“Loyalist Trails” 2010-35: August 29, 2010

In this issue:
The Great Genetic Shuffle — © Stephen Davidson
Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie
Resource: Black Loyalist Information
Ancaster Loyalist Cemetery Faces OMB Development Hearing in October
“Branching Out” Transcriptions – Third Report
Charter for Little Forks Branch Now Online
Last Post: James Herbert “Herb” Keller, UE


The Great Genetic Shuffle — © Stephen Davidson

The dispersion of loyalists in the wake of the American Revolution is recognized as the founding of two nations, the greatest exodus of refugees in North American history, and as an event that sent shock waves throughout the Anglophone world of the 18th century. It should also be recognized as one of the greatest events for human gene disbursement that the continent has ever known. Suddenly, genetic material that had been contained within various parts of the Thirteen Colonies for generations was now, thanks to the loyalists, scattered and recombined in refugee communities throughout the Maritimes and the Canadas.

It is a given fact of biology that the vitality and longevity of any species (be it cod, sparrows or humans) are greater when there is a wide diversity of genes within that population. Consider then, how vital the generations of loyalist descendants must have been, given the massive reshuffling of human genes in the decades that followed the American Revolution.

Just a cursory glance at the surnames of the loyalists who appealed to the British government for financial compensation reveals that the genetic stock of the refugees went far beyond that of just England. Apthorp, Baache, Boulby, Carscallen, Cowperthwaite, DeBlois, Dumayne, Finkle, Gummersall, Hirolyhy, Loucks, Lymburner, Nuncasser, Pemart, Pencel, Schermerhorn, Shunk, Vanderlip, Waldroff, Wehr, Wintermute, Yerxa, and Zubley are just a few examples. Canada’s multicultural complexion began with loyalist settlers from all over western Europe. And hidden in among the Germanic names are the descendants of Abraham — a genetic heritage that reaches back millennia into the Middle East.

In the Maritimes, ten percent of the loyalist settlers were Africans. Just as white loyalists could look back to western European ancestry, the free blacks who arrived in the eastern colonies had their genetic heritage rooted in western Africa, the site of the slavery holocaust. Unfortunately, tracing one’s black loyalist lineage back to a particular tribe is almost impossible. Nevertheless, an idea of the genetic diversity within the black loyalist setters can be appreciated. Some Africans had been enslaved for generations in –and kept in limited regions of– the Thirteen Colonies. With the crown’s offer of freedom, Africans from these different regions headed north to the British lines. In 1783, these “shuffled” people were offered transportation to Nova Scotia. Thanks to ledgers that recorded the names of departing free Africans, we know their colonies of origin.

Here is a sample of the diversity within just one ship’s passenger list, a ship that arrived in Shelburne Nova Scotia in 1783. Although the majority of the 274 free blacks on L’Abondance were from Virginia, others hailed from New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Georgia, New York, Bermuda, and Jamaica.

Similar genetic diversity from the Thirteen Colonies can be seen in another sample –the 240 white loyalists who disembarked from the Eagle to settle in New Brunswick. Most of them were from New York, but there were also refugees from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and South Carolina as well as Germany and Ireland.

It is rather hard, though, to think of genetic recombination in a clinical manner. Every child born to a couple who met after the loyalist dispersion was the product of two people falling in love, marrying, and making a new life for themselves. An examination of one New Brunswick family tree puts faces to this larger “genetic diversity” event.

Long Island’s Adam Mott, whose English ancestors arrived in the Thirteen Colonies in 1640, met Sarah Bulyea of Tarrytown, New York in a loyalist settlement along the St. John River. Her distant ancestor was a French Huguenot who married a Dutch Protestant in 1697. Such stories are common in loyalist family trees. William Melick was a loyalist from New Jersey who had German parents who married Zuriah Kent. She was also from New Jersey, but of English ancestry. John Hay (with a Scottish heritage) of Massachusetts married Sarah Harding, the daughter of an Irish immigrant.

However, not everyone appreciated the loyalist blending of genes. David and Catherine Gabel, Jews born in Germany, had been New York City bakers. Their family settled in Saint John, New Brunswick. Although the couple had at least three children, only one is mentioned in Gabel’s will; two Gabel children had married Christians. John Gabel married a woman named Sarah Ring. Eve Gabel married a loyalist widower from Virginia named Samuel John Austin in 1788.

When Gabel senior died in 1813, he left nothing in his will to John or Eve — only to his wife and son David. At the time of Eve Gabel Austin’s death in 1854, her obituary noted that she “lived a consistent member of the Episcopal Church”. Eve’s abandonment of her Judaism as a young bride may have been more that her parents could accept.

Not everyone thought there was a greater choice in marital partners. Hezekiah Hoyt of Kingston, New Brunswick complained to an old friend in Connecticut that he could not find himself a suitable wife. A letter written in 1803 (now found in the R.P. Gorham Papers) offers these insights: “… you complain some of the want of females at Kings, we have one and a half to a boy in Connecticut, perhaps if you was here you might make a Composition out of some of those halves which would please you.” Hoyt never took his friend’s advice. He died 46 years later — a bachelor. Perhaps a too particular bachelor?

Did folks from Connecticut have unreasonable standards for spouses? The Dibblee family of Stamford, Connecticut certainly did not do their part to further genetic diversity after settling in New Brunswick. The loyalist widow Polly Dibblee lived to see two of her granddaughters marry two of her grandsons.

So the next time you visit a loyalist burial ground, take careful note of the surnames on the tombstones. There will be the mute evidence of an event that had genetic as well as political and geographical consequences — the American Revolution.

To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.

Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie

John Beardsley went to England in the spring of 1761. The Rev. Dr. Johnson gave him a letter of introduction to Archbishop Secker [Thomas Secker 1693-1768 – Archbishop of Canterbury] in which he states that:- “Mr. Beardsley has been for two years at Yale College. Since then he has been under my direction in his studies in King’s College, New York, and has conducted himself very seriously and industriously. He would have been graduated here if he could have staid a few days till our commencement. This he could not do, being obliged to embark sooner.”

For some days before he sailed to England “he read prayers and sermons at Norwich and Groton, Conn., to very good acceptance,” and the people bound themselves in a stated sum for his support when he should return in priest’s orders. He was ordained at Lambeth by the Archbishop of Canterbury on August 23rd, 1761, and returned to America as S.P.G. [Society for the Propagation of the Gospel] missionary at Norwich and Groton, where he laboured for five years. Rev. Dr. Ebenezer Punderson, whom he succeeded in the mission, and whose daughter Sylvia he married, commends him to the S.P.G. as “a person of unspotted character and of an excellent temper and disposition, sound in his principles of religion, firmly attached to our most excellent Church, and who bids fair for doing good service in the same if his life is spared.” King’s College, N.Y. (now Columbia) conferred on him the degrees of B.A. and M.A.

We must now briefly relate the circumstances that led to the Rev. John Beardsley’s transfer to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and here we are greatly indebted to a paper written by the local church historian of Poughkeepsie in connection with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding the Episcopal Church at Poughkeepsie by the Rev. John Beardsley in 1766. Miss Reynolds, the historiographer of the parish, writes:- “As a political division Dutchess County, N.Y., was marked out on the map in 1683. The territory that composed it was then a wilderness, with no white inhabitants within its boundaries, but how beautiful it was and is! Guarded to the south by the lovely Highlands of the Hudson; looking off to the north upon the blue upheaved masses of the Catskills, dominated everywhere by the sight or thought of the wonderful nearby river [Hudson], Dutchess County offers a panorama of hill and valley, wood and stream, always varied, never monotonous, and a beauty that to a native is a heritage which thrills the heart with love and pride.”

At the time of John Beardsley’s birth the residents of Dutchess County were only about 1,727, and were chiefly at Poughkeepsie. They were almost equally divided between the Germans, or “High Dutch” from the Palatinate of the Upper Rhine, and the Hollanders, or “Low Dutch” of the Netherlands. In the next twenty-five years immigrants came from New England. Long Island and Westchester County, N.Y., who were nearly all of Anglo-Saxon stock. Among the immigrants of this period were families from Hempstead, on Long Island, and its vicinity, and probably it was due to them, in some measure, that their former rector, the Rev. Samuel Seabury of St. George’s Church, Hempstead, had his attention called to Dutchess County and to the religious needs of the English-speaking people. Rev. Samuel Seabury (father of the first Bishop of Connecticut) was rector of St. George’s Church from 1742 to 1764, and he made (in 1755-62) six missionary tours from Hempstead to Dutchess County. He travelled on horseback and was a guest in private houses. The people flocked to his preaching and Mr. Seabury’s register records 108 baptisms in the course of his six visits.

In 1761 and 1762 he reported to the S.P.G. that the building of a Church in Dutchess County was held back by the difficulty of deciding upon its location.

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

Resource: Black Loyalist Information

A new website was launched this year by a collaboration between the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Sydney (Australia), the latter holding the copyright for the content. . Simply titled “Black Loyalist”, it describes itself this way: “Black Loyalist is a repository of historical data about the African American loyalist refugees who left New York between April and November 1783 and whose names are recorded in the Book of Negroes.”

Some of the categories for browsing include: Runaways, Owners, Events, Places, and Groups. The project was created by Cassandra Pybus, Kit Candlin and Robin Petterd and funded as a pilot project in 2009 by the Australian Research Council, and has its roots in the research of Cassandra Pybus, an Australian historian, and her book Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Liberty .

A book review states: In the midst of the American Revolution when the nation’s powerful were considering the fate of the fledgling U.S., scores of those who were their slaves were also taking action to guarantee their freedom. The choice they made to side with the British set many former slaves on an eventual diaspora to Britain, Canada, Australia, and West Africa. Historian Pybus traces the paths of several former slaves, including those of George Washington, as they fled America for freedom, and she profiles famous and lesser-known figures who fought for freedom for enslaved blacks during the American Revolution.

Ancaster Loyalist Cemetery Faces OMB Development Hearing in October

The Hamilton Spectator recently carried a long article (see also Have respect for dead pioneers) on an ancient cemetery in Ancaster and a photo of the protesting Richard Hatt [namesake descendant of the founder of Dundas]. The cemetery has the remains of loyalists buried between 1786 and 1824. According to the article it was registered in late 2005 as an Unapproved cemetery by the Ministry of Government Services, meaning that nothing could be done to it until what is called a Site Disposition Agreement is reached between the landowners [who want to develop the land by building a road] and the descendants who want to preserve the resting place of our forefathers. According to Amick Consultants the cemetery “is clearly a significant heritage feature of great archeological and historical interest. As a pioneer cemetery established by the United Empire Loyalists it is one of the earliest surviving Euro-Canadian cemeteries in the Province of Ontario.”

The developers, led by the Sulphur Springs Development Corporation, appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board to let them disregard the Site Disposition Agreement supported by the City of Hamilton and the Ontario Historical Society, which argued in their turn that the OMB has no jurisdiction over the Cemeteries Act, which governs the Site Disposition Agreement. The loyalist descendants are petitioning the Ontario Government to shave off the cemetery from the development and protect it. Hatt says that the developers could shave off two lots from their subdivision plan to maintain the cemetery. The OMB will hold a hearing on the matter for 12 days beginning October 19. It will be at the Flamborough Town Hall and have at least 20 participants–lawyers, heritage officials, family members, area residents and a planner from the Niagara Escarpment Commission. I hope as many readers of this as possible will make the effort to attend and give their support to Hatt and the signers of his petition to the Ontario Government to protect the cemetery. Unfortunately I shall be in Europe at the time, but I wrote a letter to the Hamilton Spectator which was printed on July 24. I quote:

Dear Editor, Your article “Grave Situation” [The Spectator. Wednesday July 21] should galvanize the Hamilton government to declare the Ancaster Cemetery an historic site. It must contain the remains of many of our early settlers, including the parents and third son of Richard Beasley as well as his best friend Tom Barry who did so much to establish Toronto as a business centre. When Barry died in August 1799, his funeral drew the greatest number of mourners till that time who lined the route from Burlington Heights, to where his coffin was shipped from Toronto [York], to the Ancaster burial ground. I described the personalities of these people in my creative non-fiction From Bloody Beginnings; Richard Beasley’s Upper Canada. As Canadians awaken more to their past, the cemetery will become increasingly prized. Yours, David Beasley. Simcoe, ON

…David Beasley

“Branching Out” Transcriptions – Third Report

The transcription of the “Branching Out” reports previously published in the Loyalist Gazette has been completed this week. This Dominion project was discussed first at the Central Region West meeting held in London last April. By May 8, reports which appeared from the fall issue of 2004 to fall 2009 had been posted to the Dominion website. When the Branches were challenged to complete the transcriptions, David Hill Morrison responded by tackling not only those of his own Branch, Grand River, but also the reports for Halifax-Dartmouth, Abegweit, Little Forks, Heritage and Regina that he found in his personal collection of Gazettes.

This summer, I have managed to complete the transcriptions for each Branch from the first report to those submitted for the spring 2010 issue. Grand River Branch organized its collection on its website by year. For the rest, Doug Grant has posted each updated branch transcription separately from the first report to the last, with the link for each collection found under Branches of the UELAC by Branch name. This project also includes reports from branches no longer in operation such as Fredericton, Shelburne, Upper Canada, Costume, and Cornelius Thompson. I have yet to discover a report from the Governor Thomas Carleton Branch (1932).

Earlier, David was quoted as saying “As we draw closer to our Association’s centenary in 2014, I feel recalling and documenting our history becomes more of an imperative.” (LT 25 April 2010) For those without access to past or archival issues of “The Loyalist Gazette”, especially new members of UELAC, there is now an easier way to appreciate the activities and concerns over the years that have contributed to the heritage of both the association and the individual branch.

As an association, we still have much to learn about our past. This project has taken that initial step towards documenting our collective history.

…Frederick H. Hayward UE, President

Charter for Little Forks Branch Now Online

When I attended the unveiling of the interpretation centre at the Little Hyatt School House in June, I congratulated the Little Forks Branch on their upcoming 20th Anniversary. According to the information I had read in the Branches of the UELAC, “The Branch was chartered on July 18th, 1990 by UELAC Past-President, Lieut. Col. A. Frank Cooper. Mr. Charles Shepard received the Charter on the Branch’s behalf.”

However, the transcription of the Branch’s first report to The Loyalist Gazette, Spring 1991 states “Little Forks Branch received its charter on July 15th, 1990,” three days earlier. President Bev Loomis has settled the confusion by submitting a copy of the charter in question with a bright yellow sticky note attached. The Little Forks charter was signed on 3 February 1990 by Angela Johnson, then Dominion Secretary and now genealogist for the Bay of Quinte Branch. Corrections to our records are now verified. See Little Forks details.


Last Post: James Herbert “Herb” Keller, UE

Peacefully with family on Wednesday, August 18, 2010, two days short of his 94th birthday. Husband for 67 years of Reta Irene (nee Powley). Father of Linda Gibbard, Harrowsmith; Graeme (Carolyn), Burlington; Trudy Millen (Edward Cornthwaite), Barrie and Jim (Patti-Lee), Orleans. Survived by his brother Orval and his sisters Keitha Grabenstein, Pearl Blair (Donald) and Ila McLennan. Predeceased by parents John Herbert Keller and Iva Pearl Bawn formerly of Wilton, his brothers John (Glennie) and Durlin and his sisters Annie Scouten, Edith Scouten, Myrle McGaughey and Aleita Conger. Missed by many grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Cremation followed by interment at Newburgh Cemetery.

Herb was born August 20, 1916 near Croydon, Ontario and liked to tell stories. He often spoke of moving when he was five to a farm near Wilton by a neighbourhood wagon train, where all of the neighbours brought wagons; some full of furniture, some carrying farm animals, some with food, others hay for the animals and they all proceeded across country to Wilton. He often told of playing tricks on his family as a boy and then spending the day hiding at the other end of the farm with his brother Durlin to avoid a whipping. In the depression he rode the rails, first working in northern Ontario near Haileybury timber cutting with a crosscut saw getting 2 cents a log in one of the coldest winters on record. He would later ride the rails out west and worked as a farm hand on a ranch near Alliance, Alberta and as a timber cruiser in the foothills. When the war broke out he returned to his home and worked in Kingston for Canada Steamship Lines as a pipefitter building wartime ships. In 1946 he moved to Newburgh and worked as a plumber installing many of the first bathrooms on the farms in the area. After retirement he turned to his real love of cabinet making, restoring antique furniture, caning chairs, and learning to weave elm bark chairs. He built his own cottage on Beaver Lake. He was very proud that he received third prize in the Canada wide Lee Valley Tools Bird House Contest. Herb had also apprenticed as a plasterer & tinsmith, and had worked in masonry, carpentry, logging, and farming. He was an avid hunter – a crack shot – and a pool player who rarely had to buy a beer or a Coke. He was a member of the Newburgh Baseball Champs of 1946 and well known in the area for his hardball pitching skills. He had lived on Water Street in the village of Newburgh since 1946.

He was very proud of his heritage and would often take me through the old graveyards in the area as a boy. He started me on my 40 year journey working on the Keller Family Tree. In latter years, I gave both my father and my mother their U.E.L. membership and certificates.

…Jim Keller, UE