Duncombe Rebellion 1837 costumes win Brickenden award

Congratulations to Brenda for winning her first Brickenden award last night, beating out some very serious competition! Her victory was well-deserved — the costumes were the visual highlight of The Duncombe Rebellion and added so much to our show. On a very frugal budget but with considerable knowledge and attention to accuracy, she re-created the look of the 1830’s, assisted by the other Duncombe Designers Karen Wadsworth, Maureen Ryan and Cathy Luke. Well done, team!

The Ballyhoo award went to P.S. Your Cat is Dead, and the Best Original Script to Dan Ebbs’ historical play Scenes from a War, so Duncombe did not win any further prizes last night, but I am pleased with the presence we had. It was a thrill to see our production represented in the slideshow, and to be nominated 3 times, to see Brenda win and to hear her gracious acceptance speech. Kudos to the hard-working Brickenden team for pulling off an excellent awards night, that even managed to be quite entertaining!

The only sad part is that our lovely production now feels truly ‘over’. I’m so glad we have Terry’s wonderful pictures to remember it. Many thanks to everyone – you are all winners! special thanks to Jason Rip, whose direction was inspired, and to Jason Sousa, who made Charles Duncombe live again so convincingly. Not least of all, thanks and congratulations to Nancy, who loves history so much, and who gave a year of hard work, vision and determination into the realization of The Duncombe Rebellion 1837. For all of us, I think, the biggest reward was the tremendous satisfaction the audiences experienced, and the vindication our production offered to a number of forgotten heroes of Upper Canadian history. The Duncombes, Doans, Tildens and Shenicks thank you!

Cheers! Marion Johnson

Playwrite, Duncombe Rebellion 1837

History of the Brickenden Awards


KinDay a success. Big thanks from playwright.

To Mary, Denise and all the wonderful people we encountered in your town!
On behalf of the cast and crew of The Duncombe Rebellion, I would like to thank you for the exceptional hospitality we enjoyed on the final day of our tour. Coffee hour — lunch — then a gourmet dinner and finally a fabulous closing event — what more could you have done to welcome us and make us feel at home? Your generosity was amazing and so much appreciated!

Thank you for making our final Duncombe Day one long celebration!

Marion Johnson

Playwright, Duncombe Rebellion 1837

2009 Sponsors for Kin Day and the Duncombe play

These businesses and individuals and groups supported Wardsville Kin Day 2009 when Wardsville hosted the two final performances of The Duncombe Rebellion play by Marion Johnson:

Al Schneckenburger & Friends.

Art and Louise Long

Artists for the Summer Solstice Art in the Park

Babcock Community Care Centre

Bozena Bladek

Cast and Crew of the Duncombe Rebellion

Chris DeWit Construction Inc.

Darryl VanOirschot and Carrie Howard

Dave’s Cafe

Dean Titus, CA

Denise Corneil, Kin Day Event Coordinator and secretary for Your Wardsville

Duncan Morrison and Grace McGartland in honour of The Arts and Cookery Bank

E.L. Fordham Motors Ltd

Egg Farmers of Ontario

Freida Timmers

G&L Farms

Glencoe and District Historical Society

Glencoe Pharmacy and Gift

Green Street Landscaping

Knapp’s Farm Service Inc.

Larry Willis

Living History Productions

Lyn Champigny in honour of Beattie Haven

Lynn Cartier

Manuel Moniz

McWilliams Appliance

Members of Your Wardville community association.

Municipality of Southwest Middlesex

Nick Wells, AKA Colonel Thomas Talbot

Nola’s Home Decor

Parks and Rec personnel, Municipality of Southwest Middlesex

Pop’s Variety

Precision Concrete Ltd

Residents and Businesses of Wardsville and area.

Rodney Cycle and Machine

Steve Ferguson, Descendent of Charles Goodrich Tilden

Stonehouse Antiques and Favourite Things, Glencoe

TCU Wardsville

Thames Talbot Land Trust

The Chronicle community newspaper

Tony Bycraft

Town and Country Landscaping

Town Crier, Municipality of Southwest Middlesex, Don McIlmoyle

Upper Thames Re-enactment Society: Glenn Stott, Kent May, et al.

Villa Dining Lounge and Catering

Wardsville Fire Department

Wardsville Golf Club: Carl Kennes, Harry Van Dyk et al

Wardsville Library, and the Middlesex County Library system

Wardsville Museum & Ken Willis

Wardsville United Church

Wolfe Equipment

Duncombe Rebellion 1837 opens to rave reviews

I was mortified when I failed Grade 12 history but not surprised, given the class boredom and dull curriculum.  Like most people, I need to connect emotionally to the story.  The rebellion of 1837?  I vaguely remember an uprising on Yonge Street led by Mackenzie King’s grandfather. It all went wrong.   A tavern figured in the story so one presumes that drunkenness or hangovers were involved.

I am not the only one surprised that there is much more to the story.  A new play, Duncombe Rebellion 1837, opened to rave reviews when it premiered at Fanshawe Village during the long weekend. The cast of 14 is playing to enthusiastic audiences, standing ovations and much praise.

This isn’t a Toronto story.  This is our story.  It is a rural story about farmers getting mad enough at the government to take up arms.  In 1837, farming communities complained about the Family Compact, a group who controlled the government through the Executive Council and Legislative Council.   They controlled a lame duck Lieutenant Governor, leaving the popularly elected Legislative Assembly with little power.

Some of the Family Compact members were pretty sleazy, even in the eyes of their own circle. Colonel Thomas Talbot (the guy who welcomed my Pearce ancestors to Port Talbot in 1809) was one.  He helped ensure his conservative friends held the important positions in the colony.

Dr. Charles Duncombe (1791-1867), a prominent physician and politician, led the militant reform movement in the London District. He rallied the local “Patriots” at the settlement of Scotland, planning to move against Brantford and Hamilton and join forces with William Lyon Mackenzie. On Dec. 13, 1837 a delayed message was received of Mackenzie’s defeat at Montgomery’s Tavern. Colonel Allan MacNab was moving fast towards the rebels with a strong Loyalist force. Disheartened, Duncombe’s followers dispersed into the night and Duncombe fled to the United States.

Marion Johnson’s play tells the story about what went on behind the scenes. Al Leitch, who plays a Loyalist militiaman, spoke in Wardsville recently, “Who knew about this story and these families?  The Tildens, Doans, Shenicks, Duncombes.  The ancestors of these men are going to be thrilled with this play.”

I hate to give the story away but it was hard not to tear up as the handsome young Quaker, Joshua Doan, says goodbye to his wife Francie before going to the London gallows.  He must have been a passionate man because Quakers are pacifist in religious belief. They preferred to be and let be. Descendent of Joshua, Carolyn Cameron says her Mother always said she had the Doan temper.

“The play was excellent,” says Ms. Cameron. “The story was pretty accurate.  The family story goes that a pardon for Joshua came a day later.  Suspiciously convenient.”

Wardsville’s hospitality goes back 200 years, so Wardsvillians will be amused to see their village’s welcoming nature and tolerance show up in the plot.

Tilden descendents will see the story which they have passed down through generations on the stage.   Wendy Tilden Quick writes on the web that her Great Great Great Grandfather Charles Goodrich Tilden helped Duncombe escape Canada and his son inherited 200 acres belonging to the doctor in Komoka, Ontario. It operated as a wooden pump factory for many years. C.G.Tilden was later imprisoned in London, Ontario for his involvement in the doctor’s escape. He was later released because he took ill with jail fever and his wife pleaded the jailer for his release.

The premiere was at Fanshawe Pioneer Village to celebrate their 50th anniversary Victoria Day weekend; Sparta on Saturday June 6; Lexington, Michigan, June 13; and Wardsville on Saturday, June 20 2009.   Go towww.duncombedays.ca for more info. Phone 519 693-9936 for information about tickets remaining for Wardsville performances.


Play review by Mary Simpson

Sent to papers Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Duncombe Rebellion – 1837 A Living History Play

The Duncombe Rebellion – 1837

A Living History Play

Directed by Jason Rip

Written by Marion Johnson

Produced by Living History Productions


Duncombe Days in Southern Ontario





Festivities, Re-enactments, Country Dinners and Live Theatre




Dr. Charles Duncombe: the OTHER rebel leader in 1837




Not many Canadians know that when William Lyon Mackenzie launched his  ill-fated revolt in Toronto in 1837, he was backed up by another  Reform leader in Upper Canada West [now Southern Ontario] — an  American-born doctor named Charles Duncombe, a popular physician who  was well-respected for his forward looking views on health, education  and responsible government. But when in December of 1837, Duncombe mustered a citizens’ army of hundreds of men in the vicinity of Brantford, intending to help Mackenzie in his armed uprising at Montgomery’s Tavern, he found himself on the wrong side of the law.  Acting on the false intelligence that Mackenzie had won and was in control of Toronto, Duncombe prepared for battle. When news of Mackenzie’s actual disaster finally got through [a week late] Duncombe disbanded his own forces without having fired a single shot.  All the same, he was guilty of treason and would surely have been hanged if caught. But with the help of his sister Huldah, his friend Charles Tilden, and a courageous boy named Richard Shenick, he escaped to safety across the border in Detroit, a journey he made disguised as a woman. Others were less fortunate: they went to jail or even were executed.  




The remarkable story of how the 1837 Rebellion impacted Southern Ontario – in a battle for freedoms we now take for granted – will be presented as a living history play in several Ontario communities this summer, including the premiere at Fanshawe Pioneer Village, London Ontario, to celebrate their 50th anniversary, Victoria Day weekend May 15 to 18, Sparta, Ontario on Saturday June 6, Lexington, Michigan, June 13 and Wardsville, Ontario on Saturday, June 20 2009.


Written by Marion Johnson,



Duncombe Days




1985 film about rebel Samuel Lount screened.

Your Wardsville cinema presented rebellion film May 12 at United Church:

Film: Samuel Lount: Hero or Traitor in the 1837 Rebellion?

Twenty of us were there to view this R.H. Thomson Canadiana film that was released in 1985.  Another story about the Rebellion of 1837.  The film colour was dark (there were no electric lights in 1837) and the sound was garbled but the film  described the part of the story that we all know about –vaguely: William Lyon Mackenzie’s ill-fated revolt that went wrong on Yonge Street in early December 1837.


This story that we DON’T know tells how the farmers of southwestern Ontario were left  exposed after the revolt failed.  The news of failure did not travel fast enough to the re-inforcements and the “traitors” had to run for their lives.  Dr. Duncombe and Joshua Doan were two of the leaders from our rural communities that hiked it to the U.S.  Duncombe got across the river after his overnight in Wardsville but Joshua Doan eventually went to the gallows.


Mary Simpson