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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2020 Archive

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“Loyalist Trails” 2020-09: March 1, 2020

Articles

UELAC Conference 2020: "Eyes on the Heart of the Continent"

"Eyes on the Heart of the Continent" will be hosted by Manitoba Branch from Wednesday, June 24 through Sunday, June 28, at the Delta Marriott Hotel.

Join us:

• Hear great speakers

• Join in lots of activities

• Network with old friends and meet new ones

• Explore attractions in Winnipeg and area

• Celebrate Manitoba's 150th Birthday

NOTE: the last touches are being added to the registration form. It should be posted this week, and then noted in next week's Loyalist Trails.

For the conference details – schedule, presentation topics, speakers, accommodations, contacts – see "Eyes on the Heart of the Continent"

...Mary Steinhoff and Wendy Hart, UELMB2020@gmail.com

Daniel Bliss: Epitaph Writer (Part Two)

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Like many New England lawyers, Daniel Bliss sided with the British crown during the American Revolution. Like many others, his family split along political lines with brothers fighting on opposite sides of the conflict. Due to the intelligence two British officers gathered while staying with Daniel Bliss, troops were sent to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts to seize the munitions and supplies stored in those towns.

If nothing else, one would think that Daniel Bliss would deserve some sort of footnote in Loyalist history as the man whose hospitality to British spies was the first domino to fall in the cascade of events that led to the American Revolution. Instead, the Loyalist lawyer is best remembered as the writer of a particular epitaph in the Concord graveyard. But first, let us follow Daniel Bliss from Massachusetts to his final home in New Brunswick.

The Bliss family was able to find sanctuary in Boston in April 1775 just before the fighting in their home town that ignited the American Revolution. Unable to return home or continue his career as a lawyer, Daniel Bliss became a colonel in the British Army. When the royal troops evacuated Boston in 1776, Bliss left with them. He was eventually stationed in Quebec where he became the commissary of the army – a position that involved providing food for the troops and seeing to its transport.

When General Burgoyne led British troops down the Hudson River Valley from Quebec, Bliss was his assistant commissary-general. The Concord Loyalist would have been witness to the humiliating British surrender except for the fact that just days before the Battle of Saratoga, he was sent back to Quebec due to a "severe attack of fever and ague".

When his health recovered, Bliss was put in charge of providing food for the British forces scattered from Niagara to the most westerly of British outposts. Following the signing of the peace treaty in 1783, Bliss resigned his commission in the army. His life as a Loyalist soldier was over; his life as a Loyalist refugee was about to begin.

Returning to Concord was not even a consideration for the 43 year-old Bliss. Three years after the Battle of Concord, rebels denounced him as a traitor in the Massachusetts Banishment Act of 1778, This legislation decreed that he would be executed should he ever return to Massachusetts. Then, in 1781, Patriots seized Bliss' home and lands, selling them off at auction for £278.

In the end, Daniel, his wife Isabella and their six children decided to make their new home in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Although there are no diaries or letters to indicate why the Massachusetts lawyer chose to settle in New Brunswick, Bliss' decision may have been based on the fact that a large number of New England Loyalists – including fellow Harvard graduates and his brother Samuel – had found sanctuary in the colony. By settling in Fredericton, the family would be near relatives and fellow New Englanders.

In the years that followed, Bliss once again built up a thriving legal practice. When Thomas Carleton, the colony's first lieutenant governor, created his executive council, Daniel Bliss was one of his appointees. Bliss later became the colony's Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. The Concord Loyalist eventually left Fredericton and established Belmont, a farm in Sunbury County just south of the colony's capital city. He died there at age 65 in 1806.

Daniel Bliss' experiences as a Loyalist during and after the American Revolution were fairly typical for someone of his education and profession. However, his life's story is unusual in that we know more about the first 44 years of his life than we do about his last 22 years. He just missed being in Concord on April 19, 1775 for the battle that launched the American Revolution. Two years later, he just missed being with the British troops during their defeat at the Battle of Saratoga – a Patriot victory that persuaded France to ally itself with the young United States of America.

But despite having a relatively quiet life after settling in New Brunswick and managing to be absent from two key battles in the revolution, Daniel Bliss is – nevertheless – remembered by posterity. He is not noteworthy for his actions as a Loyalist soldier or a Loyalist settler, but is remembered for what he did as a Loyalist in Concord before the revolution began.

Bliss' work as a lawyer involved the writing of wills, deeds and contracts in precise legal language. Now and then he was asked to write an epitaph for a client. Unbeknownst to Bliss, when he wrote the words for John Jack's tombstone in the spring of 1773, he composed what later historians would cite as "the most famous epitaph in America", "one of the most perfect epitaphs ever written", and "an epitaph that will never be forgotten".

The reason? John Jack was an enslaved African who had bought his freedom from his earnings as a shoemaker. Having made Daniel Bliss the executor of his will, Jack also instructed the Loyalist lawyer to compose a fitting epitaph for his tombstone. In honouring his client's life, Bliss wrote "one of the oldest of anti-slavery utterances".

Concord was populated by dozens of families who kept Africans as their property. And yet these same people cried out for freedom and liberty from the "oppression" of Great Britain. Daniel Bliss used the opportunity of writing Jack's epitaph to speak out against slavery and to ridicule the hypocrisy of his liberty-loving Patriot neighbours.

When John Jack's tombstone was finally put at the head of his grave in the Hill Burying Ground, here is what the people of Concord read:

God wills us free; man wills us slaves.
I will as God wills; God's will be done.
Here lies the body of
JOHN JACK
A native of Africa who died
March 1773, aged about 60 years.

Tho' born in a land of slavery,
He was born free.
Tho' he lived in a land of liberty,
He lived a slave.
Till by his honest, tho' stolen, labors,
He acquired the source of slavery,
Which gave him his freedom;
Tho' not long before
Death, the grand tyrant,
Gave him his final emancipation,
And set him on a footing with kings.
Tho' a slave to vice,
He practised those virtues
Without which kings are but slaves.

In time, Jack's epitaph was reprinted "times without number" in both Europe and America. It first appeared in a London newspaper and was later translated into German, French and Norwegian.

The original epitaph was almost lost. By 1830, Jack's tombstone was broken and lay in pieces next to his grave. Members of the local legal profession raised funds to duplicate the original headstone and had Daniel Bliss' words inscribed on the new stone. This is the tombstone that 21st century visitors to Concord's graveyard can see today.

The epitaph on Jack's tombstone is significant for being an articulate call for slavery's abolition; it is also significant as example of Loyalist poetry. Daniel Bliss was just 33 years old when he wrote these lines for his client, but they would champion emancipation for the next 92 years. Finally – with the end of the American Civil War in 1865 – Daniel Bliss' dream was fulfilled – a Loyalist's dream that all people in America would enjoy their God-ordained freedom.

While Daniel Bliss is famous for the epitaph that he wrote in 1773, it is ironic that the site of his own grave in New Brunswick is unknown. Whatever words were carved into the Loyalist lawyer's tombstone have also been lost to history. In the end, Daniel Bliss' gift to posterity was the epitaph that he wrote to honour the memory of an enslaved African who won his own liberty through hard work rather than through revolution.


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

Jacob Getcheus – Master of ships supporting American Patriots, British, and Black Loyalists

By Brian McConnell, UE

Historic Nova Scotia, a free app that allows you to explore Nova Scotia's history, has published a new story which I have completed. The app includes stories about the history of Nova Scotia with historic images and an interactive GPS enabled map along with other digital resources from Nova Scotia's cultural organizations.

By 1784, Jacob Getcheus and wife Mary had settled in Digby, Nova Scotia. How this ship's captain from Philadelphia came to be in Digby is a dramatic tale of sea voyages, captured ships, imprisonment, and helping Black Loyalists.

The Trinity Anglican Church Cemetery in Digby contains over two hundred graves associated with the first settlers to the area and their descendants. The oldest gravestone is for Mary Getcheus who died on November 17, 1785, at the age of 37, merely two years after the town was settled. While little information remains about Mary Getcheus, plenty was recorded about her husband Captain Jacob Getcheus (sometimes spelled Getsheus) and his activities during the American Revolution. How he came to be in Digby is a dramatic tale.

Read more.

JAR: The Grand Affray at Golden Hill: New York City, Jan. 19, 1770

By Jonathan Carriel, 25 February 2020

Despite the rescission of the Stamp Act in 1766, many imperial controversies persisted in New York City. Leading among them were:

• The annual demands of the royal governor for funds to support the troops quartered in the town;

• The continuing post-(French and Indian) war recession;

• The Townshend taxes of 1767, which of course distressed all the colonies;

• A dearth of hard specie, required to pay the taxes;

• Increasing irritation with the presence of troops in the city, particularly when they took "moonlighting" jobs away from local people; and

• Official refusal to respond to the Boston Circular Letter of February 1768.

But one irritation symbolically managed to encapsulate the frustration of the entire situation: the perpetual contretemps over the town's Liberty Pole.

The Liberty Pole was, simply, a wooden flagpole that had a weathervane displaying the word "LIBERTY" atop it, rather than a flag. It had no great aesthetic, monetary, or even practical value, but symbolically it became a universal talisman. The populace loved it, and the army deeply detested it.

New York's relation to the military was very different from Boston's.

Read more.

JAR: Rutland's Rebellion: Defending Local Governance during the Revolution

By Susan Brynne, Long 27 February 2020

Typically, countries at war do not detain enemy prisoners in the backyards of their citizens. During the Revolutionary War Britain's soon-to-be independent North American colonies proved an exception to this rule. For the fledgling nation, the action was a matter of necessity, one which forced host towns across the colonies to confront the fight for American nationhood in a most unusual way.

Independence from Great Britain was hard won, and with every victory came the challenge of detaining more prisoners of war. The Continental Congress housed most of these men, and in some cases their wives and children, in rural towns throughout the colonies. One such town was Rutland, Massachusetts. After the American victory at Saratoga, the Continental Army pried Rutland's doors open to host prisoners of war. For the remainder of the conflict, the local town meeting and the Continental Army struggled over the issue of legitimate authority. The imposition pitted New Englanders' persistent reverence for local government against the authority of the national government which the Revolution sought to establish.

Similar to many other New England towns, Rutland was locally governed from its earliest years. In 1715, the proprietors of the land that would become the town appointed men to the "Committee of Rutland" to "see that justice and equity was done to the settlers." The committee ensured the town's prosperity by permitting the settlement of established and hard-working families. The enforcement of this informal regulation indicates a subtle characteristic of the town that would grow more prominent over time: centralized local authority. Even before there was an official town meeting in Rutland, a single group of landowners possessed authority over those who lived there. In 1722, the Great and General Court of Massachusetts incorporated Rutland and empowered its leading citizens to establish a town meeting.

In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, Rutland sided with the Patriot cause.

Read more.

Kelly Arlene Grant: Revisiting Short Stays

I have been getting new clients this year, which has been lovely, but will have to take a bit of a break from sewing for other people for a while in order to get caught up on my PhD work. When the whiteboard fills up, I get anxious, because I have given people my word that I would sew for them, and want to keep that word.

So, the last few weeks I have been working on stays, predominantly for a new client, but also for myself. They are a compare and contrast in both cut and fashion, but also class levels. The ones for the client are a regency era historical cut, but covered in fine lace, and so are very delicate. The ones for me are revolutionary period, working class and serviceable. A tale in two class levels for sure!

Making new stays for a new body means trial and error, fixing and tweaking until I am happy with the cut. I hope to have them bound off this week for what will hopefully be the final fitting next week.

Read more.

All Things Georgian: Employment opportunities for girls in the eighteenth-century

Not all women in the eighteen-century were able to marry a wealthy aristocrat, in fact very few did, the majority had to hold down a job as well as running the home and raising children. We thought today we would follow on from an earlier article in which we looked at eighteenth-century careers and have picked out a few of the career options listed in Joseph Collyer's book of 1761, that were deemed suitable for girls and women, of which of course, there were only a limited number, far fewer choices than for men.

Read more.

A Personal Touch: The Wedding Shoes of a New England Groom, c1819

These low-heeled men's shoes were likely made in Haverhill, Massachusetts by the wearer, Leonard Phillips, in the early years of the 19th century. They are in the Buttonwoods Museum collection (Haverhill, MA. http://www.haverhillhistory.org). There is no question that these are a rare survival as well as a very personal response to the shoemaker's impending nuptials. The charming shoes are leather, embellished with leather appliques of animals, fish, peacocks & other birds, and trees. They convey a "folk" art feel.

Read more.

Canadian Heritage Matters: St. Andrew's Church (Grimsby, Ontario) Fonds

I had the pleasure of preserving, arranging and describing St. Andrew's church's records for the Grimsby Museum. The collection's items offer an invaluable record of the development of early Grimsby and Niagara history, when Empire Loyalist families settled in the area. Several prominent figures were involved in the church's history, including Colonel Robert Nelles, who served during the War of 1812 and was also appointed to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada.

Read more.

Eastern Canada was born of Imperial Loyalty; The West of Frontier Freedom

It is difficult for those in the heartland to comprehend that there is an alternative; one that might actually be fairer and that it is firmly planted "out West", in the hinterland.

The Teck oilsands mine decision and the related "rescue package" for Alberta are emblematic of the gulf in thinking between East and West. Alberta doesn't want handouts and dependency; it wants investment, jobs and opportunity. The federal government – rooted in colonial thinking – believes that it can buy peace and compliance by offering trinkets.

History tells the story of this gulf in thinking.

Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec) were colonies loyal to the top-down imperial system. In 1780, the United Empire Loyalists fled the American Revolution with its crazy ideas of freedom, democracy and individual rights and came to Upper Canada, reinforcing subservient loyalty. Similarly, the mostly French inhabitants of Lower Canada would rather stay subjects of the British Empire than govern themselves as a U.S. state.

American expansionism threatened to encircle the Canadas. In the great land grab of the mid 1800's, it became clear that if you settle it, you own it. Mexico lost one-third of its territory (Texas to California) because it allowed Americans to settle in its lands. Americans were also drifting north.

Read more.

Region and Branch Bits

From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.

Toronto Branch "Stepping out with the Spanish Lady"

Wed. 18 March, 8:00-9:00pm; Toronto Branch Office, 40 Scollard Street, Suite 300

Before there was coronavirus. Before there was SARS. There was the Spanish Influenza, lasting the better part of 1918-1920. Any of us who has done genealogy on this period likely has multiple people in the family tree who died of influenza.

More details.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Africville: The Black community bulldozed by the city of Halifax. Africville was an African-Canadian village located just north of Halifax and founded in the mid-18th century. In the 1960s, it was demolished by the city in what many said was an act of racism. For many people, Africville represents the oppression faced by Black Canadians, and the efforts to right historic wrongs. Watch short video from Historica Canada.
  • This Week in History
    • 22 Feb 1770. How the riot outside Customs officer Ebenezer Richardson's house developed in Boston's North End on 22 Feb 1770, 250 years ago today. Riot at the Richardson House
    • 22 Feb 1770. The death of 11 year old Christopher Seider at the hands of a Loyalist pre-dates the Boston Massacre by nearly two weeks as he becomes the first casualty in the fight for independence. His martyrdom becomes a rallying cry for Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty.
    • Feb 1770. The Boston press said he'd shown a "martial genius" & raised funds for a monument. Phillis Wheatley wrote a poem about him. John Adams marveled at the size of his funeral. He was ~11 years old when he was shot, 250 years ago this month "My Eyes never beheld such a funeral"
    • 26 Feb 1770. 2,000 Bostonians joined the funeral of Christopher Seider, an 11-year-old boy shot by a Customs officer during a riot four days before. Five hundred schoolboys led the procession from Liberty Tree to the Granary Burying Ground.
    • 28 February 1774, British Attorney-General Edward Thurlow and Solicitor-General Alexander Wedderburn ruled that although the Boston Tea Party was a treasonous act, the Crown didn't have enough evidence to charge any particular Bostonians.
    • 26 Feb 1776 Spain orders West Indies fleet to observe and detain British merchant shipping to gather intelligence.
    • 28 Feb 1776 Washington prepares to take heights above Boston, writing that it will "bring on a rumpus" with British.
    • 29 Feb 1776 quotes of the day – "Great talk of our army taking possession of Dorchester Hill in a few days" – Ezekiel Price, refugee from Boston. "Great Preparations in the Army for a Battle." – Rev. William Emerson of Concord.
    • 23 Feb 1778 Prussian Gen. von Steuben arrives at Valley Forge to drill Continental Army into a professional force.
    • 25 Feb 1778 George Rogers Clark heads to Ft Sackville in present-day Indiana, ending British hold on Western frontier.
    • 24 Feb 1782 American forces, surprised by British attack, try retreat across Wambaw Bridge in SC; bridge collapses.
    • 27 Feb 1782 British House of Commons votes against continuing war in America.
  • Townsend's
  • Clothing and Related:
    • 18th Century caraco and petticoat, c.1790. Very fine white cotton, embroidered with garlands of vine and grape clusters
    • 18th Century men's coat of brown silk, shaped front and full skirt which is interlined, possibly with horsehair, deep turn-back cuffs faced with pale blue silk, coat lined with pale blue silk, cuffs & pockets trimmed with silver lace, c.1740
    • 18th Century men's waistcoat or vest, of Chinoiserie silk in a rich magenta, 1790's
    • 18th Century men's waistcoat, silk with colourful floral embroidery, c.1790's
    • Killer heels! Court shoe for a man, French c, 1690. Great platform heel! This shoe! Embodies why (if as a twitterstorian of the c18) I must leave that best of centuries, I prefer to go back to the c17 rather than forward into #c19
  • Miscellaneous:

Last Post: Charles Neil Morrison Lund, UE, MSc, P.Eng

Charles Neil Morrison Lund UE, MSc, P.Eng (1925-2020) died unexpectedly in his 95th year on February 3, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. He was born and raised in Sarnia, Ontario. Neil was a member of Sc'47 at Queen's University and he maintained close ties there. After many years employed by Imperial Oil in Sarnia, Montreal and Calgary, he joined Syncrude as Vice President of Operations in 1974.

Throughout his life Neil was known for his integrity, intelligence, curiosity, kindness and quiet sense of humour. Over the years he was active in the Boy Scouts, Church, Probus, Senior Engineers, United Empire Loyalists, Northern Alberta Ship Model Society and the Mayflower Society. His interest in genealogy led him to publish a family history. With precision and attention to detail, he built many models, some from the original plans. He and his family enjoyed many travels exploring Canada and the world.

He is survived by his wife, Jean (Culver), daughter, Catherine (David) Pattison, sons, Charlie and Eric (Rocio) and four granddaughters, Laura, Anne, Elisa and Sonia. He was predeceased by his daughter, Joan, parents, Charles and Margaret (Morrison) Lund and brother, Eric.

A celebration of Neil's long life will be held at a later date. In memory of a fine gentleman please do a special act of kindness.

He was a long-time and highly valued member of the Edmonton Branch UELAC and attended many conferences over the years. I am sure there are a large number of members of the Association who will remember him. Neil proved his descent from UEL Loyalists Archibald Cameron, William Chisholm and Peter Ferguson.

...Robert Rogers, UE

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