“Loyalist Trails” 2008-35: September 28, 2008

In this issue:
The Shipwreck of the Martha and its Canine Hero — © Stephen Davidson
DNA – Your Way To Lost Family, by Richard Shaw
Toronto Branch UELAC, Third Annual Genealogy Workshop
Pre-Republication Offer for “Loyalists of New Brunswick”, by Dr. Esther Clark Wright
Book Launch of From Bloody Beginnings: Richard Beasley’s Upper Canada
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
Last Post: KINGSTON, Leara I.
      + Simon Fraser and John Roy MacDonell


The Shipwreck of the Martha and its Canine Hero — © Stephen Davidson

It is very difficult to find any mention of dogs in the annals of loyalist history. However, in his eyewitness account of the sinking of the Martha, Captain Patrick Kennedy wrote of the crucial role the ship’s unnamed dog played in rescuing him from certain death. All that we know about the Martha‘s dog is that it was “a large stout dog” of the “pointer breed”. Here is the story of that canine hero (hereafter, to be referred to as “Pointer”).

In September of 1783, two regiments of loyalist soldiers, their wives, children, and servants boarded the Martha, a transport ship that had been chartered to take them to the mouth of the St. John River. The Maryland Regiment of Loyalists and DeLancey’s Third Regiment had survived the smallpox epidemic, endured a five-week siege in west Florida, and suffered the desertion of fellow soldiers. Now the trials of war were behind them and they –along with eleven other shiploads of refugees– could look forward to a new life in Nova Scotia. Among the officers of the Maryland Loyalists was Patrick Kennedy, an Irish doctor who had once practiced medicine in Baltimore.

The war-weary soldiers and their families were just days away from the mouth of the St. John River when a violent gale caught the ship off of Cape Sable, driving the Martha onto rocky shoals near Seal Island. Efforts to release the vessel from the grasp of the submerged rocks failed. The rise and fall of the waves repeatedly smashed the ship down onto the shoals. Within a matter of hours, the Martha began to come apart.

Coupled with stories of heroism, there are often stories of great cowardice. Five of the Martha‘s crew and her captain escaped in the only available lifeboats, abandoning the loyalist passengers and their fellow seamen to the cold Atlantic. Numbered among the crew who were left behind was Pointer, the ship’s dog.

Within a matter of hours the loyalist castaways of the Martha were scattered over the sea. Twenty-five had found refuge on the overturned quarterdeck, a makeshift raft with a floor that was only five planks wide. Every time a wave washed over it, the castaways were thrown into the sea. Climbing back onto the raft again and again was an exhausting ordeal. In this group were two women, five children, Patrick Kennedy (who later wrote an account of the shipwreck), and Pointer.

The dog had swum to the overturned quarterdeck and climbed aboard some time after the Martha sank. Pointer’s large size and weight made him an unwelcome guest. Some of the men struck the dog, and they repeatedly threw him off the raft. But Pointer was stronger than the exhausted castaways. No matter how many times he was put into the sea, he always returned to the middle of the raft. The men’s struggles to get rid of the dog rocked the raft, putting everyone in danger. Kennedy took pity on Pointer and begged the others to let him stay.

In the hours that followed, the 25 castaways on the quarterdeck raft began to succumb to the wet and cold. First the women and children died, and then eight of the men, weary and numb, slipped into the ocean.

Just as night was about to fall, Kennedy and the remaining nine castaways sighted land. To their horror, they realized that the tide was carrying their raft further out to sea. Their only hope was to take up planks and paddle for shore. Given the distance to land, it was a task that required them to work in shifts throughout the night. Sitting near the edges of the raft so that they could put their makeshift paddles in the water, the men ignored Pointer and let him stay in the middle of the raft.

As the night wore on, Kennedy could feel himself slipping into a stupor. How could he get warm? How could he keep from falling into the water? Then he looked at Pointer. He crawled over to the dog and wrapped his arms around its wet flanks.

Putting his head up on the dog’s back, Kennedy was able to keep himself up above the floor of the raft. By hugging Pointer to his chest, he could draw heat from the dog’s body, “restoring the vital part almost extinct in me”. Whenever Kennedy’s shift at paddling was over, he held onto Pointer in this way. He later wrote “to that poor animal I am confident I owe that degree of strength which enabled me to hold out to the time of our deliverance.”

Two days on the water began to take its toll. The Martha‘s six castaways were exhausted, resigned to a death at sea. As the sun began to set, one of the men caught sight of three fishing ships in the distance. Galvanized by hope, Kennedy and his comrades cobbled together a flag using a handkerchief and a plank, waved it, and then joyfully watched the ships begin to turn their way. Within an hour, fishermen were pulling the Martha‘s castaways into their boats.

As Kennedy was being lifted up into the punt that would take him to the safety of the fishing sloop, he begged the men to make sure that Pointer was rescued from the raft. It was only later that he discovered that the fisherman had not been able to honour their promise.

Despite their best efforts, the rescuers could not persuade Pointer to leave the raft. Perhaps it was the fear of strangers, the trauma of the shipwreck, or the effects of two days at sea. Every time one of the fishermen tried to grab him, Pointer snapped and bit at his would-be rescuer. Fearing that the dog was mad, the fishermen retreated.

After he had settled in Ireland, Captain Kennedy wrote about Pointer’s fate in a letter to a friend in New York. “This generous animal, the guardian, the protector, the prolonger of my days was left alone on the raft to perish.” Deeply saddened by the loss of his faithful companion, Kennedy included Pointer’s story in his memoir of the Martha‘s shipwreck as “an additional instance of the attachment and faithful services of dogs to the human race.”

To secure permission to reprint this article contact the author at {stephendavids AT gmail DOT com}

DNA – Your Way To Lost Family, by Richard Shaw

My 4th great grandfather was loyalist Capt. Aeneas Shaw of the Queen’s Rangers. At the close of the Revolutionary War, he settled in New Brunswick until his Queen’s Rangers commander Col. John Graves Simcoe called on his old troop to join him in Upper Canada.

The Queen’s Rangers’ history as well as my Grandfather’s was well documented from the time he landed in Long Island N.Y in 1770, but his early life and that of his children is less well known . One day , 2 years ago I came across an advertisement for Family Tree DNA and thought that it might help find some ancestors on both sides so I ordered the kit, swabbed inside of my cheeks, dropped it in the mail and waited. After some weeks I received my results and found it quite illuminating.

The recent ancestral origins were amazing, just to see all the locations in the world that I had DNA hits – Great Britain of course, but all through Europe, Cuba, USA, hundreds of hits but only one Shaw. I have yet to get a reply from him in the Netherlands.

After many months and DNA matches numbering over 400, I was starting to think I would never get a near match as any match that you do not share the same surname with means you are related , but before surnames were used, 25 plus generations or 600-800 years ago, which is interesting but not what I was hoping for.

Then one day I received an update email from Family Tree DNA and there was an Angus Shaw on it, with a Canadian email address. I emailed him and found that he was 20 years old and had taken the test at university as part of the Genome Project. He is a Gr. Gr. Grandson of William Shaw of Brampton, younger brother of my Gr. Gr Grandfather George Shaw , Grandson of Capt. Aeneas Shaw later Maj. General The Hon. Aeneas Shaw

William had gone to Western Canada in the late 1800’s and my cousin Colleen Martin had no record of where he had gone, until I made this DNA link.

We exchanged family trees and I sent off pictures as well as the Loyalist Newsletter. My daughter Lexy is in college in Calgary, and I finally made the trip to visit recently. I had written to Angus to arrange a visit and we met for dinner September 10, 2008. His mom Jackie, dad William, sister Haley, and uncle George met us, much to my daughter’s apprehension about meeting total strangers. I had told her they were family whom we had not yet met. Meetings in the past with new cousins had always been positive. Sharing the same family seems to almost instantly create a family bond, but this was the first meeting arranged through DNA.

Dinner went great, but much too short. Among the pictures I had brought was one of my Uncle Wally Shaw, from our Queen’s Park tour this past spring, which they said could have been a picture of their late father. We took pictures, a video and my daughter exchanged cell numbers. My daughter had to agree that the evening had gone very well.

I found out many interesting family facts and George and I plan to exchange information and pictures from his recent trip to Scotland and Dunlichity Cemetery.

Each week more and more people who are searching for their roots are taking DNA tests. As the data bases increase the chance that I will meet another long-lost relative increases. Genealogy has found an exciting new tool for many who have hit a wall, as well as opening a window on Man’s 60,000 year journey to populate the planet.

Visit FamilyTreeDNA.com see National Geographic’s article for more.

…Richard Shaw {divein24 AT smpatico DOT ca}

Toronto Branch UELAC, Third Annual Genealogy Workshop

Ruth Burkholder and Kathie Orr UE: Getting the Most From Library Archives Canada and the Ontario Archives Websites

– Saturday November 15, 2008, 1pm to 4pm

– Suite 300, 40 Scollard St., Toronto, ON

Bonus! They will also give us some hints on Using the Ancestry website to get the most from our searches!!


E-mail_____________________________ Phone ( )__________________________

I would like to attend_______

Please reply to the Toronto Branch UELAC office by Oct. 25, 2008

By phone: 416-489-1783 or e-mail: {torontouel AT bellnet DOT ca}

Pre-Republication Offer for “Loyalists of New Brunswick”, by Dr. Esther Clark Wright

This rare gem written by the late Dr. Esther Clark Wright is a limited edition reprint coinciding with the 225th anniversary of the arrival of the Loyalists to Canada. It is a history and a genealogy of thousands of United Empire Loyalists who journeyed to New Brunswick. Here is a paraphrased description of the /Loyalists of New Brunswick/ by Dr. Wright herself:

*”HE WAS KNOWN FOR HIS LOYALTY TO HIS KING IN 1775. *The words are graven on the large stone which covers the resting place in the churchyard at Gagetown, New Brunswick, of Thomas Gilbert, formerly of Taunton, Massachusetts. They might have been carved many hundreds of times in burying grounds up and down the St. John River, and in other parts of New Brunswick as well. They tell the story of years of gathering suspicion and division, of years of active persecution, of exile from home, of imprisonment, of loss of property, of proscription and attainder.

“Who were these people whose loyalty to their king brought such dire consequences? When and why and how did they come to New Brunswick?

What did they find upon arrival? What happened to them in their new home? The Loyalists have been vilified by those who forsook their allegiance to their king; they have, sometimes, been worshiped with fanatic pride by their descendants; for the most part, they have been contemptuously dismissed by historians of the American Revolution, or, rarely, accorded sympathetic but cursory treatment; they have not been studied as a group whose existence, whose movements, and whose consequences, raise problems which need investigation. This book is an attempt to analyze the origins of the Loyalists who came to New Brunswick and to set forth the circumstances of their coming as followers of a losing cause and a not impossible loyalty.”

To place a pre-publication order or to find more information, please visit plantersandpioneers.com.

Book Launch of From Bloody Beginnings: Richard Beasley’s Upper Canada

by David Richard Beasley. [Simcoe, DAVUS PUBLISHING: www.kwic.com/davus ] PRICE: $15.95 ISBN: 978-0-915317-24-0.

You are invited to a book launch at the Joseph Brant House Museum in Burlington on Sunday October 5 between 1 to 4 p.m. David Beasley will speak briefly at 2 p.m. on his book which covers events from the landlord rebellions in New York State, through the American Revolution, the War out of Fort Niagara, settlement in Upper Canada, the War of 1812, the reform movement, the rebellion to the Union of the Canadas in 1841. Richard Beasley, 1761-1842, narrates the involvement of his family such as Henry Beasley and Richard Cartwright Sr and Jr and others such as Joseph Brant, St. John Rousseau, George Hamilton, Robert Gourlay, Rev Jock Strachan, William Claus and John Beverley Robinson. As a fur trader, first settler at the Head-of-the-Lake, commissary, land speculator, merchant, assemblyman (speaker), magistrate and militia colonel, Richard played many roles in the development of our country and was central to the action.

Joseph Brant Museum, 1240 North Shore Blvd East, Burlington, ON [1-888-748-5386] Refreshments

A later book launch will be held at the Norfolk Arts Centre in Simcoe on Sunday October 26 from 2-4 p.m. Norfolk Arts Centre, 21 Lynnwood Ave, Simcoe [519-428-0540] Refreshments

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest addition is as follows:

– Comfort, John – from Wendy Cosby

Last Post: KINGSTON, Leara I.

Peacefully, at her home in Prescott, on Sunday September 21, 2008 at the age of 87. Leara Kingston beloved husband of W.A. Pat Kingston. Dear mother of John (Janice) of Prescott. Sister of Morris Warner of Vancouver, Jack Warner and Ivan Warner both of Ottawa. Predeceased by a son Paul and by a son Thomas in infancy, by brothers Sterling, Hilton, Clare and Merritt and by sisters Marion and Florence. Also survived by several nieces and nephews.

For those wishing the family would appreciated donations to the C.P.H.C, the Alzheimer’s Society or Red Cross. Condolences and donations may be sent online at: www.chrisslaterfuneralhome.com.

Sympathy to Jack Warner, UE, President St. Lawrence Branch on the loss of his sister.

…Lynne Cook


Simon Fraser and John Roy MacDonell

To introduce myself my name is Barbara Rogers and after 20 years research on the life and family of Simon Fraser, explorer I have amassed a vast amount of material and am, at present, writing a biography.

However, one of the many leads that I have tried to solve still eludes me so I hope it is one that I hope you might be able to answer.

Sometime between 1777 and 1780 a certain John Roy MacDonell bought a group of women and children from the Mohawk Valley to Quebec. Amongst that number was supposed to have been Simon Fraser (still a young boy) and his Mother, Isabel Fraser nee Grant. This trek was so successful that John Roy was nicknamed ‘Moses’.

I noticed in one of your articles the return of a group bought into Quebec but they were mostly soldiers so I am wondering if, by chance, you either have any information on the above mentioned trek.

Any information you might be able to provide would be a great additional to historical accuracy and much appreciated.

You may already know Hugh MacMillan who has found many historic artifacts and material as well as being a founding member of the North West Company Museum in Williamstown. Some years ago, in 1967, he wrote an article about Simon Fraser’s snuff mull. In his own words:

“The story of how this snuff mull came to be in the MacDonell family is a most interesting tale. Mrs. Street’s great, great, great grandfather who came out from Glengarry, Scotland to the Mohawk in Upper New York State on the ship “Pearl”, in 1773 [the same ship that bought Simon Fraser’s family to America B.R.] He soon became personal secretary to Sir John Johnson, son of Sir William Johnson who was leader of the Five Nation Iroquois Confederacy. On the outbreak of the revolution, John Roy MacDonell joined the Loyalist forces. In 1777? he was assigned a job by Sir John Johnson, of leading a group of women and children through the trackless wilderness of New York State to Montreal.

He carried out this assignment faithfully and brought his charges safely to Montreal [which earned him the nickname of Moses] and from there they eventually made their way to what is now Glengarry. Among this group of women and children was Simon Fraser’s mother and young Simon who was then less than two years old. Simon’s father had died a prisoner of war during the early stages of the American Revolution. [Since Simon snr did not die until early 1779 I query the date of the trek being 1777 but of course I have no proof at this stage. B.R.]

This snuff mull probably belonged to his father and maybe his grandfather before that. [i.e. William Fraser of Culbokie and Guisachan] In 1790 when Simon was in his early teens the mull was presented to him, and no doubt he carried it with him during his adventuresome career in exploring a large portion of western Canada, including the discovery of the Fraser River. [This year is, of course the bicentenary year of that great expedition. B.R.].

Some time after his retirement to St. Andrews he presented this mull to the MacDonell family in appreciation of John Roy MacDonell having safely brought his mother and the family to British Territory.”

Mrs Fraser must have returned to her old home in Mapleton, N.Y., where they had been settled before the war, because her eldest son, William, was sent down in 1784 to bring the family back to Montreal.

I believe that the key to finding the exact arrival date of this take would be to locate the record of the arrival of these U.E.L. women and children – it would also list their names. I am, therefore, hoping that one of your members might know of this tale or have collected such a record.

It would be a great addition to historical fact if such a record could be linked to the above mentioned story in this bicentenary year.

…Barbara Rogers {bjrofyvr AT shaw DOT ca}