take over and burning of Washington During the War of 1812.  In fact, Cockburn burned all but one of the government building to the ground including the White House and the Capital Building.  Some historians say the attack was in retaliation for the U.S. invasion of York, Upper Canada (now Toronto), at the Battle of York in 1813, in which U.S. forces looted and burned the city, including the Parliament Buildings of Upper Canada.

Finding the Daverne Journal

In the early 1990s, the Wright-Thomas building, a small nineteenth-century stone structure on the main street of Perth, Ontario, was abandoned and on the verge of collapse. The Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Group undertook the redevelopment of the property. The mandate of the project was to restore and enlarge the structure so that while becoming more economically feasible as an entity it would also continue to contribute to the historic commercial fabric of this small Ontario Town. The result was one of the most attractive historic structures in town, housing several retail establishments and the Studio Theatre.

It was during renovation that a very fortuitous event happened. A worker given the task of shovelling all the refuse into the trash bins, noticed a pile of mouldy papers that had apparently been stuck behind the interior walls being demolished. Thinking they might have some value, this worker 'took' the papers to the Perth Museum where the curator, Doug McNichol, pinioned they were. The Museum purchased these papers from the 'finder' then sent them to the National Archives to authenticate. Following this step, the Canadian Conservation Institute was hired to restore the ledger to its present remarkable state. The "mouldy papers" turned out to be the journal of Daniel Daverne - a first hand account by Daverne himself. It is interesting to speculate why the journal was "hidden" in a wall.

Daverne kept this entry book between 1816 and 1818. Within its pages he recorded correspondence between military officers and records of land grants and of the provision of supplies at the Perth military camp. As most of the Settlement's correspondence hasn't survived, with the exception of some duplicated in British military and naval records, the journal is a unique and valuable source of information.

Journal Restoration

To read the story about how the Daverne Journal was restored, read this Canada Heritage article.

"Treatment of the Daverne Journal" was presented by Roberta Partridge on April 20, 2005, at the Perth Museum in Perth, ON, to an audience that included members of the Perth Historical Society as well as the general public.

Daverne - Criminal or Victim?

Once the journal was back at the Perth Museum, a project was undertaken to "read" the journal and transcribe the contents to CD-ROM. It was during this event that much new material, previously unknown, came to light.

The Daverne Journal provided first hand accounts of events - sometimes greatly at odds with the accounts of events told by others up to this time (especially from the notes of Rev. William Bell - see related links)

To present this new information the Perth Historical Society and the Perth Museum decided to release the new information via a dramatization. A Trial of Daniel Daverne would be held with a real judge and lawyers, actors would represent the famous people of the period and the audience would act as jury.

The trial opened on October 19, 2005 to an overflow crowd with seven of Daniel's descendants in the audience to witness the event.

The Trial of the Century

The following is a slide presentation of theTrial of the Century - Judge Stephen March presiding. Click on the speaker icon on the first slide to hear period sounds, and when you get to the slide where Daverne confronts his accusers - click on the slide to see a short movie from the play. Note: the multimedia may only work with Internet Explorer. Firefox won't play the audio or video. High speed internet connection and patience are mandatory - these are large files. Actor Joe Laxton plays the part of Daniel Daverne.

Related Links

The Perth Town Crier - who played the part of Rev. William Bell in the "Trial of the Century" has a note on "rewriting history". Most of what was known about Daverne up to present time was written by the Rev. William Bell. Rev. Bell arrived from Scotland with assisted emigrants and was appointed minister to the Perth Military settlement in 1816. He led the Presbyterian congregation from 1817-1857. Much of what we knew of Daverne was from his careful diaries of daily events, and his several books on survival in the Canadian Experience.

A descendent of the Rev. Bell - Mary Amanda Bell Campbell [b. 1869 Perth, d. 1968 in Perth] wrote an account of Early Days in the Perth Settlement A document dated February 17th, 1896 was found and transcribed by Charles Dobie

Some notes on life in Perth and area can be found in a story of John Halliday written by Clarence Halliday.. John was a Lanark County School Teacher

Much of the information here and the script for the Trial of the Century were the hard work of Bridget and Clark Theobald and are used here with permission. See the "Trial of the Century" slide show for details on the many people and organizations that helped make it happen.

Some related articles from the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI).  CCI were the ones who restored the journal back to a readable form.

CCI Newsletter, No. 35, June 2005

On Display: The Daverne Journal

by Roberta Partridge, Book Conservator, CCI

CCI Newsletter, No. 36, Fall 2005   [en francais]

Restoration of the Daverne Journal Sheds New Light on its Author

by Clark and Bridget Theobald


CyberSpace Industries 2000 Inc. is producing a documentary on Daniel Daverne entitled "Daniel's Journal" early in 2009. This production will be conducted as part of the first post graduate course on Documentary Production by Algonquin College in Ottawa. Look for further coverage in the Perth Courier and EMC.

  1. News Release

  2. Algonquin College - Documentary Production

  3. Daniel’s Journal - History Rewritten” - a documentary



See also Origin and Development of the Perth Museum.