“Loyalist Trails” 2010-37: September 12, 2010

In this issue:
The Proposal of James Mario Matras — © Stephen Davidson
Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie
The Colonel John Butler Branch Completes their Cemetery Plaque Project; Releases a CD
Who’s Side Are You On? – Commemorating Battle of Lundy’s Lane
      + Response re “Battle of New Orleans” Revised Version


The Proposal of James Mario Matras — © Stephen Davidson

The end of the American Revolution not only redrew the map of North America; it also changed the demographics of Great Britain’s population with a sudden flood of immigrants. Although Nova Scotia, Canada and the West Indies absorbed a great number of displaced loyalists, more than half of the colonists who left the new United States of America decided to seek refuge in the mother country.

While some loyalists had been well to do in the colonies and were able to successfully petition for financial compensation, most lived in desperate poverty. Having lost everything because of their loyalty to the crown, the displaced Americans deserved some form of assistance. But what could be done for nearly 50,000 refugees?

In 1783, James Mario Matra stepped forward with a “Proposal for Establishing a Settlement in New South Wales”. A loyalist from New York, Matra’s plan was simple. Great Britain should found a colony in southeastern Australia with the displaced loyalists. Settlement in New South Wales would, Matra argued, “atone for the loss of our American colonies” and “provide for the refugees … to whom Great Britain is bound by every tie of honour and gratitude”.

“The American loyalists would here find a fertile, healthy soil, far preferable to their own, and well worthy their industry,” argued Matra. The colonists might build up “estates and fortunes to replace those of which they had been deprived in America”.

Matra was more than a just loyalist with a grand vision. He had been to Australia ten years earlier as a member of Captain James Cook’s crew, making him one of the first white men to tread the eastern shores of Australia. The distant continent had made a strong impression on him; Matra’s plan gushed with optimism for all of Australia’s potential.

Like the West Indies, New South Wales could become the centre of a new sugar-growing industry. Wine, tobacco, tea, coffee, silk, cotton, indigo and grain crops were all potential exports for the new loyalist colony. Like Halifax or New York, a port in Australia could become a strategic naval station. One day there could be a timber trade with New Zealand. Australia could easily become a major outpost for British trade with China. All that was needed to make this vision a reality were loyalist settlers.

Although he was not among the thousands of loyalists who had taken refuge in Britain, James DeLancey became an enthusiastic supporter of Matra’s proposal. DeLancey had been the largest landholder in southern New York and had led a famous loyalist militia during the Revolution. After the war, he settled in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis County. In the summer of 1784, as the agent for New York loyalists, DeLancey sailed for England to seek compensation for his losses and those of his associates. After meeting Matra, the New York loyalists became enthralled with the idea of Australian settlement.

DeLancey was anxious to begin. In October of 1784, he wrote Matra, pointing out that “the season for a voyage to that country will soon be elapsed, and unless the equipment is speedily set on foot, another year will be lost, and my prospect of procuring settlers from the loyalists in Nova Scotia rendered less favourable, for by next year I should suppose most of them who have gone there will have procured some kind of habitation for themselves, and will not choose to quit them for an uncertain settlement in New South Wales.”

Matra forwarded DeLancey’s letter to a government official, hoping that a decision would be forthcoming. “Mr. DeLancey, who is very sanguine on the business, has been active in procuring the consent of many people to go … as a settlement somewhere is essentially necessary to them.”

Matra’s proposal also captured the attention of Lord Sydney, the home secretary. Sydney recommended that Matra should add a postscript to his plan, suggesting that a portion of New South Wales could also be developed as a penal settlement.

It is an amazing (and forgotten) fact of history that between 1717 and the beginning of the Revolution, Britain had “exported” at least 50,000 prisoners to the Thirteen Colonies. This relocation of convicts was the common practice of the 18th century despite colonial government protests. With the loss of most of their North American colonies, the British desperately needed to find a new “home” for thousands of convicts.

By 1785, Lord Sydney’s postscript to Matra’s proposal had taken on a life of its own. Australia’s settlers should be both loyalists and convicts. Within two years, the plan changed yet again. In the final version, only Britain’s’ convicts would settle in Australia. Instead of providing a fresh start for its downtrodden loyalists, and peopling New South Wales with thousands of grateful settlers, the government decided to use Australia as a convenient dumping ground for its unwanted prisoners.

On January 18, 1788, 717 convicts sailed into Botany Bay with 290 support staff, women, and children. The founders of New South Wales had arrived to write the first chapter in Australia’s history of European settlement.

Those who once had the greatest enthusiasm for the loyalist settlement of Australia made the best of the opportunities they had. The loyalists in Nova Scotia who might have followed DeLancey “down under” had, by this time, resigned themselves to life as settlers in British North America. By 1790, James DeLancey was a member of Nova Scotia’s House of Assembly. The American refugees who, like James Matra, had decided to make Great Britain their home, also adjusted to their new reality. The British government appointed Matra as their consul for Tangier, Morocco — a position he filled until his death in 1806.

James Mario Matra’s plan for the loyalist colonization of Australia is now one of the great “what-ifs” of history. Had his proposal been adopted, Australians –like the people of Sierra Leone and Canada– would be able to look back to the American Revolution as the catalyst for the founding of their country.

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

Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie

The troubles in America that led to the Revolution were now beginning to agitate the Country. Most of Mr. Beardsley’s congregation, including his father-in-law Bartholomew Crannel, were Loyalists, and very many of them were driven into exile in 1783.

John ministered to the Church in Poughkeepsie for eleven years – from 1766 to 1777. His work was not fruitless. He secured for the mission a glebe farm, built a parsonage in 1767, and a church in Fishkill in 1769, obtained a Royal Charter for Christ Church in Poughkeepsie and built the first church edifice there in 1774, just before the outbreak of the Revolution, which of course threw everything into confusion.

The Glebe-house, or parsonage, built in 1767, is still standing, 150 years old, in Main Street Poughkeepsie. Trinity Church, Fishkill, built in 1769 is still in use and a tablet over the entrance door was placed there in memory of its first Rector, Rev. John Beardsley not many years ago.

During the eleven years he occupied the parsonage, the parson lost his first wife and married a second, and children were born there by both wives. To us, who are descendants, it seems a link with the past when we realize that the house is still standing in which John Davis Beardsley , the father of Grandmother Raymond, was born 150 years ago. His twin sister seems to have died young but her name, Sylvia, (which was also that of her mother Sylvia Punderson) was handed down to my Grandmother, whose maiden name was Polly Sylvia Beardsley.

Miss Reynolds pays a fitting tribute to the energy, zeal, and administrative ability of Rev. John Beardsley. To her narrative we again must turn for some points of interest in connection with the observance of the 150th anniversary of the Parish of Poughkeepsie in November, 1916. “the first Christ Church in Poughkeepsie was built in Mr. Beardsley’s rectorate, in 1774. It was of brick and a cut of it appears in the “Chronicle”. There is also a cut of its successor, erected in 1834, and there are several views of the present beautiful stone “Christ Church” built in 1887 (Pictures here). There is also a small cut of the rectory, a beautiful building of stone, built in 1903, the gift of A.E. tower. The 150th anniversary of the parish was a notable occasion.

There were addresses by the Rt. Rev. David H. Greer, Bishop of New York, also by Rev. Chas. H. Snedeker, Rector of St. George’s Church, Hempstead, the mother parish on Long Island, the Mayor of Poughkeepsie, Rev. John McNab of the First Presbyterian Church, the pastors of the Congregational and Reformed Dutch churches, etc. The students of Vassar College had a special part in the commemoration, based upon the fact that coincidently with the purchase of the Glebe Farm, Bartholomew Crannel, Richard Davis and other leaders of the Poughkeepsie congregation were associated with others in the establishment of a school, it being specifically required that a master be obtained “to teach the English language”, the intention being of course to further the development of Anglo-Saxon civilization as opposed to the dominant Dutch influence.”

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 Colonel John Butler Branch Completes their Cemetery Plaque Project; Releases a CD

The CD contains the names and locations of many of the Loyalists buried in the Niagara Peninsula. It contains pictures of each cemetery where a CJB Plaque was installed along with a brief history of the Loyalist buried there. It contains pictures of cemeteries where other people have installed a plaque in recognition of a known Loyalist buried there. The Branch felt it was important to include these previously marked cemeteries and a brief history of the Loyalist in the CD. Where possible a picture or pictures of each Loyalist tombstone is included. Unfortunately some of the Loyalist’s tombstones have disappeared over time.

This CD contains the names of the Loyalists proven to be buried in a particular cemeteries. If there was no proof available as to where the Loyalist was buried, that Loyalist’s name was added to our Abandoned and Forgotten List. In the future the Branch plans on producing a second CD which will include all these Loyalists as well as information on abandoned cemeteries with a Loyalist connection.

The cost of the CD is $15.00, (that includes the tax). Shipping and handling is additional. It can be ordered from gdandy@iaw.on.ca, or by mail: Colonel John Butler Branch UELAC, C/o Gord Dandy, 768 Buchner Road, Welland, Ontario L3B 5N4

…Project Chair, Gord Dandy

Who’s Side Are You On? – Commemorating Battle of Lundy’s Lane

On July 25th there was a memorial service for the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and several organizations placed wreaths at the monument. There is always a good turn out for this service. In the year 2014 it will be the bi-centennial of the Battle and Niagara Falls are going all out to make it a memorable occasion.

One of the interesting notes about this year’s service: a Dale Ellsworth placed a wreath for the town of Porter, New York Historical Society and David Ellsworth placed the flowers for the Col. John Butler’s Branch here in Ontario. Perhaps back then the Ellsworths were straddling the fence.

Click here (PDF) for pictures of the event – a beautiful day – by Rod and Bev Craig.

…Betty Ellsworth


Responses re “Battle of New Orleans” Revised Version

While I am not familiar with a version of the Johnny Horton single The Battle of New Orleans from 1959 which featured altered lyrics, (as noted in the previous Loyalist Trails), there was one other response to this insulting song. Canadians indifferent to their History, bought the Horton record in the thousands.

At Radio 1050 CHUM in Toronto, DJ Mike Darrow and others concocted a new version titled, The Battle Of Queenston Heights. It reached #17 on the local charts while the Horton single was still current. I believe it featured the same tune with more palatable lyrics.

…Peter W. Johnson UE, Past President, UELAC

I took the quote and fed it into Google. Google provided a link to a U-tube video with the so called “British Version” of the tune both of which, no doubt, take poetic license with the historic record. The URL is www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWVypBROMgQ.

…Donald W. E. Partridge

I remember a “Battle of Queenston Heights” as a rebuttal to Horton’s Number One, but I have not heard it since. I have written “The Battle of Mackinac” as a ballad or rhythm verse.

by BW Bedell
In 1812 we took a little trip,
With Captain Roberts, down the Saint Mary’s strip.
We travelled down to Mackinac, as you see,
To watch the Yanks surrender,
One, two, three!
One, two, three!
One — Two – Three!

This has not been recorded. I wrote it as part of my “Tales of the River Ste. Mary’s”. It has been published in “Celebrating 1000 years of Ontario’s History”; 2000; Ontario Historical Society and I present it in my One-Man Shows. See the full lyrics here

…Bruce Bedell