“Loyalist Trails” 2010-21: May 23, 2010

In this issue:
Feathers, Tar and Loyalists — © Stephen Davidson
Ebenezer Dibble (1715-1799): Fifth Generation in America (Part 13 of 13; © 2009 George McNeillie)
The Jessups, Adirondaack Land Barons
St. Paul’s Windows Restored; Dedication June 27 in Birchtown
May Two Four
Special Loyalist Reading Thursday May 27 at St. James’ Cathedral, Toronto
Clarification to Identifying Loyalist Ancestors With a Nod to the Upper Canada Land Books
Special Events at Upper Canada Village
Additions to the Loyalist Directory


Feathers, Tar and Loyalists — © Stephen Davidson

One does not have to read very far into any history book about loyalists before encountering the phrase “tarred and feathered”. During the American Revolution, intimidation was just one weapon in the arsenal of war. The mere threat of being coated in hot tar and covered with feathers was sometimes all it took for patriots to silence loyalist opposition.

Thomas Randolph, a cooper in Quibbletown, New Jersey, is a typical example. A patriot newspaper reported that he had publicly “proved himself an enemy to his country by reviling and using his endeavours to oppose” the proceedings of various rebel committees. Consequently, he “was ordered to be stripped naked, well coated with tar and feathers, and carried in a wagon publicly round the town.” Only after Randolph begged forgiveness and promised to support the patriots was he released.

Even befriending loyalists was dangerous. Judge James Smith brought down the wrath of local patriots when he decided that the rebels were in the wrong to seize a loyalist’s musket. The angry crowd “poured out their resentment on {the} villainous retailer of the law” and “very handsomely tarred and feathered” Smith.

It was not uncommon for a mob of rebels to appear at the door of a loyalist’s home and demand that he sign an oath of allegiance to the patriot cause. The smell of tar that hovered over the men at the door underscored the danger of continuing to profess loyalty to King George — failure to immediately sign the oath could result in being tarred and feathered on the spot.

A 1776 poem that mimics Hamlet’s famous soliloquy captures the loyalists’ dilemma in these words:

To sign, or not to sign? That is the question.
Whether ’twere better for an honest man
To sign, and so be safe; or to resolve,
Betide what will, against associations,
And, by retreating, shun them. To fly – I reck
Not where: And, by that flight, t’ escape
Feathers and tar, and thousand other ills
That loyalty is heir to: ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To fly — to want —
To want? Perchance to starve: Ay, there’s the rub!

An archival document of the Revolution recounts a typical tarring and feathering. “To be stripped naked, smeared all over with disgusting black pitch, the contents of two or three pillows rubbed into it, and in that condition paraded through the streets of the town … was enough to break down very daring spirits.”

There were variations on this theme. Some loyalists merely had their clothes coated in tar to serve as a warning. Sometimes homes and business buildings were coated in pitch to intimidate those who sided with the British. Even livestock was at risk. A horse belonging to Henry Barnes, a Massachusetts merchant, was tarred and feathered. Dr. Abner Beebe was not only blistered by hot tar, but had hog dung rubbed into it as well. In Charleston, South Carolina, patriots hanged Rev. John Roberts after tarring and feathering him. They then burned the gallows and the loyalist minister to ashes in a huge bonfire. On the lighter side, young women at a quilting bee took exception to a loyalist who made the mistake of belittling the rebel congress. The girls grabbed him, removed his shirt, and covered him to the waist with molasses and cattail fluff.

There is no record of loyalists being killed by having their skin coated in hot tar, but it left painful blisters and scraping off the hardened tar often only added to the victim’s pain. John File, a loyalist who settled in Upper Canada, remembered that “oil did gradually take off the tar and feathers” but the memory of ” this cruel treatment lasted a lifetime.”

Because of the sexism of the 18th century, only men were seen to have political opinions. This meant that only male loyalists were tarred and feathered, not their wives, mothers, or sisters. Removing pitch from the typically hairy male body must have been excruciating.

How did tarring and feathering come to be the preferred method for humiliating loyal colonists? Although it originated in the Middle Ages, it seems that the practice gained popularity in America when smugglers in port cities wanted to punish or threaten customs officials.

Pine tar could be found in abundance wherever ships were docked. It was the common means for waterproofing vessels, rigging, and sails and was also burned to fumigate the stench of the lower decks. Pillows, mattresses and cushions of the era were filled with goose feathers, so the means for inflicting a painful and humiliating punishment were readily available along the waterfront of any port city.

A mob tarred and feathered an informer in Norfolk, Virginia as early as 1766. Eight years later, the punishment became a common form of intimidation for patriots outraged by British civil servants who enforced unpopular customs regulations in Boston. It may be that as the revolution spread outward from Massachusetts, the Boston practice of tarring and feathering British sympathizers became the accepted method of dealing with loyalists throughout the Thirteen Colonies.

Where a loyalist lived had a great deal to do with whether he might be blackened by pitch. There are no records of patriots threatening loyal Americans with tar and feathers if they lived at any distance from seaports. Although pitch had its domestic uses in town and on the farm, rebels living inland or on the western frontier did not think to intimidate their loyalist neighbours with it.

One would expect that such a cruel punishment would die a natural death when the Thirteen Colonies were recognized as the United States of America in 1783. However, in New Jersey, loyalists who returned to their homes at the end of the war were often tarred and feathered as a way to “naturalize” them back into their communities. So even recanting one’s loyalism as the price for staying at home did nothing to help the king’s colonists escape the inevitability of feathers and tar.

Ebenezer Dibble (1715-1799): Fifth Generation in America (Part 13 of 13; © 2009 George McNeillie)

The youngest child of Widow Dibblee’s family was Ebenezer. He must have lived in the old farm at Woodstock when he was a little boy — he was I think the father or grandfather of William Fyler Dibblee who was once extremely well-known in Carleton County. This gentleman, besides being a distant relative of my father, was a cousin of Mrs. Nelson, my wife’s mother, whose maiden name was Mary Secord. He was in his old days a very well preserved man and had a wonderful memory.

As an illustration of this I recall a case in which a prominent lumberman named Mooers took it upon himself to close the road to the town of Woodstock leading down the north bank of the Meduxnakik to the old Beardsley mill. This action deprived a number of people of a rear entrance to their premises. They took legal action against Mooers, and in the trial a number of “old inhabitants” were summoned to testify that the street had been used so many years by the public that it could not lawfully be closed. Among all the witnesses none was so ready, so prompt and positive in his replies as Wm. F. Dibblee, who could give day and date of occurrences in a manner that was damaging to Mooers’ interest.

Desiring to break the force of Mr. Dibblee’s evidence, Mr. George F. Gregory, Mooers’ lawyer, paused in his questioning and after eyeing the witness for a little, said very seriously: – “Pardon me Mr. Dibblee, may I ask how old a man you are?” If I remember aright. He said, “I am ninety years old.” Mr. Gregory said: – “That is a remarkable age.” “It is,” said he, “I’m thankful to have been spared so long.” Gregory paused again and then said very impressively, “Mr. Dibblee are you aware that when a man reaches that age his faculties naturally fail him; his memory is not to be trusted as in his younger days? I don’t think Mr. Dibblee, if I were 90 years old I could stand up here in court and swear as you have done to date and day in your evidence.” Everybody was in the qui vive for the answer, and it came without the least hesitation. “Very likely you couldn’t remember Mr. Gregory, but you and I are of a different breed!” The spectators laughed, the jury laughed, the judge laughed, and even Mr. Gregory laughed, and Mooers lost his case. William F. Dibblee attained the age of 94 years and died of injuries received in falling down the cellar stairs. Dr. Rankin, a clever Woodstock physician, told me that when past ninety years Mr. Dibblee’s heart action, condition of arteries, blood pressure, etc. were like those of a man almost in the prime of his life. The doctor regarded him as easily a centenarian, and deplored that the opportunity of making a record of longevity in Woodstock should have been spoiled by so comparatively simple a thing as falling down the cellar stairs.

In his young days William F. Dibblee had a head of bright red hair, which rendered him decidedly conspicuous, particularly when travelling, but when he grew white with age there was quite a transformation which made him a rather distinguished looking man. He was a strict total abstainer, and would not taste liquor in any form, but he once told my father that he loved the taste of it and there were times when he found it necessary — or at least advisable — to go into the woods on a fishing excursion or something of that kind to get out of the way of temptation. It seemed like a disease, he said, these periodic spells in which he would give almost anything in the world for a drink. His iron will and God’s grace saved him in the hour of temptation.

To the end of his days he retained, and used to show with much pride, the Manifest of the Ship Union , in which his grandfather Fyler Dibblee of Stamford, brought more than two hundred Loyalists to the River St. John early in the month of May, 1783.

He was an active Free Mason and loved the ritual of the order, although he did not admire a high ritual in the Church, being in his mind a decided Evangelical. He and my father were for years Church-Wardens in the Parish of Woodstock. They were also both actively interested in the old-time militia, and I remember them as mounted Field Officers at one of the Annual General Musters of the Militia held on the Intervale of our place about 55 years ago. I remember that at the end of the day’s training, the Colonel of the Battalion, Lt. Col. William F. Baird, made a short speech and called for “Three Cheers for the Queen”. Then somebody else called for “three cheers for Colonel Baird” and “three cheers for Major Raymond” and “three cheers for Adjutant Dibblee”, whereat father’s old mare “Gill” became excited and waltzed round a bit.

A little before this time a motion had been made in the Legislature of New Brunswick to prohibit the treating of the militia at the Annual Training. After rather an uproarious debate the motion was overwhelmingly defeated. The movement was in advance of public opinion. My father, I may say, was in his young days a member of the Sons of Temperance, and was practically a total abstainer throughout his life.

The line of descent through the Dibblee ancestry comes down to us through Sally Munday Dibblee, who was married to John D. Beardsley, at her house on the place where my Brother Lee now lives, on the 20th day of June, 1793.

Excerpt from Book of Family History, by The Ven. William Odber Raymond, LL.D, FRSC. © 2009 George McNeillie – all rights reserved [published here with permission; see footnote].

George McNeillie

The Jessups, Adirondaack Land Barons

About 1764, Edward and his younger brother Ebenezer moved to Albany. There they formed a partnership, and over the next decade the two engaged in land speculation on a grand scale in the upper Hudson River area. On 14 August 1767 a petition was filed on behalf of the brothers and others, asking for a grant of 4100 acres of land. This would become Jessup’s Patent on which Lake Luzerne is now located. A land grant for what now includes the Towns of Corinth, Luzerne and Hadley.

The Jessups built sawmills at “The Big Falls” on the Hudson and rafted logs down stream to their mills. They named the community Jessup’s Landing, now Corinth. Above this point they maintained a ferry and a road which followed the river upstream five miles to Jessups Falls, now known as Rockwell Falls at Luzerne and Hadley.

They built spacious log homes and entertained such royalty as Sir William Johnson and Governor Tryon. Ebenezer was a client and business associate of Sir William. As shrewd businessmen the Jessups were among the sharpest and most colorful land speculators ever to live in Warren County. In their speculations they were no doubt aided by their close relationship with Sir William Johnson and John Butler. They resided on the upper Hudson in a sort of backwoods feudal magnificence until the American Revolution.

In 1771 Jessups, secured additional patents for about 15,000 acres in what is now the central and northern sections of the Town of Luzerne. In 1772, not content with their extensive holdings, the two promoters engineered the famous Totten and Crossfield Purchase of 800,000 acres, lying mostly north of Warren County, but embracing all the present Town of Johnsburg and part of the Town of Chester. The Mohawks and Caughnawagas ceded this tract during a grand council at the home of Sir William Johnson.

In 1774 the Jessups obtained another grant of 40,000 acres to what are now the Towns of Warrensburg and Thurman. Until their lands were confiscated, the Jessups held title to practically all of what is now western and northern Warren County. The Jessups also held grants as far west as the West Canada Lakes. They prospered and became the first of the great lumber barons of the Adirondacks.

By the early 1770s the groundswell of the American Revolution, had begun to make itself felt. The chief base of operations and gathering place for Loyalists had become that of the colony of the politically-favored Jessups. While the Jessups took note of the increasing unrest among the colonists, they and other Loyalists formulated plans as they quickly lost favor among the American rebels.

During the winter of 1775, although the war had not officially been declared, the colonists began to burn the mills at the landing and to destroy the ferry. The mills were closed down, workmen laid off, and provisions packed. At the threat of death, at the hands of the Americans, the Jessups fled up the Sacandaga River on snowshoes where they joined with John Johnson and other Loyalists at Fish House. From here the party continued up the West Branch and over the Long Lake Military Road and on to Canada.

In the summer of 1776, when Sir Guy Carleton succeeded in driving American forces out of the province of Quebec, the Jessups led a party of some 80 Loyalists to join him at Crown Point. The Jessup party became attached to Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York.

On 6 May 1777 Colonel Gordon in command of the Continental Militia in the Ballston Spa district, pursued and captured 31 Loyalists on or near Jessups’ Patent. All admitted they were on their way to join Burgoyne and thus escape taking the oath of allegiance to Congress. Local tradition has it that at this time Edward Jessup, hotly pursued, made good his escape by leaping across a gorge in the Hudson where the stream then measured but twelve feet in width. The location of that gorge is at Rockwell Falls (Jessups Falls). Blasting away of rocks during the lumber era to permit passage of logs has widened it.

Jessup then made his way across Queensbury by an old road that paralleled the present route from French Mountain to Fort Ann. He would have crossed the trail over West Mountain. The route would be to the north of what today is known as the Halfway Brook, and crossed the military trail leading from Fort George on Lake George to Fort Edward in the vicinity of the Outlet Malls on Route 9, just to the north of the Great Escape. On the military trail, Fort Amherst had a location to the south where it crosses Halfway Brook in the vicinity of Route 9. Today, just to the north on Route 9, as you start to travel on a lengthy grade uphill, exists an historical marker depicting the location as the old boundary of New France.

From the location of the Outlet Malls east (through the Town of Queensbury) to Fort Ann Edward would have stayed to the north on high ground above the wetlands on what is today known as the Farm to Market Road, Rt. 149. In the area known as Fort Ann, the Halfway Creek joins Wood Creek leading to Skenesborough (Whitehall). In Washington County, Halfway Brook becomes Halfway Creek.

Edward continued to travel northward through Skenesborough to Burgoyne’s camp at Willsborough Falls. Here he joined his brother, Ebenezer, who had fled rebel fury some months earlier and had received a commission in Burgoyne’s army.

In the summer of 1777, General Gates dispatched militia under a Lieutenant Ellis, to raid the Jessup colony. The Loyalist leaders had long since fled, but the militiamen destroyed their homes, burned the grain fields, and left nothing standing but the mills. The dwellings of the Jessups had previously been pillaged and their elegant and expensive fittings carried away. Soon the site of the once bustling settlement grew up to weeds and bushes, the abandoned clearings becoming again a part of the wilderness from which they had been wrested by the toil of the pioneer followers of the Jessup brothers.

On 7 June 1777, with Ebenezer as lieutenant-colonel and Edward as captain in command of the bateaux service on the Hudson, the King’s Loyal American corps took part in John Burgoyne’s campaign. By October the Jessups surrendered with the remainder of the army at Saratoga, and then marched across country to reach refuge in Canada.

On the first day of October, 1778, Major Christopher Carleton of the 29th British Regiment with a detachment of 800 Regulars, a company of German levies, 200 Loyalists and 175 Native Americans embarked in 34 vessels at St. John’s. His Loyalist battalion, commanded by Colonel Ebenezer Jessup, contained Loyalists, who would act as guides and make certain that not even the most isolated farmhouse would escape the wave of destruction. In 1779, the Jessups, now included among those attainted of treason by the State of New York, would be condemned to death if they appeared in New York. The State confiscated their properties. Ebenezer now moved with his family to live in safety in Quebec, part of which would later become the province of Ontario.

By 1780 heaps of ashes and stump-blackened clearings were almost the only evidences of attempted civilization in a land abandoned. In October of that year and again the following fall, Edward would participate in raids into New York. With these services and his administrative capacities, Governor Haldimand chose Edward as major commandant of the new corps of Loyal Rangers, created 12 November 1781, from a number of smaller military formations, including the Loyal Americans.

The new corps became known as Jessups Rangers. Exiled from Albany and from his lands upriver, Edward sent his family to safety in Canada while he led loyalist rangers in two incarnations. In April of 1783 hostilities ceased, and the corps was ordered to disband in December 1783.

– Brown, William H. “History of Warren County, New York”, Glens Falls Post Company. Glens Falls, NY. 1963.
– Warren County Board of Supervisors. “Warren County Guide”, Glens Falls Post Company. Glens Falls, NY. 1942.
www.nysm.nysed.gov Edward Jessup, Ebenezer Jessup

…G. William Glidden, MAJOR ( R ) NYARNG, Vice President, Regional Development and Historian, NYS Military Heritage Institute

St. Paul’s Windows Restored; Dedication June 27 in Birchtown

The Black Loyalist Heritage Society has sent an invitation to UELAC to attend the dedication of the stained glass windows in St. Paul’s Church, Birchtown, Nova Scotia on 27 June 2010.. As a result of a Dominion project in 2007, the Vancouver Branch and many individuals stepped forward with sufficient funds to assist with the restoration of four of the windows.


[Editor’s Note: the links which were absent from this story as originally published, which were re-posted in issue 2010-22, have been re-inserted.]

May Two Four

Originally celebrated as Queen Victoria’s birthday as early as 1854 in Upper Canada, the May twenty-fourth weekend is now anticipated chiefly as the time to open the cottage, take the first camping trip of the season or as the earliest time you can safely plant those tender annuals. Some Canadian families may also remember it as the time to set off fireworks in the backyard. Further back another generation will remember “The 24th of May is the Queen’s birthday … if we don’t get a holiday, we’ll all run away.”

Lt. Col.Wm A. Smy, OMKM, CD, UE, editor of An Annotated Nominal Roll of Butler’s Rangers 1777-1784 with Documentary Sources, reminds us that May 24 is also the official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II here in Canada. In just a few weeks, Her Royal Majesty will begin a five day which will include marking the 100th anniversary of the navy, Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa on July 1, unveiling a plaque at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg, and the running of the Queen’s Plate in Toronto on July 4.

While the Queen is in Ottawa she will also unveil a statue of Oscar Peterson, cast by Ruth Abernathy who created the bust of Col. John Butler for the Niagara-on-the-Lake monument unveiled last Canada Day.

In her release to the media, our Patron and Governor General, Michaëlle Jean praised the Queen’s wonderful example of compassion and generosity as well as her steadfast leadership.

Whatever you do on the twenty-fourth, take time to remember why we have the holiday.


Special Loyalist Reading Thursday May 27 at St. James’ Cathedral, Toronto

A reminder that this Thursday, May 27, 2010, at 2:00pm in St. James’ Cathedral, Ann Boa Jarvis, UE, a Montreal member of Heritage Branch, will be reading selections from her new book, “Jarvis Pictures and Conversations”. St. James’ is at the corner of King and Church Streets in downtown Toronto. Everyone is welcome. Books will be available for purchase.

…Nancy Mallett, St. James Archives

Clarification to Identifying Loyalist Ancestors With a Nod to the Upper Canada Land Books

I would like to clarify a couple of points of reference in this article which was published last week.

This microfilm collection has been donated to Brock by “The Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock University” and not by the UELAC as stated in the article. That said the UELAC has made several contributions to The Friends, as have done several UELAC branches and UELAC individual members, but there have been many other donors as well.

Also the Ontario Genealogy Society Index on CD, which was mentioned as being available for sale at a nominal cost, is also one of the items contained in the Loyalist Collection at Brock, and is available there for anyone interested in the land books to use.

As an separate point, the collection continues to expand. The Friends of the Loyalist Collection are in the process of purchasing the Land Abstract Indexes for the Counties of Lincoln and Welland. There are 51 films in this group and they are currently only available from the Ontario Archives. It is expected that this index will be another valuable tool in researching the Land Books, which provide a wealth of information.

…Edward Scott UE, Chairman,The Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock University.

Special Events at Upper Canada Village

This past year, the St. Lawrence Branch UELAC has frequently expressed its concern for the changes at the Upper Canada Village at Morrisburg. In a proactive stance, they have forwarded a list of special events (PDF) to be held at UCV this summer to encourage your support. If planning a visit to the area, Lynne Cook, Branch Genealogist, added that you should keep in mind that the historic village will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in September and October. There is a parking fee of $5.00 if you don’t have a season’s pass.


Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
– Campbell, Robert – from Robert Campbell (Volunteer Alice Walchuk)
– Fike, Daniel – from Alma Bentley (volunteer Alice Walchuk)
– Heney, Archibald – by Linda Drake (Volunteer Wendy Cosby) with certificate application
– Heney, Josiah – by Linda Drake (Volunteer Wendy Cosby) with certificate application
– Jessup, Edward – from William Glidden
– Lloyd, Andrew – from Linda Drake with certificate application (Wendy Cosby volunteer)
– Ross, Thomas Taylor to Bathias (Ross) Fortune (Volunteers Linda Drake and Wendy Cosby)
– Schram, Valentine – from Eleanor Burch (Volunteer Alice Walchuk)
– Williams, John Sr. (of Ernestown ON) – from Catherine Fryer with certificate application