“Loyalist Trails” 2011-22: June 6, 2011

In this issue:
The Tragedy and Triumph of Christina Merkley: Chapter Two — © Stephen Davidson
Samuel Hallett: Fourth Generation in America © George McNeillie
Clementine (Stymiest) Lacey, 1854-1938, by Carl Stymiest, UE
Recollections of My Childhood Home, by Clementine (Stymiest) Lacey: Part 1 — © Carl Stymiest
June 6: When life’s work is done — the passing of Sir John A. Macdonald, by Graham Evan MacDonell
UELAC Catch The Spirit Conference June 2-5


The Tragedy and Triumph of Christina Merkley: Chapter Two — © Stephen Davidson

Christina Merkley lived with her loyalist family in New Dorlach, a community along Tryon County’s Schoharie River in the colony of New York. When she was just 13 years old, her brother Henry was shot and imprisoned for being a loyalist. After making his escape, he fought with a loyal regiment for the rest of the Revolution. In the following year, Christina’s mother died, placing the responsibilities of managing her father’s household on the teenager’s shoulders. Meanwhile, tensions between loyalists and patriots continued to mount all along the Mohawk River system.

The conflagration that would consume Tryon County finally ignited in 1780. Sir John Johnson, who had raised the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, prepared to lay waste the fertile lands of the Mohawk Valley and thus deny the Continental Army vital supplies of grain and flour. The fact that this was the land on which Johnson had been raised was also no doubt a motivation for the loyalist commander. His family had always been close allies of the region’s Native tribes. The First Nations who declared their loyalty to the British crown were a valuable source of warriors for Johnson. Among these loyal Natives was Seths Henry, a chief of the Schoharie Tribe.

Johnson’s raids began in February of 1780, and in almost every month thereafter one town or another in Tryon County felt their fury. On July third, a loyalist commander named Adam Crysler and eight Natives entered New Dorlach, demanding that Christina Merkley’s father provide them with shelter for the night.

Crysler and his brothers had grown up along the Schoharie River and had been playmates with Native children. Accepted by the local tribe as one of its members, Crysler often wore First Nations clothing. As well as sharing their brother’s bond with the Natives, Philip, John and William Crysler were also loyalists. Their faithfulness to the crown had cost them their lands along the Schoharie as well as the life of their brother Baltus. He had been hanged in Albany because of his loyalist principles. Thus, the three Crysler brothers had many reasons to seek vengeance on their patriot neighbours.

The loyalist raiders who commandeered housing at the Merkley home closed themselves off in one room of the house. There they started to make plans to kidnap Bastion France, a patriot neighbour of Michael Merkley’s.

Although he was a loyalist, Merkley suspected the motives of Crysler and his men. A daughter of Merkley’s patriot brother was visiting in the house that evening and listened at the door. When she was discovered, a Native stood guard outside the room to insure privacy. After questioning the Merkley girls and learning that Bastion France was not home, Crysler and his men stormed into the home of William Hynds. They took the patriot, his wife and six children on a 600 hundred mile journey through the wilderness to Fort Niagara. In 1783, Hynds returned to New Dorlach with just three of his children; his wife and the rest of the family had died in captivity.

Although their immediate neighbours, the Frances and Spurnhayers, were patriots, the Merkley family suffered no retribution for the fact that their house had been used as a base for the loyalist attack on Hynds. The family of Philip Crysler, a loyalist commander under Sir John Johnson, still lived in the neighbourhood. Perhaps the fear of drawing the wrath of Crysler and Johnson was enough of a threat that New Dorlach’s patriots left the Merkleys in peace. Nevertheless, by nightfall of October 18, 1780, the Merkleys and all of their neighbours would be players in a tragic and bloody assault on New Dorlach.

Sir John Johnson and his loyalist army had been steadily making their way along the Schoharie River. After camping out near the home of Adam Crysler, Johnson permitted a party of men to go off to New Dorlach on a private mission — the safe removal of Philip Crysler’s wife and children. Johnson and his soldiers, meanwhile, went north and laid siege to a patriot fort. Having failed in their efforts to force the enemy to surrender the fort, the loyalist troops went into nearby Middleburg, setting buildings and granaries on fire. Later patriot historians would accuse William Crysler of torching the Dutch Reformed Church in retaliation for the execution of his brother Baltus.

Following this destruction, Johnson’s men headed north for the village of Schoharie. They circled the nearby fort and fired upon it with their cannon until the sun set. Failing to conquer the fort, the loyalists burned over 100 of the town’s buildings.

On Wednesday, October 18, Johnson sent Seths Henry, the Schoharie chief and eighteen of his warriors to New Dorlach to speed along the evacuation of Philip Crysler’s family. However, the chief had his own agenda that day and never arrived at the loyalist’s farm. The first house to which the raiders came was the Michael Merkley’s farm. The next house was that of the patriot Bastion France, and then the Crysler’s farm. Perhaps Seths Henry wanted to carry off some booty from the well-built homes; perhaps he thought that the Merkley’s house belonged to the patriot Frederick Merkley. But whatever motivated him, his actions would forever change the lives of Christina Merkley and her sister Anne Eve.

The Tragedy and Triumph of Christina Merkley continues next week in Loyalist Trails.

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

Samuel Hallett: Fourth Generation in America © George McNeillie

The Hallets, like the Moores, had their home for years at Newtown, Queen’s County, Long Island. A good deal of information concerning their early history in America may be found in the “Annals of Newtown”, by James Riker, Jr. published in 1852. The author states in his book (see page 463, etc.) :

“The Hallets, now mostly removed from this town, formerly composed a very large and prominent family, and their history is closely woven with Newtown annals…”

William Hallett [1616 — 1706], the immigrant ancestor, was born in Dorsetshire, England, in 1616 and emigrating to New England joined in the settlement of Greenwich, Connecticut (note 12). He removed across the Sound to Long Island and acquired a large estate at a place near “Hell-gate” [so-named because of the strong and unpredictable tides].

In the fall of 1655 the Indians destroyed his house and plantation at “Hallett’s Cove,” which induced him to take up residence at Flushing, where he was appointed Sherriff [“Schout” in Dutch] in 1656. But in the same year he was deposed by the Dutch Governor Stuyvesant, fined and imprisoned for entertaining the Rev. William Wickenden, from Rhode Island, allowing him to preach at his house and receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper at his hands. Disgusted at this treatment, Mr. Hallett, on the revolt of Long Island from the Dutch, warmly advocated the claims of Connecticut, and being sent as a delegate to the General Court of that Colony he was appointed a Commissioner or justice of the peace for Flushing. . . He had two sons, William and Samuel, between whom he divided his property situate at was then called “Hell-gate Neck,” now I think included in the East part of Brooklyn [actually part of Queens, N.Y.]. . .

Joseph Hallett [1678 — 1750], son of William Hallett, Jr. [1648 — 1729], was the ancestor of the Loyalist branch of the Hallett family which came to New Brunswick at the close of the Revolution. He married, Dec. 23, 1702, Lydia, the daughter of Robert Blackwell, and after her death again married the widow of John Greenoak.

Joseph Hallett died, Nov. 23, 1750, in his 73rd year. He had a large family, which included nine sons, viz., 1. Joseph, 2. Moses, 3. Thomas, 4. Robert, 5. Jacob, 6. Samuel, 7. Richard, 8. William and 9. Nathaniel.

Our Loyalist ancestor, Samuel Hallett, was a man of vigorous personality, and a leader among his fellows. Judge Thomas Jones in his Loyalist History of New York During the American Revolution (vol. I, pp. 68, 569) gives some information respecting the loyalty of Queen’s County, Long Island to the King’s cause during the Revolution. He tells us that John Moore, Sr., Samuel Hallett, and John Moore, Jr. were among those ordered by the Continental Congress on January 3rd, 1776, to be apprehended and secured till further orders.

Samuel Hallett, Thomas Horsfield, and several of the Moore family were among the addressers of Admiral Sir William Howe in October, 1776, and this was remembered against them by their “rebel countrymen.” Samuel Hallett on his arrest in 1776, was ordered by Congress to be put under guard. He subsequently petitioned for release and was discharged on parole on payment of expenses, entering into recognizance the sum of 500 pounds.

Note 1: Hallett and his second wife Elizabeth Fones were forced to flee to Connecticut from Massachusetts due to a scandal. Although there is no mention of her in Raymond’s journal, Fones, was a niece of John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Her life was chronicled in Anya Seton’s historical novel “The Winthrop Woman”. Her scandalous behaviour included divorcing her second husband, Robert Feake (who was thought to be insane) to marry Hallett. It is not clear whether Raymond was aware of this — or chose to ignore it.

Note 2: “Blackwell’s Island” in the middle of the East River — named Welfare Island in 1921 and Roosevelt Island in 1973 — was originally named after the family of Robert Blackwell. At various times from the 1830s to the mid-1950s it housed a penitentiary, a smallpox hospital and an insane asylum. It is now the site of city-subsidized housing and a number of architectural landmarks including the Blackwell Island lighthouse and the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.

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

Clementine (Stymiest) Lacey, 1854-1938, by Carl Stymiest, UE

Growing up in New Brunswick, and knowing I had loyalist ancestors, I was always intrigued by the old family stories and storytelling. One such story I was fascinated by was of my first cousin, three times removed, Clementine STYMIEST and her handwritten diary that she began writing when she was 10 years of age. The Diary, still preserved today, is with family members in North Carolina. Although incomplete, her diary is filled with wonderful narratives and descriptions of her early life in New Brunswick, Canada, as well as her many wild and wonderful adventures in the US.

“Clementine Stymiest, was the daughter of Benjamin Fardon STYMIEST and Phoebe HYDE. She was also the grand-daughter of Loyalist ancestor, Benjamin STYMIEST, Jr., and his wife, Charlotte Mary HIERLIHY (daughter of Loyalist Sgt. Philip HIERLIHY of the Prince of Wales American Regiment). Clementine was born in BRITISH NORTH AMERICA, as she writes in her dairy. Clementine’s mother, Phoebe HYDE was the daughter of Thomas HYDE and Caroline URQUHART of Prince Edward Island. At the early age of 12, Clementine, her younger sister Sarah (age 10) and their niece, Sadie, were taken by their grandmother from New Brunswick to attend school in Wyoming.

Due to the many inter-marriages within several loyalist families, I am able to trace myself back to Clementine through 4 different lineages. My intent is to share this wonderful diary as it has been preserved by family. The diary has NOT been edited nor corrected in any way; so please enjoy the journaling of a young girl and woman of historic significance and heritage.

See an image of a page from the original diary here.

…Carl Stymiest, UE, President, Vancouver Branch UELAC

Source: “Down by the Old Mill Stream: a Stymiest Chronicle” Copyright 2001 Carl Stymiest, U.E. All rights reserved. Permission granted to UELAC to reprint.

Recollections of My Childhood Home, by Clementine (Stymiest) Lacey: Part 1 — © Carl Stymiest

Clemetine Stymiest Lacey b. Tabusintac, Northumberland County, New Brunswick; 11 May 1854; d. Sheridan, Sheridan County, Wyoming, USA; 02 January 1938

“In 1854, I was born in the city of Marimachi, (Miramichi) in the Province of New Brunswick, B.N. America.

While I was an infant, my folks moved up the coast about forty miles to a place called Neguac. My folks had a place one and a half miles up the coast from Neguac which was called Malpeck. It was situated on a small river called the Malpeck River and faced the small bay, which I do not remember the name of.

There I lived until I had passed my twelfth birthday and in my memories of that home there never was such a beautiful place, with the beautiful forest at the back, the bay and the ocean at the front, our black lands on the east and the Malpeck River on the west. In the woods we could find blueberries, cranberries, and nanny berries, a kind of wild grape, and on the Black lands we found what we called mulberries. They were not anything like the mulberries that grow in the United States. They grow on small bushes, like huckleberries, were quite large, and inclined to pucker your mouth if they were not quite ripe.

In the bay we caught all kinds of fish- bass, herring and mackerel. In the river, trout and salmon when they ran and smelts in the little brooks. We could get oysters out of the oyster bed, dig clams, and quohauks on the beach and catch lobsters in the bay. Now, if anyone could think of more things to keep a wild lot of kids busy and happy, I would like to know what it would be.

After it got warm in the spring we were very seldom in the house, only to eat and sleep. We were busy digging clams, catching lobsters, or out in the bay in a canoe fishing, or in the woods picking berries, in the berry season. Sometimes we would row across the bay, about a mile or so, to the outer beach and gather gull’s eggs. Often we would get as much as a half bushel of fresh gull’s eggs. We kids liked to cook and eat them and mother used to use them to cook.

We always went in a bunch, always three and sometimes four or five when the older girls did not have to help mother. Sometimes when we were after berries, we would see a black bear. There were lots of those small black bears there. They were as black as tar and harmless, as far as I know. But whenever we met one we would run for God’s sake. We used to see moose quite often too. In fact, we had a pet moose once. But when he got older he got cross and Father had to kill him as he was liable to kill some of us if he were let grow older. I do not think there were any deer or caribou. Anyway, I can not remember of ever seeing or hearing of any. But there were all kinds of wild fowls, geese, ducks, and brants and partridges. Father and my brothers used to hunt ducks, geese, and brants every fall and spring. They also used to trap bears.

The Indians used to dress and tan the skins and Mother used to make them into coats and caps for Father and my brothers, also things for us children, such as caps and jackets for winter wear, and Father used to make us shoe pacs with the fur inside. We needed such things as it was very cold and the winter lasted a long time. We always had two or three horses and two or three cows and hogs enough for our pork and lard and sheep enough to provide wool for our winter clothes. Mother used to dye and spin and weave the cloth for our dresses, underskirts, and all of our underwear, and Father’s and my brother’s suits. She cut and made all their clothes and knit all our sox and stockings. I never learned how to weave, being too young, but all the older girls could weave. We had two spinning wheels, one was the big wheel and the other the little wheel. The big wheel you stood up to spin and the little wheel you sat down to spin. I sure did like to spin on the big wheel and mother used to brag on me. Therefore I used to spin a lot in winter time.

We used to knit. Mother said I was a good knitter but I never could knit fast. We used to knit gloves and mittens, all in different designs. Our days were only three or four hours long in the winter so we lived mostly by candle light during that time. We had tallow candles which Mother made herself, from the tallow that came from the fat beef Father killed every fall. Mother had two sets of candle molds, one held eight and the other six candles. She would string them with wicks, with a knot drawn up tight at the pointed end and stick across the top end to hold the wicks straight. And then she would pour in the melted tallow, let it harden and the candles were ready to take out. Just cut the knots at the pointed end and warm the moulds a little and pull the candles out by the sticks across the top and they are ready for use.

When I was five or six years old, my Father got what was called a spirit lamp. It was a small lamp and held about a pint of the spirits. It gave about as much light as three candles. We kids thought that was the greatest thing in the way of a light that ever was. It had a round cotton wick. It had no globe and it did not make any smoke. When you wanted to put out the light there was a little brass thimble you slipped over the blaze to smother it out.

Up until I was seven years old Mother did all the cooking and baking before and over a fireplace. Our fireplace was all of six feet between the jams with a big crane on each jam, with hooks on the cranes to hang kettles or pots on. The cranes were made to swing out or in. There was cooked everything that was boiled or stewed. For baking Mother had Dutch ovens. In those she baked all kinds of bread and puddings. We never had any cake that I can remember of, but Mother used to make what we called “baten cakes”. They were made of oat meal, something like the oat meal cookies you get today. But Mother baked those on a big flat slab of rock about two inches thick and three feet square. It was made to stand before the fire and when it was hot she would put the cakes on and the heat from the rock would brown the bottom and the heat from the fire would brown the top. As I remember, they were crisp and just fine eating. Baking in a Dutch oven – most everybody knows how to bake in them. All you have to do is to put what ever you have to bake into the oven, put hot coals under the oven, put on the cover and put hot coals on it and the Dutch oven will do the rest.

…Carl Stymiest, UE, President, Vancouver Branch UELAC

Source: “Down by the Old Mill Stream: a Stymiest Chronicle” Copyright 2001 Carl Stymiest, U.E. All rights reserved. Permission granted to UELAC to reprint.

June 6: When life’s work is done — the passing of Sir John A. Macdonald, by Graham Evan MacDonell

June 6 is a date that many older Canadians remember as the launch of the Normandy invasion in 1944.

But Monday, June 6 is also a date in Canadian history, for in 1891 Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John Alexander Macdonald, passed away — 120 years ago. While most Canadians remember his legacy, few recall that he was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on January 10, 1815 and was one of two Scots-born prime ministers in the early years of the ‘Dominion’.

After a half-century of public service, first as a councillor in Kingston, then as a member of the Upper Canada Legislature before becoming a member of Parliament, Macdonald (or Sir John A., as he is more often referred to) was to face his last of over a dozen elections at the civic, provincial and federal levels. During the 1891 federal election, Sir John became seriously ill, forcing him to have to learn the results while confined to his bed in Earnscliffe (then the prime minister’s official residence in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, and now the residence of the British High Commissioner) as recounted by his biographer, Joseph Pope, who was for many years his private secretary.

On Feb. 26, 1891, family physician Dr. Sullivan (had) diagnosed, “commencing bronchitis, loss of voice, congested soft palate and pharynx, pain on inspiration over left lung, and a very weak and irregular pulse. There was no doubt of a congested chest and a threatened pneumonia.” So it was reported in ‘Historic Headlines – A Century of Canadian News Dramas’ by the late noted Canadian author Pierre Burton. Seventy-six-year old John Alexander Macdonald had undergone heart failure then suffered a second stroke on May 29 and a third on June 5, 1891 — the day before his untimely death.

A medical bulletin was issued by Dr. R.W. Powell on the day of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald’s death. It read, “June 6, 1891 6.30 a.m. Sir John Macdonald is still alive. More cannot be said. R.W. Powell, M.D.”

The Globe of June 8, 1891, ran a full-page article by-lined, “By Our Own Reporters” that led with a quote, “Gentlemen, Sir John Macdonald is dead.”

The speaker was Mr. Joseph Pope. The place was the gate of Earnscliffe. At 10:25 a.m., Pope addressed a group of correspondents in a husky voice: “He died at 10:15 without pain and in peace.”

Much like today’s newspaper, radio and television reporters who ‘camp out’ near a significant location for their news gathering, The Globe story went on to describe the historic event of the day:

“The representatives of the press turned to the adjacent tent to which the telegraph instruments were already clicking off the fatal news by private messages, brought out by Mr. Pope, and they flashed the news by land and sea to newspapers in all parts of the English-speaking world.”

Read this account of those days and Sir John’s legacy, with pictures, here (PDF).

…Graham Evan MacDonell

UELAC Catch The Spirit Conference June 2-5

Editor’s Note: The annual UELAC conference was held this past weekend. It joined many that have gone before as being well-organized, with a great program, and in this year which seems to have had more than its share of ill-weather, very good weather. Nancy and I offer our personal thanks, and I am sure we share that sentiment with many others, to the members of Col. Edward Jessup Branch for hosting us so well.

It was also great to see again so many old friends, and to meet new ones. The weekend is always a special occasion for many.

I would welcome an article and pictures about the conference for Loyalist Trails and I am sure there will be an article also in the Loyalist Gazette in the Fall.