“Loyalist Trails” 2010-38: September 19, 2010

In this issue:
The Man with the Plan — © Stephen Davidson
Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie
The Loyalist Collection of the Harriet Irving Library
The Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock Donate Index Book Records
Another Loyalist Flag Flies in PEC
A Hamilton and Toronto Connection: Hamilton and Jarvis
Connecting Families of the East with History of the West
Maps of Canada and the United States Before 1800s
Queen Elizabeth in 3D
The Tech Side – And Now For Something Completely Different – Wayne Scott
      + Response re The Battle of New Orleans
      + Seeking Loyalist and Post-Loyalist Christmas Experiences
      + Calvin Brown’s Parents and Family


The Man with the Plan — © Stephen Davidson

As thousands of loyalists sought refuge in England, the British government received a novel plan for how they might best help the flood of displaced colonists. James Mario Matra proposed that Great Britain found a colony of loyalists in southeastern Australia. A loyalist himself, Matra was one of only a handful of white men who had actually been to the southern continent, and his proposal was filled with the many ways Australia’s potential could be realized.

In the end, however, the crown decided to use New South Wales (the portion of Australia claimed by the British) as an island prison for its ever-growing convict population. Matra would end his days as the British consul in Tangier, Morocco. Though little more than a footnote in the larger history of American loyalists, Matra led a far from typical life. This is his story.

Matra was born in 1746 to New York’s Dr. and Mrs. Matra. A member of a notable Corsican family, the senior Matra left his native Italy following the civil unrest of the 1730s. He emigrated to Dublin, Ireland where he changed his name to Magra and trained as a physician. In time, the Magrases emigrated to the Thirteen Colonies. Perhaps the knowledge that he was an Italian nobleman prompted the wealthier citizens of New York to seek out Magra. His practise thrived; within a number of years Magra had become quite rich.

The sons of Dr. Magra did not enjoy their father’s success. Redmond, the eldest, was the black sheep of the family, getting into trouble with the law and the military. Perkins, the youngest, had a lackluster career in the British army. James Mario Magra received a British education, but the first certain date connected with him is his service aboard the Fowey as a fifteen year-old servant to the captain in 1761. He sailed to England, and for the next seven years served on ships that took him along the coast of western Europe and into the Mediterranean.

July 25, 1768 was a turning point in Matra’s life — the date on which he joined the crew of the Endeavour. Its captain, Lieutenant James Cook, was preparing to circumnavigate the globe. Before it had completed its journey, the Endeavour would sail around Cape Horn to Tahiti, map New Zealand, and explore the Botany Bay region of Australia which Cook named New South Wales. Magra, as a member of Cook’s crew, became one of the first white men to set foot in eastern Australia. If there were no other sailors from the Thirteen Colonies in the crew (which seems more than likely), Magra could also claim to be the first American to visit Australia. By 1771, Magra had returned to England.

Within two months’ time, Magra had written an account of his global journey. Because there was an Admiralty ban on revealing the details of Cook’s travels, Magra had A Journal of a Voyage Round the World published anonymously. It contained stories of Cook’s quarrels with his crew, a first contact with Australian Aborigines, and a near-shipwreck off New Zealand’s coast.

The vivid descriptions of Australia’s flora and fauna and of its native people betrayed Magra’s utter fascination with the southern continent. Twelve years later his admiration for Australia would produce a visionary settlement proposal.

After he had returned to England, Magra entered the diplomatic service and was appointed the British consul to the Canary Islands off of Spain until 1775.

The historian Wendy Moore has discovered that Magra had made the acquaintance of Britain’s richest heiress, Mary Bowes, in 1776. Magra and his brother Perkins conned Bowes into marrying a poor Irishman named Andrew Stoney. After eight years of a loveless marriage, Bowes was able to divorce Stoney, retaining her fortune. She would later describe the Magra brothers as “people of … infamous principles.”

Having helped a friend to find fortune, James Magra sought the same for himself. In 1775, he received permission to have his name changed back to the original Italian “Matra” in the hope that he could claim his father’s estate. But whether he was a Magra or a Matra, the 29 year-old diplomat was unable to repossess his family’s Corsican property.

The American Revolution gave Matra a new designation –“loyalist”– and a new set of losses. Hoping to have better luck at claiming his father’s American estate, Matra returned to New York in the midst of the Revolution, but was no more successful than he had been in Italy. After returning to Britain, he was appointed the secretary to the British embassy in Constantinople from 1778 to 1780.

During Matra’s assignment overseas, loyalists began to trickle into Britain. With the conclusion of the war in 1783, the trickle became a flood. As many as 50,000 American colonists sought refuge in England. Whether he saw it as an opportunity to advance himself or as a chance to help his fellow loyal Americans, the wave of loyalists gave Matra an idea. He approached the British government with a proposal to have Australia settled by the loyal refugees. Having a unique knowledge of New South Wales as well as the plight of the loyalists, Matra should have been very persuasive, but his plan did not win sufficient backers.

His proposal was eventually reduced to a settlement plan for Britain’s excess convicts. Some historians have suggested that Matra had hoped to be the governor of New South Wales — even if it was populated by prisoners. This dream came to naught. He was appointed to the consulship in Morocco and then at Gibraltar. Matra died at 60 years of age on March 29, 1806.

A man who dreamed of great things and of greatness for himself, James Mario Matra has been almost forgotten by everyone but some Australian historians. Today, a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales bears the name Matraville. It is a very small recognition of a New York loyalist who might well indeed have been the first governor of Australia.

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

Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie

In the course of past years some twenty men have gone out from Christ Church into the ministry and, never to be forgotten among them are the late Bishops of New York and Pennsylvania, Alonzo Potter and Horatio [Editor’s note – it was Henry Codman Potter, not Horatio] Potter, who as Quaker lads came to Poughkeepsie about 1812 to attend school, and in the Episcopal Church there formed that love for her reverent orderly services and administration, and for her breadth and comprehensiveness that led them to enter her ministry. The chancel window in Christ Church is a memorial to the two bishops Potter given by their surviving children. [The stained glass windows can be seen here.]

In pastoral and parochial work Christ Church parish registers show a record for her one hundred and fifty years of existence of 4,000 baptisms, 1,200 marriages, 1,600 confirmed, and 4,000 burials. To crown the 150th anniversary, the Church paid off the mortgage which rested on its property.

To have sowed the seed from which such a harvest has grown entitles the memory of John Beardsley to honor, and I have esteemed it a great privilege to have been called upon, as a lineal descendant – his great-great-grandson — to write a letter of congratulation to the parish which letter was read at the celebration in November, 1916, and subsequently printed in the “Diocesan Chronicle”.

Helen Wilkinson Reynolds writes in her admirable sketch: “Mr. Beardsley’s stay in Dutchess was terminated in an abrupt way by the War of the Revolution, which drove him and his friend Bartholomew Crannel to New Brunswick, where they helped found the City of St. John and plant the Episcopal Church and died, leaving honoured names and many descendants.”

During the war period, Trinity Church in Fishkill was used in 1776 for the sessions of the New York Provincial Congress, or Convention, which removed here from White Plains, and after that it was used as a hospital for the soldiers of the Continental Army, encamped below the village.

In the winter of 1778-79, a regiment of Continental troops was ordered to Poughkeepsie by General McDougall because he said that there were public buildings there sufficient to serve them for barracks. As Christ Church (the first one) was a fair-sized brick building, and not pewed until after the war, and was closed for services in 1778-79, it is quite possible that some of the troops were quartered in it. The Glebe House was rented by Colonel Hay and Colonel Bostwick, staff-officers of the Continental Line, and the house of Bartholomew Crannel was occupied for some time by Governor Clinton, as “Government House”.

During the war, and for some time after it, Poughkeepsie was the capital of the State of New York, the legislature met there, the Governor was in residence, Washington and many men well known in military and civil affairs were frequent guests, and the little town buzzed with excitement. It was at Poughkeepsie, in 1788, that the convention of the State of New York ratified the Constitution of the United States.

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 Loyalist Collection of the Harriet Irving Library

The Loyalist Collection of the Harriet Irving Library

The Harriet Irving Library of the University of New Brunswick reminds UELAC members of the Loyalist Collection held in the Microforms Department.

“The online searchable database for The Loyalist Collection is available online. The Loyalist Collection contains microfilm of British, North American Colonial, and early Canadian primary sources from approximately 1740-1870, with the chief focus being the American Revolution and the early years of Loyalist settlement in British North America.”

Plans for the fall include uploading a pdf poster “Publishing Histories of New Brunswick Newspapers” to illustrate the complexities of newspaper titles. This will be a great help for those using the early newspapers to trace family histories.


The Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock Donate Index Book Records

The Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock, take great pleasure in announcing their latest donation of microfilm to the collection at Brock University.

It is “Abstract index books for Lincoln and Welland Counties”, 51 reels of film, purchased from Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, with the permission of Ontario Archives.

This is a very valuable tool from a genealogical, and historical point of view, since it lists every transaction for a related piece of land in the Counties of Lincoln and Welland by Township and lot.

Click here for a complete index of the Loyalist Collection at Brock.

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

Another Loyalist Flag Flies in PEC

Thanks to the Bay of Quinte Branch, another Loyalist Flag will be flying prominently in Prince Edward County. However, visitors to the Huff Estates Winery, 2274 County Rd. 1, Bloomfield, will have to wait until spring to note the addition. When he received the flag, Lanny Huff indicated his pride in his United Empire Loyalist ancestors but felt that in view of the destruction to the Canadian flag by the recent strong winds, it would be best to raise the new flag at the beginning of the season. He also agreed to place the Bay of Quinte Branch brochures in the “What to Do” rack at the entrance to The Inn at Huff Estates. Previously, The Huff Estates Winery had indicated its support in the spring 2010 issue of The Loyalist Gazette.

A Hamilton and Toronto Connection: Hamilton and Jarvis

George Hamilton [1788-1836] was a Canadian merchant and politician, who founded the city of Hamilton.

Hamilton was born on October 1788 in Queenston Heights. He was the son of wealthy and influential Robert Hamilton, who later held important government offices, being a member of the Legislative Council and lieutenant of the County of Lincoln. George was educated in Edinburgh Scotland and appeared to have a keen mind for business and letters.

Hamilton served during the War of 1812 where he held the rank of captain with the Niagara Light Dragoons, participating in the capture of Detroit and the battle of Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane. During 1814, British troops billeted at his Queenston establishment burned the property. This loss may have prompted him to purchase 257 acres of Barton Township in January 1815. Well placed and shrewd he likely knew of prewar discussions about creating a new administrative district with a judicial centre. Within a year of his land purchases he reached agreement with the owner of the adjacent property to the north. There is little doubt that the origin of the Hamilton town site was to become the capital of the new Gore District providing land for a court house and jail. The village of Hamilton was incorporated in 1833.

George Hamilton married Maria Lavinia Jarvis, August 11 1811. She was born in England to William Jarvis and Hannah Owen Peters.

William was born in Stamford Conn in 1756. He joined John Graves Simcoe’s Queens Rangers in 1777. At the cessation of the American Revolutionary War he travelled to England where he secured Simcoe as a patron. Simcoe recommended him in 1791 to the Home secretary Henry Dundas for the position of provincial secretary and clerk of the Executive Council of the newly established province of Upper Canada.

William had 6 children, 2 sons and 4 daughters. Maria Lavinia’s sister, Hannah Owen, married Alexander Hamilton, half brother of George in January 25, 1816. [Correction: George and Alexander Hamilton were full brothers, not half-brothers. — ed.]

Alexander, businessman, militia officer, office holder and judge. He was a pillar of the community and was involved in many of Queenston’s interests. Between 1834 and 1836 he built the mansion named Willowbank, named after the magnificent willow trees that grace the grounds. It is designated as a national Historic Site and can be seen at 14487 Niagara Parkway.

Of William Jarvis’s other children, Samuel Peters occupied the position of superintendent of Indian Affairs. William Munson was Sheriff of Gore District. Ann Elizabeth married William Robinson, brother of Sir John Beverly Robinson, chief Justice of Upper Canada.

Web sites for the Hamilton’s, George Hamilton Politician, Alexander Hamilton first sheriff of Niagara and The Honorable Robert Hamilton.

Bob Jarvis

Connecting Families of the East with History of the West

In working away on family history I have recently come across a link between the east and west of Canada that it has been suggested might be shared with the Loyalist Trails readers.

On my mother’s side of the family, the names of Bridgman, Wrong and White, as well as a large number of other surnames all seem to connect. I had determined some years ago that I would record the information that I found and not limit myself to “direct” connections only, slowing down the family history, but creating an interesting read.

Gilbert Wrong Sr. married Ann Bridgman, sister of my gg grandmother, Sarah Bridgman, who married Eli White. Gilbert and Ann Wrong had a daughter, Phoebe Jane Wrong who married Leonidas Burwell, son of Col. Mahlon Burwell. Gilbert and Ann Wrong had a son named Gilbert and he married Ann White, who was the daughter of Eli White and Sarah Bridgman. Eli and Sarah (Bridgman) White were my ggg grandparents.

From Colonel Mahlon Burwell Land Surveyor p15:

“The Burwells are an old family, whose homes in England were in Bedford and Northampton. More than two and a half centuries ago, some of them came to America settling in Virginia. They were loyal to Charles 1, throughout the Civil War and some were loyal to George III in the American War of Independence. In Sabine’s Loyalists a sketch of one James Burwell of New Jersey shows that he served the King seven years, having enlisted in 1776, that he came to Upper Canada in 1796 where he received 200 acres for himself and each of his children, that he removed to the Talbot Settlement in 1810 and died there in 1853 aged 99 years five months.”

Adam Burwell was thought by that writer to be related to James, but he had not been able to prove it.

“Adam Burwell was a native of New Jersey and came to Canada with his wife and family after the war. The records show that he settled in the township of Bertie and that in 1797 he received a grant of 850 acres of land for military service; but the petition in which his claims were set out appears to be lost. There is a tradition in the family that he had large possessions in New Jersey and that they were confiscated by the Government of the United States.”

“Adam Burwell spent the later years of his life with his son, Col. Burwell. He died in 1828 at the age of 79 and was buried beside the walls of the English Church in St. Thomas, Ontario.

At Port Talbot on the evening of Monday 1st inst. Adam Burwell, aged 80 years 9 months and 8 days. He was one of those Colonists who adhered to the Unity of the Empire during the troubles in America and was amongst the earliest settlers in the District of Niagara. p 211 The Ontario Register Vol. 6 No. 4 1982.

One of Col. Burwell’s sons was Hannibal Burwell born 1825. He was married to Laura Williams, daughter of Thomas Williams and Mary Nash. I had wondered with the Williams connection through Jonathan Williams and the fact that one of Jonathan’s sons came to Elgin County, whether Thomas was a member of this family. Any records I have found to date show that Thomas was born in England and not connected to the Williams family of Long Island, New Brunswick and later, Norfolk County, Ontario.

Hannibal and Laura Burwell had several children, one of whom was named Herbert Mahlon Burwell. Like his grandfather, Herbert was a surveyor. He was living in New Westminster, BC in 1891, age 27. In 1901 he was employed as a surveyor and was 37, listing his date of birth as Oct 23, 1867. His wife, Maud is also living in the home. It does not appear that this couple had children.

The connection of east and west is noted below:

Mount Burwell was adopted 2 November 1927 on 92G/6 as labelled on 1926 topographic survey by A.J. Campbell in association with Burwell Creek and Lake; not White Mountain as named in 1908 by BC Mountaineering Club first ascent party, and labelled on BC map 2D, 1923.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC’s Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

Named by Greater Vancouver Water Board, after Herbert Mahlon Burwell (1863 – 1925). Born and educated in London, Ontario, where he received a commission as a Dominion Land Surveyor and an Ontario Land Surveyor (dates not cited). Arrived in Vancouver in the fall of 1887, and in the spring of 1888 joined the firm of Gardener & Hermon, which had been established in late 1886. In the spring of 1906 Mr. Burwell’s firm were employed by the City of Vancouver to take charge of their water supply. Mr. Burwell had personal charge of the new joint main on Capilano Creek, from the intake to the first narrows (sic), and built the intake and settling basins. In 1913 Mr. Burwell retired from the firm of Hermon & Burwell, but continued to practise as a consulting engineer until his death 30 July 1925, age 62. A great lover of the outdoors, Mr. Burwell wrote many articles about fishing on the streams and lakes of BC; he was an authority on that branch of sport. More complete biography on file B.1.28.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC’s Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

A Google Image Search will provide you with a few pictures of the mountain and lake.

…Suzanne Morse-Hines

Maps of Canada and the United States Before 1800s

This week, Donna Little of the Vancouver Branch sent in an link to a resource that may interest many of our viewers. Actually it is a link to a California company interesting in selling the CD’s of historic maps.

“Now you can view historic maps on your computer screen, enlarged from the paper copies to allow for easy reading. Most have been enhanced by computer and manual editing to produce as much readable detail as possible (quality varies depending on the condition of the original). Researchers seeking old locations of towns, rivers, forts, etc. will find their work much easier.

Maps you can use! These maps may be used on web sites and publications. The only restriction is that prior permission is required if you use more than ten in any one project. All files are in .gif format for quick downloading. For Windows users, a duplicate set of files is supplied in .bmp format to allow use in software that will not allow importing of .gif files. Files are all designed to print clearly on standard 8.5 x 11-inch paper.”

Click here for more information.


Queen Elizabeth in 3D

The CBC documentary “Queen Elizabeth in 3D” will be shown this Monday, 20th September at 7:00 p.m. on the CBC main network. It will be repeated on Wednesday, 22nd September at 10:00 p.m. and on Saturday, 25th September at 10:00 p.m. on CBC News Network.

The documentary will feature 3D film footage shot at the 1953 coronation and 3D footage taken during this summer’s tour of Canada by Her Majesty. Special 3D glasses to watch the show are available for free from Canada Post outlets throughout the country.

The Canadian Royal Heritage Trust was not involved in the production or editorial direction of the documentary but I was engaged by the CBC as an on-screen commentator for the presentation. I also provided historical information for the documentary’s website, and the CBC provided a link from its website to the website of the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust.

…Garry Toffoli, Executive Director, Canadian Royal Heritage Trust

The Tech Side – And Now For Something Completely Different – Wayne Scott

I have been looking at E-Book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle, Microsoft’s iPad and the Chapters’ Kobo. I have read a lot about the “feel” of the readers, i.e. how much they resemble a regular paperback or hard cover book in the case of the iPad. This got me wondering, why are they that size? Of course, it is what we are used to.

This is true, but why are paperback about 17.5mm by 10.5mm? Then there are hard cover books that generally measure 14.5mm by 20.5mm? Is it me, or is there a relationship between the sizes. A paperback is about half the size of a hard cover. Has it always been this way?

I came across a website that tries to shed some light on this subject. Carl Pyrdum writes this blog while completing his PHD at Yale.

Before paper, he says, the material used for printing books was parchment (thin sheep skin). Velum (calf skin) was used also. When preparing the sheep skin for printing, it was shaped into a rectangle. Obviously, a full sheep skin would be too large to use for book purposes. The solution, fold it in half. Now, you have two leaves, or four pages. This was called a tabloid if there is no cover.

By folding the parchment two times, you would have a quarto of 8 pages. This would be about the size of some table top dictionaries or a large atlas. If the quarto was folded again, the result would be called an octavo with 16 pages. This would be similar in size to an average hard cover book, and similar to the viewing space on an iPad.

We aren’t done yet. By folding the octavo in a slightly different way so that there are 12 sheets, the result is called a duodecimo (24 pages). This is similar in size to the trade paperback. If we return to folding the piece of parchment the way we began, when the 4th fold was done the size was called a 16mo. This is the size of the common paperback or e-reader like Koba.

This is beginning to sound like an origami class. The parchment can be folded again. This time, after 5 folds, the result is called a 32mo, or about the size of the common note pad or smart phone size. While we are at it, let’s try folding it again. After 6 folds, the result is called a 64mo. We now have 64 pages from one original sheet of parchment. Small books could easily be concealed or hung by a cord around the owner’s neck. That’s all there is, there ain’t no-mo.

When the Gutenberg Press came along, there needed to be some standardization so that the sheets of sheep (parchment) would fit into the press. Little did they know that they were setting the standards for an electronic book, and electricity hadn’t been invented yet. One might marvel at how much ahead of their time this thinking was.

Of course, nowadays we don’t use sheepskin (even the “sheepskin” we received upon graduation is a knock-off), even though it was ‘shear delight’ to finally graduate, if you would forgive my ‘ba-a-a-d’ pun.

You can email Wayne Scott to get in touch with questions or comments.


Response re The Battle of New Orleans

Further to the comments on Johnny Horton’s pop song – shortly after it came out a group of three from London, Ontario – The Lowlanders – put out a great recording of “The Battle of Stoney Creek”. Woody Lamb was the author and I still have a copy.

The last line always stuck with me for some reason “I don’t think their forces ever looked so weak, as they day they got chased out of Stoney Creek”.

Jim Griffin

Seeking Loyalist and Post-Loyalist Christmas Experiences

St. James’ Cathedral in Toronto is hosting an international convention on the history of the crèche, or nativity scene, and traditions associated with Christmas in Canada in November of 2011, and is looking to members of the United Empire Loyalist Association for possible input into that history. We know that the crèche played a major role among those of the Roman Catholic Faith, and was ruled out amongst the Protestants by the Protestant Reformation. But, apart from the Puritans, Christmas was a day of celebration among many.

Might any of you have stories to share about how your ancestors celebrated Christmas? We would be very pleased to hear from you.

Please contact Nancy Mallett, Chair of the Friends of the Crèche International Convention through her e-mail address at the Cathedral.

Calvin Brown’s Parents and Family

Calvin Brown was b. June 13th 1817 at Port Dalhousie, Niagara, Ontario and died in 1901 in Watford.

He married unknown date, Magdalena Shupe (1819-1844) who later died in child birth. Before she died, she and Calvin had five children: John b. 1835, Rachel 1837, Aaron 1839, Moses 1841, and Jane and Mary 1844 (but Mary died that same year.).

Calvin remarried, to Ann Livergood in 1844, She was born in 1827 and died in 1901. She and Calvin had many children: Andrew 1846, Magdelina 1848, Dorham 1851, James hiram 1853, Mary Ann 1856, Catherine 1859, Sarah 1861, Jacob D Brown 1863 (my great grandfather), Hannah 1868 and Alice 1874.

Calvin was well positioned in the community in Lambton County. Brown’s creek runs in the southwest corner of the county south of Watford where Calvin lived. There are still browns in Lambton County today.

The Shupe family I have traced through ancestry to Pennsylvania; they are of German extraction.

I am hoping someone can help me identify the parents of Calvin Brown. They could have arrived in Niagara after the Revolutionary War, or possible later after the war of 1812. Thanks in advance for any suggestions, direction or help.

Doug Farraway