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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2019 Archive

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“Loyalist Trails” 2019-50: December 15, 2019

Articles

Samuel Whitney and Samuel Miles: Two Loyalists Acquainted with Political Grief

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Those familiar with the Bible know that Job is the archetype of great suffering. He lost everything that he held dear: family, health, property, and reputation. No doubt many Loyalist refugees identified with this biblical character during the years of the American Revolution. Two men that might justifiably lay claim to being their era's version of Job were Samuel Whitney and Samuel Miles, two Connecticut Loyalists who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick.

In June of 1783, Samuel Whitney, his 19 year-old wife Ann and his four year-old son from a previous marriage were headed for the mouth of the St. John River – part of the great exodus of Loyalist refugees. Ann was in the later stages of pregnancy and "in danger of being brought to bed at sea". Preferring that Ann should give birth on land, Whitney had their evacuation vessel "put into" Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, where his young wife soon delivered their first-born son, Richard.

Ann's health took a turn for the worse, so the Whitneys ended up staying in Yarmouth for a year, finally moving across the Bay of Fundy to Saint John in 1784. The beginning of the Whitney family's life in New Brunswick would be just one in a series of mishaps that the Loyalist would endure during his lifetime.

Born in Connecticut, Whitney had been a 21 year-old hatter's apprentice in the town of Stratford when the first shots of the American Revolution were fired in April of 1775. Shortly afterwards, he set up his own hat shop in Norwalk. Although he was later compelled to go to New York as part of the local militia, Whitney "never took an oath or signed any association with the rebels". He had been – as one Patriot nephew later wrote – "doubtful of the success of the colonies {because he had been} tainted by the preaching of Dr. Lemmon", the local Church of England clergyman. Lemmon's congregation had more Loyalist adherents "than in all of the others put together".

Whitney's stay in New York was not long; within a week of his arrival, he managed to get a discharge from a surgeon on the grounds of poor health. At some point between 1776 and 1779, Whitney married a local girl. He became the father of Samuel Junior on February 10, 1779. No doubt the responsibilities of fatherhood motivated the Loyalist hatter to keep a low profile for at least awhile.

However, when he discovered that the French fleet and army had arrived at Newport, Rhode Island to help the Patriot forces, Whitney crossed Long Island Sound in July of 1780, and sought out General Robertson at the British garrison in New York to share this vital news. (Had the British forces been the victors in the American Revolution, Whitney just might have become celebrated in the lore of the war as the Loyalist Paul Revere: The French are coming! The French are coming!)

Having delivered this intelligence, Whitney returned to Norwalk.

This was not the only time that Whitney had crossed the Sound to Long Island. A keen businessman, he had been in the habit of bringing British goods back over to his brother's store in Newtown and then returning to the British lines with provisions from Connecticut for Fort Franklin near Huntington, making it "a profitable business for both".

Word of his trips to Long Island soon became widely known, so that one day – in Whitney's own words – "upon his return, he was taken and ill used. He was tried for high treason, but before sentence was passed, he made his escape and fled into the lines."

Whitney's nephew sheds more light on this incident. The local Patriots "went up with him to his brother's store, when he set down for them a bottle of rum, with some cheese and crackers, and asked the privilege of going up stairs to change his shirt, which they granted. He opened a small back-window, leaped out into a field of corn, which was tall, ... got into the woods and ran till he ... hid among the bushes under the bank, and heard them skirmishing all around to find him."

On the third night after his escape, Whitney decided to risk going three miles up a nearby brook to call on a Loyalist friend. The latter helped him to find a boat "which they dragged over the beach ... and rowed across the Sound to Long Island, where the British were encamped."

Frustrated at Whitney's escape, the local Patriots seized the tools and skins that he used in hat making, plundered his Norwalk store, and then had it "torn to pieces". Coming to his aid, fellow Loyalists hid a supply of goods from British-held New York that Whitney had intended to sell. Their plan seemed foolproof. Who would think to look under a stack of hay further up the Connecticut coast in Middlesex County?

Whitney's under-the-counter sales of New York goods in Patriot territory was a very dangerous venture and "was always done by stealth". As one Loyalist later testified, "There was great risk in this trade, but it was frequently carried on". Whitney's best-laid plans were thwarted when a young man who had helped the Loyalists in transporting Whitney's goods, told the Patriots of their whereabouts. The rebels promptly seized the merchandise as the spoils of war.

Whitney remained within the safety of the British lines for the next three years. During that time, his first wife died. A widower in his late twenties with a toddler to care for, Whitney married eighteen year-old Ann Guire. Their marriage license of December 1, 1782 described Whitney as being a storekeeper in Huntington, Long Island. A year later – thinking that it was safe to return to Connecticut to see to his father's business – the 30 year-old Loyalist again met with the threat of violence and "was obliged to fly".

During his stay in Huntington, Long Island (not far from Fort Franklin), Whitney had entered into a partnership with Samuel Miles of New Milford, Connecticut. A fellow Loyalist, Miles had been working in the fort's commissary during his years as a refugee. Twelve years Whitney's senior, Miles had also had gone through a great deal during the revolution.

Right from the beginning, Samuel Miles had "always opposed the rebellious measures" of his Patriot neighbours. He "kept as much out of the way as possible" and by doing so was able to avoid having to pledge allegiance to the rebel cause. In 1776, the pressure began to mount. His neighbours expected him to join the militia. Instead, Miles hired someone else to serve in his place.

By the fall of that year, it became impossible for the Loyalist to remain in Connecticut. Miles crossed Long Island Sound, leaving his children in the care of Daniel Pickett, his wife's father. Miles found work at Fort Franklin, the largest British garrison on Long Island, serving in the fort's commissary for about a year and a half before joining with a Loyalist corps.

Because he had joined with "the enemy", Connecticut's Patriots seized Miles' property, livestock, and possessions – an estate worth £300 (approximately $69,000.00 in current Candian dollars). Could he ever attain such a level of prosperity in New Brunswick?

~*~

This three-part series continues in next week's Loyalist Trails.


To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.

Book Review: Birchtown and the Black Loyalist Experience From 1775 to the Present

Birchtown and the Black Loyalist Experience From 1775 to the Present, by Stephen Davidson (Halifax: Formac Publishing Company Limited, 2019). Paperback: 88 pages, colour illustrations 23 x 1.3 x 21 cm.

Review by Bonnie Huskins who teaches history at St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton) where she is also Loyalist Studies Coordinator

This book is a fitting tribute to two groups of African-Nova Scotians: the black loyalists who established, in Birchtown, the largest free black settlement in British North America, and their descendants in Nova Scotia and elsewhere, who have fought hard to keep the memory of their ancestors alive. Although not a descendant himself, Stephen Davidson is an educator and author well known to historians of the loyalists and loyalist era. He has published hundreds of stories and articles on the loyalists and many of his works appear in Loyalist Trails (a United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada publication), some of which document the stories of black loyalists.

As someone who is committed to making history accessible, Davidson's writing is lively and engaging, and will capture the interest of the general reader. The text is also enriched by photographs taken by professional photographer Peter Zwicker, who is based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Part One of the book details the decades-long struggle to save the Birchtown site. This is a story worth sharing in an era that privileges development at any cost over heritage preservation. The story also serves as an inspiration for historians and members of local history societies who tirelessly campaign to preserve elements of their past.

Located on the northwest arm of Shelburne Harbour, Birchtown was identified in 1783 by Governor John Parr as the site of a separate community for the free black loyalists who arrived with the loyalist fleets in 1783. By 1784, Birchtown boasted upwards of 1530 people, making it the "largest free Black settlement outside of Africa" . The first documented reference to the name "Birchtown" was in the journal of deputy surveyor Benjamin Marston, who recorded on 7 September 1783 that he had sent his assistants to "Birch-Town today out for Blacks". The town is named after Brigadier General Samuel Birch, who signed freedom certificates for many of the black loyalists in New York City before they sailed to Nova Scotia.

Researchers should also embrace the multiple narrative trajectories of black loyalist experiences. While almost one-third of the black community in the Maritimes left for Sierra Leone – which is a compelling story of a global search for liberty – what of the two-thirds who stayed behind? Black loyalists and slaves had multiple and contested "loyalist dreams." Those who stayed in Birchtown, like Stephen Blucke, had a different profile from many of those who left for Africa; they tended to be land owners and non-evangelicals. In that sense, the decision of the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre to provide visitors with the names of individuals to trace through the exhibits, which provides the public with an appreciation of their multiple identities and experiences is to be applauded. Ultimately, Davidson's work has provided us with a glimpse into the passion and perseverance of the Birchtown settlers and their descendants. But more needs to be done to uncover and convey their stories.

Read the full review.

The Liberty Tree is a Focal Point for Rising Tensions

by J.L. Bell, 13 Dec 2019

When the Clarkes and other tea importers wouldn't go to Liberty Tree on 3 Nov 1773, the crowd at Liberty Tree came to them. Who was involved in the ensuing physical confrontation at the Clarkes' warehouse?

Richard Clarke and Sons weren't the only merchants tapped by the East India Company to import tea into Boston in 1773. The others were:

Business partners Benjamin Faneuil, Jr. (1730-1787) and Joshua Winslow (1737-1775).

Thomas Hutchinson, Jr. (1740-1811), and his brother Elisha (1745-1824). They were sons of royal governor Thomas Hutchinson, who had invested about £1,000 in their business – what some of us today would call a conflict of interest.

Those firms didn't treat each other as competitors. In fact, Richard Clarke was Joshua Winslow's uncle by marriage. Winslow and the Hutchinsons were third cousins. Everyone was in close contact with the governor.

Read how the day unfolded.

Three Skeletons, Possibly Revolutionary War Soldiers, Found Under House In Ridgefield CT

Just discovered – skeletons of three men who are believed to have died during the Battle of Ridgefield, which occurred on April 27, 1777. Based on the findings of buttons, my guess is they were either British soldiers, Hessians or members of one of the uniformed Loyalist regiments that participated in the Battle. It seems unlikely that dead Patriot soldiers would have been stripped and buried in a shallow grave.

Read more.

This is pretty exciting, as I live about three miles away from the center of Ridgefield and drive through the area where the Battle occurred, and along the very roads where the Battle was fought, every week. At the time one of my Loyalist ancestors was living about ten miles west of Ridgefield in New York State and was an officer in a NY militia unit, some members of his Company were present at the Battle; however, there is no evidence he was there. He later defected to the British and was a Loyalist to Saint John in 1783.

...Ken MacCallum

Editor's Note: The Battle of Ridgefield was a battle and a series of skirmishes between American and British forces during the American Revolutionary War. The main battle was fought in the village of Ridgefield, Connecticut, on April 27, 1777. More skirmishing occurred the next day between Ridgefield and the coastline near Westport, Connecticut. (Source: Wikipedia)

JAR: Robert Erskine, Surveyor-General of the Continental Army

By Bob Ruppert 10 December 2019

Robert Erskine was born in Dumfermline, Scotland, to Ralph and Margaret Erskine on September 7, 1735. Ralph Erskine, being a Presbyterian minister, raised Robert to be thrifty, God-loving, determined, and well-educated...

Using his mechanical talent, he invented and patented a "Continual Stream Pump." His plan was to use the profits from the sale of the pumps to payoff all of his creditors....

In May 1765, Erskine demonstrated the superiority of his newest invention, the Centrifugal Hydraulic Engine, at Woolwich Dock in London...

Near the end of 1769, Erskine was approached by a representative of the Hasenclever, Seton & Crofts Syndicate in London. The group had purchased four pig iron mines at Ringwood, Long Pond, Cortland, and Charlotteburg in Bergen and Morris Counties in New Jersey and in Rockland County in New York. The combined properties were named "The American Iron Company."...

Erskine accepted the position and spent the next two months travelling to the different mining regions of Britain. He learned the technical and mechanical details connected with mines and furnaces, the types of ore, the nature and properties of iron, the casting of iron, and the manner of converting iron into steel....

On March 24, 1773, Erskine was commissioned a Justice of the Peace; to his neighbors he was now an employer, a friend, and a law enforcement official....

Concerned that he might lose his workers to the army if a war broke out and for the safety of his workers' families and the mines if the properties were raided, Erskine organized one of the first companies of militia in New Jersey from the men who worked for him. It was composed of "forgemen, carpenters, blacksmiths, and other hands." In August 1775, the New Jersey legislature officially commissioned him as captain of the company. His men were outfitted and armed at Erskine's own expense...

Washington wasted no time in conveying Congress's confirmation to Erskine. On July 28, he wrote, "I shall therefore be obliged to you to let me know without delay the conditions on which it will suit you to undertake [the position we discussed], and shall be glad to see you as soon as possible at HeadQuarters to fix the matter upon a proper footing . . . If you engage, your entrance upon the business will be immediately necessary."

Read more.

JAR: The Sons of Liberty and Mob Terror

By Jeffrey D. Simon, 12 December 2019

The day did not start out well for Andrew Oliver. The recently appointed Stamp Act Distributor for colonial Massachusetts awoke on the morning of August 14, 1765, to learn that his effigy was hanging on an elm tree in Boston by a road that everyone who traveled into town had to pass by. The initials "AO" were written on the right arm so there would be no mistake as to whom the effigy represented. On the left arm was an inscription that read, "What greater Joy did ever New England see Than a Stampman Hanging on a Tree." A sign on his chest claimed that he had betrayed his country for the sake of money. There was also a sign that warned, "He that takes this down is an enemy to his country."

Oliver's job, which would not begin for a few more months when the Stamp Act took effect, was to sell the despised stamped paper to the colonists, which would be required for all types of printed material, ranging from licenses and contracts to newspapers and diplomas. Even playing cards and dice had to have the stamps embossed on them. These direct, internal taxes imposed by England were naturally unpopular, and before the day was over, Oliver would feel the brunt of the colonists' anger.

The organizers of the protest managed to mix in some levity with the seriousness of the situation. As farmers coming into town stopped their wagons to view the spectacle, they had to have their goods "stamped" by the effigy. But as the crowds grew larger at the elm tree, which later would become known as the "Liberty Tree," the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, who was Oliver's brother-in-law, became worried.

Read more.

Washington's Quill: The History of Mount Vernon When Your Source is a Slave List

by Kathryn Gehred, Research Editor 13 December 2019

Since George Washington made lists of the people enslaved at Mount Vernon for his own benefit (and not for the benefit of future historians), he only recorded the information he needed to know. As historian Caitlin Rosenthal explains in Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management, plantation account books were designed to increase profits, not record the intricacies of a human society. A slave list will not tell you about an individual's private life. Still, historians can glean valuable information from these materials. With some effort, researchers can use a detached and dehumanizing resource such as a slave list to tell a human story. I recently learned this lesson while annotating a legal document (likely created in 1802) that divided Martha Washington's slaves amongst her four heirs. I wanted to identify the people named in that list by more than just a first name and price, so I read through George Washington's slave lists to learn as much as I could.

Read more.

The Junto: Q&A: Erik R. Seeman, Speaking with the Dead in Early America

The Junto features a Q&A with Erik R. Seeman about his new book, Speaking with the Dead in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press). Seeman is professor and chair of the history department at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and the author of three other books on religion and deathways in early America and the Atlantic World.

Take, for example, Sally Hersey's 200-page journal. As far as I can tell no other scholar has ever used it. Who cares about an ordinary woman's religious musings, right? Yet in that journal are dozens of prayers Hersey composed to her dead son, daughter, and husband. "Dear departed shade," she addressed her son, "I shall behold the[e] no more in the land of the living." That's not how Protestants were supposed to think about the dead.

Read more.

Ben Franklin's World: Young Benjamin Franklin

Nick Bunker, author of Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity, joins us to explore Benjamin Franklin's early life and how family, childhood, and youthful experiences combined to shape the great scientist and diplomat of the 18th century.

During our investigation, Nick reveals the English roots of the Franklin Family and why those roots were important for Benjamin Franklin; Franklin's boyhood and education in Boston; And, details about Franklin's printing business and how he was able to grow it so he could retire at the age of 42.

Listen to the podcast.

Writing Like Alexander Hamilton with a Silver Inkstand, c1790

By Susan Holloway Scott, 8 December 2019

Desks and their accessories have lost their importance in the last generation. While people with power may still maintain a desk largely for appearance's sake, the traditional desktop elaborately decorated with a coordinated blotter, pens, calendars, picture frames, and other items has almost disappeared, and with it the piles of important papers to be read and letters to be signed. Now those powers are replaced by digital files, and power is measured by constantly-updated devices, sleek and expensive. In some fields even the desk itself has disappeared.

But in the 1790s, America's most important communications were taking place through pens, ink, and paper, and the only kind of word processing was what a writer committed to paper, word by word and one copy at a time.

Resources: Researching Quebec Loyalists at the BAnQ

By Jacques Gagné 1 Dec 2019 – posted here.

Loyalist families settled in Quebec following the end of the American Revolution in 1783. At that time, Quebec was under British rule.

For a complete listings of United Empire Loyalists fonds which can be viewed at various repositories of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), go to the catalogue search page and search for the word Loyalist.

The collection includes books, theses, essays and papers. Some of the items in this collection have been reproduced on microfiche from old documents originating in other archives, libraries or historical societies in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. A fair number of these papers were first published in the 19th century by historians, scholars, archivists and lecturers.

Between 60% to 70% of the material regarding the Loyalists stored at the various repositories of BAnQ in Montreal address Loyalist families who settled in Upper Canada (Ontario), Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. I am mainly interested in Loyalists who settled in Quebec

The compilation attached here, "Researching Quebec Loyalists at the BAnQ," lists 168 books, historical documents and other material available at the BAnQ in Montreal concerning the Loyalists who settled in what is now the Province of Quebec. Quebec Loyalists at the BAnQ

Resources: Beyond 2022: Ireland's Virtual Record Treasury Research Project

This is an exciting all-island and international collaborative project. It seeks to re-imagine and re-create, through virtual reality, this national treasure and the archival collections that were lost, comprising records of seven centuries of Irish history, genealogy and administration.

The flagship research project led by Trinity College Dublin which will digitally recreate seven centuries of historical records of the Public Record Office of Ireland destroyed by fire at Dublin's Four Courts at the beginning of the Irish Civil War. Read the announcement; a report.

Book: Loyalist Descendants in British Columbia Added to UELAC Catalogue

Just added to the UELAC Promotions Catalogue, under Books:

Moving Ever Westward: Loyalist Descendants Come to British Columbia – via Vancouver Branch

A UELAC Vancouver Branch Project aimed to produce a 100-150 page book, discussing the role which descendants of Loyalists played in the growth and development of British Columbia from the time of its early explorers and into the Twentieth century. Pages 1-11 contain the scholarly Introduction by Dr. Peter Moogk UE titled, Loyalist Descendants in British Columbia History.

Read more about the book, plus ordering instructions.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Old Fort Howe, in Saint John, New Brunswick, during Loyalist times
  • "Of Loyalist Descent".  in Trinity Church, Saint John, NB: "In Loving Memory  of Lieut.-Col. Alexander McMillan, DSO 1874-1929 Of Loyalist Descent, he was an outstanding Citizen of Saint John A Vestryman of this Church. A Gallant Soldier Faithful Friend and Dutiful Son"
  • Cooks Mills United Church {Welland ON] Closes After 157 Years. The church held its final service in September. land near the church has ties to the War of 1812, with a plaque at the corner of Matthews Road and Lyons Creek Road commemorating where a famous battle was fought. The Battle of Cooks Mills, which was fought on Oct. 19, 1814, was the last land engagement between Canada and the United States. the beginnings of the congregation were associated with the settlement of Crowland Township by the United Empire Loyalists. The original deed of the property is dated for 1846 and the land was given by a Mr. T.C. Street for the building of a church and school. Read more...
  • This Week in History
    • 11 Dec 1769: The Boston Gazette publishes a "secret and confidential" letter from Hillsborough to Gage, ordering him to quarter a regiment of regulars in Boston to assist in the "preservation of the public peace."
    • 14 Dec 1769: The VA Gazette reports that 100 ladies attended the governor's ball wearing homespun gowns. This was due to non-importation agreements in protesting Townshend Acts. G. Washington noted in his diary that he attended the ball.
    • 12 Dec 12 1774, the Royal Irish Regiment reportedly moved out of a distillery onto a ship "as the smell of the lees in the cisterns added to their urine, has caus'd an infectious distemper among 'em, whereby two or three have dropt down dead."
    • 13 Dec 1774, the British government's top lawyers stated that five Worcester men who intimidated Timothy Paine into resigning from the Council had committed "an act of overt treason, in levying war against His Majesty, on the 26th day of August."
    • 8 Dec 1775 Arnold & Montgomery besiege Quebec City, in a doomed attempt to bring Canadian provinces into the revolt.
    • 9 Dec 1775 Patriots defeat British forces, including 800 slaves freed for the purpose, to secure Virginia.
    • 14 Dec 1775 "went in the afternoon to Dotchester point to See the mashine to blow up Shiping, but as it was not finished, it was not put into the water." – Continental engineer Jeduthan Baldwin. (No one knows what this machine was.)
    • 13 Dec 1776 Washington's hapless subordinate Gen. Charles Lee captured in Basking Ridge, NJ.
    • 10 Dec 1777 Col. Samuel B. Webb attempts to raid Setauket, Long Island; thwarted by weather & captured by British.
    • 11 Dec 1777 Cornwallis' forces stumble across Patriots on the way to Valley Forge under Washington, force them back.
    • 9 Dec 1778 Virginia annexes all territory captured by George Rodgers Clark, naming it Illinois.
    • 12 Dec 1782 HMS Mediator defeats five armed American and French ships off Ferrol, Spain.
    • 7 Dec 1787 Shay's Rebellion demands published, spurring reconsideration of Articles of Confederation.
  • Townsend's
  • Clothing and Related:
    • This detail from a French Robe à la Française, c. 1770 reminds me of the striped ribbon candy my granny always put out in a depression era glass dish at the holidays. None of the kids would touch it but it was pretty!
    • Embroidered Evening Dress, about 1798-1800. Style: Such an elaborate and professionally embroidered dress would have been a rarity on this side of the Atlantic. Its waist is at the highest possible level, indicative of the fad for neoclassical styles. The garment is sleeveless and would have required an underdress with sleeves, or some other arrangement. Because the arm holes are set extremely back, it also dictates a well-cut corset to set the shoulders in place to achieve the right position for the arms.
    • Personal favourite 18th Century dress, black silk with pink & green floral pattern, 1780's
    • 18th Century dress, Robe à la Française, the complex silk brocade features a striped ribbed ground depicting feathers & flowers tied in bouquets by a meandering leopard print ribbon, 1755-1760
    • 18th Century dress detail, silk brocaded with silk & silver gilt threads, stomacher trimmed with silver-gilt lace & silk flowers, 1745-1750 but altered 1770
    • What could be better for a sparkly Christmas than this waistcoat? 1750-1770
    • Exquisite detail of an 18th Century embroidery sample for a man's suit, later half of 18th Century
    • Detail of gentleman's 18th Century waistcoat and frockcoat, 1770-90
  • Miscellaneous:
    • From December 20 to 31, "Christmastide in Virginia" offers a glimpse of 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions through interpretive programs and demonstrations, as well as period musical entertainment. For the full schedule of festive activities, visit "Christmastide in Virginia".

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