“Loyalist Trails” 2011-24: June 19, 2011
In this issue:
– The Tragedy and Triumph of Christina Merkley: Chapter Four — © Stephen Davidson
– UELAC Conference 2011 “Catch The Spirit”: Photo Collection
– Samuel Hallett: Fourth Generation in America © George McNeillie
– Recollections of My Childhood Home, by Clementine (Stymiest) Lacey: Part 3 — © Carl Stymiest
– New PBS Documentary “The War of 1812” Explores the Truth and Mythmaking of History
– New Book About Loyalists In The Research Stage
– Winners of Loyalist Directory Challenge II
– Additions to the Loyalist Directory
– Last Post: Bicentennial Branch member Albert Wigle
– Editor’s Note: Celebrating Loyalist Day
Ransomed from loyalist warriors of the Schoharie tribe, Christina Merkley and her sister Anne Eve became the servants of Sir John Johnson’s wife, labouring for two years in his Montreal home. The city was the headquarters for the King’s Royal Regiment, the unit that the Merkley girls’ brother Henry had joined in 1777. Whether Christina and Anne Eve were reunited with their brother when the regiment returned to Montreal at the end of the war is not recorded.
What is certain is that Christina met a soldier in the King’s Royal Regiment named Jacob Ross, and, by 1784, became his wife. Her new husband had lived in Johnstown, New York, but since he did not later make a claim for compensation as a loyalist, we have no record of his life before the Revolution.
Christina and Jacob Ross received a tract of forested land in the Osnabruck township (modern Cornwall, Ontario) as well as the basic supplies given to loyalist settlers. However, the couple did not have a cow and were far too poor to buy one. Christina Ross went back to Montreal to earn the money they needed. Returning to the only work she knew, young Mrs. Ross became a domestic servant while Jacob began to clear the land they had received. It was hardly an ideal arrangement for the newlywed couple.
Within a year, the 21 year-old bride returned to her husband with a cow. Jacob had by this time removed enough trees that he could begin growing vegetables and grain. It was not the prosperous life that Christina had enjoyed on her father’s farm in New Dorlach, but it was a fresh beginning. Christina was far from the death and destruction of the Revolution, hundreds of miles from the graves of her father, cousin and little brother.
By 1788, Christina and Anne Eve (also a loyalist’s wife) were reunited with their brother Henry. In his petition to the compensation claims board that convened in Montreal in January of 1788, he stated that he had “two sisters now here”. In spite all of the hardship that his family had suffered during the Revolution, Henry Merkley said nothing of his personal losses in his claim. He only listed the particulars of the property (150 acres) and livestock (a horse, a cow and two oxen) that had been seized by New Dorlach’s patriots. Perhaps the deaths of his father, cousin, and little brother at the hands of loyalist allies –as well as his sisters’ servitude to Sir John Johnson– were not prudent to mention before a board that represented the British government. Like his sister Christina, Henry Merkley settled among the loyalists who had served in the King’s Royal Regiment. His land grant was in neighbouring Dundas County.
The records of the era say nothing of how Jacob and Christina Ross improved their farm, made friends in a new community of refugees, or how they felt about their war time experiences. However, there are two anecdotes connected to the Merkley tragedy that make interesting postscripts; one is the tale of vengeance and the other a story of forgiveness.
Seths Henry, the loyalist Schoharie chief who led the 1780 attack on the Merkley farm in New Dorlach, returned to the land of his birth after the Revolution. The Native knew that he was not welcomed by the patriots who had settled on his people’s land. It was said that whenever he entered a room, he always chose a spot where he could see the door or window. One day he was observed heading off for the Charlotte River, but after that, he was never seen again. Tradition says that Seths Henry was murdered by Timothy Murphy. The noted patriot rifleman had been seen following the chief into the woods. Undiscovered by friend or foe, Henry’s body was left in the forests where he had once fought so vigorously for the British crown.
The story of forgiveness reveals something of the values of Christina Merkley’s family. In 1777, her brother Henry had been attacked, wounded and imprisoned by a New Dorlach patriot named John Young. Decades later, a beggar wandered into Williamsburg where Henry had turned his loyalist grant into a farm. The vagabond knocked at the Merkleys’ door to ask for food. Henry immediately recognized the man on his threshold — it was John Young of New Dorlach. The patriot who once almost murdered Henry was now reduced to begging for bread. Young also recognized Merkley, and he asked to be forgiven for his behaviour during the Revolution. Family stories reveal that Henry wanted to slam the door on the man, but his Christian upbringing overcame his first impulses. He fed Young and then let him go in peace.
Seek vengeance or grant forgiveness? These were the choices open to each and every New York loyalist who settled in Upper Canada. Dwell on past atrocities or build a better tomorrow? These were Christina Ross’s choices, too. Despite the hardships of her early life and the utter decimation visited upon her family for its loyalty, Christina chose to put the past behind her. It was her way of triumphing over tragedy.
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
At the conference Fraser Carr was seemingly everywhere taking pictures of people and places, and he had some help from others too. Ann Carr has now posted a selection of those photos on the Col. Edward Jessup website. If you were at conference, an opportunity to revisit friends and good times; if you weren’t , a chance to see what you missed. The photos are here.
The first wife of Capt. Hallett was Jemima Betts, daughter of Daniel Betts, by whom he had three sons and two daughters. Of these, the sons Daniel and Samuel were Loyalists and came with their father to New Brunswick. His second wife, Elizabeth Wilson [Editor’s note — probably Willson](Note 1) , was a young widow, a daughter of John Lamb (note 2) and a sister of General John Lamb. They were married Dec. 19, 1761, and their first child who bore her mother’s name, Elizabeth, became, in 1785, the wife of James Moore and so brought the Hallett lineage into our family. I have no further knowledge of the Lamb family, except the Christian name of the father and brother, both of which were John.
As the Moores and Halletts were natives of Newtown, we may presume that James Moore and Elizabeth Hallett had known each other since childhood. She had four younger sisters; one of them, named Jane, married William Whitlock, and came to St. John to live, where her house was always open to the Moore Family — including my Grandmother, Maria. William Whitlock was I think a brother of Thomas Whitlock who was an active member of the old Trinity Church Corporation, and friend of Bishop Charles Inglis. It was to Thomas Whitlock that Rev. John Beardsley sold his lot and dwelling house when he left St. John. Samuel Hallett was also an active churchman, and a member of the earliest vestries of Trinity Church in St. John.
We have in our possession a small portrait of William Whitlock taken about the year 1807. He was not an ancestor of our family, but his wife, Jane Hallett, was a daughter of Capt. Samuel Hallett, and thus was the aunt of my grandmother Carman.
Note 1: Elizabeth Lamb Willson Hallett’s sampler made by her as a child is in the collection of the McCord Museum in Montreal and may be seen here.
Note 2: Lamb’s name was actually Anthony Lamb. He was apprenticed to Henry Carter a mathematical instrument maker near St. Clements Church, London, England; but in 1724 became an accomplice of Jack Sheppard, one of the most noted burglars in history. Sheppard died on the gallows at Tyburn, November 1724, but because it was his only offense, Anthony Lamb was sentenced to be transported to the American Colonies. In Virginia he served out his time and then settled in New York City. He was the most noted instrument maker in New York City during his lifetime. According to Penrose R. Hoopes he advertised in 1749 as an instrument maker. Anthony Lamb was born in 1703 and died in New York in 1784. His son, John Lamb, born in 1735, joined his father in the manufacture of mathematical instruments around 1750. The business was known as Anthony Lamb and Son until 1760 when John Lamb left the business to become a wine merchant. John was in the American Revolution rising to the rank of General and at one time he was commandant at West Point. It is perhaps not surprising that Raymond did not know Anthony Lamb’s early history (as with the case of Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallett): Victorians were ashamed of such blights in their family trees and either did not talk about them or actually expunged them from records).
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].
We children could not get oysters because we were not strong enough to handle the oyster fork. The men had to do that. The oyster forks were something like the hay forks they have now only smaller. They worked on a hinge and had two sets of curved teeth. There were five teeth on a side. They closed on the oysters just as the hay fork does on the hay. Each time it was dropped on the oysters bed and was closed, it would have fifteen or twenty oysters. It was raised by hand into the boat and lowered again for another load. It was hard work and took two men to manage it. Father used to spear eels at night. Two of us children would go with him, one to scull the canoe and one to hold the flambeau, or torch. Father would have a long handled spear. We could see the eels very plainly in their nests in the seaweed, by the light of the flambeau. We had to be very quiet and Father had to be quick or they would get away. Salt water eels are delicious eating as I remember. So you see we had all kinds of the finest sea foods.
In the wintertime we had all kinds of sports- skating, coasting, and sleigh riding. My oldest brother, Benje, was the best skater in that country. He also had an ice boat and we kids sure used to enjoy riding on it, when Benje would take us. When it ran before the wind it went just as fast as the wind blew, but it did not make such good time coming back. Then it was tackling or beating against the wind. That meant going in a zig zag manner, instead of straight ahead. Our place was diked along the river, to keep back the overflow when the tide was high. In winter we would coast from the top of the dyke down across the river.
Take it all in all, we were a jolly, happy family. If ever there was a gentlewoman in this world, my mother was that woman. My father was counselor at law and practised in the courts of Chatham and Marimachi. He also was a magistrate and overseer of the poor in this district. There were no free schools in New Brunswick in that day so father had to hire teachers for us. We called them “masters”. I do not remember when I learned to read. It seems to me I always knew how. The master would give you a lesson and you had to know that lesson up and down and crosswise before he would let you have another lesson. If you were too slow, he would give you a good thrashing to speed you up and when I say thrashing, I mean just that and not maybe. Mother and Father seemed to think it was the right way to make us absorb knowledge, although they never chastised us very often themselves. We had two teachers, a lady – Mrs. Fowler and a man named Mr. Bundle. Mrs. Fowler was a gentlewoman. She taught the youngest children their “ABC’s” and first reading lessons and the rest of us good manners – how we must address our elders and how to make a bow and how to curtsey and all that. We thought she was just right. Mr. Bundle taught all the older children everything that was taught then- reading, writing, history, geography, grammar and arithmetic. He was call a gentleman, but I can tell you truthfully that we children did not think so. We had three half-days a week, winter and summer with each of them. They did not come the same days. Mr. Bundle would come and pass on the studies he had given us and give us a new lesson, or give us a tanning and make us take the last one over. I can tell you we nearly always had our lessons.
Mother never had much time to help us, she having her hands full with her household duties. But when Father was home he used to help us a lot. So that was the way we got our schooling in the Province of New Brunswick, up until the spring of 1865. At that time my grandmother, my mother’s mother, came from Wisconsin to visit us and it was decided that some of us children should be sent to the States so as to have the advantage of free schools. So my sister, two years younger than I, my niece Sadie Campbell, one year younger that I, and I were the ones that were sent with my grandmother to Wisconsin.
There was great excitement and bustling around getting us ready to go. Of course, we kids were excited too, but I did not want to go and coaxed them to let some of the others go but I guess they could spare us better than the older ones and the rest were too young. Anyway, I was made ready and went with my grandmother and the other two, my sister and my niece. At last we were ready.
So one bright morning, I think it was in July, we took our boat, a two mast schooner, and sailed up the coast to Marimachi, forty miles. There was grandmother, and her husband, our step-grandfather, my father and mother, my oldest brother and we three children. We were taking the steamer, the “Princess of Wales” the next morning for Prince Edward’s Island, all but Father and Mother and brother Benjamin, so we bid them goodbye and I never saw any of them after that. So we started our travels.
…Carl Stymiest UE, President, UELAC Vancouver Branch
Source: “Down by the Old Mill Stream: a Stymiest Chronicle.” Copyright 2001 Carl Stymiest, UE. All rights reserved. Permission granted to UELAC to reprint.
June 15, 2011 WASHINGTON, D.C. and BUFFALO, NY — Television Program Presents American, Canadian, British and Native Perspectives, Leading the Way of Bicentennial Activities, Airs October 10.
Nearly two centuries after it was fought, the two-and-a-half year conflict that forged the destiny of a continent comes to public television in a comprehensive film history. “The War of 1812” airs on PBS stations nationwide on Monday, October 10, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings). From 1812 to 1815, Americans battled against the British, Canadian colonists, and Native warriors; the outcomes shaped the geography and the identity of North America. This two-hour HD documentary uses stunning re-enactments, evocative animation, and the incisive commentary of key experts to reveal little-known sides of an important war — one that some only recognize for the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The broadcast is accompanied by a companion book and website, as well as comprehensive bi-national educational resources.
This interesting announcement can be read in its entirety here.
Peter C Newman has moved to the Belleville area. When he addressed a recent meeting of the Hastings County Historical Society. It’s a new book which brought Newman to Belleville. He and his wife bought a home here last fall so he could research the United Empire Loyalists. He had been searching for a good topic for a new book and said “There is and it’s the United Empire Loyalists. There’s sacrifice and betrayal and loyalty. It has all the elements of a great book.”
Read a media report about Peter and this potential new book here.
Almost a year ago, Loyalist Directory Challenge II was announced (in Loyalist Trails issue 2010-26: June 27, 2010). In essence, the names of those who contributed information to the Loyalist Directory, information which was posted by the end of May, 2011 would be entered into a draw to be held at the recent UELAC Conference in Brockville, hosted by the Col. Edward Jessup Branch. Although the winners did not receive a monetary award themselves, they could each direct their $100 prize to a UELAC function or a UELAC Branch. Details of the challenge are here.
Here are the winners, the branch they belong to (if they are or were a member) and the designated recipient of their award.
– David Clark, Victoria branch, to the Victoria branch;
– Wendy Cosby, Vancouver Branch, to the Vancouver Branch to be used to help complete their collection of the Haldimand Papers;
– Doug Smith, to the UELAC General Use Fund;
– Linda Smith, Bay of Quinte Branch, to the Bay of Quinte Branch.
– Marilyn Whatley, Col John Butler (Niagara) Branch, to the UELAC Scholarship Fund.
Congratulations to each of them and a hearty thanks not only to them but to all who have contributed information to the Directory.
To those who have contributed and whose data has not yet been posted, my apologies. For personal, family health and work reasons, not as much was posted last year as was received. We will work on catching up this year. And yes, Directory Challenge III will be announced shortly.
For those who are wondering, the funding for the awards was made by a couple who wishes not to be named (and no, it was not me although that question has been asked). Our thanks to them as well.
…Doug Grant, Loyalist Information Committee
As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
– Vanderburgh, Henry – from John McLeod
– Williams, John Sr. (of Ernestown ON) – from Linda Smith
WIGLE, Albert Wellington Passed away at Leamington Hospital on Monday June 13, 2011, after a brief illness. Age 94 years, late of Kingsville. He was predeceased by his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Wellington Wigle, a brother John, and sisters Lila Brye, Elizabeth Pond and Beatrice Farrow. He is survived by his wife Irene (Stewart), many nieces and nephews and countless greats. Albert was a member of the Kingsville Gosfield Heritage Society, the Bicentennial Branch of the United Empire Loyalists, and was a life member of the Kingsville Friendly Club. He was a champion trap shooter, both nationally and internationally. He also enjoyed bowling, golfing and curling. In later years he was an avid bridge player.
Visitation was at the C. Stuart Sykes Funeral Home on June 15th and a graveside service was held at Greenhill Cemetery, in Kingsville on June 16th. Memorial donations to the Kingsville-Gosfield Heritage Society would be appreciated. Condolences may be left at www.sykesfuneralhome.ca.
…Bonnie Schepers UE, Bicentennial Branch
In Saskatchewan and Ontario, today Sunday June 19 is celebrated as Loyalist Day. Some branches have already celebrated in their communities, with events on Friday or Saturday. Others will do so today. In any event, enjoy the commemoration of our Loyalist ancestors.
And of course today is Father’s Day – the best of days to all of you Fathers out there.