ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF

HENRY V.S. MAUS

TRADITION

There was a Maus family living in the Hudson River country or in the adjoining Mohawk River valley. During the French and Indian Wars (1758 - 1759) this family was one of several who sought refuge from Indian attacks at Fort Seybert and as such they were also one of the families that were in the fort at the time of the famous Fort Seybert Massacre. The elder Mauses, maybe Georg and his wife, were killed and the two children, a girl and a younger boy, were taken captive by the Indians.

Later, under more peaceful conditions, a few of these Indians following one of their trails, came to a crossing where there was a small settlement and a trading post somewhere in the vicinity of Saratogo Springs, New York (see additional History at the bottom on the page as more recent evidence suggests that this trading post may have been closer to what is now Detroit). Undoubtedly they came to trade furs and venison for blankets, sugar, tea and maybe trinkets that the white man would have had.

The trading post owner seeing a white boy and a white girl with the Indians bargained for them, and the Indians departed. Not long thereafter, the Indians returned to steal the boy. When the store owner found the Indians he succeeded in hiding the boy under merchandise and bluffed the Indians into leaving the place. The Indians hardly dared to make a fuss on account of their recent treaty and undoubtedly there was a detachment of the British army not far away. The girl who was a couple of years older than the boy disappeared and was never found. It is believed that the Indians did take her. (but see this interesting probate link that seems to identify the girl as "Elizabeth Mouse" here.) And her grave site marker here.

The store owner was a Henry Van Schaack, a prominent businessman and part of an influentlial political family of the Northeast. Historical records seem to indicate that the Van Schaack family had loyalist sentiments around the time of the creation of the American Republic. The spelling "Van Scoick" is given in the "Stones" as given by John Maus to Mrs. Elizabeth (Stuart) Maus but it seems settled now that Van Schaack is the correct spelling of the name. The boy he rescued was known throughout his life as "Tankard" Maus (the story suggest that a silver Tankard was traded for the boy). The dates: Tankard was born about 1752 and his release from the Indians was about 1760. (See the important additional information provided by John Douglas Maus at this link).

Tankard Maus grew up in the Van Schaack household and quite naturally worked as his age and ability permitted. When about twenty-four years of age he was freighting goods for Mr. Van Schaack on th road somewhere out from Saratoga when he was attacked by a small band of scouts of the revolutionary army who took his horses, wagon and goods and would have made him one of their party. They frightened the horses and, while they were trying to control them, Tankard escaped into the woods and eventually made his way back to the Van Schaack home. This is said to have happened about a week after the battle of Saratoga, October 11, 1777.

The story continues that Tankard won the hand of the storekeeper's daughter or niece. They were married about 1780. It is quite in keeping that when their first son was born, November 23, 1782, they named him Henry V. S. Maus in recognition of the man who had saved Tankard from the Indians. Tankard appears to have had 4 sons and died in Norway county New York in 1830.

 

Henry V.S. Maus

A Vignette of the Pioneer of Maus Plains

Henry V. S. Maus was born the 23rd of November, 1782 in New York State presumably in Herkimer County, the first son of Tankard Maus and ---- Van Scoick. In documents he did not spell out his middle name, but used the V.S., and his son John said that the V.S. was for Van Schaack. His wife, Miss Aurilla Bunnell, was born August 12, 1785 in New York state, a daughter of Jairus M. Bunnell and Delany S. (full name not known); by hearsay, Puritans from Connecticut.

To Henry V.S. Maus and his wife, in New York State were born six children, of which the fifth one died in 1817. Soon after that the family migrated to Upper Canada (Ontario) stopping for a while in Queenston, where in September 1818 their son John was born. Shortly thereafter they moved on to Shade's Mills, which is now Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, then known as "Dumfries".

What inspired the move from New York state, and to this area in particular, is not fully known. Maybe they shared the Van Schaack family sympathies for the loyalists. History tells us that there were Bunnells who settled in the area near Brantford, Ontario in 1808, and maybe they heard from them about Dumfries. It seems clear that when Henry V.S. Maus was in the town of Queenston he had direct contacts with Hon. William Dickson of Niagara, now Niagara Falls, Ontario, who was the owner and promoter of Dumfries.

Pre-Settlement Days

From scattered information it is gathered that, like his father before him, Henry V.S. Maus was engaged in freighting while he lived in New York state; and we find that while he lived in Shade's Mills he was in the employ of Mr. Absolum Shade as a wharehouseman and freighter.

Mr. Maus transported products from Shade's Mills to the head of the Lake, now Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; to York, now part of Toronto, Canada; and also to Niagara-on-the-Lake and to Queenston, both on the Canadian side of the Niagara River. At such places he sold his cargo and purchased commodities that would be needed by the settlers in Dumfries. That he was resourceful, dependable, and successful is reflected in his ability to negotiate heavily loaded wagons drawn by four horses over pioneering trail roads, through swamps and forests; braving such dangers as bears and wolves, robbers and even Indians, as not all of them were friendly at the time. In good weather it took 4 days for the trip to York or Niagara-on-the-Lake, if all went well.

He Pioneers

After four and a half years of employment with Mr. Shade, Henry V.S. Maus was urged by that land agent to prospect for land to settle on and develop. It is said that Mr. Shade was a very good judge of a man's ability, and knowing Mr. Maus as he did, he told him to select any area he wished and the terms of the purchase would be made agreeable. Mr. Maus selected 350 acres of level land in the wilderness between Shade's Mills and Burford, and in 1823 he, with his two sons, cleared an area of its oak and pine trees, dug a well and built a log cabin. They also built a corral for horses and a few cows. Later on they built pens for pigs and sheep. At this time he was 59 years old.

To this primitive homestead he brought his wife and their daughters Mercy and Adah, each a little under 16 and 14 years respectively, and the four young boys, Jairus age 7 years, John age 4, William age 2 and Absalum a babe of a few months. Two years later the family was completed with the birth or another son whom they named Lewis.

There were others as well who took up land in that part of Dumfries but they were not that close to the Maus homestead, nor were their homes close to each other. A very few preceeded Mr. Maus but within a few years after he had settled on the plains we note these other family names: Ames, Campbell, Irwin, Lamberton, Luther, Nelles, Rosebrugh, Sewell and Vieth. Several of his own brothers and sisters came from New York state and took up land on these plains. Two sisters stayed in this area and married. It seems that one brother, Dan, stayed about twenty years, and then moved with his family to Buffalo, N.Y. to live.

Two to three miles to the southwest, two settlers, W.K. Smith and Wm. Holmes, had taken up land on a lower plains area at the forks of the Grand River. One of them sold his holdings in 1829 to Hiram Capron, who was successful in creating a business centre, which in 1856 became the Town of Paris, 33 years after Mr. Maus settled on his land.

The Maus School

The first established education on the "Maus Plains" was conducted in the homes; in classes taught by young women who showed proficiency in the teaching of reading, spelling and writing; for which they received $1.00 per week and their board, staying for a brief period first at one cabin and then another.

In 1829 Mr. Maus and his neighbours cooperated in the building of a one room log school in the corner of the cemetery, back from the road. 1829 was 14 years before the school received its first small subsidy or support from the "public funds". The people having children of school age built their own school buildings and paid the teacher's stipends and in various ways furnished them with room and board, until 1943. From information available, it appears that township was divided about 1846 into Districts for school purposes, and this area was then named "Maus School Section, No. 11".

In 1830 a teacher by the name of Miss Andrews was hired. It is said that she was replaced the next year by a man who was especially good in arithmetic; as well as being able to handle the boys, and teach reading and writing. And it is further said that the farmers of Maus Plains would gather evenings to learn from this schoolmaster, quote - "some of the mysteries of arithmetic beyond ordinary addition and subtraction".

The first school house proved to be too small and very difficult to access in the snowy weather. A larger log school house was built "up west near the main road". It was also used for church services when some itinerant preacher came by that way, and for the "circuit rider" whenever he was available; and, always except for severe winter weather, on Sunday afternoon for Sunday School.

The farmers prospered and the school population increased, which meant that a still larger structure was needed. This third school was of frame construction, with two rooms, and was built close to the site of the present school. A few years later this building was destroyed by fire.

Again history tells us that Mr. Maus spearheaded a committee, and a movement to build a more substantial school building. This structure still stands today.

Christianity - a Foundation

It is generally conceded that as early as 1821 groups met in homes for worship and Bible study. On the west side of the Grand River, in the autumn of 1824, soon after harvest time, Mr. Maus asked his neighbours to meet at his log cabin for a Thanksgiving meeting and to start community bible study. It was a Methodist type of service led by a layman; in this case Mr. Maus became the "Class Leader", which status he held throughout the rest of his life.

By an act of the English Parliament in the ninth year of King George IV, 1828, every religious organization in the Province of Canada, was required to have a Board of Trustees to hold the real estate of the said organization. We find that Henry V.S. Maus and his wife Aurilla deeded one acre of land to "Henry V.S. Maus, Orrin Lamberton, Myron Adams, Louis la Pierre, William Likins, Thomas Gadd and Jairus Bunnell Maus as Trustees of the West Dumfries Chapel, for a church". The building committee for the church was composed of Henry V.S. Maus as chairman and Orrin Lamberton and Myron Ames.

Rev. Peter Ker was preaching to this community group in the school house as one point of his circuit at the time that the church was built. It was dedicated in 1843 by William Ryerson, District Supt. of Wesleyan Methodist Church and Rev. Ker assisting. Ther is no cornerstone, but in the gable above the front door is a cut stone reading:

WEST DUMFRIES CHAPEL

W. ______1843_______ M.

The W....... M. being the initials for the Wesleyan Methodists. The West Dumfries Chapel is 30 feet by 40 feet; of rough ashlar limestone foundation topped with a squared and smooth finished limestone belt course. The window sills, door sills, and corner quoins are of the same stone and finish as the foundation belt course. It's walls are of 'cobblestones', that is, rounded river stones of even size about as large as a man's two hands with fingers interlaced, layed in level courses; with heavy outridged pointed mortar joints between the courses; after the style brought to this district by Levi Broughton who settle near the Forks of the Grand in 1838 and built many fine homes in the area using his design of masonry. It is quite probable that he supervised the masonry work of this church as it is one of the many buildings showing this superior workmanship.

West Dumfries Chapel

The windows and doors are in Gothic Style. Each window has 48 panes of clear glass in a plain rectangular pattern and terminates in the apex of the window with 21 panes set in curved muntins concentric with the window frame. The present front doors are replacements, but it's transom is original, of a Gothic apex with the same design as the windows.

The materials for the construction of the church were all purchased except the cobblestones used in the walls, which were collected from the Grand River and graded for size by the men of the church. By far the larger percentage of the construction work was either by a Maus by name or by marriage. The church is indeed a memorial to the character and leadership of Henry V.S. Maus.

The structure has never been burned, nor remodelled in shape, nor enlarged. This church is a rare treasure in that it remains to this day, after more than 160 years, in excellent condition, and as originally constructed and maintained by the Paris Plains Church Restoration Committee.

EPILOGUE

Although Henry V. S. Maus led a very rugged life, faced by many dangers, toiled unceasingly to change wilderness into a prosperous and wholesome community, and in his 38 years in Dumfries, saw many of his family and friends pass on before him, he had almost unending satisfaction in seeing the wilderness change to flowing grain fields. He saw his family grow; six of his children marry well, usually selecting a mate from one of the equally well established families of Dumfries township; and in seeing their families grow and establish on the Maus Plains. He lived to see 32 of his 41 granchildren and ten of his 120 great grandchildren.

He had his part in political developments, in the social life of the community and had served well on the school board and the church board, and their building committees; and he was active in founding and developing the agricultural society. Moreover, he had served his church well as "class leader" and as a teacher; and the community looked up to him as their leader.

So ends the story of HENRY V.S. MAUS, the central figure of the community of farms that developed the area where he pioneered. Little wonder then that having been of such great influence, the area is often called the "Maus Plains", the corner where the backsmith shop was "Maus Corners", the school was called the "Maus School" the school district was naturally called the "Maus School Section No. 11", the cemetery the "Maus Cemetery", and although the church is formally named the West Dumfries Chapel there are many even today who refer to it as the "Maus Church".

NEW INFORMATION - ABOUT AN OLD STORY!

In preparing this site I hoped to be able to update the recent history of the Maus Family but have been happily surprised to find that John Douglas Maus of Tulso Oklahoma has done extensive research on the origin of the Maus / Morse / Mauss family from their arrival in the United States and has given his permission to post a great summary of his findings and sources on this website. Mr John Douglas Maus is a descendant of a brother of Henry V.S. Maus. Read his findings HERE!

 

AND for speculation on the even earlier history of the Maus family, it's origins in Germany and the most likely story of the family's arrival in North America see the information HERE!

 

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