“Loyalist Trails” 2008-45: December 7, 2008

In this issue:
White Collar Loyalists: New York’s Mayor — © Stephen Davidson
The Eagle Has Landed – Fall Issue of the Loyalist Gazette
Scots to Celebrate with Homecoming 2009, the 250th Anniversary of Robbie Burns’ Birth
Prince of Wales American Volunteers
A Poem to Our Ancestors
The Book of Negroes Selected for “Canada Reads”
Three Peoples, One King, by Jim Piecuch
Shopping for Heritage Items
Evacuation Day Comments and George Washington’s Death
CD of Molly of the Mohawks Available
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
Last Post: WOODRUFF, Bruce
      + Family of James, son of Jacobus Van Alstine


White Collar Loyalists: New York’s Mayor — © Stephen Davidson

Nothing proves the maxim that “Truth is stranger than fiction” so well as the stories of loyalist refugees. Just consider this: Cape Breton’s first attorney-general, David Matthews, was not only the mayor of New York City for seven years, he had once been involved in a conspiracy to assassinate George Washington.

In 1775, David Matthews worked in the New York court of common pleas. He practiced law and was the clerk of the court of sessions. He did not receive a salary, but the fees for his services amounted to £200 per year, and his work as a lawyer brought in £600 a year.

As the “troubles” began, Matthews “exerted himself on various occasions” to send information about rebel activity to the British. He often ran “the risque of losing his Life”, especially when he and some other magistrates tried unsuccessfully to stop patriots who seized a stockpile of 500 muskets. For his acts of service to the crown, the Provincial Congress of New York and its loyalist governor, William Tryon, appointed Matthews as the new mayor of New York City in February of 1776. It wasn’t the best year to assume any public office anywhere in the Thirteen Colonies.

Trouble was brewing. The growing rebel forces had made George Washington the commander in chief of the new Continental Army. There were those in the loyalist community who felt the best way to nip the revolution in the bud was to assassinate Washington and thereby regain control of New York. (Depending on the accounts you read, the loyalists were either going to simply kidnap the rebel general or arrange to have him poisoned.) Governor Tryon and other loyalists approached Thomas Hickey, a sergeant in Washington’s personal guard, to act as the primary kidnapper. Hickey, in turn, recruited a drummer and fifer to help him.

David Matthews, the new mayor of New York, was one of the conspirators, but his role seems to have been limited to delivering some money and a letter with an outline of the plot to kidnap Washington. As Matthew would later testify, although the loyalists had a plan, it all came to naught because of “an unfortunate Discovery that was made of a Letter.”

The New York Provincial Congress had Matthews arrested for “being Engaged in a Conspiracy against the Authority of the Congress and the Liberties of America”. Thomas Hickey, Washington’s bodyguard, was the only man who was hanged for his role in the conspiracy; 13 others were imprisoned.

David Matthews’ depth of involvement in the conspiracy could not be proven. He was put in jail for two months, and then taken to a prison in Connecticut where he stayed until November of 1776 when –after bribing his jailers– he made his escape. The British had captured New York and Long Island four months earlier while Matthews was in prison, making it a refuge for loyalists throughout the Thirteen Colonies. Now free, David Matthews could once again wear the mayor’s chain of office; he was the very last loyalist to do so.

Although they could not do anything to Matthews himself, the rebel New York Congress labelled him a traitor in 1779 and confiscated 26,000 acres of his property and his two houses. There is nothing in the records to give a sense of how New York thrived under Matthews’ leadership or how he and his wife Sarah looked after their ten children. When the rebels finally won the revolution, Matthews and his family left New York City with the last of the soldiers and refugees in November of 1783. In just a little over six months’ time, the former mayor stood before a compensation board in Britain where he was recognized as a “zealous and active loyalist”; Matthews was given a bounty of £200 a year by a grateful crown.

But the loyalist’s political career did not come to an end in 1784. Abraham Cuyler, the registrar of the new colony of Cape Breton, invited Matthews to become its first attorney general. He accepted and moved his family to Sydney, the new capital. Matthews was also a member of the Executive Council that was led by Lieutenant Governor DesBarres. Without a house of assembly, this executive became Cape Breton’s government. When a dispute over the distribution of supplies to the loyalist settlers put Matthews in opposition to DesBarres, he and others petitioned the governor of the larger neighbouring colony of Nova Scotia. DesBarres was removed, and Matthews became an ally of the new governor. They, too, soon fell out.

When the second governor left, Matthews became the administrator for Cape Breton, appointing his sons David and William to key government positions. Further appointments of men to whom Matthews was indebted led to more squabbles. Eventually a new administrator had the former New York mayor removed from office in January of 1800. Matthews died six months later. Although his political life ended in a quagmire of thwarted ambition and political controversy, David Matthews is an example, claims R. J. Morgan, of “the loyalists’ difficulties in adjusting to the political restrictions of the post-war British Empire”.

Or perhaps it just goes to show that you can’t trust Frank Sinatra’s song about New York, New York to be true for everyone. Just because David Matthews could “make it” there, didn’t really mean that he could make it “anywhere”.

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

The Eagle Has Landed – Fall Issue of the Loyalist Gazette

The day before driving to Ottawa for the Sir Guy Carleton Branch meeting, I received a message from our editor of the Loyalist Gazette stating that the “eagle had landed.” That was the same message used by my school principal back in the early sixties to indicate that the paycheques had arrived at his office. This was his coded reference to the eagle (E Pluribus Unum) on American money. Our “volunteer” editor Robert C. McBride was not about to discuss finances.

For more of us, the expression would take us back to July 1969 when the message “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed” was transmitted by the Apollo 11 crew from the moon’s Sea of Tranquility. The Vol. XLVI, No 2 Fall 2008 issue of the Loyalist Gazette should now be in your home offering a period of tranquility in the discovery of interesting research articles, general association news, and cross-Canada branch activities. Assembling the many submissions into an informative and entertaining package is no easy task, but once again, Robert C. McBride has done a superb job.

Organizing the material into a visually satisfying package every six months has been an on-going challenge for Michael Johnson of Unexpected Company for twenty-one years. His skills, creativity and imagination not only have created another intriguing cover but have also ensured visual pleasures with every turn of the page. With each issue, the images appear with greater clarity and increased number. Well done!

There are many other people who have contributed to the success of our “window to the world for the UELAC”. Whether you submitted material, proofread the drafts, or searched for advertisers, you can be assured that your involvement has made a difference to our association. Thank you.

This appreciative note is not meant to imply an equivalency between the publication of the Loyalist Gazette and the efforts of the American astronauts, nor to remind you of the other quotation from that period: “One small step…”. It is a small recognition of the work of so many volunteers in the promotion of the UELAC.

…Frederick H. Hayward, UE, President, UELAC

Scots to Celebrate with Homecoming 2009, the 250th Anniversary of Robbie Burns’ Birth

Ten famous Scots combine to present the anthem “Caledonia” against the background of iconic Scottish scenery. The 60-second ad includes Sir Sean Connery, Lulu, Amy Macdonald, Sandi Thom, Eddi Reader, Brian Cox, golfer Sam Torrance, triple Olympic champion Chris Hoy, and international rugby players Thom Evans and Kelly Brown. It has to be said that only some of those appearing can sing in tune – and Sir Sean steadfastly speaks his lines. The ad will be screened regularly over the next week to raise awareness in Homecoming Scotland 2009 and encourage Scots to invite friends and family to return home for the celebrations. Introducing the film clip, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Caledonia is a song that resonates with Scots the world over. For those far away it is a reminder of strong bonds, full of the promise of return. Next year we will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of our national bard, Robert Burns, who himself wrote a song for his native Caledonia.” Click here to view the video.

…Nancy Conn, UE

Prince of Wales American Volunteers

Montford Browne assembled the Prince of Wales American Volunteers as a regiment in the year of 1776. The regiment consisted of ten companies and was modeled after a standard British infantry regiment, complete with one company of grenadiers and one company of light infantry. On April 21, 1777 the regiment mustered 34 officers, 30 sergeants, 11 drummers and fifers and 520 rank and file. This muster was during the time when the regiment was at its peak; however, sickness, desertion and death would plague it over the next few years.

Although the Prince of Wales American Volunteers may not have been as active as some of the other provincial regiments, it still took part in many significant battles and bled out the lives of many of their numbers on the battlefields. Some of the engagements that this regiment took part in were: Raid of Danbury, Siege of Rhode Island, Siege of Charlestown, George Town, Hanging Rock, Cowpens and Fort Granby.

At the demise of the war the Prince of Wales American Volunteers departed New York, in September 1783, on the ships Montague and Elizabeth with their destination being the Saint John River. The regiment at this time consisted of 175 officers and men, 68 women, 37 children over 10 years of age, 24 children under 10 years of age, and 28 servants. The Prince of Wales American Volunteers were disbanded in October 1783 and set out to begin their lives a new in the wilds of Nova Scotia (modern New Brunswick).

Click here for more details, including muster rolls, description of battles, etc.

[submitted by Ray Adams]

A Poem to Our Ancestors

Dear Ancestor
Your tombstone stands among the rest,
Neglected and alone.
The name and date are chiseled out,
On polished marble stone.
It reaches out to all who care.
It is too late to morn.
You did not know that I exist,
You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you,
In flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse,
Entirely not our own. Dear Ancestor, the place you filled,
One hundred years ago,v
Spreads out among the ones you left
Who would have loved you,
I wonder if you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot
And come and visit you

– author unknown

[submitted by Chuck Ross UE]

The Book of Negroes Selected for “Canada Reads”

As indicated in an earlier release of Loyalist Trails, The Book of Negroes has been chosen by CBC Radio as one of five books for “Canada Reads” this spring. I just finished reading the book last week and want to add my recommendation to that of Ruth Nicholson UE.

In his novel, The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill creates a gripping tale of the strength of the human spirit. Through the story of Aminata Diallo, the reader is led on a life journey that begins in West Africa, then to the North American continent, back to Africa and finally to Great Britain. One is caught up in the horrors of Aminata’s life in slavery and then the possibility of freedom presented through the proclamation of Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, in 1775 and again with the Philipsburg Proclamation of 1779.

When she arrives in New York City at The Fraunces Tavern during the early days of the American Revolution, Aminata’s story becomes a Loyalist story. Because of her ability to read and her skill as a midwife she is a mentor to the Negroes of Canvas Town and later a valuable assistant to the British forces as they prepare for evacuation to Nova Scotia. As I read this book my heart and mind were captivated by the character of Aminata and her story. I recommend it not only for its Loyalist content but for its ability to reveal the harsh reality of slavery and the amazing courage exemplified in the life of one determined woman.

At the official CBC site you can discover more about The Book of Negroes including a reading by the author and why Lawrence Hill felt the novel had to be told from a woman’s point of view.”

…Bonnie L. Schepers, UE, Central West Region VP, UELAC

Three Peoples, One King, by Jim Piecuch

Three Peoples, One King: Loyalists, Indians and Slaves in the Revolutionary South, 1775-1782, explores the contributions and conjoined fates of Loyalists, Indians and slaves who stood with the British in the Deep South colonies during the American Revolution.

Challenging the traditional view that British efforts to regain control of the Southern colonies were undermined by a lack of local support, author Jim Piecuch demonstrates the breadth of loyal assistance provided by these three groups in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Piecuch attributed the ultimate failure of the Crown’s southern campaign to the ruthless program of violent suppression of Loyalist forces carried out by the revolutionaries and to Britain’s inability to capitalize fully on the support available. In the process of revisiting some cherished opinions respecting the Revolution, Piecuch provides a compelling alternative to long-held notions of heroism and villainy in America’s war for independence.

Piecuch systematically surveys the roles of these three groups across the southernmost colonies to illustrate the investments each had in allying with the British, their interconnected efforts on behalf of their king, and the high price they paid for their loyalty during and after the war.

Three Peoples, One King is published by the University of South Carolina. The 472-page cloth covered book retails for $39.95 (ISBN 978-1-57003-737-5).

…Bill Glidden {historian70 AT verizon DOT net}

Shopping for Heritage Items

If you are interested in heritage items and enjoy looking around web sites to see what is available, visit the Historic Merchants website. Be forewarned that the list has some broken links and some which are just email addresses, but several offer a wide range of items which you might enjoy exploring – maybe even find that little (or big) something for next season’s activities.

…Ruth Nicholson, President, Hamilton Branch, UELAC

Evacuation Day Comments and George Washington’s Death

In response to printing the article in the Loyalist Trails, received several interesting remarks (i.e.- Should we (Loyalists) wear black armbands during the 1783 evacuation commemoration?); quotes from Revolutionary figures; and a request from the Albany Times Union to print my response. The black armband remark reminds me of an anniversary date coming soon, the 209th anniversary of George Washington’s death on December 14, 2008.

When George Washington completed his second term as the first president of the United States in 1797, he was weary of the political infighting surrounding the presidency. He longed for retirement and the peace at his beloved Mount Vernon. Unfortunately, his solitude lasted less than three years, and he died on Dec. 14, 1799 at age 67.

Washington was buried on Wednesday, Dec. 18, according to the rite of the Episcopal Church, with the Rev. Thomas David, rector of Christ Church, Alexandria, officiating. Masonic rites were also performed.

Following his death, the American army wore black armbands for six months, the British Navy lowered its flags to half-mast, and Napoleon ordered 10 days of mourning throughout France.

…Bill Glidden, MAJOR (R) NYARNG, Historian, Valcour Battle Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution; Historian, NYS Military Heritage Institute

CD of Molly of the Mohawks Available

This CD is a recoding of the Live World Premiere Performance with the Original cast Performance on September 6, 2008

CHARLES SCHNEIDER Artistic Director and Conductor
Chorus: Thom Capozzella, Jeremy Painter, David Kolb, Sarah Buell, Alicia Loomis, Rayna Schneider, Marsha Thayer
Members of the Utica Symphony

In the Utica Life and Times, September 9, 2008, Robert Chambers wrote: “the orchestra was expertly directed, by Maestro Charles Schneider overall, this is an excellent performance by very talented vocal and instrumental musicians. Colby Thomas’s very full-voiced soprano soars, varying from playful to the depths of anguish fitting the demands of the role. Eric Johnson’s spirited robust bass provided strong counterpoint …the premiere performance which will be remembered by those fortunate enough to attend.”

Ordering Information:

CD: $25 US $30 CDN

The Souvenir Booklet: $15 US $20 CDN

Package (CD + Souvenir Booklet): $30 US $40 CDN

This price includes S&H (NYS Residents: Add 4% Tax); Allow 2 weeks for delivery.

Make cheque or M.O. payable to:

The Oriskany Alliance, Inc., Attn: ACB, 33014 Mason Road, Cape Vincent, NY 13618 USA

Proceeds help the Oriskany Alliance, Inc. keep up the work for the history of the Mohawk Valley and for the performances of MOLLY OF THE MOHAWKS.

[submitted by Augusta Cecconi-Bates]

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions are:

– Peter Drummond by Gavin Watt

– Mattice, Nicholas – from Don Matthias

Last Post: WOODRUFF, Bruce

Peacefully, at home on Tuesday, November 18, 2008. Beloved husband of Gloria, dear father of Nathaniel, George, Elizabeth and Catherine, grandfather of Nathaniel and Serena. Predeceased by his parents, Marion and Wilfrid; survived by his sister Lynn Jacob of Bracebridge, Bruce was a professor of Language Studies at Mohawk College. He was a working member of the London Little Theatre and produced two operas for the Hamilton Opera Corporation. He and Gloria restored and designated the 1839 Woodruff family home, Woodbourne in St. David’s. Bruce served on the Niagara-on-the-Lake Heritage Committee and Willowbank School of Restoration Arts Board. He initiated the St. David’s Ratepayers Association and St. David’s Heritage Day. Bruce was a long time member of Col. John Butler Niagara Branch of the UELAC and was very proud of his Loyalist ancestor Joseph Clement, a Lieutenant in the Indian Department. We offer our deepest sympathy to his family.

[Submitted by Beverly Craig UE ]


Family of James, son of Jacobus Van Alstine

Jacobus Van Alstine was my 4th Great Grandfather; he died in Montreal in 1778. He has been proven and is in the Loyalist Directory. His widow was Lydia Larroway ( Lydia was one of widows described in Five More Loyalist Widows, by Stephen Davidson Loyalist Trails 2008-04 ). She petitioned for a land grant for her son James and I have documented proof from Library and Archives Canada that James was an SUE.

I am descended from James and then his son Simon. The information about Simon is more problematic. A baptism record has been found for James and Rebecca’s other son (Cobus – Jacabus James) by Rev. McDowall, but none for Simon.

I do have Simon and his wife Sophia Jane Powers Van Alstine and family in the 1851 census ( Lennox Addington, Richmond Township). It appears that his father James and mother Rebecca Forshee Van Alstine are also in the 1851 census Sheffield but not living with them.

Simon moved to Barrie Twp, Frontenac County between 1851 and 1861 Census. Lived at Concession 1, Lot 23 and was a Methodist. He is listed in the 1861 and 1871 census

Sophia Jane (Hayes) Powers is buried in the Harlowe United Church Cemetery in Barrie Township, Frontenac County. There is no record of the death of James Vanalstine who died on July 19, 1854 in the Napanee Beaver or the Napanee Standard newspapers.

5th great-grandparents:
VAN ALSTYNE, Lambert b. Abt 30 April 1710, Albany, New York; d 1792 Richmond Twp., Lennox Addington, ON; m. Van Valkenburg, Margarita Rebecca
4th great grandparents:
VAN ALSTINE, Jacobus b. Abt. 1738, Albany Co., New York; m. Larrowy, Lydia 1759, Albany Co., New York
3rd great grandparents:
VAN ALSTINE, James b. 21 June 1776, Batavia, New York; m. Forshee, Rebecca 1799, Pennsylvania
2nd great grand parents:
VAN ALSTYNE, Simon b. 6 June 1804, Richmond Twp., Addington, ON, m. Powers, Sophia Jane 11 Dec 1833, Addington, ON.
1st great grandparents:
VAN ALSTINE, Lambert (Albert) VAN RENSSLAER b. 9 Aug 1841, Napanee, ON; m. Dunning, Sarah 26 Sep1866, Vienna Elgin, ON

The search is still on for that proof which shows James as the father of Simon – this is the missing link for my (Lorraine’s) Loyalist certificate application.

…Alice A. Walchuk UE, Branch Genealogist, Manitoba Branch, UELAC {walchuks AT drytel DOT net}

    and Lorraine Cook {lncook AT shaw DOT ca}