“Loyalist Trails” 2010-39: September 27, 2010

In this issue:
Another Circle of Friends: 1788 — © Stephen Davidson
Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie
Conference 2011: At Brockville: First Municipality in Ontario – By Roy Lewis
Correction to Hamilton and Jarvis Article
Upper Canada Land Petitions
More on Old Maps
Last Post: Agnes Kathleen Campbell (nee Mayhew)
Last Post: Edward Gordon Hyatt, UE


Another Circle of Friends: 1788 — © Stephen Davidson

When the commissioners for the loyalist compensation board came to Montreal in 1788, American refugees gathered up all of the receipts and deeds to the hearings that they could muster. It was their one and only opportunity to receive financial redress for all that their loyalty had cost them during the American Revolution. While the transcripts of the board’s hearings are often little more than lists of lost property and possessions, the experiences that loyalists endured do manage to slip through — although usually in far fewer words than the modern reader would wish to have.

But beyond stories of loss and bravery, the transcripts of the compensation board reveal something more about the loyal American settlers of Lower Canada. In addition to deeds and wills, the loyalists also brought their friends and neighbours to the hearings as their witnesses. By taking a moment to look at those who appeared on behalf of other loyalists, we can see the social network that bound these early settlers of the Canadas together. However much or little the loyalists received from the British government, it was these links of comradeship that would prove to be their greatest support as they endured the difficult years of making a fresh start in a new land.

On January 26, 1788, John MacDougal stood before the compensation board to seek aid for his wife and her sister. MacDougal’s father-in-law, Alexander Grant, was a loyalist who had immigrated to New York with his wife and two daughters in 1774. The family had only just settled in Johnson’s Bush when the Revolution broke out. Grant joined Sir Johnson’s regiment and died in Montreal’s King’s Hospital in 1777. Three years later, Grant’s wife also died, leaving Catharine and Isabella orphans. MacDougal married Catharine in 1784; the young couple took Isabella into their home in New Johnstown.

Catharine MacDougal, the daughter of Alexander Grant, had a witness to support her husband’s testimony on her behalf. Duncan Grant verified that her father had immediately joined the loyalist side and “died in Service.” Duncan Grant also presented his own petition to the compensation board on January 26th. He, too, had been a native of Scotland who had settled in Johnson’s Bush. He lost everything to the rebels — “all left behind”. After serving in Sir Johnson’s 2nd Battalion throughout the Revolution, he settled in Coteau de Lac.

Duncan Grant’s witness was Duncan MacDonnell. Two days after agreeing with all that his friend Grant had submitted as evidence, MacDonnell spoke to the commissioners on his own behalf. He was a Scottish emigrant who settled in Johnson’s Bush and later joined the British army following a stint in Sir Johnson’s regiment. After arriving in Sorel in 1783, MacDonnell eventually settled in River Raisin.

It is quite amazing to see what a homogeneous group of loyalists settled in Lower Canada. Whole communities of loyal Scottish settlers had been forced to flee their homes in New York. Rather than simply staying within the safety of the British lines, the men left their wives and children to go off to fight together for their king, often for the duration of the war.

MacDonnell’s witness was John MacDonnell — another Scot from Johnson’s Bush. John presented his own petition on two days after his friend Duncan had stood before the board. Sharing the same background as the other petitioners, John produced his discharge papers that showed that he had served in the army for seven years. His “age and infirmities” (neither of which are listed) forced him to leave active duty. John’s witness was the man for whom he had testified, Duncan MacDonnell.

Our circle of friends began with John MacDougal who was seeking redress for his wife and sister-in-law. MacDougal had also been a loyalist soldier, joining General Burgoyne’s forces in 1777 and then later serving in the 84th Regiment. January 26, 1788 was his second appearance before the compensation board as he had petitioned for himself in the previous fall.

Described by the commissioners as “a good man”, MacDougal had once been a tenant on a 100-acre farm in New York’s Charlotte County. Rebels seized his furniture, 3 horses, 18 hogs, and 6 cows. His mother even had to give MacDougal’s clothes to the rebel thieves, for they held a “bayonet to her breast.”

After rendering service to his sovereign, MacDougal went to Quebec City, and then Yamachiche. The latter community was where he was reunited with Peter Gilchrist, an old friend and the man who would serve as witness at his compensation hearing.

Two months after Peter Gilchrist testified for MacDougal, he sought financial assistance for himself. Although he had sent claims for compensation to England in 1783 and then to Halifax in 1786, he had received no response. Gilchrist, unlike so many of the petitioners who attended the Montreal hearings, was born in the Thirteen Colonies and had settled in Charlotte County. He had never participated in any rebel activity, and joined General Burgoyne when he was at Skeensborough. Gilchrist served the British general as a conductor of wagons — vehicles that were absolutely vital for transporting food supplies and munitions to the battlefront. After 1783, Gilchrist became the foreman in the engineers department for the refugee community of Yamachiche. He eventually settled in Ernestown above Cataraqui.

These glimpses of the support systems and community spirit that the early loyalist settlers enjoyed as seen in the transcripts of the compensation board transcripts are far, far too brief. Nevertheless, even in their meager details, one can discern the building stones for the foundation of a new society — a foundation that was built from shared tragedies, common military service, and a deep comradeship that supported the loyalists through the daunting first days of settlement.

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

Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie

Miss Reynolds continues an interesting point in her paper, viz., that Mr. Beardsley’s friend, John Davis, after whom his son John Davis Beardsley was named, was elected one of three Lay Delegates to represent the State of New York in the first General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church held in Philadelphia in 1785.

When the Revolution broke out in America in 1776, John Beardsley, in common with nearly all the clergy of the Church of England, opposed the movement in favor of separation from Great Britain. In consequence the local “Committee of Safety” arrested him as a Tory and an enemy of his country, and confiscated his property. Their hostility was not confined to his own person but extended to his family, who were obliged to leave Poughkeepsie on the 16th day of December, 1777, and seek refuge under the protection of the British forces at New York.

Colonel Beverly Robinson was a prominent and influential man on the Hudson in early days, a parishioner and communicant member of Mr. Beardsley’s church. Being an active Loyalist, he proceeded to organize for the King’s service in 1777, the “Loyal American Regiment”. Many of the officers and men were residents of Dutchess County and nearly all were natives of the Province of New York. The Rev. John Beardsley was well known to most of them, and when he was offered the position of chaplain of the regiment he at once accepted and served until the end of the war. The regiment saw a good deal of service in New York and Pennsylvania, and later in Georgia and the Carolinas. In the bi-monthly musters, of which the original muster rolls were recently placed by my efforts in the Dominion Archives at Ottawa, the chaplain’s name appears, with many varieties of spelling. I note the following: Beardsley, Bardsley, Barsley, Baisly, Bardly, Basley, Beasly. Similar varieties pronunciation were common in Woodstock in my young days.

The Reverend John was a man of action. Realizing that it was necessary, if he was still to live under the British Flag, to know speedily what were the prospects for himself and his compatriots in Nova Scotia, he obtained leave to proceed there in advance. Many of his Connecticut friends had already gone there in the fleet which arrived in St. John early in May, 1783. On the ship Union alone there were eight heads of families from Dutchess County, ten from Norwalk, nine from Stamford, five from Reading, two from the Beardsley native-town of Stratford – also his kinsman, Abel Beardsley, from Fairfield, and eight other signers from neighbouring places in Connecticut. Doubtless in other vessels of the Spring Fleet were many people he knew full well. He would go to them; probably he could do something for them. They had not a solitary minister among them; he could at least advise with them and make some provision for his own family.

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

Conference 2011: At Brockville: First Municipality in Ontario – By Roy Lewis

On Jan. 28, 1832, Sir John Colborne, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (later Ontario), signed into law the Brockville police bill which incorporated the small community on the St. Lawrence River at the eastern or downriver end of the 1000 Islands as a police village, an early form of municipal government.

Brockville had the distinction of becoming an incorporated or officially organized community before larger centres in Upper Canada including Kingston, York (now Toronto) and Hamilton. Those communities would be incorporated a few years later.

In the spring of 1830, Brockville had a population of 954. Immigration to Canada was popular that year and the community continued to see a rapid increase in its population.

Local residents were proud of the community and had organized some local improvements, in particular the installation of flagstone sidewalks on the main street. However, many residents, including those with valuable homes, were concerned about the lack of adequate fire protection.

At a public meeting on Aug. 12, 1830, a plan was proposed for Brockville citizens to apply to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada for incorporation and receive the designation as a police village. A new concept in Upper Canada at the time, a police village was applied to areas of settlement where finances or population was still not large enough to give a community village status.

Once it received its designation as a police village, Brockville could define the community’s political boundaries and elect a governing body of trustees known as the Board of Police – in reality an early version of a council. The trustees would have the political power to erect streetlights, build sidewalks, establish local laws and safety regulations and authorize the development of fire protection for the community.

But the framing or content of the petition stirred up a controversy that never really was resolved.

The new petition was sent to York on Jan. 30, 1831. Among other things, this petition called for no police (trustees) to be established unless its members are elected annually by its inhabitants, the officers (trustees) should be chosen by ballot, the town should not be divided into wards but vote as a whole, there should be a limit placed on taxes and statute labour on the roads should remain as laid down by law.

Debate focused on the first clause of the bill which attempted to fix the market place site on a piece of land to be donated by Charles Jones in the east end of town. Politician William Buell argued in the assembly the site was too far from the Perth Road which ran north into the back country and was located in the least populated part of town. Rival politician Henry Jones contended his cousin was willing to donate the land for free and it was a suitable site on the main street and ran 121 metres (400 feet) to the river.

The Brockville Police Bill, as the incorporation document was known, came before the assembly on February 14, 1831, for third reading and passage. Buell continued to fight against the way the bill was drafted and opposed the selection of a market site by the legislature. He also tried to gain approval for the inclusion of voting by secret ballot but legislators were not prepared to adopt this radical idea at a time when voters were forced to openly declare their intentions on voting day.

The assembly passed the Brockville bill as it stood. The legislation was then sent to the Executive Council, a body similar to the current government cabinet but not elected. The council was a higher group of hand-picked advisors to the lieutenant-governor and seldom felt bound to pass or approve laws from the assembly.

For several months, the bill languished with the Executive Council. Meanwhile, debate was brewing in the community over provisions of the bill. Eventually, a petition was sent directly to Lieutenant-Governor Colborne. Opposition to the bill as it was drafted involved the location of the market, a need to place a limit on taxes, elimination of the two ward arrangement in the community and the election of town officers by ballot.

In the fall of 1831, the bill was again placed before the Assembly. A number of amendments were proposed but only two changes were made. The tax assessment was reduced and the clause dealing with the market was deleted. The House of Assembly passed the bill on Dec. 16, 1831 by a 26 to 10 margin. The Executive Council again considered the bill and, on Jan. 20, 1832, gave it final reading. Eight days later, on Jan. 28, the lieutenant-governor signed the bill which then became law.

In 1965, the Ontario Municipal Act was amended to prevent the creation of new police villages and since that time most police villages in the province have been amalgamated into larger municipalities.

The first of a series of articles describing interesting historical facts about Brockville and the surrounding region of the St. Lawrence River and the 1000 Islands where Conference 2011, “Catch The Spirit” of our Loyalist Ancestors, will be held. Hosted by the Col. Edward Jessup Branch, the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada’s annual Conference will be held from June 2 to 5.

Correction to Hamilton and Jarvis Article

In last weeks Loyalist Trails, the item “A Hamilton and Toronto Connection: Hamilton and Jarvis” reported that George and Alexander Hamilton were half-brothers, while in fact they were full-brothers. A correction has been noted in the posting.

…David Ricketts and Robert Jarvis

Upper Canada Land Petitions

On September 23, 2010, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced the launch of a new online database, “Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865).”

Through this online database, researchers can access more than 77,000 references to petitions for grants or leases of land created by individuals who lived in present-day Ontario between 1763 and 1865.

Before the arrival of the Loyalists and British military settlers, the present-day Province of Ontario was an extension of the Province of Quebec. Following the Constitutional Act of 1791, the colony of Quebec was divided to create Upper Canada (today Ontario) and Lower Canada (today Quebec). Many early settlers, both military and civilian, submitted petitions to the Governor to obtain Crown land. Sons and daughters of Loyalists were also entitled to free lands.

Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865) for grants or leases of land and other administrative records often contain an applicant’s story detailing services, losses and sufferings during the American Revolutionary War or the War of 1812. They may also contain discharge certificates, letters of introduction from prominent individuals in Britain, reports by the Surveyor General or the Attorney General on technical and legal matters, and some lists of settlers by region.

The database is available here.

Obtaining copies: The actual records have not been digitized. They are only available on microfilm. Use the following link for options such as borrowing microfilm or ordering copies: How to Access Library and Archives Canada Records

…Nancy Conn, Karen Windover, Lynne Cook and more

More on Old Maps

I recently missed a webinar that may be of interest to map lovers. I received an email as a follow-up: “Mapping software for genealogists – AniMap, Centennia, and Map My Family Tree. Sorry you were not able to attend our Webinar live [on Sept 15]. However, we invite you to view its recording at www.legacyfamilytree.com/webinars.asp.”

The video and talk give a good description of the 3 programs. “Centenia” is a European map collection.

What is still needed is a town list with beginning dates and name changes for all the counties in US and Canada. There is such a book for New Jersey, Story Of Nj Civil Boundaries [or something close]. Each county has a map of its townships with numbers relating to the text of the alphabetical list of towns showing the boundary changes.

My nephew sent me these “strange and unusual” sites: globes; maps.

Ellen Thorne Morris

Last Post: Agnes Kathleen Campbell (nee Mayhew)

Agnes Kathleen Campbell (nee Mayhew) on Thursday, September 16, 2010 at her home in Dundas, Ontario. At the age of 96 Agnes continued to live an active life in her own home. Predeceased by her husband Charles “Harry”, daughter Kathleen “Kathie” Roode, .sister Eileen and her husband Harry Coates, her four brothers; Norm (the late Jean), Gord (the late Marg), Jack (the late Ruth), and Tom Mayhew. She will be missed by her daughter Maureen and her husband Gilbert Harmer, her son-in-law Russel Roode and many grandchildren.

She was well loved and is warmly remembered by many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Born in Hamilton and lived in Dundas, Ontario for almost 60 years. Agnes developed many friendships through her service to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Dundas Horticultural Society and MacNeill Baptist Church in Hamilton. She was a skilled gardener and enjoyed flower arranging and tracing her genealogy. She was an avid traveller well into her 90th year and enjoyed visiting Japan, Australia, Fiji, England, Scotland, Mexico and beyond. She fostered this passion in the lives of many young people as a founding sponsor of Kids for Kaga, an exchange program which linked the youth of Dundas with the youth of Kaga, Japan. Agnes was one of the first secretaries to work at the new Westdale Secondary School in the 1930s.

Celebration of Agnes’ Life was held at the Cattel, Eaton & Chambers Funeral Home, Dundas. Interment at Woodland Cemetery.

Agnes Campbell was a member of the Hamilton Branch and very proud of her certificate for our Loyalist ancestor Joseph Wardell.

…Cheryl Scott UE, Colonel John Butler Branch (niece of Agnes Campbell)

Last Post: Edward Gordon Hyatt, UE

Was born on May 24,1919 in Compton, Quebec and died on July 17, 2010.

He was the son of Charles Gordon Hyatt and Edith Johnson and grew up on the family farm in Hyatt Mills with his five sisters and one younger brother. He lived all his life in the Eastern Townships, with Stanstead being his home since 1949.

He was a Veteran of the Second World War, having joined the 27th Field Regiment, R.C.A. in 1942. He sailed from Halifax on March 4, 1944 and was posted with the 12th Field Regiment, 3rd division and landed in Normandy on June 6th, 1944. He safely returned home to his family in December 1945.

He was a strong believer that we pass this way but once, so we should try and live each day to the fullest. He became involved in many organizations including the Rotary, I.O.O.F, Boy Scouts, and a member of Little Forks Branch of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, where he held the position of Ist Vice President and Branch signing officer.

He gave generously of his time to his family, community, and his country and will be missed by many.

…Thelma Hyatt Middleton