The children of the Loyalists, living in the American Colonies between 1777 and the Peace of 1783, were frightened and forever on their guard in case they might give away a secret. They were warned to be very careful, because they had been aware of their father’s need for stealth, as he came and went in the night. These visits were not very often and the children all missed their fathers’ help and attention at other times. In the case of Philip and John Ruiter, who were being watched by the Rebels, Philip would soon be fourteen and John twelve. They would then be forced to join the Rebel Militia.
One of their friends had been dressed as a girl, putting on his sister’s clothes, and swearing that the brother had left to go to Canada. What humiliation! What next! Once Philip’s mother had hidden him under loose boards (a type of cellar) in the kitchen until the Patriots had gone to another area. But being the men of the family became a full time job: plowing the fields to grow crops, trapping animals for food (no guns were left to them ); protecting the family when necessary against wild animals -- and growing up much too fast.
The girls of the typical Loyalist family had the same demands made of them as the boys when it came to secrecy but their chores were far different. They looked after the smaller children and kept them at home most of the time. They learned from their mothers about herbal medicine and gathered the necessary ferns and leaves in order to be prepared to nurse a wounded Loyalist as he crept into the safe-house for help one dark night. The Ruiter house near Hoosick, New York, was a refuge for escaped prisoners, a ready supply of food for those heading north to Canada, and a place where the agents were able to exchange information. Gertruid Ruiter was the oldest child in the family and took many risks in helping the cause. She was with her mother and sister in 1780 when they left to go to Canada.
In 1789, Lord Dorchester stated that those families who had adhered to the Unity of the Empire in the late War would have a “ Mark of Honour” bestowed on them and that the sons of the Loyalists on coming of age would be granted land ,and that the daughters of those families would, at their coming of age or at their marriage, be eligible for a grant of 200 acres each.. The Mark of Honour permits all Loyalist descendants are able to write the initials “U.E.” after their names. The letter refer to the “Unity of the Empire”, for which the Loyalists fought and suffered – men, women and children alike.
By Jean Darrah McCaw, U.E., C.M.H.