“Loyalist Trails” 2009-11: March 15, 2009

In this issue:
Stories of the Union’s Passengers — © Stephen Davidson
The Book of Negroes Matters
1974 Stamp: “William Hamilton Merritt” Posted
Petition to Help Preserve Ontario Cemeteries
      + Response re Col. James Hewetson and his Militia
      + Looking for James Kirkpatrick Papers; Searching Daniel Lobdell, UE
      + Military Records and Other Information for Philip Wickware, Loyalist


Stories of the Union’s Passengers — © Stephen Davidson

On Sunday, May 11th, the first ship to transport loyalists to New Brunswick sailed into the mouth of the St. John River. What must it have been like for these passengers aboard the Union to scan the thick forests and rocky cliffs, trying to conceive what life would be like in a place so far from their homes in the Thirteen Colonies? For those who had lost their husbands during the American Revolution, the prospect of the years ahead must have been especially overwhelming. Who would clear the land? Work at a trade? Provide for the children?

Hester Burlock and her two sons, William and Samuel, had walked onto the deck of the Union with the family of her brother, Ephraim DeForest. The siblings were natives of Norwalk, Connecticut, a community that had been burned to the ground by British forces in 1779.

Hester’s late husband, Job Burlock, had been a loyalist known to shelter British agents in his home. In 1778, he had to leave Norwalk and seek refuge on Long Island. When Burlock returned to Hester and his sons in 1783, patriot soldiers shot him on his doorstep. As Hester is noted as having a third child after her arrival, it is especially moving to realize that she was pregnant with her late husband’s baby as she sailed north on the Union.

The second widow aboard the evacuation ship was Mrs. George Nichols, the former Ruth Underwood. She also was travelling with her brother’s family. Ruth had married a British soldier stationed in Boston when she was eighteen. Samuel, their first son, was born in 1773. While only three months pregnant with another son, Ruth became a widow. George died in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 — one of the thousand British soldiers killed that day.

Just 21 years old, Ruth went to live with her brother John Underwood in Rhode Island. Within three years’ time, Ruth, her two sons, and her brother’s family were evacuated to New York City with other loyalists, remaining there until April of 1783.

Nichols eventually settled along the St. John River. Within seven years she married Freeman Burdick, a widower with two sons who had fought with the Loyal New Englanders. He had come to New Brunswick on the Hope, another ship in the spring fleet. As Mrs. Burdick, Ruth had two daughters, Ruth and Abigail.

By 1797 the loyalist couple and some of their children moved to Oxford County, Upper Canada where Freeman’s brother James had a mill. During the War of 1812, an American raider fired his rifle through the Burdicks’ cabin door, hitting Freeman in the back. This time, however, Ruth did not lose her husband as she had in 1775.

In 1827, Ruth Underwood Nichols Burdick made up her will, granting her second son the family farm in New Brunswick. She died of old age in the home of her daughter.

William and Jacob Maybee were siblings on the Union, two of six brothers who bore arms for their king. Six years earlier, their brother Simon was hanged for spying. Another brother, Peter, was killed when his Loyalist Rangers were forced to retreat during a battle.

During the revolution, patriots attacked John Fowler as he made a trip from New York City to the farm he rented on Long Island. Sustaining a broken arm as well as wounds from the attack, Fowler was taken prisoner and put in jail in Connecticut. Here he “suffered considerable ill treatment”. Fowler eventually made his way back to Long Island, and, in April of 1783, he and his family boarded the Union in hopes of a happier life.

According to the ship’s manifest, John Lyon was the second passenger to bring his family aboard the Union. In 1775, Lyon had signed the Redding Resolves, a document that professed ardent loyalty to King George III. When the resolves were published in New York’s Gazetteer, Lyon’s Connecticut neighbours assaulted him and threatened to put him in prison. The farmer fled Redding, leaving his pregnant wife and six children behind. Lyon served with several loyalist regiments before being reunited with his family at Long Island’s Fort Franklin. Here, in 1781, he helped to fend off an attack by French warships. Later that year, Lyon fought under the command of General Benedict Arnold in an attack that left New London, Connecticut a flaming ruin.

On April 24, 1783, the Union left New York Harbour as the flagship for twenty vessels bound for the mouth of the St. John River. After a two-week journey, the ship dropped anchor at the edge of Parrtown’s harbour. (Within two years, this small coastal settlement became the city of Saint John.)

The mothers on board the Union were desperate to wash their families’ clothes. They had been cooped up on their crowded ship for the better part of twenty days. With Captain Wilson’s permission, the women were rowed ashore to a spring of fresh water not far from Fort Howe, the British garrison. They began their lives as pioneers with the commonplace task of doing their families’ laundry.

In the days that followed, the other 19 ships of the Spring Fleet arrived at Parrtown; all had safely completed the voyage. While the other captains compelled their human cargo to disembark as soon as their ships arrived, Wilson allowed the Union‘s passengers to stay aboard for a week while scouts sought out a suitable site for settlement. Three men took a small boat 60 miles up the St. John River. When the scouts returned with news of a good prospect, the Union‘s passengers unloaded their belongings and bid farewell to their kind captain.

One journey by sea was over for the Union‘s 209 loyalist passengers. The task of building new lives and new communities had just begun. Their loyalist adventures were only the opening chapter to a much greater story, the founding of New Brunswick.

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

The Book of Negroes Matters

Over the past two years I have found many reasons to promote Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. Most recently, the novel was acknowledged as the popular choice on CBC’s Canada Reads. This past weekend, Donna Bailey Nurse, editor of Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing, has published her viewpoint in the Saturday Globe and Mail. Once again we highlight the mere mention of United Empire Loyalists, but the article focuses more on a unique view of the “first major group of black settlers to Canada.” If you haven’t read the novel yet, Ms. Nurse clearly establishes another reason to do so.

See also “Book of Negroes wins CBC’s Canada Reads” from the Toronto Star (submitted by Luren Dickinson).


1974 Stamp: “William Hamilton Merritt” Posted

As described in the spring 1975 issue of The Loyalist Gazette (Vol. XIII No. 1) , the 1974 Stamp: “William Hamilton Merritt, The Welland Canal, 1824” was dedicated by Postmaster-General Bryce Mackasey on November 29, 1974 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of construction on his the Welland Canal. Dr. J.J. Talman, then a professor of History at the University of Western Ontario, also provided an extensive article on William Hamilton Merritt, grandson of Thomas Merritt (1729-1821) who settled in New Brunswick in 1783. Augmented information from Canada Post and the stamp image have been added to the Loyalist Stamps page.

Petition to Help Preserve Ontario Cemeteries

As a follow-on to this article in last week’s Loyalist Trails:

1. Download copies of the Bill 149 Petition from the OGS website. Get people to sign the petition and mail the original completed petition to:

OGS Provincial Office
#102-40 Orchard View Blvd.
Toronto, ON M4R 1B9

Photocopies or faxes of the signed petition cannot be used. We must have the form with the original signatures. We will arrange to have these petitions delivered to Mr. Brownell’s office so he can present them in the Legislature. This will provide a record of the support of the bill.

2. We all need to contact our MPP and let them know of our support of Bill 149 and encourage them to support the bill while in committee and vote for the bill when it comes up for 3rd Reading. You can contact them via regular mail, email, telephone or in person.

Remember, this needs to be done before the summer recess so the bill does not die.

If you are unsure of how to contact your local MPP you can look at MPP Addresses and Contact Information If you need additional assistance, Find Your Electoral District will assist you in finding your local MPP.

…Lynne Cook UE, St. Lawrence Branch


Response re Col. James Hewetson and his Militia

I published a small book in 2002 which tells some of the story of James Hewetson’s Revolutionary War career. It’s entitled “The Flockey 13 August 1777 – The Defeat of the Tory uprising in the Schoharie Valley”. I have a handful of copies left and you’re welcome to purchase one if you’re interested. Cost of the book and postage would be $13.00.

You will find that James was recruiting for Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York (KRR NY) and that he held the rank of Captain-Lieutenant in the battalion. That’s an archaic rank. The occupant served as a captain, but was only paid as a lieutenant and he commanded the colonel’s company of the battalion, of which the colonel was the titular captain and was paid as such as one of the emoluments of his position.

So, James was recruiting for a Provincial regular regiment, not for the militia. Three men with the surname Hains, Hanes, Haynes served in the KRR NY. They were Christopher/Christie/Christian and George and Henry and Michael, but no Adam.

Are you positive that your ancestor was old enough to serve during the revolution? He may have been the son of a serving loyalist and because of that was entitled to draw land.

If you know that he was of age, he may have served in Joseph Brant’s volunteers, a mixed body of natives and Europeans who fought in the native manner and had no official recognition or pay. Only a few of the names of Brant’s white volunteers has been found, so you’d have a difficult search. Many of them who stayed with Brant till the end of the war settled along the Grand River with the natives.

…Gavin Watt H/VP UELAC

Looking for James Kirkpatrick Papers; Searching Daniel Lobdell, UE

I am looking for the James Kirkpatrick Papers to help find the names of early settlers of Wolfe Island who purchased/rented land from C.W. Grant, who originally owned about 1/3 of the Island after the Revolution.

I found reference to James Kirkpatrick in rootsweb. A person by the name of Paul Gillespie provided information there which notes that James was the lawyer for C.W. Grant who rented/sold land on Wolfe Island (Frontenac Co.) Ontario to early settlers. Apparently the papers include an account book which contains names of people with precise dates. The collection #2269, Vol. 69 is supposed to be housed at the Archives Dept. at Kathleen Ryan Hall, Queens University.

I need help finding the website/email address of the collection repository at the Archives Dept. at Kathleen Ryan Hall at Queens University so I may request a researcher to review the papers for the name of Daniel Lobdell, UE, or anyone by a variation of the surname (var. Lobden, Lubdel, Lobdon, etc.).

Also, I would like to find someone to do the research if no assistance can be provided by the Archives Dept.

…Oma L. Rose, Reno, NV {o DOT l DOT rose AT att DOT net}

Military Records and Other Information for Philip Wickware, Loyalist

My ancestor, Philip Wickwire was a United Empire Loyalist in the American Revolution and I am trying to locate his military records. In past issues of Loyalist Trails (Information on the Wickwares and Wickwares (continued)), Gavin Watt provides some information about Philip Wickwire.

I am prepared to hire a researcher at the British National Archives in Kew and would like to share my findings with your association. However, before I spend the money hiring the researcher, I would like to know as much as possible about what the Canadian records say so as not to duplicate research, etc…

Furthermore, if you know how I can obtain Canadian Military Records for my presumed ancestor, I would greatly appreciate your help.

I would very much like to know about other cousins or others who might have information about the Wickware family. Essentially everything I know about Philip Wickwire is from Jan Blommaert and Bob Seeley, both in Ontario.

…Nathan Pyles, Caldwell, ID, USA, {nathan DOT pyles AT gmail DOT com}