“Loyalist Trails” 2011-33: Aug 21, 2011

In this issue:
Joseph Orser, UE: Dead on Arrival — by Stephen Davidson
Twitter Points to A Loyalist in The Wyckoff Farmhouse
Early History of St. Catharines and District Branch UEL
Stuart Lore and Lair: Kingston Restoration Project
Book: Kingston & The Islands, Then and Now
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
      + Seeking Parents, Siblings of James Overholt
      + Missing Proof in Isaac Vansickle UE Family Line
      + Remembrance Gage


Joseph Orser, UE: Dead on Arrival — by Stephen Davidson

While most loyalists travelled overland to find refuge in Canada at the end of the American Revolution, some arrived after making a month-long journey by sea. These loyalists disembarked at Quebec City from evacuation ships that left New York City during the summer and fall of 1783. Like their fellow refugees, they had experienced attacks from angry patriot mobs, fought on the front lines of the Revolution, and watched neighbours steal their property. What adds poignancy to these experiences is that after surviving a bitter civil war, some loyalists did not live to see their families established in new homes in British North America. Joseph Orser, a New York loyalist, died during his voyage to Canada. This is his story.

Joseph, like many loyalists, had deep family roots in the Thirteen Colonies. He was the descendant of Dutch immigrants who settled in New York City when it was still known as New Amsterdam. The Orsers (a name which changed its spelling over many generations) eventually became farmers in Westchester County’s Sleepy Hollow. Joseph Orser was christened in 1723, but may have been born as early as 1720. Twenty-three years later he married Anna (Antje) Jurckse. In the years that followed the couple had six sons and three daughters: John, Arthur, Isaac, Solomon, Gilbert, Gabriel, Rachel, Phoebe and Rhoda. (The latter two died sometime before 1787).

Joseph and Anna Orser established a prosperous farm near the North River at Philips Manor. Besides their house and barn, they had 195 acres of land, 30 head of cattle, 20 sheep, 20 hogs, eight horses and two young African slaves named Abigail and Oliver. When talk of revolution erupted in 1775, Joseph Orser was in fifties; his older children would have been in their late twenties and early thirties.

Orser was a committed loyalist, but he tried to keep a low profile during the escalating conflict. His oldest son John sided with the patriots, but four of his other sons took up arms to fight for the king. Despite having a farms of their own to tend, Arthur and Isaac Orser joined with Delancey’s Refugees. Solomon and Gilbert both served “in the King’s Army”. While their sons were off at war, Joseph and Anna tried to maintain their farm. Knowing the family’s loyalist convictions, rebels felt free to steal livestock from the Orsers on a number of occasions and “terribly ill-used” Joseph.

Although he was not able to take up arms, Joseph did what he could to support the loyalist cause. Emmanuel Elderbeck, a member of the New York Volunteers, often passed through Westchester County on spy missions. He would later testify that Joseph Orser had supplied provisions for him as well as other loyalists.

Finally, in May of 1782, under the leadership of Israel Honeywell, patriot neighbours attacked Joseph and Anna Orser, burning down their home and forcing them to seek refuge within British lines. All of their animals and clothing were confiscated; what furniture was not destroyed in the fire was taken by the rebel arsonists.

When it became clear that the rebel forces had won the Revolution, the Orser family members prepared to leave for Nova Scotia. This brought them back to Westchester County and into further confrontations with their rebels. Continental soldiers attacked Arthur and Isaac Orser after they crossed the Sound from Long Island to visit their mother. The rebels stole items of clothing and imprisoned the brothers for several days. The judge at their hearing let them go, saying that in his opinion “none that had been in arms for the King could be permitted to continue in the country”.

In May of 1783, Israel Honeywell and a gang of thugs went door to door attacking their loyalist neighbours. They beat two of Orser’s sons as well as loyalists such as Bartow Underhill, Robert Hunt, and John Mitchell. Within the same week, twenty men armed with clubs, pistols and swords stormed into Joseph Orsers’ home. The senior Orser was 63 years old, but that did nothing to stop Honeywell from lashing out at his loyalist neighbour one last time. Before Orser could say anything, Honeywell struck his head with a club, laying bare his skull and knocking him to the ground. The others beat Orser as well, beginning at his knees, battering his thighs and body until he lay motionless. They left him “weltering in his blood”, muttering that Orser should indeed go to Nova Scotia. These were the last vicious incidents in a very violent and divisive civil war.

It was painfully clear that the Orsers would have to find sanctuary in some other British possession. There was talk of going to Nova Scotia, but in the end the Orsers became part of 900 loyalists who departed for Quebec under the leadership of Michael Grass. In July of 1783, the Orser family and their two African slaves boarded the Camel, a 293-ton transport ship bound for Quebec City. No doubt Joseph was still recovering from the brutal attack he endured two months earlier, but he must have felt that he was recovering for he did not consider drawing up a will before crossing the Camel’s gangplank.

Sometime during the four week voyage to Canada, Joseph Orser died. One account says that he was buried at sea; he might also have buried in the loyalist refugee camp at Sorel.

Four years later, when Orser’s widow stood before the loyalist compensation board hearings in Montreal, she testified that her husband had “died on his passage from New York”. After hearing all that Joseph and his family had suffered from Arthur, Isaac, and Solomon Orser as well as Emmanuel Elderbeck, the loyalist compensation commissioners decided that the Orsers were “a very good family {and were} to be allowed what we can”.

Anna Orser, her children, and her grandchildren settled in what would become Kingston, Ontario. They helped to found a new British colony, a dream that a loyalist such as Joseph Orser did not live to see fulfilled.

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

Twitter Points to A Loyalist in The Wyckoff Farmhouse

Now that UELAC is participating in the social network known as Twitter, a fresh new resource has opened up to us. Twitter is like tapping into a continuous feed of promos for specific interests. In our case it is Rev War history, Canadian history, historic sites, War of 1812 and genealogy, just to name a few. Sure, history focused organizations and institutions were always physically present, but we weren’t actually talking to each other. Since we began tweeting in April of 2011, UELAC is now in communication with over eighty individuals and organizations with similar interests and pursuits. One of the advantages of Twitter is the rapid sharing of information about current events specific to our interests. Sometimes it might be an important date in history that triggers a more intensive search for details.

Just this week a post by N-Y Historical Society @NYHistory caught my attention. It asked the question, “What is the oldest building in New York City?” and provided a link to a website with a short video clip. This website is identified as NYC media. It runs one minute information videos featuring New York history. A brief video clip identifies the Wyckoff Farmhouse in Brooklyn as the city’s oldest surviving structure. Construction of the house began in 1652 and it was occupied by descendants of the Wyckoff family until 1901. The house is now open to the public as the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, in M. Fidler-Wyckoff House Park, Brooklyn, New York. The brief video ends with the statement, “Every person that bears the surname Wyckoff, descends from Peter Claesen Wyckoff.” You can see and hear the clip for yourself at NYC Media.

Knowing that this building survived the Revolutionary War, I tried a further search using the Wyckoff name and UE Loyalist to see if there were Loyalist ties. This led me to Sketch XLIV, a chapter in a publication titled Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement, 1898 by E. A. Owen, which reads:

“It is said that one Peter Wyckoff, a U. E. Loyalist, migrated from Long Island to Upper Canada early in the last decade of last century, and settled at the foot of the mountain near St. Catharines. He had married Catherine Plato in Long Island, and it is said his children were all born in Canada. When his youngest child, Peter, was three months old he returned to Long Island to settle up some business affairs, and was never seen again by his little family. He collected a sum of money and, as is supposed, was robbed and murdered on his way back.”

Peter Wyckoff is also found on the UELAC website in the Loyalist Directory with descendants at Grand River Branch and Colonel John Butler (Niagara) Branch. Very interesting!

If you are curious and have some time to spend ‘social networking’, join us on Twitter. You can get there from our website www.uelac.org. Look for the little blue Twitter button and jump in. We’ll be there.

…Bonnie Schepers UE, Sr VP, UELAC

Early History of St. Catharines and District Branch UEL

Bit by bit the early history of UELAC is being centralized in preparation for the celebration of one hundred years of activity. Thanks to the contributions of Corlene Taylor and the estate of the Late Sherrill McMicking Dorling, ten annual reports of the St. Catharines and District Branch UEL have been posted to the dominion website this week. These records of the branch secretary, Kathleen O’Loughlin, add considerable insight into the activities of what is now the Col. John Butler (Niagara) Branch and UELAC at the mid twentieth century mark. The transcription of these documents by Chris McEwen, a Sgt. Robert Campbell of Butler’s Rangers descendant, is also greatly appreciated. To view the early histories, click here (PDF).


Stuart Lore and Lair: Kingston Restoration Project

Kingston’s St. Paul’s Anglican Church marked the 200th anniversary of the death of Rev. Dr. John Stuart on Sunday August 14th. As indicated in the Kingston Whig Standard, “Stuart introduced Anglicanism to Ontario, and he was the founder of the Anglican church in Kingston. He established the first school in Kingston, which became Kingston Collegiate. The Stuart family left many other marks on Kingston. After John Stuart initiated the building of St. George’s Cathedral, he served as its first rector.” As one of the many descendants of Rev. Stuart, J. Okill Stuart, UELAC President 1994-96, participated in the special commemoration.

Doug Thompson of the Lower Burial Ground Restoration Society also spoke at the special service. Concerned about the deteriorating conditions of the Kingston’s original burial ground, a group of concerned citizens formed the Society in 2008. (Details about their efforts over the past three years can be found here. It should be noted that the Kingston and District Branch UELAC and many of its individual members actively supported this activity.) Thompson chose this special occasion to announce the next part of the ongoing project – the restoration of both the stonework around the resting site of ten Stuart descendants and the headstones within the enclosure.

According to Jennifer McKendry, author of Into the Silent Land: Historic Cemeteries & Graveyards in Ontario, the correct term for the Stuart enclosure is lair. ” In Scotland during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries roofless stone enclosures known as lairs protected communally the gravesites of family members…. The graveyard next to St Paul’s (Anglican) Church in Kingston features such a lair for the Stuart family.” She has given permission to reprint the section from her book that describes the Stuart lair (PDF).

Earlier in the day, Okill assisted the Very Reverend Dean Mary Irwin-Gibson in planting a tree at St. George’s Cathedral as part of the 200th anniversary events.


Book: Kingston & The Islands, Then and Now

Retirement often means redirection of energy and interests. Honorary President Peter Milliken joined Jennifer McKendry and Arthur Milne as a co-author of the new book, Kingston & the Islands, Then & Now. Copies should be in bookstores around September 1 but a special launch date has been scheduled for Wednesday, September 28 in Kingston City Hall, 7-9 PM. Details of the book are available here (PDF).

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
– Cornell, Samuel – from Rebecca Fraser (volunteer Wendy Cosby)
– Dakin, Thomas – from Harry MacKay
– Land, Robert (Sr.) – from David Clark
– Vanderburgh, Peter H – from John McLeod


Seeking Parents, Siblings of James Overholt

James Overholt born ca. 1806 Upper Canada. Seeking parents and siblings.

James was married 3 times:

  • first wife unknown – one child Henry, b. 1823 Welland County, m. Lucy Elizabeth Barry.
  • 2nd marriage to Margaret Wardell, d/o Timothy Wardell and Mary Culp. 4 children born probably Grimsby.
    • 1. Eliza J.,
    • 2. Morgan who in 1852 was a school teacher living in Rainham with Abraham Wardell, he taught school in Byng, m. Susanna Elizabeth Secord – 2 children Morgan E., and Emily A. Overholt. Morgan Sr. died in 1860 after which widow Susanna m. Whittaker Swartz.
    • 3. Mary Overholt was my gg.grandmother, in 1852 she lived with her grandparents Timothy Wardell and Mary Culp in Rainham. She married Joel Stewart and they moved to Michigan, as did Morgan E. Overholt.
    • 4. daughter, name unknown.
  • James’ 3rd wife was Elizabeth (Unknown), and they had Alfred, Esther and Robert, possibly more.

It is possible James Overholt was of a Loyalist line. The Overholts were originally from Switzerland, settled in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania, before coming to Canada with the Culps and Hauns in the 1700s. The original name spelling could be Overholzer/Oberholzer. Any info greatly appreciated.

Jane Flack, UE

Missing Proof in Isaac Vansickle UE Family Line

I am working on behalf of a distant cousin to find a provable link from Abraham R Vansickle 1778-1863 to his son Nathaniel Reid Vansickle 1812-1888 in order for my cousin to gain UEL status. The family link is something that “everyone knows” but it appears to lack a paper trail.

Abraham SUE was a son of Isaac Vansickle UE 1752-1830. Isaac arrived from Morris City New Jersey. He served with Joseph Skinner’s company of the Jersey Volunteers, and is listed on the muster roll for Staten Island in 1778. Isaac married twice Jane Unknown and Deborah Garner. Isaac settled in Ancaster Township Wentworth County Lot 15 Concession 2.

Son Abraham married Sarah Mills 1777-1869. They had nine children.

In 1822 Abraham purchased lot 26 concession 4 in Ancaster Township Wentworth County along the present day Book Road West. He also bought lots 26 and 27concession 5 where today his direct descendants still live. Part of his land was donated for the Trinity Church.

Nathaniel Reid Vansickle married Margaret Sagar 1820-1859. Margaret and seven of their children died in the 1859 diphtheria epidemic in a space of 2 weeks. Since the Trinity Church had no cemetery, they are buried at White Brick Church cemetery, also in Ancaster Township. Children who did not survive included Wesley b 1843 d 1843, Mary Vansickle

1845-1859 and Lannes Vansickle 1853-1859.

Nathaniel and Margaret were survived by the three remaining children Benjamin Franklin Vansickle 1847-1913, Elizabeth Vansickle 1841-1920 who married Ira Vanderlip, and also Susan Vansickle who was born at the height of the epidemic in 1859 which took the life of her mother and siblings; she married Samuel Miller 1843 -1927.

The Loyalist line we are researching is to a descendant of Benjamin Franklin Vansickle via son Lafayette 1874-1952 and Lafayette’s son Calvin Leroy Vansickle 1910-1996.

It would be much appreciated if anyone has information or suggestions regarding this missing link between Abraham R Vansickle 1778-1863 and his son Nathaniel Reid Vansickle, at least sufficient documentation to allow my cousin to gain UE status.

Lynne Kerr, UE

Remembrance Gage

I have been researching my family roots here in Vancouver and quite far back after a number of years, and I am attempting to clarify something. I hope you can help or point me in the right direction.

I have worked out my lineage to my great, great grandfather, a man named Remembrance Gage Richards. He was the son of a woman named Sarah Gage, who was the daughter of a man named Remembrance Gage (thus, the name linkage of RGR), who was the son of a man named William Gage. The details of Remembrance Gage are as follows:

Birth 20 Sep 1738 in Freetown, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States

Death Mar 1828 in Duanesburg, Schenectady, New York, United States

Through research, I have found the following reference to a man named Remembrance Gage.



page 639

Produces his appointment of Judge of Superior Court of Massachusetts Bay by Genl. Gage June, 1774.

Where could I determine if this indeed one in the same individual? I am aware of the General Gage who commanded the British Forces in the Revolutionary War, but this individual seems to be different and held a judicial post. Can you assist me in this query? Thanks in advance.

Paul Richards, Surrey, BC