“Loyalist Trails” 2008-01: January 6, 2008

In this issue:
If Tombstones Could Talk, by Stephen Davidson
Front Page Loyalist
Gene-O-Rama in Ottawa 28-29 March 2008
Last Post: Marylou Kirkby
History of UELAC: New Section
      + Loyalist Abiel Briggs and Elizabeth Chase
      + Response re Maybee Family


If Tombstones Could Talk, by Stephen Davidson

A walk through the Old Burial Ground in Saint John, New Brunswick is bound to arouse the curiousity of anyone with an interest in loyalist history. The graves of Canada’s refugee founders mutely wait for someone to go beyond the simple record of names and dates to reveal the fascinating lives of those came to this country 225 years ago. Got a few minutes? Here’s a brief virtual tour of one of Canada’s most remarkable loyalist cemeteries.

The first tombstone’s inscription is very short: William Melick: Died 27th day of April 1808. What it fails to tell us is that William was the eldest of eight children born to Gottfried and Margaret Moelich, a couple who immigrated to New Jersey from Germany before the revolution. Will served the British army as a sergeant in a “regiment of foot”, much to the dismay of his patriot family. He took part in a number of battles and was wounded by a musket ball that he carried in his shoulder the rest of his life. Will eventually settled in Saint John with others in the First New Jersey Volunteers. At his death Melick owned the most extensive tannery in the city. Only his brother John, who also came to New Brunswick, shared Will’s loyalist principles.

Another tombstone reads: Stephen Kent, died 12 December 1828, but there is more of a story to tell. Kent’s father, David, was noted as being “loyal from the very first” while it was said of Stephen that he “always opposed the rebels”. Their principles forced the Kents to flee Woodbridge, New Jersey, for the safety of British-held New York City. His father died in 1778 when Stephen was 29 years old. The will that said Stephen should receive all of his father’s books, apparel, lands, and real estate was never honoured.

Leaving two married sisters behind him, Stephen came to Saint John with a wife and child, his widowed mother Rachel, and his sister Zeruiah on the “Mary”. During a fire that swept through the loyalist settlement in 1784, Stephen had enough presence of mind to dig a trench around his log cabin; it was the only house in the path of the fire that survived. Homes including treasured possessions from the Thirteen Colonies were lost by scores of other loyalists that day. Stephen Kent eventually became a tavern keeper in Saint John; his son William fought in one of the ships at the Battle of Trafalgar. Stephen Kent’s sister, Zeruiah, married William Melick the tanner.

Even the trees in the Old Burial Ground have their stories. See that willow over the grave of the loyalist Robert Parker? It is growing from the seeds of willows that once grew in New York –seeds which the family brought with them to New Brunswick in 1783. Parker was the first “Store Keeper of his Majesty’s Ordnance and Comptroller of His Majesty’s Customs”.

Here is the stone for Thatcher Sears who died July 9, 1819. This native of Norwalk, Connecticut traded furs with the Mohawks before the revolution. After the British burned his hometown, Sears sold hats and furs in New York City. Upon arrival in Parrtown (Saint John), Sears was granted land in the city’s business district on King Street and opened a store. Thatcher and his wife were the parents of the first child to be born in Parrtown. By the time of his death, Trinity Anglican Church had been built. The papers of the day noted that as Sears’ coffin was being taken from his home, the church bell tolled, tolling once more as the funeral procession left the church for the burial ground.

Even though some tombstones keep secret the lives of those interred beneath them, their epitaphs give us a glimpse into an era. Consider the stone of Elizabeth Scovil, the daughter of the Rev. Mather Byles. It reads “Modest and mild with Innocence of Life Silent she shone, the Daughter, Sister, Wife” and then “Jesus she loved, To him resigned her breath, She saw Heaven opened, and She smiled at death.”

Other inscriptions leave no doubt of the accomplishments of the loyalists. Here is what is engraved on one such tombstone. “Christopher BILLOP, a member of His Majesty’s council in this Province, whose uncompromising loyalty as a lieutenant-colonel in the royal cause during the American Rebellion obliged him at the termination of that contest to abandon without compensation his hereditary property, on Staten Island, and retire with his family to this colony where he has since resided universally respected. He died March 28, 1827, in the ninetieth year of his age.”

Billop’s wife, Jane, who would have borne all of the same hardships and more (a two week sea voyage on a crowded ship, adapting to life in a log cabin, delivering and raising children) got only her name and date of death inscribed next to Christopher’s. And it’s not as if he didn’t have time to think of something to say about his partner through life — she died 25 years before he did!

There are hundreds of other graves to visit, but our time runs out. Perhaps another day will allow us to hear more of the stories the tombstones have to tell in the Old Burial Ground of Saint John, New Brunswick.

Front Page Loyalist

One of the local Bay of Quinte area newspapers is “The Community Press”. Congratulations to UELAC member Bruce Bedell UE who graced the front page of the January 4th issue- in colour! Bruce is well known for his activities as the Town Crier and he is in full regalia in this photo. The photo was taken January 1st at Belleville City Hall.

…Peter W. Johnson UE, President, UELAC

Gene-O-Rama in Ottawa 28-29 March 2008

Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society in partnership with the Ottawa Public Library will hold the 25th annual Gene-O-Rama on 28-29 March 2008 at Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Drive, Ottawa.

The Pat Horan Lecture on March 28th at 7:45 p.m. will be delivered by Janice Nickerson who will speak on “Old Religious Newspapers: Their Value to Genealogists”.

Region VIII Annual General Meeting will be held on March 29th at 10:45 a.m.

Other speakers will be Randy Saylor on the Quakers of Upper Canada and Elizabeth Kipp on Family Studies and DNA.

There will also be an Internet Search Room, a Computer Demonstration Room and computer presentations.

For more information and registration details, visit the website.

If you have any questions or difficulties getting the brochure, please let me know. Hope to see you there.

…Mike More, Chair Ottawa Branch OGS, {conference AT ogsottawa DOT on DOT ca}

Last Post: Marylou Kirkby

KIRKBY, Marylou – Mrs. Marylou Kirkby UE of VanParys Avenue, Delhi and formerly of Dunnville passed away at the Norfolk General Hospital, Simcoe on Monday, December 24, 2007 in her 78th year. Former Mary Louise Green. A True United Empire Loyalist. Beloved wife of over 55 years to Wesley Kirkby. Mother of Katherine Crawford (Gary), Niagara Falls; John Holsie (Sandra), Delhi and Joni Marie Hampel (Mike), Scotland. Grandmother of Lindsay, Rebecca, Christopher and Matthew. Sister of Donald Green (Joyce), Petawawa and Joan Pepin (Late Ron), Kingston. Predeceased by two brothers: Gorley Green (Late Beth) and Harry “WeeWaa” Green. 10943132 BRANTFORD EXPOSITOR

[submitted by Lynne Cook]

History of UELAC: New Section

A few years ago, Elizabeth Richardson and Arnold Nethercott wrote a short history of the UELAC. Under Fred Hayward’s leadership, this has now been lightly reformatted and edited and posted to our web site. See it here.

The celebrations by the Americans of the centennial of the Declaration of Independence brought focus to many Canadians who then celebrated the arrival of the loyalists. Around the same time, several Loyal Societies were formed in different parts of Canada. Details about these are provided.

Common objectives and a meeting of the minds germinated the seeds of a National Association – UELAC – which was created by Act of the Canadian Parliament on 27 May 1914. Who petitioned for this Act? Read the history and find out.

Since UELAC was formed, a number of branches have been created. Many continue today, sometimes under new names; others did not survive. A note of these is made.

The history concludes with a list of those who have served as President.



Loyalist Abiel Briggs and Elizabeth Chase

Loyalist Abiel Briggs was born 07 February 1760 in North Kingston Rhode Island. The Briggs, Chase, Porter and Douglas families chose not to take up arms against the King and emigrated to the Maritime Provinces. In 1777 Abiel Briggs joined George Washington’s Army under the command of Col. Robert Elliott.

Abiel joined his family in New Brunswick after the war and petitioned for land in 1802. There is a large potato farm belonging to Hathaway across the road from where Abiel and Elizabeth settled. Perhaps this land at one time belonged to Abiel.

In 1963 SAR recognized Abiel Briggs as an American Loyalist and placed a war monument with the American flag at the foot of his grave. Surnames of a few who attended this service were Cowperthwaite, Hathaway, Flemming etc.

Abiel was married twice. The children of his first marriage, to Phoebe, were christened at the Gagetown Parish Anglican Church. The children of his second marriage, to Elizabeth Chase, were also christened at this church. The NB Museum and the family file at PANB list all children as those of Abiel and Elizabeth’s.

Phoebe Briggs is a mystery as no marriage record has been found. Was she the daughter of James P. Chase and a sister to Elizabeth?

SAR has Abiel listed as the son of John Briggs and Sybil Chase. There is one small problem with this theory as none of his children were named John.

Abiel Briggs died Oct 22,1844 in Jacksontown (now Jacksonville) New Brunswick. His youngest son William Henry Briggs married Esther Marie Chase (grandaughter of James P. Chase). Their son Bradford Gilbert Briggs was my great grandfather.

Bradford was married twice, first to Elizabeth Harris, daughter of loyalist Thomas and Elinor Harris. His second wife was Mary Ann Piper, daughter of Thomas Piper and Mary Ann Harris.

Abiel’s brother Ebenezer passed away in 1807 and his heirs filed their claim of the Chase Estate in England.

I have had no success locating information other than a letter from the NB Museum listing the Heirs of Abiel and Ebenezer Briggs. Any information about Abiel Briggs would be appreciated.

…Rebecca Grant {john DOT beck AT shaw DOT ca}

Response re Maybee Family

Saw your inquiry in the Loyalist Trails, Dec. 30/07. Have you contacted the Maybee Society? They have an extensive collection of family trees and information. I have found them very helpful in the past. Just enter them in your browser.

…Eugene Oatley UE, Col. John Butler Branch