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Abraham Markle ( 1770 - 1826 )  Category ( Historical_Figures ) [suggest a correction]

Abraham Markle often is described as a businessman, but he was a wartime opportunist who lost everything when he became involved in mob activities that resulted in the burning of an entire Canadian town. He escaped with his life and managed to rebuild that life, it was small in comparison to his wild ventures as a young man.

Born in Ulster County, New Yor, in 1770, Markle and his brothers settled at newark (Niagara on the Lake), Upper Canada to take advantage of cheaper land prices and economic opportunities that a frontier area afforded at that time. He established a distillery at Ancaster in 1806, and was so entrenched in Canadian culture that he refused to serve with the Lincoln Militia in 1811. In 1812 he was elected to the 6th Parliament of Upper Canada as a representative of West York.

In 1813, however, he joined with Joseph Willcocks in the opposition of suspension of habeas corpus in the province. In June that year, he was imprisoned for accusations of treason. In retaliation, Markle then joined the American side in the War of 1812. He then was present at and participated in some of the more notorious examples of U.S. atrocities against Canadian civilians. Most notable was the burning of Newark in December 1813 and the pludering and burning of Port Dover in May 1814.

In order to discourage further damage to Canadians by rogue Americans, the Canadian government rounded up a number of Markle's compatriots and tried them for treason. Markle was tried in absentia and convicted. Eight fellow raiders were captured, tried and hanged as an example to others.

Markle did not lose his life, but he lost his considerable land holdings outside of Newark to forteiture and could never return to Canada. Despite this loss -- and, while still in the army -- Markle traveled to Indiana on horseback and discovered some territory that appealed to his sense of frontier. He returned to Washington, DC, where he petitioned for this land against his lost land (and political standing) in Canada. The governor of New York, James Brown, supported Maj. Markle’s request in a letter to Secretary of War, James Monroe.

On March 5, 1816 Congress passed the Canadian Volunteer Act which granted eight hundred acres of land in Indiana to those who had suffered the loss of Canadian land holdings. Many of the soldiers benefited by the Canadian Volunteer Act had no desire to move to Indiana and were quite willing to assign their claims to Maj. Markle in return for immediate cash payments. With warrants from these men, Markle gathered his family and a few friends and began the trip to Indiana

Markle settled on this land in Vigo County, Indiana, and became one of the original proprietors of the Terre Haute Company, which platted the village of Terre Haute. He built and operated a mill on Otter Creek, located five miles north of that village in 1818. That mill served farmers for many years and later served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, it burned in 1938.

According to some online resources, Markle died in 1826 while working on his farm, supposedly from a stroke at age 56. Despite his early transgressions, Markle was seen in later life as a man who stood "head and shoulders above the rest" in spirit -- one can guess that would be frontier spirit. According to a 1920 article in the Terre Haute Star, "Hoosiers, particularly those in Vigo County are eagerly awaiting the day when Markle’s Mill will be considered in the same class with Mt. Vernon, Monticello, the home of Betsy Ross, and other famous buildings so dear to the hearts of Americans. That day is not far off."

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