Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Graves Simcoe Papers, 1774-1824

Finding aid created by
Cheney J. Schopieray, June 2008

Summary Information
Title: John Graves Simcoe papers
Creator: Simcoe, John Graves, 1752-1806
Inclusive dates: 1774-1824
Bulk dates: 1774-1804
Extent: 0.75 linear feet
The John Simcoe papers are a miscellaneous collection of letters and documents pertaining to Loyalist Colonel Simcoe's career as an officer during the American Revolution and as Governor of Upper Canada (1792-1796).
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1937. M-342.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

John Graves Simcoe Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan

Biographical/Historical Note

John Graves Simcoe was born in Cotterstock, England, and was educated at Eton Grammar School and Merton College, Oxford. He obtained a commission as ensign in the 35th Regiment in 1770. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, he became a captain in the 40th Foot, and in October 1777 he obtained command of the Queen's Rangers. Simcoe was an able officer, and under his leadership the Rangers became one of the most effective Loyalist regiments. He was captured in an ambush in 1779 and imprisoned for six months. In 1781 he was promoted to colonel and returned to England (wounded) shortly before the surrender of Yorktown.

Simcoe recovered from his injuries at the home of his godfather, Admiral Samuel Graves. He married Admiral Graves' niece, Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim, in 1782. Elizabeth, a wealthy heiress, purchased their 5,000 acre estate on the River Wolf in Dunkeswell. Simcoe entered Parliament in 1790 as member for St. Mawe's, Cornwall, and the following year he was appointed Governor of Upper Canada. He arrived at his new post in 1792, choosing Niagara for his capital. He surveyed the land, strengthened the province's military defenses, and attracted a number of Loyalist settlers to the area. Health issues forced Simcoe to leave Upper Canada in 1796. A year later, he accepted the governorship of St. Domingo, but left after five months due to illness. John Simcoe returned to England in 1797 with the rank of Lieutenant General. He was made Commander-in-Chief of India in 1806, but died before he could take his post.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The John Simcoe papers are a miscellaneous collection of letters and documents pertaining to Colonel Simcoe's military career in the British Army during the American Revolution and his post-war life. The collection contains letters between Col. Simcoe and a variety of correspondents. Most prominent are 23 letters from General Sir Henry Clinton, dated 1782-1792; letters and documents related to the Queen's Rangers, including military orders and returns, dated 1774-1799; nine letters from Col. Henry Caldwell regarding a monument to General James Wolfe, dated 1802-1804; and letters between Simcoe and George Hammond, the first British minister to the United States. Several unofficial documents relate to Simcoe's advancement and the disposal of his Canadian estates. Other miscellaneous letters and documents include one by Margaret Graves, in which she defends the conduct of her husband, Admiral Samuel Graves, in Boston before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.

The collection contains one "Memorandum Book," which is made up of copies of letters and military orders written for Simcoe by his Secretary, Major Edward Baker Littlehales, dated 1792-1793. Maps from the Simcoe papers have been transferred to the Map Division, including several attributed to John's wife, Elizabeth Simcoe. An unsigned commonplace book and a selection of literary drafts (including one for Simcoe's publishedRemarks on the travels of the Marquis de Chastellux in North America, 1787) and fragments of other works complete the Simcoe papers

Subject Terms

    • American loyalists.
    • Canada--History--1791-1841.
    • Great Britain. Army--Queen's Rangers.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--British forces.
    • Clinton, Sir Henry, 1738?-1795.
    • Littlehales, Edward Baker, d. 1825.
    • Simcoe, John Graves, 1752-1806.
    Genre Terms:
    • Commonplace books.
    • Drafts (documents)
    • Estate administration records.
    • Letter books.
    • Maps.
    • Military records.
    • Orders (military records)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence and Documents [series]
    Folder   1  
    Drafts of letters by John Simcoe,  1778-1795 May 22 (44 items)
    Folder   2  
    Sir Henry Clinton letters to John Simcoe,  1782-1792 (23 items)
    Folder   3  
    Letters to John Simcoe,  1792-1804 (11 items)
    Folder   4  
    Col. Henry Caldwell to John Simcoe,  1802-1804 (9 items)
    Folder   5  
    Pertaining to the Queen's Rangers
    Folder   6  
    Folder   7  
    Box   2  
    "Memorandum Book" (letterbook),  1792 July 4-1793 July 23
    Miscellaneous letters and documents
    Box   3  
    George Hammond Correspondence,  1792 March 3-1794 July 9
    Box   2  
    Drafts and literary fragments [series]
    Remarks on the Travels of the Marquis de Chastellux in North America
    Literary fragments
    Commonplace book,  undated [18th century]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    A number of manuscript maps have been transferred from the Simcoe papers to the Map Division.

    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds a selection of John Graves Simcoe's published works and correspondence.


    Mealing, S. R. Simcoe, John Graves (Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, accessed June 9, 2008)