“Loyalist Trails” 2010-42: October 17, 2010

In this issue:
A Loyalist and an Active Woman — © Stephen Davidson
Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie
Conference 2011: How the St. Lawrence River got its name, by Roy Lewis
Resource: Lists of Sources for Revolutionary War Materials
Resource: The Prison Ship Martyrs Association
The Tech Side: Waymarking -– by Wayne Scott, UE
      + Vocal Repertoire of the Loyalist Times
      + John and William Howell Family
      + Transcription Help Required


A Loyalist and an Active Woman — © Stephen Davidson

It’s not easy to be recognized as a hero of the American Revolution if one is a loyalist — and especially if one is a woman. Although her first name has been lost to history, Mrs. Derbage is certainly deserving of greater recognition. During the Revolution she delivered food to British troops, served as a courier of secret correspondence, and was imprisoned by patriots. Given the marginal attention women were given in the historical accounts of the 18th century, Mrs. Derbage’s story must be told by making reference to the men she knew — everyone from a noted inventor to loyalist governors.

While Mrs. Derbage was born in the Thirteen Colonies, her husband George was an Englishman who came to New Hampshire as a young man in 1760. George eventually became deputy surveyor of North America, working under a loyalist named Stephen Holland. Sometime before the outbreak of “the troubles”, George met and married the woman who would become one of the many unsung heroines of loyalist history.

The Revolution brought an abrupt end to George Derbage’s career as a surveyor. Sometime after 1775, the loyalist couple moved to Perth Amboy, New Jersey and made friends with Courtlandt and Elizabeth Skinner and their thirteen children. Before the Revolution, Skinner had been the attorney-general of New Jersey. After 1776, he raised three battalions of loyal Americans known as the New Jersey Volunteers and became their brigadier-general.

Even before Skinner commanded a loyalist regiment, he was a man wanted by the patriots. When Skinner was forced to seek refuge on a British naval vessel, it was George Derbage and his wife who served as his secret agents. Elizabeth Skinner and the children were under house arrest, but thanks to Mrs. Derbage being “a very confidential person”, she was able to secretly deliver letters between Mr. and Mrs. Skinner.

However, Mrs. Derbage was more than simply a passive courier. She helped a Brunswick, New Jersey loyalist named John Hartwick deliver hams and fresh meat to a British man-of-war. She knew the whereabouts of a much-hated tax collector, a loyalist named Thomas Stevens.

In May 1776, Colonel Benjamin Tupper of the patriot sloop Hester intercepted and arrested both of the Derbages. Since Mrs. Derbage had a reputation as a courier who delivered letters “from a spirit of true loyalty” rather than for income, she was grilled (the records of the day say “ill-treated”) for further information. Tupper suspected that Mrs. Derbage was carrying intelligence for the British and wanted to know about certain loyalists.

However, Mrs. Derbage would not co-operate with either Tupper or the local committee of rebels who questioned her. She declared that even if General Washington were to question her, she would not respond. Tupper tried another tact. “It is my opinion a little smell of the black hole will set her tongue at liberty. It is the opinion of our friends in this town that she is able to bring out a number of rascals and villains in sundry towns nigh here.” But being in a jail cell did not weaken Mrs. Derbage’s resolve. The patriots never did find out where the hated loyalist tax collector was hiding, and could find nothing with which to charge the stubborn loyalist.

In the end, Mrs. Derbage was released. Patriots forced her and her friend Elisabeth Skinner to move further inland “at a distance from the Enemy”. Eventually the entire Skinner family relocated to British-held New York City. The Derbages moved further down the coast.

The dramatic shifts in George Derbage’s career during the war, both in terms of jobs and geography, saw Mrs. Derbage packing up the couples’ furniture a number of times. In 1778 her husband was made an “assistant to the secretary of the commission” under Lord Carlisle.

A year later, he was appointed the secretary registrar of deeds and deputy clerk to the council and upper house of assembly for the colony of Georgia. In this position, George Derbage worked under Benjamin Thompson, a loyalist from New Hampshire. Thompson would go on to become Count Rumford, a celebrated man of science, an inventor, and a member of Britain’s Royal Society.

In 1780, Sir James Wright, the last loyalist governor of Georgia needed “a man of understanding” and heard that Derbage was noted for his “fidelity”. He appointed him as the colony’s master registrar and examiner of the court of chancery.

The Derbages were known to a few more notable loyalists besides Sir James Wright. This promised to stand them in good stead after they sought refuge in Great Britain in 1783. Stephen Holland, George Derbages’ superior in Londonderry, New Hampshire –like the Skinner family– went to England and then settled in Ireland. Benjamin Thompson, who knew the couple in Georgia, also settled in England as did New Jersey’s loyalist governor, William Franklin.

Yet despite all of these friends, George Derbage had a difficult time receiving compensation from the British government. Sir James Wright gave him only faint praise for his services in Georgia. His compensation might have been quite minimal had not William Franklin testified. But rather than dwelling on George Derbage’s professional abilities, Franklin’s testimony to the compensation board focused on Mrs. Derbage. He described how she had been made a prisoner, her role as volunteer courier, and the fact that she was “an American woman” who did all of this “from a true spirit of loyalty and to serve Great Britain”.

In the end, the Derbages did receive compensation for their years as active loyalists. Were it not for a few brief sentences given in testimony at a 1783 compensation claims hearing, the role that Mrs. Derbage played during the American Revolution would have been forgotten entirely. She was, however, in the end proven to be a “loyalist and an active woman”.

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

Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie

However, the situation at this time was a different one for an unselfish man. Midsummer of the year 1784 found the Rev. John Sayre disabled at Maugerville. A little later his brother, the Rev. James Sayre, who had come to St. John as chaplain of the 3rd New Jersey Volunteers, returned to Connecticut. There then remained no other clergyman for active duty on the River St. John but the Rev. John Beardsley himself. He wrote to the S.P.G. that he had been urged to settle both at Kingston and St. John but that – “He verily believes that under present circumstances he can be more useful as an itinerant minister than if stationed in any one place.”

Though now no longer young, he was still a man of great energy and, as will be seen, was still a “man of parts”. We may quote in this connection from D. Russell Jack’s History of Saint John, p. 68:- “On the 18th of June, 1784, St. John had its first conflagration. For some weeks previous to the fire a party had been cutting and preparing timber on King Square for the erection of a church on the southwest corner of what is now the Old Burying Ground”. The Reverend Mr. Beardsley, who came here as a chaplain of the forces, was frequently to be seen, with his coat off and broad-axe in hand, working away at the frame. The fire, however, destroyed the timber and the project was for the time abandoned.”

It may be observed, in passing, that not a few of the Rev. John Beardsley’s descendants have inherited their ancestor’s aptitude for using tools. He was “an all-round man” and was reputed by one of his friends to be “fully as good a farmer as preacher.” He was equally at home in a boat. In a boat, or canoe, he made many a missionary tour up and down the River St. John, visiting the people, cheering their drooping spirits, advising with them, baptizing their children, now and again marrying a couple or officiating at a funeral. Holding services in private houses, or if the house proved too small for the congregation utilizing the barn, preaching often and now and again administering the Holy Communion.

We can hardly in these days appreciate the difficulties with which the itinerant minister was confronted. Even when Mr. Beardsley’s Church at Maugerville was finished he wrote to a friend and late Church Warden, Col. Abraham De Peyster, at St. John as follows, showing how barely his new church was furnished on the eve of its consecration in 1792:- “At a meeting of our Wardens and Vestry it was agreed that Mr. Daniels should be employed to make a “ball” and Mr. Clarke to make a “weather-cock* and spindle” for our steeple to be put up before the Right Reverend’s visitation here. We are likewise in want of a two-quart christening basin, two plates and a pint cup for our communion table, as they will be required by the Bishop. If the cup could be had of block tin I should prefer it.”

[* About August 1898 the Maugerville people observed the 115th anniversary of their parish. Among the souvenirs displayed was this old weather-cock of copper.]

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: How the St. Lawrence River got its name, by Roy Lewis

At a length of 743 miles, the St. Lawrence River is one of Canada’s great waterways flowing southwest to northeast from the eastern end of Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. It drains the Great Lakes, the largest freshwater system of lakes in the world.

The river has been a crucial transportation route to the interior of North America for centuries. First used by aboriginals and later French fur traders, the waterway was also a relatively easy transportation route for settlers including the Loyalists. In 1959, with the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway, one of the greatest river transportation systems in the world, the waterway became a major shipping route with vessels from around the world bringing goods to Canadian and American ports since both countries share the border of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence.

But how did the river get its name? The Mohawk word for the river is Kaniatarowanenneh which means big waterway. But history is a little vague on the European name for the river. Some sources say it was named by the great French explorer and master mariner Jacques Cartier who, upon entering the river’s broad estuary, named it the Gulf of St. Lawrence since it was the feast day of Laurentius or Saint Lawrence the Martyr, Archdeacon of Rome. The name St. Lawrence, or Riviere de Saint Laurens in French, was eventually in common usage for the entire waterway.

The story of Laurentius took place in the third century in Rome under the Roman emperor Valerian who persecuted members of the early Christian church and outlawed Christianity. At the beginning of August 258, the emperor issued an edict commanding the immediate execution of all bishops, priests and deacons. Roman authorities also attempted to gain the wealth of the church.

During this period, Pope Sixtus II led the Christian church. On Aug. 6, 258, Sixtus along with seven church deacons were captured and imprisoned.

All of these men, with the exception of Laurentius, were beheaded. Laurentius was noted for his piety, his charity to the impoverished and for his integrity. He had been named a deacon of the church and was responsible for the administration of goods, the acceptance of donations and providing for the needy, orphans and widows.

Since he was a source for the names of the richest Christians in Rome and had access to the material wealth of the church, Laurentius, was temporarily spared execution. He was given two days to turn over the church’s wealth to the emperor.

However, Laurentius gathered up all the diseased, orphaned and crippled Christians on the appointed day and brought them to Valerian’s palace. He told the startled emperor they were the treasures of the church. Obviously not amused by the act, Valerian had Laurentius put to death just four days after the other leading Christian church members in Rome were executed.

The second 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 Loyalists’ 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.

Resource: Lists of Sources for Revolutionary War Materials

Visit www.learnwebskills.com/patriot/revservice.htm for a list of free online sources of Revolutionary War service [for the rebel side]. Also click back through to “Return to Tutorial” for the description of a variety of projects.

…Chuck Ross, Kawartha Branch

Resource: The Prison Ship Martyrs Association

During the battle for New York, starting in August, 1776 and after New York City fell to the British, thousands of “rebels” came into British hands. It didn’t take long for the prison space to be filled up. At the same time, the British navy had taken a number of derelict vessels and soon turned them into maritime prison ships.

Each ship had more than 1,000 men crammed into the hold. Every morning, the dead would be carried up on deck to be hauled to shore later in the day. The bodies were then dumped into shallow mass graves on the shore of Wallabout Bay in Brooklyn.

The PSMA offers a website with many details, including a list of names of 8000 men – prisoners in ship ‘Old Jersey’. You can find the website here. This information had been passed along by Genie-Angels, a research group – email at Genie-Angels@yahoogroups.com

War is never pretty. This describes one more aspect of the ugliness.

I wonder if there is a similar resource which describes some of the aspects of the POW prisons on the other side.

[Site submitted by Ron Makin, Gov. Simcoe Branch]

The Tech Side: Waymarking -– by Wayne Scott, UE

Another Day, another gimmick, or is it? Many of you have read about “Geocaching”. This is a game whereby a person will hide a box of treasure (usually trinkets specific to the location). Then, with the aid of a hand held GPS device the exact location of the treasure is recorded. There are many sites where this ‘cache’ can be posted. Others will take up your challenge, and using a GPS, will attempt to locate your treasure and if they do, take one of the trinkets. Sounds like fun. It is obvious that these cache hunters aren’t genealogists because they have way too much time on their hands.

There is a way, though, that family researchers can cash in (forgive the pun) on the fun. When locating family burial sites, birth places, ports of entry, etc., their exact location can be determined and preserved so that others in the future can visit these special places themselves. We all know how tomb stones erode over time, and how much effort is put into lifting information from old stones. If it is hard for us now, imagine how much difficulty future generations will have locating the exact burial location. This information can be included in your genealogy records along with pictures if you wish and other specific information.

To begin with, you don’t necessarily need a GPS unit. Some higher end cameras record the GPS location of the pictures we take. Sony has introduced a new pocket camera model DSC-HX5V with built in GPS and compass functions selling for about $350.00. Of course, there are cell phones that have GPS capability. This feature may require a subscription for use. There is an app for that. You can purchase a hand held GPS unit from Garmin (eTrex H-GPS) for about $100.00. It is used for trekking and hunting where people are in the bush or remote terrain and need to have a way of returning to the start of their outings.

Some rudimentary waymarking can be done using postal codes, zip codes, and even street addresses. However, over time, some street names change, houses burn down or property is used for urban development, etc. When the St. Lawrence River was modified for shipping, whole cemeteries were moved to higher ground. In addition, there are some good online mapping sites, such as Google Maps and Mapquest. With them, you can drill down to street level in some cases, which might be close enough for you. If you are interested in exact locations, then the GPS method is the way to go.

If your interest has been piqued at all, you can begin your waymarking by a visit to the Waymarking official site. Here you will be able to see the fun and interesting side of the activity. People post interesting places and sites from all over the world in numerous categories. If you see something you like, you too can be there with the aid of some form of GPS. This system becomes quite invaluable in cities that you aren’t familiar with as you can navigate directly to where you want to go, if you have the right equipment. There are many resources both on the waymarking site and elsewhere online.

With the use of GPS technology, it is possible to take some of the guesswork out of locating where a grave or homestead was located. With rural lands changing so much these days, in the near future, the exact locations of specific places may be lost. With GPS technology you can ensure that this will not happen with some of your ancestors. It is my feeling that genealogy is not just for me, but for the future generations of my family. Will my 200 year old house be in the same location 200 years from now? The house hasn’t moved but the street name and house number have both changed at different times.

Waymarking can bring about a group approach to field research. Where once there might have been one person hunting down locations of interest, now other family members may want to get involved; there are pictures to take, GPS locations to map, and information to post online if desired. Maybe your UEL group might want to organize a “place” hunt as an interesting outing. This could be a lot of fun. We all know of genealogists who get lost in their work. Maybe a GPS will help them find their way back out of their archives room.

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


Vocal Repertoire of the Loyalist Times

My daughter and I have been asked to present a concert of period music embroidered with narrative for the “Loyalist Days'”celebrations in Shelburne, Nova Scotia for July 2011. The concert “Loyalist Letters” is scheduled for July 13th at the Osprey Arts Centre in Shelburne during the annual Loyalist celebrations. We are both professional sopranos, voice teachers and direct descendants of Loyalists – Samuel “Armwrestler ” Perry (8610) & Thankful Bourne (8611) – who settled Port Roseway, so this is an interesting project for us.

Our plan for this costumed production involves the songs that would have been familiar to the Port Roseway Loyalists interspersed with a series of [ fictional] letters written between mother and daughter, one in New York and the other in Port Roseway.

I am looking for further information regarding vocal repertoire that may have been sung during this period. Stephen Davidson’s article “What’s on your Loyalist I Pod” was a great help. If readers of Loyalist trails would contact me with any further information or possible sources, it would be greatly appreciated.

Linda Jeffrey

John and William Howell Family

I am trying to find information about my wife’s ancestors, John Howell and his son William born March 15, 1793 in Montreal. William had at least one sibling, Joseph. William in turn had at least two sons Richard and Edward. William moved to Ohio, and settled in Meigs County. He became a US citizen in the 1860’s and died in 1871 at the age of 82.

A family history says there is a patent for land owned by William dated Dec. 28, 1824 for 200 acres, lot 16, conc ?? in Smith (Smythe) Twp., Northumberland Co. near Peterborough, Canada. The land was sold to William Simson on March 29, 1825 for 50 pounds sterling, sale registered on April 11, 1825.

One note suggests William came to the USA in 1803, but another that William lost his first wife before coming to the US, presumably between 1824 and 1825 after his land was sold.

Family legend says that William and brother Joseph crossed Lake Erie on the ice, and camped the first night at the foot of Niagara Falls. His two teen-aged sons, Richard and Edward, had originally decided to remain in Canada, but followed their father 24 hours afterwards, tracing his footsteps in the snow. Crossing Lake Erie, going to foot of Niagara Falls, and then travelling to Ohio does not sound like the most logical route to take, but that is the tradition.

William remarried in Ohio. 8 sons served in the Union army during the US Civil War.

I would be interested in any information about the family, and discovering if John and son William came from a Loyalist family – there is a William Howell on the UEL list (John’s father or another relative perhaps).

Jim Ellis, Ohio

Transcription Help Required

I have received four pages of a scanned document and would like them to be transcribed into a Word or rft document. Would anyone volunteer to transcribe one or more pages for me. They are currently in a jpg format.