‘Voices from Lambton’s Past’: The ‘shocking’ story of William ‘Tiger’ Dunlop


In 1827, William "Tiger" Dunlop (19 November 1792 – 29 June 1848) opened the line of the Huron Road from Goderich to Guelph, providing access for settlers to a large tract of land in south-western Ontario comprising parts of modern Huron, Perth, Middlesex and Lambton Counties.

Dunlop’s connection with Sarnia is confirmed by an undated report that stated:According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, "Dunlop delighted in shocking people. One afternoon in a store in Goderich, he directed each newcomer to fetch him some nails from a barrel – in which Samuel Strickland had dumped a live porcupine…. At a public meeting in Goderich in 1840, he offered those assembled three good reasons for not going to church: 'First that (a man) should be sure to find his wife there, secondly, he could not bear any meeting where one man engrossed the whole of the conversation, and thirdly, that he never liked singing without drinking.' And once, in the assembly, a fellow member interrupted him as he spoke on the subject of taxation to ask him how he would like a tax on bachelors. 'Admirably,' he replied, 'luxury is always a legitimate object of taxation'. Dunlop was known under a variety of names, but the one that has lasted is Tiger. In Upper Canada he was also The Doctor, occasionally Peter Poundtext or Ursa Major, and often A Backwoodsman."These lands, granted to The Canada Company, were soon under the control of Dunlop, by birth a Scotsman, who during his years here in Upper Canada, was an army officer, surgeon, Canada Company official, author, justice of the peace, militia officer, politician, and office holder. He served as a doctor and officer during the War of 1812 and the 1837 Rebellion, having contact with militia in several counties of Upper Canada.

“During 1838 and 1839, some 300 militiamen were stationed in Sarnia and other frontier posts, under the late Col. Dunlop, of Goderich, and what with the Goderich companies, and those from the Townships of Warwick, Plympton and Sarnia, a pretty lively time was had in and around Sarnia.”

His will was quite unusual, including a reference to a snuff-box given to him by the Sarnia Militia.

Last Will and Testament Of William Dunlop dated August 31, 1842

In the name of God, amen.

I, William Dunlop, of Gairbraid, in the Township of Colborne, County and District of Huron, Western Canada, Esquire, being in sound health of body, and my mind just as usual (which my friends who flatter me say is no great shakes at the best of times), do make this my last Will and Testament as follows, revoking, of course, all former Wills.

I leave the property of Gairbraid, and all other landed property I may die possessed of, to my sisters Helen Boyle Story and Elizabeth Boyle Dunlop; the former because she is married to a minister whom (God help him) she henpecks. The latter because she is married to nobody, nor is she like to be, for she is an old maid, and not market-rife.

And also, I leave to them and their heirs my share of the stock and implements on the farm; provided always, that the enclosure round my brother’s grave be reserved, and if either should die without issue, then the other to inherit the whole.

I leave to my sister-in-law, Louisa Dunlop, all my share of the household furniture and such traps, with the exceptions hereinafter mentioned.

I leave my silver tankard to the eldest son of old John, as the representative of the family. I would have left it to old John himself, but he would melt it down to make temperance medals, and that would be sacrilege—however, I leave my big horn snuff-box to him: he can only make temperance horn spoons of that.

I leave my sister Jenny my Bible, the property formerly of my great-great-grandmother, Bethia Hamilton, of Woodhall, and when she knows as much of the spirit of it as she does of the letter, she will be another guise Christian than she is.

I also leave my late brother’s watch to my brother Sandy, exhorting him at the same time to give up Whiggery, Radicalism, and all other sins that do most easily beset him.

I leave my brother Alan my big silver snuff-box, as I am informed he is rather a decent Christian, with a swag belly and a jolly face.

I leave Parson Chevasse (Magg’s husband), the snuff-box I got from the Sarnia Militia, as a small token of my gratitude for the service he has done the family in taking a sister that no man of taste would have taken.

I leave John Caddle a silver teapot, to the end that he may drink tea therefrom to comfort him under the affliction of a slatternly wife.

I leave my books to my brother Andrew, because he has been so long a Jungley Wallah, that he may learn to read with them.

I give my silver cup, with a sovereign in it, to my sister Janet Graham Dunlop, because she is an old maid and pious, and therefore will necessarily take to horning. And also my Granma’s snuff mull, as it looks decent to see an old woman taking snuff.

I do hereby constitute and appoint John Dunlop, Esquire, of Gairbraid; Alexander Dunlop, Esquire, Advocate, Edinburgh; Alan C. Dunlop, Esquire, and William Chalk, of Tuckersmith ; William Stewart and William Gooding, Esquires, of Goderich, to be the executors of this my last Will and Testament.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-two.

HISTORICAL NOTES from the author: 

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In case some of the above terms are unknown, definitions of a few of them follow:

Horning: boasting or to be quarrelsome

Jungley Wallah: a man of the jungle

Slatternly: slutty

Snuff: finely pulverized tobacco that can be drawn up into the nostrils by inhaling

Tankard: a tall, beer mug     

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  • Dunlop lies beside his brother, a hero of the Royal Navy, in grave atop hill approaching Goderich from the north, near airport. A big man, he earned “Tiger” hunting man-eaters in far east, using snuff & shotgun, nearly wiped out tiger population. Farmed at Goderich, tossed coin to see who would marry their housekeeper –his brother lost, (and married). Tiger moved quickly, silently afoot through bushland from Goderich to Kingston, guiding new settlers; was MP for emerging Ontario.

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