The foundation and settlement of Dundas begins at New York, where persecuted German United Empire Loyalists known as the Lutheran Palantines made there way to Montreal following American independence in 1774. In the spring of 1784 they made their way west to the banks of the St Lawrence where they were settled on lands alloted to them in Dundas County. Amongst them were the Strader and Shaver families.
At the outbreak of hostilies that began the War of 1812, a young 22 year old native of Montreal named Duncan McKercher enlisted with His Majesty's Canadian Regiment of Fencible Infantry. He would end up serving 4 years and 111 days before being discharged when the unit disbanded in 1816.
Duncan himself was the son of a military family. His father Donald had served as a member of The King's Royal Regiment of New York, which fought during the American Revolutionary War.
The newly established Fencibles were composed primarily of Canadian settlers. Newly arrived Sir Francis Cockburn of England served as a Major for the force. He was the lesser renowned younger brother of Sir George Cockburn who was famed for the raiding of the American coastline and the infamous sacking Washington D.C. in 1814.
During the first year of the war, the regiment initially served to protect Montreal district. In 1813 they served as a marine force on Lake Champlain to harass American forces. In August of that same year, four companies led by Major Cockburn were sent to relieve the 2nd Batallion, 41st Regiment at the town of Prescott in the County of Grenville, immediately west of the County of Dundas.
On the night of October 7th, Major Cockburn upon hearing of American troop movements across the St Lawrence at Red Mills, launched a suprise attack across the river defeating a small detachment of the 1st Regiment of U.S. Dragoons.
Soon afterward, an American fleet of ships under the command of American General James Wilkinson made their way down the St Lawrence in an attempt to capture Montreal. They put to shore a significant force of infantry, calvary and artillery under Brigadier-General John Parker Boyd.
A much smaller force led by British Colonel Joseph Wanton Morrison pursued the Americans. Morrison Sent Canadian Volitguers and Tyendinaga Mohawks to constantly harrass Boyd's troops on November 3rd. A detachment of Canadian Fencibles joined them.
On the 10th of November, Boyd was forced to stop in turn to face the Canadian forces at Williamsburgh township in Dundas. Here Morrison gathered his forces at Captain John Crysler's farm. Crysler at this time was leading the 1st Regiment of Dundas Militia. Serving under him were Privates John Strader and Edward Shaver of Matilda township of Dundas. The core of Morrisons force was the British 49th and 89th Regiments of Foot. Both the Canadian Fencibles and the Dundas Militia served to reinforce the units.
The following day Morrison engaged the Americans. The Canadian Fencibles were positioned on the right of the line. Together with companies of the 49th Regiment they made a dashing but unsuccessful charge on the American guns suffering heavy casualties as they struggled across several fences while under fire. The U.S. Dragoons charged their now exposed right flank. The 49th and Fencibles reformed their line and engaged them, driving the dragoons back after two unsuccessful charges under heavy fire.
Morrisons force as a whole was much more successful in the engagement as they had the tactical advantage of terrain and were well coordinated, while the American forces suffered from confusion and lack of coordination. The Americans were forced into full retreat.
Of the Canadian Fencibles, several members received medals for their role in the battle. John Strader and Edward Shaver of the Dundas Militia were awarded the Military General Service Medal in 1848.
With the disbanding of the Canadian Fencibles in May 1816, many were granted land in the Rideau Military Settlement near Perth while others simply returned to their original homes. Duncan McKercher chose to stay in Dundas, settling at first at Matilda township. This is how young Duncan came to arrive in Upper Canada.
Duncan applied for a patent of land as reward for his service, but it appears it was not immediately granted. He resided on Lot 19 of the 1st Concession of Matilda Township adjacent to the Strader family. He worked as a blacksmith. Sometime around 1820 he married Dorothy Strader, the sister of now Captain John Strader who had distingushed himself at Crysler's Farm. They would have 8 children while residing here. His daughter Catherine married Ezra Shaver the son of Edward Shaver, who also had distinguished himself at Crysler.
After 1861 Duncan would move to Winchester township to the northeast of Matilda where he resided near Cass Bridge. His son John purchased Lot 2 and 3 of Concession 2 and they lived adjacent. Duncan died in 1873 at the age of 83. His wife Dorothy followed him in 1877.