“Loyalist Trails” 2007-49: December 16, 2007

In this issue:
A Lost Black Loyalist of Britain: Scipio Handley, by Stephen Davidson
Loyalist Descendant Cemetery Destroyed in Middlesex County, Ontario
Note about William Foster
225th Celebration of Arrival of Loyalists at Remsheg Grant NS
      + Looking for Copies of Ralph Connor’s book, The Runner


A Lost Black Loyalist of Britain: Scipio Handley, by Stephen Davidson

It is estimated that one tenth of the 100,000 refugees who fled the United States at the end of the American Revolution were of African descent. While half of all loyalists sought refuge in Great Britain, it is very unlikely that ten percent of them were black. The trip across the Atlantic was far beyond the modest means of blacks who had only just been freed through service to Britain. It was far easier to make the overland journey to the Canadas or take advantage of the freely provided evacuation by sea to the Maritimes. And yet a handful of Black Loyalists did manage to find their way to Great Britain.

However, since these loyal blacks did not help to found nations as their descendants did in Sierra Leone, Canada, and the Bahamas, they have not been regarded as noteworthy by their British descendants. No black Britons celebrate their loyalist heritage as they do in Canada. The story of one such “forgotten” Black Loyalist, Scipio Handley, is therefore certainly worthy of note.

A year after the American Revolution came to an end, the British government set up a commission in London in 1784 to look into the “Losses and Services of the American Loyalists”, unrealistically expecting the impoverished, displaced loyalists to travel across the ocean to seek compensation for all that their devotion had cost them. Three years later, members of the compensation boards recognized the foolishness of waiting for loyalists to come to them, and so they travelled to Halifax, Saint John, and Montreal to hear colonists’ claims. Only a small percentage of white loyalists appeared before these boards, and what they finally received was far less than they had requested. The number of Black Loyalists who appeared before the compensation boards is so small as to be practically nonexistent.

It borders on the miraculous that Scipio Handley somehow managed to make his way to Great Britain and present a “memorial” to the “honourable lords commissioners of His Majesty’s treasury”. His January 13, 1784 claim tells a remarkable story.

When the British offered any black who was enslaved by a patriot his or her freedom through serving the crown during the revolution, the African workers on the plantations of the South were quick to respond. Scipio Handley fled Charleston, South Carolina in 1775 to serve the British forces based in Barbados. He admitted that he feared angry patriots would put him to death if he was caught, but he eluded capture and was able to safely flee to the West Indies.

When Handley learned that the British had taken control of Savannah, Georgia, in 1778, he returned to serve the crown on more familiar soil. There he “remained until the rebels and French troops came and laid siege to the town” in the fall of 1779. Handley described Savannah’s population, both white and black, employed in the “endeavour to keep them off” for if the patriot forces “succeeded in their attempt, they would have no mercy on many.” Having had his life threatened four years before for merely running away, Handley was sure of being hanged for aiding the British cause.

In the following year, during the six week “siege of Georgia”, Handley worked at the armoury shop, making grapeshot and delivering it to the redoubts and batteries throughout the city. At one point, Handley was hit in the right leg by an enemy’s musket ball. He clearly remembered the time — four o’clock on a Saturday morning in 1780. The surgeons “thought they would be obliged to cut it off, but after a long and tedious while it got healed, though far from being entirely well”. At times the pain was so great that Handley had to stay in bed for two or three days, making it completely impossible for him to work.

Handley fled the South with the British troops– probably in 1782– and eventually arrived in Britain. In 1784, he implored the king’s magistrates to “take the case of a poor infirmed stranger into consideration and grant him such assistance as {they} would judge proper.” If they granted the Black Loyalist his request, Scipio Handley would ever “consider himself in duty bound to pray for {their} honours health, happiness and prosperity”.

As with so many other loyalist requests, we are not sure what degree of compensation Scipio Handley received, if any. Being an American colonist in British society far from his native shores was one mark against him. Being a former slave made the likelihood of compensation even more remote. If Handley’s case followed precedent, he could at best hope for a very small allowance. If his request fell on deaf ears, he would be forced to find some form of employment in the streets of London.

Either way, it is highly unlikely that Scipio Handley ever left Great Britain. He, along with thousands of others, was a loyalist who made the land of his king his final resting place. If he married and had children, then there could well indeed be descendants of Scipio Handley, the Black Loyalist, living in Great Britain today. Like so many others, their loyalist heritage is one that has been both lost and forgotten.

Loyalist Descendant Cemetery Destroyed in Middlesex County, Ontario

The destruction of Gladstone Baptist Cemetery has sparked a lot of outrage. As a response from the Dominion level of the UELAC, this letter was sent to the Municipality of Thames Centre, addressed to the Mayor, Councillors and Officers. The body of the letter stated:

It has been well publicized that Gladstone Baptist Cemetery was destroyed recently, and sorry to say, during your term in Office. The sense of outrage is widespread and justifiable.

Every cemetery marker destroyed robs the present generation of a signpost to their past and cheats future generations out of their heritage.

When someone vandalizes a cemetery, that person is tracked down and prosecuted. This is vandalism on a larger scale. What are the possibilities here?

At the very least, I hope and trust that the Municipality of Thames Centre will wish to go the extra length to restore the community’s good name by making sure that surviving cemetery markers are rescued from the dump and that something proper is done to commemorate this historical site.

…Loyally, Peter W. Johnson, President, UELAC

Many of you may have heard that the Gladstone Pioneer Cemetery in the Municipality of Thames Centre (Dorchester, Nilestown area east of London) was destroyed by a bulldozer. Not only were these 62 pioneer gravestones callously bulldozed, they were then carted off to the local dump to be disposed of along with a pile of cement and load of toilet parts.

Greg Borduas, CAO of Thames Centre, says it was health and safety concerns over the condition of the old pioneer tombstones that prompted the action. Bourdas further defended the move by saying that it was “approved by the five member municipal council and advertised in the local newspaper.”

The London Free Press interviewed Deputy Mayor Delia Reiche in which she states “This is astonishingly embarrassing. This is devastating. Under no circumstances did anyone ever say they would be removed from the site and they would ever be taken to a landfill. I am completely embarrassed.” She vowed to discover how the headstones, dating back to the 1840s, became a pile of concrete mixed with toilet parts and vowed to retrieve what remained.

The A-Channel stated on Friday December 7th, that the provincial registrar of Ontario’s cemeteries will be investigating this matter to see if the municipality of Thames Centre followed proper procedures pursuant to the Cemetery Act and its Regulations when it disposed of the pioneer headstones.

According to Section 68 of the (Ontario) Cemeteries Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.4

Disturbing burial site prohibited

68. No person shall disturb or order the disturbance of a burial site or artifacts associated with the human remains except,

(a) on instruction by the coroner; or

(b) pursuant to a site disposition agreement. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.4, s. 68.

Clearly what they have done does not comply with the Ontario Cemeteries Act.

In a letter from Mary Forsythe of British Columbia we were made aware of the fact that there were United Empire Loyalists descendants buried at this cemetery. Her 4th great grandmother Jane Marsh Demaray, is the daughter of Rev. William Marsh. William Marsh was born in Shaftsbury, Vermont, USA on or about July 11, 1767 and became an ordained minister at Caldwell’s Manor in Quebec. He established the Baptist Church in Sutton, Quebec. Later the family moved on to Whitby, Ontario where he established another Baptist Church. William’s father, Jacob Marsh, was killed at Saratoga under General Burgoyne. Jane’s mother, Elizabeth Huntington was part of the huge and influential Huntington family in the United States and dates back to Myles Standish of the Mayflower.

It was Jane’s brother, Israel Marsh, who established the Gladstone Baptist Church, at village of Gladstone in Middlesex County where Jane is buried.

For those interested in more information the following links have been included for you:

A-Channel news footage

a list of names and the photos of the cemetery

a website that will give you the names, dates and photos

This kind of destruction of our ancestors sacred burial grounds cannot continue. This seems to be a joke with many of our elected officials, and it is time we stood up and let them know that as a society, we will not stand for this. Please contact the following people to let them know your views on such inexplicable behaviour.

– Chief Administrative Officer, Greg Borduas, (519) 268-7334 ext. 223, Fax: (519) 268-3928, E-mail gborduas@thamescentre.on.ca

– The Municipality of Thames Centre, 4305 Hamilton Rd. Dorchester, ON N0L 1G3, E-mail inquiries@thamescentre.on.ca

– Mayor of Thames Centre, Jim Maudsley, E-Mail jmaudsley@thamescentre.on.ca

– Deputy Mayor of Thames Centre: Delia Reiche, E-Mail dreiche@thamescentre.on.ca

– Councillor-Ward 1 Mike Bontje mbontje@thamescentre.on.ca

– Councillor-Ward 2 John Regan jregan@thamescentre.on.ca

– Councillor-Ward 3 Marcel Meyer mmeyer@thamescentre.on.ca

– Michael D’Mello, Registrar, Cemeteries Act (Revised), Cemeteries Regulation Unit, Ministry of Consumer and Business Services, 250 Yonge Street, 32nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5B 2N5, Telephone: 416-326-8393, Fax: 416-326-8406, michael.dmello@cbs.gov.on.ca

…Kimberly Hurst UE, Windsor ON, {khurstue AT cogeco DOT ca}

(The following is excerpted from a letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty)

I am writing to register my extreme dismay at the fate of the Gladstone Pioneer Cemetery in Thames Centre (London). Another part of our pioneer history has been destroyed and dragged off to the local dump. Where is our provincial Heritage Department when issues such as the preservation of our pioneer cemeteries is raised?

From the newspaper accounts, it appears that no effort was made to retain the headstones, which contain vital genealogical data. I know that when I found the grave and headstone of my fourth great-grandmother (Abigail Land Burney McCarter) in St. Paul’s Presbyterian Cemetery in Nelson, Trafalgar Township, Halton Region, I was able to finally link my family to one of our great Loyalist’s, Robert Land Sr., who was a British spy for General Clinton during the American Revolution and also an Indian Agent who worked with the great Chief Joseph Brant to recruit men to support the British cause. If it hadn’t been for the efforts of many Historical Societies and the United Empire Loyalists to preserve our cemeteries and make records of the Memorial Inscriptions, I would not have discovered my own rich Loyalist and Ontario Pioneer heritage.

I have also spent the past five years working with the City of Mississauga and local Hetitage groups to finally designate the Old Village of Port Credit as a Heritage Conservation District to save the built architecture from the developers’ desire for monster homes by the Lake. This effort truly demonstrated what can be done when citizens unite to enact tougher legislation to preserve our past, whether it be homes, commercial buildings or cemeteries.

…Anne Clark-Stewart UE [editor’s note: Anne is the author of the article, page 20 of the Fall 2007 Loyalist Gazette about Robert Land Sr. UE (1736 – 1818), British Spy and Indian Agent]

Note about William Foster

Further to the item In The Spotlight: “Ancestors In The Attic” and Loyalist William Foster UE in the “Loyalist Trails” UELAC newsletter 2007-48 Dec. 9, 2007, there is a William Foster included in the Remsheg Grant to Loyalists. Is this the same William Foster by any chance?

…Ellen Muise {remsheg225 AT yahoo DOT ca}

225th Celebration of Arrival of Loyalists at Remsheg Grant NS

Readers may be interested in upcoming event June 28, 29, and 30, 2008, at Wallace (formerly Remsheg), Nova Scotia, to celebrate the arrival of Loyalists given land in the Remsheg Grant. Information can be found on the Remsheg Loyalists 225th Anniversary web site or by emailing Ellen Muise.

Organizers of the event are interested in hearing from descendants of the original Remsheg Grantees, whether they are able to come to the 225th Anniversary or not, for the sharing of genealogy and to learn what happened to the Grantees.

…Ellen Muise {remsheg225 AT yahoo DOT ca}


Looking for Copies of Ralph Connor’s book, The Runner

I have just finished re- reading my broken down copy of Ralph Connor’s book The Runner. What a great picture of early Upper Canada he painted – picturing all the various opinions held by the Loyalists and the Pioneers, and how hard it was to know where people stood, day by day in the light of human passions of greed, and arrogance, struggling to avoid the restrictions of integrity, compassion, and equity. Not so different from today, I guess.

Are there any further known copies of this book available, would anyone know? It was published by Doubleday, Doran and Gundy, Ltd in Toronto, Canada, c. 1929. I would like all my relatives to have a copy of it – both American and Canadian.

We are descended from UEL Major W. Henrich Nelles, Tory from the Mohawk Valley Stone Arabia section, with a cairn in his honor at York on the Grand River, whose sons living in Grimsby, Lincoln County, were in sympathy with the Family Compact government in York/Toronto, and pioneer John Cline of Boston, Townsend Tnp. Norfolk Co., who was taken to Upper Canada in 1800 during the last great migration of Germans who became known as Pioneers. He was a Methodist whose family had converted to that in Western Maryland. He spent a year in the Hamilton Jail as part of the rebellious uprising of 1837-39 in protest of the bad land and education management of the time. This was a family group who wanted to be in British Canada so badly that when John’s father was dying at Buffalo/Black Rock, he pleaded so hard not to be left behind, that when he died his family put him in his coffin and ferried him across to Fort Erie for burial. Later, his Uncle John Cline was a circuit riding Methodist minister who travelled from Grimsby, then Halton County, up and around north of York/Toronto. With my mother’s line from Plymouth of 1620 and the Boston area of 1629/1630 etc. in dozens of lines, we can understand and relate to all these points of view….keeps us hopping – mentally and emotionally. It is good to know, and not to forget, teaching tolerance and desire to live in harmony with people today.

…Doris Ward

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